Sinn Féin - On Your Side

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An Chéad Dáil

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.


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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs Seán Crowe has called again on the Government to legislate for same-sex marriages.

Speaking in Leinster House yesterday the Dublin South-West TD said: "In light of last week's decision by the Canadian Government to legislate for same sex marriages, will the Taoiseach tell the House if it is proposed to introduce similar legislation to tackle this glaring inequality in Irish society, particularly regarding the property rights of couples in long-term relationships?"

"Following the announcement by the Ceann Comhairle that no such legislation is promised, Deputy Crowe said: "It is time the Government took a bit of initiative on this issue and recognised that same-sex couples should have the same rights as any other section of society. It's time to end discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP along with colleagues Mary Lou MacDonald and Conor Murphy will meet with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at Government Buildings in Dublin tomorrow (Thursday 26th) at 10.30am.

The delegation is available to speak to the media.

Speaking this evening Ms McDonald said:

"These meetings are part of the effort to fill the present vacuum caused by the suspension of the institutions, the cancellation of the elections and the inability of unionism to deal with the process of change.

"Our message to the Irish government tomorrow is clear, they must act, along with the British government to implement the outstanding aspects of the Agreement and fill the current vacuum with politics." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has claimed that the Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan was wrong to justify the use of plastic bullets by the PSNI in a report following unionist rioting at Drumcree last year.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The facts around plastic bullets are very clear. They are lethal weapons and they should not be used - they are not a mechanism of crowd control, they are killer devices.

"Nuala O'Loan is out of step with international Human Rights opinion in her defence of the use of these weapons in riot or crowd control situations and she is wrong to justify their use.

" Sinn Féin's position on plastic bullets is well known - we are absolutely opposed to their use and have campaigned for many years on this issue. We have made the issue of the continued use of plastic bullets a crucial part of our discussions with the British government." ENDS

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eputy Morgan said:

"The Minister has been advised that this practice ended around the 1960s. I assure him that it continued into the 1980s. This is where an investigation is needed. If the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynecologists thought that this practice finished in the 1960s, who then is responsible for the brutality that carried over into the 1970s and even as late as 1983, when I understand three operations were carried out in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, and others at The Coombe Women's Hospital? As for the assertion that the results of these operations were very good, there are grounds for inquiry there too. If the Minister were to meet representatives of the group, he would know that the results were not very good." ENDS

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For Immediate Release: Monday 23rd June 2003

Sinn Féin has welcomed the election of Councillor Pat O'Rawe as the first Sinn Féin Mayor of Armagh City & District Council as a positive step and a triumph for fair play and equality.

Following her election the new Mayor, Pat O'Rawe said;

"Today's election is indeed historic. I do not view it as a personal victory but rather as a triumph for equality and fair play. Sinn Féin is the third largest party on the council and therefore is entitled to this position. We have held and do hold similar positions on councils throughout the north and have shown that as a party we are both competent and capable. There area those who will view today's election in a negative manner but I would say to them they are wrong. The situation on other councils has proved that when a Republican Mayor is elected that the sky does not fall in. Sinn Féin Mayors and Chairpersons have shown a willingness and capability to get on with the job. I will endeavour to maintain and improve on that record for Armagh City & District Council. I do not intend to be simply a Sinn Féin Mayor. I will be Mayor for the whole council conscious of the fact that not everyone agrees with my party politics.

"Those who view my election in a negative manner will probably do so from a perspective of party politics. I would say to them that they are wrong. Today's election is a triumph not for Sinn Féin as a political party but for the continuing task of making councils and other forums properly representative of the electorate who elect them. The voters who voted for myself and my council colleagues are just as entitled to see elected representatives hold the position of Mayor as the voters who elect representatives from the other political parties. The issue here is one of equality and will be viewed by many as such.

