Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said today that the reality of the reckless Tory Brexit agenda is starting to hit home.
John O’Dowd said:
“The negotiations on Britain’s exit from the EU are underway. It’s clear that the reality of the reckless Tory Brexit agenda is starting to hit home fast.
“Theresa May and her government are walking away from the single market – the biggest trading bloc in the world.
“They are trying now to sell the idea of a preferential trade agreement and customs arrangement, which would be unique to only Britain and the EU.
“It's time they got real. It's time they realised they are negotiating with 27 other governments and members of the EU, who will defend their own national self interest and collective interests as a union and within the EU frameworks.
“Sinn Féin will continue to robustly defend the cross-community majority in the North who democratically voted to Remain.
“We will work with the other parties in the North who also campaigned to Remain, and the Irish Government who have a moral and legal duty to safeguard citizens in the North, their entitlements and also the political, institutional and constitutional framework within which the Good Friday Agreement is premised.
“The best solution is for the whole island of Ireland to remain within the EU, single market, customs union and common travel area together.
“This can be achieved through designated special status for the North within the EU, avoiding any economic border and retaining the free movement of people, goods and services.”
Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey said tonight that the DUP remains in denial about its association with a series of financial scandals and the arrogance and disrespect, which led to the collapse of the political institutions.
Alex Maskey was responding to comments made by DUP MLA Gordon Lyons.
Alex Maskey said:
“Sinn Féin wants an Ireland that is defined by hope, prosperity and opportunity for all citizens irrespective of their age, gender, religious persuasion, cultural identity, political affiliation, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.
“It will surprise no one that Sinn Féin as an Irish Republican party is calling on the leadership of Irish nationalism across this island to come together to plan for Irish unity.
“The DUP’s faux outrage at this fact demonstrates that the DUP remains in denial about its arrogance and disrespect which led to the collapse of the political institutions in the north.
“Sinn Féin is committed to getting the political institutions in the north back up and running on the basis of implementing previous agreements, an end to the series of financial scandals associated with the DUP in government and equality and respect for all.
“That requires an end to the DUP’s denial of rights, supported by the Tory government, such as marriage equality, language rights and the right to a coroner’s inquest, which are enjoyed by citizens everywhere else on these islands.
“The DUP/Tory deal has given the Tory government a blank cheque for further austerity cuts and a disastrous Brexit despite the people of the north voting to Remain in the EU.
“If the DUP wants to put Sinn Féin’s credentials to the test then it could engage immediately in talks to implement agreements and end its support for discrimination.”
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on rural affairs Declan McAleer has called for the full implementation of the Rural Needs Act to ensure equal access to services and opportunities for people living in rural areas.
Mr McAleer said “The Rural Needs Act, which became law in 2016 places a statutory duty on public authorities to have ‘due regard’ to rural needs when making policies and delivering services. It also places a duty on public authorities to compile information on the exercise of its functions under the Act and report this annually to DAERA.
“The Act was a recognition that there are particular challenges faced by rural communities in areas such as transport and accessing essential services. Indeed, the recently published EU Farm Structure Survey 2016 which revealed that almost a third of farmers are without internet access is further evidence that there are inequalities in rural areas.
“The Rural Needs Act was the culmination of years of hard work by rural stakeholders, the former DARD committee and the department under the leadership of the then Agriculture Minister Michelle O Neill. The passing of this act made the north the first region of Europe to enshrine rural proofing in law.
“There are approximately 40 public authorities listed on the Rural Needs Act, including all government departments and the 11 district councils across the north. These bodies have had the past year to get themselves prepared for the Act which came into operation on 1st June 2017.
“Given the critical importance of the Rural Needs Act to the future and well-being of an estimated 670,000 people who live in rural communities across the north, I have written to all of the public authorities listed on the Act for a progress update on what they have been doing to implement the act in their respective organisation.
“While I am under no illusion that the Rural Needs Act will address all of the structural inequalities that have existed for generations in rural areas, my colleagues and I in Sinn Féin feel very strongly that the Rural Needs Act, if robustly implemented, will go a long way to address the issues and challenges faced by rural dwellers.
“The Act has the potential to create a more fair and equitable rural society and underlines Sinn Féin’s commitment to safeguarding the rights of rural citizens."
Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson and North Belfast MLA Caral Ni Chuilin said today that the party will oppose plans for a retail only development of for the Hillview site in North Belfast.
Carál Ní Chuilín said:
“The proposal for the Hillview site on the Crumlin Road fails to address the multiple needs of this community and we are firmly opposed to it for that reason and have lodged a formal objection to the developer's plans.
“Sinn Fein along with other parties, local residents, housing campaigners and local traders have publicly voiced our objections to this plan for a retail only development at the 17-acre Hillview site.
