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The Government has rolled back on pre-election and Programme for Government commitments to provide for mandatory trade union recognition according to the Sinn Féin workers’ rights spokesperson Senator David Cullinane.

The Waterford Senator was responding to comments made by Minister Richard Bruton in the Seanad.

Senator Cullinane said:

“Clear commitments were given by the previous government during the course of the Lisbon treaty debates that a right to collective bargaining would be provided for. Clear commitments were given by the Labour party before the last general election that legislating for a right collective bargaining was a priority for them. Indeed a clear commitment was made in the Programme for Government that they would ‘reform the current law on employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining, so as to ensure compliance by the State with recent judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.’

“This evening Richard Bruton told us that it is not the Government’s intention to introduce a mandatory requirement upon employers to recognise Trade Unions for Collective bargaining purposes. Furthermore he has ruled out including the right to collective bargaining in the programme of topics to be considered by the Constitutional Convention.

“This is a clear row back on previous commitments to provide a right to collective bargaining. A right cannot in reality be considered an effective right if it cannot be vindicated. What value is a right to collective bargaining if the employer is not also obligated by that right to recognise the trade union and their right to bargain? What Minister Bruton is talking about here is not a right to collective bargaining, but a legislative framework to merely encourage employees and employers to engage in collective bargaining, rather than obliging them. This is not what workers and trade unions were promised.

“We are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the 1913 lockout, one of the most momentous and significant industrial disputes in Irish history. It would be a disgrace if we were to reach that anniversary with no effective right to trade union recognition.

“I call on the Government to explain Minister Bruton’s comments, and to clarify whether or not they intend to provide for such a right to collective bargaining.”

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Rural Affairs Martin Ferris TD has called on the government to implement the proposals from the Turf Cutters Association regarding turbary rights prior to the threatened April 1 ban being imposed. The Kerry North/Limerick West TD was speaking during a debate on a private members motion opposing the outright ban on turf cutting on raised bogs.

Deputy Ferris said:

“One of the keys to all of this and indeed to other issues of concern in rural communities is the reality that faceless bureaucrats, often not even resident in or familiar with any part of this country, are laying down decrees with regard to important issues.

“One of the points which has been made by the Kerry turf cutters and the national association is that the state had refused to engage with them despite the fact that they have come up with detailed and imaginative proposals which they believe form the basis of a solution taking into account the various concerns and interests.”

Deputy Ferris welcomed Minister Deenihan’s initial welcome for the proposals but called on him to implement them in full.

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The Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said that the second Greek bailout programme is destined to fail because it is based on the same failed policies of austerity as the first bailout.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The problems in Greece, and indeed in Portugal, Ireland and Spain, are not just domestic in origin. They are a consequence of policy failures at both the domestic and European levels.

“This means that responsibility for the crisis must be born at both the domestic and European levels.

“Unfortunately the approach of the European Union, and particularly the European Central Bank, has been to punish the Greek people for failures which the ECB is also partly responsible for.

“Such an approach is not only unfair, but is destined to fail.

“The deal that we are effectively being asked to endorse here tonight will mean more hardship for ordinary Greek citizens; more unemployment; more poverty; more assaults on the income and living standards of those already unable to cope with the cost of the first bailout.

“We are told that this is the necessary price that must be paid to fix the broken Greek economy, that this is the harsh medicine required to cure the sick Greek patient. Unfortunately even a cursory examination of the bailout programme demonstrates that this isn’t the case.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on youth affairs Senator Kathryn Reilly has said that this government is failing miserably to deal with the issue of youth unemployment.

Senator Reilly raised the issue of emigration in the Seanad today.

Reilly was speaking in a debate on the government’s “Jobs Action Plan” in the Seanad where she challenged Jobs Minister Richard Bruton to say how the government is responding to the jobs crisis among our young people.

Senator Reilly said:

“Minister Bruton had a chance today to state how this government is going to deal specifically with the issue of youth unemployment which is standing at as high as 30% but he failed to do so.

“I challenged the Minster today to set out how he will reduce the numbers of our young people who are unemployed and to set out how this government is going to tackle the related issue of emigration.

