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An Chéad Dáil

Here is the much celebrated video shown at Sinn Féin's An Chéad Dáil event in the Mansion House Round Room on January 12, 2019. Sinn Féin former Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha wrote and presents this historic and inspiring reflection of the events of 100 years ago.


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A meeting will take place today of the Sinn Féin Assembly Group in Stormont.

During a break in the meeting Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will be available to speak to the media at 12.30pm in the foyer in Stormont.

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East Councillor Daithí Doolan will be supporting tomorrow morning's Anti Bin Charges Protest, "to ensure that all rubbish is collected here in Ringsend."

Cllr. Doolan, speaking in Ringsend today said:

"The City Council Management continues in their attempt to bully us into submitting to their bin charges. This week, as part of their tactics, they have implemented a disgraceful policy of non collection of household waste that do not have pre paid tags attached. This has created a situation where rubbish is piling up on Dublin's streets.

"Here in Ringsend, we have decided to make a stand and tomorrow, with my full support, residents will hold a protest at 8am on South Lotts Road. The protest is being held to ensure that all rubbish will be collected and to avoid a health and safety crisis in our communities."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on, "City Council Management to abandon this disgraceful policy of leaving rubbish pile up in an attempt to force people into paying this double tax. The charges have proven to be unjust and unworkable." ENDS

The protest will take place tomorrow, Friday 14th, 8am, Shelbourne Dog Track, South Lotts Road, Ringsend.

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today called for the European Union to provide greater political and financial aid for the countries affected by December's Tsunami in South East Asia. The call came during a debate on the issue in the European Parliament.

Speaking after the vote Ms McDonald said:

"Like many others, I have been appalled by the scale of the disaster caused by the earthquake and tsunami which hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Southern India, Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Burma, Mauritius, Somalia, Kenya, Seychelles, Réunion island and Tanzania

"The United Nations have already confirmed that 150 000 people have died, thousands have gone missing, more than 500 000 have been seriously wounded and five million have been displaced, and that the survival of some 150 000 people is under immediate threat from epidemics and famine.

"In addition the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than five million people are suffering from inadequate access to drinking water and a shortage of medical services and health provision. Much of the communication, energy and educational infrastructure have been destroyed in these coastal regions.

"I and my colleague Bairbre de Brún would like to convey our party's condolences and deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims, and to the peoples and governments of the countries concerned. We would also like to pay tribute to the many forms of solidarity shown across the world.

"The international community, and in particular political leaders in Europe, must respond in kind and fully honour the commitments made to the victims of the disaster.

"Today Sinn Fein supported a resolution calling on the European Commission and the Member States to take all the necessary measures to write off the developing countries' bilateral and multilateral external debts rapidly.

"We also welcome the decision taken by the European Commission to release €23 m in emergency aid and its intention to grant an additional contribution of €100 m from the Community budget's emergency reserve fund. It is important that donors establish among themselves, and with the United Nations and beneficiary countries clear deadlines for the supply of humanitarian aid.

"This disaster once again highlights the need for all developed countries, including the Irish government, to bring the level of development aid up to at least 0.7% of GDP, as requested by the United Nations. There can be no backsliding on this important demand.

"Sinn Féin also believes that an international tax on capital movements should be introduced, the proceeds of which should be allocated to the building of a fairer world." ENDS

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Gerry Adams has given notice to Sinn Féin that the party must prepare to resist any campaign of discrimination by the two governments against its electorate. Speaking to An Phoblact the Sinn Féin President said:

"The process was in considerable difficulties following the DUP rejection of the comprehensive agreement in December. At that time there was an unprecedented opportunity to resolve all of the outstanding issues and see the Good Friday Agreement implemented. This foundered on an unachievable demand from Ian Paisley supported by the two governments. Despite this Sinn Féin continued to search for a way forward with the governments.

"Then the Northern Bank robbery was seized upon by opponents of the process on the one hand and by opponents of Sinn Féin on the other to prevent any further progress.

