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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



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Farming Minister Michelle O'Neill MLA has stressed the importance of farm safety to farmers over the summer months.


Reminding farm families about the risks to farm safety over the summer, the Minister said: “Summer can be a very busy time for the farmer. With a lot of crop harvesting and various agricultural activities underway, it is essential that farmers ensure safety is paramount at all times.

“As school children's summer holidays begin this week, I want to raise awareness amongst farm families of the risks on the farm at this time of year and remind them to exercise extra caution to keep children as safe as possible during busy spells over the holidays. I appeal to the rural population to increase safety precautions on-farm and ensure that everyone, particularly young children are kept a safe distance from equipment or physical farming activities at all times.”

Outlining the support available to improve farm safety, the Minister said: “Any farm families who require advice or assistance on how to improve safety on their farms can get help and guidance from my Department. For example, CAFRE offers training throughout the year on safe tractor driving, safe use of ATVs and telescopic handlers and safe use of pesticides and sheep dips.”

In conclusion, the Minister said: “Safety must come first on the farm this summer to ensure that everyone is safe and enjoys the summer. No family wants to go through the heartbreak of having a child killed or injured this summer. Advice on a range of farm safety issues for farming families is available from the Health and Safety Executive.

"I would ask everyone in the farming community to keep an extra eye out this year for not only children, but also elderly neighbours and visitors who may not be familiar with farming equipment or practice to keep everyone safe on-farm ."

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Arts Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín has visited The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) which will open to the public next year.

Situated in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter the MAC, which is costing almost £18million will be six storeys high. It will include two theatres - one 350 seat and one 120 seat, three major visual art galleries, a dance studio, education, workshop and rehearsal spaces, offices for resident arts groups, as well as a resident artist and a bar.

Speaking at the site Carál Ní Chuilín said: “I look forward to this building opening early next year. It is a fabulous space and will provide a welcome venue for drama, music, the visual arts – a haven for a vast array of cultural activity in the city.

“The MAC will also provide an artistic programme of the highest quality reflecting and exploring issues relevant to the socially diverse communities across the North.”


The Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure is providing £10.76million towards the total costs of £17.56million. The project is also being funded by the Arts Council (Lottery), Department for Social Development and Belfast City Council.

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Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has welcomed a decision by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to allow 14 nations to take part in the 2015 World Cup.


This overturns an earlier decision to restrict the tournament to the 10 full member nations – a move which would have excluded the Ireland team from the competition.

Speaking at Stormont where the Minister watched Ireland play Namibia in the second of the two day matches between the teams in the Intercontinental Cup, the Minister said: “As the Ireland team showed at the last World Cup, they are more than capable of competing with the best cricketing nations in the world.

“It is only right and fair that they are given the opportunity to participate in 2015. Earlier this year, the team’s record-breaking performance to beat England not only resonated with cricket fans across the island, but did much to raise the profile of the sport here.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Road Safety, Cathal Boylan has welcomed research which shows an increase in seatbelt wearing from 97% in 2010 to 98% in 2011.

The Newry Armagh MLA commented following the publication of a report entitled 'The Observational NI Seat Belt Survey 2011' which also demonstrates increases in seat belt use in the 5 – 9 and 10 – 13 year old age groups.

The Sinn Féin Assembly Member said,

“This is an encouraging report which shows that the vast majority of people here are using their seatbelts. I am also heartened by the fact that following worrying statistics in previous years regarding children aged 5 to 13 that this piece of research shows a marked improvement in seat belt use among this group.

“As Road Safety spokesperson for Sinn Féin I would urge people to consider the consequences of not wearing a seat belt. Failure to wear a seat belt contributes to more fatalities than any other single traffic safety-related behaviour. In fact it is estimated that 63% of people killed in accidents are not wearing seat belts.

“Wearing a seat belt therefore is still the single most effective thing we can do to save lives and reduce injuries on Ireland's roadways.


“Another factor to bear in mind is that the cost of unbuckled drivers and passengers goes beyond those killed and the loss to their families. We all pay for those who don't buckle up ¬ in higher taxes, higher health care and higher insurance costs.
“It is up to each and every one of us to ensure that all drivers and passengers are buckled up on all journeys.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Tourism and Sport, Sandra McLellan, has extended a ‘heartfelt’ congratulations to the successful Irish Special Olympics Team.

