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Sinn Féin budget supports fair and sustainable recovery - Pearse Doherty

Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget would repair communities, rebuild the economy and renew society. The budget lays out how Sinn Fein would abolish the local property tax and water charges and our programme for investing in disability services, health and education.

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2015 here



“The DUP are vocal about the consequences of not implementing these Tory cuts but remain silent on the impact of these cuts which would take hundreds of millions of pounds out of the pockets of the most vulnerable and least able to pay.  These cuts would plunge more children into poverty and take money from hard-pressed working families, people on benefits and from people with disabilities." - Daithí McKay



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has criticised the environment minister for supporting a controversial levy on hauliers crossing the border. 

Speaking after the environment committee voted to introduce a levy on hauliers crossing the border and a financial penalty for non-compliance, the West Tyrone MLA said; 

"The Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Levy, which was imposed by Westminster and now backed by the environment minister, is a barrier to north/south mobility and trade. 

"This legislation does not take into account the particular circumstances of the island of Ireland. 

"It penalises hauliers from the 26 counties who come to do business in the North. 

"I and my Sinn Féin colleagues on the environment committee voted against the introduction of this unfair legislation. It was disappointing to see SDLP MLAs backing legislation which is in violation of the spirit of north/south co-operation. 

"We will now be faced with the situation where hauliers will face border patrols, enforced and implemented by Mark H Durkan's department. 

"The development of the all-Ireland economy is key to our growing the economy across the island. 

"We should be seeking to remove barriers to assist the all-Ireland economy, not adding more. 

"We will be using the legislative process to prevent this unfair and unnecessary legislation being passed by the Assembly." 

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Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn TD has said reports of continued abuse of the penalty points system are alarming and worrying.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn has called on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to convene a meeting of the Criminal Justice Working Group with representatives from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Transport, An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and the Road Safety Authority to ensure that all of the recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate report are fully implemented.

Speaking today he said;

“The reports that some senior gardaí continue to abuse the penalty points system are alarming and worrying.

“Over recent years, there cannot be a single member of the An Garda Síochána that is not aware of the serious allegations from Sgt Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson now vindicated by two investigations by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Garda Inspectorate.

“The Garda Inspectorate made a series of solid recommendations in their report, ‘The Fixed Charge Processing System - A 21st Century Strategy’.

“Of particular relevance is that all petitions for cancellation should be handled centrally by the Fixed Charge Processing Office in Thurles and that that office should be the only cancellation authority.

“It also recommended that any petitions for cancellation should be supported by factual third party evidence and refused if not.

“The latest reports suggest that those recommendations have not been implemented across the Garda Districts and throughout the organisation.

“Sinn Féin is calling on the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald to immediately convene a meeting of the Criminal Justice Working Group with representatives from the Department of Justice and Equality, the Department of Transport, An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and the Road Safety Authority, as proposed by the Garda Inspectorate, to ensure that all of the above recommendations are fully implemented as soon as possible.

“The public must be assured once and for all that there is not one rule for some and another rule for the rest of us when it comes to the penalty point system. Public confidence must be established.”

ENDS

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Responding to confirmation from An Garda Síochana that the fire that devastated Newtowncunningham Orange Hall in County Donegal was an arson attack local Sinn Féin TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn described it as an attack on the entire community.

Speaking after inspecting the damage at the hall with members of the local Orange and Protestant community Deputy Mac Lochlainn said;

“Those responsible for this attack represent nobody but themselves.

“Anybody with any information relating to this incident should bring it immediately to An Garda Síochana.

“I sincerely hope that those responsible will be brought to justice.

“I also want to convey the solidarity of the entire community in Donegal with the minority Protestant community at this time. I have no doubt that that community will unite together and rebuild the hall.”

ENDS

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Speaking today, after he signed a Book of Condolences for the late Ian Paisley at Belfast City Hall, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD said:

"I am here today to acknowledge Ian Paisley's worthy contribution to the peace process and to sympathise with his family.

