In the Dáil today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD, speaking on the Redundancy Payments Bill 2003, accused the PD/Fianna Fáil government of having no affinity with protecting the rights and entitlements of the working class.
Deputy Morgan said
"Despite the wealth generated in the last ten years, life remains a perpetual struggle for the low paid workers of this state. James Larkin once referred to William Martin Murphy as the "most foul and vicious blackguard that ever polluted any country ... a capitalistic vampire". If he had lived today, I expect that Larkin would describe the current Minister for Finance in similar terms, for it is Minister McCreevy who has led the lockout against the workers of this state, preventing them from accessing the profits which their labour generated during the years of the Celtic tiger boom.
"The workers of Peerless Rugs in Athy and the Irish Glass Bottle Factory in Dublin deserve much of the credit for forcing this uncaring Government to reform the outdated Redundancy legislation, the basic terms of which had not changes in 35 years. It is a sad indictment of this Government that it took the protracted disputes at Peerless Rugs and the Irish Glass Bottle Factory and the determination of the workers of those companies to force the Government to bring forward legislation to increase redundancy entitlements.
"I do not believe the Bill has gone far enough with regard to the level of statutory redundancy. Workers who have long waited for this legislation are deeply disappointed that the Government, once again, has given into pressure from employer organisations to restrict the level of redundancy to two weeks per year of service. Sinn Féin supports the demands made by the Trade Unions that the statutory redundancy payments be increased to three weeks pay for every year of service.
"The provisions contained within this Bill should have been made retrospective as there is evidence that employers have been downsizing and bringing forward redundancies to evade the terms of the legislation. Workers should not have to suffer because the Government delayed in bringing forward this legislation.
"The Government must insure that workers are protected at a time of economic downturn and this includes measures in addition to providing adequate statutory redundancy. We need to see a real strategy from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment to deal with job losses which goes beyond simply setting up a new task force each time a factory or business closes." ENDS
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP in an address to a republican commemoration event in the Ulster Hall tonight called for full disclosure by the British government of the strategies and activities of it's secret agencies in the north over the last 30 years.
Mr. Adams said:
"The process is in deep trouble. The multiple suspensions of the Assembly by the British government; the rejection by the governments and the unionists of seismic initiatives by republicans; the failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement; and the cancellation of the elections, have all created a political vacuum.
"This is being filled by those who letter-bombed the UUP office; by the continued activities of unionist paramilitaries; and by the securocrats. There is now a period of uncertainty with the upcoming marching season and the threat, which is posed to beleaguered nationalist communities as summer approaches.
" All of this arises from the strategic and scientific application of a programme for change which Sinn Fein has been pursuing, There is a battle between those who want to maximise the change and those who want to minimise it.
" By creating a vacuum the British government has given an advantage to those who want to stop the change. Evidence of this is abundant in the avalanche of briefings by the securocrats of a largely compliant and unquestioning media.
" What agenda is being served by all of this?
" And what do we do about it?
" The agenda being pursued is a wreckers agenda.
" The conflict here requires a political solution - that is self-evident. But for years attempts to bring about a political solution was prevented. Those within the British system, who want to cover- up the practice of illegal and criminal behaviour, including the killing of citizens, are opposing it now.
"The responsibility to stop them rests with the two governments, but especially with the British government. Mr, Blair has to call a halt to the activities of the wreckers in his system.
" And people here who are the victims of collusion between the state and unionist death squads; who are the victims of Brian Nelson and the UDA and Ulster Resistance, and of FRU and the Joint Services Group, which replaced it; and who lost relatives in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and other similar actions; all have a right to the truth,
" There should be full disclosure by this government of the strategies and activities of Britain's secret agencies in the north over the last 30 years." ENDS
Speaking in the debate on the decentralisation Sinn Fein Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said there had been zero delivery from the Government which was speaking out of both sides of the mouth.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The promise of decentralisation from this Government has become the modern equivalent of the once infamous promise to drain the Shannon. In his contribution to the debate last night Deputy Michael Smith, the Minister for Defence, tried to refute the argument that the Government had failed to deliver on its commitments. He stated: 'This is the first of a five year term and I challenge those on the other side of the House to sustain their arguments at the conclusion of our full term'.