"The British government now appears to be considering a return to the failed policy of discrimination against Sinn Féin, and the Irish government for its own reasons appears to be in support of this.

"Sinn Féin rejects any attack on our democratic and electoral mandate.

"I have spoken to senior officials in both governments and made this very clear to them.

"Despite all of our reservations and concerns as republicans Sinn Féin has been prepared to work with the British government in the common interest of building a lasting peace. That remains our focus and intention. However we will not acquiesce to the undermining of the rights and entitlements of our electorate.

"We are also seriously concerned about the Taoiseach's decision to attack Sinn Féin. His allegation that our leadership was aware in advance of the Northern Bank robbery creates difficulties in the working relationship between the Irish government and Sinn Féin.

"I reject these accusations totally and I am disappointed that the Taoiseach didn't raise any concerns he might have with me directly.

"It is important that we all avoid knee-jerk reactions. The Sinn Féin leadership is currently assessing all of this, the implications of any attack on our mandate and our future role in the process.

"Unless wiser counsel prevails short-sighted decisions by the governments could have profound implications.

"In this context we are seeking meetings with the British and Irish governments next week." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed Minister Dermot Ahern's announcement that the Government will increase its tsunami humanitarian aid commitment to €20 million, but is urging him to match the Irish people's out-of-pocket donations, running at €40 million to date, which he characterised as "a source of national pride".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The Irish people's generosity and spirit of solidarity is a source of national pride. Sinn Féin activists across the island have been organising or participating in tsunami relief fundraising efforts in their local areas, and I commend them also.

"While I welcome the Minister‚s announcement that the Government will double its tsunami relief commitment to €20 million, I would like to see the Government pledge to at least match what the Irish people themselves raise. After all, this is the second wealthiest state in the EU and the fourth wealthiest state in the world.

"As the UN has stipulated, the Government's commitment must be additional, paid in cash and quickly. Now that the Minister has returned from his fact-finding and consultations in the region and his meetings with the UN and EU partners, I call on him to publicly clarify how and when this will be done.

"We mourn for the 150,000 who lost their lives and extend condolence to their families. The 5 million survivors in the 12 affected countries who now lack the basics of life such as food, water and shelter must receive relief on the basis of need without discrimination. Equally, aid must not be used as a tool of counterinsurgency against affected populations in conflict zones. To this end, Sinn Féin welcomes the UN's formal coordinating role in relief operations.

"Sinn Féin supports the contribution of Irish military assets for humanitarian relief in response to UN requests, and their deployment under the leadership of the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator in cooperation with the tsunami affected Governments."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh added:

"Emergency disaster relief and freezing the $272 billion in debt owed by these countries are not enough. Ireland must ensure that the reconstruction provides for the long-term development needs of the affected regions, and includes participation by the local communities affected in formulating their future. The Indian Ocean disaster has highlighted the urgency of the related issues of debt cancellation and the need for fair trade rules, as well as meeting the UN Official Development Assistance target of 0.7% GNP by 2007, and I endorse the priorities for post-tsunami action identified by Oxfam. I urge the Government to provide global leadership on these issues, starting with an announcement that it has resumed its commitment to meeting the UN ODA target by increasing the ODA spend for 2005 to 0.5%." ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA, Philip McGuigan, has lambasted the PSNI in Ballymena for what he describes as a pattern of politically motivated policing in the town.

Mr McGuigan said:

"Over a period of 6-8 months it is obvious to observers that the PSNI in Ballymena is more than content to continue with the anti-republican policies of the past. Their very public harassment of individuals, and of certain neighbourhoods is very clearly an attempt to demonise the Nationalist community in the town.

"This has included raids on people's property, the inappropriate use of CS spray, blanket policing of certain communities, and regular attempts to recruit informers. This is driven by senior police officers and it is obviously a policy against local nationalists.

"If people compare this type of policing to their lack of response to loyalist pipe bombs being laid at the door of the nationalist community last summer, they can clearly see the political agenda at play.

