Here is the much celebrated video shown at Sinn Féin's An Chéad Dáil event in the Mansion House Round Room on January 12, 2019. Sinn Féin former Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha wrote and presents this historic and inspiring reflection of the events of 100 years ago.
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin today released the party's recent submission to the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform. In it Sinn Féin describes the Seanad as it is currently constituted as "fundamentally undemocratic and elitist". It calls for it to be reformed so that it would "afford a role for civic society, and provide for fuller representation of all sectors of society in the legislative process".
Among the main recommendations are that:
· The Seanad would be elected by universal suffrage of citizens of the 32 counties over the age of 16 years.
· Emigrants would be entitled to a vote
· The Taoiseach would not be entitled to nominate to the Seanad
· Senators would be elected from Sectoral panels rather than political parties
· The elections would be by Proportional representation
· The main function would be scrutiny of national and EU legislation
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Sinn Féin has put forward these proposals because we want the creation of a reformed, democratic, transparent, accountable and relevant second house of parliament. We need a forum that will provide for the fullest possible representation of all sectors of society in the legislative process. We need to move beyond party politics so that the second house is not just a duplication of the Dáil." ENDS
Table of contents
2. Summary of recommendations for reform of Seanad
3. Composition of Seanad
4. Nomination Process
5. Functions of Seanad
6. Summary of recommendations of functions of Seanad
Sinn Féin believes that the Seanad as it is currently constituted is fundamentally undemocratic and elitist. It duplicates the role of the Dáil. Sinn Féin envisages the creation of a reformed, democratic, transparent, accountable, and relevant second house of parliament.
Sinn Féin envisages a democratically elected Seanad which would afford a role for civic society, and provide for fuller representation of all sectors of society in the legislative process.
In examining options for reform of the Seanad, we re-considered as a first option the abolition of the Seanad. This option was rejected on the basis that one house does not adequately represent all sections of the Irish population and a second house could be constituted so as to represent those not adequately represented in the Dáil.
Sinn Féin believes that it is beneficial for the democratic nature of government to have an upper and a lower house of parliament in that it provides a system of checks and balances on government legislation and policy.
Beyond Party Politics
The option of a national list system, as recommended in the 7th Progress Report of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution was also considered. Arguments in favour of this option included that it would allow all parties to present themselves as an option nationally thus benefiting smaller parties who would not necessarily have the resources to run in all constituencies. The argument was also made that a benefit of this method of election would be that it would be non-clientelist.
The national list system was rejected on the basis that it would not involve a radical reform of the Seanad, would not provide for greater representation of civic society and would result in a Seanad which would in its composition be a duplication of the Dáil.
A new beginning
Sinn Féin asserts that the Seanad should be elected on a sectoral panel system. There are a number of advantages to this system. It would be radically different in composition to the other house of parliament i.e. the Dáil, thereby ensuring that civic society and specifically those marginalized in society, would have a role in the legislative process. An outline of our proposal for a Seanad elected on a sectoral panel system follows.
2. Summary of recommendations for reform of Seanad
· The Seanad would be elected by universal suffrage of citizens of the 32 counties of Ireland and those resident therein for more than 5 years who are over the age of 16 years. Pending the reintegration of the national territory citizens resident in the 6 counties would cast their ballot by postal vote.
· Emigrants registered with their appropriate Irish Embassy or consulate would be entitled to vote.
· The election would not take place on the same day as the Dáil election.
· There would be no provision for nomination by An Taoiseach.
· Senators would be elected from sectoral panels rather than on a party political basis.
· Election would be by proportional representation single transferable vote on each panel.
· The main function of the Seanad would be scrutiny of national and EU legislation.
3. Composition of Seanad
The current system is legislated for under the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act, 1947 and the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act, 1954.
Sinn Féin proposes a Seanad based on a sectoral panel system elected by universal suffrage of citizens of the 32 counties of Ireland and those resident therein for more than five years, who are over the age of 16 years.
