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Latest Statements

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


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Responding to the comments made by UUP leader David Trimble at his party's AGM in Belfast Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

" Sinn Féin have been involved in intense discussions with the two governments across the range of issues which are at the center of this crisis.

" Mr. Trimble today demanded that the British government introduce a mechanism to sanction parties. Moves to introduce sanctions against the Sinn Féin electorate would be entirely outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and are totally unacceptable.

" This core principles of this peace process are inclusivity and respect for democratic mandates. Mr. Trimble's proposals fly in the face of this reality and are a blatant attempt to dilute and deny the most basic rights and entitlements of the Sinn Féin electorate." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking at a meeting of the party's Ard Chomhairle in Dublin this afternoon said that "any departure from the Good Friday Agreement in the current negotiations in favour of David Trimble's demands for sanctions against republicans would represent a clear and present danger to the process.

Mr. McLaughlin said:

"We are locked into intensive negotiations with the British and Irish governments to resolve the current crisis in the process. The focus of our discussions is around what Tony Blair has described as acts of completion for the Good Friday Agreement on all of the outstanding matters - policing, demilitarisation, criminal justice, equality and human rights. All of these matters are of equal concern and equal priority and need to be addressed.

"The negative behaviour of the UUP and their refusal to engage in the negotiations remains an ongoing concern.

"I do want to state clearly that any departure from the Good Friday Agreement in favour of David Trimble's demands for sanctions would represent a clear and present danger to the process. It is ridiculous that ten years into this process that the unionist approach still revolves around the exclusion of republicans.

"We need to see an end to the anti-Agreement dead hand over the process and a plan for its full implementation."ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality and Human rights, Bairbre de Brún, speaking in Belfast said: "Republicans must be convinced that the British government will face up to its responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement by ushering in a new dispensation based on equality and the promotion and protection of human rights.

"The experience of northern nationalists and republicans is that we do not yet have equality and that people living in vulnerable nationalist communities continue to live under the threat of sectarian harassment and attack.

Equal and Representative

A concrete foundation for all. We need equality and representativeness not only in the political institutions but in government departments, the judiciary and the legal system, the police and public services.

Ms de Brun continued: " During the course of the present talks, Sinn Féin has highlighted the fact that to achieve equality, we need to pay particular attention to its economic aspects. The failure to implement key areas of the Good Friday Agreement will frustrate this. We need to focus on those communities that have been consistently let down by the promise of change in the past. If we cannot break the cycle in these areas, then it won't happen at all.

Unemployment differential

"Commitments in the Good Friday Agreement to measures aimed at eliminating the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities must be implemented. At present, Catholics continue to be more likely to be unemployed. They are at greater risk of living in lower income households and/or more dependent on benefits as well as greater risk of experiencin multiple deprivation. The latest figures from the Labour Force Religion Survey Report published only last week show that Catholic males remain twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestant males.

Sinn Féin proposals

We have clear proposals on all of these matters, including:

* timetabled, monitored measures and targets to eliminate the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities

* economic development targeted towards areas of greatest need

* measures to remove the benefit trap

* peace dividend to fund an enhanced equality and human rights agenda and help to eliminate the differential in unemployment

* effective mechanisms to restore momentum to the implementation of the Equality agenda and ensure that equality gained becomes equality sustained. In particular the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission need adequate powers and resources.

* rights affirmed in the Good Friday Agreement to be entrenched in legislation.

* rights not given effect by the incorporation of the ECHR into domestic law north and south, the Single Equality Bill and the Bill of Rights, when they become law, to be given effective protection in strong anti-sectarian legislation, which upholds the right to freedom from sectarian harassment.

* implementation of the commitments in respect of the Irish language

* learning from international best practice with regard to victims and reconciliation

"All our people, irrespective of creed or political opinion must be afforded equality in all aspects of their lives. Equality poses a threat to no one. The British Government must honour its commitments with regards to promoting and achieving equality and human rights." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, Martin McGuinness MP and Gerry Kelly MLA were in London today for talks to resolve the current crisis. Responding to media speculation about the possibility of sanctions as part of any resolution to the crisis Mr. Adams said:

"Sinn Féin is involved in intense discussions with both governments across all the issues at the heart of this crisis -- policing, demilitarisation, equality, human rights, criminal justice and so on.

"Under no circumstances will Sinn Féin accept the rights of our electorate being diluted or denied.

"We will not be held accountable except for the Sinn Féin party and our mandate."

