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


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Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin's EU election candidate for Dublin in closing the press conference to launch the party's citizenship referendum campaign said, "The Government is quite "prepared to risk massive social damage for their own perceived short-term electoral advantage". She encouraged people to reject the referendum saying, "The Government underestimates you, the people. They underestimate your commitment to building an Ireland of Equals. Now that the referendum is being forced on us, we have the opportunity to send McDowell and the Government a very clear and powerful message by rejecting their racist, ill-conceived and cynical proposal."

Ms. McDonald said, "It is quite clear from the evidence of a growth in hate crimes on both sides of the border which have resulted in injury and deaths, and an increase in racist incidents including the targeting of pregnant non-national women since the referendum was proposed that this Government is prepared to risk massive social damage for their own perceived short-term electoral advantage.

"They obviously believe that they can distract attention away from the real concerns of people with exaggerated and false scaremongering. They are doing this in the vain hope that the Irish electorate won't see through this cynical and callous ploy. Sinn Féin believes that this Government are underestimating the Irish electorate. We have witnessed a growing demand for and a commitment to the building of an Ireland of Equals ? we have seen demands for equality of access to healthcare and housing, for recognition of the rights of people with disabilities, a more equitable tax system and a fair immigration system.

"In calling for a NO vote on June 11th we want the electorate to send a clear and unequivocal message to the bombastic and dictatorial Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, that we will not be brow-beaten into changing the Constitution to serve his cynical agenda."ENDS

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Speaking at the Sinn Féin citizenship referendum campaign launch Sinn Féin local election candidate Daithi Doolan said the Government had provided no evidence to support the rushing of the referendum. He accused Michael McDowell of "deliberately distorting the facts" and of "making it up as he goes along" to suit his own ideologically-driven position.

Mr. Doolan said,

"Ever since the referendum was proposed by the Minister for Justice one thing has been very clear. The Government has failed to provide any solid evidence to support it and when challenged they have constantly shifted their rationale for bringing it forward. First we were told it was because the Masters of the Maternity Hospitals had demanded it to prevent the collapse of the maternity services, but the Masters were quick to reject the Ministers claims. Then the Minister said it was a phenomenon of so-called citizenship tourism that was snowballing out of control. No sooner had his own Department's statistics disposed of this myth than he changed his position again. The next reason he gave was that we had to bring our laws into line with the EU but it transpired that there was no such request from anywhere in the EU. Then it was the Chen case, which, it should be pointed out, has not been finally concluded, so therefore the Minister is asking us to vote on a case on which there has been no outcome. It is clear that the Minister is making the stuff up as he goes along as he has done on other issues. It's a reflection of his arrogance and his dismissal of the intelligence of the Irish electorate that he is trying to railroad through this referendum.

"The Minister is not, as he may like to think, the most intelligent man on the island of Ireland. His judgement is not infallible. But he also is not above distorting the facts to fit his agenda. His use of aggregate statistics to bolster his arguments is disingenuous to say the least. As he has often done in other policy areas, he has also ignored other evidence and other facts that contradict his arguments. But the most fundamental distortion is in the false notion that immigrants are a net drain on resources. International evidence has shown that immigrants make a net contribution. Moreover we know that our economy needs immigrants and their children to slow the ageing of our population, a demographic trends which demonstrably does drain resources. It is time that the Minister told us the truth about immigration, because the Irish people are fed up to the teeth with his lies." ENDS

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Opening the Sinn Féin press conference to launch the Party's campaign against the citizenship referendum Mitchel McLaughlin, party chairperson, urged the electorate to reject the Government's "racist referendum" which he said was not only in "violation of the Good Friday Agreement" but also was a "betrayal of the 1916 Proclamation."

Mr. McLaughlin said, "We are urging people to vote NO to the Government's flawed, ill-conceived and what we believe is ultimately a racist referendum. We are unequivocal in that opposition. We are opposed to both the content and the processes involved. We were the first party to declare that opposition. And we utterly reject the Government's contention that this proposal is either necessary or desired. We stand by the 1916 Proclamation which declares that we should "cherish all the children of the nation equally". This referendum and the dishonest arguments put forward by the Government are a fundamental betrayal of that proclamation and indeed are also against the spirit and intent of the Good Friday Agreement.