The Seanad is currently elected by an undemocratic limited franchise panel system and the panels are constituted as follows:
· Cultural and Educational
· Agriculture Panel
· Labour Panel
· Industrial and Commercial Panel
· Administrative Panel
There are also reserved seats for those elected by graduates of certain third-level institutions.
Sinn Féin proposes retaining a 60-member assembly. The outline of panels would be as follows
1. Community and Voluntary Panel (including geographical communities and communities of interest)
2. Cultural and Educational Panel (including but not limited to arts, language, sports and students organisations)
3. Local and Regional Panel (for example representatives of community councils as recognised under Better Local Government, regional bodies etc.)
4. Labour Panel
5. Industrial and Commercial Panel
6. Agricultural and Fisheries Panel
In order to address the under-representation of women, quotas of at least 30% would operate across each panel.
4. Nomination Process
All organisations who seek accreditation as a nominating body must apply to a 'Seanad Panel Accreditation Committee' before they can nominate a person to stand in the appropriate panel. It should be open to all bodies, other than political parties, to apply for such accreditation. An organisation would have to seek accreditation at least six months prior to an election.
Guidelines for accreditation would be laid out in legislation i.e. amendments to the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Acts.
Each nominating body would only be permitted to nominate one person to one panel.
Arguments will be made by opponents of this system that it is cumbersome, however we contend that it is possible to overcome these difficulties. Any difficulties arising are far outweighed by the democratic and inclusive benefits of the sectoral panel system.
5. Functions of Seanad
Sinn Féin envisages that the main role of the Seanad would be scrutiny. It would scrutinise draft domestic legislation and furnish reports to the Dáil, including specific recommendations for amendment, withdrawal, further consultation, impact assessment, fast-track progress, etc.
It would be responsible for checking legislative proposals against the constitutional and other rights of citizens, and also against Ireland's international obligations.
Sinn Féin proposes significant changes to current legislative stages. Prior to consideration by the Dáil, all proposed legislation would first pass scrutiny by the Seanad, to be known hereafter as the 'Seanad Stage'.
All legislation would pass through the following stages:
· First Stage Publication (Dáil)
· Seanad Stage (Seanad) ? see below
· Second Stage Debate (Dáil)
· Committee Stage (Dáil)
· Report Stage/ Final Stage (Dáil)
The new "Seanad Stage" would include a community consultation process. Following this consultation, the Seanad would debate the bill and consider amendments. At the conclusion of this Stage, the Seanad would agree the amendments it would recommend to the Dáil.
The Seanad would have a responsibility to equality-proof and human rights-proof proposed legislation.
The Seanad could recommend withdrawal of legislation.
The Dáil must take cognisance of the Seanad Report when debating the bill in Second Stage, and subsequently.
If the Government ignores the Seanad recommendations, this could be grounds for a no-confidence vote. The President can also use this as a reason to refer legislation when presented.
The Seanad would have the right to question Ministers on legislation.
The Seanad would also scrutinise proposed European legislation and furnish reports to the Oireachtas including recommendations for amendment, withdrawal, further consultation, impact assessment, fast-track progress, etc.
The Seanad would have the ability to permit MEPs to attend and speak, without voting rights, at Seanad debates on European issues or on legislation resulting from the transposition of EU directives.
Legislation which needs to be amended: 1947 Act (sections 33 & 43) Seanad Electrol (panel members) act 1954
6. Summary of recommendations on functions of Seanad
· The main role of the Seanad would be scrutiny.
· The Seanad would be required to furnish reports to the Dáil on all legislation it has scrutinised, including the equality-proofing and human rights-proofing of all legislation.
· Significant changes to current legislative stages would be necessary.
· The Seanad would have the right to question Ministers.
· The Seanad would have the ability to permit MEPs to attend and speak.