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD has urged the IFA to participate in an All Ireland initiative on the problems facing Irish farmers. Deputy Ferris was speaking at a meeting of the Dáil Jorthern farmers organisations to push for closer co-operation on all aspects of agriculture and rural development throughout the island."

Deputy Ferris has also succeed in getting the Committee to agree to invite an all party group from the Assembly to meet the Committee in order to discuss various issues including CAP reform, disease prevention and the marketing of food. Ferris made the request on behalf of Gerry McHugh MLA, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture.ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris TD has criticised the 9% increase in the price charged to consumers by Bord Gáis.

Deputy Ferris said:

"It confirms what I said last November in relation to the sale of gas from the Seven Heads field by the US multinational Ramco to the German firm Innogy. Bord Gáis had sought to secure this supply but were unable to. It is a disgrace that this natural resource is controlled by foreign companies and that the state gas company is forced to import more than 85% of its supplies. That is why Bord Gáis feels that it must increase its prices.

"This price rise will cause further hardship for many households which are already finding it difficult to make ends meet. It also highlights the inadequacy of the proposed social partnership deal as this increase is well above the pay rise contained in the agreement". ENDS

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Speaking ahead of a SIPTU consultative conference on the new 'Partnership' deal tomorrow, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education, Social Welfare and Transport Seán Crowe TD has called on Trade Unionists to oppose 'Sustaining Progress's is a bad deal for Irish workers and a bad deal for Irish society. We are calling for a No vote. It fails to offer anything to the weakest sections of our society who depend on the membership of the trade union movement to take a principled stand on building a truly inclusive Ireland of equals."

He went on to outline Seven reasons to say No to 7% which will be the cornerstone of the party's campaign against Partnership and the message we will take directly to the membership of Trade Unions.

The pay elements

The 7% wage increase will not keep pace with inflation, some sectoral groups with more leverage in the workplace will secure additional benefits leaving the low paid and part time workers worse off.

Low Pay

Why are low paid workers still paying tax? Fianna Fail promised to take the low paid completely out of the tax net. They haven't and the partnership negotiations missed a chance to right this wrong. The €7 per hour minimum wage is a pittance. Will you endorse an agreement that fails to reward all workers fairly?

Tax

This is the first pay agreement in over a decade that doesn't have a tax element. Your income is being eroded throew conducted by the social partners of all the tax reliefs and loopholes open to the super rich in Irish society.

Housing

The housing commitments are a cop out. We should be repealing last December's amendment to the Planning and Development Act and setting targets for tackling local authority housing waiting lists and homelessness.

Education

The first partnership agreement in 1987 included proposals to reduce pupil teacher ratios and improve the quty resources for all.

Health

People are dying because of the cuts in the health funding and the lack of basic services like Maternity Units or A&E Rooms. This agreement should have forced the Government's hand to live up to their election promise of a "world class health service" for all.

Workers Rights

Why did your leadership have to bargain for the right of workers to belong in and be represented by a union and to have proper statutory entitlements to redundancy pay? 10 years ago radical trade unionists were seeking to repeal the Industrial Relations Act. Now you are being forced to bargain for basic rights while Unions will be forced to sign up to compulsory binding arbitration. ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams commenting on recent speculation about the state of the negotiations said in Belfast today:

'In recent days Sinn Féin's extensive and concentrated negotiations with the two governments has significantly intensified. The timeframe set by the two governments shortly after Mr. Blair's speech last October is almost exhausted. Our focus is on securing a definitive plan for the implementation of the many aspects of the Good Friday Agreement that Mr. Blair acknowledged his government had failed to implement.

Despite early efforts by the unionists to reduce this crisis and negotiation to a single item agenda, our discussions have covered all of the key areas from policing, through justice issues, the transfer of power, demilitarisation, equality and human rights matters, as well as the Irish language.

Contrary to some speculation there is not one or two priority issues for Sinn Féin. We are looking to see progress across all of these matters.

I welcome the indication from the British side that they are now prepared to legislate on matters around policing and justice which 18 months ago they said was unnecessary. But as ever the devil is in the detail. There are outstanding issues on policing which need to be resolved in a transparent way, as part of or before power is transferred. Weston Park type declarations are not enough.

Similarly the Justice system needs to be made both accountable and representative of the society it is supposed to serve. This requires fundamental change. Without this it cannot be 'fair and impartial' or have 'the confidence of all parts of the community' as promised in the Good Friday Agreement.

While we have many concerns the failure of the unionists to engage properly and the way in which unionist insecurity is being cited by British government negotiators as a brake on implementing change, is deeply disturbing.