"When the Government first put forward its referendum proposals Sinn Féin expressed serious concern that any interference with the Good Friday Agreement would be seized upon by elements opposed to the Agreement and whose declared intention is to see it wrecked. We stated that the anti-Agreement Unionists would use the Government's referendum, which directly alters aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, to argue that renegotiation of the agreement was possible. It has become very clear now that our analysis was exactly right. No sooner had the ink dried on the Government's referendum proposals than Ian Paisley's DUP were out of the blocks declaring, quite understandably from their point of view, the Good Friday Agreement up for renegotiation.

"Notwithstanding the ethical and moral issues surrounding the citizenship referendum itself, the Government, in bringing forward this proposal during an extremely sensitive and difficult time in the peace process has opened up a can of worms that won't easily be dealt with. They have given ammunition to those who are seeking to destroy the Good Friday Agreement, they are, through arrogance, ignorance and short term political thinking, ensuring that efforts to get the peace process back on a solid footing are made all the more difficult.

"Former US Congressman Bruce Morrisson speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, hit the nail on the head in terms of the Good Friday Agreement when he said not alone was it bad enough for nationalists to have had to give up the territorial claim to the whole island of Ireland through the changing of Articles 2 & 3 but if we follow through with the citizenship referendum on the basis of Britain's arguments in the Chen case then we will be forfeiting to a British Parliament the right to decide on who can and cannot avail of Irish citizenship in the Six Counties. That in anybody's book is a retrograde step that is way outside the intent and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The 1916 Proclamation, with its commitment to full equality for all children of the nation was a document well before its time. It was a document so progressive, so inclusive and so radically democratic that we are regretfully still only trying to live up to its promise and expectations. But we must not give up on its promise of a fully inclusive society.

"Sinn Féin has a clear vision for our future. It is a vision we have taken from the Proclamation of Easter Week and from the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil. It is what drives our equality agenda and it's what informs our position on this issue." ENDS

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Speaking at the same press conference Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the Governments citizenship referendum was a "diversionary tactic" designed by the Government to take the spotlight off its "appalling record" and "the real crises that people are dealing with day in and day out." He went on to say that the Government's campaign was being "led by a Minister who has shown himself incapable of responsibly managing immigration law reform and whose modus operandi is to curtail democratic debate and suppress dissent".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "There are many, many crucial pieces of legislation that need to be brought forward and implemented. We need legislation to recognise the rights of the disabled. We need legislation to give people a right to housing, universal healthcare and universal childcare. We need legislation to reverse double taxation and need fundamental tax reform to share the wealth. These are the priorities for the Sinn Féin legislators in Leinster House. These are the areas of most concern to the ordinary man and woman in the street. These are the areas where this corrupt and cynical Government should be directing its energies having failed to do so in the last seven years.

"But instead Minister McDowell and his cheerleaders in Government have decided to deflect mounting criticism by attempting to shift the blame on the weakest and most vulnerable sectors of our society, immigrants. And in doing so they are debasing our political system and have deliberately or otherwise promoted and exacerbated the growing trend of racism that is emerging across this island. In doing so, they have violated the Anti Racism Protocol for Political Parties.

"There is no crisis in relation to our citizenship law. The real reason for introducing these measures is to divert attention away from the appalling record of this Government and the real crises that people are dealing with day in and day out. It is a diversionary tactic to avoid dealing with the crisis of our crumbling healthcare system; our housing crisis and the crisis in our education system.

"The irony of all of this is that we have no problems issuing a passport and citizenship to somebody who has never set foot on this island and who has no intention of ever setting foot on this island but because their granny may have once sipped some green beer on March 17th while wearing a kiss me quick leprechaun badge. That Michael McDowell wants citizenship to be based on blood ties exposes as nonsense his claims to be either a liberal or republican. His referendum proposal is more appropriate to a cross-burning than constitutional change.

