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Latest Statements

Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Dublin South East Sinn Féin representative, Councillor Daithí Doolan has called for the Government to "step in and save the jobs at the Smurfits paper mill in Clonskeagh while at the same time making a valuable contribution fledgling recycling industry."

Cllr Doolan was reacting to news today that the plant is to close after 51 years in operation with the loss of 70 jobs. Over the years the company has provided local employment while playing its part to help the environment by using recycled paper. It is now due to close because the company claims the facility is no longer viable.

Speaking in Dublin today he said:

"Management at the plant have allowed a month for consultation with employee representatives and business partners. The Government must use this month to step in and save the jobs at the Smurfit paper mill in Clonskeagh while at the same time making a valuable contribution to the fledgling recycling industry.

"The lack of a market for recyclables has often been stated as an obstacle to recycling. Central government must intervene to create markets for recyclables. The Minister for Environment, Heritage & Local Government must introduce regulations under existing legislation to require a producer of a product to use recycled materials in the productions of the product, or by limiting the use of virgin material in such production.

"I would call on the Minister apply these regulations, in the first instance, to the use of used newsprint in the production of new newspapers. Creating such specifications will serve to create a market for recyclables therefore create a market for companies such as Smurfits while at the same time saving the state and councils the expense incurred in disposing of this waste.

"The bottom line is that the Government must learn from their mistakes of the past when dealing with companies such as the IGB in Ringsend when they failed to step in and missed the opportunity to save jobs and while at the same time helping the recycling industry." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called for a halt to the practice of cutting annual hospital budgets as a penalty for alleged inefficiency. Commenting on figures released by the Department of Health and Children showing hospitals have had their budgets cut by €7.5 million, Deputy Ó Caoláin said that the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney was "penalising patients and plunging struggling hospitals into further trouble".

Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed out that the North Eastern region (Cos. Cavan, Monaghan, Meath and Louth) had suffered more proportionally than any other region. Budget cuts for hospitals in Monaghan, Cavan, Navan and Drogheda amount to over €1 million. When the extra funding for Louth General Hospital is taken into account the net loss to the hospital services in the region is over €650,000. Describing this as "punitive in the extreme", Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Minister Harney is effectively punishing patients for the alleged inefficiency of hospitals and plunging struggling hospitals into further trouble. The North East region is suffering more than any other region in proportion to its population. Monaghan General Hospital has seen service after service taken away from it and its budget has now been cut by €368,606. Cavan General Hospital, which has had to cope with the added burden after the closure of the Monaghan maternity and A&E units is to be cut by €346,384.

"The staff working in these hospitals have been heroic in their efforts to cope with the healthcare needs of the region in the face of Government neglect. This has included cuts in services in the region as well as the State-wide shortage of nurses, the under-provision of acute beds and ongoing problems with deployment of consultants. In this context how can it be fair and in the interests of patients to deem certain hospitals inefficient, cut their budgets and award that funding to other - and mostly larger - hospitals?

"This system is more akin to awarding bonuses and penalties to production managers in factories than to a health system and for that reason is much favoured by Minister Harney. It should be scrapped." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on all-Ireland development, West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff has welcomed the announcement of details of an accord between major US and Irish research institutes north and south.

Mr McElduff said:

"Across the island it is vital that we develop deeper links and greater co-operation, particularly economic links and between learning and research centres.

"The signing of this accord on all-Ireland - US research and development links is also important given the precarious nature and unsustainability of the northern economy in the medium to long term and given the worrying trends that are emerging showing a downturn in 6 county R&D expenditure.

"While there has been greater investment by the universities and greater numbers of people employed in R&D in the north there is no escaping the consequences of an overall 6.6% decrease in R&D expenditure.

"The fact that there is a fall of £40 million in R&D within the business sector, particularly within manufacturing should send out a very serious warning to government that there is a sustained drift away from investment in these key areas in R&D. There needs to be a coherent strategic focus on how business is supported and encouraged to invest more in R&D.

"The future economic success of the economy demands that there is greater government led action to ensure that innovation can be developed and fully realised, particularly within indigenous businesses and within the manufacturing sector." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has this morning said that if the European Union is serious about addressing racism then it must "tackle individual, societal and institutional discrimination rather than focussing exclusively on hate symbols".

Ms McDonald made her comments after reports suggested that the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU was planning to begin negotiations on a law to combat racism and xenophobia within the EU.

Speaking from Brussels Ms McDonald said:

"Racial intolerance is all too prevalent within society today. In fact, a recent report by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI), has clearly shown that within the past six months there has been a worrying upsurge in the reported incidents of racist attacks in Ireland.

"The onus is on each and every one of us, but particularly on public representatives and opinion leaders to work together to find the most effective ways of tackling the rise of racism.

"Reports that suggest that the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU is to begin negotiations on a law to combat racism and xenophobia should be welcomed. However, Sinn Féin believes that that if the European Union is serious about addressing racism then it must tackle individual, societal and institutional racism and discrimination rather than focussing exclusively on hate symbols.

