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Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has a number of engagements in Canada this week where he will brief politicians, students and Irish Emigrants on the current state of the Peace Process, Sinn Féin's priorities in the coming months and Ireland's position post Lisbon.

Senator Doherty last night addressed the Irish Studies Seminar at St. Mary's University and is meeting the Nova Scotia Minister for Tourism today.

Senator Doherty arrives in St. Johns, Newfoundland where he will make a speech to the students and faculty at Memorial University while on Thursday he travels to Prince Edward Island for a number of engagements.

Senator Doherty's itinerary is below. For further information contact Shaun Tracey on 087735218.

Tuesday September 9th

9:00 a.m. Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery. Refurbishment of historic cemetery is being partially funded by Irish government.

11:00 a.m. Pearse meets with the Nova Scotia Minister of Tourism.

12:20 p.m. Pearse has lunch with Nova Scotia Minister of Tourism.

7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. Friends of Sinn Féin (Canada) Reception at The Old Triangle 5136 Prince Street, Halifax.

Wednesday September 10th

1:00 p.m. Speech to students and faculty at Memorial University.

8:00 p.m. Friends of Sinn Fein (Canada) Inc. reception at The Capital Hotel 208 Kenmount Street, St. John's.

Thursday September 11th

Afternoon Pearse gives Irish language workshop for Prince Edward Island Irish Association

7:30 pm. Evening reception hosted by the Benevolent Irish Society, 582 North River Road, Charlottetown. Pearse will give a brief speech and take questions.

Friday September 12th

9:30 a.m. Meeting with Prince Edward Island M.P. Shaun Murphy.

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The Chairperson of Omagh District Council, Marty McColgan will join with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA and other party elected representatives on the 'Walking out of darkness and into the light' campaign on Wednesday September 10th.

The Event is organised by groups working to raise awareness and for more resources to tackle the issue of suicide.

The walk will leave the gates of Stormont at 6am on Wednesday September 10th. It marks World Suicide Prevention Day.

Speaking ahead of the event the Chairperson of Omagh District Council Cllr Marty McColgan said:

"Suicide claims the lives of many thousands of people across the world every year. In Ireland hundreds people die every year because of suicide and many thousands of people are admitted to hospital either having tried suicide or self-harm.

"This is a problem that touches every community here. Suicide is a huge issue that all of us have collectively responsibility to raise awareness about and to work to prevent.

"Mental ill-health is a major risk factor for suicide in Ireland and suicide itself is the biggest killer of our young people. Across Ireland Sinn Féin has been campaigning for an increase in funding for mental health and suicide prevention projects.

"The issue of long-term ring-fenced funding and the uncertainly facing the groups working on the ground proving support and training is a constant issue. Suicide prevention needs sustained resources.

"There are many people, including bereaved families, working in the community and voluntary sector who are worried that much of the funding allocated is not reaching those groups that are in the frontline of dealing with this issue and who provide a lifeline for those at risk.

"Sinn Féin has called for the funding issue to be properly addressed by the Health Minister and for an all-Ireland suicide prevention strategy that recognises that one size does not fit all and that takes account of the suicide risk among older people and those living in rural areas." ENDS

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The Health Service Executive has confirmed in a letter to Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin its plans to remove all acute care from Monaghan General Hospital and to downgrade it essentially to a Minor Injuries Unit. "The HSE has confirmed the death sentence for Monaghan General Hospital and the sentence of hard labour for Cavan General Hospital", stated Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

Following the announcement by the Health Service Executive last week that it hopes to open the new Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) at Cavan General Hospital by the end of September or early October, the Cavan-Monaghan Deputy contacted the HSE seeking clarification of the implications for Monaghan General Hospital. In a direct reply to Deputy Ó Caoláin, HSE management at Cavan General Hospital confirmed that they continue to implement the Teamwork Report and to work towards "the transfer of acute care to Cavan General Hospital which is targeted for the end of November 2008".