"In the coming year I will endeavour to represent this council to the best of my ability. As I have said I am conscious of the political divisions within our community but I will try to overcome these. I cannot meet people half-way who are not willing to come half-way but nevertheless I am looking forward to the challenges of the coming year. Although we still have some way to go I recognise that the council has made positive steps towards full and proper representation. An example here is the positions on the various committees. Today's election is an extension to that and I hope will pave the way for further improvements."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education and Science Seán Crowe, speaking in Leinster House this afternoon, called for an emergency debate on the decision of the Department of Education to axe 300 concessionary teaching posts and the impact this will have on the Government's education policy.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "The Government claims it intends to improve access to education and reduce class sizes and then, in a complete contradiction of Government policy, it announces that hundreds of teachers are to be thrown on the scrap heap. These latest cutbacks demonstrate once again the determination of this Government to balance the books by cutting vital public services instead of increasing revenue through a tax system that genuinely redistributes the wealth in Irish society.

"Many of these teachers are involved in minority subjects where we are trying to stimulate interest or in teaching children with special needs. Ironically while the Special Olympics are going on, the Government is targeting those with special needs again. Today it's secondary education targeted for cuts. Tomorrow it could be child benefit, CE schemes or community investment. Increasingly Irish people are asking themselves if there is anything this Government won't cut." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew commenting on the publication of the 'People and Places, A Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal' by the Department of Social Development has said that it will fail unless it genuinely tackles the legacy of discrimination.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The Department of Social Development has acknowledged that 70% of people living in the 10% most deprived wards, as measured by the Noble Index, are Catholic. All statistical evidence and indicators show that the legacy of institutionalised discrimination against Catholic communities has resulted in significantly higher levels of disadvantage. Any strategy that aims to tackle disadvantage and deprivation must address this legacy of discrimination.

"Sinn Féin has already voiced serious concern with the department and Equality Commission at the criteria developed by DSD in implementing the EU Peace II Programme for Neighbourhood Renewal Areas (under measure 2.11). Any repetition of this approach is unacceptable and runs contrary to commitments in the Good Friday Agreement and the Joint Declaration. I would warn Mr Speller against failing to recognise that need must be addressed on an objective basis. Targeting objective need means targeting objective need." ENDS

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West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has criticised the Parades Commission for rewarding the Orange Order for refusing to engage with the Springfield Road Residents after the Residents brought forward an imaginative compromise which would have allowed this years Springfield Road parade to proceed on the basis of the agreement of the host community.

Mr Adams said:

" In recent years this parade has been forced through the local nationalist community. This has on occasion seen an oppressive military presence in the area and serious violence has erupted. It is in this context that the local residents presented the Springfield Community Initiative to the Parades Commission.

"It provided the basis for the parade to proceed this year with nationalist support. However the Orange Order refused to engage with the local residents and even refused to meet with the Parades Commission to discuss the compromise plan. The Parades Commission has now rewarded the Order with a march through the nationalist part of the Springfield Road.

" This decision defies logic and has left many residents on the Springfield Road an nationalists in general questioning the partiality of the Parades Commission itself." ENDS

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In putting forward a countermotion to block the extension of emergency legislation for another year, Sinn Féin has accused the Minister for Justice of having "utterly failed" to demonstrate that the operation of the legislation is necessary for the security of the people of the State.

The Sinn Féin motion reminds the members of the Dáil that following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the Government was committed to "further strengthen the protection of human rights" and to "initiate a widespread review of the Offences Against the States Acts 1938-1985". This was to be done with "a view to both reform and dispensing with those elements no longer required". However, as the motion points out, the Government since the Good Friday Agreement has not only failed to reform the emergency legislation as required, it has instead done the exact opposite by expanding emergency powers.

The countermotion says not only that the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 should not continue in operation and instead be "allowed to lapse", but calls for the wholesale repeal of entire apparatus of emergency legislation (The Offences Against the State Acts 1939-1998).

Speaking in advance of the Dáil debate on the motions Sinn Féin spokesperson for Justice and Equality Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:

"The Government has failed to lives up to its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement in relation to the strengthening and protecting of human rights. Instead of reforming or repealing the Offences Against the State Act this right-wing PD led Coalition has expanded emergency powers, which have had a seriously corrosive effect on human rights, civil liberties and democratic life in this state."