"Many families who suffered the worst excesses of sectarianism may take issue with this, but Ian Paisley is due recognition for reaching agreement with Irish republicans on a peaceful future for all of our people and for the way he fulfilled his role as First Minister, alongside Martin McGuinness.

"Together they proved that politics can work and that unionists and republicans working together could make political progress and overcome significant political difficulties.

"Ian Paisley's legacy is a huge challenge for all politicians here and in particular for his successors within the leadership of unionism to continue with political progress and peace building.

"At this sad time I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Ian's wife Eileen and to all of the Paisley family."

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Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Board member Caitríona Ruane has withdrawn from the panel to recruit a new PSNI deputy chief constable and called for a fresh recruitment process.

The Policing Board member said;

"I removed myself from the panel for selection of a deputy chief constable because I believe that the process may have been compromised.

"In light of the need for absolute transparency in all public appointments and to protect the Policing Board's integrity I believe the best course of action would be to begin a new recruitment process." 

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Sinn Féin Councillor Steven Corr has stated that he is disappointed at an incident which broke out between two football teams at the 3G pitch at Whiterock leisure centre at the weekend but has emphasised that the facilities will remain welcoming to the wide range of organisations that utilise them on a weekly basis. 

Speaking today Cllr Corr said: 

"There was an incident at the Whiterock Leisure Centre at the weekend when a fight broke out between two football teams not from that area, who were using the facilities, which is disappointing. 

"It is too early yet to discern whether it was sectarian and we will await both the club officials and the referees reports to the league in the coming days however one thing is sure and that is any such violent incidents for whatever reason mar the image of the sport.

"I have to commend members of Cumann Spoirt an Phobail who were to play a match later in the day who intevened to calm the situation.

"These facilites are used by a wide range of organisations from across the community and are welcoming spaces and we will continue to work to ensure that this remains the case."

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has welcomed the launch of a new programme to promote the North West Health Innovation Corridor. 

Speaking ahead of the launch at C-TRIC in Derry, Ms Anderson said; 

"The North West Health Innovation Corridor was launched in May 2013 by the President go the 

Massachusetts State Senate, Therese Murray, and since then has gained a growing international reputation  for excellence. 

"This new programme will involve collaboration between the University of Massachusetts, the University of Ulster, Letterkenny Institute of Technology and the Clinical Transitional Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC) in Derry. 

"It will provide the opportunity for start-up health innovation companies in Derry to travel to Boston each month to learn from the US market and will also allow companies for Boston to come to the north west. 

"The launch of this programme is the latest investment in this process, which began as a result of trade missions I led to Boston with the co-operation of Senator Murray. 

"And I'd like to congratulate Senator Murray on receiving the Tip O'Neill Award, which was presented by President Michael D Higgins at the weekend. 

"This is a further strengthening of the relationship between Derry and Boston and I am sure that will continue with many more collaborative initiatives as the health innovation corridor develops further.

"All of this will help us realise our goal of bringing about improvements and innovations in health and social well-being." 

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Speaking at the Desmond Greaves Summer School in Dublin this morning, Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney said; 

The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998 represented a framework of principles and political structures that helped embed conflict resolution and the fledgling Irish Peace Process. 

It opened a democratic road forward and established the political process to resolve the circumstances that had perpetuated the conflict on the island, and particularly in the north.

The political and civic structures proposed by the GFA were architecture to entrench and manage the process of democratic change, which was required in the 6 counties.

It was not a republican document, but it did include mechanisms and political dynamics to support the achievement of a national democracy on the island; and made specific provision for a Border Poll in that regard.

It was a political compromise between opponents, and conferred an absolute responsibility on both the British and Irish governments to ensure its implementation as a binding international agreement.

Its historic and strategic significance was in recognising that the status quo had failed Irish society, and that shaping the future would depend upon the management of change through democratic compromise and agreement.

