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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 Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said that major staff shortages across almost every facet of our health service demands a major rethink, particularly on opening up access and training to all health professions.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"It is clear that right across the health service there are significant and serious staff shortages that are not improving. While a piecemeal approach has seen slight improvements this is no substitute for a coherent long-term strategy to tackle staff shortages that are impacting of levels of care and creating very serious stresses throughout the healthcare system.

"We need not just more doctors and nurses, we also need more occupational therapists and other allied health professionals supported with a strong commitment to ongoing professional training.

"What is required is a radical rethink on opening up access to all health professions and a major expansion in the number of training and university places available along with a serious look at how we financially support people giving that long term commitment to our health services.

"In particular we must recognise that the British governments plans to introduce a massive hike in the cost of third level education will create huge barriers to participation. We also need to look at incentives for ongoing career development and to support the retention of staff.

"This is going to cost money but money spent now on increasing the numbers of people studying medicine, nursing and the other healthcare related subjects will pay long-term dividends.

"I also believe that we need to develop the Health College model here locally by creating a dedicated facility that can allow for an expansion in the number of training and university places while also supporting the significant levels of ongoing professional training that are vital to a modern healthcare system." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún in an address to a session of the European Social Forum said that 'Human rights and equality are damaged and denied when those in power defend the erosion of internationally accepted standards'. Ms de Brún made her remarks on the theme of 'Criminalising Communities'.

The European Social Forum is taking place in London between the 15th and 17th October. Ms de Brun is this morning addressing the session 'Living in Fear: Civil Liberties and 'The War on Terror''.

Other speakers at the session include Gareth Peirce ˆHuman rights lawyer, Thomas Mathiesen - Norwegian academic, Dr Siddiqui -Britain, Muslim Parliament, Martxelo Otamandi -Basque journalist.

Speaking at the event Ms de Brún said:

"Human rights and equality - the basic rights and entitlements of all - are damaged and denied when those in power defend the erosion of internationally accepted standards, irrespective of whether such actions are carried out in the name of 'defending democracy' or protecting 'national security'.

"Bringing about an end to criminalisation can often appear to be an uphill struggle for those communities trying to engage in rational and reasonable debate. But the key as is always the case, is to persist, to widen out the debate, to seek allies and build your strength from the local to the national to the global, in order to bring about change.

"This debate, and indeed the entire European Social forum provides us all with a wonderful opportunity to do just this, and find ways to move forward together in building societies which are based on the principles of equality, liberty and solidarity."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Donegal Councillor Pearse Doherty has today voiced his concern at reports that the Justice Minister Michael McDowell is to drop the Irish language requirement for membership of the Garda Siochána. He described the proposal as an insult to Irish language speakers and called for it to be rescinded immediately.

Mr. Doherty said:

"The potential increase in the number of Gardaí on our streets is to be welcomed, even if this in itself will not be enough to redress the many problems which exist in relation to deployment, resources and accountability.

"However reports that the Minister is to abandon the Irish language requirement for membership of the Garda Síochána is an insult to the tens of thousands of people for whom Irish is their first language.

"Article 8 (1) of the Constitution states that Œthe Irish language as the national language is the first official language‚. The Department of Justice has consistently acted in deliberate breach of this provision and if they go ahead with this hair brained proposal the result is that members of the Gardaí will be unable to work effectively in many communities across this state.

"Instead of dropping this requirement the Department should be providing widespread Irish language training and ensuring that Gardaí are capable of communicating and working effectively with all those who speak Irish."ENDS

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Commenting on the case of the woman in her 60s who was a patient in Monaghan General Hospital and for whom an intensive care bed was sought unsuccessfully in Cavan and in at least two Dublin hospitals before one was found in Enniskillen, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Cavan Monaghan TD Caiomhghín Ó Caoláin said it shows "glaring failures in health care delivery in this state. He said it also showed the need for "closer integration and co-operation of hospital services on an all Ireland basis."

He stated:

"The downgrading of Monaghan Hospital and overstretched resources in Cavan Hospital meant that no appropriate beds were available in either of them to care for this women. Such is the mismanagement of the hospital services by this government that no beds were available in Dublin hospitals either.

"That Enniskillen Hospital which is in a neighbouring county was the last port of call starkly exposes the need for much closer co-operation and integration of hospital services on an all Ireland basis.