“On top of this I asked the Minister what ideas the government brought to the table when the EU’s “action team” on youth unemployment was here last week.

“Again, no answer was forthcoming. Sinn Féin has and will continue to put practical and realistic ideas on the table on how tackle youth unemployment. We have put forward proposals such as assessing each individual unemployed young person and setting out a plan to get them back to work. We have also proposed making more CE schemes available specifically to young people.

“This government seems to have no interest when it comes to the issue of youth unemployment.

“Sinn Féin will continue to prioritise getting young people into work and offering them the possibility of a life and a job in Ireland.”

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Commenting on the agreement by the cabinet on the terms of reference for the review group on the children’s hospital of Ireland, the Sinn Féin health and children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

“It is important that this project is moved forward as speedily as possible as a new national children’s hospital is badly needed. But it is equally important that our existing children’s hospitals are supported while a new plan is devised and during the long time it will take to construct the new hospital. Our paediatric hospitals are currently under huge pressure and it is unacceptable that children in our health services should have to endure overcrowded emergency departments, long waits for bed and excessive waiting lists for treatment.

“Minister Reilly has stated that the issue of location is on the table for the review group and that he is not wedded to the Mater site. That acknowledgement is important.”

Deputy Ó Caoláin made his comments following the rejection of the plan for the Mater Hospital site by An Bórd Pleanála.

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Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today the Sinn Féin president and Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the Taoiseach to “instigate an inquiry into the sexual abuse of patients in the Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda”.
Teachta Adams remarks follow this morning’s press conference by Dignity4Patients in Dublin.
The organisation was launching its independent survey into the relationship between healthcare workers and the public. Bernadette Sullivan, the Executive Director of Dignity4Patients, was critical of the failure by the Health authorities and successive governments over 17 years to hold an appropriate inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse of patients.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Teachta Adams said:“Taoiseach this morning the Dignity4Patients group presented a survey showing that 18% of respondents believe they have been subjected to inappropriate action or comment while in the care of a healthcare professional.
“Taoiseach it is now 17 years since complaints of sexual abuse of patients at Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda were first made.
“It is three years since James Reilly TD, now the Minister for Health, called for an immediate inquiry into the sexual abuse of patients in the Lourdes Hospital. “And Taoiseach you voted for that motion. So too while in opposition did the Tanaiste, and the President.

“Níl mé ag ardú an ábhar seo díreach toisc go bhfuileamar anseo ag cur ceisteanna chughat inniu. Táim á h-ardú de bharr go bhfuil sé tábhachtach dona saoránaigh seo ata fós ag fulaingt de bharr an ídiú ghnéis a déanadh orthu.Tá trí bliana imithe ó d’iarr James Reilly go mbeadh fiosrú ann ar an ábhar seo.

“Taoiseach, last November I asked you about this issue. You volunteered to meet the opposition. You promised a meeting again before Christmas and since then you have repeated that promise.

“I am still waiting. So are the other opposition leaders.

“But more importantly over 200 citizens, victims and survivors are still waiting and every day and every delay brings fresh pain and anguish to the victims.

“Taoiseach 17 years is too long. Especially given the all-party support for a commission of inquiry and there is no reason whatsoever why this cannot proceed immediately. There are sexual abusers in all sectors of our society. Taoiseach there are sexual abusers in families. My father was a sexual abuser. So I have some sense of the anguish and the pain that these citizens are going through.
“I meet them regularly and I know every time they meet that that’s a revisiting of all that happened to them.
“It was good enough in opposition for Fine Gael, for Labour to support a commission of inquiry. There’s no reason at all why it cannot be established and established in terms acceptable to the victims and survivors.”
The Sinn Féin leader asked the Taoiseach to give a very clear commitment to hold an inquiry and until the inquiry is held Dignity4Patients, who are advocating for this group for the last 17 years, should get ‘appropriate funding’.
The Sinn Féin leader praised the courage of Bernadette Sullivan – “a very brave woman” - who exposed this abuse.
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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has called on Minister Alan Shatter to carefully examine the recommendations of a report on the Personal Insolvency Bill with a view to introducing changes to the General Scheme of the Bill.