In the confidential HSE North East 'Transformation' Detailed Planning Report first revealed by Deputy Ó Caoláin last April, the establishment of the Medical Assessment Unit at Cavan is listed as one of the key elements to be put in place before acute care is removed from Monaghan General Hospital.

Commenting on the response from the HSE, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The HSE confirms the ongoing implementation of the so-called 'Transformation' report which I revealed in April, a report I described at the time as a death sentence for Monaghan General Hospital and a sentence of hard labour for Cavan General Hospital. The HSE is denuding Monaghan of services and working towards a deadline that, if adhered to, will mean that by Christmas 2008 Monaghan will no longer be a hospital.

"When read carefully this missive, entitled 'Developments in Cavan & Monaghan Hospital Group Services' and dated 3 September 2008, reveals a number of inconsistencies, raising huge concern about future patient care. It speaks of having specific measures 'in place and bedded down prior to or in parallel with the transfer of acute care to Cavan' by the end of November. But what does 'in parallel with' actually mean?

"For example the HSE says it is committed to the enhancement of ambulance services, including an additional 24-hour emergency ambulance at Monaghan Ambulance Station, bringing the number of ambulances from 2 to 3. Will we be faced with a situation where acute care is removed from Monaghan before the extra ambulance is provided? How long would such a gap in services be allowed to continue? We have seen in the past where the HSE commits 'in principle' to provide new services but we wait months or years to see them delivered.

Contradictions

"The HSE has cleared up none of the contradictions contained in the 'Transformation' report as revealed last April.

"There are currently 3,000 acute medical admissions to Monaghan General Hospital per annum. By the end of November this service will have to be provided by Cavan General Hospital which already has to cater for 5,000 acute medical admissions per annum and has 160% bed occupancy. This is to be done under this plan without a single extra bed being provided in Cavan.

"Consultants at Monaghan General Hospital have stated in correspondence to the HSE that such a move would create a 'catastrophic situation' for patients and that deaths may well result. The consultants' appeal not to proceed with such a plan was made on the assumption that an additional 25 beds would be provided at Cavan. The HSE intends to implement an even worse scenario with no extra beds provided to deal with the enormous additional burden on Cavan.

"The HSE is maintaining the fallacy that patient care will actually improve after the destruction of Monaghan General Hospital because there will be greater provision of non-acute care, rehabilitation, respite, step-down etc. Yet the 'Transformation' report states that 'additional funding is not available to implement these service changes'. We are being told there will be additional non-acute care at the same time as the HSE is imposing cuts on such care. More primary care is promised yet there is a GP shortage in this region. In addition, the financial constraints imposed by Government on the HSE are now set to be far worse than they were when the 'Transformation' report was revealed last April.

"In its letter to me of 3 September the HSE says that it needs to provide 864 packages of care in the community or jointly between hospital and community involving 10 community based staff being put in place within primary care. This would supposedly compensate for loss of inpatient beds at Monaghan. Even if this were the case, and I strongly contend that it is not, the current regime of cuts makes delivery of these 'packages' highly doubtful. Yet the HSE continues to work to its deadline of ending acute care at Monaghan by the last day of November.

"While a Medical Assessment Unit in Cavan General Hospital in itself would be welcome, it must be placed in the context of the overall reduction in acute beds between the two hospitals and the loss of services which the downgrading of Monaghan will entail. A huge additional burden will be placed on Cavan, where staff are already stretched to the limit.

"The plan for the destruction of Monaghan General Hospital must be opposed in the strongest possible manner by the entire community and every elected representative must be called to account." ENDS

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Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP, Pat Doherty has welcomed the announcement by a major international investment group of over £250 million direct investment in Omagh, as a "huge vote of confidence in the area".

He has urged members of the public to view the group's proposals which will be on display in the Strule Arts Centre for two weeks, commencing on Monday.

According to the MP,

"The proposals for an ambitious development on the Derry Road will create at least 1000 high quality jobs in a mixed use development which will include high grade office space, a business media centre, a hotel as well as retail, health and leisure facilities. Such an ambitious development will have a huge economic spin off and it is vital that local people see the proposals for themselves.