"I could hardly believe my eyes it when I read it. I have pursued this matter closely since I was first elected in 1997 and I know the Government's record very well. You would think from the Minister's comment that this was a government of new Members, wet behind the ears, rather than an administration full of veterans such as Minister Smith. The Government's promise of a massive decentralisation programme goes back not to Agreed Programme for Government of June 2002 but to the last millennium.
"The Minister for Finance first made the commitment in his Budget speech in December 1999. It was quite clear. Minister McCreevy, said the next round of decentralisation would be "more radical than those to date"
"He stated the Government's intention to transfer the maximum possible number of public service jobs from Dublin and to move almost complete Departments of State and other public bodies to provincial centres. 10,000 civil servants were going to be decentralized and the advantages for Dublin and for the regions would be enormous. The promise was made, the commitment was given and the expectation was created.
"Six months passed and I raised the matter again in a Private Members debate in June 2000, pointing out that there had been no progress. In October 2000 in a written question I asked the Minister for Finance about the Cabinet sub-committee on decentralization. He confirmed that the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste Mary Harney, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government Noel Dempsey and himself were on the Committee. The Minister for Finance stated, most significantly: 'I am satisfied that the Government will be in a position to take decisions in relation to the new programme by the end of this year'.
"That was 17th October 2000. The Minister repeated his statement during Oral Questions in the House on 26 October 2000. I questioned the Taoiseach in February 2002 and he said no announcements would be made before the General Election but that enough work had been done for a new Minister for Finance to advance the programme.
"This brings us to the aftermath of the General Election. The commitment to decentralisation was repeated in the Agreed Programme for Government between Fianna Fail and the PDs. I questioned the Minister for Finance again on 12 November 2002 and now, safely embedded at the start of another term in Government, lo and behold, the Minister told us that it was "not possible to state at this time when the Government will be in a position to take a decision on the issue of decentralisation". This was the decision that was supposed to have been made a full two years earlier!
"In that reply the Minister claimed that they had not acted before the General Election lest they be accused of acting for political purposes. That never worried Fianna Fáil before. But of course it was just another excuse for inaction.
"So here we are now three and a half years after the '99 Budget, a year after the Programme for Government and we are no further on. Minister Smith's role last night, in moving the Government amendment, was to dampen down expectations. He said "decentralisation will not, of itself, create jobs in any locality. While I am certain that the establishment of a new Government office in any provincial town has the potential to act as an economic catalyst for that area, it ought not to be as the necessary solution to job losses." But in total contrast, in his response to my Question on 26 October 2000 Minister McCreevy said:
"Some reporters in the Dublin media do not appear to take account of the fact that decentralisation of a section of a major Government Department to certain areas throughout the country would be better for them than the arrival of a major industry.
"This government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth and the reality is we have had zero delivery from them on decentralisation. I support the motion."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD, speaking at the Report and Final Stages of the Local Government Bill 2003 today, argued for the repeal of legislation which has disempowered local authorities. He called on the Government and opposition parties to support amendments which he had put forward to repeal some of the most controversial and undemocratic legislation affecting Local Government in the State. Deputy Morgan criticised the fact that the debate on the Bill was guillotined before all amendments were discussed. He welcomed the ending of the dual mandate.
Deputy Morgan said
"The debate on this Bill should have been allowed to continue to allow all amendments to be discussed. Conveniently for the Minister the debate ended before the contentious issue of the election of Mayors and Cathaoirligh was discussed. I had put forward amendments that if accepted would have rolled back measures which have in recent years undermined the autonomy of local government in this State and which would have redressed the stripping away of the powers of local government which have made it increasingly weak and powerless. It is shameful that the Government gave so little time to the discussion of amendments which sought to restore the democratic deficit in local government which is currently alienating people from the decision-making bodies.