"If only it were a simple matter of banning a hate symbol to effectively address the root causes of racism and xenophobia. But a symbol or insignia is not capable of carrying out a racist attack, it is the person or group who wears or uses such a symbol. Therefore it is about challenging mindsets and speaking out against racism wherever we find it - whether from neighbours or colleagues or powerful policy-makers or the media. It also means ensuring that anti racism legislation is effective and providing adequate resourcing and support for ethnic minority communities and their support groups.

"On this, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the condemnation of racist attacks is not enough. We need to actively work for the removal of racism from our society. I would call upon the EU to pursue a multi-faceted approach to tackling discrimination." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has said that sanctions and the politics of exclusion will not move the peace process forward.

Mr Doherty said:

"Does anyone seriously believe that sanctions, exclusion or discrimination will do anything to move us forward? Of course not.

"Those advocating exclusion are working to their own narrow agendas. They are ignoring the reality that Sinn Fein's right to participation in the political process stems from our substantial electoral mandate. In contrast to Sinn Fein, the British government has no mandate in Ireland and it has no right to sanction or discriminate against those chosen by the Irish electorate to represent them. These are the failed policies of the past.

"Whatever about the current situation the reality is that we will only make progress on the basis of dialogue, inclusivity, negotiation and accommodation." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA John O Dowd has said a mood of shock has descended over the Co Armagh town of Lurgan at the news of 250 jobs are to be lost in a medical production plant in the town.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"The 250 workers in RUSCHE are not being paid off because there is no market for the product but because the plant owners are moving these jobs to Mexico and Malaysia, where they can use low wages.

"The loyalty of RUCHES workers is of no value to the employers. These 250 jobs will be lost only because of the desire to maximise profits. The Lurgan workers have now been given 3 months notice. Yet it is difficult to see where will they find work in an area, which has already seen its manufacturing industry collapse. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin commenting on the publication of the twenty-fifth annual Review and Prospects for the Economy from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said that it only confirms that urgent action is required to address the East West Divide to stop the ineqaulities widening.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The patterns of disadvantage and discrimination in policy and investment that have created and maintained the East West Divide are as evident today as at any time since the inception of this state. It is sectarian in nature and has resulted in huge deficits West of the Bann that are compounded by the border.

"It is a damming indictment that despite a clear policy objective of Targeting Social Need (TSN) since the 1990's and a large quantity of evidence highlighting the need to address patterns of disadvantage and discrimination West of the Bann that this divide is getting greater. It is evidence that the commitment to tackle inequality West of the Bann have not been taken seriously by government.

"West of the Bann unemployment is higher, investment in transport infrastructure is lower and there is an almost total local of political will from government to act to address high level of social and economic disadvantage that exists within both the urban and rural centres.

"The huge inequalities that exist cannot be explained by geography. The level of disparity and under development is a direct consequence of the absolute failure of government.

"Unless there is a decision at the heart of government to live up to clear equality commitments and obligations West of the Bann the current pattern of discrimination and disadvantage will of get much worse much faster. We need balanced development urgently. Sinn Féin believe that only within a single all-Ireland framework will balanced development be achieved." ENDS

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Sinn Féin has described Tony Blair's decision to grant rate exemptions to Orange Halls while making no such provision for the halls of sporting and cultural organisations across the six counties as discriminatory.

West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty has now written to the Direct Rule Secretary of State Paul Murphy demanding that the rates exemption measure for halls be implemented impartially.

In his letter the West Tyrone MP questions the equality implications of Tony Blair's decision to grant "Rate Exemptions" to Orange and Independent Orange Order Halls following on from Unionist demands at the Leeds Castle Talks.

He said:

"We are told that the rates exemption has been granted because Orange Halls fulfil an important social function in the community.

"If this is the criteria for rates exemptions for halls then I believe that a wide range of sporting and cultural organisations, including the GAA, must also now be deemed eligible. Failure to extend this measure would be in breach of equality legislation and undoubtedly lead to legal challenges.

The local MP concluded his letter by demanding that the situation be standardized as soon as possible.

Omagh Sinn Féin Councillor Begley echoed these demands by saying,

"The special dispensation being given to Orange halls is completely unbalanced. It fails to take into account the fact that there is a wide spectrum of sporting and cultural organisations right across the community who are equally if not more deserving of a rates exemption if we are talking about the contribution they make in terms of improving the social fabric of communities on a day-to-day basis.

"This move by Tony Blair to single out Orange Halls for preferential treatment is totally discriminatory. It runs contrary to Section 75 of the Good Friday Agreement and other equality legislation.

"However, the decision to exempt Orange Halls from rates creates a precedent which now opens the door for other groups like the GAA to demand that the same exception criteria be applied to its halls.

" Sinn Féin is determined to pursue this issue and I would encourage all appropriate sporting and cultural organisations to do likewise." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, Aengus O Snodaigh TD has rejected the proposed national ID card scheme as it has "massive implications for civil liberties and privacy rights on this island."