“In our view this is a prime opportunity for a mixed development in an area where available land is at an absolute premium.
“Therefore we have written to the Housing Executive requesting that they use their vesting powers to bring the site into public usage.
“We have demonstrated what is possible at the Girdwood complex and Hillview should also be used to tackle the needs of local people including social homes on the site.
“This is an area ranking high on deprivation indices and public bodies have a duty to invest in communities and not leave development of a site like this to the private sector alone.
“We don’t need car show rooms and fast food outlets at Hillview we need accessible amenities, community facilities and local people living there.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean.
Martina Anderson said:
"Untold numbers of men, women and children have died as they try to cross the Mediterranean fleeing war and persecution in their home countries.
"Rescue agencies and others have carried out tremendous work in order to save the lives of refugees who attempt to make the crossing but now their efforts are being jeopardised by an increasingly militarised approach adopted by the Libyan coast guard.
"Just this week, Doctors Without Border has suspended its rescue operations in the region after aggression from the Libyan Coast Guard.
"What we need to see is a humanitarian approach rather than a militaristic one in order to prevent further loss of life.
"The EU and others need to focus on saving lives and reject any increased militarisation in the Mediterranean."
Sinn Féin TD and junior spokesperson on Housing Dessie Ellis has welcomed Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy’s commitment to tackling the number of derelict properties present at this time of abject crisis in housing.
Deputy Ellis highlighted the work that his party colleague Eoin ó Broin TD has done in highlighting the issue and also the policy document which Deputy Ó Broin recently published.
The Dublin North-West TD said:
“Sinn Féin’s ‘Vacant Homes’ policy was published in June 2017 and called upon the government to take an ambitious approach to dealing with vacant homes.
“A key recommendation was the hiring of dedicated vacant homes officers within local authorities and asking them to engage owners to encourage them to return their homes to use. These officers should build up a vacant homes register and be working to a vacant homes plan.
“The Minister appears to have adopted this recommendation and this practical step is to be welcomed if it is implemented in practice.
“However, the government is not doing enough to keep families in their homes in the first place. A comprehensive vacant homes plan is but one measure that is required.
“Sinn Féin has long argued that rent certainty should be introduced. Until this is achieved, the rent pressure zone legislation should be extended to the entire state.
“In step with this, the government must significantly ramp up its real social housing delivery targets in line with the cross-party Housing and Homelessness Committee report, which stated that government should be delivering 10,000 real social housing units per year via local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies.
“While this renewed focus on vacant homes is welcome, it is only one facet of a much more complex problem.”
Note: Please see attached the ‘Vacant Homes’ policy document.
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Sport Imelda Munster TD has today described the Moran Report into ticketing matters at the Rio Olympics as “a half-baked attempt” at establishing the truth.
Last August Deputy Munster called on Minister Shane Ross to consult with members of the Oireachtas Committee on Tourism and Sport in deciding the terms of reference of the inquiry.
After the arrest of Mr Pat Hickey, Deputy Munster called for a statutory inquiry with powers to compel witnesses.
This approach was rejected, and Minister Ross pushed ahead without consulting Members of Transport Committee to establish a non-statutory inquiry into the events at Rio.
Deputy Munster said:
“It is little wonder that Justice Moran was frustrated by the remit of his inquiry.
"This inquiry had no powers of compellability, and did not receive cooperation from the International Olympic Committee, from Mr Hickey, from the Rio Organising Committee and others.
"This is a ludicrous situation and it meant that Justice Moran had to conduct his inquiries with one hand tied behind his back.”
In his report, Justice Moran has found that there were serious problems with the manner in which the OCI dealt with athletes, their families, coaches and supporters. He also described Pro10 as being “unfit for purpose” as an Authorised Ticket Reseller.
Families of athletes were unable to obtain tickets in Ireland, and there were issues regarding accreditation for the games which meant that some Irish athletes had to travel to their events by public transport.
While Justice Moran did not identify any evidence of criminal activity, Deputy Munster said that this was unsurprising, given the lack of cooperation from many of the main players involved in the matter.
Deputy Munster said:
“This time last year, when issues were raised by myself and others regarding the difficulties posed for the inquiry by virtue of it being non-statutory, Minister Ross was confident that all relevant parties would engage with the inquiry.
"As predicted by many at the time of the establishment of the inquiry, this has not happened. It is frustrating the we have wasted almost a year, and a large sum of taxpayers money on this inquiry with essentially no result.
“At a Committee meeting last year, Minister Shane Ross gave a commitment to reexamine the matter if the Moran inquiry was not fruitful.
"Minister Ross needs to state publicly whether he is truly satisfied that this non-statutory, half-baked inquiry has delivered the answers.
“I am calling on Minister Shane Ross to clarify matters, particularly the next step he intends to take given the serious issues faced by the Moran inquiry.”
