Sinn Féin Assembly group leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy speaking after meeting the Alliance Party in Stormont today has said that it is vital that all pro-Agreement parties continue to build the pro-agreement axis.
Mr Murphy said:
"Sinn Féin met with the SDLP two weeks ago and are now looking to build on that engagement by meeting all of the pro-Agreement parties. Sinn Féin proposed the construction of a pro-Agreement alliance to confront those who want to see the Good Friday Agreement wrecked. It is vital that we continue to build the pro-Agreement axis.
"Sinn Féin are in continuing contact with both governments about the way ahead. It is essential that all parties, particularly the two governments fulfil their commitments under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The process of implementing the Agreement must continue." ENDS
Sinn Féin will tonight oppose the adoption of the Cork City Council estimates. In particular we will oppose the proposed dramatic rise in the refuse collection tax. Outlining Sinn Fein's position, Councillor Jonathan O Brien said:
"Tonight we are faced with fixing a budget for the next year, made all the more difficult by the Fianna Fail and PD parties‚ policy of under-funding of Councils. The burden is added to by a shortfall of 5 million euro to pay for benchmarking. Benchmarking was a national policy decision, which should by right come out of the national exchequer. Also thanks to the establishment parties, Councillors across the 26 counties have had powers taken from them, which would enable them to enact policies, which would be fairer and more efficient for the people they represent.
There are a number of areas in particular on which I have concerns. Principally-
1. On programme 4, Environment, the most controversial of all the programmes in terms of the budget, I have grave concerns. The total cost next year of the domestic refuse collection system will be €5.8m. This figure includes administration costs and the cost of the waiver system. Going on this figure the cost of refuse charges next year should only be €209. This figure is calculated on the basis there are 28,000 householders who are billed. Why then are we proposing a charge of €355, an increase of €78 or 28%? Considering that the wheelie bin operational costs will fall next year by nearly 70% it is even harder to justify such an increase. The 28% increase in refuse charges is huge compared to the proposed increase of 5% in commercial rates. It is easy to see who has been hit hardest in this budget. 28,000 people paying €355 gives a total income of €9.6m. Not only are people being charged this stealth charge but also they have to pay way over the actual cost, in fact €3.8m over and above the actual cost of disposing of their waste
2. Next year we propose to spend €8.95m on Housing Maintenance. This represents 34% of our total housing budget. Of this €8.95m we will spend almost €2.2m on Vacant Dwellings with a further €258 on securing our vacant dwellings. In total this is 27% of the Maintenance budget. In comparison less than 3% will be spent on repairing or improving central heating in our housing stock. This is an area where further improvement is needed. Many houses that become vacant need little or no work to be carried out on them before they are ready for re-allocation but at times these houses have been left idle for to long, only to be vandalised.
In summary Cork householders will pay a total of €22.4m in rents and refuse charges alone next year. That's 15% of the total budget. The local government fund will not even match this figure. It is all to clear who is going to suffer next year if this budget is passed. I cannot support a budget that asks the people of this City to pay more than the fair share of the wealth we created through our taxes, wealth that we see, judging by the recent budget, spent on racehorses."ENDS
Chairperson of Dublin Sinn Féin Daithi Doolan, speaking following a meeting of the party's Dublin City Councillors, announced that they will be opposing the Estimates at tonight's meeting of the City Council. Mr. Doolan also said that Sinn Féin will be holding a protest outside the City Hall at 6pm this evening to co-incide with the meeting.
Mr. Doolan said:
"Despite the alternatives before him, the Dublin City Manager is insisting on including, in the Estimates, a 23% increase in the bin charges and has said that he will continue to increase the charges until the money raised fully pays for the collection service. This goes against all advice and will put families under huge pressure in the time ahead. This increase is also happening despite a complete failure on the part of the City Manager to bring forward a proper waste management strategy or real proposals for recycling in the City. In reality he has moved away from a waste management strategy to a fundraising plan.
"Sinn Féin remains absolutely opposed to bin charges as a solution to the waste management problems of Dublin and we are committed to having them overturned. In their place we are recommending that a range of measures be introduced to fund such services in the city including:
Sinn Féin Councillors on Dublin City Council will be voting against the Estimates at tonight's meeting and we are calling on other parties to stand firm against this unacceptable increase in the bin charges. I am also calling on people to join with us in this campaign by attending the protest at City Hall this evening."ENDS
Commenting on the decision of the High Court in Belfast to dismiss a case taken by the family of Pearse Jordan against the DPP for failing to provide reasons why they failed to prosecute the RUC killer of their son, West Belfast Sinn Féin representative Bairbre de Brún said:
" The battle by the family of Pearse Jordan for justice has been a long one. They have been continually frustrated first by the RUC and now by the PSNI.