Speaking in Dublin today he said: "The Minister indicates that he believes that he must introduce compulsory ID cards once the British have done so.

"The Minister says that such ID cards may contain biometric data and other information such as a person's PPS number. He has not indicated what the scope would be of the card's use, or the organisations that could demand its production. This proposal has massive implications for civil liberties and privacy rights on this island. The necessity of this infringement has not been demonstrated, and it should not go ahead.

"Furthermore, the Minister cannot force Irish people to carry national ID cards for the convenience of the British Government. What the Irish Government should be doing is seeking an exemption from this requirement for all those living on the island, and the failure to produce a national ID card must not be allowed to hinder freedom of movement on the island." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, Aengus O Snodaigh TD has rejected plans for electronic tagging of public order offenders and called for increased resources for probation and welfare.

Speaking in Dublin today he said: "The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, wants to introduce electronic tagging of offenders, initially for public order offenders and first-time offenders. But his claim that this will keep prison numbers down is a total red herring. Public order offenders generally do not receive a custodial sentence under present practices according to research by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, and are a category already at very low risk of re-offending. Indeed the Minister himself previously admitted in the Dáil that the effectiveness of electronic tagging schemes has not been proven.

"I fully agree that many non-violent and minor offenders are needlessly committed to prison in this state, and that this must change, but I do not accept that this scheme represents a viable solution. We know that the ideologically?driven PD Minister is dying to privatise and outsource as many justice system services as possible, despite the lack of proof of cost-savings in this or other jurisdictions. Electronic tagging is nothing more than a costly make-work project for the Government's private sector pals.

"Instead of wasting money on costly gimmicks of dubious value, the Minister should instead address his Government's persistent starving of the Probation and Welfare Service, as recommended by the Auditor General's 2004 report which examined the cost-effectiveness of present prison policy, and the potential cost-savings of a beefed-up Probation and Welfare Service.

"If we really want to both cut the fat out of the prison budget and get tough on crime and repeat offending, what we need is significant investment in crime prevention, community supervision and in restorative alternatives to custody for appropriate offenders." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has called on the Government to clarify if the additional €10 million promised by the Government in Tsunami aid was in fact "new money" or just diverted from elsewhere.

The Dublin South Central TD was responding to reports that the extra €10 million would actually come from the existing Emergency Humanitarian Assistance budget. He also asked for the Government to say how much money had already been provided.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Following the tremendous generosity of the Irish people over the last couple of weeks in terms of donations to the various charities the Government upped it's commitment in aid from €10 million to €20 million. This was a very welcome development.

"It was generally understood that this would be new money. However, it is now being reported that the extra €10 million is to come from the existing Emergency Humanitarian Assistance budget.

"I would call on the Minister responsible to clarify this situation immediately. If it is not in fact additional monies, this would be completely at odds with the spirit of generosity shown by the Irish public.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to call on the Minister to say how much money the State has already provided for humanitarian aid for the victims of the Tsunami." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today called upon the European Union to 'lead by example on the protection and promotion of human, civil and political rights'. Ms McDonald made her comments after a report by Human Rights Watch criticised the EU and its member states for rolling back human rights protections for its citizens.

Speaking from Brussels Ms McDonald said:

"The report by Human Rights Watch confirms what Sinn Féin has been saying consistently in regards to human rights protections by member states. We have consistently argued that present EU policy is focussed upon, and fixated with security to the detriment of freedom, justice and rights.

"We continue to see a rush towards an EU security and surveillance state which is obsessed with gathering data about citizens. Of particular concern are measures such as universal mandatory data retention and the introduction of biometric identifiers on passports, visas and residency permits - and now, potentially, national ID cards if Michael McDowell has his way. We oppose this approach, not only because they are draconian measures, but because they will not make communities or member states any safer.

"According to the findings of the Human Rights Watch report 'regional and national policies and practices have focussed on keeping migrants and asylum seekers out of Europe. Sinn Féin is concerned at the evolution of a 'Fortress Europe' with many member states actively working toward this.

"In the Six Counties, asylum seekers 'lucky' enough to reach our shores are detained in prison facilities whilst their applications are being processed. The practice is immoral and locking asylum seekers in prison is a disgraceful practice, which clearly breaches human rights standards and must be ended. In the 26 Counties the Government continues to detain deportees in overcrowded prison conditions in Cloverhill, despite a recommendation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture that this practice should cease.

"The European Union is quick to criticise the human rights records of nations beyond its own borders when they are perceived to be at fault, therefore it is imperative that the EU leads by example on the protection and promotion of human, civil and political rights." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Derry City Councillors Lynn Fleming and Barney O'Hagan accompanied by Mitchel McLaughlin MLA and Director of Elections Gary Fleming are today meeting with Denis Stanley, Chief Electoral Officer and his staff to discuss the possible closure of polling stations in Derry.

