Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has called on the British government to 'detail Brian Nelsons status within the British military in the period leading to his death.'
Alex Maskey said:
" Brian Nelsons role as British military intelligence agent has been well documented. It has been common knowledge for some considerable time that he was a central participant in murders carried out by the UDA while a British agent.
" What is not so clear however is his British military status since his release from prison in 1997. In order to clear up any confusion which might exist it is important that the British government spells out Brian Nelson's association with the British army. Questions as to whether Brian Nelson remained on the army payroll or whether he was in receipt of a military pension should be answered as a matter of urgency.
" Given the period of imprisonment served by Brian Nelson for involvement in UDA related activity any remaining association with the British army in the time leading to his death must be examined." ENDS
Speaking after he returned from his third trip to Colombia to attend the trial of the three Irishmen being detained there, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has said, "it is clear now more than ever that the charges against these three men were based on half-truths, innuendo and pure fantasy". He also said "the Irish Government must directly intervene to secure their immediate release and return to Ireland".
Deputy Crowe said: "It became very clear very quickly in the course last weeks trial of the Colombia Three that the prosecution case against them had absolutely collapsed. It is also clear now more then ever that the charges
against these men were based on half-truths, innuendo and pure fantasy. The prosecutions two key witnesses were totally discredited by the weight of evidence, which included video evidence, offered by the defence. The fact that
there are over sixty affidavits offered on behalf of the defendants as well a strong rebuttal of the so-called forensic evidence against them shows that this trial was a sham and a gross abuse of any semblance of justice from the very beginning. Nothing that was provided to the media and published without question in the aftermath the men's arrest in terms of so-called evidence, like the satellite photos, the forensic traces nor the eye-witness statements have stood up to any sort of cross examination. All have been rubbished.
"While I am personally confident that these men will eventually be found innocent of these serious charges against them I am very concerned that the trial has once again been halted. It is now not due to reconvene until June. I am also concerned at the fact that other key witnesses for the defence, including those who made the video of one of the defendants in Ireland during the time he was suppose to be in Colombia were not called to give their evidence.
"We can not allow this injustice to be maintained. The Irish Government has a duty to directly intervene with the Colombian authorities on behalf of these three Irishmen and to secure their immediate release from prison and safe return to Ireland." ENDS
Commenting on the statement by the two governments this morning, Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:
" This mornings statement from the two governments recognises the positive IRA statement and the commitment to making the peace process work.
"This follows on from a statement from the two governments on Saturday saying that 'fulfilling the promise and the potential of the Good Friday Agreement is a collective responsibility'.
" Last night we had a statement from the IRA which made clear their commitment to this process and their desire to see it succeed. They also said they had presented another statement to the two governments and clearly this is a positive intervention,
" It is my belief that there is now an opportunity to get the peace process back on track. These are positive developments, which should be built upon. The two governments should now move and publish their Joint Declaration." ENDS
Commenting on the request by the two governments for clarification, the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, said,
"On Sunday, 13th April, the leadership of the IRA forwarded a detailed statement setting out its view of the current phase of the peace process. This was accomplished in the most difficult circumstances, compounded by the leaking and misleading briefing to the media on earlier drafts and concepts which had been shared with the two governments.
"I have seen and read closely the IRA statement. It is clear and unambiguous. The two governments have acknowledged that the IRA statement is positive. I therefore find it incredible that they have not acted on the basis of this unprecedented intervention. They persist in their refusal to publish their Joint Declaration.
"However, if, their request for clarification is, as they claim, a genuine attempt to advance matters at this point then all obstacles to progress should be removed."ENDS
Commenting on the announcement that the IRA leadership have closed on a statement of their intentions and passed it onto the two governments, Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey said:
"I want to welcome this evenings announcement from the IRA that the two governments have received a statement of their intentions. This is clearly an important development.
"The onus is now on the two governments to publish their Joint Declaration. Sinn Féin would like to see all statements issued.
"I can confirm that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness acted as a conduit for the two governments with the IRA. "ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness speaking following a meeting with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin this morning said:
"This morning Gerry Adams and I met the Taoiseach. We repeated our view to him that the two governments should now publish the Joint Declaration.