" This latest court battle was an attempt by the Jordan family to seek answers from the DPP around why they failed to prosecute the RUC killer of their son.
" Pearse Jordan was an unarmed man shot in the back by the RUC. That is a indisputable fact.
" Sinn Féin will continue to support the Jordan family and those other families whose loved ones were killed by the British State or their surrogates in their battle for truth and justice." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP has welcomed the announcement by the US Administration that they are to replace the out going Special Envoy to Ireland Richard Haass with a new appointee Mr Mitchell B Reiss.
Mr McGuinness said:
" The decision to appoint a new Special Envoy to Ireland is a signal of ongoing commitment by the US Administration to the Irish peace Process. Ambassador Haass did play a positive role during his term and I wish him well in the future.
" I would like to congratulate Mr Reiss on his appointment and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has already written to him. Sinn Féin look forward to meeting with Mr Reiss at the earliest opportunity." ENDS
Newry & Armagh Sinn Féin member Conor Murphy has raised serious concerns about the group FAIR. Mr Murphy's comments come after the group publicly defended one of those named in the Barron Report as being involved in the Dublin and Monaghan bombs.
Mr Murphy said:
" The first thing that must be said is that the FAIR group is funded by both the British and Irish government. They claim to be a non political victims organisation, yet time and again they have appeared to be little more than a loyalist propaganda tool.
" On their web site they have consistently made a serious and defamatory allegations against the murdered solicitor Pat Finucane. The head of the group Willie Frazer has made no secret of his political ambitions and views.
" Now the FAIR group have issued a public defence of one of those named in the Barron Report as being involved in the Dublin and Monaghan Bombs.
" None of this is consistent with an organisation which claims to be a victims group. The facts would suggest that FAIR is little more than an anti-Agreement vehicle to demonise republicans while defending those who have in the past been involved in the various British State agencies." ENDS
Commenting on the ongoing battle within unionism, South Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has said that two weeks on from the election 'neither Jeffery Donaldson or the DUP have yet produced a credible plan for the future'.
Cllr. Maskey said:
" Whatever about the ongoing battle within the UUP what we can be sure about is the fact that two weeks on from the election neither Jeffery Donaldson or the DUP have been able to produce a credible plan for the way ahead.
" The two governments now have a crucial role to play in all of this. They must move ahead with a pro-Agreement agenda and make it clear to the rejectionists that they will not be allowed to block forward movement.
" Donaldson and the DUP need to recognise that the vast majority of people who voted in the election voted to support pro-Agreement parties and they returned a majority of pro-Agreement MLAs to the Assembly." ENDS
Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that the bomb attack on a 92-year old senior citizen in Enniskillen could have led to loss of life and that those responsible are intent on undermining the peace process.
Ms Gildernew said:
"This attack is totally reprehensible. It could have resulted the death of a 92-year woman asleep in her home.
"For the past decade republicans have been at the heart of the search for a just and lasting peace. Those responsible for this attack clearly want to undermine the peace process. There actions play into the hands of rejectionists.
"To those responsible I want to send the clearest message - you will not stop progress and you will not succeed in undermining the peace process. We are on the path to securing the peace and stability that underpins the transition towards Irish unity. There are those who want to roll back this progress and return us back to the days of conflict and unionist domination and misrule. They cannot be allowed to succeed." ENDS
Speaking after the launch at Belfast City Hall of the report " Building on Peace: Supporting Peace and Reconciliation After 2006", Sinn Féin EU candidate and former Minister Bairbre de Brún welcomed the publication of the report as a useful contribution to the challenge of supporting peace building, reconciliation and conflict resolution in the time ahead.
Bairbre de Brún said: " Whatever our views on the way forward, we must all recognise the extent of the journey that still lies ahead. We must also acknowledge the contribution of the European Union to date through its Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and its contribution to the International Fund for Ireland.
The two governments must continue to make a strong case for continued EU support though a Peace III programme for peace building, reconciliation and conflict resolution. They must also make plans to fill the gap in the absence of such funding.
