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


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Sinn Feín EU candidate for the Dublin constituency Mary Lou McDonald has this evening expressed her concerns regarding the forthcoming Citizenship Referendum. Ms McDonald argued that the "Citizenship Referendum would enshrine inequality within the Constitution".

Ms McDonald made her comments before her attendance at the launch debate of the Smurfit Debating Society in UCD, attended by representatives of the other main political parties this evening at 7.00pm.

Speaking this evening Ms McDonald said:

"I look forward to this evenings debate on the forthcoming Citizenship Referendum, to put forward the Sinn Féin view on the issue. We are calling upon people to reject Justice Minister McDowell‚s racist referendum on June 11th. His justification for the referendum does not stand up to scrutiny ˆ he has not provided any concrete evidence for his claims. His statistics do not prove his case.

"This proposal will enshrine inequality and race-based citizenship into the constitution. Sinn Féin is concerned that the proposal also undermines the Good Friday Agreement and jeopardises the peace process.

"The Citizenship Referendum moves us away from the tradition of citizenship by birth shared with over 40 other democracies including the US and Canada, and towards race-based or bloodline-based citizenship, which is offensive to the republican principles of equality.

"Sinn Féin wants a comprehensive immigration policy that is positive, compassionate, human rights-compliant and anti-racist. That policy must fully recognise the positive contribution of immigrants to Irish society and to the Irish economy."ENDS

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Speaking in advance of Sinn Féin's Private Members' motion tomorrow on the Government's failure regarding Rural Development commitments, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Rural Affairs Martin Ferris TD said that the lack of balance in regional development in Ireland was something which the people of the West had been highlighting for a long time and that they were justifiably "embittered and angry" at the lack of adequate services in the area.

Deputy Ferris said:

"What was promised by this Government for Rural Development has not even begun to materialise. Is it any wonder people in the West of Ireland are embittered and angry at the way their needs are ignored? All that is being asked for is an equal level of provision of services for residents of this area.

"The West is an area of great potential and to see it being depleted by population decrease due to lack of services for communities is a national crisis and something that this Government cannot continue to turn its back on or it will pay the ultimate price when people realise they cannot rely on the right-wing PD-dominated coalition to deliver for sustainable rural communities in the future. The Government have failed to generate real regional development through the National Spatial Strategy or to encourage sufficient investment to compensate for losses in the Agricultural sector in an area where there is already unemployment of a much higher level than the national average in places like Kerry and Donegal. Everyone, no matter where they live, is entitled to equal access to and quality of public services." ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the North West, Pearse Doherty, has contrasted the manner in which the banks treat their farmer customers to the growing evidence of internal malpractise. Mr. Doherty was speaking as yet more evidence emerged regarding the manner in which AIB in particular, have been allowed to operate over the past number of years.

 

Mr. Doherty was speaking before a two day Rural Development Conference which is taking place in Westport, Co. Mayo (31st May - June 1st):

 

"There are tens of thousands of farming households throughout this state who are massively in debt. Last year farmers owed €1.1 billion. Many of them are finding it extremely difficult to survive in these circumstances. Many of them also find that they are treated with little understanding by the banks and this stands in sharp contrast to the kind of practices which we have seen are tolerated among the golden circle of banking in this country.

 

"It is time that the state intervened to ensure that the banks are made more sensitive to the problems of their ordinary customers including farmers. They must also be made to tailor their lending practices to ensure that the chief aim is productive investment rather than the banks' own obsession with maximizing their already massive profits."ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the Six Counties Bairbre de Brún has called on the EU to lead by example on protection from discrimination and the promotion of equality. Ms de Brún said:

"The European Union is still a very unequal place, where women are grossly underrepresented in decision-making, where people with disabilities are regularly denied full access to education, services and jobs, and where some member state governments still believe it is acceptable to discriminate against people based on their national origin, religion, sexual orientation, family status or age.

"Sinn Féin believes that the achievement of full equality of all people within the EU regardless of gender, ethnic origin (including nomadic status), national origin, sexual orientation, disability, religious or political belief, family status, socio-economic status or age, must become a higher priority objective of EU policy.

"The EU must lead by example on protection from discrimination and the promotion of equality.