"But lets look at the Ministers chaotic modus operandi in managing immigration law reform. We have had three immigration bills in less than two years and another planned which has not yet been published. This is a piecemeal ideologically-driven approach when fundamental evidence-based root and branch reform is needed to create a modern positive, compassionate, human-rights compliant and anti-racist immigration system.

"This will be made worse by his proposal to amend Article 9, which will create internal contradictions with Article 2 that will need to be resolved in court. It will lead to the type of constitutional mess we have witnessed before when ill-considered and rushed amendments have been made to the Constitution. But the Minister is not concerned. He is too busy chipping away at our rights with an ideological chisel.

"The Minister's reform modus operandi has also been to curtail democratic debate and suppress dissent. On all three occasions when he proposed to change the law he failed to consult with affected sectors, ignored the Human Rights Commission and others recommendations, and sped the bills through the House to avoid proper democratic scrutiny and debate, and to prevent civil society from mobilising against his plans.

"He said this time he would consult and in fact he said he had consulted with the political parties. However, his idea of consultation was to call me in at 10 minutes notice, tell me what he planned to do and send me packing. He did this twice. At no time did he seek dialogue on this issue.

"This referendum process represents an anti-democratic pattern now established by the Minister for Injustice and Inequality and his Government." ENDS

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Commenting after a PSNI press conference today attempted to portray the current policing arrangements as acceptable, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the issue Gerry Kelly said that 'no amount of PSNI spin will deflect from the reality that we do not currently have an acceptable policing service'.

Mr Kelly said:

" The current policing arrangements do not enjoy the support of the nationalist community. The Oversight Commissioner recognised this fact in his latest report. No amount of PSNI spin alters that fact. However the onus is on those who have delayed the new beginning to policing, especially the British government, to fulfil their responsibilities and deliver the acceptable policing service demanded by the Good Friday Agreement.

" The issues which remain to be resolved are well known and have been identified by Sinn Féin in the past on a number of occasions. These include:

  • Special Branch
  • Demilitarisation of policing
  • Disbandment of the Full Time Reserve
  • Human Rights training and culture
  • Plastic Bullets

" Progress has been made in recent years on the policing issue in our discussions with the British government. Sinn Féin has of course secured amending legislation on policing and amending legislation on justice issues. We now need to see legislation brought forward to transfer powers on policing and justice, as Patten recommended and was agreed in principle by the British government. This is a critical issue in terms of achieving democratic accountability and one which continues to be frustrated by the British government's suspension of the political institutions." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey speaking at the launch of the Sinn Féin EU election campaign website in the ITEXP internet café on the Ormeau Road in Belfast has said that the site is a vital tool in reaching out to a broader audience.

Mr Maskey, who launched the website with Bairbre de Brún and Party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"This website is the latest and most high-tech way of bringing the republican message to an audience at home and across the world. It will help us advance our struggle to achieve our objective of a united Ireland, an Ireland of equals, and a Europe of Equals.

"We have always recognised the absolute importance of explaining our struggle to a wider audience, of winning hearts and minds.

"Republicans, throughout the years of repression and censorship, found innovative ways to get our message across. Thankfully, we have come a long way from the days when republican prisoners, naked except for a blanket, told the world the story of their resistance by smuggling out notes scratched on cigarette papers.

"The Sinn Féin website was relaunched last year and fast became the most popular political party site in Ireland. We average over 1 million hits a month from 72 different countries.

"People will be able to access our policy documents, the press statements, video footage and photo gallery and the site fully navigational in both Irish and English." ENDS

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Speaking at an Amnesty International debate in Belfast this evening, Sinn Féin EU candidate Bairbre de Brún MLA called for "a strong EU wide human rights agenda".

"Human Rights and human rights abuse goes to the heart of the conflict here. Sinn Féin's peace strategy and our support for the peace process and Good Friday Agreement are about bringing an end to all forms of human rights abuse, no matter who is responsible. This means creating a political environment without armed groups, armies or paramilitary police forces, and with adequate safeguards and institutional protections for the human rights of all. This is the logic contained within the Good Friday Agreement.

"Human rights abuse is not a problem confined to here.