European Peace programmes can support the preparation for managed rather than unmanaged change by further enhancing equality and social inclusion, developing common policies north and south, developing models for civic engagement on changing policies, providing training in human rights, developing twining initiatives across Ireland and promoting Irish language projects.
We must now have the widest possible debate between the many groups and stakeholders throughout Ireland about how we manage the transition from conflict towards becoming a peaceful and economically prosperous region of Europe. Today's report is a useful contribution to that debate and to the challenge of supporting peace building, reconciliation and conflict resolution in the time ahead." ENDS
Note to editors
The report " Building on Peace: Supporting Peace and Reconciliation after 2006 was launched this morning by a cross-border consortium which includes
The foreword to the report describes is as an 'ideas' paper which does not necessarily reflect the policy positions of the SEUPB or members of the Cross Border Consortium
Sinn Féin policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly has said that he will be raising with the British government the issue of plastic bullets at the earliest opportunity.
Mr Kelly said:
" The British government gave a commitment to end the use of plastic bullets by the end of this year.
" It has now been reported that they have instead issued new guidelines on the use of these killer devices. This is completely unacceptable. The British government must honour its commitments regarding this matter.
" The continued use of plastic bullets is unacceptable and I will be raising this matter with the British government at the earliest opportunity as a matter of urgency." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil Group Leader Caoimghín Ó Caoláin, has described the establishment of the party's All-Ireland Parliamentary Group as an important part of our programme preparing for Irish Unity and said "it will have as its ultimate aim the creation of an all-Ireland national parliament."
Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "Today is the inaugural meeting of Sinn Féin's All-Ireland Parliamentary Group. It is an important initiative and is a logical step given the universal acceptance of all-Ireland approaches and political institutions.
"While Sinn Féin TDs and MLAs have been meeting for some time now, to discuss policies and issues of mutual concern, this is the first time that a parliamentary forum has been formally set up within the party. It will have a number of key aims including:
The coming together of our TD s and Assembly members to develop legislation on an all-Ireland basis;
"This work will happen on a community, local and regional basis and also involve Local Government, the Dáil, the Assembly and the all Ireland institutions. It would logically lead to much more co-operation, and pooled sovereignty, in areas such as energy, communications, agriculture and rural development, tourism, transport, environment, education and health.
"We do not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead in all of this but we are determined to build on the progress which has already been made.
"Sinn Féin has a roadmap for Irish Unity and the establishment of our new All-Ireland Parliamentary Forum will take the United Ireland agenda decisively forward." ENDS
Sinn Féin 10 Point Plan for Irish Unity
Sinn Féin is setting the All-Ireland agenda and preparing for Irish Unity through:
Interim Report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings Laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 10 December 2003 by Judge Barron.
Commenting on the replacement of Robert Carswell as the Chief Justice, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice matters Gerry Kelly said that 'Carswell was the very epitome of the Orange Judiciary in the North'.
Mr Kelly said:
"Robert Carswell is the very epitome of the Orange Judiciary in the North. He represents everything that needs to change in the Criminal Justice system.
"He presided over a system which is biased against nationalists, catholics and republicans in particular. His replacement as Chief Justice will be welcomed by those of us interested in creating a fair and impartial Criminal Justice system in the north." ENDS
The Sinn Féin Assembly group leader Conor Murphy has welcomed a commitment from the SDLP to join with his party in building a pro-Agreement axis to confront the rejectionists who wish to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented.
Mr Murphy said:
"Sinn Féin met with the SDLP last week and we proposed the construction of a pro-Agreement alliance to confront those who want to see the Good Friday Agreement wrecked. I welcome the fact that the SDLP have now responded positively to this suggestion in a letter received from SDLP leader Mark Durkan.
"Sinn Féin are in continuing contact with both governments about the way ahead. We are also seeking bi-lateral meetings with all of the other parties. We have already begun this series of engagements.
"The key to forward movement is the lifting of suspension and the completion of the sequence initiated on the 21st October." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has reacted angrily to the Government's plan to squash Dáil debate on EU Regulations requiring all visas and residence permits to contain "biometric" data (fingerprints and face scans), in a bid to fast-track their endorsement before the Christmas break. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"The Government has been engaged in a systematic process of rubber stamping a series of major EU proposals increasing judicial integration between member states throughout the autumn session. Sinn Féin has vigorously and consistently opposed this. But the proposals that will be taken without debate next week are of a different magnitude altogether. They have very serious implications for the rights and freedoms of everyone in living in or hoping to visit the EU.