"Sinn Féin MEPs will make campaigning for equality a priority here at home and in Strasbourg and Brussels. We will work for: the introduction of a mechanism for equality-proofing all EU law and policy; levelling-up of equality rights protections throughout the EU; the introduction of more comprehensive EU anti-discrimination legislation with similar scope to the Racial Equality Directive, including new comprehensive Gender, Disability and Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual Equality Directives

"Sinn Féin is committed to creating an Ireland of equals in a Europe of equals. Only by tacking strong measures at an EU level and complementing that with local action can we begin to seriously tackle the negative effects of inequality and discrimination on many people across society."ENDS

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Sinn Féin will launch its manifesto for the European election campaign tomorrow, Tuesday 1st June at 10.30am in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

Attending the press conference will be Gerry Adams MP, EU candidate for Dublin - Mary Lou McDonald and EU candidate for the South - David Cullinane.

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast Michael Ferguson has hit out at those responsible for leaving an explosive device outside the offices of Community Restorative Justice in Andersonstown last night.

Mr Ferguson said:

" At around 3am last night an explosive device was left outside the offices of the Community Restorative Justice programme in Slemish Way. The area was evacuated and much disruption was caused to the local community.

" At this stage we are not yet sure of the motives of those behind this attack. However what I can say is that people locally are angry at this incident. CRJ provide a crucial mediation role within this community and this attack is being viewed as an attack on the wider community in this part of West Belfast.

" I would call on those responsible for this attack to come to their senses and get off the backs of the community. This sort of attack will not prevent people organising community projects and coming together to work for the benefit of the entire West Belfast community." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has called on people to vote No in the Citizenship Referendum on June 11th. Mr Adams said that if this referendum is passed it will "create a completely unequal society for future generations".

Mr Adams said:

"Sinn Féin wants a comprehensive immigration policy that is positive, compassionate, human rights-compliant and anti-racist. That policy must fully recognise the positive contribution of immigrants to Irish society and to the Irish economy.

"The sole reason for the Government running the referendum on this day is to deflect attention away from their miserable performance since coming into power. But look at what their selfishness will do. Irish children will be stripped of their rights, purely because of where their parents come from.

"Michael McDowell has not provided any concrete evidence for his claims. His statistics do not prove his case. In quoting figures for non-nationals giving birth in Irish hospitals the Minister is including many people from inside and outside the EU who are quite legally entitled to be here. We know the Minister believes in an unequal society but this referendum has racist undercurrents to it as well. He cannot be allowed to abuse the position of power the Irish people have given him, by pushing his own personal agenda.

"The Government has also tried to peddle the line that passing this referendum will make our citizenship laws similar to other countries. That is downright rubbish. 40 other countries share the citizenship laws we have now. If an Irish person has a child in America, that child will be an American citizen.

"This referendum will have serious implications for the Good Friday Agreement. Anti-Peace Process elements have already seized upon it as an example of how the Agreement can be tampered with. Is Michael McDowell trying to destroy the Good Friday Agreement?

"The Government is trying to feed into the misconceptions and the genuine concerns about immigration that do exist in our society. The referendum is an insult to the Irish people, and is an example, once again, of this coalition pushing through serious legislation, without engaging in any sort of debate first.

"This referendum makes a joke of our claim to be Ireland of the welcomes. If it‚s passed, we will be creating a completely unequal society for future generations."ENDS

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The Mayor of Armagh City, Councillor Pat O'Rawe MLA, paid an extended visit to County Wexford over the weekend where she performed a very busy schedule.

Cllr O'Rawe the first female Assembly member in her constituency and the first ever Sinn Féin Mayor of Armagh met with a wide variety of local community groups in Wexford, Rosslare, Gorey, Enniscorthy and New Ross. She also joined the local election candidate trail in Gorey and Enniscorthy, and launched the new Sinn Féin manifesto: 'Women in an Ireland of Equals' in New Ross before attending a party function in Hotel Curracloe on Saturday night.

Speaking at the launch of the womens manifesto in New Ross on Saturday accompanied by local Sinn Féin election candidates, Sandra Ryan (Gorey), Noreen Sheridan (Enniscorthy) and Bernie Murphy (New Ross) Cllr O'Rawe said:

"As a party striving towards an Ireland of Equals, Sinn Féin fully supports the Equality Agenda and its implementation throughout society. Central to this is the need for gender balance, gender proofing and gender equality in the decision making process.