"13 of the 15 established member states of the EU tolerate domestic human rights violations according to Amnesty International ˆ particularly impunity for excessive force by police, and allowing degrading conditions of detention.

"The European Union must lead by example on the protection and promotion of human, civil and political rights. Sinn Féin believes that the elimination of human rights abuses within the EU must become a higher priority objective of EU policy.

"Sinn Féin supports the establishment of an EU Human Rights Agency; incorporation of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into the next EU treaty, including full enforceability; the introduction of human rights-proofing of all EU law and policy; an end to the blockage at Council of the proposed Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia; Common Migration and Asylum Policies that are fully compliant with human rights instruments, that bring rights protections up to the highest standard, and that make the EU more open, inclusive and anti-racist; and the development of an EU framework on corporate accountability with a strong human rights dimension.

"Sinn Féin wants to play an active part in building an Ireland of equals in a Europe of equals. Promoting and protecting human rights is a crucial aspect of this, and needs to be mainstreamed throughout all aspects of the EU. This is a key element of Sinn Féin's EU agenda." ENDS

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Sinn Féin East EU candidate John Dwyer commenting on the Education special in this week's Irish Farmers Journal, which shows that students tend to choose local third level institutions, has said that the "report shows once again how essential it is to have third level institutions in every county, to prevent students from outside Dublin and larger urban areas being excluded from further education."

Mr Dwyer said: „The Irish Farmers‚ Journal points out correctly that rural students need colleges on their doorstep. County Wexford for example, has no third level institutions at all, and it‚s not a coincidence that the county also has the lowest third level participation of all the counties across Ireland.

"The Journal's investigation shows that students don‚t stray far from home, when seeking education, mainly because of the cost of living away from home. But in Wexford, the only choice students have is to travel to either Waterford or Carlow.

"This report shows once again how essential it is to have third level institutions in every county, to prevent students from outside Dublin and larger urban areas being excluded from further education.

"It is also imperative that the third level institutions offer courses that are relevant to the local economy in which they are based. Many apprentices in rural areas for instance, are falling between the bracket of student and worker. They need full-time resourced training colleges, so that they can go on to contribute to the community in which they live."ENDS

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Foyle Sinn Féin MLA's Mitchel Mc Laughlin and Mary Nelis who attended the 'Justice for Asbestos Victims Group' Awareness Launch co-sponsored by Sinn Féin at the Assembly Long Gallery this moring praised the asbestos campaign group for trheir tenacity.

Commenting on the launch The Sinn Féin Representatives said,

"The legislation which comes into effect tomorrow will deal with the 1.4 million non-domestic properties which contain asbestos but falls far short of dealing with the other 3 million properties that contain asbestos and increase the vulnerability to disease and death. Indeed, it is expected that 100.000 people will die as a result of exposure to asbestos.

Sinn Féin has written to British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy calling for the establishment of an inter-departmental working group to enure that there is information available across all departments and available to everyone ensuring good practice across the board in dealing asbestos victims."

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Speaking during the course of today's Statements on Iraq in the Dáil, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin strongly criticised the Government saying they had "facilitated the invasion" and called on the Irish people "to protest peacefully" at the forthcoming visit of the US President. A motion on Iraq tabled by the five Sinn Féin TDs was published today and Deputy Ó Caoláin urged the Government to debate it and to reverse the plan to hold the EU-US Summit here. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs cannot now stand up with any credibility and issue verbal condemnations of any aspect of the brutal occupation of Iraq by Anglo-American forces given that they facilitated the invasion and they continue to facilitate the occupation. The people who said 'No' to the invasion and the war were right. Bush and Blair and the Irish Government were wrong.

"As our motion states, the only way forward for the people of Iraq and the region is a speedy end to the occupation. The transition must be managed by the United Nations and any associated UN peace-keeping force must be led by troops from the Arab nations. That's what the Irish government should be promoting at the UN and in its EU Presidency.