"The scandal is not that this woman had to cross the border but that both the Irish and British Governments continue to allow the border to be a barrier to more effective hospital care."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this evening addressed the opening rally of the European Social Forum which is taking place in London. In his opening remarks Mr. Adams said: "We need to be willing to share the burden of struggle and the lessons of our own experiences. Ni neart go chur le cheile. ... This Forum is about demonstrating that another world is possible. This potential for progress, for real and meaningful change, is something that Irish republicans passionately believe in.

"It is wrong that anyone should have to suffer because of their nationality, sexual orientation, disability, colour or creed. It is wrong that the third world should be crippled with debt while the first world is affluent. That debt should be cancelled. It is wrong that over one billion people live on less than one dollar a day and that 11 million children under 5 die each year from preventable causes.

"Our goal, emerging from this Forum and other similar discussions must be to build peace, freedom, human rights, tolerance and an international society based upon the rule of law, on justice and equality - a truly united human family. Irish republicans are committed and determined to play our full part in working with others to achieve this."

Full Text

Ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a thabhairt dóibh siúd - go háirithe mo sean chara Ken Livingstone. Is acoid galanta an Foram agus tá mé go h'an sasta a bheith libhse ag glacadh pairt sna diospoireacht seo agus cainteanna eile amarach. Mile buiochas daoibh. Go mbeidh Foram maith agaibh agus go neirigh an t'adh libh uilig.

It is a great honour to have been asked to participate in the European Social Forum and to be here among old and new friends in struggle. This forum is about learning to pursue our goals in an effective way, in a more successful way, and to build our struggles so that they change people's lives for the better.

That's in large measure what the next few days are about. Talking, listening, having quiet or not so quiet conversations on the margins of meetings, participating in seminars and debates. Learning from each other.

We face many challenges. War in Iraq, conflict in the Middle East, countless wars in Africa, the peace process in Ireland in crisis, unimaginable poverty and deprivation across the globe, hunger, environmental disasters and the fear of more to come, globalisation and the exploitation of workers, racism and sectarianism, injustice and oppression.

These are some of the matters which confront us. And these are the issues which have brought us together here in London as we seek to strategise and develop alternatives.

What makes us think we can face up to all these issues?

What makes us think that we can change things?

This is a fundamental question. And the answer is straightforward. It is a belief that we can make a difference. It is a belief that another world is possible.

All of us gathered here will bring our own individual experience to bear in these discussions.

Dr. Aleida Guevara is the daughter of Ché. In keeping with a great Irish tradition we are proud to claim him as one our own - his great grandfather was Patrick Lynch from Ireland. The struggle against apartheid, enjoyed enormous support in Ireland. And when Sinn Féin needed help as we developed our peace strategy, the African National Congress was on hand to listen to our concerns and to talk through with us the options available.

Thenjiwe Mtintso is a comrade from the ANC who came to Ireland and spoke at our Ard Fheis - our national conference - and encouraged republican activists to think strategically.

Ken Livingstone was pilloried in the British media for daring to engage with Irish republicans. Twenty years ago his visits to Belfast and his invitations to me and other republicans to visit London, caused consternation within the British political system and were condemned, but on reflection who was right?

Had Ken's engagement with republicanism been embraced by the British government at that time there is no doubt that the peace process might have occurred sooner. The other speakers, Susan, Meena, Charles and Frances bring their own unique insights.

All of these examples show the importance of practical as well as symbolic acts of international solidarity. We need to be willing to share the burden of struggle and the lessons of our own experiences. Ni neart go chur le cheile. And that's also what this Forum is about. It's about demonstrating that another world is possible.

This potential for progress, for real and meaningful change, is something that Irish republicans passionately believe in. It is wrong that anyone should have to suffer because of their nationality, sexual orientation, disability, colour or creed.

It is wrong that the third world should be crippled with debt while the first world is affluent. That debt should be cancelled. It is wrong that over one billion people live on less than one dollar a day and that 11 million children under 5 die each year from preventable causes.

Our goal, emerging from this Forum and other similar discussions must be to build peace, freedom, human rights, tolerance and an international society based upon the rule of law, on justice and equality - a truly united human family. Irish republicans are committed and determined to play our full part in working with others to achieve this. The European Union has an increasing involvement in all our lives, especially in Ireland.