Sinn Féin Press Office
Tel: (353 1) 618 4276
Fax: (353 1) 618 4210
Email: [email protected]
For immediate release ˆ July 11th, 2003
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris TD has questioned the benefit of the potentially massive oil find at the Dooish Well off the North West coast. Deputy Ferris was speaking following the announcement that the find could be worth as much as €10.4 billion.
Deputy Ferris said:
"At the present time, such a find would be of almost no benefit to the people of Ireland. I say this because of the scandalous conditions that apply to multi-national exploration companies such as Shell who operate here. Almost uniquely in the world, this Government has no stake in any oil or gas find, and the companies pay no royalties. When one looks at the benefits which have accrued to states like Norway which have maintained some control, the differences are stark.
"A number of years ago former Energy Minister Frank Fahy said that if oil were to be found in the Rockall Basin then the state would consider changing those terms. In the light of this find, I would call on him and other members of this Government to do just that. Otherwise, the vast wealth from our seas will be taken up, shipped abroad, and we will be left with nothing". ENDS
Sinn Féin is today formally opening its new office in Galway City. The official opening is being performed by the party's Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD. Speaking at the event, Deputy Ó Caoláin said Sinn Féin is the fastest growing party in the West of Ireland and "offered the only real alternative to the failed polices of the establishment parties who have let down the people of the West".
As he was in Galway, the home of the Irish language TV station TG4, Deputy Ó Caoláin also took the opportunity to call on the British government to live up to its Good Friday Agreement commitments to make the television station accessible to all areas of the Six Counties saying it was a matter of "equal rights" for Irish language speakers. He also called for the British government to urgently establish a properly resourced Irish language TV and radio fund for the Six Counties. He said:
"The opening of the new Sinn Féin office in Galway is another demonstration of the accelerating growth of our party throughout the 32 Counties. In the last three years Sinn Féin in County Galway alone has developed from three cumainn to ten. That growth is matched throughout Cúige Connacht.
"The people of the West of Ireland continue to be sold short by the Fianna Fáil/PD government. Like successive administrations they have failed to decentralize economic development from the east and south. Health services are in crisis as witnessed by the closure of Tuam Hospital. The transport infrastructure is totally inadequate and our natural resources like Corrib Gas have been virtually given away to multinational corporations.
"People quite rightly feel cheated by the broken promises of the FF/PD government. While many people have become disillusioned with politics as a result, many have also become more politicized and are looking to Sinn Féin for leadership. We are determined to provide that leadership as we work towards the unification of our island and our people and the building of an Ireland of Equals."
Speaking in relation to the funding of Irish language TV and Radio production the Cavan/Monaghan TD said that "here in Galway TG4 has shown tremendous innovation and ingenuity from the very start and they are to be commended for their consistently high production values and output. It is clear that direct funding from the Irish Government has played a crucial part in this. However, I would like to take this opportunity to address the situation regarding funding for Irish language TV and radio production in the Six Counties and indeed the promises to make TG4 accessible to all areas of the north. The British Government has not lived up to its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement in this regard. This is a question of equality and parity of esteem. They need as a matter of urgency to establish a properly resourced Irish-Language fund for TV and radio production in the Six Counties as well as making TG4 accessible so that the growing body of Irish language speakers there can access this important media source through their native tongue. This isn't about special rights and entitlements for Irish language speakers - this is about equal rights." ENDS
Reacting to the proposals announced this evening by Minister Seamus Brennan to break up Aer Rianta into three companies for Cork, Dublin and Shannon, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Transport Seán Crowe said it was 'a massive backward step, which will end up seriously damaging the island economy'.
Deputy Crowe said:
"Just a year ago when he took on the Transport brief Seamus Brennan claimed that he had no ideological position on privatisation but everything he has done in office since then has shown the opposite to be true. It is bad enough that he is ramming privatisation through at CIE and now Aer Rianta. What is worse is that in each case there has been little real discussion and no worker consultation. It makes a mockery of the partnership process.