Councillor O'Hagan said:

"The Sinn Féin delegation will be meeting with Denis Stanley today to discuss the siting of polling stations in the Derry area. There has been a concern that some of these stations will be closed due to trouble that occurred at the close of polling at the last election.

"Sinn Féin will be opposing any attempt to close these stations and will be reinforcing that message to Mr Stanley

"Sinn Féin believe that the PSNI have been the root cause of the trouble when they arrive to remove the ballot boxes from the stations. The young people in several areas have developed a culture of attacking the PSNI when they arrive at close of polling. By developing alternatives to the PSNI collecting the boxes we believe we can break this cycle of violence.

"There is nothing within the current legislation that states that the PSNI needs to be involved in the polling operation unless summoned by an electoral officer. Sinn Féin will be asking Mr Stanley to explore some of these alternatives so that we can make polling stations accessible to the electorate.

"Any move to make it more difficult for people to access the democratic process can only serve to disenfranchise people. The Electoral Office should consider all solutions that protect the right of people in these areas to vote that protect the democratic process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning urged the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern to raise the bugging of Belfast Sinn Féin offices with Paul Murphy at their meeting later today.

Ms de Brún made her comments after a Sunday newspaper revealed that the head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller admitted her organisation had bugged the Sinn Féin offices at Connolly House in Belfast. The report says that Manningham-Buller's disclosure came at a closed meeting of the Westminster intelligence and security committee before Christmas. The discovery of the device came at a critical time in the peace process.

Speaking this morning, Ms de Brún said:

"Reports of head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller's admission that MI5 bugged the Sinn Féin offices in west Belfast, including my own, will shock even those who have become hardened to the fact that the nationalist community has been spied upon and harassed for the past 35 years by these same shadowy organisations.

"We in Sinn Féin said at the time the bugging device was found that British Secretary of State Paul Murphy must have authorised the surveillance operation. In the light of this very disturbing report, I have asked Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, to raise the matter urgently with British Secretary of State Paul Murphy at today's meeting.

"Both myself and my colleague Mary Lou McDonald will also be raising this matter once again in the European Parliament at the highest levels.

"Sinn Féin raised this issue in the European Parliament back in September 2004 after the discovery of the bugging device. European Parliament President Josep Borrell raised the matter with the British Government, who gave the stock answer that they do not comment on individual cases.

"Given this highly disturbing report, the British government must now provide a satisfactory reply to the European Parliament, to the Irish government, and most importantly to the voters whose rights have been infringed.

"Time and again undercover British securocrats have created difficulties in the peace process, culminating with the closure of Stormont after unsubstantiated allegations of a spy-ring. These are the same people who have admitted responsibility for spying on republicans ten years into a peace process."ENDS

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA Cllr John O'Dowd, has said that the recruitment of over one hundred hospital consultants across the whole range of specialist disciplines within the North's health service must become an urgent priority action for NIO minister, Angela Smith.

The Upper Bann MLA said,

"In response to a recent written question which I put to her concerning the current vacancy levels for hospital consultants across all Health Trusts in the North, I have been amazed to learn that 119 vacancies for hospital consultants presently exist within seventeen out of eighteen Trusts.

"This scandalously high level of vacancies is unquestionably contributing to unnecessary stress and additional burdens being placed upon existing medical staff. It is also a major contributory factor in relation to the high numbers on patient waiting lists for treatment.

"There is a clear responsibility and duty upon Angela Smith, as the NIO health minister, to intervene in order to ensure that immediate action is taken to address this unacceptable and totally avoidable situation. Where necessary, that intervention must include action that ensures additional funding being made available to Trusts to enable them to fill these vacancies, and should also include an immediate ending of any freeze which the Department may have imposed upon Trusts in relation to the release of recruitment and development funding.

"I have no doubt that the recruitment and placement of these 119 hospital consultants would have a major and immediate positive impact upon the provision and delivery of heath service treatment for patients across the entire range of medical specialities." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has urged the SDLP Assembly team meeting today in Stormont to distance themselves from weekend remarks by Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell indicating that the party should accept the DUP proposal of a voluntary coalition.

Mr Kelly said:

" The DUP proposal for a voluntary coalition is about replacing the Good Friday Agreement and undermining the equality and inclusivity principles which underpin this process. That is why it was rejected out of hand in the negotiations last year and that is why Ian Paisley has given the weekend remarks by Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell such a warm welcome.

" There are clearly serious leadership issues now for the SDLP. There is a lack of direction and cohesion at the top of that party. However these problems should not be allowed to damage the Good Friday Agreement project. Nationalists and republicans have stood firm with the Good Friday Agreement. They expect their political representatives to do likewise.