"These proposals, which I announced in the public domain in May, have the potential to really transform the local and regional economy and put Omagh firmly on the map as an area for investors.

"During the meetings that I have had with the investment group, they have cited the suitability of Omagh for investment by reference to its infrastructure, geographical location, a skilled local workforce as well as having a dynamic and forward thinking local Council. The investment group viewed these factors as core elements in their decision to invest in the area."

Mr Doherty added

"I have also had a number of meetings with the Environment Minister, where we discussed these investment proposals. During these exchanges, I impressed upon the Minister the regional significance of the 'Opportunity Omagh' proposals and stressed the important role that Planning Service will have in making these plans come to fruition.

"These proposals firmly compliment ongoing work on the Omagh 2025 Visioning framework, the DSD town centre master plan, the West Tyrone Area Plan and, importantly, the exciting prospects which are set to evolve from the future use of the Lisanelly and St Lucia site.

"This unprecedented proposal clearly demonstrates that Omagh is well and truly open for business and we are poised and ready to deliver and I call as many members of the public to come along to the Strule Arts Centre to see these ambitious plans for themselves." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Billy Leonard has proposed that Coleraine Council gives more money to schemes that help people with their fuel bills. His proposal was made as Council debated a £10,000 donation to the 'Warmer Ways to Better Health' scheme at last week's Council meeting.

Council has given this amount in each of the last two years to this multi-agency effort to ease the burden of high fuel prices.

Cllr Leonard said:

"This winter will see some people literally choosing between fuel and food and recent falls in the price of oil will not dramatically change the position.

"Council can only give limited funds but I feel that we should be giving more than we have in recent years as the position this time around is drastically more difficult. Our contribution and assistance to other schemes are vitally important so we must go the extra mile.

"Council's Director of Environmental Health is to examine ways of maximising the impact of an increased contribution and I am sure we can then channel more funds to more people.

"Naturally I would feel confident that my Council colleagues will support this move." ENDS

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de Brún to host Disability Action NI delegation in Brussels


Sinn Féin MEP, Bairbre de Brún will this week host a 27 person delegation from Disability Action NI in the European Parliament in Brussels. Delegation members will today depart from different locations throughout the north for a series of meetings which will take place tomorrow (Wednesday 10 September) with MEPs and key campaigners involved in lobbying at a European level.

The delegation is comprised of people with disabilities who are training to be human rights advocates and their support workers. They will meet with MEPs from across Europe who are involved in the European Parliament's inter-party working group on disability as well leading figures from the European Disability Forum.

As well as taking the opportunity to gain a greater understanding as to the workings of the institutions of the European Unions, the delegation will be lobbying on issues in relation to disability rights, equality legislation and social inclusion.

Speaking from the European Parliament in Brussels in advance of the delegation's arrival, Ms de Brún said:

'I am very pleased to be this week hosting the Disability Action delegation in the European Parliament. Disability rights is a major issue facing many of my constituents with the North of Ireland having a very high rate of disability compared to other regions.

'Most equality legislation finds its origins in the institutions of the European Union with frameworks having been set there before being refined and implemented at national and regional level. This week's delegation will provide an opportunity for activists to be empowered to make the case for enhanced legislation and protections right at the heart of where much of our social legislation begins.' ENDS

Note to Editor:

Last year Ms de Brún joined Assembly colleague Michelle O'Neill MLA and fellow MEP Mary Lou McDonald to help collect one million signatures across the EU in favour of disability rights. For text see www.1million4disability.eu

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"Attacks on homes in Short Strand utterly deplorable" - Ó Donnghaile

Speaking after another night of attacks on homes in the Short Strand area, Sinn Féin's East Belfast Representative Niall Ó Donnghaile has condemned those responsible as 'nothing but common thugs'. It comes on the back of trouble on both sides of the interface at the weekend.