I listen to talk of a United Europe. But there cannot be a United Europe without a United Ireland and part of the Forum's discussion must focus on ending the partition of Ireland. Sinn Féin wants to build an Ireland of Equals in a Europe of Equals. In keeping with our commitment to demilitarise the conflict in Ireland, we are actively campaigning for the demilitarisation of the EU.

Irish republicans are also for economic and social justice within Europe. We want the EU to prioritise the elimination of poverty within and beyond its borders.

Sinn Féin believes the European Union must conduct itself in a globally responsible way. This means fair trade has to prevail over free trade and we should all campaign for the human rights-proofing of EU aid and trade policies.The massive EU overspend on the military, presently at ?160 billion must be challenged.

We must also turn our urgent attention to the crisis in UN Peacekeeping. The genocidal consequences of UN failures in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and now Darfur, must not be repeated. But we also know that the answer is not to abdicate responsibility for peacekeeping to regional military alliances.

The UN has to be reformed, modernised and strengthened And the Forum needs to send a clear message that we do not accept that any state has the right to act unilaterally. I welcome the fact that the World Social Forum's Charter of Principles commits to equal respect for the rights of all citizens of all nations, and to "the development of an international system that will serve social justice, equality and the sovereignty of peoples."

The need to focus on corporate-led globalisation can sometimes fool us into believing that imperialism, the oldest form of globalisation, is a thing of the past. It isn't. There is still a need to be against Empires.

There is no single, simple key to resolving these myriad and diverse problems. But if we are to succeed in bringing about substantive change it will be as a result of all of us making a contribution.

Comrade Madiba - Nelson Mandela - summed it up best when he remarked that 'there is no easy road to freedom' and that 'none of us acting alone can achieve success'. He said; 'We must therefore act together as a united people. for the birth of a new world.

Let there be justice for all.

Let there be peace for all.'

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Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane has said that she believes that 'the United Nations must as a matter of urgency develop the capacity to deal with genocide prevention, but I don't accept that outsourcing peacekeeping operations to regional military alliances such as the EU is the best answer for the international community'.

Ms Ruane was speaking after she attended the National Forum on Europe at Dublin Castle where UN Secretary General Kofi Annan delivered a keynote speech at 12 noon on the theme of 'EU/UN Cooperation in Crisis Management'.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Ruane said:

"I want to welcome Kofi Annan to Ireland. We have been given an unprecedented opportunity to listen and engage with the UN Secretary General on the future role of the United Nations. We in Sinn Fein are particularly interested in the opportunity to discuss proposals for UN reform, which for us is an international relations policy priority.

"We therefore look forward to reviewing the recommendations of the High-Level Panel established to assess the prevention and removal of threats to peace, which is due to report back to the UN in December 2004.

"It is my understanding that the panel is considering the option of allowing military action against a state if it can be determined it is involved in genocide against the population. Sinn Fein will review its conclusions on this matter with particular interest.

"Sinn Féin agree without reservation that the international community has a responsibility to prevent genocide. But we believe just as strongly that any such action must be organised and led by the United Nations, not regional alliances such as the EU. This is essential to endow such actions with the highest possible level of international legitimacy.

"I certainly recognise that the UN has been starved of resources for many years and has also been consistently undermined. In this context I understand that the outsourcing of peacekeeping missions to regional military alliances such as the EU seems an attractive option. But what we risk going down that road is the longer-term perception of the UN as redundant. That would be a very bad outcome indeed for the international community. My preference would be to see the EU refocus its efforts and resources towards building up the capacity of the UN to undertake its own peacekeeping missions, and to finance the business of getting on with badly needed UN reform." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has called for the EU to 'shift the focus of its efforts and resources away from increasing EU military capacity and to focus instead on building up the UN's own capacity for peacekeeping and mounting UN-led missions - particularly for the prevention of genocide.'

Ms McDonald was speaking before she attended the National Forum on Europe at Dublin Castle where UN Secretary General Kofi Annan delivered a keynote speech at 12 noon on the theme of 'EU/UN Cooperation in Crisis Management'.

Speaking this morning, Ms McDonald said:

"I want to welcome Kofi Annan to Dublin. We have been given an unprecedented opportunity to listen and engage with the UN Secretary General on the future role of the United Nations.

