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


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Commenting on a report by the Commissioner for Judicial Appointments, John Simpson, Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly said:

Gerry Kelly said:

"The judiciary in the north is partisan and unrepresentative and does not enjoy the support or confidence of the nationalist and republican community. Recent judgements concerning the refusal to grant bail to nationalists while bending over backwards to facilitate loyalists attending Twelfth parades has served to underline this.

"During the negotiations Sinn Féin argued for mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that an acceptable and representative judiciary is put in place. We welcome any moves along this road and will look closely at today's report." ENDS

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Commenting after Freddie Scapatticci's case for full disclosure was dismissed in the High Court this morning, Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"A number of months ago British Intelligence comprehensively briefed the British and Irish media. Faceless and nameless securocrats in British Intelligence made a raft of serious but unsubstantiated allegations against Freddie Scapatticci.

"Mr. Scapatticci has denied the allegations in categoric terms. These allegations were made by the same people who

  • killed Pat Finucane;
  • ran Brian Nelson and used him and other agents to control and direct loyalist death squads against republicans, nationalists and Catholics;
  • continue to control and direct the unionist paramilitaries;
  • continue to target and gather intelligence, not just on Sinn Fein, but also on their own government;
  • at every turn of the peace process maliciously leak and brief misinformation to create crises and to bolster anti-agreement elements.

"This morning's judgement in the High Court will have the effect of providing further cover for the activities of these faceless and unaccountable agencies who made the allegations against Freddie Scapatticci. There should be full disclosure and an examination of the activities of British Intelligence Agencies." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has accused the SDLP's John Dallat of losing the plot and engaging in silly season antics in a desperate attempt to get publicity. She said that 'Sinn Féin is serious about the peace process, serious about ending world debt and serious about bringing about Irish unity, but you would have to ask yourself what do the SDLP stand for.'

Ms. Gildernew said:

"As part of the development of the peace process Sinn Féin has engaged widely with both Irish America and successive American administrations. The benefit of this engagement, to everybody on this island, is obvious. In order to support this project and to advance the case for Irish unity Sinn Féin fundraises in the United States. The reason why we have been so successful in this regard is because of the leading role that we have taken in the peace process and our clear policy of building a united Ireland.

"This is something that, despite repeated efforts, the SDLP has failed to do over the last number of years. I think that this is more a case of the green eyed monster rather than a serious argument for political parties funding charity.

"To add insult to injury John Dallat then belittles the issue of world poverty in a cheap attempt to attack our party.

"The issue of ending world debt and the collective responsibility that we all face in bringing it about is a serious priority for Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams has raised the matter with the White House and the British and Irish governments.

"The debt burden faced by developing countries is overwhelming. The UN has estimated that if the funds to pay off debt were diverted back into health and education the lives of seven million children a year could be saved. That is two million more than the entire population of this island. We are involved in trying to put this critical issue on the highest political agenda not cheap point scoring." ENDS

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West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has expressed his 'shock and outrage' at the weekend murder of Lower Falls man Danny McGurk. Mr. Adams extended his sympathies and condolences to Mr. McGurk's family.

Mr Adams said:

"On behalf of the people of West Belfast I want to extend my sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Danny McGurk. This is a sad and enormously difficult time for all of them.

" There is a great sense of anger and outrage within West Belfast at the brutal and senseless murder of Danny McGurk on Sunday morning.

"The people of the lower Falls are also deeply offended at suggestions that Mr. McGurk was the target of a punishment shooting. On the contrary Danny McGurk was the victim of gangsterism and thuggery." ENDS

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Sinn Féin has announced its team of candidates to contest the 2004 local elections in county Wexford. The candidates were chosen at a specially held convention of party members in Murphy Floods Hotel, Enniscorthy, on Sunday (August 17th).

At the last local elections in 1999 the party won a seat on each of the four town councils in Wexford and are now highly confident of further increasing the number of Sinn Féin elected representatives in county Wexford.

Encouraged by the significant increase in the vote for Sinn Féin in county Wexford at last years general election, the party has now selected its largest ever team of candidates who will contest all of the electoral areas in the county.

In Enniscorthy; sitting town councillor Noreen Sheridan has been reselected to stand for both Enniscorthy Town Council and for Wexford County Council. Noreen, an employee of the ESB in Enniscorthy is also a valued member of the United Methodist and Presbyterian Church in Enniscorthy and so exemplifies the best traditions of 1798 Wexford Republicanism.