Deputy Morgan put forward amendments to retain the provision for the direct election of Mayors and Cathaoirligh, to transfer the executive functions of the Manager to the Cathaoirleach or Mayor and to amend Section 4 of the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001 whereby the making, review, variation or replacement of a waste management plan would become a decision taken by local authority members and not the city or county manager. The Sinn Féin T.D. also put forward an amendment to repeal Part 21 of the Local Government Act 2001 Act which he argues "is currently being used by the Minister as a threat to hang over local authorities in order to force them to impose measures such as service charges". This amendment received cross-party support. ENDS
"In detailed discussions with Dr Corrado on CAP reform it is clear that finance ministers across Europe are looking to take money out of agriculture. It is important that we examine in detail the CAP reform package in its entirety, particularly as there appears to be a push to get this dealt with in the Geneva Summit in June 2003. We need to ensure there are direct payments to farmers and we need to look fully at the global situation." ENDS
Note to Editors
The Sinn Féin Agriculture team of former Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry, Kerry TD Martin Ferris and Armagh Assembly candidate Cllr Pat O'Rawe are in Brussels to meet with senior EU officials.
Commenting after Freddie Scapatticci gave an interview to the media Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly said:
"Last weekend, 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. This storm of accusations and allegations against Freddie Scapatticci has been accepted and repeated as fact by a large section of the media without question, without criticism. 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.
"Even before these recent events, there was a clear need for full disclosure of the activities of these faceless and unaccountable agencies. That case is now over-whelming. The files must be opened up. There must be full disclosure." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD, has welcomed the decision of the IFA to engage on a more positive level with the current proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. Sinn Féin has already indicated that it is in broad support of the proposals with the proviso that certain changes are made regarding income thresholds and the use of modulated funds. The party, which last week was engaged in high level talks with EU Agriculture Commission officials on the reforms, has argued since the publication of the proposals last July that Irish farming representatives needed to be actively engaged in the debate, and to be presenting their own counter-proposals.
Deputy Ferris said:
"It has long been apparent to Sinn Fein that the Common Agricultural Policy as it currently stands is not going to secure the interests of Irish farmers in the years ahead. Reform is needed and we believe that much of what is contained in the current proposals presents a way forward. Decoupling certainly appears to offer a solution to the problem of guaranteeing farmers income while at the same time allowing them to produce without being tied to the current wasteful system of premia and subsidies. We would, however, argue that certain changes ought to be introduced at this stage and we made several such suggestions in discussion with Mr Pirozi-Biroli and Mr Haniotis in Brussels last week. Among these would be to raise the exemption threshold from €5,000 to €20,000 and to introduce an upper limit. We would also like to see guarantees regarding the use of the monies saved through modulation, and in particular that they remain within their country of origin. We will also be arguing for a much broader programme of rural development to enable rural communities to deal with the changes that will follow reform.
"While much of the emphasis from the two Departments of Agriculture in Ireland has been on the need for farmers to become 'competitive', we detected a different tone emanating from Brussels. Officials did refer to the need for agriculture to become more market oriented, but put this in the context of de-coupling and the opportunity for Irish farmers to move towards higher quality higher value production. If farmers are guaranteed a certain level of income security, which we believe can be enhanced by raising the exemption threshold, they will then be free to concentrate on producing quality. Again, that presents an opportunity to capitalise on Ireland's natural advantages and to move away from the historical dependence on bulk export of relatively cheap raw material". ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality Bairbre de Brún, on a four day trip to the United States, today met with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to update them on the current difficulties in the peace process, in particular the cancellation of the Assembly elections. She was assured of their support for the holding of June elections
Among those who she met were Congress members Richie Neal, Frank Pallone, Donald Payne, Carolyn McCarthy and Peter King. Speaking following the meeting Ms de Brun said:
"Today I met with members of Congress to update them on the current difficulties in the peace process, in particular the cancelling of the Assembly elections. During our discussions today I was assured of the ongoing support for the peace process and in particular their support for the immediate calling of the elections.
"Earlier this week support for the holding of the elections was voiced on the floor of Congress
"We also discussed ongoing revelations regarding Britain's involvement in the assassination of its citizens over many decades and the need for all of the files on these matters to be opened up and for there to be full disclosure."ENDS
Sinn Féin group leader in Leinster House, Caoimhghin O Caolain, has this evening welcomed as a "positive step forward" the comments made by the Taoiseach in the Dáil today in relation to northern representation in the Oireachtas. In those comments Bertie Ahern said "the Irish Government is in favour of the rights of MEPs to attend and participate in committee debates on the EU and for Northern Ireland elected representatives to participate in debates on the Good Friday Agreeement and other relevant debates". The Taoiseach went on to say that all that was required was "agreement in the House".