Speaking after visiting residents this morning Mr Ó Donnghaile said,

"What you have along here in Strand Walk are homes adapted for elderly and disabled members of our community, the people attacking them with ball bearings, golf balls and bricks know full well that that is the case. Numerous family homes in Saint Matthews Court were also damaged last night and over the weekend by the people carrying out these attacks.

I would call on those people engaged in this activity in both areas to stop and think about the possible consequences of this activity; someone is going to get seriously hurt.

I want to make it very clear that Sinn Féin and the community in the Short Strand oppose any form of tit for tat recreational violence at the interfaces; it neither serves nor benefits anyone. What we need to see is that universal condemnation replicated by Unionist politicians in East Belfast, as opposed to focusing singularly on incidents from the Short Strand.

Much hard work has been going on between community activists in both the Short Strand and the Lower Newtonards Road and thankfully that work has averted any major outbreaks of trouble; the people carrying out these attacks on both sides are not in any way politically motivated, they are simply out for recreational violence.

The onus is very much on the PSNI to play their part in all of this, that means implementing measured responses to what's going on, it means calling to people's homes to allocated crime numbers and it also means not switching their phones off after they have given their numbers to local residents."

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has addressed attendees of the third European Conference of Apidology (EurBee3) at Queen's University, Belfast.

The international conference was attended by around 200 leading bee scientists from all over Europe and further afield, as well as by local beekeepers and academics.

Speaking at the ceremony the Minister said:

"We are beginning to realise just how great our reliance on bees really is. Through pollination, bees support environmental biodiversity, and sustain a significant proportion of all agricultural crops here. By visiting wild flowers, bees are one of the keystones of most of the ecosystems on this island."

The Minister also referred to the need for a bee industry strategy, saying:

"Later this year I will be commissioning work to start on a local Bee Health Strategy. This strategy will be developed in conjunction with the industry here and will tackle a range of issues that are a priority for local beekeepers including research, training and Colony Collapse Disorder." ENDS

Notes to Editors

EurBee3 is the third European Bee Conference. It takes place at Queens University, Belfast, from the 8 - 11 September 2008.

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Sinn Féin Mayor Brenda Chivers has highlighted depression and mental health worries as serious side effects of the growing levels of unemployment in the Limavady borough as the dole queues continue to soar.

Cllr Chivers said:

"The figures released show that unemployment levels are on the increase in the borough with construction workers and those employed in the housing sector being the worst affected group due to the current slowing of the construction and housing sector.

"I want to highlight the depression and mental health effects unemployment can have on people as well as the stresses caused by the increased cost of living. As more people are finding it increasingly difficult to secure employment, they are finding themselves under severe stress with the pressure of paying bills, mortgages, rent and providing food for their families.

"Anyone who finds themselves in a position of overwhelming stress or depression caused by their financial situation should not to suffer in silence and should contact an advice helpline such as the Samaritans on 028 703 20000 or 028 712 65511 or contact LATCH on 77742644 to speak to a professional counsellor." ENDS

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Margaret Ritchie should explain if she will be on course to deliver on her promise to build 1500 social houses

Fra Mc Cann Sinn Féin MLA for west Belfast has asked Margaret Ritchie to explain if she will be on course to deliver on her promise to build 1500 social houses this year as detailed in the budget.

"The Minister should be honest and tell those 40,000 people on the waiting list if she is able to deliver on her promise. So much depends on the commitment she made earlier this year and people are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress from her department.

I deal with people everyday from across Belfast desperate for somewhere for them and their families to live, the Minister must up her game and act urgently to help solve this growing problem."

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"Margaret Ritchie must spell out when her promised mortgage rescue scheme will become a reality" - McCann

Sinn Féin MLA Fra Mc Cann has called on Margaret Ritchie to spell out when her promised mortgage rescue scheme will become a reality.

Cllr McCann said,

"Many hundreds of people face losing their homes because they are unable to maintain excessive mortgage payments.