Deputy O’Brien was speaking today at the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.

The Cork North Central TD said;

“I welcome this committee report as it is high time that these issues were dealt with. Clearly there is a need to ensure that the family home is protected as far as possible when it comes to debtors.

“I also endorse the committee’s proposal that MABS, if resourced adequately, could take on the role of Personal Insolvency Trustees. Further to this, it is clear that the minister should take on board the committee’s view that the Circuit Court should be used for insolvency proceedings in order to reduce costs.

“The current legislation is archaic and outdated and, given the levels of debt in Ireland and the numbers of homes at risk, there is a real urgency in dealing with this. Reformed personal insolvency legislation is needed to help those in severe financial difficulties to move on with their lives. This must be part of a range of measures designed to deal with all the issues relating to debt, insolvency, and mortgage distress.

“Sinn Féin will table amendments in order to make the personal insolvency system more humane and progressive as the legislation makes its way through the Dáil.”

ENDS

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has announced the publication of audits examining the viability of every school in the north.

In October last year, John O’Dowd MLA, Minister for Education, commissioned an audit of primary and post-primary schools to ascertain the levels of stress schools were experiencing in three areas – quality of education provision, stable enrolments and financial viability.

The Minister has received and considered the reports submitted by the Boards and he said:

“Firstly I would like to thank the Boards and CCMS for these reports. My main interest is to ensure that all pupils are accessing high quality education in schools that are viable and sustainable. I commissioned this exercise as a precursor to Area Planning because as we move forward into a collective approach to strategic planning, we must have a sense of the levels of stress facing schools.

“The audit reports have set out clearly for every school the position based on three criteria – quality, enrolments and financial position. This is not new information for schools, they already have all this information and many are acting on it. What I wanted from the audit was an overview of all schools so that we have a firm platform of knowledge on which to build Area Planning.

“The overall picture is a serious one and it confirms the need to move quickly on the area plans and to put in place the network of viable and sustainable schools that will deliver high quality education for all pupils. There are a number of schools, both primary and post primary, that are evidencing stress in one or more area. In the primary sector 390 schools out of a total of 839 are evidencing stress in at least one category – that is 46.5% of all primary schools. Similarly, in the post-primary sector 124 out of a total of 148 secondary schools - that is 83.8% of schools are evidencing some degree of stress. The grammar sector is not immune to stress, with 24 out of 68 (35%) evidencing stress in one or more areas.

“These reports will be of concern to a lot of parents and staff in our schools. I must emphasise that it is not the case that where a school is demonstrating stress that it will close – indeed given the number of schools that are stressed this would be impossible. It must also be recognised that this is a complex matter and the viability audits only presents part of the picture. What it does is highlight where the support needs to be targeted and where the priorities lie as we begin to area plan. My Department’s Sustainable Schools Policy recognises that every school has its own unique set of circumstances and we need to consider these carefully before finalising the area plans. But we cannot ignore instances where the pupils are not accessing high quality education and this is why in some cases we need to take swift action.

“In the time ahead I will be writing to the school managing authorities to seek assurance that steps are being taken to protect the educational wellbeing of the pupils in those schools evidencing the greatest degrees of stress in regards to educational attainment.

“I would ask those in education, parents, politicians and the media to look at this information in the round rather than focus in on individual schools. I would ask that they consider the facts and ask themselves – what is this saying about our education system? And what should we be doing?

“We are making progress in improving the educational outcomes for our young people. However, we must address the unacceptable impact that poverty and disadvantage has on educational attainment. That is why the Executive’s draft Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to increase significantly the proportions of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who achieve at least five good GCSEs including English and Maths. A commitment that I am determined as Education Minister to deliver – and one with which I shall need help and support from my Executive colleagues, as well as all the partners which make up our education system.

“We know that achieving at this level not only unlocks the door to further and higher education and to well paid and fulfilling jobs; it is also linked with better health, lower rates of offending and provides arguably the best means of reducing child poverty in the longer term. All of society benefits from these gains.