Sinn Féin countermotion regarding Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act

MOTION

To delete all text after "Dáil Éireann" and to substitute the following:

"Conscious of the commitments made by this state in signing the Good Friday Agreement to 'further strengthen the protection of human rights in this jurisdiction' and to 'initiate a widespread review of the Offences Against the State Acts 1939 ? 1985 with a view to both reform and dispensing with those elements no longer required as circumstances permit';

Conscious of the fact that in the intervening five years not only has the Government failed to reform the emergency legislation as required, it has instead done the exact opposite by further expanding emergency powers under the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act of 1998;

Conscious of the corrosive effect of the operation of emergency legislation on human rights, civil liberties, and democratic life in this state - particularly during the protracted periods of its non-emergency operation over six decades, and specifically in the current period following the Good Friday Agreement;

Conscious of the fact that the Minister for Justice has utterly failed to demonstrate that the operation of this legislation is presently necessary to the security of the people of this state ;

Resolves that the continuing operation of emergency legislation is not warranted;

Resolves that sections 2-12 and 14 and 17 of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 shall not continue in operation but instead shall be allowed to lapse;

Further calls on the Government to repeal in their entirety the Offences Against the State Acts 1939 ? 1998 at the earliest practicable date."

Submitted by:

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Seán Crowe TD, Martin Ferris TD, Arthur Morgan TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

24 June 2003

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Direct rule Minister Angela Smith has made it clear she is prepared to impose water charges on the people of the six counties - a decision that is opposed by the vast majority of people living here. Sinn Féin Councillor Davy Hyland said;

"Direct rule Minister Angela Smith has indicated she will introduce the imposition of Water Charges on households in the six counties in the very near future. This decision will adversely impact on low-income families who will be faced with a further estimated £400 annual bill. The vast majority of political parties and the local population have clearly stated their opposition to this new form of taxation. We already pay for water in our domestic rates bill and this new charge will amount to double taxation on people.

"It is clear that the final outcome of this thinking will be the complete privatisation of Water Services. Unfortunately this has been given impetus by the wider privatisation agenda implemented by Mark Durkan in his flawed Reform and Reinvestment Initiative, which was eagerly seized upon by the British Exchequer. The SDLP have once again failed to resist the British Treasury which is determined to impose water charges despite the strong local opposition voiced by Trades Unions, community groups and most political parties.

"It is estimated that as much as 250 million litres of water per day is lost through leakage throughout the system. We must certainly implement an extensive overall programme of repair and maintenance but this should not be done at the expense of the taxpayer who cannot hold the Minister to local accountability.

"Sinn Féin is totally opposed to the imposition of Water Charges and the privatisation agenda of the British Labour Party that has been facilitated by a succession of weak SDLP finance Ministers who were intent on promoting the RRI deal through the Assembly."ENDS

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Commenting on the decision of Jeffery Donaldson and other rejectionist unionist MPs to resign the UUP Whip at Westminster, Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"This is not about personalities. It about fundamental issues facing unionism at this time. It is about unionisms inability to deal with the changes which flow from the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It is about the no camp setting the agenda. David Trimble has allowed this to happen. The cancellation of today's planned meeting with the Taoiseach in Dublin shows clearly that Jeffery Donaldson is setting his agenda.

"If unionism proves incapable of managing the process of change then the two governments and the British government in particular must act to implement the Good Friday Agreement and hold elections to the Assembly." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this afternoon congratulated Cllr. Sean MacManus on his election as Mayor of Sligo for the second time in three years and said that it reflected the ongoing rise of the party across the island. This follows the election earlier today of Cllr. Pat O'Rawe as Chair of Armagh Council.

Mr. Adams said:

"The election this afternoon of Councillor Sean MacManus as Mayor of Sligo for the second time in three years is an endorsement of his last term in office and reflects the growth of Sinn Féin as a radical, campaigning alternative in politics.

"When last in office Seán MacManus led the way in highlighting the need for an all-Ireland solution to the structural discrimination of the West and North West. The need to develop an integrated regional development strategy to redress the legacy of neglect and under investment remains a key priority.