The Minister promised earlier this year that a package would be forthcoming but it now appears that this has been put on the long finger and there will be no announcement until next spring. This is unacceptable.

The minister needs to clarify her position as soon as possible."

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Sinn Féin to meet BT & DETI over broadband provision

Sinn Féin MP MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew has said that local Sinn Féin representatives will be meeting BT and DETI to discuss BT's failure to provide adequate broadband provision across South Tyrone.

Ms Gildernew said:

"In order for rural areas to compete for high tech industry we need a fast reliable broadband network that can meet the growing needs of industry."

"While recognising the efforts of DETI & BT to achieve 100% availability, a recent door-to-door survey carried out by Brantry & Eglish Cumann activists has highlighted massive gaps in the fixed line provision in that area. This leaves them dependent on erratic and expensive satellite access which suffers from relatively low connection speed, in fact, much of the fixed line service in the area delivers speeds lower than that which the OECD define as broadband.

"There has been much discussion about the economy and how it is going into recession, but whilst we face difficult times we still need to invest in our infrastructure. A failure to invest will have a direct impact on job creation, particularly in rural areas such as the Brantry which have suffered from a legacy of underinvestment.

"Out of 890 wards The Neighbourhood Information Service (NINIS) ranks the Caledon ward as the 11th most deprived in respect of proximity to services, something which adequate broadband access could help to alleviate. Its importance is illustrated by figures recently provided by BT which show broadband uptake in the Benburb exchange area to be extremely high at 52%. All the more amazing when you consider that 25% of those in the Brantry who have tried to get broadband are unable to do so."

"If we are to attract major investment in high tech industry and if we are to meet the needs of people who work or study at home and the local many community projects and businesses in the area then we need to see greater investment to ensure equal access to broadband services at an equal cost.

"I welcome this meeting with BT, who hold the DETI contract to deliver 100% broadband access, to discuss their plans for the future and the opportunity to create a relationship between local activists, elected representatives, DETI and BT so that any developments are tailored to meet the needs of the economy and the local population." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Transport Minister, Conor Murphy, today opened the new £2.8million Lisburn Bus Centre. During his visit he also launched Translink's new Passenger Charter.

The Minister said:

"This investment in a new bus centre is a major asset for public transport in Lisburn and local passengers will benefit from a modern fully accessible station which provides better and more comfortable facilities for all.

"I am committed to improving public transport and my key objective in investing in bus services is to encourage more commuters and other travellers out of the car.

"Substantial investment in bus services between 2003-2007 has resulted in nearly 940 new Translink buses, making it one of the most modern, comfortable and reliable fleets in Europe. In addition between 2008-2011 a further £36million will be invested in buses to ensure these high standards are maintained.

"I would also like to acknowledge the support of the EU Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme which part funded this new facility for the travelling public."

The site is close to the city centre and offers quick access to Bow Street Mall and the surrounding commercial area. A bus lane adjoining the station will increase access and shorten journey times.

The Minister also launched the new Translink Passenger's Charter. The new Passenger's Charter sets out standards and targets for punctuality and reliability, waiting times, standing on buses and trains, complaints procedures and what passengers can expect from Translink staff.

The Minister said:

"The Charter is a statement of Translink's commitment to continuing to improve the high standards of public transport service that passengers expect when using buses and trains throughout the region." ENDS

Notes to Editors:

The new centre's features include a Ticket and Information Office, Refreshment area, improved passenger information, Care and Baby Room, CCTV and Public Toilets.

This project is part-financed by the European Development Fund under Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme.

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South Down Sinn Féin MLA Willie Clarke and Down Councillor Mickey Coogan have welcomed last week's decision by the Parades Commissions to impose a determination on this Saturday night's loyalist band parade in Newcastle.

Mr. Clarke said:

"Sinn Fein's position is that this parade should not be allowed to proceed in a mainly Nationalist town where they are not welcome. Neither the Business Community or the majority of Newcastle residents want the inconvenience of this parade imposed on them. With this in mind, we went before the Commission last week to request that this parade be stopped or at the very least a number of restrictions be imposed.