Mr. McGuigan continued:

"Sinn Féin has been in contact with the Irish representative of the British/Irish Intergovernmental Conference and have given an update on the local policing situation. They have a clear responsibility to stand up for the rights of Irish citizens in the north and we will be pushing for them to fulfil this role. I have also invited them to Ballymena to talk to those affected by this policy of partisan policing and give them an insight into how badly the police are acting on the ground." ENDS

Mr McGuigan has also been in contact with the Police Ombudsman's office to raise his concerns.

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described the A&E crisis as highlighted by the Irish Nurses Organisation as both predictable and preventable. He said the failure of the Government to implement its own Health Strategy meant that this was now an annual event and he called on the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children to deliver on her promises.

Speaking today he said:

"The winter A&E crisis is now an annual event. It is as utterly predictable at Christmas but totally preventable. Many of the remedies are in the Government's own Health Strategy which it has failed to implement. These include:

  • More acute beds in our hospitals as promised
  • The recruitment of the additional nurses required
  • The roll-out of promised Primary Care centres to help take the pressure off our hospitals
  • The conclusion of the negotiations with hospital consultants for a new contract and exclusive working by new consultants in the public system
  • Restoration of A&E services in local hospitals where they have been cut.

"It is scandalous that once again the number of people on trolleys and chairs in A&E units has reached an all-time high in the month of January. Minister Harney's 'new broom' has not swept clean and is clearly threadbare." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney to issue a full statement setting out her reasons for terminating the suspensions of two consultant surgeons at Cavan General Hospital.

Speaking today he said:

"This was very unusual in that it was a personal intervention by the Minister in a matter which she and her colleagues would normally deem the responsibility of the Health Boards, now the Health Services Executive. The Minister may have very good reasons for this action but we need to know what they are. I will reserve judgement on the Minister's action awaiting her clarficiation.

"I have called on this Minister and her predecessor to intervene directly in the North Eastern Health Board region in major public health policy matters such as the removal of key services from our hospitals and they have refused, claiming it was outside their remit. These claims are certainly belied when the Minister can intervene directly in a personnel matter such as this." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this afternoon expressed great concern at the results of a report on greenhouse gas emissions in the 6 Counties and said that "a real commitment was required by governments, business and a change to our collective lifestyles".

Ms de Brún was responding to a report which found that carbon dioxide emissions in the 6 Counties were 1.9% higher than in 2002. The British National Environmental Technology Centre carried out the research for the Westminster Department of the Environment. The report comes in the week when both Ms de Brún and her colleague Ms Mary Lou McDonald voted in favour of a resolution on climate change in the European Parliament.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms de Brún said:

"The results of the report into greenhouse gas emissions in the 6 counties are of great concern. In comparison with an 18% decrease in emissions in England, a 5.9% decrease in Wales and 3.2% in Scotland, statistics for the 6 Counties are actually 1.9% higher than in 2002.

"The report has been critical of an over-reliance on the use of private vehicles. What is required is an adequate public transport system. Only then will we begin to address our reliance on private vehicles. One clear indication of the lack of commitment to public transport is the talk of axing the Belfast to Derry rail link.

"Investment in public transport will save money in the longer term, as those countries who fail to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol will be required to pay substantial fines.

"It is imperative that governments and big business show strong leadership and make difficult choices concerning our environment. The issue of global warming remains one of the most important issues facing humanity at present and it requires a global response. It also requires a local response, particularly in light of this most recent report.

"Sinn Féin believes that this response is best achieved through an all-Ireland strategy. Setting more ambitious targets to cap the concentration of greenhouse gases requires a real commitment and will require major changes to the manufacturing process; to the way that energy is generated, as oil and natural gas supplies dwindle, and to our collective lifestyles." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has called for a wide-ranging investigation of the circumstances surrounding the case of a Ukrainian migrant worker who had both legs amputated after being forced to sleep on the streets.

Mr Maskey said:

"I think there needs to be a thorough and wide ranging investigation into how a healthy young migrant worker could find herself out of a job, out of a home and on the streets and subsequently so ill that both her legs had to be amputated.