"The UN has been constantly and consistently under funded and over the past number of years, and it is widely recognised that one of the results is that its capacity to intervene to prevent genocide is not sufficient. But instead of channelling the necessary additional resources into the UN the European Union has been busy building up its own military capacity. Furthermore, when troops are deployed to EU led missions they become unavailable for any actions the UN may wish to lead and manage directly. It is clear that the creeping militarisation of the EU has directly undermined the capacity of the UN to effectively deal with international crises.

"Sinn Féin believes that the United Nations must, as a matter of urgency, develop the capacity to deal with genocide prevention. Kofi Annan's support for the outsourcing of peacekeeping operations to regional military alliances is an admission that the UN is under resourced. The reality is that outsourcing military operations runs a very high risk of leading to the ultimate decline of the UN as a credible organisation at the expense of the EU and other regional alliances. Such an outcome would have huge and very negative implications for the international community as a whole.

"We have reached a crossroads in regards to the relationship between the UN and the EU. It would be my preference that EU member states made the troops and other resources available to support UN-led missions, and to support financially and otherwise increasing the in-house capacity of the UN to prevent genocide, and undertake other important peacekeeping tasks.

"I will be asking the Secretary General if he can clarify, apart from outsourcing missions to EU intervention battle groups, what other options for increasing UN peacekeeping capacity have been considered and ruled out, and on what grounds, and does he not agree that it would ultimately be preferable and more beneficial for the international order for the UN to develop adequate in-house peacekeeping capacity, rather than being forced to contract this work out to regional military alliances?" ENDS

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Each negotiation within the peace process presents its own particular and peculiar set of difficulties. It also presents opportunities. The current negotiation is no different and in many ways it is probably the most challenging any of us have had to face so far.

Speaking at Bodenstown in June I outlined Sinn Féin's objective going into these discussions. It is a 'comprehensive and holistic package, which deals with all of the outstanding matters in a way that is definitive and conclusive'. Later in August I said that in my view the spine of any agreement would have to be progress on the vexed issue of policing. These are significant goals to be achieved not just for Sinn Féin but also for the other parties, especially the DUP and the two governments.

Sinn Féin has repeatedly said that we are up for a deal; that we want to see the institutions restored and the outstanding issues resolved. There is also a general acceptance that the IRA is prepared to make an unprecedented and historical contribution to the peace process in the context of a comprehensive agreement between the two governments and the political parties.

It must be obvious that the IRA will not be convinced to do so in the context of any dilution of the Good Friday Agreement. Inevitably however there has been some confusion about the positions of the parties in the negotiations. On the one hand the two governments, and the DUP, have been saying that the DUP is not seeking changes to the fundamentals of the Agreement. But then what are the fundamentals? They include power-sharing between nationalists and unionists with legally entrenched checks and balances, protections and safeguards. These are enshrined in the Agreement and were designed to prevent a replay of unionist abuses. They also include the all-Ireland institutions, equality, human rights, and an acceptable and accountable civic police service.

When the Unionist government was collapsed 30 years ago that did not mean an end to unionist rule. That continued within the direct rule system, and particularly within the NIO. In addition, in local councils where unionists still exercise majority political control unionist parties refuse to engage in any power sharing arrangements. On the contrary their approach remains one of excluding Sinn Féin and SDLP councillors from even the most unimportant and inconsequential of council positions. The cost of this has been second class citizenship for nationalists. That has been the nationalist experience in the north since partition, along with institutionalised and structured political discrimination. It is this

experience which demands that we defend the checks and balances in the Agreement which are the safeguards against future abuse.

What then are the issues of concern within the current negotiations? Firstly, the DUP are demanding that republicans do everything; and that only then will they talk to Sinn Féin. This refusal to talk to Sinn Féin is an attack on the rights of our electorate and a denial of our democratic mandate. It is unacceptable.

Secondly, the DUP time-frame for the re-establishment of the political institutions - in the context of an agreement - is much too long and is premised on their demand that we be tested! This is undemocratic offensive and unacceptable.

Next the DUP are demanding as a precondition that Sinn Féin endorse the current policing arrangements. Sinn Féin has been absolutely clear on this issue. The transfer of powers on policing and justice are an essential element to any delivery of democratic accountability of policing. So far the DUP position on a target date for transfer that is so vague and aspirational, and so far off, as to be meaningless. Nor has there been any negotiation around the modalities or the departmental model which is necessary for the legislative process to begin.