In the Wexford district, sitting Councillor, Anthony Kelly, has been reselected for Wexford Borough Council and will be joined by County PRO, David Forde, as the party aim to win two seats on Wexford Borough Council, while County Chairperson Maurice Roche from Screen has been selected as the Wexford district candidate for Wexford County Council.

In New Ross, Leinster Sinn Féin Chairperson and sitting town councillor, John Dwyer was selected to contest both New Ross Town Council and Wexford County Council. John Dwyer will be joined on New Ross Town Council by anti-incineration spokesperson Ger Barron and also by Bernie Murphy, with the party targetting three seats on New Ross Town Council.

Sitting Gorey Town Councillor Jimmy Fleming was selected as the party's nominee for Wexford County Council for the Gorey District, while County Secretary Sandra Ryan will join Jimmy Fleming in Gorey Town, as the party seek to win two seats on Gorey Town Council.

Speaking after Sundays convention, county Chairperson Maurice Roche said:

"Sinn Féin are approaching these local elections determined to lead the way as agents for change. That means real change and it means fundamental change. It means an end to the 'Golden Circle' type of politics which have prevailed for far too long in this county.

"To represent Sinn Fein is a singular honour and we expect the very highest standards from our representatives.

"None of us selected to represent Sinn Féin are carried away by the career aspects of the role. We are not about getting elected for the sake of it. We are agents of change. And we are in the business of empowering people and transforming society.

"Sinn Fein represents the future. We intend to use our increasing electoral and political strength to build the New Ireland of Equals and we have never been better placed to make the case for social justice and equality for all.

"Sinn Féin are very clear and agreed on the political project we have undertaken. We aim to promote and secure the national and democratic rights of all sections of our people. We want to give voice to those who are tired of the litany of deception from this government. We want to build democracy from the ground up and reconnect people to the political process.

"We are about creating a new dynamic in Irish politics.

"A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for people power over centralised bureaucracy. A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for a radical alternative and an end to the 'Golden Circle' brand of politics that has failed to serve the people of Wexford for far too long." ENDS

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Lower Falls Sinn Féin Councillor Fra McCann has expressed his shock at the murder of a man in Ross Road this morning and extended his sympathy to the m an's family.

Cllr. McCann said:

"People in the Lower Falls will be shocked at the murder of a man in Ross Road this morning. I know this man and his family and I am shocked at this incident.

" Although details of what happened are not yet clear, there can be no possible excuse or justification for the murder of this man." ENDS

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Mid Ulster representative Cllr Francie Molloy, who was on the original 1968 Civil Rights March said:

"People must protect their right to vote. Sinn Féin are calling on people to demand their right to vote. The Civil Rights Association was formed as a response to four decades of Unionist discrimination against Catholics.

"It had five demands: - One vote in Council elections; ending of Gerrymandering of electoral boundaries; machinery to prevent discrimination by public authorities and to deal with complaints; fair allocation of public housing; and the repeal of the Special Powers Act and disbanding of the B Specials.

"Today, 35 years later there has been much change but still sadly much of the core of these demands remains the same.

"There is the denial of the right to vote and the cancellation of Assembly elections. Unionism is still refusing to acknowledge its' role in systematic institutionalised discrimination and is still undermining the equality and human rights agenda. There is still need for the British government to deal with the issue of policing - the policy of collusion and the need to see the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Packie McDonald has condemned the recent upsurge in British army and RUC/PSNI activity in the south Armagh area, especially the increased helicopter activity.

Councillor McDonald said;

"Local people have been on the receiving end of an escalation in the activities of the military occupation forces in south Armagh. Contrary to the promises of the British government of a reduction in their militarisation of this part of Ireland they are moving to entrench themselves even further with ongoing construction evident in the Forkhill base. Local people reported a convoy entering the base within the past week and the level of harassment has increased dramatically. People have been stopped at nuisance roadblocks whilst on their way to mass at the weekend and a number of raids on homes have taken place, including one house when the family were on holiday.

"On Tuesday night up to 7 helicopters carrying a large number of British troops and RUC/PSNI members landed in Jonesboro and launched a raid on the home of an elderly woman who has serious medical problems. This kind of activity highlights the disparity between British government promises and the reality of the actions of their armed forces in this area." ENDS

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Responding  to  today's  shocking  figures  for the rate of drop-outs from second level  schools,  especially  in Dublin, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe said:

"It is disturbing but not surprising that the dropout rates are so high. What is truly  shocking  has been the Government s response to it.  In September 2002 in one  of  his  first  acts as Minister for Education, Noel Dempsey cut 6 million from the School Retention Initiative, specifically designed to reduce the school dropout rate. Is  it  at  all surprising then that Dublin has the second lowest participation rate  in  Third  Level  of  any  county in the state and is well behind other EU capitals  in access to Third Level, when the Government does not feel obliged to invest in second level.