"The draft EU Regulations will make fingerprints and facial images compulsory for visas and residence permits for third country nationals by 2005. It is recognised that the extension of biometric documents and passports for EU citizens will follow. This data will be held on national and EU-wide databases. So far there is no guarantee that this data will not be made available to non-EU states. This is the architecture necessary for universal surveillance. It has more to do with political and social control than public security, and as such it is not acceptable in a democratic society.
"Consenting to this measure means accepting the slide towards totalitarianism that has been accelerating in democratic states in the post-September 11 period. Sinn Féin will not consent. We will make every effort to block these measures, however the Government's in-built majority ensures that they will get their way regardless of the consequences for our rights, unless the Irish people stand up and make themselves heard. But make no mistake, the Government's squashing of public debate on these proposals is meant to silence any such dissent." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan TD hit out today at the Minister for Social Welfare regarding the recent cut in rent supplement. Deputy Morgan said:
"The attack on the rent supplement whereby applicants for rent supplement must have been renting for at least six months is scandalous and retrogressive. The Government has chosen to attack rent allowance for the second consecutive year, following last year's unreasonable cap of rent allowance at E107. While the rent supplement scheme does not represent a preferable method of assisting people in housing, in the absence of housing reform it fulfills a very necessary function, which enables many people who would otherwise become homeless to remain in private rented accommodation.
"It is unacceptable that Minister Coughlan shows no regard for the consequences of this change for people who are at risk of becoming homeless. It contradicts the government stated aim of preventing homelessness. Many people will not be able to meet the 6 month condition such as new refugees, people who become unemployed within six months of moving into private rented accommodation, lone parents, and people who become separated and have to move out of the family home. No evidence has been given showing the necessity for this change and it appears from the disagreement between the Junior Minister with responsibility for Housing and the Minister for Social & Family Affairs that there has been no cross- departmental consultation on its impact or implementation.
This lack of co-ordination and failure to accept responsibility shows a very slip-shod attitude towards the housing needs of citizens of this State" ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has described as disgraceful, comments from the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell on radio this evening.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "Once again this evening we have seen Michael McDowell blatantly abuse his position as Minister of Justice to attack Sinn Féin. His comments are totally false and he should withdraw them immediately.
"Michael McDowell is aware that Sinn Féin is fully compliant with all provisions relating to the funding of political parties in the 26 Counties. We are also fully compliant with the laws in the Six Counties.
"I am not surprised that Michael McDowell is rattled by the continuing rise in support for Sinn Féin but we will not allow such slurs to stop us representing those who vote for us or to stop us pursuing our objective of Irish Unity." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the Report of the Barron Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings as an indictment of successive Irish and British governments. He said it exposed that the handling of the investigation of the massacre by the authorities in the 26 Counties, was appalling, and that in the words of the Report the Government of the day "showed little interest". Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The publication of the Report today is firstly a tribute to the dedication of the survivors and the bereaved of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. But for their persistence there would never have been such an investigation and the
victims would indeed have been largely forgotten by Irish society. For almost 30 years the victims and their families have been seeking truth and justice. Our sympathy and solidarity is with them on this day as they relive the terrible events of 17 May 1974. As a native of Monaghan town I will never forget that terrible day.
"The findings of the report point to the involvement of agents of the British armed forces in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. The British thwarted any proper investigation of the bombings. They failed to co-operate properly with Judge Barron.
"Equally serious is the Report's scathing criticism of the role of the authorities in this State. The Garda investigation was totally inadequate and was compromised by the close links between the gardai and elements of British intelligence, including British agents within the gardai. Successive governments were content to preside over a conspiracy of silence on all of this. It is appalling that when evidence was shown to the Irish Government that the British knew the identity of the bombers they showed little interest." ENDS
Speaking in the Dáil today on the Social Welfare Bill, Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris contrasted the attitude of those in power to the wealthy, with what he described as their "miserly" attitude to those living on social welfare and low wages. He contrasted the manner in which working class communities were treated when it came to social welfare increases and grants, to the generosity displayed towards the rich in terms of tax breaks and the recent funding of the Punchestown Equestrian Centre.