"We explained to the Commission that there was a history of participating bands displaying and wearing paramilitary flags and emblems, playing sectarian music and that the timing of the parade from 7pm-11pm on a Saturday night was totally unacceptable. We also made clear that has been an unusually high number of parades in Newcastle this year due to the main demonstration on the 12th of July being held in the town and that the parade organisers had made no attempt at entering dialogue with either the local Business Community or local residents.

"We will be meeting with the PSNI this week to discuss the Commissions determination, and how they intend to Police the parade. We will also meet with business owners and residents to ensure their concerns are addressed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson (Foyle) has accused local MP Mark Durkan of indulging in fantasy politics if he thinks that unionists are ready to treat nationalist rights and entitlements with respect never mind equality.

Ms. Anderson was speaking after the Foyle MP called for the scrapping of the safeguards contained in the Good Friday Agreement, which were introduced to protect the rights of nationalists against a repeat of the unionist hegemony of the past.

Martina Anderson said:

"I am absolutely astounded that Mark Durkan is supporting the scrapping of vital safeguards which are there to guarantee the democratic rights of the nationalist community."

"In this, the 40th anniversary year of the Civil Rights campaign, he is advocating the removal of the safeguards that were painstakingly secured in prolonged negotiations culminating in the Good Friday Agreement. Does Mark Durkan expect anyone to believe that unionists are ready to accept equality and the needs of the nationalist community as a normal part of politics here.

"If this is the case then Mark needs to explain to the nationalist electorate exactly what he bases this belief on.

"The DUP have shown over recent times that they are in a place that they don't want to be - sharing power with republicans and nationalists. They have demonstrated that even with the safeguards in the Agreement for all citizens, including unionists that they will not, voluntarily deliver on their commitments. It is only because of Sinn Féin's determination and leadership within the Executive that they are being forced to move.

"Mark's latest foray into fantasy politics reflects a penchant for sound bites rather than sound thinking. The SDLP leader's assertion that the proposed Bill of Rights would afford sufficient protection for the rights of nationalists and republicans does not stand scrutiny.

"Unlike Mark, I was a member of the Bill of Rights Forum so I know from first-hand experience the kind of resistance we faced from the unionist parties in terms of securing a strong Bill.

"That process is still not complete, therefore we still haven't seen the final document. I want to see a strong, enforceable Bill of Rights, which would be complimentary to the safeguards in the GFA. Not one or the other but both.

"And contrary to what Mark would like people to believe, Sinn Féin negotiated changes to the Ministerial code, not to exclude any party from office but to close the loop-holes.

"Under the new code the opt-out position that the DUP operated under the Trimble/Durkan administration was removed. The DUP, as are all parties, is now obligated to attend all Executive and all-Ireland Ministerial Council meetings and fully participate in partnership government.

"For someone who regularly gives the impression that he negotiated the GFA single-handedly, Mark obviously does not understand it. Just so that he is clear what it says about Ministries I would point out that under the 1998 Act it clearly states that ministerial offices shall not exceed 10 and that if there is to be a new department or an existing one dissolved it can only be done with approval by the Assembly passed with cross community support - so he clearly does not understand the GFA. When, not if, Sinn Féin has Policing and Justice transferred to the Executive that is the basis that it will have to be dealt with. No party has an absolute right to the Justice Ministry." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President and West Tyrone MP MLA Pat Doherty says that there is total disbelief and much anger within the republican and nationalist community that SDLP Leader Mark Durkan's is proposing the adoption of DUP party policy in terms of ending powersharing at Stormont and replacing it with voluntary coalition and majority rule.

He said,

"The powersharing institutions are an integral part of the Good Friday Agreement and for good reason. Now Mark Durkan is proposing to dispense with this system of government which, while not perfect, at least provides protections to the republican and nationalist community that majority unionist rule and all the abuses of power that went with it would never again occur.

"Sinn Féin has been at the forefront to defending power-sharing both at Stormont and within local government.