"What  these figures also highlight is that inequality in the 26 Counties starts at a very early stage and that it has been fuelled by the policies of successive Governments. The  fact  that the high dropout rates are almost exclusively confined to areas of  disadvantage  shows  that  this  Government,  which has been in power over a period  of unprecedented economic boom has not cherished all the children of the nation  equally.  Instead of investing in all our children s education they have squandered   the   money   left,   right   and   centre,   have  rewarded  their multi-millionaire  sponsors with handsome tax breaks and to add insult to injury are  funding handsomely the private and elitist schools of the rich and powerful which will further inequity in society." ENDS

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Sinn Féin are organising a 35th Anniversary return march from Dungannon to Coalisland to mark the pivotal 1968 Civil Rights March. Announcing details of the march Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"35 years ago men, women and children marched from Coalisland to Dungannon demanding the right to vote. The march was blocked from entering Dungannon Square by the RUC.

"From that night on people took to the streets in an attempt to secure their basic civil rights.

"Across the North of Ireland - in Derry's Bogside, in Bombay Street in Belfast, in Newry, Armagh and Burntollet people were batoned and beaten and shot in their efforts to achieve the right to vote. Despite vicious opposition, the right to vote was clearly won.

"In 2003 the British government unilaterally cancelled the election to the Assembly because once again they feared the people's choice.

"The British government caved into Unionist demands. The Orange Card was played. The PSNI carried out their phoney raid on Stormont while Loyalists continue to pipe bomb and murder Nationalists."ENDS

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Responding to the latest cost of housing survey by Permanent TSB/ESRI in the 26 Counties Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan TD said:

"While this months figures may only show a marginal increase of just over 1 percent the reality is that average house prices are up by over €30,000 since this time last year which is a year-on-year an increase of over 15%.

"This is completely unacceptable and shows despite all the talk, the reports and the promises that this government has presided over a situation where people if they are lucky enough to be able to buy their home are stretching themselves and their families to breaking point.

"The International Monetary Fund recently said that house prices in Ireland could be overvalued by up to 50%. If this is true then the finger of blame rests not just with the Government's inept performance at managing the housing crisis but also at the lending institutions who have been responsible for fuelling the spiraling cost of houses." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's TDs have issued a joint letter to the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell calling for an immediate reversal of the decision to deport thousands of non-national families with Irish citizen children.

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said:

"With the deadline to argue their case before the Department of Justice already past, many of these 11,000 families face imminent deportation, despite the children's Irish citizenship and their right to the care and company of their parents, as guaranteed by the 1937 Constitution and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

"The Department of Justice is wrong to treat last January's Supreme Court decision as a mandate to deport these people. In effect, the Government's policy creates a two-tier citizenship based on race or ethnic origin. This is also wrong.

"In many cases there is a risk that these Irish children may be expelled to countries where they will not qualify for citizenship - thus rendering them stateless - or where they and their families will face the same dangers that caused their parents to seek asylum in the first place. This constitutes a gross violation of the State's responsibility to protect its citizens, and to cherish all the children of the nation equally.

"As fellow Irish citizens and as republicans we cannot stand idly by and allow this to happen unchallenged. Therefore, on an urgent basis, the Sinn Féin TDs have asked the Minister, in the name of human decency and in view of Ireland's international, equality and human rights obligations, to reverse the decision immediately, and to provide explicit protection for the rights of these childrenin legislation." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking following a meeting of the party's regional leadership in Dublin this morning said that 'there is a clear sense from across the country that republicans are becoming increasingly frustrated at the approach being taken by the British government.' He said that the the setting of the date for the Assembly elections is the first step required to end the political vacuum.

Mr. McLaughlin said:

"This morning Sinn Féin's regional leadership met in Dublin to evaluate the current crisis in the peace process and to begin preparations for an Autumn campaign in defence of democracy and the right to vote. There is a clear sense from across the country that republicans are becoming increasingly frustrated at the approach being taken by the British government. The setting of the date for the Assembly elections is the first step required to end the political vacuum and rebuild the process and not something to be granted or withheld as a bargaining chip.

"The Good Friday Agreement was based on the primacy of politics and was meant to be a clear demonstration that the days of unionist supremacy were over. It was meant to be the begining of a future based on equality and respect.