"We also raised the need for a public inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. There should be no more stalling. The case for this is clear cut. The forthcoming Stevens Report, his third, cannot be permitted to become a barrier to this.
"The Sinn Féin leadership has been engaged in an exhaustive round of meetings in recent weeks determined to resolve the crisis and to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is implemented in full.
"That is what the two governments and the parties collectively agreed five years ago. That is what the people want.
"Yesterday, we said that our discussions with the two governments on the measures needed to implement the Agreement are now finished.
"There are critical issues which have yet to be properly dealt with - sanctions, no timeframe for the transfer of power on policing and justice, the suspension of the institutions and no commitment from the UUP on sustaining the institutions.
"But in reality the negotiations are concluded.
"There is therefore no excuse, no rational reason for the governments delaying the publication of the plan - their Joint Declaration - setting out how they intend to fully implement the Good Friday in all its aspects.
"Everyone can then respond to that - the political parties, the unionists and ourselves, as well as the armed groups, including the IRA.
"But we should not lose sight of what this is about. It is about implementing an Agreement that guarantees peoples rights and entitlements. These are not concessions, to be given or withheld at the behest or veto of anyone else, whether a government, a political party or an armed group.
"The Good Friday Agreement is the property of the people - not the governments and the people have a right to know how the governments plan to implement the Agreement and how the ret of us will respond to it."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP are meeting with US Ambassador Richard this afternoon, speaking before the meeting Mr. Adams said:
"I look forward to meeting the Ambassador again. His visit is a measure of the continued interest of the US government and especially of Irish America in our peace process.
"I spoke to the Ambassador on Tuesday morning and I believe that he is very familiar with all of the issues and the difficulties confronting us.
"I have also spoken today to the British and Irish governments.
"Sinn Féin's focus in on making the Good Friday Agreement work - of getting it implemented in full. That is what we collectively agreed five years ago. That is what people want.
"Our discussions with the two governments on the measures needed to implement the Agreement are in my view now finished. There are critical issues, which have yet to be properly dealt with. But in our discussions with the governments we told them several days ago that the negotiations are concluded. There is now, therefore, no reason or excuse for the governments to delay the publication of their plan - their Joint Declaration - setting out how they intend to complete the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Then let others respond to it, including the armed groups, including the IRA.
"But we should not lose sight of what this is about. It is about implementing an Agreement that guarantees peoples rights and entitlements. These are not concessions to be given or held at the behest or veto of any one else, whether a government, a political party or an armed group."ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality, and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Minister for Justice to defy the EU and withdraw the proposed Immigration Bill debated at second stage in the Dáil earlier today. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"There is no doubt that immigration and asylum policy in this state needs a massive overhaul, to reflect a genuine commitment to equality and human rights, and Sinn Féin has called for a positive, compassionate, and anti-racist immigration and asylum policy. But the Government's new Immigration Bill is in no way positive, compassionate, or anti-racist. It also does not conform with Ireland's human rights obligations and may cause unnecessary deaths. It is a Bill of questionable legality being introduced under an EU imperative, to comply with the 1990 Schengen Agreement. It not only acquiesces to, but seeks to enforce the Fortress Europe Agenda -- something that Ireland as a nation should actively oppose as unjust and hypocritical. The Bill debated in the House today is totally unacceptable to Sinn Féin, and we strongly oppose it.
"Ireland must defy the European Directive and refuse to introduce such legislation as it violates international law. If we are then taken to the European Court of Justice, this would allow us to take the lead in challenging it at European level, as we should have done at an earlier stage. I urge the Government most strongly to reconsider this Bill, to withdraw it, and in its place to introduce positive immigration reforms such as those advocated by Sinn Féin." ENDS
Responding to the comments of the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister in Downing Street this evening, Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA said:
" On the 5th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, one thing is beyond dispute, the Agreement has not been implemented in full.
" The two governments should now tell us how they intend to implement the Agreement.