Finally, the DUP is also demanding changes to the Good Friday Agreement which would provide unionism with a veto over the work of republican and nationalist Ministers. This is not acceptable. All of this is evidence of a party - the DUP - which has not changed its opposition to the core values of the Good Friday Agreement. More worryingly the governments have been less than frank in telling the DUP that these changes to the fundamentals of the Agreement are not up for change.

The reality is that time is fast running out if we are to achieve a comprehensive agreement. In the short term if there is to be a successful outcome to the current negotiations then the governments and the DUP have to match the willingness of republicans to take initiatives and find compromises. For the DUP especially this is a huge challenge. Are they up for it? And are the governments making it clear to the DUP that the process of change will continue anyway?"ENDS

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Commenting after the arrest in Spain of North Belfast man Michael Rogan on foot of British extradition papers, Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said:

"Michael Rogan is one of a small number of people who have fallen into an anomaly which has arisen since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

"Michael Rogan has been exiled from his home in Belfast for a number of years.

"Many people will view his arrest in Spain yesterday while on holidays on the foot of British warrants as vindictive and unnecessary. "

" Michael Rogan should be released and allowed to return home to his family in Ireland." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has said that the lame attempt by SDLP man John Dallat to blame rates increases on Sinn Féin and the DUP is nothing short of delusional nonsense.

Mr Molloy said:

"The lame attempt of John Dallat to try and pin the blame on Sinn Féin and the DUP for rates increases is nothing short of delusional nonsense.

"John Dallat well knows that the Reform and Reinvestment Initiative negotiated by his party leader Mark Durkan and David Trimble in secret in London with Gordon Brown included a commitment to increase the money taken from people in the Six Counties.

"It was the SDLP, when the Executive was up and functioning, that paved the way for huge increases in rates and the attempt to impose a water tax now being implemented by British direct rule Ministers. No one else is to blame but the SDLP and UUP. This is why I dubbed the rates increase the Durkan Tax and the Water Charges the Farren Tax.

"For the SDLP to fall back on this silly line about problem parties is to ignore the reality that it is the attempts of the DUP to undermine the Good Friday Agreement that is holding up progress on re-establishing the political institutions. This really is the case of yet more pathetic spin and dishonesty from the SDLP." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has expressed his disappointment that Minister Brian Lenihan has rejected his call for the proceeds of crime confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau to be "ringfenced for community development in disadvantaged areas". Describing it as "scandalous" he said it was an "opportunity missed" to address the inequalities people suffer in disadvantaged areas. Deputy Ó Snodaigh was speaking during the debate in the Dáil today on the Proceeds of Crime Bill.

Earlier in the debate Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Sinn Féin's amendments are all related to the proposition that the proceeds of crime confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau should be ringfenced in a specific fund that is used for community development purposes in economically disadvantaged areas, as part of a comprehensive programme of crime prevention.

"At present, the existing law and the legislative proposals before us today provide that the property seized shall be disposed of to the benefit of the Exchequer, for the Minister of Finance of the day to spend as he or she sees fit. This is what Sinn Féin proposes to change.

"The Irish people expect and also deserve these monies to be ploughed directly back into those working class communities that are hardest hit by crime, and whose children are at greatest risk of coming into conflict with the law, as confirmed by report after report of the National Crime Council. These are largely not the neighbourhoods that produce the white collar criminals responsible for corruption, but they do produce more than their share of organised crime bosses and drug kingpins, all of whose ill-gotten assets, we hope, will be eventually seized with the help of this legislation.

"We table these amendments because there needs to be further public debate on the principle of ringfencing funds - which is fundamental to socially and economically just budgeting - a concept completely foreign to the Minister for Justice and his colleagues. The principle of ringfencing is one the Government and the previous Minister for Finance have repeatedly rejected. At Committee Stage the Minister said he agreed with this position. But he did undertake to approach the Minister for Finance on the proposal that was raised not only by Sinn Féin but also by the other opposition parties. It is a matter on which there is agreement on this side of the House.

"But there are contradictions in the Government's position that ringfencing of funds is impossible:

  • 52% of the dormant accounts fund is earmarked for allocation to RAPID areas and the Drugs Task Forces
  • the lotto monies are earmarked for specific purposes, such as funding for sporting activities and health activities
  • money from motor taxation is being ringfenced for local authorities to defray the cost of water charges
  • the Minister admitted he agrees with the ringfencing of fines
  • the last Minister for Finance ringfenced €300 million for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund over the next four years So the precedent has been set, only political will is needed.