"Not only has this woman fallen through the safety net there must also be serious questions asked about the operation and protection afforded through the work permit scheme and in particularly how employers are safeguarding the rights of workers employed through this scheme.

"Clearly we need to ask questions of the Department of Employment and Learning that operates the work permit scheme and also about what services are in place to support migrant workers who find themselves thrown out of their employment." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Mid-Ulster Martin McGuinness has expressed his deepest condolences to the family of Cookstown man Conor Keightley and also thanked the Department of Foreign Affairs for the support and comfort it provided to the Keightley family throughout their ordeal.

Mr McGuinness said:

"The confirmation that Conor's body has been identified has now confirmed the worst fears of the Keightley family and my heartfelt sympathy and condolences goes out to them. People everywhere prayed and hoped that Conor would be found alive but sadly this is not to be the case. I would like to pay a special thanks to everyone at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and the Irish Ambassador to the Region, Dan Mulhall for the compassionate manner in which they gave every assistance and comfort possible to the Keightley family throughout their terrible ordeal.

I have no doubt that the wider community and particularly the good people of Cookstown will continue to support and comfort the family in the difficult time ahead." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Daithi Doolan has called on City Management to ensure that all household rubbish in the Dublin City Council area is collected as a matter of urgency. The Sinn Féin councillor's call comes in the wake of the first week of the Council's new "pay-by-use refuse" collection scheme which has seen bags of uncollected rubbish piling up on a number of Dublin streets.

The City council this week implemented a policy of non-collection of household waste in rubbish bags that do not have prepaid tags attached. However many householders across Dublin have been unable to buy the prepaid tags anywhere in their local area and hundreds of people entitled to waivers under the scheme have not received their free tags.

Daithi Doolan said:

"The situation we see today with rubbish piling up on Dublin streets amounts to a potentially dangerous health and safety problem and it is being directly caused by the policy of the City Council. In this context I note that High Court Judge Lyndsey ruled before Christmas that Dublin City Council had illegally imposed bin charges in the 2001 to 2002 period against the City Counil's own criteria. This is the backdrop of City Mangement's reckless pursuit of imposing a deeply unpopular and unworkable system.

"Under the new system both those people who have on principle refused to pay bin charges and those who have attempted to pay the charges and abide by the system are being penalized. The number and spread of outlets handling the prepaid tags is woefully inadequate. People in many areas have been unable to buy the tags locally and their rubbish has been left to rot outside their houses. This is further proof that this system of waste management is unjust and unworkable. I am calling on City management to ensure the collection of all household rubbish regardless of tags. I ask that they do this at the earliest possible opportunity so that we can avoid the inevitable health and safety problems which will ensue otherwise." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey has expressed anger at the case of two republican ex-prisoners who have been denied employment with the Simon Community and called for greater action to combat the discrimination faced by political ex-prisoners not just in employment but also across a range of areas.

Mr Maskey said:

"Discrimination on the grounds of being a republican ex-prisoner is totally unjustified.

"The role played by many political prisoners, particularly within the community sector should not be under valued.

"Ex-prisoners have been at the vanguard in developing alternatives to punishment attacks and the basis on which John McConkey and Jervis Marks have been denied employment with the Simon Community is both unfounded and insulting.

"Central to any process of conflict resolution must be support for the combatants within the conflict. The commitment to support the ex-prisoner community is explicit with the Good Friday Agreement. There needs to be greater action to combat the discrimination faced by political ex-prisoners not just in employment but also across a range of areas." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane has been selected as Sinn Féin South Down candidate for the for the coming Westminster election. At the party's Westminster selection convention in Downpatrick Caitríona Ruane was selected unopposed to stand as Sinn Féin's candidate in the Westminster election.