Apart from any other issue the unionists need to be give clear and definitive commitments that they will be part of the political institutions ands that they will sustain and stabilise these institutions.

This negotiation, like the Good Friday Agreement five years ago, is fundamentally about people's right. These rights should be automatic entitlements for every citizen. They are not concessions whose implementation and enforcement is dependent upon unionist permission or its narrow interpretation of the Good Friday Agreement.

The two government's schedule for resolving the crisis in the peace process is almost exhausted. Sinn Féin is determined to pursue this negotiation but it cannot work if the governments move away from the template agreed five years ago on Good Friday, or if unionism is allowed to exercise vetoes over issues which must see radical movement.

Republicans need to be convinced that the two governments, but especially the British government, is serious this time about keeping and honouring commitments, and that real and substantial progress toward full implementation of the Agreement is now available."ENDS

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Speaking at a demilitarisation demonstration in Clogher this evening Sinn Féin MP for the area Michelle Gildernew said that levels of British army activity in the area were 'completely and totally at odds with the commitments entered into by the British government five years ago'. Ms Gildernew also called on the SDLP to prove that they genuinely sought demilitarisation.

Ms Gildernew said:

" Five years on from the Good Friday Agreement the people in Fermanagh and Tyrone see an increase in the British military presence in our towns and villages. Our young people are experiencing levels of harassment comparable to the days pre1994. None of this is acceptable. It was not just republicans who made commitments on Good Friday five years ago -- Tony Blair also made commitments then and since. Commitments which almost entirely have not been delivered upon. Tony Blair has failed to deliver on demilitarisation - indeed what he and his government have delivered is re-militarisation in many areas.

"At Weston Park a senior figure in the SDLP leadership proclaimed that demilitarisation was an issue only for Sinn Féin and the British government. Recently the SDLP have decided that they support demilitarisation. The question of whether or not this is a genuine conversion to the Sinn Féin position remains unanswered. One thing is for sure. Dusting down a three year old rationalization document produced by the old Police Authority and portraying it as demilitarisation is not the way forward.

" The British have committed themselves to a demilitarisation program -- not a rationalization program and Sinn Féin intend to hold them to that. If the SDLP are willing to support this then fine. But they should be warned. That nationalist and republican community will not accept being short changed on demilitarisation, in the same way in which they have refused to accept being short changed on policing after Weston Park." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality and Justice Bairbre de Brún, speaking at the beginning of Slógadh Shinn Féin in Armagh this afternoon, criticised the closing down of the Basque language newspaper Egunkaria by the Spanish authorities. She called on the Spanish to bring an end to repression and open dialogue. Ms. de Brun said:

"There is growing concern at the deterioration of the situation and the absence of any dialogue or process to move the situation forward. The banning of Batasuna and a whole range of Basque language and culture organisations and the wide-ranging measures of repression and censorship in force right across Basque society are wrong and should end immediately.

"Our experience of conflict resolution has shown that the only way that progress will occur is on the basis of inclusive dialogue based on equality and respect.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning opened Slógadh Shinn Féin in the Slieve Gullion Courtyard in South Armagh. Before the opening Mr. Adams took part in a puc fada competition with local children. Speaking at the opening Mr. Adams said 'Sinn Féin has made the question of the Irish language a central concern in the ongoing talks with the Irish and British Governments. Our task is to turn people's love of Irish into active support and active use of the language.' Mr. Adams said:

"It is a great pleasure for me to be back at the Sinn Féin Slógadh. I want to extend a warm welcome to all of you. Slógadh is an important opportunity for Gaeilgeoirí to come together and discuss the vital issues that affect us; issues of a general political nature but more importantly issues around the Language. It is through such debates and discussions that we will develop and strengthen our ideas.

"For Sinn Féin the Irish language has long been an issue of central importance and over the years Republicans have been active in its promotion. We see the Irish language as a question of central importance and have sought to promote it at every level we can. On the ground our members have been active for years both within the Irish language movement and in our own right, organising Irish language classes, helping to start and support gaelscoileanna , campaigning for rights for Irish speakers and speaking the language in public forums when possible.

"Inside the prisons the Irish language played a central role in the daily lives of many republican prisoners, most notably perhaps during those dark and sorrowful days of the prison protests when the Irish language was one of the few aspects of prison life that helped the prisoners lift their spirits above the horror that was all around them and helped them resist the brutal oppression that was being inflicted upon them. And today the language is still central to our political project. We have made the question of the Irish language a central concern in the ongoing talks with the Irish and British Governments.