"Sinn Féin is the only all-Ireland party. Our commitment is to equality and inclusiveness and we are ready to work with others who share that commitment right across Ireland in our communities, on the streets and in elected office.

"All those within our party who have been elected as Mayors and Chairs will work on behalf of all of the people of their respective towns and cities. They will also lead the way in bringing about real social and economic change and to build for Irish unity."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Rural development Spokesperson, Armagh Councillor Pat O'Rawe added that the new emphasis must be put on making rural development policy work.

Cllr O'Rawe said:

"Rural development policy must become more open and accessible. Post 2006 there will be a vastly reduced budget for rural development. Modulation money top sliced from the overall agriculture budgets will be the main source of money for rural development. While modulation will increase from 3% to over 6%, Sinn Féin believe that this money must remain in the member state, and be match funded by the member state.

"In Europe we told Corrado Pirozi - Biroli that Rural development must be simplified and have local delivery mechanisms. Rural development must work for local people and by local people. The only way this will work is in adopting the LEADER model across Europe. This would take Rural Development away from the departments and reduce the money wasted in administration and mismanagement.

"We urge both governments to fully engage with the commission during any mid term review of Structural Funds, so they are focused upon rural communities who are going to be impacted by the economic effects of the CAP proposals." END

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, former Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh has said that what ever the final outcome of the negotiations around CAP reform this week that decoupling demands a radical shake up of how the agriculture departments - north and south - engage with the farming industry and rural communities.

Mr McHugh said:

"The key to successful CAP reform must be that the agriculture departments - North and South - commit themselves to eradicating red tape. The introduction of decoupling from 2006 will itself have an immediate impact in reducing red tape.

"We also need to see both departments working to maintain farming and rural communities. This means that they must listen. This means that from today we need a new culture of openness, accountability and accessibility. It means engaging not just at European level but also on the ground with farming and rural communities.

"Particularly in the South, the failure of Joe Walsh and the IFA to engage with Europe left our agriculture industry dangerously exposed. Thankfully the IFA has reassessed its' position and collectively we have forced Joe Walsh to wake up to the reality of decoupling. We need to build on that responsiveness."ENDS

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West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty, head of the party's national department of agriculture and rural development has urged Irish Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh and British direct rule agriculture Minster Ian Pearson to ensure that talks on CAP reform are concluded this week.

The Sinn Féin Vice President said:

"With the WTO talks in September and the 10 new countries joining the EU in October it is vital that the CAP talks are concluded this week. The uncertainty is not helping anyone in the farming industry - North or South - to start planning for the wholesale changes that will be brought about by the decoupling of farm payments from production.

"If we fail to break this link then there is a real danger that the USA together with South America and the Asia Pacific would create a trade barrier against the EU. However we have to recognise the need for the EU and all developed countries to deal on a fair basis with developing countries in the forthcoming WTO talks.

"The compromise towards partial decoupling is ill conceived. This means keeping large numbers of animals to maintain incomes through subsidies. This will result in maintaining current levels of production, prices being pushed down and no one earning a living, particularly on the smaller farms we have in Ireland.

"We need to wake up to the potential of decoupling. It will guarantee farmers a certain level of income, not fixed to levels of production and allow farmers to move to a more quality orientated product, involving less stock numbers, which in turn will reduce environmental impacts.

Here in Ireland, Joe Walsh is sitting on the fence. The Irish government was totally opposed to decoupling and everything in the proposals. Walsh maintained that decoupling would create an exodus. The IFA were totally opposed to decoupling. Both criticised Fischler and everything he proposed, crucially they never engaged with the EU or put their counter positions to the Commission until recently."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member and former Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey this afternoon delivered a keynote address to the annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare. Cllr. Maskey said:

Ireland's struggle for freedom has produced many heroes, men and women of enormous courage and self-sacrifice who were and are prepared to give everything in the cause of Irish freedom. Two hundred years ago in the late 18th century, fired by the example of the American and French revolutions, Irish Presbyterians and members of the Church of Ireland, stood side by side with their catholic neighbours seeking redress for the discrimination and injustices they endured. They included Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken, Mary Anne McCracken, and Robert Emmet - men and women, who embraced the concept of Irish independence and freedom from Britain, formed the Society of United Irishmen.