Speaking at the convention Cllr Willie Clarke MLA congratulated Caitriona on her nomination believing it marks another historic landmark for Sinn Féin in County Down. Cllr Clarke said:

"We have put forward a candidate who I believe will give us a genuine opportunity to win this seat. South Down is clearly a key area of growth for Sinn Féin and we are fighting an election in what was once considered an SDLP stronghold. This is no longer the case and we are steadily building upon the foundation laid by people like Cllr Mick Murphy and Cllr Frank McDowell who have helped paved the way for our current success. Make no mistake, with hard work and dedication this seat is within our grasp ˇ a seat that until quite recently would have been considered untouchable.

Ms Ruane said:

"It is a privilege and with a sense of humility that I accept this nomination. This is a county with a proud Republican tradition dating back to the 1798 rebellion when men and women fought and died for Irish freedom. It is a history that links County Down with my home county of Mayo where the vision and beliefs of Wolfe Tone have influenced successive generations.

"Here in South Down we have achieved a number of significant breakthroughs with the election last November of myself and my party colleague Willie Clarke to the Assembly. We have put together a committed team of Council candidates in the hope of at least doubling are representation on Down District and Newry and Mourne Councils and we are also attempting to make an unprecedented electoral breakthrough in Banbridge. Our candidates are a blend of youth and experience with a gender balance which shows Sinn Fein is the one political party in Ireland trying to actively increase the representation of women in politics.

"My work as an MLA has taken me to many towns, villages and country hamlets where I have met students and first-time voters; pensioners terrified in their own homes; workers and the unemployed; small shopkeepers; farmers worried about the implications of a national park; people working in the fishing industry who are unsure about their future in the face of more EU reforms and restrictions and business people anxious to develop South Down, particularly the areas tourist potential.

"South Down has many social and economic problems. Not surprisingly, like anywhere else in the North, there are political divisions and competing aspirations but none that cannot be mutually accommodated within the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin has fought long and hard to reverse the injustices of partition. We were able to do so because the electorate has empowered us to do so. It is only now that the British and the unionists have started to take our community seriously.

"The events of the past three months prove the DUP have still some way to go before they are prepared to share power with Republicans. Yet massive progress has been made and Ian Paisley now leads a party that has accepted the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement and its all-Ireland architecture.

"For the past 17 years Eddie McGrady has held this seat in what has often been described as the SDLP's 'jewel in the crown'. That jewel has lost much of its sparkle and with the continued dedication, hard work and commitment we can, in the centenary year of Sinn Féin's formation, win next year's Westminster election and significantly increase our representation at Council level.

Notes for editors

Caitriona was born and raised in Mayo and lives in County Louth. She is married to Brian and has two daughters. A keen athlete, she played professional tennis from she was 17-21, was in the Junior Competition at Wimbledon and represented Ireland at many international events. She has played a wide range of sports including basketball, volleyball table tennis and GAA.

A fluent Spanish speaker, she worked for a US-based aid foundation from 1983-87 in Central America, living in dangerous war zones with indigenous people, documenting human rights abuses. Upon her return to Ireland she worked full-time for Trocaire before co-founding the Centre for Research and Documentation.

She was a member of the Committee on the Administration of Justice and organised the Belfast Forum on Policing conference in 1994 after the ceasefires. She has lobbied the UN and the EU on human rights in the North and was involved in organising inquiries and compiling reports into the deaths of Fergal Caraher (shot dead by a British soldier) and Patrick Shanaghan (a victim of collusion between loyalists and state forces).

From 1997-2001 Caitríona was the Director of Féile an Phobail and a founder of the St Patrick's Day Parade, during which time she took unionists in the city hall to court on grounds of funding discrimination. In 2000 President Mary McAleese presented Caitríona with the Aisling Person of the Year Award.

More recently, Caitríona has been chairperson of the 'Bring Them Home' campaign.

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for South Down Caitriona Ruane has said that the remarks of SDLP MP Eddie McGrady yesterday in the British House of Commons accusing Sinn Féin of being the 'IRA in lounge suits' were remarks more at home on the DUP benches.

Ms Ruane said:

" Eddie McGrady's contribution yesterday in the British House of Commons including his disgraceful use of language in describing the party who represent the majority of nationalist opinion the six counties would have been more at home on the DUP benches.