"Aer Rianta is a profitable company, so profitable that the Government is looking for a 20% dividend on the E36 million net profit made by the company last year. Dublin Airport was one of the three highest growth airports in Europe and one of only seven of the top twenty European airports to report annual growth in the year ending October 2002. It has encouraged the development of Shannon Airport by spending more than 60 times per passenger promoting Shannon than Dublin Airport.
"As a state depending on its ability to import and export for economic prosperity, efficient management of the transport infrastructure is a priority. It is clear that there are flaws in the how airports are managed and run in Ireland but break up and privatisation is not the solution. This strategy will fail. It will cost jobs and damage the economy
"We want vibrant, dynamic well run public sector companies that will benefit all of the economy not private sector concerns driven by short term profits and little focus on the bigger picture. Aer Rianta should be growing into an all-Ireland company with greater focus on developing regional air facilities, not be carved up for a fire sale"ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillors Alex Maskey and John O‚Dowd this morning launched an anti-racist charter for local councils and their members to sign up to. This initiative follows an increasing number of violent racist attacks in recent times and is an attempt to present a united political front to challenge those involved in these attacks.
Cllr. Maskey said:
"In recent times there has been a marked increase in the volume of racially motivated attacks, particularly here in Belfast and in parts of Upper Bann and in the activities of various right wing groupings. Those of us in political leadership have a responsibility to challenge this directly.
"This charter does not pretend to be a solution to these attacks or this activity. But we hope that it can become part of a political response to the upsurge in racism we are experiencing at this time.
„"Political parties have to make it clear that there is no place in our society for the sort of racism and intolerance which has sadly been on the increase.
"The Good Friday Agreement is about creating a tolerant and peaceful society, not simply for nationalists, republicans, unionists or loyalists but for all who live here.
"Sinn Féin will continue to meet with and engage with ethnic minority communities across the island and we will continue to confront and challenge racism from whatever quarter." ENDS
Anti-Racism Charter for Councils and Members
This Council and its elected members who are signatories to this charter undertake to ensure that it‚s day-to-day activities are conducted in such as way that they do not incite hatred or prejudice on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religious or political belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or membership of the Traveller community.
The Council and its elected members agree:
To send a consistent and clear message to their constituents that racism cannot be accepted or tolerated.
To challenge publicly and actively, any campaign materials or statements which incite hatred or express any form of prejudice on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religious or political belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or membership of the Traveller community.
To ensure that all debates which bare reference to any groups or individuals who may be potential targets of racism, such as Minority Ethnic groups, Asylum Seekers, Refugees, Immigration Detainees and Migrant Workers, are conducted in a responsible way and with respect to the dignity and rights of all.
To use appropriate and inclusive language when referring to people of different Ethnic backgrounds.
To sign the following Declaration on Anti-Racism.
Declaration on Anti-Racism
As a member of this Council, I reaffirm:
Its commitment to work for the benefit of all in our constituency to enjoy equal rights and to be treated with equal respect regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religious or political belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or membership of the Traveller community.
Its commitment to working for, and maintaining a community free from intolerance on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religious or political belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or membership of the Traveller community.
Its commitment to publicly challenging all forms of racism and to work with our constituents to eliminate it from our society.
Council condemns racial intolerance in any form as incompatible with our basic human rights and right to equality.
Sinn Féin Spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD and Assembly Member Gerry McHugh have called on the British and Irish Governments to conduct a joint approach to the implementation of the CAP reform proposals agreed in Luxembourg on June 26. They have also called on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to initiate a consultation process similar to that taking place in the 26 Counties.
Deputy Ferris and Mr McHugh said:
"We welcome the decision of the Department of Agriculture in Dublin to initiate this consultation process. Sinn Féin will be presenting our detailed proposals which will outline how we believe the reforms can be made work in the best interests of all Irish farmers. However, it is also vital that similar packages are implemented on both sides of the border. Otherwise, the current problems presented by having two separate administrations over such a vital sector will be made even worse.