As we honour the men and women of 1798, let us also remember all of those republicans who in this and previous generations gave their lives for Irish freedom. They were ordinary men and women who in extraordinary and difficult circumstances found the inner strength, determination and courage to stand against injustice and oppression, and to demand the rights and entitlements of the Irish people. They had the vision to see beyond the conflict, beyond the centuries of occupation, and to embrace the republican spirit of Tone, of Emmet and Connolly, and to stand up for justice and equality. I also want to salute their families and to particularly welcome those who are with us here today.

There will be a united Ireland

Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our strategy is to achieve a united, independent Ireland and I am certain that we will succeed. Republicanism is about the people. It's about self-determination and democracy. Two concepts denied to the Irish people for many centuries by Britain's involvement in our affairs. Irish republicanism has a vision of a new society that is democratic. That is economic as well as political. A society, which is inclusive of all citizens. Our republicanism is about change and it's about empowering people to make that change.

That means each of us have to be agents of change. This is an enormous responsibility and challenge but it is a challenge that I believe this generation of Irish republicans will achieve. The people of this island have the right to be free, to live free from discrimination and inequality, without violence and conflict. Free to shape our own destiny - our own sovereignty. We have the right to be free from division, foreign occupation, and injustice.

Equality was my guiding principle as Mayor

The city of Belfast, the city where I was born and grew up, was the cradle of Irish republicanism in the eighteenth century. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the labour movement battled against the religious bigotry, which was used to divide workers and communities.

Today Belfast is better known for images of sectarianism. Interface violence and a concerted campaign against vulnerable nationalist communities was the context in which I became the first Sinn Féin Mayor in the history of my city and I was determined to tackle directly the sectarianism which divides our city.

Being Mayor of Belfast was both challenging and rewarding. During my tenure as Mayor I reached out to the Unionist section of our community and tried to show them that they have a place in the Ireland we are trying to build, a place that we want them to embrace and to shape. I also tried to show by example that the Republican ethos and ideals which Wolfe Tone fought for have a place in the new Ireland.

In this spirit I was proud to host an event in City Hall for the families of Belfast Sinn Féin activists and IRA Volunteers who lost their lives in the conflict. In doing this, I was able as the Mayor of Ireland's second city, to recognise the contribution and courage of these men and women and their families.

The unionist people of Belfast also opened their doors to me in a way many would have found unimaginable only a short time ago. I have to say I encountered little hostility. Indeed the contrary was the case, particularly when I made it clear that I wanted to confront the alienation and discrimination, which are still a part of daily life there, including in unionist and loyalist working class areas. The establishment has abandoned many of these areas to drug dealers and pushers and the criminal gangs.

Republicans are about changing all of that.

I believe that last year we made a difference in Belfast. I believe that Sinn Féin has set a standard that other parties will have to work hard to match. And I want to wish Anne Brolly, who is the new Chair of Limavady Council and the other incoming Sinn Féin Chairs and Mayors all the best for the coming year.

But for me and for Sinn Féin our efforts to reach out to unionists now enter a new phase, a new period of intensive activity. I have been given the responsibility within the party of organising this outreach work to the protestant and unionist people.

In recent years we have made significant progress in this area. Jim Gibney and Tom Hartley and others have been quietly engaging with Protestant Church leaders, meeting civic and business unionism, and seeking to break down the barriers that generations of institutionalised sectarianism and conflict have erected.

But now is the time to move up a gear. We have to build on the foundation already laid and we have to intensify this engagement to consolidate and build on the opportunities created by the peace process.

Let me be also clear building confidence and trust is a two way street. We cannot do this alone

I have to say that to date David Trimble‚s stewardship of the peace process has been a cause for concern. He has shown himself to be an increasingly reluctant participant in it. His victory over Jeffrey Donaldson last Monday night will only be a victory if it moves the peace process forward.

