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No alternative to dialogue and agreement , says McGuinness in major statement on 20th anniversary of IRA cessation

Delivering a keynote address in Derry on Sunday morning on the 20th anniversary of the IRA announcing “a complete cessation of military operations”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said there is a real threat to the political institutions in the North from political stagnation and the absence of progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in a keynote statement today has warned that the “political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.”


Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin councillor Mary Clarke has described an incident in which a 35 year-old man was stabbed in north Belfast as disturbing. 

Speaking after the attack in the early hours of Thursday morning, the Oldpark councillor said; 

"This stabbing in the early hours of Thursday mooring in the Brookhill area of north Belfast is disturbing. 

"The 35 year-old victim was also robbed during this violent incident. 

"Residents have raised concerns over street lighting in the area and we have written to the DRD minister urging prompt action to address the problem. 

"I'm appealing to anyone with information about this incident to come forward and for people in the area to be vigilant."

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Speaking today in the Seanad on the Freedom of Information Bill 2013 Second Stage, Senator Kathryn Reilly said that legislation falls far short of what was promised.

Senator Reilly said:

“Freedom of Information legislation gives people a right to access information about the way public institutions are governed, and the way taxpayers’ money is spent. Access to this should be based on need and public interest, not on an ability to pay. That’s why the scrapping of Freedom of Information fees is crucial for better governance.

“Much in the Bill is to be welcomed. The reduction of the period of exemption of cabinet papers and the extension of FOI to a new layer of public bodies significantly funded by the state were needed reversals. But the Minister originally committed to restore the FOI legislation to what it was prior to Fianna Fáil gutting out the FOI legislation in 2003. He hasn't done this. Instead of scrapping FOI fees, he has simply introduced a new fees regime.

“Open data advocate Gavin Sheridan has testified that this state is one of just three countries that charge upfront fees for access to information where FOI or similar legislation is in place. And amazingly, we are the only country in the whole of the EU to do so.

“The British Commons Justice Committee recognised that FOI fees set at a level high enough to recoup costs would deter requests with a strong public interest and would defeat the purposes of the legislation, whilst fees introduced for commercial and media organisations could be circumvented.

“TASC estimated in 2010 based on figures provided by the Government that the cost of FOIs to the state was 0.012 per cent of overall expenditure. This is hardly too a high price to pay for stronger democratic oversight. Freedom to information on how public institutions are governed, and how taxpayers’ money is spent, should be accessed easily by the people who pay those taxes.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD and Vice President Mary Lou McDonald will be in Tallaght this afternoon with the party’s by-election candidate Councillor Cathal King. They will be meeting with groups in Dominic’s Community Centre and the Tallaght Rehabilitation Project and canvassing in Glenshane.

Speaking in advance of the visit Gerry Adams said:

“This election is a choice between the politics of the past – of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour - and the politics of the future - an alternative based on fairness, equality and Irish unity being put forward by Sinn Féin.

“In the recent local elections Sinn Féin became the biggest party in Dublin South West, returning six councillors. We were central to ensuring that a progressive political alliance was once again put in place on South Dublin County Council. We have shown by example that there is a real alternative which can deliver for the people of this community.

“As a Sinn Féin TD, Cathal will be part of a strong and growing party in the Dáil voting against austerity budgets, committed to the abolition of water charges and the property tax and to defending public services and the political and peace process in the North.

“The mood for change in Dublin is as prevalent now as it was in the local and European elections. I believe that the election of Cathal King in this by-election could be just as pivotal as the election of Pearse Doherty in Donegal South West in November 2010.

“Earlier this year the people of Dublin South West came out in their thousands and supported Sinn Féin’s agenda for change. Over the next three weeks we are asking the people to help us to continue to make the change by voting Sinn Féin and electing Cathal King as a TD for Dublin South West.”

ENDS

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Speaking during Questions to the Minister for Defence, Sinn Féin Defence Spokesperson, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD, asked if the UNDOF mission in the Golan Heights is still viable and if Irish troops will be withdrawn from serving on this mission given that the Golan Heights is now a conflict zone in Syria's civil war.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said;

“The purpose of setting up the UNDOF in 1974 was to patrol and monitor the strip between Syria and Israel but it has been increasingly caught up in Syria’s civil war, with rebel groups attacking UN bases and kidnapping peacekeepers.

“It is clear the Golan Heights has become a full conflict zone in this civil war. This is especially worrying for Irish troops as the EU has allowed its members to become active in this civil war.

“Sinn Féin was against this deployment from the beginning because we felt the lifting of the EU arms embargo on Syria robbed Irish troops of their neutrality in the Syrian conflict, which had already seen foreign peacekeepers come under fire. For Sinn Féin the safety of Irish Defence Force troops is the most important thing in this context and we strongly feel they should be withdrawn.

"Sinn Féin continues to call for the withdrawal of Irish troops and at the very least a full review of the UN Mission and its mandate".

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Sinn Féin's Councillor Daithí Doolan has congratulated residents for preventing water meters being installed in Drimnagh and Bluebell.