" It is clear to those of us vigorously pursuing the United Ireland agenda that Mr McGrady has long departed from that path and instead is heading down the political cul de sac mapped out by former SDLP colleagues like Gerry Fitt.

" It is clear that Eddie McGrady has extreme difficulties in accepting the Sinn Féin mandate. Sinn Féin represent the majority of nationalists in the north and are the third largest party on this island. Just as we will defend the rights and entitlements of the nationalist and republican community in the face of attacks from rejectionist unionism and the British government we will do so in the face of attacks from Eddie McGrady.

" Sinn Féin are involved in this process on the basis of our mandate. The majority of nationalists in the north ensured that. Eddie McGrady needs to realise that those voters are not second class and that a vote for Sinn Féin caries the same weight as a vote for anyone else." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP will be available to speak to the media today (Wednesday 12th January) at 12.30pm at the party offices on Sevastopol Street on the current state of the political process.

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has this morning called upon the Luxembourg Presidency of the European Union to "make a real difference to the lives of ordinary citizens".

Ms McDonald made her comments before the Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker was due to set out the political programme of its Presidency later this morning in the European Parliament, Strasbourg. Luxembourg will hold the EU Presidency for 6 months.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin is calling upon the Luxembourg Presidency to seize the opportunity to press for a progressive social justice agenda in the next six months, and to promote positive initiatives on socio-economic, political and human rights.

"During the Irish Presidency in 2004, an opportunity existed for the Irish Government to prioritise a Europe which protected its most vulnerable citizens, and in our view it failed. For too long, the EU has been obsessed with appeasing the agenda of big business and the larger, militarily superior states. Sinn Féin believes that a change of direction is required.

"In March 2005, the Luxembourg Presidency will conduct a mid-term review of the "Lisbon process" around its core priorities - economic, social and environmental. Sinn Féin has consistently argued that the social aspects of the agenda have been set aside in favour of exclusively promoting competitiveness and economic growth to the detriment of workers' rights. This must be the occasion to rebalance the Lisbon Strategy, placing greater emphasis on its social and environmental aspects. It is a scathing indictment of the Lisbon Agenda and the EU when more than 68 million people face poverty and social exclusion within its borders.

"Sinn Féin believes that the Luxembourg Presidency should promote a visible social inclusion strategy and prioritise initiatives which seek to promote social protections, including workers‚ rights. It should also reverse the trend toward increasing privatisation and move to secure the future of quality public services, particularly in relation to health and education services.

"Our party is happy to endorse the Social Platform Tests for the Luxembourg Presidency.

"I would also call upon the Luxembourg Presidency not to become a cheerleader for the EU Constitution in 2005. A number of referendums are due to held later in the year. They should remain impartial and allow the citizens to decide for themselves whether or not to ratify the EU Constitution.

"Along with my colleague Bairbre de Brún MEP, I look forward to working the Luxembourg Presidency in the coming months." ENDS

Note to editors: The Social Platform tests for the Luxembourg presidency is produced by a pan European platform of social NGOs. The tests can be found at www.socialplatform.org.

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Speaking today in response to the Department for Regional Development's Draft Accessible Transport Strategy, Sinn Fein Regional Development spokesperson, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney expressed his concern that the development of an accessible transport strategy for older people and people with disabilities has been long overdue and reiterated the need for an All Ireland Accessible Transport Strategy.

Mr McCartney said:

"This transport initiative comes almost ten years after the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act. Sinn Fein continues to work tirelessly to promote the equality and human rights agenda and to defend the rights and entitlements of all our citizens. I am amazed that transport legislation in the Six Counties, even with the advent of DDA, is non-existent. To think that the elderly and people with disabilities are protected under the law in this regard is huge human rights issue.