"I call on people to protest peacefully at the visit to Ireland of US President George Bush. That visit should not be taking place. The Irish Presidency should require that the EU-US Summit be held in Washington and that it should bring to the US capital the demand of people throughout Europe for an end to the illegal occupation of Iraq and to the Israeli attempts to destroy the Palestinian nation." ENDS

Full text follows

Full text of statement on Iraq by Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin follows

The Government has scheduled these Statements on Iraq but has presented no motion that would define their position in exact terms. This is quite deliberate. In their usual fashion they want to have it both ways. I challenge them to put down an amendment to the motion in the name of the Sinn Féin deputies published today and to use Government time to debate it instead of staging these statements which are a face-saving exercise to mask the discredited international policy of this administration.

The government is led by a Taoiseach who was content to repeat in this House the totally spurious justifications advanced by the US and British governments for the illegal invasion of Iraq. He was content to allow Shannon Airport and Casement Aerodrome to become military bases for a belligerent power. The same Taoiseach then claimed that he agreed with the more than 100,000 people who marched on the streets of Dublin and Belfast to oppose the war, to oppose his collaboration with the war and to demand that Irish neutrality be respected and sovereignty restored to our airports and to our territory.

The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs cannot now stand up with any credibility and issue verbal condemnations of any aspect of the brutal occupation of Iraq by Anglo-American forces given that they facilitated the invasion and they continue to facilitate the occupation.

The millions who demonstrated throughout the world against the Anglo-American invasion correctly predicted that it would lead to a nightmare for the Iraqi people, thousands of whom would be killed. They warned that it would lead not to the Iraqi people liberating themselves from the brutal Saddam Hussein dictatorship, but to a Western military occupation which would create a vicious cycle of brutal repression and brutal resistance. They warned that it would lead to human rights violations on a mass scale. All those things are now happening.

The people who said 'No' to the invasion and the war were right. Bush and Blair and the Irish Government were wrong.

Even before the invasion happened last year the Anglo-American alliance had been discredited in the eyes of the world and exposed as liars. The British government's so-called dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was proven to be a concoction thrown together to provide propaganda cover for the invasion.

In a reply to a letter of protest from the Sinn Féin TDs the British Ambassador in Dublin, Ivor Roberts, relied upon the discredited dossier and claimed that Iraq had "continued to try to produce nuclear weapons". What was presented as hard information from British intelligence had already been exposed as a sham well before the invasion. And since the invasion not a shred of evidence has been found to support the wild claims about weapons of mass destruction. And these were the very claims the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs used to justify their support for the invasion.

The news of torture of prisoners in Iraq by the British and US military should come as a surprise to no-one in this country. All the techniques of torture that have been exposed including hooding, sensory deprivation humiliation, beatings and attacking with dogs were used by the British Army in the Six Counties in the wake of internment without trial in 1971. Britain was convicted of inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners by the European Court of Human Rights in a case brought by the Irish Government. What we are seeing in Iraq is nothing new ? they are the tried and tested methods of occupation used by Britain in Aden , Cyprus, Malaya, Kenya and in our own country. We, above all nations, should be loudest in our opposition to the disastrous revival of Western military occupation and Western imperialism in the Middle East and Gulf region.

How then can the Irish government justify the Irish Government's support for the military occupation of Iraq which is imposing on the Iraqi people the colonial methods tried and tested in many countries by Britain and the US?

There is growing evidence that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself ordered the brutal methods to be used on prisoners. It does not seem to concern this government in the slightest that Donald Rumsfeld was so assured in his sense of ownership of Shannon Airport that he was photographed addressing his troops there as if he was in a US Air Force base in America itself.

The current political and military chaos in Iraq is happening not because the people of that ancient civilisation are not able to govern themselves. It is a direct result of this disastrous intervention by Western powers. It will have as yet unmeasured consequences throughout the region and throughout the world. We see the results in Palestine with the Bush administration giving free rein to its main ally in the Middle East, the Israeli government, to slaughter the Palestinian people with impunity.

As our motion states, the only way forward for the people of Iraq and the region is a speedy end to the occupation. The transition must be managed by the United Nations and any associated UN peace-keeping force must be led by troops from the Arab nations. That's what the Irish government should be promoting at the UN and in its EU Presidency.