"Martin McGuinness when he was Minister of Education introduced legislation and established Comhairle na Gaelscoilíochta and Iontaobhas na Gaelscoilíochta to put Irish medium education in the North on a firm secure footing. Bairbre de Brún, a long-time and committed Gaeilgeoir, ensured, when she was Minister of Health in the North that the status and public visibility of the language was raised by promoting bi-lingualism in her departments' publications. And within the Dáil and the Assembly and on local councils and other public bodies our members use the Irish language as often as they can, according to our ability.

" In survey after survey the Irish people have shown their high regard for the language. The growth of the Gaelscoileanna movement is living testimony to this fact. Despite years of failed government policies regarding the language in the south and outright hostility by the government in the north and despite the best efforts and endless attempts to marginalise the Irish language, the Irish people still maintain a grá and a support for the language. Our task is to turn this into active support and active use of the language.

"This means in reality that the first and most important priority must be the enabling and encouraging of people to speak the Irish language. It means Irish classes, Irish courses and gaelscoileanna wherever possible.

"Behind the arguments about funding and rights and resources and equality for the Irish language and the Irish speaking community, there is a fundamental fact that we must never lose sight of: the Irish language belongs to the people of Ireland, all the people of Ireland irrespective of class or creed or background. Our priority is to give the language back to the people of Ireland, to relearn our own language, and to put that language back in the mouths of the people."ENDS

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Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey, who is in the US on a coast-to-coast tour to meet with Mayors, civic leaders and business people in eleven cities, this week met with Mayor Bloomberg in New York. The two Mayors discussed the difficulties in the peace process and the need for inward investment and job creation in Belfast.

Mayor Maskey has also met with Mayor Williams in Washington and Mayor O'Malley in Baltimore. Next week he will be travelling onto Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle.

Mayor Maskey said:

"Despite the difficulties caused by heavy snowfall on the east coast of the United States I have been continuing with my tour around the themes of peace, inward investment and job creation. There is a lot of goodwill in New York towards the people of Ireland, particularly those in Belfast and a keen interest to help the peace process and to support economic development across the country.

"My meeting with Mayor Bloomberg in New York was very productive. We discussed the current difficulties in the peace process and the need for inward investment and job creation in Ireland's second largest city, Belfast. While our cities are very different there are many experiences, which we share as Mayors."

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD is to address a conference organised by South Leinster Sinn Féin in New Ross this Saturday. The conference is the latest in a series of meetings held by the party throughout the country to update its policies on agriculture and rural development. This will culminate in a wide-ranging debate at the party's Ard Fheis at the end of March, and the preparation of a new policy document.

Deputy Ferris said:

"I am delighted to have been asked to speak at this conference which will be attended by dozens of Sinn Féin representatives and activists from the South Leinster area. The plight of rural communities is one of the key problems facing us at this present time, and Sinn Féin is at the forefront of the fight against the erosion of family farming, the running down of schools and public services and the poverty and isolation that follows from this.

"For too long the political establishment has taken the political allegiances of people in rural Ireland for granted. Now, after generations of neglect, they are being forced to take notice because of the election of Sinn Féin TDs and Councillors and of a large number of independents. What underlies this sea change is the realisation that not only have the majority of people in rural Ireland not benefited from the so-called Celtic Tiger, but that they, along with working class communities in the cities and towns, are now going to be made bear the brunt of Government cut backs.

"Republicans have always stood in the vanguard of the fight for a decent life for rural communities. Now, as the fastest growi rural communities have the right to expect to be able to live and work where they were born if that is their wish and it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that they are given the same level of provision of services as any other citizen."ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Butler has said that he is in no doubt that unionist paramilitaries were behind last nights arson attack on St. Colmans Catholic Church in Lambeg. Cllr Butler said:

"In the past week unionist paramilitaries in this area have sent a live bullet to my home, attacked a Catholic school and now attempted to burn down a Catholic Church.

"This increase in the ongoing sectarian campaign against the Catholic community was the predictable result of the ending of the UDA feud. In the past these groupings have sought to overcome their differences by engaging themselves in the one activity which unites them, attacks upon the nationalist community.

"Unfortunately this has once again proved itself to be the case. I would urge nationalists to be particularly vigilant and would call upon those with influence within the unionist community to do all in their power to help bring these attacks to an end."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MLA Francie Molloy, former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee has said that the issue of accountability must be the central issue to the functioning of the Strategic Investment Body announced today by British direct rule Finance Minister Ian Pearson.