Mr Ahern was responding to a question from Caoimhghin O Caolain in which he asked the Taoiseach if he recognised "that following the unilateral suspension of the Assembly elections by the British Government, people in the Six Counties have no democratic forum to which to send their representatives?" He also asked the Taoiseach "what steps are being taken?to pursue the recommendations of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution regarding access for elected MPs in the Six Counties's constituencies to the Houses of the Oireachtas?"
This evening Deputy O Caolain said:
"The Taoiseach's response today was a positive step forward in relation to gaining rights for elected representatives from the Six Counties to take part in debates in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Since the undemocratic suspension of the Assembly by the British Government it is now more important than ever that
the Irish Government paves the way to allow Irish elected representatives access to an Irish elected forum. I would call on the Taoiseach to follow through on the commitment he made today to pursue this issue with the urgency it requires. Following the report of the all-party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution I believe there is all-party support to introduce the necessary mechanisms and changes needed to make this a reality. I believe that all that is really required is the political will of the Taoiseach and in that I welcome the commitment he has given me today that he will 'take ownership of this matter'." ENDS
Commenting on the ongoing controversy around the activities of FRU and other British Intelligence Agencies, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty said: ' We need to see a full independent judicial inquiry into the activities of the Special Branch and British Military Intelligence. Clearly the war is not over for British Intelligence Agencies. Their activities continue unchanged.' Mr. Dohety said:
"The media reports at the weekend about an alleged agent all emanated from faceless elements within British Military Intelligence with all the resources of the British state behind them. They were aimed at a named individual who has no such means to counter these allegations and who has since denied these allegations.
"These allegations, speculation and dis-information come on the back of the Stevens Inquiry and revelations from the UVF and Michael Stone that loyalist death squads were manipulated and directed by FRU and the Special Branch.
"The activities of these faceless securocrats must be subjected to full scrutiny. We need to see a full independent judicial inquiry into the activities of the Special Branch and British Military Intelligence. Clearly the war is not over for British Intelligence Agencies. Their activities continue unchanged."ENDS
Commenting on the threatened closure of the A&E Department of Wexford General Hospital next Monday and the withdrawal of on-call services by ambulance crews in that County, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has challenged the Minister for Health to say who is in charge.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
The imminent closure of A&E at Wexford comes within a week of the announced closure of a 25-bed unit at Crumlin Children's Hospital and the loss of 250 beds in the five main Dublin hospitals. This is while the public health doctors' dispute is escalating.
The Minister for Health Mícheál Martin must be asked who is in charge. The Wexford situation is a classic example of the decision-making paralysis in the health services. The all-powerful Medical Council is preventing the Hospital from appointing two junior doctors, even though this will lead directly to the closure of the A&E unit. Gross understaffing in the ambulance service has forced workers to withdraw on-call services.
The Government is at loggerheads with the public health doctors, ambulance crews are working inhuman hours and are forced into a dispute and doctors cannot be appointed quickly to deal with accidents and emergencies. This is a shambles and the Minister and his Government colleagues are directly responsible. ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Affairs, Seán Crowe, has described the Government's strategy to tackle homelessness as nothing more than 'another broken promise. Speaking at the launch of the Dublin Simon Community's Annual Report the Dublin South-West TD said:
"It is three years since the Government launched its national homelessness strategy. It is one year since they were returned to power with a Programme for Government which included two commitments on Homelessness.
· We will ensure that the comprehensive Homelessness Strategies now in place are implemented.
· We will ensure that homelessness, and rough sleeping in particular, is tackled in a coordinated manner in all parts of the country.
An Agreed Programme for Government.
"As Simon pointed out today, the Government has simple not lived up to its pledge to provide three year multi-annual funding for projects and theircommitment on homelessness merely amount to another broken promise.