More must be done to drive down the level of agriculture crime here, Sinn Féin MLA Ian Milne has said.The Mid Ulster Assembly member was speaking following the latest report showing that rural crime cost £2.5 million across the North last year. "Although there has been a substantial 15% drop in rural crime on the previous year, there can be no room for complacency as this is a phenomenon which is on the increase in other regions,” Ian Milne said. "The report from NFU Mutual also makes clear that the costs to individual farms are huge given the increasing expense of farming equipment. “This is in turn feeding a growing fear of crime within the farming community and the fact that many farmers are resorting to costly security measures in order to try and protect their properties. "The farming community and the agriculture economy play a central role in our society and the PSNI need to ensure that every possible measure is taken to ensure they are adequately protected." ENDS/CRIOCH
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane TD said today that the proposals for a customs border on the island of Ireland are unworkable, bad for the economy, and not compatible with the Good Friday Agreement.
Deputy Cullinane said:
“It is clear that the British Tory party are in disarray over Brexit. They have no plan, no solutions for Brexit, only slogans.
“The latest leak and briefings demonstrate that they are prepared to impose an EU Frontier across Ireland and are prepared to play fast and loose with our economy and peace agreements.
“This is a non-runner.
“The notion of a frictionless technological border has been dismissed as nonsense and impossible to deliver.
“What is clear is that Tories are prepared to use Ireland as collateral damage in their negotiations with the EU.
“What we need is a real solution that works for our economy, our communities, and delivers for all Ireland.
“The Irish Government needs to stand up for the interests of all those on the island of Ireland and argue for designated special status for the north within the EU, in line with the recent vote in the Dáil on special status and the recommendation of the Select Committee on the Good Friday Agreement.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD has welcomed the GAA’s plan that seeks to tackle people profiteering from ticket touting.
Teachta Quinlivan said;
“Ticket touting is continuing to plague world of entertainment and sport right across Ireland. It is unacceptable that tickets are being sold at multiple times their face value. I welcome the GAA’s move to tackle ticket touting, which is exploiting genuine fans, forcing them to pay extortionate prices to see their teams play.
“The GAA have confirmed that dozens of tickets that are being sold online for a profit have been cancelled, and it is likely many more tickets will be cancelled before the next game.
“My legislation, The Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017 seeks to outright ban ticket touting and ensure that ordinary people who need to re-sell their tickets for genuine reasons would be facilitated.
“The sale of tickets above a 10% cap would not be allowed, with those found to be in breach of the legislation facing a €5,000 fine.
“While the legislation is progressing through the Oireachtas, political parties need to show unity on this issue if it is ever to be resolved. The move by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to kick this Bill into touch for nine months shows serious double standards on their part.
“The only thing delaying this legislation is political brinkmanship. Fine Gael’s Noel Rock wants the credit for tackling ticket touting but his legislation is weaker than mine and far less advanced in the legislative process.
“If we can put aside the petty political squabbling then this issue can be sorted early in the new term with agreement from government to allow time for my legislation to proceed.
"It does not matter whose name is on the Bill, just so long as it deals with the issue at hand.
“Sinn Féin has the solution to tackle ticket touting, and in supporting our legislation Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will be welcomed."
Mayo Senator Rose Conway Walsh welcomed a large crowd of people to Ballina today for the 2017 National Hunger Strike Commemoration.
People from all parts of Ireland gathered in Ballina to mark the 36th Anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike in which ten young men died in H-Blocks of Long Kesh.
The Commemoration also marked the sacrifice of Mayo Hunger Strikers Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg, who died in English prisons in the 1970s, as well as that of another Mayo man Seán ‘Jack’ McNeela and Tony D’arcy from Co. Galway, both of whom died on Hunger Strike in 1940.
Rose Conway Walsh said:
“We are deeply honoured to welcome, to Mayo, the Families of those who have died on Hunger Strike down through the decades.
“It is because of your sacrifices and your endurance that I, and hundreds of thousands like me, continue our struggle for Irish freedom and the reunification of our country.
“We can never truly repay the debt of gratitude owed to you and your loved ones but together we will work to make their vision a reality.
“Today, we remember ár cara mór agus comrádaí Martin McGuinness.
“Martin, with Uachtarain Shinn Féin, Gerry Adams and others who are here today led us on the pathway to peace.
“I gcomhair an rud seo, táimid an búioch.
“I want to thank Bernie and the McGuinness Family for lending us Martin for all those years.
“We miss him greatly and will continue to work to honour his memory by striving to deliver a 32 county republic based on equality, fairness and opportunity for all.
“Today we remember an deichniúr fear óg who died in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh in 1981 – Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee and Mickey Devine.