"Sinn Féin is committed to the establishment of targets and timescales for achieving equality of representation for women in public life, and equality of outcome in employment, education and training. We believe that gender proofing in appointments, policies and resource allocation must be obligatory for all public bodies.

"A culture of change is required throughout society to ensure that there is better representation and better working practices for women in politics. It is crucial that we all play a part in creating changes to the political systems to encourage more family friendly practices.

"Sinn Fein will work with all those committed to promoting equality at all levels of society and we bring the same commitment to change to our own party. This is a real issue for Sinn Féin in terms of our policies, the issues that we campaign on and the candidates that we put forward for election. Indeed in these elections we are presently standing the largest number of women candidates ever in winnable seats and the issue of equality is central to our entire campaign."ENDS

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A Sinn Féin local election candidate in Dublin's Inner City Centre, Ciarán Mac Annraoi has asked Fianna Fáil if the Justice and Equality Minister, Michael McDowell, spoke for them when he told the Irish Catholic newspaper last week that inequality is good for people and an incentive in the Irish economy.

Ciarán Mac Annraoi, a challenger for Mayor Royston Brady's council seat and the running mate of Councillor Christy Burke, said:

"Dublin's Inner City has suffered disproportionately over many decades from neglect and inequality.  Now we have the Fianna Fáil/PD Coalition's Equality Minister effectively saying, 'Inequality is good for you.'

"We expect this sort of Thatcherite clap-trap from the PDs, but is Michael McDowell speaking for his Fianna Fáil Coalition partners and its candidates as well?  I think the voters should be told."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and EU candidate for the Six Counties Bairbre de Brún has called for EU wide action to tackle homelessness and this must include targets and timeframes for the elimination of homelessness. Ms de Brún said:

"People have the right to live free of poverty. As an organised bloc of some of the wealthiest states in the world, the EU has the resources to guarantee this fundamental socio-economic right at least to its own population. Basic social and economic rights must be guaranteed for all. This includes the right to a home.

"Unfortunately this right is not being accorded to all. Levels of homelessness are rising in many EU countries, including Ireland. Serious action needs to be taken at an EU wide level to combat homelessness.

"There is a need for member states to agree an EU wide target and timeframe for the elimination of homelessness.

"This requires adequate provision of social and affordable private housing. However tackling homelessness also requires addressing people‚s capacity; providing employment opportunities and combating financial exclusion. Eradicating poverty and social exclusion will not happen without concerted action on homelessness."ENDS

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Sinn Féin TDs Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Séan Crowe will join party colleagues Mary Lou McDonald, Daithí Doolan and Eoin O Sé on Monday 31st May to canvas the Westmoreland Street - Dame Street area for a NO vote in the citizenship referendum. They will begin the canvas at 9.15am outside the Bank of Ireland on College Green.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and party colleagues North West EU candidate Pearse Doherty and Pat Doherty MP will be on opposing sides for the Ulster football championship clash between Antrim and Donegal in Ballybofey on Sunday 30th May.

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Speaking today about the naming of people allegedly involved in the latest AIB scandal, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: "Naming the alleged culprits is not enough. If there is evidence of wrong-doing, arrests should be made". Mr. Adams said:

In keeping with the Tanaiste's remarks yesterday about naming and shaming people involved in the latest AIB scandal, the Government's response to this breach of tax law has been totally inadequate. Naming the alleged culprits is not enough. If there is evidence of wrong-doing, arrests should be made.

This option has rarely been exercised against those in banking or other financial institutions, or for that matter, politics, the judicary, developers or other people in certain sectors who bring their own professions into disrepute by their involvement in white collar crime. Apparently this little golden circle is above the law.

Little wonder that there is increasing disillusionment with politicans and institutions. There are two laws. One for the rich and another for the rest of us.