"Sinn Féin believes that proper accommodation is a basic inalienable right and in the coming months we are planning to introduce legislation to Leinster House to bring forward a referendum that will enshrine the Right to Housing in the Constitution. We need increased and sustained funding of local authorities to provide housing with a target of supplying suitable accommodation within the lifetime of this Government for 70% of applicants on the waiting lists.
"The money is available for this. Sinn Féin proposed in our election manifesto an increase in Capital Gains Tax on speculative owners of multiple dwellings and a series of legislative proposals to tackle the homelessness problem.
"The figures released by the Government today, indicating vast swathes of Ireland without any kind of homeless problem bears no reality to what is seen on the ground by groups like the Simon Community. Dublin Simon's Annual Report reveals that the number of new people in contact with Street Outreach Services in the first three months of 2003, already exceeds the number for the first six months of 2002.
"The problem is getting worse, but the solution is clear, all that is required is the political will to do what is necessary. It is time for the Government to take seriously the problem of homelessness in Irish society." ENDS
Commenting on media speculation surrounding the activities of a British Agent codenamed 'Stakeknife' Sinn Féin Policing Spokesperson Gerry Kelly said:
" The claims being made in the weekend media surrounding the alledged activities of a British Agent working for FRU are extremely serious. They add further weight to what is now a compelling arguement that the British State operated a policy of assasination against citizens living in the Six Counties.
" FRU was not a rogue element of the British war apparatus, it was and continues to be, under a new name, at the very core of British military policy in Ireland. Sinn Féin will continue to demand that the British government come clean on their collusion policy and we will continue to support the families of those killed through it in their demands for the truth." ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O'Toole has called on Dubliners to rally behind the campaign to save Number 16 Moore Street from demolition. The final surrender of the Easter Rising took place in the house but it is now under threat from developers who want to build a new shopping and commercial precinct on its site.
Cllr O'Toole called on all those who support the campaign, particularly those whose ancestors took part in the Rising, to assemble on Moore Street at 5pm on Monday evening and march to City Hall where the Council will be discussing the issue.
Cllr O'Toole said:
"Number 16 Moore Street is a building of immense historical value and must be preserved. It unwittingly played host to one of the most significant events in Irish history when the final surrender of the Easter Rising took place at the house. Any other country in the world would make this house a national monument. It should be a treasured link with the past and this country's long struggle for independence.
"I am calling on Dubliners, particularly those whose ancestors took part in the Rising, to rally behind the campaign to save Number 16 Moore Street from demolition and join us at 5pm on Moore Street for a march to City Hall where the Council will be discussing the issue." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has claimed that the UUP's John Taylor has 'let the unionist strategy out of the bag'. Mr Doherty's comments come after Mr. Taylor predicted 'direct rule for a generation'.
Mr. Doherty said:
"John Taylor today proclaimed that he could not see Assembly elections going ahead and he predicted direct rule for a generation. It is clear from Mr. Taylor's remarks that the unionist strategy all along has been to avoid an Assembly election and avoid a return to an inclusive assembly and executive. In short a unionist veto over progress.
"Last week Jeffery Donaldson proclaimed that the Joint Declaration would not pass a UUC meeting. This along with Mr. Taylor's remarks today have quite obviously let the unionist strategy out of the bag.
"Tony Blair should reflect on the remarks made by Mr. Taylor and reflect upon the role he played in allowing the unionist veto to once again subvert the democratic process. It is the continual pandering of the British government over many years which gave the UUP leadership the encouragement to develop this wreckers charter and see Downing Street deliver it." ENDS.
Speaking today in response to comments made by An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in the Dáíl regarding the IRA statement, Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Martin McGuinness said:
"The IRA statement on Tuesday made it clear that Gerry Adams answers to Tony Blair's questions accurately reflected their position.
"The implication of the Taoiseach's remarks in the Dáil yesterday, is that if Tuesday's IRA statement had come earlier it would have ended the current impasse.