“On this the anniversary week of internment we welcome all political prisoners especially the women of Ard Mhacha who fought against attempts to criminalise the struggle for a free and united Ireland.
“This afternoon we proudly ‘take it home to Mayo’ as we remember our three Mayo Hunger Strikers, Jack McNeela who died with his friend Tony D’Arcy from Galway in 1940, Michael Gaughan from Ballina who died in 1974 and Frank Stagg from Hollymount who died in 1976.
“Like all of the political prisoners they did not go on hunger strike to die.
“These young men went on hunger strike because their bodies and minds were the only weapons available to them against the criminalization of the struggle for Irish Freedom and Unity.
“So today we gather her to commemorate, reflect and respect.”
Now is the time to deliver Irish unity – Kelly
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has called on the leaders of the SDLP, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to put aside narrow party political interests and stand with Sinn Féin to plan for and deliver Irish unity.
Gerry Kelly was speaking today at the annual commemoration of the 1981 Hunger Strike, which was held in Ballina, Co Mayo.
Gerry Kelly said:
“Irish unity is now firmly on the political agenda.
“Sinn Féin wants an Ireland that is defined by hope, prosperity and opportunity for all citizens irrespective of their age, gender, religious persuasion, cultural identity, political affiliation, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.
“A new, agreed and United Ireland, upholding, protecting and respecting the rights of ALL citizens. That entails upholding the rights of citizens to be British and Unionist.
“I challenge the leaders of the SDLP, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil to stop hiding behind the mantra of now is not the time to discuss unity. One hundred years on since 1916, as we face into Brexit, now is the time not only to discuss unity, but to plan and deliver Irish Unity.
“So Leo, Colm and Micheal this is the time put aside your narrow party political interests, the time for national leadership, the time to stand together to plan and deliver Irish unity.
“That is the project that can define the coming political era.
“Sinn Féin is willing to stand with all those in favour of unity.”
Gerry Kelly also paid tribute to the late Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness and said that the sacrifice of the 1981 hunger strikers and two IRA hunger strikers Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg who died in English jails had helped make Irish Republicanism stronger than ever.
“These heroic hunger strikers of our generation inspired not only fellow Irishmen and women but freedom loving people the world over.
“Today as a result of the efforts of these republicans there is a peaceful and democratic path to a United Ireland. The 1981 hunger strike led to a widening of the structures of struggle for a United Ireland, which facilitated the strengthening of Republicanism to a point where we are stronger now than we have ever been in our history.”
The North Belfast MLA said the political institutions in the north should be re-established. He said:
“We want the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement re-instated but on the basis of equality, mutual respect and integrity.
“The present talks, now stalled, are about implementing agreements already made. That is basic to a power-sharing Executive and Assembly.
“The right to an Irish Language Act; The right to have a loving relationship recognised in a Marriage Equality Act; the right of families to a coroner’s inquest into the killing of a loved-one; the right to be free from sectarian harassment; the right to have a Bill of Rights.
“These are not unreasonable asks for people living in the North of Ireland and especially when they are rights everywhere else in Ireland and Britain.” ENDS/CRÍOCH
Full text of Gerry Kelly’s speech at the National Hunger Strike Commemoration in Ballina, Co Mayo 13th August 2017
A chairde agus a chomrádaithe,
I am very honoured to speak at this National Hunger Strike Commemoration, especially to address you all here, in Co Mayo, home to Sean McNeela, Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg: All three hunger strikers and patriots are buried in this historic cemetery.
It is in itself a great testimony to what Co Mayo has sacrificed in the fight for Irish freedom across the generations.
I would like to welcome the families of our fallen comrades who gave their lives for the freedom and independence of our country. I am acutely aware that when I speak of loss and grief that it is most deeply felt by those who knew and loved them personally.
The 1981 Hunger Strike in which 10 Irish Republican Political Prisoners sacrificed their lives came at the end of years of harrowing prison protest by the women and men in Armagh Jail and the Long Kesh H Blocks, supported by tens of thousands of people protesting on the streets of Ireland and internationally.
It is recognised as a hugely significant political watershed in our struggle, by friend and foe alike.
The history of hunger striking dates back to pre- Christian times in Ireland. Those who lacked power would fast in order to bring attention to an injustice done to them by powerful people when there was no other avenue to justice. It was basically saying to the wider community ‘I will prove my integrity and honesty in my commitment to go without food until death – if necessary’. People intrinsically understood how profoundly difficult such a sacrifice would be and could witness that commitment and integrity over a prolonged period of fast.
A hundred years ago Tom Ashe brought this to a much more significant political level by fasting against the British Government demand on him to wear prison clothing or do penal work. Essentially to criminalise him, his comrades and the struggle for freedom. He and his fellow hunger strikers, placed the value of their lives in support of their just demands to be treated as political prisoners. He was the first Hunger Striker to die and became the inspiration for political hunger strikers since.