" It is therefore important that the SDLP Assembly team meeting today in Stormont are clearly seen to distance themselves and their party from the weekend proposal that the SDLP join with the DUP and abandon the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has said that weekend remarks by senior SDLP members Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell indicating support for the DUP exclusion model of voluntary coalition showed clearly that the SDLP had departed fundamentally from the politics of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr McLaughlin said:

" The Good Friday Agreement was based upon respect for democratic mandates and on the principle of inclusivity. The DUP has always been hostile to these principles and to the Agreement itself. That is why they proposed the notion of a voluntary coalition excluding the majority of nationalist opinion from the process.

" This idea runs completely contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and was rejected outright in the negotiations which took place late last year. It is ironic that the SDLP who at that time criticised aspects of the December proposals have now decided to abandon the Good Friday Agreement entirely and instead breathe life into the failed DUP agenda of exclusion and discrimination. This is a fundamental departure from the politics of the Good Friday Agreement and the politics of conflict resolution.

" Nationalists will be dismayed at this change in the SDLP approach and will note the warm welcome which the weekend words of Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell have received from Ian Paisley. Nationalist opinion has consistently lined up with the peace process and with the Good Friday Agreement. That remains the focus of Sinn Féin. We will continue to fight for the Agreement and we will not abandon the principles which underpin it for the failed rejectionist agenda offered by the DUPs so called voluntary coalition." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for South Down Caitriona Ruane has demanded that the SDLP leader Mark Durkan clarifies his party's position regarding excluding the largest nationalist party, Sinn Féin, from the current process. Ms Ruane's demand comes after the SDLP MP Eddie McGrady indicated on Inside Politics that they were considering adopting the DUP proposal for a voluntary coalition.

Ms Ruane said:

" It is of course widely acknowledged that Mr McGrady would be closer to the unionist position than to those of us wedded to the ideal of a United Ireland. Nevertheless his comments on Inside Politics today will infuriate and anger the vast majority of nationalists and republicans.

" Mr McGrady very clearly indicates that the SDLP are considering running with the DUP proposal for some sort of voluntary coalition excluding the majority of nationalist opinion. The very least Mark Durkan can do now is to clarify publicly whether or not this is now the SDLP position." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this evening delivered the keynote address at the national launch of the Céad Bliain/Sinn Féin 100 event, in the Round Room at the Mansion House, Dublin. The event marked the beginning of a year long celebration of events to celebrate the centenary year of the foundation of Sinn Féin.

Full text of Gerry Adams speech:

An Céad - Toward a United Ireland

Let me commend all those people who, under Catriona Ruane's leadership, have organised An Cead - our year long celebrations of the centenary of our party. And let me thank you. Republicans too often take each other for granted.

So I want to launch An Cead by commending and thanking all of you and all our friends and comrades across this island, and around the world for your great commitment, idealism and contribution to our struggle. Lá Breithe shona do gach duine agaibh. Happy birthday to you all.

What is this year about? It is about education and debate. It is about the re-popularising of republicanism. It is about learning the lessons of a century of struggle. It's also about taking pride in what we are about. And what we have achieved. But most important of all this year is about Sinn Féin taking more decisive steps forward toward our goal of a united, free and independent Ireland.

Predictably enough the year begins with Sinn Féin once again under attack. Can any one here remember a time - any time - when the usual suspects weren't lined up against us. The political establishment was at it 100 years ago. The media establishment was at it 100 years ago. If those who founded Sinn Fein were alive today and watching recent events they would conclude that the more things change the more some things remain the same.

For example; the very first editorial in the Irish Independent after the 1916 Rising was entitled "Criminal Madness". It said:"No terms of denunciation that pen could indite would be too strong to apply to those responsible for the insane and criminal rising of last week."

As James Connolly lay wounded in hospital, the same paper declared: "Let the worst of the ringleaders be singled out and dealt with as they deserve." But for tonight let us ignore the begrudgers. Tonight is about our agenda - no one elses. So let us look to our vision of the future ˆ the vision of a free Ireland, united in peace and justice.

"The achieveable vision".

Over the past century Sinn Féin has been an idea, a name, a federation of political societies, a national independence movement, a republican campaigning organization.

And, in 2005, the only all-Ireland political party and the fastest growing party in the country. The words Sinn Féin have been described as "the title deeds of a revolution". And as we reflect on a century of Sinn Féin we should reflect on the meaning of those words. When the idea of Sinn Féin was conceived Ireland was awakening from the nightmare of the 19th century. There was the Great Hunger, the millions forced to emigrate and the land war. But even in the midst of these horrors some dared to dream of a different Ireland - a free Ireland.

The tragic fate of Parnell had shown the limits of a so-called constitutional nationalism that depended on the good will of British political parties or British governments to grant as concessions the inalienable rights of the Irish people. The most important principle of Sinn Féin was self-reliance. Only the people of this island can secure our liberation and mould our society to suit our unique heritage, our character, our economic needs and our place in the wider world. And that is still true today. And from the beginning Sinn Féin extended a hand of friendship to unionists, while always asserting that the end of the Union was in the interests of all the people of this island.