Is this what Minister McDowell meant when he said inequality is an incentive for the economy?"ENDS

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East Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Joe O'Donnell has said that he hopes that today's statement from the LVF will mark an end not just to the ongoing loyalist feud but to all unionist paramilitary violence. Cllr. O'Donnell said:

"Obviously if this statement does mark the end of the latest loyalist feud then that is to be welcomed. East Belfast has been on a knife-edge for the past two weeks. However in the past loyalist feuds have ended with attacks on nationalists and Catholics. I hope that this pattern will not be repeated on this occasion.

"Now that this feud is over all of us in political and community leadership in the city need to get back to the job of ensuring a peaceful summer for families living in interface areas. There is no point in ending one type of violent unionist activity to see it replaced by another." ENDS

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Ógra Shinn Féin were in Temple Bar today at 12 noon using political street theatre to highlight the massive inequalities in the Irish health service. One of the youngest candidates standing in the Dublin City Council area, Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Sé (23) said that the theatre was a success with the public, who "know only too well how much of a state the health service is in"

Mr Ó Sé said: „The street theatre was something different, and went down well with the shoppers and workers in the vicinity. These people know only too well what state the health service is in.

"Ógra Shinn Féin is concerned, and rightly so, that the Government is avoiding the health issue in the run up to these elections. It has been all but forgotten by candidates who are more interested in electoral success, than what the voters actually want. The health issue is the biggest issue in the country at the moment. Everything else pales in comparison to not having a good health service and the public are screaming that at politicians. They might as well be talking to the wall.

"This Government has failed us. They haven‚t fulfilled the promises they made in 2002 and the Hanly Report only makes a bad situation worse.

"We, as young people, don‚t want to inherit this health mess, so we will keep raising the health issue, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient it is for Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats."ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the South constituency David Cullinane has called on the Irish Presidency to "use its considerable influence to help combat poverty within the European Union." Mr Cullinane made his remarks on the eve of a meeting to discuss poverty within EU member states.

The event, entitled: "Meeting of people from EU countries experiencing poverty" will take place tomorrow in Brussels (29.05.04).

Speaking in advance of the conference, Mr Cullinane said:

"The European Union needs to face up to the challenges that an enlarged union inevitably brings. Now, more than 65 million people live in poverty within the 25 member states. The Irish Presidency had the opportunity to prioritise the eradication of poverty and it has failed miserably.

"In the EU, the richest 20% of the population receive five times the total income of the bottom 20% - the present situation is unacceptable. Over the last number of years, the EU has increasingly prioritised an agenda focused upon economic growth and competitiveness. It has also become obsessed with militarism and the need to arm itself to the teeth with sophisticated weaponry. It would cost 100 billion euro to cut global poverty in half by 2015, yet the EU spends approximately 800 billion every year on military initiatives.

"Sinn Féin believes that as a matter of urgency, the European Union, under the stewardship of the EU Presidency must fight for agreement of EU wide targets and timeframes for poverty reduction and elimination. Protection for the most vulnerable in society must become a priority of the EU."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy has said that this weeks revelations in a BBC programme about collusion in a number of murders and other attacks in South Armagh was 'an important first step in lifting the lid on the activities of Crown Forces and Unionist paramilitaries which are well known to people in this area'.

Mr Murphy said:

" This weeks Spotlight programme was an important first step in lifting the lid on the activities of Crown Forces and unionist paramilitaries which are well known to people in South Armagh. Sinn Féin have been a lone voice for decades in highlighting the extent of collusion in South Armagh and elsewhere.

" This was not simply a case of bad apples. It was a policy decision which stretches directly to Downing Street and as Spotlight showed also involved the support of the judiciary in the six counties.

" The programme however only scratched the surface of the mountain of evidence which exists linking prominent South Armagh security force families to murders and bomb attacks in the area. The silence of groups like FAIR in the wake of the programme has not been lost on the nationalist and republican community in South Armagh.

" Sinn Féin will continue to support the families of those killed through the British policy of collusion in South Armagh and elsewhere in their campaign for the truth. The British government lived in denial for decades about this issue. It only became an issue for them when Sinn Féin placed it on the talks agenda. It will remain there until the web of collusion and cover-up is untangled." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald described Michael McDowell's statement this morning that 'inequality is an incentive to the economy' as a succinct declaration of the PD's right wing policies. Ms McDonald accused the PD's of pursuing an agenda of inequality with relish over the last seven years, leaving communities across Ireland devastated in their wake.