Speaking in advance of the team's return from the Athens Games she said:

“I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to every one of 126 Irish athletes who took part the Games. To come back with 107 medals is a fantastic achievement, and reflects the commitment and dedication of all those involved.

“Ireland’s success in the Special Olympics over recent years is something we can be really proud of. All the hard work of the competitors, their families, supporters and organisers has been rewarded.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Phil Flanagan has welcomed the latest funding for rural broadband provision.


Mr Flanagan stated,


 “This fund will provide a financial incentive to providers to operate in areas often considered as non-profitable. Total funding of £500,000 is available with up to 35% of project costs can be covered, so it should be a very appealing scheme for many providers."


"For too long, people living or working in rural areas have been discriminated against by not having access to the latest high speed broadband.


“This latest fund will encourage providers to reverse that trend and to roll out the latest in Broadband technology into the most remote areas.


“This is important not only for business users to compete on an equal basis but also for children who use the internet as an educational tool


“I will continue to work constructively with the industry and departmental officials to ensure that the rural have access to a fast, reliable and reasonably priced internet connection.


"In that vein, I would encourage telecommunications companies to properly assess the viability of providing a service in many rural areas.

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Responding to the quarterly exchequer figures released today Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said that these figures highlight the unsustainability of Ireland’s level of debt.

Doherty said:

“While today’s figures are broadly in line with Government expectations they never the less show the unsustainability of Ireland’s debt.

“Today’s figures reveal that one out of every €5 collected on taxes in this state is used to pay the interest on Ireland’s growing debt.

“Of the €15 billion collected by the state across the range of taxes, over €3 billion was used to pay the interest in Ireland’s national debt. It is clearly unsustainable that one out of every €5 collected would be used to service the interest on our national debt. This ratio is likely to rise in the coming years given that just over a third of the money available from the EU/IMF programme has been drawn down so far.

“While the Government will welcome today’s figures claiming that they are broadly in line with the department’s projection, there is nothing to be welcomed in the fact that a fifth of all taxes collected in the state is now being used to service the interest on our national debt.

“The Government’s failed banking policy is also evident in these figures. Despite the €6 billion package of expenditure reduction and tax increases in last year’s budget, our deficit has now grown by a further €2 billion compared to this time in 2010 as a result of this Government’s injection of €3 billion into Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide banks.”

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Mr Maskey has called for the Minister of Social Development, Nelson McCausland, to explain why he has made this intervention on behalf of Red Sky.

Speaking earlier Mr Maskey said:

“Red Sky is a company which has acknowledged serious breaches of it's contract with the Housing Executive. These breaches involved billing the Housing Executive for either work carried out badly or not at all. Red Sky also double billed the Housing  Executive for work not carried out.

“The Housing Executive terminated it's maintenance contract with Red Sky following a thorough investigation which uncovered substantial fraudulent billing practices carried out by the company.

“There is no conceivable justification for the Housing Executive to reinstate the  Red Sky contract hence it appears that the Minister has made a wholly inappropriate intervention in this case.

“Given the considerable issue of public interest at stake here Minister McCausland must state clearly his interest and involvement in this matter."

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for South Belfast Alex Maskey has described attempts by the Orange Order to blame MTV for drunken violence at their parades further evidence of an organisation unwilling to accept responsibility for its actions.

Mr Maskey said:

“For years the Orange Order has repeatedly ignored serious violent and anti-social behaviour which is directly connected to a number of its parades. When it comes to disorder and illegality at Orange Parades it is never the fault of the Order.

“Over the years variously nationalists, the police, the Parades Commission and the weather have been blamed for drunken bandsmen, Orangemen and hangers on. Bizarrely today MTV have been added to the list.

"It is high time the Orange Order lived up to it's responsibilities.They should recognise how a number of their parades are offensive to host communities where they insist on marching through. It is time they stopped blaming everyone else for events surrounding their parades and instead take action to see illegal and anti-social behaviour stopped.”

Videos

Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


Photos

Mary Lou McDonald and Cathal King