The Sinn Féin Policy as outlined by Arthur Griffith at the first convention in the Rotunda in November 1905 stated:

"For the Orangeman of the North, ceasing to be the blind instrument of his own as well as his fellow-countrymen's destruction, we have the greeting of brotherhood as for the Nationalist of the South, long taught to measure himself by English standards and save the face of tyranny by sending Irishmen to sit impotently in a foreign legislature whilst it forges the instruments of his oppression".

It was a time of renewal and rebirth in Ireland. Sinn Féin was the political expression of that dram, that blossomed in Conradh na Gaeilge, Cumann Lúhchleas Gael, the Trade Union movement, the Co-Operative movement, the development of Irish industries and agriculture, Inghínne na hEireann and the movement for Women's Suffrage, Irish Womens Workers Union of Ireland.

From the beginning women were centrally involved in this organisation. It was a woman, Máire de Buitléir, who first proposed the name Sinn Féin for the new political movement. Constance Markievicz, Minister for Labour in the First Dáil, was one of the first women Cabinet ministers in the world. Margaret Buckley was President of Sinn Féin from 1937 to 1950.

But too often women have been the workers in the background, the often invisible foundation of this party and this struggle. We have made progress in redressing the balance but much more needs to be done and one of our key aims in this centenary year must be to increase the number of women in Sinn Féin and the number of women in positions of leadership, including more republican women standing for elected office in winnable seats across this island.

Gan Conradh na Gaeilge ní bheadh Sinn Féin ann. Mar a dúirt Pádraig MacPiarais, nuair a bunaíodh Conradh na Gaeilge cuireadh tús le réabhlóid na hÉireann. Thug Gluaiseacht na Gaeilge féin-mheas ar ais do mhuintir na hÉireann. Ón tús bhí slánú na Gaeilge mar chuspóir ag Sinn Féin. Ba chóir dúinn deis na bliana seo a úsáid chun obair ár bpairtí ar son na Gaeilge a mhéadú, chun an pairtí féin a Ghaelú chomh fada agus is féidir agus chun plé le pobal na Gaeilge conas is féidir linn uile dul ar aghaidh sa chéad nua seo go dtí náisiún dá-theangach.

Defining Independence

The first objective in the first Constitution of Sinn Féin was simply stated as "the re-establishment of the independence of Ireland". Political events soon required a clearer definition of what that independence would mean. The political pendulum had swung towards constitutional nationalism. Irish hopes rested once more on the good will of a British political party. The Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminster reduced the national demand for freedom to the polite request for limited Home Rule within the British Empire. But even this was not conceded as the British government acted, as always, first and last, in its own interest.

It was Tory England, in alliance with Irish Unionism, that brought the gun into Irish politics in the 20th century - not republicans, not the Irish Volunteers, not Sinn Féin. With the Tory-Unionist gun came the concept of Partition. In the words of James Connolly, the republican who most clearly defined what the dream of a free, just and equal Ireland should be, they placed Ireland upon the dissecting table. And so the political pendulum swung back towards that element in Irish politics which, since the days of the United Irishmen, had always demanded national sovereignty and an Irish Republic.

There were many Republicans involved in the formation of Sinn Féin. They played a pivotal role in founding the Irish Volunteers. Many of them actively supported the workers in the Great 1913 Lockout in Dublin. This was a great period of debate, of exchanges of ideas as leaders and thinkers and activists, dreamers all, met and influenced each other. It was the time when the tributaries of separatism, anti-sectarianism, feminism, cultural revival, socialism and the physical force tradition flowed into the river of Irish Republicanism.

The Proclamation - a promise to every Irish citizen

The result was the 1916 Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, the founding document of modern Irish Republicanism and a charter of liberty with international as well as national importance. The great phrases of that document resonate around this hall 80 years after the First Dáil met here.

The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty; equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens; cherishing all the children of the nation equally. Its anti-sectarianism is evident in the words; oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past. And at a time when women in most countries did not have the vote, the government of this new republic will be elected by the suffrages of all her men and women.

Ní focail glice ná focail folaimh iad seo.

These are not just clever words or empty rhetoric. This was the dream taking shape.

Ta na focail agus na smaointí seo iontach. Tá sé mar cúram orainn ˆ mar dualgas ˆ é a chur I gcrích.

These are great words - great ideas - which it is our task - our responsibility - to see implemented. These words are a promise to every Irish citizen that she and he can share in the dignity of human kind, as equals with equal opportunity. That we can enjoy freedom, educate our children, provide for our families, and not exploit our neighbours.

The Irish people endorsed the Republic at the ballot box in 1918. Dáil Éireann was established and in this room, in this month in 1919, the Dáil declared the independence of the Republic and published its Message to the Free Nations of the World and the Democratic Programme. Maire Comerford wrote of the athmosphere in this room that day, „never was the past so near or the present so brave or the future so full of hope. We know what England's answer was. We are still living with the consequences of that British denial of Irish democracy, the unfinished business of Irish history.