"The two governments now have the IRA position and if it was the basis for forward movement last week, it logically, is the basis for forward movement this week. The question for the Taoiseach is whether he is now going to push the British government to reschedule the elections for June."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at a press conference in London today said:
"The most important thing to say today is that Mr Blair's decision to stop the elections is a serious mistake and a slap in the face to the Good Friday Agreement. Its as if the rule book for conflict resolution has been torn up. Peace requires justice and peace processes are about empowering people, are about a rights centred disposition and are about making politics work. Mr Blair should reverse his decision on the elections and enable them to go forward as soon as possible. There is no reason why there cannot be a June election.
Mr Adams said:
So where is the peace process now?
We have on the one hand a Joint Declaration from the governments that is not an act of completion, but a qualified plan to implement over years the rights and entitlements of citizens. Despite its conditionality this is progress. But the two governments, also stepped outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and introduced in their Joint Declaration a further concession to Mr. Trimble in respect of sanctions. This process of excluding Ministers and parties is specifically aimed at Sinn FÈin, and is to be used against us in the event of any allegations about IRA activities.
On the other hand, we have an IRA leadership that is;
- determined there will be no activities which will undermine in any way the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement;
- has clearly stated its willingness to proceed with the implementation of a process to put arms beyond use at the earliest opportunity.
- despite the suspension of the institutions authorised a third act of putting arms beyond use to be verified under the agreed scheme by the IICD.
And accepts that, if the two governments and all the parties fulfil their commitments this will provide the basis for the complete and final closure of the conflict.
This too is significant progress.
No one should underestimate the significance of the IRA engaging with the IICD while the institutions are suspended, or the IRAs willingness to undertake another act of putting arms beyond use. This followed a suggestion by me to facilitate David Trimbleís stated intention of calling a UUC meeting only after the IRA acted on the arms issue. The sequence of events was to be the Joint Declaration - a statement from me in response to this pointing up the difficulty caused by David Trimbleís refusal to commit to being part of institutions.
He was then to publicly commit himself to recommending participation in the institutions to the UUC. This public pledge would have triggered the IRA putting more arms beyond use.
When the IRA say their arrangements were at an advanced stage they mean that Volunteers sat for days with a substantial amount of equipment waiting for a yes from the UUP or the British government. That yes never came.
So with the UUP implacably opposed to progress at this point and a British government willing to exercise a unionist veto, we now face into a period of political uncertainty.
For our part, Sinn Féin is in this process to the end.
Our objective in the time ahead will be to campaign to have elections held, and to hold the two governments to the commitments which we negotiated with them over many months and which are in the Joint Declaration.
The substance of these commitments and of those contained within the Good Friday Agreement is about the rights and entitlements of citizens. It is about a new political dispensation on the island of Ireland and a new relationship between Ireland and Britain.
It is about change - fundamental and deep-rooted change - including constitutional and institutional change - across all aspects of society. ENDS
Sinn Féin Policing Spokesperson Gerry Kelly has re-iterated Sinn Fein's demand for the full publication of the Steven Report and an independent international judicial inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane and other victims of state sponsored murder. Speaking as PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde met the Policing Board to discuss the Stevens Report, Mr Kelly said:
"The Stevens Report, or the fraction of it that has been made public, demonstrate the existence of the wholesale and systematic collusion of the British state with Unionist paramilitaries in the killing of citizens.
"The issue of state sponsored murder is one that is of the deepest and gravest concern to the public. The Stevens Report should be published in full. It is in the public interest. There should be no excuses.
"The Policing Board should not provide cover for Hugh Orde or anyone else who wishes to block the publication of this report.
"Sinn Féin fully supports the families who have lost loved ones as a result of a British state policy of colluding in the murder of citizens in their demand for an independent international judicial inquiry." ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation met with the Chef d'Cabinet of the Agricultural Commission Corrado Pirozi-Biroli and a member of the Cabinet with responsibility for CAP reform, Anastassios Haniotis to discuss the current reform proposals. The delegation, which was in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday of this week, consisted of the party's spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD and Gerry McHugh MLA, and Newry/Armagh Councillor Patricia O'Rawe.
The group engaged in a wide-ranging discussion that covered the main aspects of the proposals including de-coupling, modulation and increased support for rural development. While the officials emphasised that the proposals had still not assumed their final shape, they did stress that negotiations had reached an crucial stage and that it was vital that a conclusion be made if possible by the end of June.
