Sinn Féin North Belfast Representative Cathy Staunton has accused Alban Maginness of 'either sleeping through the negotiations or not being part of the SDLP negotiation team'. Ms Staunton's comments come after Mr Maginness claimed that Sinn Féin did not raise the issue of ex-prisoners reintegration during the talks and in subsequent negotiations.
Ms Staunton said:
"This is not a new issue. Sinn Féin has raised this issue consistently as part of the conflict resolution process. If there had not been a political conflict there would not have been political prisoners. Sinn Féin has always demanded that barriers to ex-POWs integration back into their communities are removed.
"These records have been used to discriminate against former political prisoners across a range of areas and they should be removed.
"This issue was raised by Sinn Féin during the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement and since and as such remains an issue to be resolved. If Alban Maginness believes otherwise then he was either sleeping through the negotiations or was not part of the SDLP negotiation team." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs Seán Crowe speaking following the publication of the Watson Wyatt's Top Management Compensation Report for Western Europe said that it shows that "it is time for this Government to stand up to the richest people in Irish society, and stand up for the poorest." The report, shows that the wages of Irish executives will rise 5.8% in 2003, second fastest in Europe.
The Dublin South-West TD said: "In terms of income distribution Ireland is one of the most unequal countries in the EU and OECD. During the lifetime of this Government it has systematically set about widening that gap with its every action.
"In 1987 6.2% of households were below the relative income poverty line. By 2000 this had increased to almost 12% and one third of households were below 60% of the average income.
"This latest report shows that the people profiting from the economic boom are the investors and the executives. The wealth of this nation is produced by workers, not by businessmen and women who often take their profits out of the country. IBEC calls on Irish workers to show wage restraint, but when the executives and top business people get massive pay rises, IBEC's calls for such restraint are conspicuously absent.
"The rapidly rising pay of these executives should also be seen in the context of Government policy, which is to give the largest tax breaks to the richest sections of Irish society.
"Sinn Féin is serious about redistributing the wealth of Ireland and building a country of equals. We are ready to increase taxes for the rich and well-off and use this money to tackle the urgent social problems in this State. It is time for this Government to stand up to the richest people in Irish society, and stand up for the poorest." ENDS
"The best contribution which Mr Trimble could make to achieving stability would be to remove his opposition to the inclusive political institutions and begin demanding that the British Government proceed with the Assembly elections." ENDS
Commenting on today's publication by the Human Rights Commission of submissions made by the public on the Bill of Rights issue, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality, Bairbre de Brún said:
"The general public has widely and positively responded to the need to engage with the Bill of Rights as part of the Good Friday Agreement. This obviously needs to be built upon in the time ahead to ensure that civic society, alongside the political parties, can generate the maximum agreement for a comprehensive Bill of Rights for all.
"However, as we have stated publicly in recent weeks, there is deep concern around the fact that a quarter of the Human Rights Commission have resigned on matters specifically related to the Commission's approach to key equality and parity of esteem issues in the draft Bill of Rights and in relation to the highly questionable actions of the Chief Commissioner with regard to matters around the Holy Cross situation.
"It is our view that both internal and external impediments have produced a Human Rights Commission that is unfortunately not the fully independent and effective champion of human rights that was outlined in the Good Friday Agreement.
"The HRC needs to reflect on this as it launches the hundreds of submissions it received as a testimony to the multiple human rights issues that need to be addressed within our society.
"The British government should also seriously reflect and ensure that the HRC is provide with the fill range of powers and resources it needs to carry out its remit, Crucial to the future credibility of the Commission is the need to be representative of the society it serves. The current composition is not. It is therefore the responsibility of the British government to immediately put in place an independent appointments mechanism." ENDS
Commenting on the suspension of two consultants at Cavan General Hospital, Cavan/Monaghan TD and Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
"I welcome the news that the consultants have been suspended and that an inquiry process has been initiated. This has been a long-running dispute at Cavan General Hospital and a real cause of concern to staff and patients alike. It has added to the pressure on the hospital during the past year after the Accident and Emergency unit at Monaghan was taken off call. This placed an added burden on Cavan, as did the closure of the maternity unit at Monaghan.
"The Health Board executive must now ensure that the suspensions cause minimum disruption to patient services, as they promise in their statement.
"The Committee of Inquiry into this matter to be established by the Minister for Health and Children should also examine the role of the Health Board executive to ensure that they acted appropriately and with due speed." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson Conor Murphy has said that the British government must 'reinvigorate the political process through a sustained effort to re-establish the political institutions rather than close it down through lack of activity'.
Mr. Murphy said:
" In two months the political institutions will have been suspended for a full year. Despite this anniversary approaching there seems to be a lack of intensive effort from the British government to see the political institutions re-established and a date for the Assembly elections set.
" The British government must reinvigorate the political process through a sustained effort to re-establish the political institutions rather than close it down through lack of activity.
" The political institutions are at the core of the Good Friday Agreement and elections to them are an essential democratic imperative. Open-ended suspension of the institutions and a continuing failure to set a date for the Assembly elections is not an option for the British government if confidence in this process is to be re-built." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan has described Tom Parlon's remarks at the Parnell Summer School in support of property speculators as "right wing posturing" designed to woo his PD colleagues in advance of a leadership battle between himself and Michael McDowell when Mary Harney steps down.
Deputy Morgan said, "Tom Parlon has learned quickly at the feet of the governments ideologues of the right, McCreevy and McDowell. His right wing posturing aimed at wooing his PD colleagues in advance of a battle with McDowell for the leadership of the far right minority party is pathetic.
"Minister Parlon's defence of the role of greedy property speculators at the Parnell Summer School over the weekend and in interviews today clearly shows how out of touch and detached from public opinion and the public good that he and his Government have become. If he thinks Parnell and Davitt spent the long years of the land war struggling to create a state in which the rights of profiteers would be so inflated as to deprive ordinary people of housing it is time he re-read the history of that period.
"The land of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland and the right of people to housing will always take precedence over the profit making interest of landowners.
"The mere fact that this crisis has been allowed to get so out of hand illustrates the necessity for clarity in the constitution to give a more explicit protection to the common good. The constitution committee must act in the interest of the thousands of Irish people because this government certainly has no intention of doing so. It has abandoned those who find themselves unable to afford current house prices, who are trapped in an unregulated private rented sector, who are on housing waiting lists or who are homeless.
"It is quiet simple - Tom Parlon could not give a damn that thousands of Irish people are homeless. He does not give a damn about the countless number of homeless people he walks by each day as he makes his way to his office to spend his day defending the free market economy and wielding the auction hammer in publicity stunts to promote the sale of state property to the same speculators whose rights he does not hesitate to valiantly defend." ENDS
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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