" The Taoiseach and Prime Minister have spoken about clarity and certainty. They should publish the Joint Declaration immediately to ensure that there is clarity and certainty on the two governments' position. This would allow everyone to make their own judgements on this.
" Sinn Féin has made clear that critical issues remain. These include;
" These issues need to be addressed consistent with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement". ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP responding to the news that the two governments have cancelled the visit of the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister to Hillsborough said:
"Sinn Féin calls on the two governments to publish the Joint Declaration and their other public commitments now.
"Sinn Féin has put a huge effort into these negotiations.
"The people are entitled to know what has been negotiated.
"The people are entitled to know what the governments intend to do."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning addressing a press conference to mark the fact that we are almost 5 years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
The West Belfast MP said,
"The Good Friday Agreement was the culmination of an enormous collective effort by the two governments and the parties to tackle the causes of conflict.
"It was about change - fundamental and deep-rooted change across all aspects of society.
'The Agreement with its new institutions, including its all-Ireland structures, was voted for by the overwhelming majority of people on this island. It had and continues to hold the promise of a new beginning for everyone. The Sinn Féin focus in the last five years has been to see the Agreement implemented, to deal with all of the issues, including that of arms.
'There has been significant progress. In the limited time that the institutions existed they worked and were very popular. Clearly things are much better today than they were 5 or 10 years ago.
"However, the reality is that the Good Friday Agreement has not been implemented in full.
"Sinn Féin has been addressing this failure in our discussions with the two governments and the other parties.
"Consequently, we have made considerable progress on a number of specific areas. These include policing, crimiinal justice, and the stability of the institutions, demilitarisation, human rights and equality.
"But critical issues remain. These include, the transfer of power on policing and justice and the suspended status of the institutions and the absence of any clear commitment from the Ulster Unionist Party that it will work the institutions in a sustainable way. There is also the attempt to introduce sanctions against Sinn Féin, which are clearly outside the terms of the Agreement. This is unacceptable.
"However, we continue to engage on these issues.
"There is also a lot of focus in the media about what the IRA is going to do. I am not going to speculate on that but I do want to remind everyone that all of the issues in the Good Friday Agreement are issues of entitlements and rights - not subject to precondition by governments, political parties or armed groups, This time five years ago the Good Friday Agreement would have been seen as an impossible achievement. Five years on let us not underestimate the progress that has been made.
"Sinn Féin will judge any proposals published by the two governments on whether they implement fully and in good faith the Good Friday Agreement.
'This party has not strayed one coma from the Agreement in our call for its implementation by the two governments. In calling on them to fully implement the Agreement we are asking them to do what they undertook to do five years ago. It is now once again hand of history time." ENDS
In the Dáil today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD, called on the Irish government to address the findings of the report, 'Rent Supplement in the Private Rented Sector' by Threshold and Comhairle.
Deputy Morgan said:
"This report has highlighted the urgent need to tackle the problems which exist in relation to rent supplements. People are being forced out of the private rented sector because of the decision taken by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to limit the amount of rent in respect of which Health Boards may pay rent supplement and not to allow any rent supplement to be paid in cases where rent exceeds this amount.
"Threshold and Comhairle have found that what is being set as reasonable rent levels by Health Boards is not keeping pace with current market conditions. This is causing huge problems for many tenants who cannot find accommodation within the price range specified by their health board. It is nothing less than an irrational mechanism for restraining landlords from raising rents.
"This report has also confirmed what many of us have been aware of from anecdotal evidence and from representations from constituents - that is the refusal of some landlords to take tenants on rent supplements and the difficulty caused by the requirement for landlords to sign rent supplement forms.
"I commend Threshold and Comhairle for this report, which should have been carried out by the Department of the Environment and Local Government. We now need to see a determined response from the Government to address these issues which are contributing to the growing housing crisis in Ireland."ENDS
Sinn Féin policing spokesperson, Gerry Kelly, has said that today's statement on plastic bullets from the British government represents forward movement but that Sinn Féin will continue to press for the immediate end of these lethal weapons.