"To avoid this, we are calling on both Governments to consult closely and to ensure that whatever decisions are reached will be complementary and of benefit to the majority of farmers in both areas. We note that Minister Pearson has claimed that he secured what he termed 'regional flexibility' for the Six Counties in the Luxembourg Agreement. We now call on him to go one step further and to recognise that that 'region' is in fact the island of Ireland, and that a common approach needs to be taken to the problems facing agriculture on the whole of this island". ENDS
Sinn Féin Upper Bann representative and equality spokesperson Dr. Dara O'Hagan is meeting with officials from the Office of First Minister/Deputy First Minister today, to discuss the ongoing review of the Equality Commission. Speaking in advance of the meeting Dr O'Hagan said:
"Today's meeting is part of a series of meetings that Sinn Féin is having with the Equality Commission and OFM/DFM. We will be raising a number of concerns about the Equality Commission and the manner in which the equality agenda is being dismantled.
"The establishment of the Equality Commission was a cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin had argued for a dedicated Equality Department and Ministry within the Executive. Instead the Equality Commission was established and charged with driving and implementing that agenda.
" Five years on we have identified that the Commission, by its own deficiencies in management, in decisions it has taken and by dint of the fact that it has not fully exercised its powers or been adequately resourced, is not sufficiently impacting on the deep rooted inequalities that exist within our society.
"A review of the Equality Commission is currently being undertaken under the auspices of OFM/DFM. I will be raising a number of issues with officials from OFM/DFM including the fact that elected representatives and stakeholders from within the equality constituency were not notified that this review was taking place.
"The Commissions monitoring systems are deficient. As public representatives we have experienced ongoing difficulties in terms of soliciting information from the Commission about the categories of cases affected by their decision to withdraw assistance or refuse to grant funding for legal cases. This demonstrates that some five years on, the Commission has not put in place adequate monitoring systems to track the impact of decisions it takes as a Commission, never mind the impact of discriminatory practices by others.
" Sinn Féin is of the view that the Review Team should also be examining the role of OFM/DFM which has a responsibility to monitor the effectiveness of the Equality Commission. This review needs to be pro-active and include stakeholders in the Equality constituency to elicit a range of views, otherwise the review will be looked on as a white wash.
" Sinn Féin along with many others who work in the equality field, has serious concerns that a minimalist approach to equality is being adopted by the Commission and its parent department, OFM/DFM. Indeed there are fears that modest gains made are being rolled back. This is not acceptable. Equality remains a central plank of the Good Friday Agreement. Five years on we should be further along the path to eradicating discrimination and inequality." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and anti-Sellafield campaigner Arthur Morgan T.D. has travelled to France in an attempt the link the nuclear reprocessing plant, COGEMA La Hague, with the campaign to have Sellafield shut down.
Speaking from France, the Louth Sinn Féin T.D. said
"COGEMA La Hague in North West France has been contributing to the contamination of our coastline with radioactive material since it entered service in 1966, in the same way that radioactive emissions from Sellafield has been contaminating the Nordic countries. It is clear that even if Sellafield was closed COGEMA La Hague would represent a continuing threat to our people's health. For this reason I have travelled to France to see at first hand the monster that is the source of the pollution.
"With 5,500 employees COGEMA La Hague is a much lager plant than Sellafield yet people in Ireland have very little awareness of the risks that this nuclear reprocessing plant poses to their health. I have come here to highlight those dangers and in attempt the broaden the anti-Sellafield campaign to include the closure of COGEMA La Hague.
"Officials here play down the dangers posed by the plant in much the same way as those at Sellafield, however they have admitted to me that they don't know what is going to happen to the waste they have produced.
"I am particularly concerned that a waste pipe from this plant goes 4 km out into the sea, posing serious dangers particularly to the South East Coast of Ireland.