Peace Process can deliver real change

There is real concern and indeed fear that the political vacuum created by the British government‚s cancellation of the election and the indulgence of unionist intransigence will degenerate further over the summer. There is a strong feeling that republicans are being taken for granted and the heaviest burden put on our shoulders. But if we can look at all this as objectively as possible in the current circumstance we can see that we did anticipate the obstacles to freedom and justice and peace that would have to be overcome. And that it would be us who would have the most work to do in keeping it going.

For it is republicans who see what the success of the peace process can bring. It is us who want the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement because we have a vision for the future, of real peace, reconciliation, justice and equality. And it is we who see that the denial of these is what keeps the Six County state in existence. It is we who ensured that the all Ireland dimension was firmly entrenched in the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. We want it to work because we want to progress to a united, independent country.

Republicans will not settle only for what Britain is prepared to give, be it in policing, equality, cultural rights, identity. That is why people all over Ireland see Sinn Féin as an alternative and are voting Sinn Féin.

People know we will fight for their rights. And there will always be a heavy price for us to pay for that, not only in terms of the political work we must be prepared to do but also in the initiatives and risks we need to take to ensure that this process does not stagnate or unravel into failure.

Yeats, in his poem 1916 said „for the British may keep faith after all‰ knowing that they would not and that the republic had to be fought for. But knowing what history tells us, has to be seen as a strength in our negotiations. This peace process is our agenda. We were the architects of it. We initiated it. We have pushed it on. We must not now lose ownership of it. And we must not lose sight of the gains we have made and the benefits that the majority of people have got from it.

I know this is little comfort to the people of Larne or Ardoyne or the Short Strand. It‚s hard to see the big picture when bombs and stones are raining down on you and your children can‚t play in their own street.

But through the peace process we have exposed the poison of sectarianiam and more than that, courageously set about removing it. We have exposed collusion. We made Ireland an international concern. In spite of its problems, the Irish peace process is held up as an example to the world. We have done well. But it‚s not over yet.

The question is what next. Well for a start the British government has to stop allowing unionism to dictate the pace of change and stop encouraging rejectionism. I want to say to the British government here today in clear and unambiguous terms:

We demand the right to vote.

We demand that the elections are held immediately.

We demand our equality and human rights.

We demand that the Agreement is implemented.

And to the Irish government I want to say ˆ you must stand up and be counted. You must act on behalf of the Irish people and not allow yourself to be treated as a junior partner or as secondary in this.

You have a responsibility to defend the fundamental rights of all citizens in the north and to persuade the British government to normalise relationships between these islands on a basis of national sovereignty and international co-operation. Among the issues the Irish government must confront is the need for the truth about the involvement of the British state in the murder of its citizens.

Time for the Truth about State sanctioned murder

People here today didn‚t need a Stevens Report to tell you there is collusion. Many of you, like me, experienced it at first hand.

You know that for thirty years, British military intelligence and RUC Special Branch organised and directed loyalist paramilitary death squads, most notably the UDA, who were effectively given license to murder with impunity. And this was not the action of a few rogue officers passing on information, this was institutionalised collaboration and it led directly to the deaths of many people.

There is a paper trail of murder, and conspiracy to murder, from the streets of Belfast and Derry, Dublin and Monaghan, from the roads and lanes of Armagh, Tyrone and elsewhere, to 10 Downing Street.

Sinn Féin fully supports the inquiry demands of the Finucane, Nelson and Hamill families. We also support public inquiries into the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan and the killing of Seamas Ludlow and Cllr. Eddie Fullerton.

There needs to be full and proper disclosure on the British state‚s involvement in the killing and attempted killing of hundreds of citizens through collusion with their proxy groups in loyalist paramilitaries; collusion which continues to this day and must be ended.

Building an Ireland of equals

As we work to advance the peace process we also need to be conscious that the struggle to win a united Ireland cannot be separate from the struggle for the kind of united Ireland we want.

