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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 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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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International Affairs and Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Government to make the development of the UN's own capacity to prevent genocide a priority, describing it as the "single most urgent matter facing the international community". The Dublin South Central TD was speaking after the new Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea confirmed in response to his Priority Question in the Dáil today that the Government had not yet made their decision on whether Ireland will commit forces to the proposed new EU battle groups.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Let me state clearly that Sinn Féin believes that the UN should and must develop on an urgent basis the capacity for genocide prevention. It is the single most urgent matter facing the international community today.

"I understand that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is a pragmatist. He wants to prevent genocide and he has been backed up against a wall. The UN has been systematically starved of resources for decades. And the EU, who are in a position to change this, have instead selfishly focused on developing the capacity of their burgeoning military alliance. Even Ireland, an avowed supporter of UN peacekeeping, has decided that it will only make one pool of 850 troops available for deployment on peacekeeping duties. As the Minister confirmed to me today, if the UN calls on us to join UN-led missions when these troops are already committed to EU-led missions, tough luck. We will not send more. We will not redeploy them. And we will not commit to prioritising UN-led missions over EU-led missions, according to the Minister.

"This situation is what has forced the UN Secretary General to favourably consider contracting out peacekeeping operations to regional military alliances such as the EU Rapid Reaction Force. It is a shame. But it was not inevitable. It is the product of policy choices by the governments concerned.

"The deliberate shift in focus from the UN to the EU in which the Irish Government is participating is ultimately not constructive. The Brahimi Report on Peacekeeping Operations found that the development of regional peacekeeping capacity has been a significant factor contributing to the UN's difficulties. So while outsourcing missions to the EU rapid deployment battle groups may appear to be a short-term solution, it will ultimately only further exacerbate the decline in the UN's in-house peacekeeping capacity. It may also risk the longer-term consequence of UN peacekeeping itself being perceived as redundant, which would be a very bad outcome indeed. I urge the Government to consider these points very carefully when making its decision.

"Given that the Government has always professed UN primacy as a central tenet of its foreign policy I have urged the new Minister for Defence to deliver need a clear and unequivocal statement from the Government that he will at the very least clearly prioritise deployment of Irish Defence Forces on UN-led operations and not with regional military alliances such as the EU Rapid Reaction Force." ENDS

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Speaking during the second stage debate on the Adoptive Leave Bill 2004 Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment Arthur Morgan T.D. called for further increases in adoptive and maternity leave entitlements and the introduction of Paternity Leave. He was also sharply critical of the failure of the government to intervene to ensure that all parents have access to affordable childcare.

Deputy Morgan said, "Adoptive mothers should receive the same leave and pay entitlements as natural mothers. Adoptive leave, like parental leave and Maternity protection is at the forefront of the battle to bring about a better work-life balance for workers.

"Statutory maternity benefit in Ireland remains low in comparison to other EU states. Sinn Féin does not believe that the maternity leave provided for in this legislation is adequate. We are calling for the total period of leave to be increased to 26 weeks to allow a greater period of leave after adoption. This is absolutely necessary given the difficulties in terms of childminding faced by working mothers today. If we do not facilitate such an increase in adoptive leave and maternity leave we will end up forcing working mothers to leave their employment.

"Ireland ranked bottom of the list along with Greece and Luxembourg in terms of statutory maternity pay levels and maternity leave in an international global analysis of employment conditions and benefits in 60 countries which was published in 2003.

"Ireland also ranks bottom of the list in terms of Paternity leave. Most countries in the EU offer paid paternity leave, from two days in Spain to two weeks in France. Fathers north of the border are entitled to 2 weeks paternity leave yet in this state there is no entitlement at all. I believe it should be brought in as a mater of urgency if there is any commitment from this government to progress the goal of increasing work life balance.

"The quality of life for parents, working mothers and fathers with small children is severely worsened by the lack of affordable childcare. Parents are faced with a stark choice of losing one income if one parent stays at home with the child or struggling to find a place for the child in an expensive crèche.

"The reality is that this disappointing Bill offers very little, and without significant advances in the provision of affordable childcare we will see more women leaving the workforce because there are either no childcare places available or what is available is too expensive. Good quality childcare must be made available to all especially to those on low incomes. A universal entitlement to free pre-school must be introduced. The progress on childcare to date from this Government has been miserable." ENDS

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Responding to remarks by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern that it was his belief that Sinn Féin will be in Government in the future the party's Dáil leader, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said emphatically that, "Sinn Féin would be in Government North and South in the future." Deputy Ó Caoláin went on to say "Sinn Féin has as much right as other parties to be part of Government, if we are given a mandate by the people.

"We are not interested in ministerial positions for their own sake. The important thing for us is the vision such a Government would represent and the policies it would implement," the Cavan/Monaghan TD added.