The Sinn Féin representatives posed a number of questions which elicited detailed responses. On de-coupling, Mr Pirozi-Biroli claimed that this would provide the means to guarantee any farmers who wished to remain in the sector, the opportunity to produce in order to meet specific consumer demands, while being guaranteed a payment based on the historical reference years. In response to a question regarding the falling numbers engaged in farming, Mr Haniotis said that this would continue, but that the reform proposals presented a means to reconcile the need for a more market oriented agriculture with the broader social and political goals inherent in the European Model of Agriculture.
The Sinn Féin representatives also made a number of proposals which they felt would strengthen the proposals and ensure a greater degree of income security for small to medium farmers. Among these were that the lower threshold of €5,000 be increased and that an upper limit also be put in place. The Commission members argued that increasing the threshold would limit the amount of money available and that the original upper limit of €300,000, which has now been removed, would only apply to a small number of farmers in the EU.
There did, however, appear to be a much greater willingness to amend the proposals regarding young farmers although they argued that there are likely to be very few new entrants to farming over the foreseeable future. The Sinn Féin members argued that the reference year element would have to be changed in order to allow young farmers establish a viable entitlement, and that there was a case to be made for farmers who may leave dairying in order to embark on different systems over the next number of years.
In discussing the implications of the ongoing WTO negotiations and the growing trend towards an open competitive market model of agriculture, Mr Pirozi-Biroli and Mr Haniotis agreed with the Sinn Féin delegation that farmers should be encouraged to return to the co-operative system as a counter-balance to the domination of the processing sector by a small number of large businesses which absorb an increasing share of the price paid to consumers.
Other issues which were discussed included the question of the destiny of modulated funds; the need for a much broader approach to rural development to enable communities to cope with the economic and social changes taking place in agriculture; the various proposals for partial de-coupling; and the manner in which the CAP reform proposals have been debated in Ireland. The Commission officials agreed that there has been a great deal of confusion over the proposals due to the lack of engagement in the debate and of counter-proposals.
Speaking after the meeting, Deputy Ferris and Mr McHugh said;
"We feel that this has been an extremely valuable encounter. Sinn Féin has made no secret of the fact that we have had major concerns over the manner in which the CAP has affected Irish agriculture over the past 30 years, and in particular the situation of small to medium family farms. While we would have difficulties with some aspects of the current proposals and while we would still argue in favour of certain changes regarding income limits, and the need to ring-fence and match the modulated funds, we do see merit in reforming the CAP so that farmers may face the future with a greater deal of certainty than they have enjoyed over the past decade and more. Otherwise the future will be one of continual decline in income levels and in the numbers of family farms. Above all, we would call on all with an interest in Irish farming to engage fully in the debate on the proposals so that the best interests of the majority of Irish farmers north and south can be placed at the centre of the negotiations".ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality, and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the launch of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency as "an essential step in the right direction to combat a serious and pervasive social problem affecting nearly one in five Irish women." Attending the launch at Dublin Castle, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"Sinn Féin believes that every woman, man, older person, and child has an equal right to safety and security in their homes, and to live free of abuse in their personal and family relationships. But we know the appalling statistics -- particularly concerning violence against women in Irish society. Almost one in five Irish women have been abused by a current or former partner. Almost one quarter of perpetrators of sexual violence against women as adults are intimate partners or ex-partners. Fully 88% of domestic violence fatalities have a documented history of physical abuse.
"In Sinn Féin's Pre-Budget Submission we called on the Government to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves by dedicating more resources to this area and developing an integrated response. So I am very pleased that this initiative has now been launched, and I look forward to positive results for the women, men, and children directly affected, and for our communities as a whole. Studies from other countries have also shown the high economic cost of domestic violence, and so from every point of view - social and economic - this whole initiative is a good investment.
"I pay tribute to the many volunteers and groups like Women's Aid who have worked so hard over many years to bring this issue into the public domain, to destigmatise those who suffer abuse, and to convince politicians of the importance of action on this issue. Their hard work has made this significant development a reality and they deserve to be congratulated."ENDS