"From 1996 to the end of 2003, CAB has obtained seizure orders to the value of more than €73 million. This is potentially a source of serious additional funding that could make the most massive difference in working class communities in this state.

"The Minister argues about fungibility insisting that a euro spent on old age pensions is just as good as a euro spent on inner city deprived areas and therefore we should just funnel the money directly into the Exchequer trust the Minister of Finance to allocate monies appropriately. But the most recent figures on poverty in this state prove conclusively that this Government cannot be trusted to spend its money to close the poverty gap, to invest in communities where it is most needed.

"This is additional monies which in many cases has been generated by targeting people in deprived communities. Thus in some senses, it could be considered to be the peoples‚ money. It is not tax revenue owed to the state. It represents additional funds, and as such should be spent on programmes which would not normally be funded by the Exchequer. Like the Dormant Accounts Fund, CAB-confiscated assets should be kept separate, and a similar fund should be established."ENDS

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Sinn Fein Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness was this afternoon joined by party colleagues David Kennedy (North Belfast) and Angela Nelson (Lagan Valley) to launch the party's electoral registration campaign.

Speaking at the Belfast press conference Mr McGuinness said:

"Since the new legislation was introduced in May 2002 almost 200, 000 people have been removed from the electoral register.

"The annual registration drive and the rolling registration procedure organised by the Electoral Office have failed to impact on, in any significant way, this stark decline.

"A pattern has now been established within the registration procedure where this decline will continue.

"This was highlighted in a report commissioned by the Electoral Office from Pricewaterhouse Coopers in August when they said: "Unless it is rectified, the downward trend in the Register has the potential of embedding itself structurally in the registration process."

"We believe the downward trend has embedded itself and the only way of rectifying this is through changing the legislation.

"We are calling on the British government to immediately bring forward the necessary changes before next year's elections.

"These changes should include: household registration; a five year cycle and not a one year cycle as we have now for registering voters; the abolition of electoral courts and the acceptance of photographic and non-photographic forms of identification." This discrimination on a massive scale should end immediately and people's democratic rights must be restored. In the meantime it is crucial that people across the six counties ensure that they fill in the forms they have received and if they have not received a form then they should contact either Sinn Féin or the Electoral Office." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Government to prioritise childcare in the forthcoming Budget in the wake of a survey published today which shows the high cost of childcare places and the low pay levels for childcare workers. The survey was published by the National Children's Nurseries Association.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"This survey is a wake-up call for the Government. We have an underdeveloped and inequitable childcare system in this State. The cost of childcare places is high and excludes many parents on low incomes. Lack of adequate childcare is one of the main factors restricting the participation of women in the workforce, which remains at just under 50%.

"This Government tolerates low pay for childcare workers, does little or nothing to assist parents with the cost of places and relies almost totally on inadequate EU funding to resource the development of our childcare infrastructure.

"The Government must prioritise childcare in the forthcoming Budget. It should adopt a comprehensive approach which assists parents with the cost of childcare, extends the infrastructure and targets in particular children and parents on lowincome. It must also address the particular needs of parents in rural areas."ENDS

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A Sinn Féin delegation will attend tomorrow's National Forum on Europe event at Dublin Castle where United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan will deliver the keynote address at 12 noon on the theme of EU/UN Cooperation in Crisis Management.

Mary Lou McDonald MEP, Aengus O Snodaigh TD and Caitriona Ruane MLA will represent Sinn Féin at the National Forum on Europe, and will be available to speak to the media before the event at 10.45am outside the main entrance to Dublin Castle (entrance facing the Olympia Theatre). ENDS

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the weaponry on display. The reality is that these weapons have killed a number of people in Ireland and maimed thousands. Given our experience with security force abuse of so-called less-than lethal weaponry, this is an issue of major public interest.

"We need a broader, open and transparent public debate on the introduction of this technology, one that goes beyond an elite conference between security forces and the arms industry.

"The Minister for Justice has authorised the use of such weapons by the Gardaí, including a chemical gas projectile capable of delivering CS gas, but he has refused to publish the report recommendations on which he based his decision. As a first step we call again on the Minister to publish the report "Implementation Plan for the Introduction of Less Than Lethal Devices into An Garda Síochána".