That is why the GFA constituted a watershed with regard to the practice of political relations on the island, and between Ireland and Britain.

Nothing could or would ever remain the same.

The GFA concretised the Irish Peace Process and made it irreversible.

While the DUP orchestrated opposition to the Agreement and its implementation, mixed messages were issued by the UUP.

Neither the Peace Process nor the phase of politics begun by the GFA was positively embraced by political unionism.

Constructive leadership was not demonstrated by these parties within their own constituency.

Compromise and change were presented in zero sum terms.

Indeed many within the broader popular unionist section of the community who did speak out in favour were publicly criticised, or ostracised.

From the outset political unionism failed to unanimously and unequivocally support the GFA principles and process, and significant sections have remained deeply hostile to power sharing and partnership government with republicans, and particularly Sinn Féin ever since.

Despite all of that the Peace Process moved forward; demilitarisation occurred on all sides; prisoner releases were agreed; a new beginning to policing and reform of the justice system were taken forward; the new political institutions began to function in tandem with all-Ireland bodies; and, equality legislation and the equality agenda became mainstreamed.

In time the late Ian Paisley led the DUP into government, to share joint office with Sinn Féin.

Yet critical fault lines remained, specifically in the failure to deal with the legacy of the past; secure parity of esteem; mutual respect; eradicate sectarian attitudes and behaviour, and sectarian segregation; and the promotion of a reconciliation process. All of these issues, and others, have combined to challenge the political process.

The continued failure and opposition to tackle these realities was forcefully illustrated with the refusal by political unionism to accept the Haass compromise proposals last January; and more recently when the unionist parties staged a walkout from a new round of talks to deal with the Haass agenda in protest at the Parades Commission decision on the Orange march at Ardoyne.

Instead political unionism has been emboldened in their intransigence towards these issues by the British Government’s refusal to endorse the Haass package.

And this current political deadlock has been compounded by the failure of both the Irish and British Governments to implement core elements of the GFA itself, and subsequent agreements made at Weston Park, St Andrew’s, and Hillsborough Castle.

The consequence has been that the political process has remained constantly fragile throughout. 

In turn the potential for developing authentic reconciliation has been undermined and held back.

Both governments have stepped back from their responsibilities as co-guarantors of the GFA.

The Irish Government has been passive and semi-detached.

Since Cameron’s Conservative Party took power four years ago this British Government’s Irish policy has become markedly pro-unionist, and increasingly resembles the explicitly partisan nature of John Major’s government policy in the mid-1990s.

During the last two years political instability in the north has intensified due to the primacy of bad leadership in unionism. An unfolding crisis within political unionism; has been exacerbated by sectarian electoral competition and cooperation among unionist politicians and paramilitaries.

The current situation stems back to the marching season of 2012, the subsequent street disturbances orchestrated by unionist paramilitaries from the UVF and UDA that summer and autumn, and then the refusal of the DUP and UUP to respect the democratic decision of Belfast City Council to compromise on flying the union flag.

That led directly to months of street violence, and attacks on the Alliance Party, Catholic homes, the PSNI, and threats against Sinn Féin members.

Later in August 2013 Peter Robinson reneged on the Programme for Government decision to develop the Maze/Long Kesh site. His announcement was made in a letter sent to DUP members from his summer holiday in Florida.  He made no contact with Martin McGuinness.

That approach has increasingly defined the nature of DUP participation in the political institutions, within the Executive, and oFM/dFM. 

A renewed toxic, sectarian incivility has infected the political atmosphere of the Assembly itself.

The DUP and UUP may well have bought into the political institutions in terms of electoral influence, salaries, and status, but that does not extend to embracing a genuine willingness to share power with republicans, support for real partnership government, the development of north/south cooperation, mutual respect, parity of esteem, or reconciliation.