"The Government must recognise the dangers from this reprocessing plant in North West France and target it as well as Sellafield". ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the ESRI forecast of a serious economic downturn and further job losses, as well as the UN report showing the level of inequality in this State, exposes the failure of the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats economic strategy. He said the ESRI report also vindicated the demand for fundamental reform of the legal profession with a view to reducing costs.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The ESRI report shows up the failure of the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats economic strategy. They failed to use the unprecedented economic upturn of the past six years to rebuild our infrastructure and greatly increase social provision, as they could have done. As a result our inadequate infrastructure is contributing to the economic slowdown, while the failure to tackle social and economic exclusion means we have the highest level of poverty in the western world outside the US, as shown by today's UN report.
"The ESRI report also vindicates the demand for fundamental reform of the legal profession. Instead of making access to the profession more equitable and reducing costs, the government has concentrated solely on advertising. Once again they have failed to tackle a privileged sector of Irish society and the ordinary citizen is paying the price." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has called on the BBC to ensure that this years coverage of the Twelfth Parades is 'for the first time balanced and impartial'.
Ms Gildernew said:
" Each year the BBC spend the publics money presenting live coverage of the annual Twelfth parades. In this programme the parades are presented as some sort cultural festival. No mention is made of the political nature of the event and the paramilitary displays by the many of the bands present are conveniently ignored by the commentators.
" The BBC need to get real. TV license money should not be spent promoting Orange parades in an unbalanced fashion. If they are going to present live coverage of the Twelfth this year then they should ensure that for the first time it is at least balanced and impartial." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty has said that nationalists and republicans are 'sick and tired of the double standards which operate at the heart of the judiciary in the six counties'. Mr Doherty's remarks come after loyalist Jim Fulton who is on bail on 64 charges including murder had his conditions varied to enable him to attend the Twelfth parades.
Mr Doherty's said:
" Nationalists and republicans are sick and tired at the sectarian double standards which operate at the heart of the judiciary in the north. In recent times we have seen the judiciary in the six counties release on bail a leading loyalist caught with a firearm in the middle of an internecine loyalist turf war, a man was convicted of assembling intelligence information on a Sinn Féin councillor. He received a suspended sentence. Last month an RIR member accused of stealing firearms and ammunition was granted bail and now Jim Fulton is given a judges blessing to attend the Twelfth parades.
" Contrast this with recent cases involving nationalists. A North Belfast man John O'Hagan has been held in custody awaiting trial on documents charges for well over two years, with no prospect yet of a trial or bail. Last month a six county Diplock judge refused bail to a 58 year old Belfast businessman accused of similar charges. Indeed the judge's remarks were clearly prejudicial and biased.
" At the core of the criminal justice system in the six counties are the Diplock judges. These are the men who rubber stamped the Special Branch activity in the torture centres. The men who refused to back Sinn Féin Councillors in their demands for security measures on their homes, and who continue to operate with a blatant anti-Catholic securocrat agenda. Nationalists will never have confidence in the Criminal Justice System as long as this ethos is allowed to operate." ENDS
Upper Bann Sinn Féin representative Dr. Dara O'Hagan has claimed that remarks by the Orange Order spokesperson David Jones in today's Irish Times show clearly that the position of the Order regarding dialogue has not changed over the past five years.
Dr O'Hagan said:
" It is clear from Mr Jones remarks that the Orange Order are not prepared to enter into a process of dialogue without first achieving a march down Garvaghy Road. This is not a credible position.
" No process of dialogue or negotiation can have a pre-determined outcome. The issue of contentious marches can only be resolved through a process of genuine and meaningful dialogue. This should be the focus for the Orange Order in the time ahead, not following the already failed agenda of ignoring the expressed wishes of the communities they wish to parade through." ENDS
Sinn Féin Human Rights and Equality spokesperson Bairbre de Brún speaking about the announcement that Mr. Patrick Yu has resigned from the Human Rights Commission.
Ms de Brún said:
"This is the latest in a line of resignation by members of the Human Rights Commission. It is clear that there is a crisis within the Commission itself and a crisis about whether the Commission can fulfil its obligations.