I call on people to protest peacefully at the visit to Ireland of US President George Bush. That visit should not be taking place. The Irish Presidency should require that the EU-US Summit be held in Washington and that it should bring to the US capital the demand of people throughout Europe for an end to the illegal occupation of Iraq and to the Israeli attempts to destroy the Palestinian nation.

The Aerodrome in Baldonnell which this Government has allowed to be used by the occupation forces, was named after a great humanitarian and a great Irish republican, Roger Casement. In the month of his execution in 1916 he wrote of the imperialist war then at its height: "These artificial and unnatural wars, prompted by greed and power, are the source of all misery now destroying mankind?" The Irish government should either cease its co-operation with the occupation of Iraq and close Shannon and Baldonnell to these forces, or else remove the name of Roger Casement whose memory has been dishonoured by this Government's abandonment of independent foreign policy.

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Sinn Féin's EU candidate for the South constituency has reacted with outrage at the suggestion that ESB will be seeking a price increase for consumers after announcing massive after tax profits of €249 million.

Mr Cullinane said: "ESB already got a price increase of 5% in January of this year, and over the last three years the company has reaped the benefit of price increases amounting to 30% in total.

"No political party is as committed to supporting state companies as Sinn Féin, but this is in part because of a belief that privatised companies put pursuit of profit before anything else and take no account of the damage massive price increases can cause.

"ESB has just increased profits by over 50% in one year while cutting operational costs and increasing productivety. That is a massive success and the workers of ESB are to be congratulated.

"I are aware of the impact rising fuel prices will have on the bottom line but there seems to be no case for inflicting a heavy price increase on consumers when the company is so financially healthy and rising costs are causing such hardship across the state.

"I am calling on the Commission for Energy Regulation to refuse any request for a price increase this year." ENDS

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Sinn Féin North West EU candidate Pearse Doherty has accused Fianna Fáil Minister for Defence Michael Smith of "double-speak" on the issue of neutrality. He made his comments in the wake of a statement from Fianna Fáil this morning, which criticised Fine Gael for its "dubious views on neutrality".

Mr. Doherty said:

"I nearly fell off my seat when I read the statement from Michael Smith criticising Fine Gael for its 'Beyond Neutrality' policy. Is he for real? The Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat Government has done more to erode neutrality in this state than any government in our history.

"100,000 people took to the streets of Dublin to protest against the War in Iraq last February, and to call on the Government to have no part in it. Did the Government listen? No. It continued to allow hundreds of thousands of US soldiers to stop-over at Shannon on their way to invade a country without a United Nations resolution. Mr Smith claims the Irish Government has a long tradition of supporting the UN. Where was that support last year?

"Because of this Government, we are now part of the EU Rapid Reaction Force, and NATO's 'Partnership for Peace'. We are involved in the arms trade, as an Amnesty International report recently showed. Since 1997, the 26-Counties has exported €240 million of military goods and €23.7 billion of dual-use goods (which have both military and civilian applications), including technology used by the French and US nuclear programmes.

"Michael Smith cannot pretend to be in support of neutrality when he is in a government that is actively trying to write it out of existence. Only last year Sinn Féin proposed a bill calling for neutrality to be enshrined in the constitution, and Michael Smith and his government voted against it. He gets one thing right in his statement -- Fine Gael's policy on neutrality is at odds with what the Irish people want. Unfortunately, so is the Government's.

"Instead of engaging in pre-election double-speak, the Minister might be better served by reading the Sinn Féin document "Positive Neutrality in Action" which will be launched next week." ENDS.

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Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has described SDLP MLA John Dallat's defence of the IMC and his criticism of the Sinn Féin decision to legally challenge the British government's discrimination against the party's electorate as 'nothing short of disgraceful'.

Ms Gildernew said:

" John Dallat takes issue with Sinn Féin challenging blatant British government discrimination against the majority of the nationalist community in the six counties who vote for Sinn Féin not to mention the rest of the people on the island who support our party.

" John Dallat needs to realise that Sinn Féin will make no apology for defending the rights and entitlements of the nationalist and republican community. We make no apology for challenging the IMC Report, a report which in reality is little more than a proxy for the securocrats.