Yet it is important to say that no Irish political prisoners who pitted themselves against the might of a British government in this way, wanted to die. Neither were they naïve in such a David and Goliath battle.
We will celebrate the life and death of Thomas Ashe on his centenary next month but it is worth noting that he was imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail and died as a result of force feeding just five days into his hunger strike. His death and the huge public reaction to it forced the British government to stop the brutal practice in Ireland. To my knowledge force-feeding has never been used on Republicans in any jail on the island of Ireland since.
When the British Government decided 56 years later to use force-feeding against political prisoners in English jails it was Michael Gaughan’s death, which brought an end to its use in Britain.
By the time Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg went on hunger strike in 1974 there had been a large number of deaths of Irish Republican prisoners, after Tom Ashe, including Seán McNeela’s comrade Tony D’Arcy
The hunger strike in Crumlin Road Jail by Republican prisoners, just two years before Michael’s death, had achieved political status for Irish Republican prisoners in the North of Ireland.
The hunger strike, which we embarked upon in jails in England after sentencing in 1973, was for transfer to jails in the North of Ireland to be treated the same as our comrades there.
The Price sisters, Michael Gaughan, Frank Stagg, myself and others were on that hunger strike.
Michael, like Thomas Ashe, died not of starvation but of force-feeding. He died on the 3rd June 1974. His friend Frank Stagg was given commitments by the British administration. They later reneged on them forcing Frank on to a number of hunger strikes which culminated in his death on 12th February 1976.
While I, and other comrades, were on hunger strike at the same time as Michael and Frank I never met either man as the prison authorities made sure to separate and isolate protesting prisoners in English jails.
When the 1981 Hunger Strike began Bobby Sands knew the odds were stacked against him.
But as our late great friend, comrade and leader Martin McGuinness said of the hunger strike:
“The 1981 hunger strike destroyed Britain’s strategy to criminalise the IRA and the republican struggle.
“Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee and Mickey Devine were not defeated or broken. Neither was Frank Stagg or Michael Gaughan. And neither will our struggle and our political strategy.
“They proudly take their place alongside Pearse, Connolly, Clarke and the rest of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation – they were the history makers of our generation. They are the people who have set the moral compass for the rest of us to aspire to.
“That is their legacy – just as The Proclamation set out a vision, which continues to inspire so too did the Hunger Strikers.”
These heroic hunger strikers of our generation inspired not only fellow Irishmen and women but freedom loving people the world over.
However, I think it is also important to state about our courageous comrades, that they were ordinary people like any of us standing here today. They had family and friends who they loved and who loved them back. What bonded them together as comrades, as revolutionaries, was a profound love of Ireland and its people.
What made these ordinary men so extraordinary, was that they had a vision of a New Ireland based on freedom and equality. They rose to the challenge of that vision, despite the fact that they might have to forfeit their own lives. They led from the front.
If courage was the measure of success then Ireland would have had her freedom many generations before now. Volunteers in the IRA knew that our opponents and enemies had to be faced up to in every single sphere of life.
Whether it was by being in the civil rights movement or fighting against discrimination in housing or unemployment; or fighting for and learning the Irish language or protecting our culture, or creating jobs or building communities or dealing with social problems.
The activists we are remembering here today were proud republican volunteers who took up arms against a massive military machine when there was no other option. But they were not war mongers.
These same activists had the courage and commitment to embark on the passive protest, which is Hunger Strike. They risked their lives and sacrificed themselves for others.
Today as a result of the efforts of these republicans there is a peaceful and democratic path to a United Ireland. The 1981 hunger strike led to a widening of the structures of struggle for a United Ireland, which facilitated the strengthening of Republicanism to a point where we are stronger now than we have ever been in our history.
Sinn Féin is a party born in struggle with our membership and elected representatives coming from the communities most under the strain of the deep economic austerity policies driven by Conservative governments in London and Dublin. We understand the needs of people trying to survive in their daily lives. That understanding and connection with our community is the bedrock of our politics.
For Sinn Féin, standing against the cuts affecting the most vulnerable in our society and standing up for equality, will be the battlefield in the time ahead.
We want the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement re-instated but on the basis of equality, mutual respect and integrity. The present talks, now stalled, are about implementing agreements already made. That is basic to a power-sharing Executive and Assembly.
The right to an Irish Language Act; The right to have a loving relationship recognised in a Marriage Equality Act; the right of families to a coroner’s inquest into the killing of a loved-one; the right to be free from sectarian harassment; the right to have a Bill of Rights:
These are not unreasonable asks for people living in the North of Ireland and especially when they are rights everywhere else in Ireland and Britain.