We have consistently raised the issues of funding and remit of the Commission, most recently in the last round of negotiations. The resignation of Mr. Patrick Yu today highlights the need for these issues to be resolved as a matter of urgency."ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin Mc Guinness speaking at a meeting in London this evening outlined the next steps required to put the political process back on course. During a two day visit to London Mr Mc Guinness will seek support for elections in the North of Ireland in meetings with Diplomats and briefings with the Foreign and American Press Associations as well as the British media.
Giving the keynote address to a London gathering this evening Mr. Mc Guinness said:
"Central to all of our efforts at this time must be in convincing Tony Blair and the British government of the serious blunder it was to cancel the Assembly elections. I believe that the unilateral action of the British government was ill-advised and undermines the efforts of those working tirelessly to convince and bring on board those that are still disaffected from the political process. I will be asking all those whom I meet while in London to lend their support to this campaign and to use their influence with the British government to end this denial of democracy.
"For too long the two governments have pandered to the worst elements of anti Agreement unionism resulting in the undermining of an Agreement which was endorsed by the majority of people in Ireland. The same effort, which has been put into stalling, managing and suspending progress over the last five years, needs to be directed into active support for the full implementation of the Agreement. This is an effort, which must be led by the two governments, particularly the British government.
"I believe that Mr. Blair made a serious mistake in cancelling the Assembly elections, in effect saying to the world that democracy in the Six Counties is subject to the will of anti-Agreement unionists. The right to vote is just that ˆ a basic right and cannot be subject to any preconditions. I am calling on the governments to end the stalling and set the election date now.
"The only thing that Mr Blair achieved by firstly suspending the political institutions and then cancelling the election was to disempower the pro-Agreement Parties and give encouragement to the rejectionists. This action must be reversed and an early Autumn date set for elections to renew mandates that will re-empower those of us that wish this process to succeed."ENDS
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South Belfast Sinn Féin representative Cllr. Alex Maskey has responded to today‚s comments from Dr. Ian Paisley as political fantasising.
Cllr. Maskey said:
"The DUP demand for the disbandment of Sinn Féin is as farcical and unrealistic and unrealisable as their demand for a re-negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.
"The reality is that Sinn Féin is supported by the majority of the nationalist community in the north. The reality is that there will be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. Some of Dr. Paisley‚s party colleagues know, and privately accept, this. Today‚s comments are less about Sinn Féin and more about constraining those in the DUP who accept that they will have to come to terms with and deal with Sinn Féin."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today met former US President Bill Clinton in Derry. Speaking after the meeting a Sinn Féin spokesperson said:
" Gerry Adams met with President Clinton for around 30 minutes. Mr. Adams expressed his concern about the failure of the British government thus far to publicly set a definite date for the Assembly elections.
" The discussions were a useful engagement and the two men discussed the ongoing efforts to ensure that the summer months are calm and Mr. Adams brought President Clinton up to date on Sinn Féin efforts to out reach to unionism.
" Although Gerry Adam's briefs Mr. Clinton regularly on developments in the peace process, today's meeting was important because it was face to face in nature." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness will spend two days in London next week, Monday 7 and Tuesday 8, to meet politicians, trade unionists and diplomats seeking their support for the Assembly elections to go ahead. Mr. McGuinness will also brief the American press corps and the Foreign Press Association and address a public meeting titled 'Democracy Denied'.
Speaking prior to his departure Mr. McGuinness said:
"Central to all of our efforts at this time must be getting the British and Irish governments to set a date for the twice cancelled Assembly elections and that is the message that I will be taking to London next week when I meet with a wide range of political and public opinion. I will be asking all those whom I meet to lend their support to this campaign and to use their influence with the British government to end this denial of democracy.