" Sinn Féin is not prepared to simply roll over because the British government take a decision to discriminate against the Irish electorate. It is nothing short of disgraceful that the SDLPs John Dallat not only defends this British government discrimination but goes on to support the IMC a body which lacks credibility and operates entirely outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Daithí Doolan, speaking today in Ringsend, ahead of tonight's major anti incineration public meeting has called on all political parties, "to form a Coalition Against Incineration and to sign an anti incineration pledge. This must not just be the candidates but the parties they represent, committing themselves to opposing incineration anywhere in Dublin. The proposed incinerator for Ringsend must be met with cross party opposition. Our environment and our health must not be allowed to become a political football particularly at election time. It is time the public knew where their political parties stood on this serious issue."

Mr. Doolan said:

"Candidates and the parties they represent have varying positions on the issue of incineration. It was the major political parties, including Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour that voted for incineration in December 1998 when debating the Waste Management Plan for Dublin. We now need to move the waste management debate beyond land fill or incineration.

"Sinn Féin has offered a credible alternative, we have launched and called for the implementation of a Zero Waste Strategy, a strategy based on actually tackling the waste crisis at source. This strategy is aimed at reducing the waste we produce, reusing where appropriate and investing in our fledging recycling industry."

Mr. Doolan concluded by calling on parties, "to rise to the challenge and support this proposal and form a Coalition Against Incineration. The public, their health and our environment deserves nothing less than cross party support." ENDS

For further information contact Daithí [email protected] 086 8534666

The public meeting takes place tonight, May 20th, 8pm

Clanna Gael GAA Club
Sean Moore road
Ringsend
Dublin 4

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Sinn Féin will launch its campaign against the Citizenship Referendum in Buswells Hotel on Friday next (tomorrow), May 21st at 10.30am.

At the launch will be Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, the Party's EU candidate for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald and Daithi Doolan of Dublin Sinn Féin.

SINN FÉIN CITIZENSHIP REFERENDUM
PRESS CONFERENCE
Buswells Hotel
Friday May 21st, 2004
10.30am

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Responding to reports that the privatisation of bus services in Ireland could cost Bus Eireann an additional €24million Sinn Féin EU candidate for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald described it as "another in a series of reports confirming that the Minister‚s plans for privatising public transport are nothing short of lunacy." Ms McDonald pointed to the failure of the transport models across Europe that Minister Brennan is considering and expressed the hope that the report would cause a Œrethink in Government policy.‚

Ms McDonald said: "This is another report that confirms the Minster‚s plans for privatising public transport are nothing short of lunacy. He is shamelessly pursuing the interests of transnational public transport operators by opening up the Irish transport market with no more than a hunch to go on. Private companies will put profit before the people time and time again. This has been proven across Europe.

"But the issue here is not one of competition, but of control. In the place of publically accountable CIE and the small number of private operators we will increasingly have what the report calls "a cartel/oligopoly market structure which cannot be reasonably considered as an improvement on what exists".

"Since Dublin Bus will lose 25% of its routes to private operators under a scheme based on the discredited deregulation in Britain it stands to suffer the most from Minister‚s Brennan‚s incoherent transport policy. Franchising and deregulation in Britain led to a massive 16% decline in passenger bus numbers, fare increases amounting to 23% (35% in London) and a deteriorating service. The only exception to falling passenger numbers was in London, and this was solely as a result of doubling the Government‚s transport grant to London.

"In Copenhagen, another transport model advocated by the Minister who clearly cannot make up his mind, costs have risen, passenger carryings have fallen, reliability of services has declined and the Greater Copenhagen Authority is unable to control the three transnational corporations operating in the market.

"The report today exposes again the shambles that is Minister Brennan‚s transport proposals. His Government was obliged to climbdown on the issue of electronic voting when an independent report proved the system would not work. Hopefully this report will cause a similar rethink in Government policy." ENDS

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As part of the Sinn Féin appeal for a Peaceful Summer in interface areas the party President Gerry Adams this afternoon visited the Short Strand. Mr Adams was joined by local Councillor Joe O'Donnell and Assembly members Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey who are heading up a Sinn Féin effort to ensure a quiet summer in the city.