In part of his contribution, Deputy Ferris said: "It is ironic that the right wing parties who are so upright and strict in the manner in which they regulate the incomes of working class people, remain just as generous and accommodating to their wealthy friends as they were in the good old days of the 1980s. Days that we were reminded of the other day when we saw former Minister Ray Burke resurface in relation to his activities on their behalf when a member of a previous Fianna Fáil Government.
"Those were the days when An Taoiseach Charles Haughey appeared on television to remind us all that we must tighten our belts, and that it was necessary to decimate our social services in order to pay the massive debts that had been accumulated over the years. And most people fell for this, and voted for the three parties that oversaw the cutbacks of the 1980s. Little knowing of course that while they were counting each penny, that practically every member of what we might ironically call the ruling class ? although perhaps the misruling class might be more appropriate ? was committing tax fraud on a massive scale.
"While people were dying because of the lack of hospital places, the great and the good were shifting hundreds of millions into illegal offshore bank accounts. And not content with that, those who were part of the golden circle were also enriching themselves through land speculation. And of course land was not the only commodity that those in power were able to sell at the expense of the people they were supposed to represent. Look at what happened to our natural resources. Handed over to the multi-nationals for nothing. That is something that demands as much an explanation as the issues currently before the Tribunals. Who decided that the massive potential wealth that lies under Irish waters should be given away and why did they do so.
"The reason I refer all of this is that it exposes the vast difference in the attitude which the right wing parties take towards different sections of our society. Minor changes in social welfare or cutbacks such as that applied to the Back to Education grant are justified in the name of preventing fraud while the sort of abuses I have described above were tolerated for decades and the same sort of people are still given favoured treatment by their friends in power.
"Anyone who doubts that need only look at the recent handout given to Punchestown. And contrast that to the miserly attitude displayed by the Department of Sport to clubs that were seeking small amounts of money under the Sports Capital Grant. Clubs like those in Tralee which are attempting to provide vital amenities for young people in areas that are designated under the RAPID programme.
"I would humbly suggest that the money given to Punchestown would be far better spent on providing the facilities that will provide young people with an opportunity to develop their talents and personalities, rather than as a gift to those who don't need it. And yet these are the same people who lecture working class people about not doing things for themselves. They are only too happy of course as always to take whatever they can in handouts and tax breaks." ENDS
Sinn Féin Policing and Justice Spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly commenting on the 9th and final report of the outgoing Oversight Commissioner Tom Constantine said:
"This 9th report is difficult to compare in detail with the 8th report published in September 2003 because the format has changed. The last report helped us pinpoint precisely what recommendations were or were not being faithfully implemented, whereas in this report that sort of detail is missing. Nonetheless, areas of concern remain for the Oversight Commissioner, including matters for which the Oversight Commissioner's report states that ".. it is increasingly difficult to explain the lack of resolution in certain important recommendations".
"In relation to Special Branch the Office of the Oversight Commissioner has received a plan from the PSNI (on November 15th). However we also know that the PSNI are still discussing what to do about Special Branch. ACC Roy Toner who is responsible for change management in the PSNI stated that the plan submitted is for the incorporation of the old Special Branch within the new Crime Department.
"What we don't need is the continuation of the force within a force. There are stark reminders that Special Branch has moved en masse from the RUC to the PSNI. In a recent court case (Abernathy) a state forensic scientist stated that she has been approached by the RUC/PSNI over a 7-year period to interfere or collude in the interference with evidence. In another recent case, involving a new section of the Special Branch known as REMIT, the case collapsed because there was deliberate contamination of evidence.
"In the 8th report from the Commissioner, Tom Constantine noted that the section in the Patten report dealing with the 'Structure of the Police Service' has 11 specific recommendations of which there has been non compliance in 10. Tom Constantine has made it clear that ".. the importance of the issues involving the structure of Special Branch are such that failure to implement the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Policing in a timely manner can significantly impact on the perception in the overall programme of police reform.
"In his latest report many of the matters highlighted as areas for concern in the last report by the Oversight Commissioner, some of which are very significant like the Human Rights practices and training; register of interests; tracking complaint trends; demilitarisation and decentralisation, remain outstanding. There is also no system for the early identification of serial abuse by members of the PSNI.
"Sinn Féin have been at the forefront of driving policing changes. In the last period of negotiation we made further substantial progress. We intend to finish that job. In this context the continuing job of the new Oversight Commissioner Al Hutchin