In the 26 counties today, 250,000 of our children are living in poverty. 54,000 of our families are on the housing waiting list. Over 35,000 of our people are on the hospital waiting list. Throughout Ireland 8,000 people die prematurely each year due to poverty and inequality and rural communities are suffering increasing neglect. Uniting this country without addressing the fundamental economic and social problems that cause such inequality and poverty is a completely futile exercise.

The United Irishmen wanted a free and independent Ireland, but they also wanted one where the Rights of Man could be vindicated and a country established based on what Tone called „the rock of this principle, the greatest happiness of the greatest number‰. The truth is that in Ireland today the greatest number are exploited, creating wealth for big business and foreign multinationals. Republicanism is about changing that, about empowering the people of Ireland to decide our own destiny.

This weekend European Union heads of government have been meeting in Greece where they were presented with a proposed draft Constitution for the EU. That draft, if adopted, would be a giant step in the ongoing project to transform the EU from a partnership of states into a single state. That is not a people's project. The demand for a single EU state, which would be another world power, does not come from the peoples of Europe.

Like Wolfe Tone, we are Europeans and we are internationalists. But like Tone we also value Irish sovereignty and independence and we say that the basis for democracy and the basis for peaceful co-operation and mutual respect between nations is the democratic nation-state. Sinn Féin believes that too much of our sovereignty has already been ceded to EU institutions.

These are the principles we will bring to the debate on the proposed new EU Constitution.

We value Irish neutrality and we want to deepen and develop positive neutrality and progressive foreign policy. Independent foreign policy and military neutrality were grossly violated by the Fianna Fáil/PD government when they facilitated the war on Iraq through allowing the US military to use Shannon Airport. To the FF/PD government and to the Fine Gael party, which wants to abandon Irish neutrality completely, we say "Not in our name." That was the

slogan also of the mass movement of Irish people, and the mass movement of people around the world, which we in Sinn Féin were proud to be a part of, and which opposed the war on Iraq. The people who came out on the streets in such numbers throughout the 32 Counties have pointed the way forward for Irish foreign policy.

We do not want to see another power bloc or another empire. Sinn Féin believes that the way to build international peace and security is through the United Nations, strengthened and reformed, and freed of the total domination of the big military and economic powers.

The Challenges we now face

We have much work to do in the year ahead. We have to build our political strength in the Assembly, Local Government and European elections and I know that the excellent all-Ireland co-operation within Sinn Féin, which demonstrated itself during the General Election will be repeated in the year ahead.

We need to forge alliances with like-minded people in Trade Unions, in the Community & Voluntary sector, in the streets and neighbourhoods of our towns and cities.

We have to increase our membership

We have to lead the campaign for radical social and economic change

We have to advance our strategy for Irish unity

For all this to happen we need to remain active. We have already made a good start. Sinn Féin is the engine for change in Ireland. Every day we grow stronger, each week sees new people joining the struggle. The struggle begun by Tone and Emmet continues today and the responsibility for carrying it on lies with you, with me, with all of us. It is a responsibility we will not shirk, a legacy we will fulfil. As Irish Republicans let us go forward to Irish unity and independence and to freedom, justice and peace for all our people.

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Sinn Féin Waterford Representative David Cullinane has labelled the decision of Health Minister Martin to overlook the Southeast Region for the location of a Radiotherapy Unit as a national scandal. He said it showed a complete lack of commitment from this government to advance and improve provision of health treatment in this state.

Mr. Cullinane said:

"This decision to overlook Waterford and the Southeast on Radiotherapy is a scandal. This week we saw the launch of a new health strategy which was nothing but a public relations stunt. It had nothing to do with abolishing the two-tier health system and offered nothing to people who are demanding provision of better health services. Minister Martin‚s health proposals are like Œrearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic‚ while at the same time sinking the hopes of so many people in Waterford on the issue of Radiotherapy.

"While people are not surprised at the latest announcement from this Minister, they are understandably angry and frustrated. It is my view that the people of Waterford must now unite behind a campaign to reverse this decision. The Waterford Trades Council has already led the way on this issue and I call on everybody in Waterford to fully support this important campaign. There is not a family in Waterford who is not affected by the scourge of Cancer. If we stand united and remain determined then we will succeed in forcing this Minister to reverse his decision and provide a Radiotherapy Unit at W.R.H.