"The general public require an accountable and accessible police service, not one tooled up with more weapons of repression designed to murder and maim indiscriminately."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today welcomed the adoption of extended PEACE funding to the 6 counties until 2006. Welcoming the extension Ms de Brún commented that 'Sinn Féin and others had worked hard to secure additional funding at a time of uncertainty in the peace process'.

It has been announced that the European Commission would provide funding of €60 million for the PEACE Programme and €15 million for the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), per year for 2005 and 2006.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"The announcement today by the European Commission that it is proposing to extend PEACE II funding until 2006 is to be welcomed. The commitment to extend the PEACE project is a practical demonstration of continued EU suuport for the peace process. It is vital to the work on peace building and social inclusion carried out by numerous community projects.

"We in Sinn Féin, along with others worked hard to secure this much needed funding at a time of uncertainty in the peace process and it will undoubtedly contribute to peace-building and national reconciliation. We will continue to support this measure in the European Parliament.

"I am disappointed that the British Government did not seek a similar amount of funding as in the previous period. We require answers from British Ministers as to why they did not actively lobby for a consistent level of funding to underpin the peace process.

"The challenge for all of us is to ensure the success of any PEACE II extension and to redouble our efforts to secure a PEACE III programme, after this current programme of funding runs out. We require an initiative that prioritises community-based projects and ensures community involvement in designing any future programme. The importance of future funding should not be underestimated in the context of the peace process and the project of peace building and national reconciliation across Ireland." ENDS

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Deputy Mayor of Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Joe O'Donnell on an all-party delegation from Belfast to lobby in Brussels, has welcomed the announcement that an extra 60million euro is being allocated to the EU peace package for the six counties and border counties.

Speaking from Brussels Cllr. O'Donnell said:

"I would like to warmly welcome the decision due to be announced today of an increase of 60 million euro as part of the EU peace package.

"This tangible peace dividend will come as great news to the hard pressed community groups and small businesses who are facing serious difficulties staying afloat in the next few months.

"It will also consolidate the good work already done by many groups and individuals with the money they previously received from the EU." ENDS

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In talks with An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern and Foreign minister Dermot Ahern last week as part of a top level Sinn Féin negotiating team, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew in addition to raising issues central to the Peace Process also called for Knockaginney and Annaghoe bridges to be returned to working order and for spy posts to be taken down from Castle Hill and Quarry Lane.

Michelle Gildernew said:

"I explained to an Taoiseach that the destruction of these bridges by British Forces was a daily reminder of how the British had attempted to separate friends and relatives by creating an artificial border. We never allowed this to happen despite the physical difficulties put in our way. These bridges are the link between the villages of Caledon and Glaslough. Knockaginney bridge divides a number of farms, adding miles to journeys for the people who work these fields, creating additional problems for a rural community that already faces a great deal of pressure.

"The British government committed itself to demilitarisation in the Good Friday Agreement but the people of Tyrone haven't seen evidence of this, instead we are still subjected to daily surveillance from spy posts in Castle Hill and Quarry Lane."

"The British military seems to have bottomless resources that are a hazard to the community, particularly the late night shooting from Killymeale barracks and the ceaseless helicopter activity. We want these barracks closed down and turned into something useful for the community, we want the spy posts removed and we want destroyed bridges that separate us from friends and relatives to be restored. I pressed the Taoiseach to push this matter with the British Government and he is aware how strongly the people of South Tyrone feel about the issue of continued British military activity." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member John O'Dowd has slammed the SDLP for not bothering to turn up and meet the families of those killed through collusion when they visited Stormont yesterday.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Yesterday representatives of over 100 families of those murdered by the British State through their policy of collusion visited Stormont to meet with various political parties. The SDLP having ignored the issue for decades have recently been vocal in their support for inquiries into the murder of Pat Finucane and others. Yet when given the opportunity to meet with the families yesterday the SDLP could not even do the courtesy of turning up.

"In contrast the Deputy leader of the Alliance party and a number of Sinn Féin Assembly members did attend the Long Galley meeting and discussed in some detail with the group their plans for the campaign in the future.

"The failure of the SDLP to send even one MLA to meet with the victims families is both insulting and completely unacceptable. It exposes in a very real way the political opportunism which underpins the recent public support which the SDLP have give collusion families.