Ms McDonald said:

"Since 1997 the PDs have pursued an agenda of inequality with relish. They led an unprecedented assault on communities across Ireland with their policy of slashing Community Employment Schemes. In 1997, there were almost 40,000 CE participants. Seven years later the number is 25,000. Almost one thousand CE Schemes have disappeared. These cutbacks have devastated community projects and services across the state. Home helps, meals-on-wheels, childcare, environmental and heritage projects have all suffered.

"The value of these schemes to communities is immeasurable, and there is nothing to replace them. CE Schemes, and other programmes like them, are an example of the role the State can play in empowering communities, in providing them with the skills, resources and personnel to make a difference, whether it is in Ballymun, Ballyfermot, or the South Inner City.

"And it doesn't stop there. Instead of building the services that our people need, instead of developing strategies to end poverty, provide decent affordable housing and improving health care, the PDs and Fianna Fáil have used the wealth of the last decade to reward the wealthy and to feather the nests of their friends in big business. They extended tax breaks for developers of hotels, holiday camps and holiday cottages while 50,000 households languish on waiting lists and local authorities are deprived of funding to provide social housing. They also extended tax giveaways to developers of private hospitals and private sports injuries clinics. While Minister McCreevy throws money at the lucrative private health business our public health system is in a state of continuing crisis.

"The Minister's latest quest for an unequal society has come in the form of the Citizenship Referendum. If he has his way and it is passed, we will have a situation where two children born in an Irish hospital at the same time will be completely unequal, one will be considered Irish and one will not.

"Michael McDowell is the Minister charged with responsibility for equality and the fact that he is actively pursuing inequality in rhetoric and in deed, makes his position untenable."ENDS

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Sinn Fein spokesperson on Social, Community & Family Affairs Seán Crowe TD, speaking after attending a report launch by 3 leading charities today expressed very serious concerns at the levels of poverty and inequality facing disadvantaged families, calling it "frightening".

Deputy Crowe said:

"For the 2nd time this week I have seen the frightening figures which leave us in no doubt about the dire poverty and inequality that lurks in our society. Earlier, I attended the Dublin Simon report on the Homeless crisis and today, the timely report on Food Poverty and Policy brings home the stark reality that this Government is failing another large sector of our society.

"People may find it hard to believe that, in the fourth wealthiest EU country, over 40 breakfast clubs are run in Dublin for children who, without them, simply could not stay awake and alert at school because of the lack of nutrition in their diets. It may also come as a surprise to many that fruit and vegetables are simply unaffordable to many families and that disadvantaged people spend about one third of their household income on food. For many parents, access to food and supermarkets is problematic in itself as large housing estates and American style out-of-town shopping malls become the norm. Inadequate public transport systems and lack of private transport often force these people to resort to the local shop for necessities, causing more expense again for people already suffering from poverty and disadvantage.

"There is a need to acknowledge that there is a serious poverty problem here and that the problem needs to be alleviated at the root - preventative programmes, while welcome, should not be seen as anything more than an interim way of tackling the problems. Different departments of the Government must look at the causes of poverty and work together to alleviate these inequalities, departments of Health, Social Welfare, Agriculture, Finance, and Education should take a joined-up approach to improve the life and health prospects of people on the margins. This will benefit the wider community and the economy with less strain on the Health system and less spending on healthcare. This country is constantly fed the notion that we are a rich, prosperous, thriving

economy. What is not emphasised is that huge numbers of people depend directly and indirectly, on the excess unwanted food produced in the EU to feed them and their children. This is not progress - it is regress." ENDS

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Speaking during a canvass in Fermanagh today, Sinn Féin EU candidate Bairbre de Brún MLA called for an 'immediate end to the occupation of Iraq and for the UN to oversee a speedy return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.'

Ms de Brún said:

"Sinn Féin opposed military intervention in Iraq. Last year Gerry Adams warned Tony Blair and George Bush that the invasion of Iraq was not only illegal under international law but would end in a prolonged period of conflict and political instability. And this is what has happened.

"What needs to happen now is for the military occupation of Iraq to end immediately and for the UN to oversee a speedy transition to democratic rule of Iraq by Iraqis."ENDS

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