“We know that the best outcomes for all pupils can be seen in systems around the world where school intakes are reflective of society: a shared education system, with children from affluent and disadvantaged areas educated together.

“In our system, we have selective schools that are adjusting to a wider range of academic ability but not to a wider range of social backgrounds: on average just 7% of pupils in our grammar schools are entitled to free school meals compared to over a quarter (27%) of pupils in non-selective schools.

“We need to move away from academic selection and rejection, informed by the experiences of those high performing systems around the world where academic selection and rejection has no place in a school admissions policy.

“We must act now to remove educational disadvantage in all its forms within the system. That way we will make the education system better for all pupils.”

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Martin McGuinness MP, MLA has expressed disappointment at news that the WOMAD musical festival will probably not now be coming to Derry for the City of Culture celebrations 2013.

Martin McGuinness said:

“When the announcement was originally made that efforts were under way to bring the WOMAD Music Festival to Derry for the City of Culture celebrations it was met with great enthusiasm. But as with all proposals it must be economically viable.

“The proposers of this project ‘SEEDS’ and the Culture Company after examining WOMAD’s feasibility study are both now agreed that the financial risks with the Culture Company as a proposed sole funder are too high.

“While I am as disappointed as everyone associated with the project I have to accept the assessment of both the Board of Directors of ‘SEEDS’ and the management of the ‘Culture Company’ that staging this festival is not feasible under the present proposals.

“2013 is a very important year for our City and the programme of events presently being compiled by the Culture Company is exciting and comprehensive - catering for all sections of the community. I have every confidence that this disappointment will not overshadow what will be a magnificent year of opportunity and enjoyment for all of the diverse cultures reflected in our city and district."

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly, spokesperson on Policing and a member of the Policing Board has said that the report by the PSNI's Historical Enquiry Team (HET) into the killing of Sam Marshall is an attempt to 'camouflage' the role of British Army and RUC personnel.

Mr Kelly said:

"The killing of Sam Marshall happened within feet of the RUC barracks he had just left and under the nose of members of the British Army and RUC. For the PSNI's HET to reach any conclusions on this killing without any members of the British Army present at the scene first being interviewed  is a patent effort to camouflage the role of British soldiers in this killing. This is the latest in a litany of such reports which reinforce evidence that the PSNI's HET is not in compliance with Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights."

The Sinn Féin Assembly member said that concerns have already been raised about the PSNI's HET at the Policing Board: 

"Sinn Féin has been asking questions at the Policing Board about the role of the PSNI's HET. We have already raised questions about how and why the HET has rehired so many retired RUC officers. We are also concerned that the investigative methods and outcomes which it carries out, under the umbrella of the PSNI are not consistent, competent or compliant with Human Rights requirements.  Sinn Féin expects the Policing Board to get a briefing on independent research into these concerns later this week.

"Sinn Féin is increasingly disturbed at the approach being taken by the PSNI to work within its 'Legacy Branch' and its HET. A request by the Policing Board for a copy of another recent report by the PSNI's HET was recently refused by the PSNI Chief Constable. Sinn Féin disputes the grounds for that refusal. The Policing Board receives copies of final reports from the Police Ombudsman and there is no good reason why it should not receive copies of final reports from the PSNI's HET. "

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Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MP, MLA said:"Monday night's game was my first time at Windsor Park since the early sixties.

"I have very fond memories of travelling on a train from Derry with my late father and brother Paul to see Derry take on Glentoran.

"It was a very pleasant experience to be there last night and I want to pay tribute to the Board of Linfield and everyone associated with the club for the very warm welcome that I received and it's very clearly a sign of the changing times.

"And it was good to be there to support Declan Devine and the lads from Derry against Linfield."

"I firmly believe that sporting matches are unifying occasions for many people.

"It's wonderful that Peter Robinson and myself are able to give leadership and clearly show that we want to see sport being unifying and see community relationships built up through sport. I think we should do everything possible to take the politics out of sport.