" The SDLP leader Mark Durkan needs to explain to the families and indeed to the broader nationalist and republican community why they chose to insult and ignore the victims of British State violence in this disgraceful manner." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, party MEPs Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún and Deputy Mayor of Belfast Joe O Donnell will attend this year's meeting of the European Social Forum which is taking place in London on 15 - 17 October. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will address the opening rally on Thursday evening and a session on the peace process on Friday. Mary Lou McDonald will speak at the seminar 'Peace in Ireland - Visions for the Future', Bairbre de Brún will speak at the seminar 'Living in Fear: Civil Liberties and 'The War on Terror' and Councillor Joe O Donnell willl speak on the theme 'Ireland - Living with Sectarianism and Racism'

The European Social Forum will be launched with a large opening event on Thursday 14th October followed by three days of discussion and debate involving leading activists, NGOs, development organisations, trade unions and individuals from around the world as well as music, drama, film-showings and exhibitions celebrating the global movement. The key themes addressed will be:

  • War and peace
  • Democracy and fundamental rights
  • Social justice and solidarity: against privatisation (deregulation), for workers, social and women's rights
  • Corporate globalisation and global justice
  • Against racism, discrimination and the far right: for equality and diversity
  • Environmental crisis and sustainable society

European Social Forum: the Irish dimension

Welcome Rally Thursday 14th Oct - 7pm Southwark Cathedral,London Bridge,London SE1 9D

Speakers:GERRY ADAMS MP -President Sinn Féin, KEN LIVINGSTONE -Mayor of London, SUSAN GEORGE -writer on third world debt, DR ALEIDA GUEVARA -daughter of Che, Thenjiwe Mtintso -ANC, CLLR CHARLES ADJE -leader Haringey Council,MEENA MENON -writer on environment,health and womens ‚ issues, FRANCES O ‚GRADY -TUC Deputy Gen Sec

Living in Fear:Civil Liberties and 'The War on Terror ‚ Seminar, Alexandra Palace* - Friday 9am - 12pm

Speakers include:GARETH PEIRCE -Britain,THOMAS MATHIESEN -Norway,academic, DR SIDDIQUI -Britain, Muslim Parliament, BAIRBRE DE BRUN MEP -Sinn Féin,Ireland, MARTXELO OTAMANDI -Basque journalist.

Lessons of Ireland - Friday 1pm - 3pm - Alexandra Place

Speaker:GERRY ADAMS MP -President Sinn Féin Chair:DR MARY HICKMAN ,London Metropolitan University

Workshops

Hidden Wounds Workshop,Argyll Room,NATFHE,Britannia Street,WC1 - Friday 15th 4pm - 6pm

Speakers include:ALY RENWICK and former soldiers speak of their experiences.Chair:PETER MULLIGAN

British State and Collusion in Ireland - Workshop,NATFHE,Britannia Street,WC1 Friday 7 - 9pm

Speakers:MICHAEL FINUCANE -Solicitor and son of Pat Finucane,PAUL O ‚CONNOR -Pat Finucane Centre,Derry, BRENDAN CURRAN -An Fhirinne (Truth)Campaign,Ireland,MARGARET URWIN and BERNIE MCNALLY -Justice for the Forgotten, Ireland.Chair:TONY DONAGHY -President RMT

Ireland:Living with Sectarianism and Racism - Workshop,Palms Room,ULU,Malet St,WC2

Speakers:JOE O'DONNELL -Short Strand Residents, Belfast and Deputy Mayor of Belfast;PAUL O'CONNOR -Pat Finucane Centre,Derry;JAMAL IWEIDA -President Belfast Islamic Centre

Seminar,Alexandra Palace* - The Plight of Roma/Gypsies and Travellers:challenges for Europe

Speakers include:CRISTI MIHALACHE -European Roma Rights Centre,TOM SWEENEY -Irish T raveller Movement Britain,LASZLO FARKAS -Rom Som Organisation,FLORINA ZOLTAN -Roma Community Centre

Seminar,Alexandra Palace* Peace in Ireland:Visions for the Future

Speakers:INEZ MCCORMACK -UNISON Northern Ireland,MARY LOU MCDONALD MEP -Sinn Féin, MICHAEL FINUCANE -solicitor and son of Pat Finucane,PATRICIA MCKENNA -former MEP and Green Party Ireland.Chair:BILLY HAYES -General Secretary CWU. School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,Keppel St,WC10

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