"Instead what we have seen over the last four years is the British government trying to implement the Agreement through a unionist prism. And when even that wasn‚t acceptable to unionism the British government pulled the plug entirely - brought down the institutions and cancelled the elections.

"It is clear that British direct rule is deeply unpopular and more that that it is clear that the ongoing political vacuum is causing untold difficulties with people becoming more and more disillusioned with the process with every day that passes. Our responsibility as political leaders is to rebuild the political process. Sinn Féin is willing to play our part. The question is whether the British government is willing to play theirs."ENDS

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Commenting on the sale of the Abbeville Estate at Kinsealy, Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O'Toole has called on Fingal County Council not to re-zone the land for housing and to ensure that it remains part of the green belt and an amenity for local people.

Cllr. O'Toole lives in the neighbouring Darndale housing estate and represents the Artane ward on Dublin City Council, which borders the Kinsealy lands. He said:

"The Abbeville estate should not become either a so-called 'exclusive' housing estate, with prices far beyond the reach of ordinary working people, or a golf club for the elite. For too long it has been a millionaire's playground. It should now become an amenity for the communities who bore the brunt of economic recession while the owner of Kinsealy enriched himself at our expense.

"The proposal for up to 4,000 houses on this site would be a disaster for this part of North Dublin. Already there is a massive housing development planned for the 'North Fringe' with up to 8,000 homes stretching from the Malahide Road to Baldoyle."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone representative Cllr Gerry McHugh has expressed concern at the involvement of the Department of Agriculture and Regional Development in considering a new GM crop - maize seed variety Chardon LL, for approval to the List of Plant Varieties prior to completion of a consultation process on GM crops and food.

Cllr McHugh said:

"It is outrageous that DARD are involved in proposals to add a new GM maize seed, Chardon LL, to the Plant Varieties List ahead of a consultation on GM crops and foods.

"At present there are no GM crops in the north of Ireland and Sinn Féin believe that we need to initiate an Ireland wide consultation before we go down the route of introducing GM crops or food into Ireland. Sinn Féin believe that the marketing potential of a GM free Ireland has not been investigated.

"There is only a voluntary agreement with the GM industry not to commercialise GM varieties until farm scale studies have been evaluated but this is only a voluntary agreement and there are still question marks over the use of farm scale tests and the danger of releasing new genetic mutations into the natural gene pool.

"I am also concerned that there is some confusion about which department assumes responsibility for GM foods. Although Ian Pearson has confirmed that the Department of Environment has primary responsibility for this issue DARD also has an obvious responsibility." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has said that the suspension of the political institutions and the cancellation of the Assembly elections has 'allowed politics to be reduced to little more than squabbles between different wings of rejectionist unionism'.

Mr. Doherty said:

" The suspension of the political institutions and the cancellation of the Assembly elections by the British government has allowed politics to be reduced to little more than squabbles between the different wings of rejectionist unionism.

" Five years on from the Good Friday Agreement this is unacceptable. People did not vote for a unionist side show dominating politics here. Amongst other things they voted for all-Ireland political institutions and they voted for equality and human rights. So far these have not been delivered.

" The approach of the British government has allowed confidence to drain from the political process. This confidence needs to be rebuilt. This can only be done through setting an early date for the Assembly elections, re-establishing the political institutions and implementing the outstanding aspects of the Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin EU Candidate Marylou McDonald has welcomed Environment Minister Martin Cullen's announcement that tally figures will be available in next years Local Government and European Union elections. She said however that "there are still concerns that the current electronic voting system is seriously flawed and requires significant changes to make it safe. These concerns need to be addressed urgently."

Ms. McDonald said:

"Electronic voting was introduced at the general election in three constituencies and it is the intention of the Government that all constituencies will have electronic voting for the next Local elections and for every election thereafter. It is incredible therefore that there has been little or no debate around the issue of electronic voting despite the major effect it will have on elections and the potential dangers that it throws up.

"Sinn Féin is not against electronic voting but we believe that the form introduced here may be flawed and we are calling for a number of changes to be introduced to ensure that the system works as it should.

"We are not alone in voicing our concerns. The Computer Science Department in Maynooth recently published a study called Electronic Voting: A Safety Critical System, highlighting concerns around the system (NEDAP/Powervote) employed by the government and how it meets the needs of democracy.

"Furthermore in March 2002 the Department of Environment asked a company called Zerflow to carry out a security assessment. They pointed out serious flaws in the system. The Minister said that the Zerflow concerns were 'considered' but no changes made in the system.