Our vision does not start or stop at the border. Unlike the nationalist parties of old, unlike the SDLP, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. We do not stand idly by.
Our job as republicans is to build a republic as a fitting tribute to all those who came before us, those who stood beside us and for generations to come.
This state is not the republic envisaged by the patriots of 1798, 1916 or 1981.
Irish unity is now on the political agenda.
Sinn Féin wants an Ireland that is defined by hope, prosperity and opportunity for all citizens irrespective of their age, religious persuasion, cultural identity, political affiliation, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.
A new, agreed and United Ireland, upholding, protecting and respecting the rights of ALL citizens. That entails upholding the rights of citizens to be British and Unionist.
I would challenge the leaders of the SDLP, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil to stop hiding behind the mantra of now is not the time to discuss unity. 100 years on since 1916, as we face into Brexit. Now is the time not only to discuss unity, but to plan and deliver Irish Unity.
So Leo, Colm and Micheal this is the time put aside your narrow party political interests, the time for national leadership, the time to stand together to plan and deliver Irish unity.
That is the project that can define the coming political era.
Sinn Féin is willing to stand with all those in favour of unity.
There is much work to do. But we believe that a united Ireland is possible. That a united Ireland is achievable and that a United Ireland is in the best interest of all our people. We believe that together we can make huge progress and truly transform society on this island forever.
There is no short cut to a United Ireland. We have to prepare for it and that’s exactly what we have been doing and continue to do North and South, East and West.
Irish politics is undergoing its biggest shake-up since partition. We are at the core of that change. This is about you, your family, your hopes and your ambitions.
It’s about taking your country’s future into your own hands. Your opportunity to decide on our future.
It’s time as a nation to believe in ourselves. If not us, then who? If not now, then when.
We are now in a phase of nation building. What Connolly called “the re-conquest of Ireland by the Irish people” that requires building the political clout to bring about fundamental change.
Let us send out this political message. Not only have we not gone away but we are getting stronger by the day.
One of the reasons I refer to our fallen heroes as ‘ordinary’ men and women who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances is so that you all here today, especially the young, can recognise your own potential in the challenges we face now and into the future.
I would like to finish by returning to the very personal loss and grief of loved ones of our fallen patriots.
On Bobby Sands’ death I went to my cell and tried to write down my feelings at the loss of such a comrade. After coming back to it many times I realised that I was actually thinking of his mother’s pain, when she had to announce her son’s last moments to the world outside his cell. So I wrote this short poem:
You do not know me
I saw you only
On a television screen
When, so reluctantly, you announced
‘My son is dying
Standing with such dignity and pain
In a deep well of grief
I felt an intruder
To your private torment
Witness to a mother’s
For allowing us to share
Your precious final moments
With a great man.
A Chairde agus a Chomradaithe,
Bigí Cinnte go dtiocfaidh ar lá."
West Belfast MP Paul Maskey told the March for Truth rally organised by the relatives of the victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre that Sinn Féin will continue to stand by the families and all those victims of state violence who are campaigning for truth.
Paul Maskey said:
“Despite numerous reports highlighting the extent of collusion between British state forces and loyalist murder gangs, the British are attempting to deny the truth that everyone knows.
“The frustration at continued cover-up by the British state recently found expression in the High Courts.
“Justice Stephens called on the PSNI to provide information to the courts in compliance with court orders after years of delaying tactics.
“And Justice Treacy recently called for an overarching inquiry into the activities of the infamous Glenanne Gang, which included members of the UDR and RUC and which murdered around 130 people, including the Dublin Monaghan bombings which claimed 33 lives in 1974.
“The British government has abjectly failed to deal with the legacy of the past and the role of its forces and agents in numerous murders of citizens.
“Time and again we have seen this from Ballymurphy to Loughinisland to Springhill.
“But we will not let them rewrite history. Sinn Féin is committed to standing by relatives of victims of state violence and ensuring the mechanisms on dealing with the past in the Stormont House and other agreements are implemented fully.
“The refusal to implement these agreements is unacceptable.
“The British government's attitude has emboldened the DUP to refuse to implement these agreements, adding to the hurt and suffering of families, many of whom, like the Ballymurphy families, have been waiting more than four decades for the truth about what happened to their loved ones.
“That wait is not acceptable and unfortunately many people have gone to their graves waiting for the truth.
“Next month the full inquests will begin into the Ballymurphy massacre will begin as a result of the unflagging determination of the families.
“Hopefully this will be a step further on the long road to justice.
“Sinn Féin will continue to stand by the Ballymurphy families and all those victims of state violence who are campaigning for truth.” ENDS/CRÍOCH
Full text of Paul Maskey’s speech to the Ballymurphy March for Truth Sunday 13 August 2017
"It's an honour and a privilege to be asked to give this talk tonight in support of the Ballymurphy families in their long campaign for truth and justice.