"Talking as a sports fan it is my very strong view that soccer on the island would be much better served it we had an all-Ireland league and one international team.

"But that is a matter for the footballing authorities, that's only my opinion as a true sports fan."

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Dublin North West TD and Sinn Féin housing spokesperson, Dessie Ellis, has called on the Department of the Environment to ensure that the regeneration project in Ballymun will be completed and all families awaiting rehousing will be accommodated as planned. He was speaking following an announcement that the Fine Gael/Labour plan to cut the budget for the project.

Deputy Ellis continued:
“It is believed the budget allocation for the Ballymun Regeneration project could be slashed by millions of euro over the next two years. Many in the community are fearful that the project will not be completed as planned.
“The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government is in negotiation with Ballymun Regeneration Limited (BRL).
“It’s vital that the remaining families, due to be relocated, are not abandoned.
“There needs to be a commitment that those still to be moved will not be affected by any cut in funding.
“The project is due to be completed in 2014 and any delay will be unacceptable to people who have waited so long.
“I am calling on Jan O’Sullivan and her department to do everything they can to ensure that Ballymun Regeneration is completed in the next two years. With around 90 per cent of the work completed we cannot allow the project to come to a halt or be delayed.”
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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Sport, Sandra McLellan TD, has congratulated Co. Down's Rory McIlroy, after he shot to number one in the world rankings following his win in Florida at the Honda Classic over the weekend.

Speaking today the East Cork Deputy said:

“On September 19th 2007, Rory was ranked 876th in the world. Today he is number one. To have achieved such success at a remarkably young age is astonishing. Rory did brilliantly to hold off such a strong challenge from Tiger Woods and others and win by two strokes, especially after coming so agonisingly close to winning the Accenture World Match Play Championship only last weekend.

“Rory is a fantastic ambassador for the young people of Ireland, and is a shining example of what hard work and determination can achieve. There was a huge sense of expectation and excitement throughout the country this weekend, especially in his home town of Hollywood, Co. Down. Rory has brought a great sense of hope and pride to the entire country, and we are all immensely proud of him.” ENDS

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Speaking on the first day of Seachtain na Gaeilge, Sinn Féin Cultural Spokesperson Cathal Ó hOisín said he hoped that even more people would sign up to the language as it goes from strength to strength.  

Cathal Ó hOisín said:

“There are a range of events on over the next two weeks as part of Seachtain na Gaeilge and I would encourage people to go along and enjoy the language and the craic.

“The Irish language is more alive and vibrant today than it has been for a long time and the Líofa initiative by Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has broadened the appeal of the language. Indeed the Minister will be sponsoring a first ever live broadcast direct from the LongGallery at the Assembly by Raidió Fáilte on March 14th.

“Sinn Féin have also organised events around Seachtain na Gaeilge while members will be attending and participating in other events including Rith 2012. This celebration of the Irish language is a great boost for all those promoting it and between Seachtain na Gaeilge and Rith, it shows the amount of support there is for the language.”

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Senator Kathryn Reilly, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Youth Affairs has begun a series of meetings with groups working with and representing young people.

Speaking today Senator Reilly said:

“As the youngest member of the Oireachtas, I am delighted to be in a position to engage directly with young people and the organisations that work for and with them. I have already met several youth organisations and plan to meet as many others as possible over the coming period.

“My engagement so far has confirmed to me that the youth sector is taking a disproportionately hard hit from the government’s cuts. We know also that thousands of young people are considering or planning for emigration yet, the government’s recent ‘Jobs Action Plan’ barely mentioned young people.

“Sinn Féin believes a specific jobs action plan for young people is needed.

“There are broader issues such as mental health and discrimination against certain sectors of our young people that also need to be challenged and groups working in these fields need support to continue the excellent work they are carrying out every day.

“I have committed myself and my party to listening to and acting on the concerns of our young people and to giving them a voice in the Oireachtas.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications and Energy has claimed that revelations about a blacklist of trade union activists and people who reported health and safety concerns raises serious questions regarding the awarding of maintenance contracts for Iarnród Éireann and Bord Gáis.