"That this admission from Minister Martin on Radiotherapy came in the same week where the Waterford Port Authority confirmed that a private incinerator is being planed for the Southeast shows clearly the priorities of this government. The people of the Southeast are against incinerators yet are having one forced upon them and are demanding a Radiotherapy Unit yet are being ignored and treated with contempt. It is high time the people of Waterford treated this government and its representatives with the same contempt at the Ballot Box.

"Minister Martin Cullen said and I quote 'I stake my political reputation on the provision of a Radiotherapy Unit for Waterford.' Where does this now leave Minister Cullen. He must now speak out and deliver for Waterford but instead he has deserted his constituents and has remained silent. The people of Waterford deserve so much better then this. "ENDS

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Limavady Mayor Anne Brolly today announced details of two events she intends to take part in to commemorate the Battle of the Somme.

Cllr. Brolly said:

"I would like to outline what I, as Mayor of Limavady, intend doing with respect to the forthcoming commemoration of the battle of the Somme.

Before doing so let me say that in my term as Mayor I will try my best to represent all the people irrespective of their political allegiance.

My approach to all my official duties will be to include people rather than exclude and to be respectful to the beliefs and feelings of others. I have a responsibility as Mayor to try and bridge the divisions which exist in our society.

I intend to hold a reception for the British Legion in the Mayors parlour on Saturday afternoon. I am pleased to accept an invitation from the British Legion to attend their church service of remembrance on Sunday.

This I hope will be the start of an ongoing engagement and dialogue with the Legion. I would like to establish common ground with them about the nature of how we remember those killed, with particular reference to the remembrance day events in November.

This is a difficult issue for nationalists and republicans, a difficulty added to by the conflict here over the last thirty years in which the British forces have been involved.

I do not want any events which I am involved in to be marred by controversy or reduced to political point scoring exercises." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice-President and West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has hit out at the double standards of the British military and Policing establishment after the DUP's Peter Robinson was able to produce confidential PSNI reports in public without any fear of prosecution.

The West Tyrone MP said:

"On occasion after occasion members of the DUP are able to produce PSNI and British intelligence reports in public. The latest incident occurred only yesterday when Peter Robinson was able to produce a confidential PSNI report in relation to the killing of Billy Wright.

"Despite this repeated activity none of these people have ever been brought to book or challenged about their sources. If we compare this with the actions of the PSNI when they raided the Sinn Féin offices at Stormont with dozens of armoured Landrovers and armed PSNI officers, raids which I might add produced nothing.

"What is particularly worrying is that there are those within the DUP who have had links with members of Unionist death squads and have threatened the use of violence and yet there are able to obtain confidential PSNI and British army documents and use them without fear of prosecution."ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth Arthur Morgan will facilitate a press conference in Buswell's Hotel on Tuesday next (June 24th) for the Survivors of Symphysiotomy at 11am. Symphysiotomy was a procedure carried out on women instead of Caesarean sections in a number of hospitals throughout the State between the 1950s and 1980s. The procedure is no longer practiced in Ireland. It has led to a growing number of women suffering a range of disabilities including acute back-pain, difficulty walking, incontinence and depression.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy (S.O.S.) is a newly formed organisation representing victims of Symphysiotomy who have come together to demand answers to why they were subjected to this procedure without their consent and in many cases without their knowledge.

In Leinster House this week Sinn Féin called the practice "barbaric" and called on the Minister for Health to meet with the women and to agree to an inquiry into the practice. Deputy Morgan is also attempting to facilitate meetings between the women and the Health spokespersons of all the political parties in Leinster House.

What were Symphysiotomies:

A surgical procedure to effect an immediate dramatic increase in the size of the pelvic outlet to permit delivery of a baby. The cartilage of the symphysis pubis (where the pubic bones come together) is surgically divided in the procedure. Symphysiotomy was used to permanently widen the pelvis of women who might normally have required repeated Caesarean sections.

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