I'd like to commend the families for the dignified way in which they have conducted their campaign over many years, despite the many challenges they have faced and the hurt and grief they are still experiencing at the loss of their loved ones.
It's been 46 years since eleven innocent people were murdered by the British parachute regiment in Ballymurphy but the passage of time has not diminished the hurt felt by the families at this horrendous outrage, which has been made all the worse by the British government's refusal to address it.
Sinn Féin has been standing with the families for many years, assisting them in their campaign for justice and challenging the British government on their behalf.
I have travelled with the families to Westminster to directly challenge the British government, I have been with them at Downing Street and at the British Ministry of Defence and in Dublin when we were putting pressure on the Irish government to challenge the British to fulfil their obligations to the Ballymurphy families.
I have lobbied British Labour MPs on behalf of the families and brought a number over to visit Ballymurphy to see at first hand where the massacre was carried out.
Earlier this year I travelled to London with the families when they served letters on British Prime Minister Theresa May and the British Ministry of Defence.
For 46 years the British establishment has let down the Ballymurphy families and tried to brush what happened under the carpet.
They want it to go away and be forgotten about. But we will never forget the eleven people brutally murdered in Ballymurphy in 1971. We will continue to stand by the families and campaign with them until they get the truth and justice they deserve.
The families have received support from all over the world as a result of their tireless campaigning, which has brought them to Brussels, Washington, London, and Dublin.
For many years they campaigned alongside the Bloody Sunday families as they too challenged the British government over the massacre carried out by the same parachute regiment, which left 14 people dead on the streets of the Bogside.
They watched as the Bloody Sunday families got the long awaited inquiry they deserved in the hope that they too would get the same access to the truth about the killings of their loved ones.
They celebrated with the Bloody Sunday families when the findings of the Saville Inquiry were published and still stand with the families as they continue their campaign, just as the Bloody Sunday families have stood with the people of Ballymurphy.
But, unlike Bloody Sunday, the British government is refusing to address what its forces did in Ballymurphy.
Earlier this year the families challenged British secretary of state James Brokenshire over his government's failures and they refused to accept his blandishments and walked out of the meeting, showing him they will not be walked over by the British government.
The treatment of the Ballymurphy families is typical of the British government's approach to dealing with the legacy of the past.
It is trying to ignore the past and is actively trying to frustrate the efforts of families like the Ballymurphy families, and many other victims of state violence.
Despite numerous reports highlighting the extent of collusion between British state forces and loyalist murder gangs, the British are attempting to deny the truth that everyone knows.
The frustration at continued cover-up recently found expression in the High Courts.
Justice Stephens called on the PSNI to provide information to the courts in compliance with court orders after years of delaying tactics.
And Justice Treacy recently called for an overarching inquiry into the activities of the infamous Glenanne Gang, which included members of the UDR and RUC and which murdered around 130 people, including the Dublin Monaghan bombings which claimed 33 lives in 1974.
The British government has abjectly failed to deal with the legacy of the past and the role of its forces and agents in numerous murders of citizens.
Time and again we have seen this from Ballymurphy to Loughinisland to Springhill.
But we will not let them rewrite history. Sinn Féin is committed to standing by relatives of victims of state violence and ensuring the mechanisms on dealing with the past in the Stormont House and other agreements are implemented fully.
The refusal to implement these agreements is unacceptable.
The British government's attitude has emboldened the DUP to refuse to implement these agreements, adding to the hurt and suffering of families, many of whom, like the Ballymurphy families, have been waiting more than four decades for the truth about what happened to their loved ones.
That wait is not acceptable and unfortunately many people have gone to their graves waiting for the truth.
It is long past the time the British government ended its policy of frustrating the families and revealed the truth.
Next month the full inquests will begin into the Ballymurphy massacre will begin as a result of the unflagging determination of the families.
Hopefully this will be a step further on the long road to justice.
Sinn Féin will continue to stand by the Ballymurphy families and all those victims of state violence who are campaigning for truth.
Each year that passes adds insult to the injury the Ballymurphy families suffered. But I want to reassure the families that they have our continuing support and will have as they continue their campaign."
Speaking ahead of this weekends Tullamore Show, a renowned agricultural show which attracts 64,000 visitors on average every year, Sinn Fein Rural Affairs spokesperson Carol Nolan has expressed concern over the lack of consideration given to Rural communities.
Deputy Nolan has called on the government to enact the Rural Equality Bill which was introduced in the Dail by Sinn Fein recently.
Teacha Nolan said;
“The aim of this bill is to ensure that all public bodies and agencies consider the impact of proposed measures or policies on Rural Ireland prior to their implementation.