Speaking in Drimnagh, Doolan said:

"I have to congratulate the residents of Drimnagh and Bluebell for successfully resisting the installation of water meters today. Local people came out this morning and peacefully protested and the company installing the meters simply packed up and left. It was a real show of people power. I have no doubt Sierra will be back tomorrow but we residents have given a commitment to resisting the meters every step of the way.

"While the protests were very good humoured, the message was serious. People do not want water meters and will continue to campaign against water charges. People fully understand that we all pay for water in our taxes and this double tax must be resisted. The establishment of Irish Water has been a political disaster for the government. People genuinely feel this is a tax too far. Those on low incomes will be hardest hit by the charges and it will take more money out of local economies that are already struggling.

"Sinn Féin actively opposes water charges and we will continue to work with communities and campaign groups to ensure water charges are scrapped. Today has given the campaign a big boost in the run up to the national anti-water charges march on October 11th."

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Speaking after it has emerged that clarification was secured last night, which removes the criteria of collective agreement to apply for the GLAS scheme, Sinn Féin MEP for Midlands North West Matt Carthy said:

“Firstly I wish to commend the thousands of farmers who campaigned so strongly on this issue. The fact that the terms of the scheme appear to now have been changed is testament to the strength of the grassroots campaign organised by farmers across the country. It also undermines the arguments of those who claimed that the scheme could not be changed at this stage.

“From the outset many farmers, supported by Sinn Féin, argued that the criteria of collective agreement for inclusion in the GLAS scheme were unworkable and discriminatory against commonage farmers.

“I welcome the fact that Department officials have finally taken these concerns on board and are now taking steps to address them.

“While the terms and details of the implications of the new arrangements require further clarification, I very much welcome the indication that the lack of a collective agreement among commonage farmers is not a prerequisite to hill farmers applying to the GLAS scheme as a move in the right direction.

“However, it does appear that a mechanism will be put in place where less than 50% of farmers on a commonage who apply individually will be referred to the Commonage Implementation Committee for consideration and implementation.

“I am calling on the Minister for Agriculture to immediately clarify the new arrangements in relation to the inclusion of hill farmers in the GLAS scheme and to make a firm commitment that commonage farmers will not be discriminated against in accessing payments under the scheme.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan took part yesterday in the first meeting of the Single Seat Steering Group at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The Group is campaigning for the right of the European Parliament to choose to sit in a single location.

Speaking after the meeting, Lynn Boylan elaborated on the absurdity of the current setup of the EU institutions.

She said:

“The European Parliament is currently split between the cities of Brussels and Strasbourg. Despite the wishes of the vast majority of representatives, past European treaties prevent the Parliament from being settled in a single location”

“Every month the European Parliament effectively makes a 409Km trip to sit for 4 days in Strasbourg before returning to Brussels for the remainder of the month.

“This 818Km monthly round trip comes at great expense to taxpayers and the environment. Maintaining the existence of the parliament in two locations costs taxpayers€180 million annually. The EU has also recently spent €600 million on its new buildings in Strasbourg which will lie empty 317 days a year. These extravagant costs could be put to much better use funding some of the most deprived areas of Europe

“On top of that 19,000 tonnes of CO2 are created each month through the process of moving thousands of people to and from Strasbourg. This exercise negates any efforts on the part of the EU to become Eco-friendly.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Defence, Padraig Mac Lochlainn TD has expressed his disappointment with the confirmation that the Government will continue to purchase military hardware from Israeli companies.

Speaking from Leinster House, following his questioning of Minister Coveney, Deputy MacLochlainn said:

“I believe that Minister Coveney’s response today along with the recent decision of the Government to abstain on a UN vote calling for an investigation into war crimes during the recent onslaught on Gaza, demonstrates our state’s subservience to NATO member states within the EU dilutes our potential to follow a policy of positive neutrality.

“Ireland could be leaders in conflict resolution and the promotion of human rights globally but we’re losing our ability to do this due to our increasing alignment to NATO policy”

“Minister Coveney’s explanation, that his Department cannot preclude Israeli companies from tendering for military contracts, fails to consider that Ireland should be to the forefront of creating an arms embargo on Israel.

“This would send a clear and unequivocal message to Israel that Ireland stands on the side of the abused, the colonised, and the oppressed. We should not only speak out against human rights abuses and international law violations but we will also act when they are committed, no matter what geo-political and powerful actors are involved.”

ENDS

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West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer has welcomed the fact that nearly 3500 young farmers have enrolled for the Level 2 course required for entrance to the Young Farmers Scheme (YFS).

 Speaking after officials confirmed the numbers at the Agriculture Committee Mr McAleer said, 

 “Due to the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy the Young Farmers Scheme offers an added incentive of a 25% top up to the single farm payment to young farmers.

 “In order to qualify the farmer must be under 40 during the full calendar year and be in a controlling position in the farm business.

 “While the scheme will run for the foreseeable future funding is not finite so I would encourage young farmers to contact CAFRE for details of getting on the Young Farmers Scheme.

 “The introduction of the Young Farmer Scheme combined with other substantial schemes such as farm improvement and the transition towards an equal rate has encouraged many young people into farming. 

 “This is good news for the industry and evidence that young people are seeing agriculture as a serious career option.” 

Videos

Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


Photos

Mary Lou McDonald and Cathal King