From the high water mark of united national resistance, Republicans faced a counter revolution and long decades of struggle. It is a source of strength and encouragement that Republicans have survived undefeated in spite of all that has been thrown against us. We continued to dream. But we did more. We emerged as the leadership of a Risen People, that Risen People referred to by Maire Drumm, our murdered vice-president, whose words we have recalled tonight. It is not just Republican rhetoric to say that the refusal of successive British governments to recognise Irish democracy made armed conflict inevitable.

Let it not be forgotten that for decades, including all the years of the Civil Rights movement and in the most intense period of the conflict from 1969 to 1974, Sinn Féin was banned under British law in the Six Counties. Sinn Féin was censored. Sinn Féin members, elected representatives and our families were killed. We were banned from this building.

For generations of young nationalists and republicans there was a British Army roadblock at the bottom of every political route to change. And here in this state the Special Branch was busy as well. Well, those who vilified and excluded us need look no further than tonight as evidence of the failure of their strategy. We are back in the Mansion House bigger and stronger; and better than ever.

The Stalwarts

In this hall tonight are generations of activists, generations of dreamers and do-ers, who braved the reverses and hardships, the failures and the mishaps, who refused to despair and surrender and who risked life and liberty in pursuit of our republican goals.Is iad seo na daoine calma. Is iad seo na daoine a d‚fhulaing sna blianta gann agus a choinningh an tine beo- an tine saoirse. They are the stalwarts. Those who endured in the lean years and who guarded the flame of freedom.

Ta na daoine seo ó achan cearn den oileán - an tuaisceart agus an deisceart - an oirthear agus an iarrthar - cathrach agus tuathanach - sean agus óg - fir agus mná.

They are from every part of this island - north and south - east and west - urban and rural - young and old - men and women.Our bonds of comradeship and friendship have been forged in the crucible of struggle. In this centenary year we remember especially all those republicans who lived, worked and died for freedom. We remember them - we remember them all with great pride and love.

Their absence reminds us of how much we have lost in the course of this struggle. Each one was a unique, irreplaceable human being. The daughter or son of some parents. The mother or the father of some child. The beloved of some man or woman. These were ordinary men and women who in extraordinary and difficult circumstances found the inner strength, determination and courage to stand against injustice and oppression, to demand the rights and entitlements of the Irish people.

Our task - our duty - is to make their vision their dream - a reality.

Defining Republicanism today

That means defining and redefining our republicanism for today‚s world - for today's Ireland. Those who established Sinn Féin 100 years ago; those who fought on the streets of this city in 1916 and later against the might of the British Empire; and those who raised the flag of resistance in each subsequent generation, did so in circumstances that differed and changed as the years rolled past.

This is not 1905. It is 2005. It is the 21st century.

Republicanism today, and our dream, our vision, our aisling of the future reflects our contemporary experience; the inspiration provided by the heroes of this phase of struggle - Maire Drumm and Bobby Sands, Eddie Fullerton and Sheena Campbell and John Davey and many others; and by our political objectives for this time.

Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our strategy to achieve a united, independent Ireland marks us out from other Irish political parties. Later this year we will be launching a campaign for the Irish government to bring forward a Green Paper on Irish Unity. Our primary political objectives are; an end to partition, an end to the union, the construction of a new national democracy ˆ a new republic ˆ on the island of Ireland, and reconciliation between orange and green. But we are not prepared to wait until we have achieved these goals for people to have their rights to a decent home, to a job and a decent wage, to decent public services like health and education, and a safer cleaner environment.

We also want change in the here and now. Irish republicanism has a vision of a new society that is democratic. That is economic as well as political. A society which is inclusive of all citizens, in which there is a redistribution of wealth for the well being of the aged, for the advancement of youth, for the liberation of women and the protection of our children.

It foresees a new relationship between these islands resting upon our mutual independence and mutual respect.

From the beginning, saving the Irish language from extinction and reviving our national language was a key aim of Sinn Féin. We should use the opportunity of this year to increase our party's work on the Irish language - to Gaelicise the party itself to the greatest extent possible and to debate with the Irish language community particularly, and the English language community generally, how we can all move forward in this new century towards a truly bilingual nation.

Our republicanism is about change - fundamental, deep-rooted change. It's about empowering people to make that change. That means we have to be agents of change. This is an enormous responsibility. It is a huge challenge.

Building political strength

Key to achieving this is the hard, tedious, difficult work of building political strength. By building that strength we will build the capacity to move both the British and the Irish governments and the unionists and to influence the political agenda. Since last year Sinn Féin took major strides forward toward achieving our goals.

Just over a year ago, in November 2003, this party became the largest pro Agreement party in the north - a significant achievement. Last June Sinn Féin broke the mould of Irish politics in the European elections by electing Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún to the European Parliament and by electing Councillors right across the southern state. The front page of the Phoblacht then summed it up - 342,000 votes, 2 MEPs, 232 Councillors, 24 MLAs, 5TDs and 4MPs. Sinn Féin is now politically and organizationally stronger than at any time since the 1920s.