The contemporary agenda of unionism has been set by Orange and unionist extremists. Political unionism has shifted to the right, adopted a strategy of political blockage, and acquiesced in the face of escalating sectarianism and growing racism across the 6 counties.

All this has inevitably undermined the credibility of the Executive and Assembly, and fettered the potential of these institutions to work as delivery mechanisms for sufficient economic and social change.

Since the May elections all sections of political unionism, including the explicitly anti-Agreement TUV, and those parties linked to the UDA and UVF, have formed a pan-unionist coalition, ostensibly to oppose the Parades Commission, and its decision on the Ardoyne Orange march.  They also want generalised non-regulation of Orange parades.

An anti-Good Friday Agreement axis now exists within unionism, aimed at subverting the GFA, principles and process. 

This anti-Agreement axis is against equality, democratic compromise, and management of continued change in northern society.  Its agenda is to turn back the clock.

There is a right wing retreat by political unionism into old Orange State ideology.  

It is being driven by a significant minority of extremists. 

Let me spell out what that means. This includes key members of the DUP’s officer team, and individuals in that party’s Assembly and Westminster groups; the TUV; UKIP; and other figures in the Orange Order, and UVF and UDA.

The ascendancy of this anti-Agreement axis, the pro-unionist position of the NIO, and refusal of the British Government to fulfil its commitments, now constitute the most serious threat to the viability of the political institutions.

As a result power sharing and partnership government are being directly undermined.

All the indications suggest the DUP leadership is resigned to ‘free-wheeling’ into a crash of the political institutions because they cannot have things their own way, and are in thrall to the most negative sections of the party.

Peter Robinson’s call for a new negotiation is code for the removal of the safeguards and protections enshrined by the GFA, and other Agreements.

The attempt to explain away what is happening as a disagreement over welfare cuts is preposterous.

The leadership and political resolve clearly does not exist within political unionism to face down the extremists, and make power sharing or partnership government work.

So the default position has become stasis, and to try and turn the clock backwards.

In the last six months, the DUP leadership has already threatened to bring down the institutions over ‘On The Runs’; the Parades Commission decision to restrict Orange marches at Ardoyne in July; and, over Welfare cuts.

However, the recklessness and irresponsibility of the political unionist leaderships are being encouraged by the failure of the British Government to intervene and stop the growing political stasis. 

It has repeatedly shown its willingness to capitulate, and unwillingness to stand up to unionist threats and intransigence. 

More of that was recently evidenced in Theresa Villiers’ speech at the British-Irish Association last weekend.

And when Charlie Flanagan, in his Sunday Independent interview sought to caricature the northern impasse as a failure by parties to deliver basic services, he completely ignores the reality that the democratic core of the Good Friday Agreement is now being hollowed out by an energised anti-Agreement axis.

The existing political impasse contains all the potential to develop into a full crisis.  It is being deepened by the hands-off attitude of both the British and Irish Governments towards the unfinished business of the GFA, Weston Park, and the St. Andrews and Hillsborough Castle agreements.

Despite the narrative of the British and Irish governments the north is not a settled issue.

The fact is the political process is now in serious trouble.

This reality is further compounded by Theresa Villiers’ consideration of a new concession to unionist demands for an inquiry into the Parades Commission decision on Ardoyne, and the British Government’s draconian welfare cuts against the working poor and most vulnerable.

To repeat, welfare cuts is a line, which Sinn Féin will not cross, because it is a denial of social justice, and is bad economics. 

Progressive, democratic and labour opinion should oppose the introduction of this Thatcherite agenda by the Conservatives, and now supported by all shades of political unionism.

However, I do not believe the lurch to the right by the unionist parties is representative of wider unionist and Protestant opinion.

There is a correlation between this and political unionism’s decision to support welfare cuts and abandon any defence of the social and economic needs of the disadvantaged citizens these parties purport to represent.

So, the political landscape of the north is being defined by not only by a polarisation between pro and anti-Agreement positions, but a stark ideological division on socio economic issues, and the role of government to protect those least able to look after themselves.