"The British Government are only now at this late stage introducing draft legislation to lift this transport exemption. The EU have set the precedence in its Transport Policy, which places users at the heart of transport policy and promotes the increased of forms of public transport accessible to all, including people with disabilities and older people. With statistics predicting by 2025, 26% of the population in the Six Counties will be aged 60+, and almost 1 in 4 people with a disability, the Department needs to deliver the transport services to those who need it most. The strategy must meet the needs of those in rural and urban centres, cover the entire journey time and be flexible and responsive to individual needs.

"While DRD state in their vision to have an accessible transport system that enables older people and people with disabilities to, "participate more fully in society, enjoy greater independence and experience a better quality of life". We have to ask what provisions have been made for the elderly during the last decade and specifically what about the learning disabled, wheelchair users, visually impaired and those who have hidden disabilities? Yet with so-called equality legislation, we are still seeing the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in our society further alienated."

Mr.McCartney has called on the Department to look carefully at the funding implications for the draft strategy. Finance Minister Ian Pearson has drastically cut the Budget Priorities for 2005 - 2008.

"In October of this year we saw the DRD budget like so many other Departments suffering at the hands of British Direct Rule Minister, Ian Pearson. The upgrading of the transport infrastructure to deliver an accessible transport network must include all forms of travel, road, rail, air and sea. Training for staff will be absolutely key in all of this. The question how the Minister believes that an accessible transport policy can be delivered by reducing the DRD budget by £41.9m on Objective A Investment in Transport, over the period 2005- 2005?

"This is not acceptable. For too long now the elderly and disabled have been victims." ENDS

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Sinn Féin will hold a major rally in the Round Room in the Mansion House in Dublin on Friday 14th January at 7pm to launch its programme of events for the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin.

The event will be chaired by Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin MLA and Chair of Comóradh an Chéid Caitríona Ruane will announce details of many of the events which will take place over the year.

During the evening there will also be music and a multi media and dramatic presentation depicting key events of the last 100 years.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will also give a keynote address setting out the party's priorities for the time ahead and the current difficulties in the peace process. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O Dowd speaking about the need for effective measures emanating from the World Health Organisations (WHO) European conference on Mental Health in Helsinki said:

"Mental health treatment needs to be properly resourced and the basic human rights of people with mental health problems need to be protected. Sinn Féin notes and supports Amnesty International call for 'inextricable links between respect for international human rights standards and national mental health systems be reflected in the action plan coming from the WHO Helsinki conference'.

"Governments and society must recognise the value of the individual with mental health problems. Sinn Féin believes that services for people with a mental health illness should be geared towards the needs and wishes of the individual, rather than the individual having to conform to the norms of the service or being locked into a prejudiced stereotypical image of people with mental health problems.

"For the WHO conference action plan to be effective on the ground it must tackle the widespread problem of the lack of a rights base for the services received (and in many cases, sought but not received) by mental health illness suffers and an even less certain provision of services for family carers.

"This should be based on the development of a range of effective policies and programmes directed towards increasing inclusion, in developing the abilities of people with Mental illness themselves, in meeting the aspirations of and acknowledging the determination of their family carers and other advocates and in the provision dedicated staff at all levels.

"In the North Mental health services have had too low a priority within Government planning and have depended on determined individuals for the service to survive. In the Investing for Health Strategy developed by the former Health Minister, Bairbre De Brún, the need for cross-departmental collaboration and co-operation was seen as vital, but true agency collaboration still remains a long way off. Collaboration is a commitment to meet together and to plan and work jointly. At its most developed, collaboration must include families and carers and people with Mental illness themselves all sharing and actively participating in the necessary decision-making process.

"It is also unrealistic to believe that a Mental health strategy, bringing real improvements in the range and quality of opportunities available to people, can be delivered without extra resources, a point which Dr David Bamford, the chair of the present Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability, made very forcibly and public through his open letter to the NIO minister of Finance, Ian Pearson.

"The WHO conference calls on Government delegates to follow on from the conference with meaningful change to lives of people with mental health illness, the Bamford Review is ongoing but as I have said earlier if its recommendations are not properly resourced then the British government will have failed the WHO and most importantly of all will have failed those people with a mental health illness. ENDS

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