"We want to bring about real change, real equality. We want to see the needs of the people being met in terms of health, housing, education and equality across the board. We want a government that will pursue a United Ireland and plan for national reunification and reconciliation.

"The question for us is not whether any of the parties here would want to go into Coalition with us, but whether we would want to do so with them.

"We do not accept any qualification of our democratic mandate, or preconditions to our participation in a Government if we have that mandate.

"It is also important to note that the current round of negotiations are about bringing about a lasting peace, they are not about Sinn Féin getting into Government." ENDS

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Responding to comments made this afternoon by Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern indicating that he sees it an inevitable that Sinn Féin will serve in the Irish government in the future, Sinn Féin Assembly group leader Conor Murphy said:

"The Minister is simply acknowledging the reality that, with our increasing electoral mandate, Sinn Féin will serve in an Irish government in the future. However, any participation by Sinn Féin in a coalition will be determined by our party membership and by whether such a course would best advance our agenda of political, constitutional and social change."ENDS

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Commenting on reports that the solicitors acting for the British soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday inquiry are to once again take the tribunal to the High Court over a point of law, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the issue of truth Philip McGuigan said:

" Previous to and during the Saville Tribunal into the murders of civilians on Bloody Sunday the British military through their legal teams have time and again sought to stall the work of the inquiry.

" If the most recent reports are true then it seems that again even at this late stage the military solicitors directed by Whitehall are once again going to take the tribunal through the courts on a point of law.

" If the approach of the British military establishment to the Bloody Sunday Tribunal is anything to go by then it is very clear that the British are not capable at this time of engaging in a honest and open way in any process of truth recovery.

" Perhaps this is the real reason why Paul Murphy has sought to place the British in the lead in terms of constructing the terms for such a process in the future." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy commenting on the announcement to reduce the number of civil servants to provide greater expenditure on front line services has said that there are concerns that politically driven cuts in civil service numbers will not deliver better services.

Mr Molloy said:

"It is vital that commitments to increase overall expenditure are maintained. We need to see greater investment in our infrastructure and greater investment in front line staff. Ian Pearson's announcement today will be judged against that benchmark.

"However, I share concerns that politically driven job cuts will actually impact on services. It is vital that where job cuts are identified that there is clear evidence that it will not impact on services and will generate real savings that can support expenditure in front line services.

"It is also important that while Ian Pearson talks about moving 5,000 civil servants out of government departments over the next 5 years that we ensure that there is proper training and support to help civil servants finds alternative employment. It is also important that employees transferred into another body such as Agri-Food and Biosciences bodies that their rights are fully protected.

"Our economy remains over reliant on public sector employment. Changes of this scale will undoubtedly have major consequences for our economy. However, if savings can be transferred to front line services - and not spent on expensive consultants - then it is vital that there are more resources for more nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals, as well as more teachers and classroom assistants.

"It should also being recognised that central to these proposals are the introduction of water taxes and huge increases in rates. In short we will be paying more. It is vital that there is clear evidence that we will be getting better services and not merely allowing the British Treasury off the hook. People should not lose sight of the fact that through water taxes and rates increases we will be paying for borrowing under the Reform and Reinvestment Initiative and an expansion of Private Finance Initiatives despite growing evidence that they do not deliver value for money.

"We are being asked to pay more and more with out any guarantee that we will be getting more and more. Yet 10 years into the peace process the British government has failed to deliver a genuine peace dividend. It is vital that we now see the colour of the British governments money in terms of living up to its commitment to the peace process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has voiced concerns that housing is dropping down the priorities of British direct rule ministers.

Michelle Gildernew said:

"With Budget Proposals for the six counties due to be released in less than a week the indications are that housing is set to drop down the agenda. We must not let that happen.

"In Fermanagh we have seen unprecedented rises in the cost of housing - this is a real issue for young people trying to set up home on their own, particularly those with young children.

"The direct rule minister with responsibility for housing, Ian Pearson, seems to be happy to let housing drop down the agenda in the six counties. However for thousands of people unable to get affordable social housing it remains a number one priority.

"Housing is also a key concern to people who have seen up to three years slippage on home improvements to kitchens and bathrooms. Receipts from housing benefits go into finance and the general pot while houses are allowed to deteriorate with all the social implications that entails. Money needs to be spent on maintaining housing executive stock to higher standards. Direct rule ministers shouldn't be allowed to bleed housing dry.

"It is clear that housing standards important to the health and well being of our whole population but particularly for older and younger members of our community. Damp can be a killer to the elderly and to children and leads to unnecessary and unwelcome visits to the GP and hospital. The increase in respiratory diseases is something that we must combat with every means at our disposal and that underlines the need for warm, dry, well-maintained housing.