Contrary to the stated purpose of Peter Robinson’s intervention there is no evidence that the British Government, the NIO, or political unionism is open to a serious process of negotiation on all the critical and outstanding issues.

Indeed we should allow that this is simply an extension of the time buying exercise, which the DUP used to get them through the European election campaign.  A remarkably similar scenario is now shaping up with the Westminster elections set for next May.

If this downward political spiral continues the new cycle of elections will fuel the extremes in unionism and Orangeism.

In that context the probability grows this deep impasse will lead to a serious political vacuum. That is why Gerry Adams said that the political process now faces its greatest challenge since the GFA negotiations in 1998.

A carnival of reaction is underway against the ongoing change begun by the GFA. Its purpose is to minimise change, and then maximise the delay for change happening. 

That must not be allowed to succeed.

The present political situation challenges everyone who aspires to political stability, progress, reconciliation, and supports the GFA, and other agreements.

Widespread disappointment exists towards the political institutions.  There is real concern about the political instability, and fear in relation to the upsurge in sectarianism, and racism.

The current political situation is now both untenable and unsustainable. 

In this context there’s an imperative on all strands of national, democratic and progressive opinion north and south to mobilise in support of a pro-Agreement axis.

Defending the integrity of the GFA principles and process should be a cross-party, cross-community, non-sectarian and democratic objective.

The Irish and British Governments, with diplomatic support from the US administration must become focussed upon that. 

An immediate tri-lateral intervention should be taken by the three governments to restore political stability in the process, open new negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues, and address the need for an economic reconstruction plan

These are the foundations essential for the development of reconciliation.

Make no mistake about the approach required. 

It is the political model and momentum originally used to facilitate the GFA negotiations, and subsequent agreements, which must be urgently redeployed. 

There is no alternative to that approach.

Any approach to negotiations, which starts in reverse, or seeks to narrow and reduce the talks’ agenda, or panders to threats and preconditions will fail.

If political unionism is unwilling to engage positively in new talks based upon acceptance of GFA principles, then the required momentum must be applied by the Irish and British Governments to ensure that all outstanding commitments are finally implemented; and, that political structures are in set place to entrench the gains of the peace and political processes to date.

This much is clear. New negotiations are now both essential and inevitable.

But it is not for political unionism to set or dictate the terms or conditions and scope of a new talks process on the basis of what it wants.

That will not be happening. 

The GFA was borne out of engagement and dialogue, and that has been the catalyst for this phase of the Irish peace process.

Sixteen years on, the focus of the next phase must be the development of reconciliation.

Despite the recriminations, there is widespread acceptance of the need for reconciliation and healing. That too will require widespread engagement and dialogue to ensure that past political failure is not recycled and passed on to the next generation.

There is no alternative to, or any avoidance of the need for engagement, dialogue, and visionary leadership.

That is the legacy of the GFA today and will be the key to creating an agreed, multi-cultural, united Ireland.

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Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy will speak about his recent visit to Palestine when he delivers the annual Brian Keenan lecture in the Ti Chulainn Centre, Mullaghbawn on Friday, September 26. 

The MEP has recently returned from a four-day visit to Palestine as part of a Eropean Parliament delegation led by party colleague, Martina Anderson MEP. 

Mr Carthy said; 

"It is a great privilige to speak at the annual lecture and I look forward to sharing my experiences of the recent visit.

 "The delegation included my  fellow Sinn Féin MEPs Martina Anderson and Lynn Boylan as well as a further ten MEP’s from six countries. 

"On our trip to the West Bank and Jerusalem I was struck by the apartheid system that the Israeli government has employed.  

"The Palestinian people are living under a regressive occupation and it is up to the international community to support them.  The very fact that Israel denied our delegation access into Gaza shows their disregard for international diplomacy.  

The Israeli regime believes it is above the law and this has to be highlighted and challenged."

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