Deputy Ferris was commenting on a report in the Guardian newspaper on Saturday on the fact that Balfour Beatty, the company which has been awarded maintenance contracts by Iarnród Éireann and Bord Gáis was funding the compilation of a blacklist of union activists and other ‘problem’ employees on British construction sites.

Deputy Ferris said:

“On top of the appalling safety record of this company, Balfour Beatty’s role in blacklisting workers is another reason why the awarding of the contracts must be re-examined. What is particularly sinister is that some of the workers who were victimised in this manner were picked on because of the very fact that they had raised serious issues regarding health and safety on the sites operated by the companies funding the blacklist.”

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West Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said she is seeking clarification from the Department of Health following a media report claiming that hygiene failings were raised at the neo-natal unit at the Royal Jubilees Maternity Hospital weeks before three babies died from the pseudomonas infection.

The report said that concerns were raised about sinks at the hospital well before the babies died.

Sue Ramsey, who is also chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee said once the report was brought to her attention she has immediately sought clarification from the Department of Health.

Sue Ramsey said:

“I have asked officials to get me a copy of the internal audit and if it is the case that these hygiene failings have been over looked then there are serious questions to be answered.

“With this in mind I have requested an urgent meeting with the Department of Health.”


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Upper Bann Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd has supported the call from the family of Sam Marshall for an independent inquiry into the murder of their brother Sam 22 years ago.

Following the release of the Historical Enquiries Crimes Team report on the killing, Mr O’Dowd challenged its findings that there was no collusion between British Military Forces and the killers of San Marshall.

The Assembly Member said that the report raised serious concerns with its revelation that there were nine armed British Military personnel in a total of six vehicles operating within the area where the murder was carried out.

Mr O’Dowd said,

“From the night Sam Marshall was killed people in Lurgan have been in no doubt that the British State was responsible for his death.

“The sequence of events surrounding the murder of Sam Marshall was always controversial but the revelation that there were six British Military vehicles and nine armed soldiers in the area at the time of the killing has raised new and additional questions.

“That none of these armed British soldiers responded to a barrage of rifle fire defies credibility. How three men armed with rifles were able to drive through an area which had such a heavy presence of British Intelligence operatives, park their car, get out open fire with a barrage of shots and then return to the vehicle and leave the area without any attempt to either prevent the murder or intercept the gunmen’s car has to be explained. This report has failed to address this issue which is at the heart of this case.

“There was collusion in the killing of Sam Marshall. The Marshall family have campaigned for the truth around Sam’s killing for over 20 years. We support fully the call from the Marshall family for an independent inquiry into the events surrounding Sam’s murder. The British government need to realise that the demand for the truth will not go away.”

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Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast, Jennifer McCann has stated that those behind a so called punishment shooting in Twinbrook last night have no support in the local community.

Speaking today Ms McCann said:

“The type of action carried out last night achieves nothing. The community recognise this, local representatives recognise this and those groups working hard within our communities recognise it. It is high time that those behind these shooting recognise it.

“The community has worked for years to provide alternatives to so called punishment shootings and this has payed dividends. Those behind this attack must know this and are only trying to flex their muscles. The reality of their actions are that they are undermining this community. “Let be very clear about it, there is no support whatsoever for this type of reckless actions and those behind them need to stop.”

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Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey, will travel tomorrow with the Ballymurphy Massacre Families to Westminster as part of a campaign to highlight the families demand to meet with British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has so far refused to meet with the families of those shot dead by the British Army in Ballymurphy in August 1971

Speaking ahead of the visit Mr Maskey said:

"The Ballymurphy families are traveling to London to press the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to meet with them. To date he has refused to do this.

"The killing of 11 people in the Ballymurphy massacre of 1971 and the inquests that followed are a lasting injustice. There was little distinction between the event s of Bloody Sunday, the Ballymurphy Massacre and many other instances where the British Army shot down people on the streets of Ireland. In each case the role of the British Army in Ireland was made very clear.

"The families demands for the truth must be met. David Cameron should meet with the families as a matter of urgency and help in their search for justice."

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