"We can't allow housing stock to rot. While other governments are making housing a top four priority it looks as if we are expected to accept further neglect at the hands of a direct rule minister. It is imperative that social housing should be provided and maintained." ENDS

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A decision by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to reconvene its research committee as a matter of urgency, following revelations that the sugar industry may have unduly influenced its research and reports, is to be welcomed according to Sinn Féin's health spokesperson, John O'Dowd MLA.

Mr O'Dowd said,

"The relationship between excess sugar consumption, obesity and Type 2 diabetes is one which health professionals have identified as one of the growing health problems within society today.

"I welcome the fact that the FAO is urgently investigating recent claims that a key consultation into how much sugar we should be eating was secretly funded by the sugar industry. Since its publication, this consultation report has been used by the sugar industry to fight any suggestion of a link between sugar and health concerns.

"It is clear that surreptitious attempts were made to prevent an upper limit being placed on the amount of carbohydrates and sugar which people should have as part of their diet. Obviously had the report stated that sugar should not form more than ten per cent of a person's carbohydrate intake, there would have been massive repercussions for the sugar industry and for those involved in food processing and manufacturing.

"This move by the FAO to reconvene the research committee will hopefully lead to limitations being recommended for sugar consumption and towards more in-depth research on the impact of processed foods on the body." ENDS

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A cross party delegation from Belfast City Council this morning departed for a 2 day lobbying trip to Brussels. The intention of the trip is to lobby for the extension of the Urban 2 funding.

Speaking before his departure, Belfast Deputy Mayor Joe O'Donnell said:

" While in Brussels we will be lobbying to try and secure extra funding for Urban 2 beyond 2006 and the general extension of the Peace Programme. Belfast like many other areas across the six counties has received a welcome boost as a result of peace funding and the impact on disadvantaged communities has been positive.

" Consequently, I am concerned about the speculation of a £20 million reduction in such funding. The communities which suffered most as a result of the conflict are in no position to deal with such a blow. I would hope that our trip will result in the EU maintaining their financial support for the peace Process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP today addressed a meeting in Stormont organised by families of those killed yhrough the British governments policy of state sanctioned murder.

Mr McGuinness said:

The British government's response to the demand for an independent inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane has been denial, cover-up and concealment. This is in itself clear evidence that the British state was involved in the wholesale assassination of citizens through a policy of collusion. The British government's declared commitment to a truth process is starkly contradicted by the determination of their efforts to hide the truth about collusion.

The reality is that collusion was a policy employed by the British state in Ireland through which it employed loyalist death squads to wage a dirty war against the nationalist and republican people. That reality is now widely accepted. In fact, the head of the Metropolitan Police, John Stevens, has already said that British state agents were involved in collusion - including involvement in murder. Judge Cory, during his investigation, uncovered reports prepared for the British cabinet. The collusion policy went to the top of the British political system. It went right up to Margaret Thatcher.

British Intelligence recruited, or placed, large numbers of agents in the loyalist paramilitaries.

Loyalist paramilitaries were armed with modern weapons. In December 1987 over 300 weapons were brought into the north of Ireland, with the full participation and knowledge of British Intelligence, and distributed among the loyalist death squads.

British Intelligence updated and organised loyalist intelligence documents to ensure that targeting by the loyalist death squads was, to quote a British intelligence report, 'more professional'.

The British state created an efficient sectarian murder machine and set it loose on the nationalist community in the north of Ireland.

Hundreds of people were killed, and many more injured and maimed, in a vicious campaign of state-sponsored murder.

No member of the Special Branch of British military Intelligence has been indicted for these crimes in which they were centrally involved. No political leaders have been held accountable for this policy. Indeed, the policy of collusion has never been reversed. It remains intact.

The British agencies, which executed this policy, remain in place today.

The truth has to be told about collusion. The families of the victims deserve the truth." ENDS

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Speaking today as British Secretary of State Paul Murphy meets with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty said that there 'were still serious concerns about the approach being adopted by the two governments at this time'.

Mr Doherty said:

" Since Leeds Castle Sinn Féin have been both publicly and privately making it clear to the two governments that we are concerned about the approach they have adopted, particularly to defending the core fundamentals and principles which underpin the Good Friday Agreement.

" Nationalists and republicans have made it very clear that we are not prepared to countenance a return to the days of unionist misrule. The checks, balances and protections which are a core element of the Agreement were designed to prevent unionist abuses of power. They cannot be diluted.

" The vast majority of political opinion on the island is pro-Agreement. It is entirely unrealistic, in an effort to appease DUP rejectionists, for the governments to expect others to acquiesce to an anti-Agreement position. If progress is to be made in the time ahead the two governments need to make it clear to the DUP that the onus is on them to accept the core elements of the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS

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