“In the past, we have seen too many policies and measures implemented that did not reflect the realities or needs of rural communities.
“It is evident that rural communities the length and breadth of this state have been abandoned, disadvantaged and treated as second class by successive governments that lacked vision, political will and who have all shown contempt for Rural Ireland.”
Deputy Nolan stated that this was unacceptable and called on the government to commit to ensuring that citizens in rural communities are treated fairly and that they have access to basic, vital services such as post offices and banks.
“We also need a stronger Garda presence in communities in order to combat the scourge of rural crime and vital infrastructure such as broadband and roads must be improved in order to aid the prospects of much needed job creation which would rejuvenate the local economy of our towns and villages throughout rural Ireland.
“This government must step up to the mark and deliver for rural Ireland. We don't need any more empty, token gestures - we need action.”
Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA, Declan Kearney has condemned a rogue 9th August bonfire as being anti-community, anti-republican, and against the expressed wishes of the local community.
Mr Kearney said:
“The so called anti-interment bonfire held in the Rathenraw Industrial Estate in Antrim had nothing whatsoever to do with the legacy of internment. It was anti-republican, and did not celebrate any aspect of Irish national identity or cultural traditions.
“The individuals responsible for this rogue bonfire were environmental vandals masquerading as republicans. Their unwanted behaviour was a disgraceful exploitation of internment's legacy in this society, which resulted in the incarceration without trial of hundreds, including men from this area; as well as those who were tortured and also killed due to the associated British Army operation.
“Despite a clear rejection of this rogue bonfire by residents in the nearby Rathenraw estate, the antisocial element responsible went ahead with their act of wanton vandalism. While this bonfire may have been hurriedly thrown together and burned within a 12 hour period, the associated anti-social behaviour was inexcusable.
“I also consider the simultaneous erection of Irish national flags in the Rathenraw estate, and at the entrance to the new Ballyveigh housing development to be a disgrace. This recreational abuse and misuse of the national flag is an insult to the Irish national identity and republicanism. These flags, along with all other inappropriate and provocative flag displays in Antrim town should be removed immediately.”
Sinn Féin's Oliver McMullan met today with the PSNI to discuss ongoing loyalist criminality in the Larne area.
Oliver McMullan said:
"I met today with senior PSNI officers in Larne to discuss the ongoing criminality from loyalist groups in the Larne area.
"I made it clear to the PSNI that people in the area are living in fear of these loyalist criminal gangs and that action is needed.
"The meeting was positive and they assured me that patrols would be stepped up and action taken against these gangs.
"I will continue to meet with the PSNI in the time ahead to ensure that progress is made so that communities can live in peace."
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said north-south co-operation is an integral part of the Good Friday Agreement and cannot be sacrificed as a result of Brexit.
Speaking at a Brexit discussion event during the Gasyard Féile, Martina Anderson said:
"North-south co-operation is central to the Good Friday Agreement, an internationally binding agreement endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland.
"The suggestion from the British Brexit secretary David Davis in a letter to the House of Lords that north-south economic co-operation should be separated from the Good Friday Agreement for the Brexit talks is unacceptable.
"North-south co-operation is integral to the Agreement and cannot be separated from it.
"It is clear that the British government regard the north of Ireland as merely a pawn in their Brexit negotiations and are in fact playing with the lives of the people north and south.
"The Good Friday Agreement cannot be case aside by the Tories in these negotiations; it must be protected in all of its parts and the best way to do that is for the north to secure designated special status within the EU."
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has condemned the placing of posters on a bonfire in Derry as a hate crime.
The Foyle MP said:
"The placing of posters in support of Derry man Tony Taylor, who is currently imprisoned, on a loyalist bonfire in Derry is wrong and should be treated as a hate crime.
"The appearance of these posters on a bonfire in the Nelson Drive area of the city has been reported to the PSNI.
"No posters or flags should be burned on bonfires in this way.
"I would call on those in positions of leadership in communities to act to bring an end to this activity."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Denise Mitchell TD, has called on the Government to commit to lowering the voting age to 16.
Speaking on the eve of the United Nations' International Youth Day, Deputy Mitchell said:
“This Government frequently speaks about the need to include the voices of young people in decisions which will affect their future. One very practical way they can do this is by giving a clear commitment to supporting the Bill brought to the Seanad by Sinn Féin's Fintan Warfield and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, and Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, which would reduce the voting age to 16 for Local and European elections.
“Four years ago the Constitutional Convention recommended that the State should consider lowering the voting age to 16. The Fine Gael and Labour Government of the time accepted this recommendation and committed to holding that referendum. But since then there has been no action on this issue.
“If this Government is serious about listening to young people, then it must act. Extending the political franchise to sixteen and seventeen year-olds will only serve to strengthen the political process and ensure that these citizens have a say in shaping their future.”