Speaking from the Short Strand Mr Adams said:

"Two summers ago this small nationalist area endured over two months of daily attacks and intimidation. The people living in this community and indeed surrounding communities suffered immensely. Thankfully last summer this interface was much more peaceful. But this did not happen by accident. It was a direct result of a concerted effort and hard work by many people from both sections of the community.

"We need to ensure that this work happens again this summer. That is why we have asked Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey to head up an engagement by Sinn Féin with other political parties, as well as civic society, the community and voluntary sector, and opinion across all sections of society, in order to build on the progress that was made last year.

"Sinn Féin have been working since last summer with interface communities across Belfast in formulating a template to address the issue of interface tensions. That work has now been completed and a template document has been passed to the British government and will be made public in the coming days.

" It is my hope that this grassroots initiative taken with the wider political initiatives co-oriented by Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey will ensure that the work done last summer is built upon and that families living in areas like this enjoy a peaceful summer." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has said that he is 'deeply concerned at the significant rise in unionist paramilitary activity over the past number of weeks'. Mr McLaughlin was speaking on his return from London where he was briefing MPs about the current situation in the peace process.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"This week has seen the murder of a man in East Belfast as part of ongoing internecine feuding amongst unionist paramilitaries. It has also witnessed a murder bid on a Sinn Féin member in Ballymena, a bomb hoax in Leinster House, attacks on Catholic homes in Portadown and North Belfast and death threats issued to four Sinn Féin Assembly members and three other party activists living in East Derry.

"I have real concerns about the significant increase in unionist paramilitary activity over the past number of weeks since the publication of the IMC Report. There is clearly a real threat to nationalists in general and to Sinn Fein activists in particular.

"Sinn Féin have never in the past and will not in the future allow this sort of intimidation to prevent us from representing and defending the rights and entitlements of the nationalist and republican electorate. However, we need to hear more from the political representatives if unionism regarding this matter. We need to hear from them in very clear terms that these threats and attacks are unacceptable and must stop." ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Bairbre de Brún has demanded that the Policing Board close the Andersonstown PSNI base at their meeting today and that the ground vacated is used for community regeneration.

Ms de Brún said:

"Sinn Féin have been campaigning for decades for the closure of the Andersonstown base. It is a blight on the local community and offers no public service for the people of West Belfast. Indeed it is little more than a heavily fortified spy post in the heart of a residential area.

"I am demanding that the Policing Board end the stalling and close this base. The ground vacated should then be used for regeneration purposes in consultation with the local community. Already there is a proposal on the table for a tourist hostel to be built on the site.

"In recent years there have been a number of false dawns with SDLP representatives announcing the closure of the base only for it to remain in place. Sinn Féin will continue campaigning until this blight on the community of West Belfast is removed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate for the Dublin constituency, Mary Lou McDonald has today said that the volume of queries to the Equality Authority regarding maternity leave were 'worryingly high' and 'proof that women are not receiving enough information on their maternity rights and entitlements.'

Ms McDonald was speaking after she attended yesterdays launch of the Equality Authority's Annual Report 2003.

Ms McDonald said:

"I would like to congratulate the hard work of the Equality Authority since its formation under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement 1n 1998.

"Their Annual Report 2003 makes for some interesting reading. Last year, the Equality Authority received 2,951 queries regarding maternity leave - this is a worryingly high figure.

"The volume of calls over one year suggests that there are still a number of issues surrounding the rights and entitlements of pregnant women. Discrimination is still occurring in this area, as witnessed by the high number of pregnancy discrimination cases before the courts.

"There is also a disparity on this island on the issue of maternity leave. In the Six Counties, women are entitled to 26 weeks paid maternity leave, with another 26 weeks unpaid. In this state, under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Bill currently before the Oireachtas women will only entitled to 18 weeks, with a further 4 unpaid leave. Sinn Féin calls for an all-Ireland approach to maternity leave, and is attempting to amend the Bill currently before the Dáil to raise maternity leave to 26 weeks paid followed by an optional 26 weeks unpaid or on an equal par currently statutory entitlements in the Six Counties". ENDS

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