Gerry Kelly said,
"Sinn Féin has been pressing this British government relentlessly on the issue of plastic bullets, particularly at and since the recent Hillsborough discussions, We have made clear that the ending of the use of plastic bullets is a key issue for Sinn Féin and the nationalist community.
"Plastic bullets have maimed and killed and many of the victims have been young children. They have been employed by the British Forces as a weapon of terror and the rules governing their use have been systematically and institutionally disregarded.
" The statement today from the British government represents forward movement. Sinn Féin welcomes this progress but we will continue to press for the total end of the use of these lethal weapons." ENDS
Sinn Féin has endorsed the national anti-war mobilisation at Shannon Airport this Saturday. Party spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said:
"This war is not yet over. It is important that everyone who opposes it keeps focused, and does not allow distractions from our main objectives in this campaign -- to hold this Government accountable for their decision to aid and abet the invasion of Iraq, to insist that they act in accordance with their stated commitment to Irish neutrality by withdrawing overflight and landing privileges as is Ireland's right and duty as a militarily neutral state, and to let the Irish, British, and US Governments know that the Irish people do not support this unjust and illegal war. That is what Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams did earlier this week when he took the opportunity to deliver this very message directly to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair -- something the Taoiseach himself has so far refused to do.
"Yesterday in the Dáil, in response to Sinn Féin's call for a neutrality audit to enable the Irish people to judge for themselves the status of Irish neutrality and to assess this Government's performance in relation to it, the Minister for Foreign Affairs actually told me that he does not believe it is in the public interest to reveal the extent of Irish complicity in foreign wars past and present by publishing a comprehensive account of neutrality violations at Shannon and elsewhere. Furthermore, while I finally forced him to admit that his Government does not comply with the internationally accepted definition of neutrality, the Minister refused point blank to reveal what alternative definition of neutrality the Government is working from, merely insisting that Irish neutrality is 'different' from that of all other neutral countries.
"Such deliberate evasiveness is clearly no longer acceptable to the Irish people, who care deeply about neutrality -- and not the Jeckyl and Hyde neutrality of Fianna Fáil, but a real and positive neutrality as it is broadly understood and accepted around the world. It is time this Government got the message, and on Saturday the Irish people will deliver it in no uncertain terms." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has pledged his party's support to the organisations representing people with disabilities who have called tonight's (Tuesday) Rally in the Mansion House in protest at Government cuts.
Deputy Ó Caoláin called for a special Dáil debate on the issue and said:
"It is disgraceful that yet again a host of people from throughout the country have had to organise a protest rally in Dublin as a result of this Government's cutbacks in services for people with disabilities. It was predicted at the time of the Budget that the spending shortfall in 2003 would mean that existing services, as well as promised new and badly needed developments, would be hit by these cuts. This has now come to pass and people are reporting to us that they are unable to maintain the current level of service. These cuts are causing real hardship.
"I am calling on this Government to urgently allocate the necessary extra resources, to immediately address the scandal of the continuing detention of people with intellectual disabilities in psychiatric hospitals, and to bring forward rights-based disability legislation." ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O'Toole speaking at tonight's Dublin City Council meeting, called on all political parties in the city to come together with a united voice in support of the students, parents and workers of the Dublin College of Music. He called on the Dublin Institute of Technology to reverse their retrograde step in relation to the teaching of music in the City. Cllr O'Toole said:
"It is a tragedy that the Dublin Institute of Technology is cutting back on the provision of music education for the people of Dublin. The effect of this decision will be to make music inaccessible to those without access to private tuition.
"The College of Music has been in existence for more than one hundred years and is an integral part of the heritage of this City. This action is the equivalent of tearing down one of our listed buildings.
"I am concerned that for almost a decade, the DIT have been pursuing a 'master plan', which aimed to shift the educational emphasis from the part-time junior and 2nd level areas to the full-time 3rd level.
"I am concerned about how the policy had been determined by DIT and who, if anyone had been consulted.