Mr Molloy said:

"Many people will be concerned at the apparent lack of accountability built into the Strategic Investment Body announced today by Ian Pearson. There is a danger that this body will not deliver best value for people living here but will be too heavily weighted in favour of big business interests that potential by the British government by Mark Durkan and David Trimble because it was likely to be defeated. When Ian Pearson announced his intention to push ahead with this legislation through Westminster Sinn Féin warned him against rushing the legislation.

"Sinn Féin also made it clear to Ian Pearson, in both written submissions and directly, that while we welcome any initiative that can redress the infrastructural investment deficit within the North that such proposals must contain clear linkages to the democratic process and that accountability and full scrutiny must central.

"Sinn Féin support the concept of a Strategic Investment Body that can generate change and deliver of the infrastructural deficit. But if it becomes a device to centralise power; that takes unaccountable decisions outside of departmental priorities or that don't target social need then it becomes a very dangerous vehicle for replicating and reinforcing patterns of divisions and discrimination witnessed under previous British direct rule administrations.

ensure that in recruiting a permanent chief to ensure that he fully engages with not just local political parties but also the trade unions and the community and voluntary sectors.

"The apparent use of the SIB announcement as a cover for further commitments to PFI and PPP disguises the fact that we have yet to hear satisfactory arguments against the use of alternative sources of funding." ENDS

Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MLA Francie Molloy, former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee has said that the issue of accountability must be the central issue to the functioning of the Strategic Investment Body announced today by British direct rule Finance Minister Ian Pearson.

Mr Molloy said:

"Many people will be concerned at the apparent lack of accountability built into theentially stand to make millions out the function of the SIB.

"We should not forget that the legislation to set up this body was pulled on the last sitting day of the Assembly before the institutions were suspended by the British government by Mark Durkan and David Trimble because it was likely to be defeated. When Ian Pearson announced his intention to push ahead with this legislation through Westminster Sinn Féin warned him against rushing the legislation.

"Sinn Féin also made it clear to Ian Pearson, in both written submissions and directly, that while we welcome any initiative that can redress the infrastructural investment deficit within the North that such proposals must contain clear linkages to the democratic process and that accountability and full scrutiny must central.

"Sinn Féin support the concept of a Strategic Investment Body that can generate change and deliver of the infrastructural deficit. But if it becomes a device to centralise power; that takes unaccountable decisions outside of departmental prioritieIan Pearson to ensure that in recruiting a permanent chief to ensure that he fully engages with not just local political parties but also the trade unions and the community and voluntary sectors.

"The apparent use of the SIB announcement as a cover for further commitments to PFI and PPP disguises the fact that we have yet to hear satisfactory arguments against the use of alternative sources of funding." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has again challenged the SDLP to explain the differing public statements being made by senior party members regarding the transfer of powers on policing and justice. Ms Gildernew's call comes after Patricia Lewsley again ignored the comments made on the issue by Seamus Mallon in the British House of Commons.

Ms Gildernew said:

" I challenged the SDLP to explain the different public positions being adopted by Mark Durkan, Alex Attwood and Seamus Mallon. Patricia Lewsley in reply choose to ignore entirely the comments made in the British House of Commons by Seamus Mallon.

" Is Patricia Lewsley saying that Seamus Mallon is out of step with party policy? Is she saying that Mark Durkan's belief that the time was not right to transfer powers is out of step with party policy? If so she should say this, instead of simply articulating the view already given publicly by Alex Attwood.

" Patricia Lewsley's response simply adds to the confusion surrounding the position of the SDLP on this matter. I am again challenging the SDLP to clarify the situation and explain exactly which senior party member is articulating SDLP policy. Otherwise the confusion surrounding their position on this crucial matter will continue to reign." ENDS

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Sinn Féin will kick off a series of public meetings across the 26 Counties today, Tuesday 18th February, in defence of the Good Friday Agreement. Among the counties where members of the Sinn Féin leadership will speak are Cork, Wexford, Limerick, Monaghan, Galway, Kilkenny and Waterford and the series of meetings will culminate with a meeting in Dublin in March to be addressed by Martin McGuinness MP.

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy is speaking in Murphy Floods Hotel in Enniscorthy at 8pm tonight and party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin is speaking in Limerick tomorrow and Cork City on Thursday. Speaking in Derry today Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"The past year has been a difficult one for the peace process with the institutions brought down by the British government and catholic communities living under siege from unionist paramilitaries but despite these problems I think it is worth remembering just how far we have come in the last ten years. At that time many thought that we could not have successful negotiations. But we did, and we reached an Agreement, and we saw that Agreement ratified overwhelmingly by the people of this island?