We have developed new approaches. We have taken difficult and risky decisions. We have demonstrated time and time again a preparedness to go on the political offensive, to take initiatives and go toe to toe with our political opponents in the battle of ideas, as well as in the hard job of building workable political partnerships. And all of these facts give some explanation why once again we are at the centre of a political storm. Our political opponents, and even those who should be our allies in the struggle for Irish freedom and peace, fear our growing electoral strength. It is amazing to watch the feverish efforts of parties in this part of the island rushing to claim their republican and Sinn Féin roots while attacking and condemning us.

We have no fear of that. If Labour and Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and the rest want to be republican then Sinn Féin welcomes that. The more the merrier. We have no monopoly on that. What is a republican if not someone who strives for Irish freedom and justice and end to partition? The success of our party - and the test for all other parties - has to be about how much change they secure and how much progress they make in improving the life of citizens and in achieving national freedom.

This generation will succeed. This is our time.

Tá dúthracht again I Sinn Féin agus tá fuinneamh againn. Tá idéalachas againn. Tá na stráitéisí againn. Ach tá a lán oibre le déanamh againn chomh maith. Níl muid ag cur I gcéill go bhfuil na freagraí go léir againn. Caithfidh muid an tacaíocht atá againn a úsáid chun bogadh chun tosaigh agus fás ar fud an oileáin. Caithfidh muid I Sinn Féin bheith mar gluaiseacht ar fud an náisiún uile.Sinn Féin has dedication and we have commitment. We have idealism. We have a dream. And we have strategies. We also have a lot of work to do. We don't pretend to have all the answers.

We must use our present mandate as a launching pad to grow an island wide, a nation wide mass Sinn Féin movement. Our goal is to have a Sinn Féin cumann in every electoral ward across Ireland. We have to open our party up to women comrades and to people who will bring their own life experiences and values. I particularly want to commend Ógra Sinn Féin for their dedicated work and enormous contribution. We also have to work in partnership with other parties, and people of a like mind, to construct a network ˆ an alliance for unity which will act as a catalyst for real change - a coalition for unity which brings people and parties with a similar vision of the future together.

Irish republicans have demonstrated time and time again our capacity to overcome adversity and advance our struggle for freedom and justice against enormous odds. It is not enough to sloganise. We are not verbalised republicans or rhetorical revolutionaries.We are not merely dreamers, though that is important. We are the generation which will win the freedom and independence that those before us struggled hard to achieve.

We in this historic hall, and thousands more throughout this island, are carrying the honoured name of Sinn Féin into the 21st century. And after a century of struggle, we are preparing for success. When will we get our United Ireland? When will Ireland have independence? There's only one answer to that. We will get it when our combined efforts, our combined strength, our determination make its achievement unstoppable. We will not settle for less. And the greater our efforts - the more quickly we will achieve our goals.

So, let us move the struggle forward. Let us continue, despite the difficulties - to reach out to unionism to build a just and lasting peace on our island. Let us continue with our efforts to make the peace process work.

We want to see and end to conflict on our island. We want to see the political institutions re-instituted. We want to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented. We know as the leading nationalist party in the north and the largest pro-Agreement party, that there are huge responsibilities on us. We are up to the task. But we cannot achieve this alone.

So, let us join with those in other parties and none, who share our vision of a new Ireland. Let us ask them to walk with us; to work with us; to move forward with us toward the republican and democratic goals of unity and freedom and equality.

In the course of these remarks I made mention of the dream that motivates us. Anyone who wants to win a struggle has to have a dream. The dream that things can be different. That they can be better. But we are not only dreamers. We are do-ers. We know we can make the difference.

So, let us leave here tonight renewed, reinvigorated, and determined to fulfill the promise of the Proclamation, and the objective for which Sinn Féin was founded - a free, independent, sovereign Ireland.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.

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Sinn Féin North Kerry TD Martin Ferris has called for immediate government action to tackle the recent spate of job losses in Kerry. The North Kerry Deputy was commenting following the news that 120 jobs were going to be lost between Killarney and Tralee. 28 workers at Tralee‚s Sheet Metal Industries Ltd are to finish this evening and a further 92 jobs are to go at Killarney's underwear manufacturer Sara Lee.

Speaking from Tralee today Deputy Ferris said:

"Not long after the IDA described as a 'quality year' for job creation in Kerry, we have the news that another 120 workers in Tralee and Killarney are to lose their jobs. This is a serious blow to the local community. Sheet Metal Industries has provided secure employment for several generations of people in Tralee. Many families will be affected by this news and everything possible most be done to assist them.

"These job losses along with the job losses in the textile industry in Killarney are another bitter blow to Kerry. There needs to be a coordinated strategy to tackle unemployment and ensure that investment into the county is prioritised by the government. I have in the past called for a Jobs Task Force to be set up in Kerry to deal with the crisis and I think now is the time to take an imaginative initiative like this." ENDS

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