"For some time now we have seen the two governments pander to the worst elements of anti Agreement unionism and what it has achieved is the undermining of an Agreement which was endorsed by the majority of people in Ireland, five years ago. I would like to see the same effort, which has been put into stalling, managing and suspending progress over the last five years , transferred into active support for the full implementation of the Agreement. This is an effort, which must be led by the two governments, particularly the British government.
"I believe that Mr. Blair made a serious mistake in canceling the Assembly elections, in effect saying to the world that democracy in the Six Counties is subject to the will of anti-Agreement unionists. The right to vote is just that -- a basic right and cannot be subject to any preconditions. I am calling on the governments to end the stalling and set the election date now."ENDS
1.30pm Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Central Hall Westminster
3.30pm South African High Commissioner
5pm Parliamentary Labour Party NI Committee, House of Commons
7.30pm Keynote address at public meeting 'Democracy denied in Ireland -- voting a right not a privilege, Brunei Gallery, Thornhaugh St London WC1
10.30am American Press Corps, Room 8 Portcullis
11.30am Press Conference, Room W1, House of Commons
12.45pm Foreign Press Association, Carlton House Terrace
4pm Meeting with trade union General Secretaries Room O, Portcullis House
Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hartley has welcomed today's decision by the Parades Commission not to allow the Orange Order to return along the Springfield Road on the 12t of July. He described it as the only reasonable conclusion that they could come to but has said that given the consistent breaches of the Parades Commission determinations by the Orange Order they should not have been allowed to march on the Springfield Road at all.
Cllr. Hartley said,
" Today's decision not to allow the Orange Order to return along the Springfield Road on the Twelfth was the only reasonable decision which they could have come to.
" However, given that the marchers have continually broken the determinations made by the Parades Commission it is my belief that they should not have been allowed to march on the Springfield Road at all".
" The reality is that the residents of the Springfield Road have made an imaginative proposal in an attempt to resolve the marching issue and yet the Orange Order has still refused to enter into meaningful face to face dialogue. While today's decision is welcome we still see the Orange Order rewarded for their intransigence and the Residents punished despite their genuine attempts to resolve this issue".ENDS
Responding to the release of the latest unemployment figures Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said: "Today's unemployment statistics, showing a rise of almost 12,000, coupled with the Exchequer figures from earlier in the week makes for depressing reading and represents a failure on behalf of the Government to properly manage the economy.
"With jobs losses being felt across the state from Donegal to Meath and from Dublin to Kerry it is clear that the Celtic Tiger has long departed these shores. It is also abundantly clear that this Government has obviously failed to use the boom years to strategically plan for leaner times.
"While the Government was happy to engage in spending splurges to further benefit the wealthy in Irish society over the last number of years it is now the ordinary Irish worker who is going to pay the price as the unemployment queues continue to rise." ENDS
Commenting on the announcement by An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of a new housing initiative, Sinn Féin's spokesperson on housing, Arthur Morgan T.D. said, "this scheme will be worthless" if these lands are being "handed over to private property developers at knock down prices." "These lands must to be given to either the local authorities or voluntary housing schemes to make any real difference", he said.
Deputy Morgan said
"This Government has shown very little commitment to tackling the housing crisis. In 1999 the Taoiseach together with the former Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Noel Dempsey T.D. announced a range of initiatives in relation to the housing market. One of these was the examination of the potential use for housing of lands in State ownership. Nothing happened and earlier this year we were treated to the spectacle of Tom Parlon announcing the open market sale of state lands. The Government is obviously beginning to feel to pressure and are seeking to deflect the real anger which is set to impact on Fianna Fáil vote in the Local Elections.
"I would welcome any genuine initiative to build social and affordable housing on State land at Inchicore and Infirmary Road. However, the Taoiseach's assertion that there would be no local authority housing as part of these developments suggests that a game of smoke and mirrors is being played. If it is the case that these lands are just being handed over to private property developers at knock down prices to reduce building overheads then the scheme will be worthless.
"These lands must to be given to either the local authorities or voluntary housing schemes to make any real difference." ENDS