"There are many challn full but we cannot do it alone. Over the next four weeks Sinn Féin leaders will be speaking throughout the 26 Counties. We will be calling on people to come out in defence of the Agreement and to save the peace process."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness along with party President Gerry Adams MP will meet with a US Congressional delegation tomorrow afternoon. Among the items they will raise with the delegation is the ongoing demand for an international public judicial inquiry into British collusion with loyalist death squads.

Speaking today Mr. McGuinness said:

"In light of the Stevens recommendation that senior British Military Agents and senior RUC Special Branch Offices matter is through an international public judicial inquiry.

"Collusion between the British and the loyalist death squads spanned all of their organisations - the RUC, the UDR/RIR, MI5, UDA, UVF, Ulster Resistance and others. And the British Army, through FRU, actually directed these organisations and was directly involved in the murder of citizens.

"In the case of Pat Finucane, the UFF were the flag of convenience for the British State. Tommy Lyttle the head of the UDA in West Belfast was an RUC Special Branch Agent. William Stobie, who supplied the weapons, was an RUC Special Branch Agent. Ken Barrett, the self confessed gunman, was an RUC Special Branch Agent and Brian Nelson who set the operation up was working for the FRU.

"At Brian Nelson's trial the head of FRU gave evidence in his support and the British Defence Secretary and former Secretary of State Tom King submitted a mitigation plea to the Nelson trial in 1992 on behalf of Nelson who he described as a 'valuable agent.'

"Sinn Féin fully supports the families of victims who are calling for international public judicial inquiries into the deaths of their loved ones.

"We have consistently raised these matters with both the British and Irish governments.

"Sinn Féin presented Tony Blair with a document on collusion and the role of Brian Nelson over five years ago. I am sure he has also read the varilling citizens through their agents would be brought down. In this case the British government is still actively resisting the demands of the families of those killed, for the truth."ENDS

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness will meet the US Congressional delegation at 2pm tomorrow, Wednesday 19th, in the party's offices at Sevastopol Street in Belfast and will be available to talk to the media.

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Sinn Féin Policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly MLA has accused the SDLP's Alex Attwood of living in a political fantasy world. Mr. Kelly said:

"The issue of policing is crucial and is at the core of Sinn Féin's current negotiations with both governments. That negotiation is made all the more difficult because the SDLP have already accepted policing arrangements that fall far short of the Patten recommendations. As so often in the past, the SDLP settled for too little. The reality is that the majority of the nationalist community, represented by Sinn Féin, do not have confidence in the present policing arrangements.

"Sinn Féin wants to see a policing service that is:

*representative

*accountable

*free from partisan political control

* imbued with a human rights ethos

* civic rather than military in nature

* routinely unarmed

"We would have liked the Patten recommendations to go further. But we believe that Patten, implemented in full, could provide a minimum threshold from which to achieve acceptable policing.

"The current draft legislation is an improvement on the Police Act 2000. These changes were hard won. Sinn Féin argued for new legislation while the SDLP at the time said that this was unachievable. It is bizarre that they are now claiming the legislation which they said at the tich a situation of acceptable policing. We believe that it is achievable. The British government has already been moved significantly, not by the pretence that what we have is Patten but by the rejection by the nationalist community of arrangements.

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Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey is leaving for the US on Sunday on a coast to coast tour. The unprecedented tour will cover eleven cities including Boston, New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle. Among those that he will meet are Mayors, civil leaderships and business people.

Speaking prior to his departure Mayor Maskey said:

"I am delighted to be going on this coast to coast tour of the United States. It is unprecedented for a Mayor from Belfast to embark on such a project.

"There is a lot of goodwill across North America for the people of Ireland and particularly for the people of Belfast. I will be tapping into that goodwill.

"My message to the Mayors, the civic leaderships and the business people is simple and straightforward offer.

"I will be looking to build on the trade links that already exist between Belfast and many of the cities that I will be visiting. The people there already know that Belfast is a city worth investing in.

"I will be carrying forward the City Council's economic plan and this week I met with 'Invest Northern Ireland' to get an economic briefing from them. My intention is to lobby as widely as I can on behalf of both agencies.

"For me it is a case of all shoulders to the wheel to generate prosperity in Belfast and I will be doing my best while in the US to promote this city and its people."ENDS

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