"It essential that music education in the city be maintained through adequate tutorial provision and is accessible to all. I would urge all the political parties in the City to come together with a united voice in support of the students, parents and workers of the Dublin College of Music." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin today announced that party activists are mobilising to attend anti-war protests at Hillsborough on Monday 8th April at 6pm. He said that while we regard the engagement of US Administrations in the Irish Peace Process as positive, we are totally opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Mr. McLaughlin said:
"We regard the engagement of US Administrations in the Irish Peace Process as positive. However, we are strongly opposed to the invasion of Iraq.
"We will be conveying our opposition to the war on Iraq directly to both the British Prime Minister and the US President."ENDS
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has accused Government Ministers of squabbling over health policy while patients suffer. Commenting on the public row between Health Minister Martin and Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy, Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Government was "at sixes and sevens" over Health and challenged the Taoiseach to say "who is in charge". Deputy Ó Caoláin also called on the Minister to "take on" consultants who were holding up health reform. He said:
"Patients are suffering on waiting lists and hospital beds and wards are being closed. There are not enough consultants, junior doctors and nurses. The downgrading of smaller local hospitals continues apace. Services for people with disabilities are being cut back. And in the face of all this we have Government ministers squabbling over health policy. This Government is at sixes and sevens over health.
"I challenge the Taoiseach to say who is in charge of Health policy following Health Minister Martin's criticism of Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy. Minister Martin's frank statement that the Minister for Finance and his department have lost sight of the 'bigger picture' on health is a damning indictment.
"Equally damning is the Minister for Health's admission that consultants are still 'kings in their own domain' and are blocking the reforms necessary to improve the health services. It is time to take on this powerful elite. And in doing this the Minister should have the full support of his Cabinet colleagues, including the Finance Minister." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan TD speaking during the debate on the reform of Local Government in the Dáil this morning said that he "welcomed wholeheartedly the ending of the dual mandate" and urged the Minister to reinstate the provision for the direct election of Mayors and Chairpersons at the earliest opportunity.
Deputy Morgan said: "I look forward to the independent review of local Government that the Minister signalled would take place shortly. I hope the review is imaginative and creative because it is long overdue.
"I welcome wholeheartedly the ending of the dual mandate which I hope marks the dawn of a new ear for local government. One person cannot carry out the functions of two separate elected bodies effectively. I would urge that the provision for the direct election of Mayors and Chairpersons be reinstated at the earliest opportunity.
"There is an overuse of centralised power, which is unfair. It corrupts local authorities, not in the financial sense, but by forcing them to implement all sorts of planning levies and parking fees. For example, in my own county a planning levy of €3,300 is imposed on a young couple applying for permission to build their first house. How can that be fair, particularly in the context of the ending of the first time buyer's grant in the budget? It is a gross imposition on the very people local government should support.
"In ending the dual mandate we must also ensure that city and county managers are not given additional power. We should use the opportunity provided by this Bill to replace city and county managers with representatives who are directly elected by the citizens and voters of a city or county.
"I would be favourably disposed to supporting the Bill if the Minister made these changes." ENDS
A public meeting at the Canal Court Hotel in Newry on Thursday night (April 3) was informed of a forthcoming delegation of Sinn Féin elected representatives which is to visit Brussels in early May to meet with officials of the EU Agricultural Commission. The delegation will be led by the party spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD and Gerry McHugh MLA. The purpose of the visit is to make representations on a wide range of issues effecting farmers on both sides of the border.
Among the issues which will be raised are;
1. Agricultural status for the Six Counties
2. All Ireland milk quota
3. Rural Development
5. Animal health and disease prevention
6. UK tagging and an All Ireland food policy
All of the speakers who included Pat Doherty MP, Conor Murphy MLA, Councillor Pat O'Rawe, Gerry McHugh MLA and Martin Ferris TD stressed the importance of tackling these issues on an all Ireland basis and referred to the Sinn Féin project to advance this. Martin Ferris also referred to the need to convince farmers and rural communities from the Unionist tradition that their interests are best served in advancing towards an all island approach.
Deputy Ferris said: "More and more people from the Unionist tradition are coming to that realisation and I have no doubt but that many also have a far higher estimation fro Gerry McHugh than they do for any of the Unionist spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development". ENDS