"The PR-STV system used in 26 county elections is a complicated process, especially when dealing with eliminations, surpluses and transfers. Developing computer programmes that correctly fulfil legal requirements under electoral law is a very difficult task. One of the means often employed to ensure a high degree of safety is to use a method called Formal Design which proves each part of the code. Such a system is employed in many systems where safety is critical eg: power stations, transport systems, hospitals etc. But it seems that it was not used here. And the fact that the source code is not available to the public for inspection means that its actions cannot be verified.

"It is important that there is full public confidence in the system of electronic voting which is being used. Sinn Féin is recommending that :-

1. Formal methods of development to ensure safety should be used

2. Citizens should have access to how the rules governing elections are being implemented and all source codes and design must be publicly available for inspection

3. A paper copy of the vote, verified by the voter, should be held for the purpose of independent recount.

4. There needs to be a change to the 1992 Electoral Act to allow counting of all votes when distributing a surplus, insteading of counting only the last sub parcel

5. There should be a provision which allows people to exercise their franchise without endorsing the candidates, through a 'none of the above' or spoiling option.

"Electronic voting using a kiosk type system is achievable but there are serious questions about how the current system was produced, how the count is recorded and the ability to independently recheck. These are serious concerns which should be addressed urgently."ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment, Arthur Morgan T.D. today criticised comments by the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Martin Cullen T.D. in which he expressed his opposition to the forthcoming ban on smoking in all workplaces. Sinn Féin wholeheartedly supports the introduction of this ban.

Deputy Morgan said: "Minister Cullen's comments show that he does not seem to understand the reasons for the introduction of the ban on work place smoking. Martin Cullen as Minister for the Environment should have a better understanding than many of his cabinet colleagues of the impact of environmental factors on health, in this case the impact of the workplace environment on workers in bars and the hospitality sector. The Minister ought to understand that this is about workers rights and it would be deeply disappointing if the uninformed views of some Fianna Fáil deputies in any way prevented the full implementation of this ban, which is one of the few positive initiatives from the coalition government." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children's Issues, West Belfast representative Cllr Sue Ramsey has called for all strands of policy that affect children and young people to be brought together.

Speaking to young people in Poleglass at an event to mark International Day for Youth Cllr Ramsey said:

"Children and young people are our future. They have been deeply affected by the conflict. Policy decisions across all departments have implications for our children and young people.

"In the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement Sinn Féin called for a Children's Department. Unfortunately other parties to those negotiations, including the SDLP resisted such a progressive approach to driving forward progress on policy that affects children and young people.

"We need to see a comprehensive strategy put in place that cuts across all departments and brings a central focus on the needs of young people and children and also allows for all policy affecting children to brought together.

"There has been progress in a number of areas, particularly with the appointment of a Children's Commission. But there are still key issues around child protection on an All Ireland and European basis and resources to support young people especially from disadvantaged backgrounds." ENDS

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For Immediate Release: 12th August 2003

Sinn Féin Chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin has expressed concern at the potential of parts of the Civil Contingencies Bill to undermine basic and fundamental civil and human rights. This legislation 'updates and extends the provisions of existing emergency powers legislation (principally the Emergency Powers Act 1920 and the Emergency Powers Act (Northern Ireland) 1926)'.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"Part 2 of this draft bill, which would come into effect in the 6 Counties, has the potential for draconian consequences for fundamental civil and human rights. It gives a British Secretary of State almost limitless powers; including the power to issue orders 'of any kind that could be made by Act of Parliament', the power to destroy property, to prohibit movement and to prohibit the assembly of people.

"In terms of human rights this means that the provision of the 1998 Human Rights Act to use the courts to have emergency regulations suspended or struck down on human rights grounds is voided. A court can only declare the regulation incompatible with a claimants‚ Convention rights.

"The definition given to an emergency in the bill is extremely wide-ranging. Most worrying in terms of the 6 counties is the inclusion of situations that present a threat to political or administrative stability.

"While there is a requirement to consult with the First and Deputy First Ministers before emergency powers are used by a British Secretary of State, this can be over-ridden if the matter is deemed to be too urgent to waste time on consultation.

"As this would be reserved British legislation there is no requirement to subject it to equality impact assessment.

"This legislation is another example of the British Government‚s use of the hysteria that it has fuelled about an 'axis of evil' to push through repressive legislation which will affect us all. Given the history of abuse of emergency powers in the 6 counties over the last 80 years, Sinn Féin demands that this legislation does not come into effect in Ireland and that existing special powers legislation is revoked." ENDS

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