"Many people are angry that Mark Durkan now says he is willing to accept unionist majority rule as long as there is a Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is part of the Good Friday Agreement and must be delivered regardless. However, Mark Durkan is now telling us that he is willing to trade nationalist participation in the Executive for the delivery of this same Bill of Rights

"Even in the context of a Bill of Rights, a unionist Executive dominated by the DUP would undoubtedly seek to pursue policies and decisions to undermine, as much as possible, the all-Ireland dimension of the Good Friday Agreement and re-entrench partition. Equally, with decision making powers solely in the hands of unionist Ministers what chance would areas like west of the Bann, for example, have in terms of the allocation of resources and investment.

"Up to this point, the DUP has failed to demonstrate that they are committed to sharing power on the basis of equality.

"The SDLP should join Sinn Fein in challenging the DUP. Instead, Mark Durkan has indicated that he wants to let the DUP rule the roost in a totally unionist Executive at Stormont.

"While some might view this as an attempt by the SDLP leader to make himself relevent, others know that what he is proposing is very dangerous. The suspicion is that Mark Durkan is again putting narrow party self interest above the need to ensure effective power sharing and the protection of the nationalist and republican constituency.

"Is it any wonder that the DUP's Upper Bann MP David Simpson has greeted Mark Durkan's comments with glee saying that he welcomes "news that Mark Durkan and the SDLP have eventually caught a glimpse of page 29 of the DUP's 2007 Election Manifesto and have recognised that our policy is not only wise but practical."

"There is disbelief and anger within the republican and nationalist community about what Mark Durkan is proposing. Regardless of Mark Durkan's ill-advised abandonment of power sharing or the haste from the DUP, UUP and Alliance Party to welcome his U-turn, there will be no return to majority unionist rule at Stormont and neither will there be an engineered process to exclude Sinn Féin." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has attended the first ever Irish Terra Madre food festival in Waterford.

Terra Madre Ireland is hosted by the Irish Slow Food movement and is their inaugural Irish Food Festival in Waterford from 4 - 7 September 2008. The centrepiece of the festival is an all-island food policy conference entitled 'A Sustainable Future for the Irish Food Industry' which was addressed by President Mary McAleese, Junior Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Trevor Sargant TD and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA.

Addressing delegates Ms Gildernew said:

"Sustainable food production is the reality that our agri-food industry, north and south face everyday. We must ensure that not only are our traditional skills, our land resources and our environment sustained but also the livelihoods of our producers and farmers. Terra Madre is a prime example of how we can achieve this, utilising our local Slow Food movement through greater integration and focus. This festival is a credit to not only the organisers, but also the movement's producers and supporters.

"I hope everyone in attendance this weekend will reap the benefits of shared practice and experience. Terra Madre offers a tremendous range of food expertise and produce in one event and is a unique opportunity for everyone here to learn from each other and sell their wares."

The four-day Terra Madre event has been organised by Slow Food Ireland. It has gathered together food producers, policy-makers, manufacturers, academics, retailers, writers, chefs and food enthusiasts. To complement the one-day food conference there is also a garden banquet, tours of artisan food producers, cookery demonstrations, food tastings, competitions and a huge farmer's market.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. SlowFood International was set up in 1989 to help local producers compete with the mass advertising of processed foods by the major multinationals. It promotes good, clean, fair, food, locally produced, where possible.
  2. The Terra Madre festival will include a Conference, Gala Banquet, Artisan Food tours, Farmers Market and networking events. Terra Madre originated in Turin, Italy, where it attracts 130,000 visitors to its biannual Food Festival.
  3. The Northern launch event for Terre Madre was held in Nicks Warehouse, Belfast on 23 July and was addressed by Darina Allen and Donal Lehane (Chairpersons of SlowFood Ireland and Terra Madre Ireland 2008).
  4. The website address for the Waterford festival is www.terramadreireland.com

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DSD EXCUSES FOR FAILURE NOT ACCEPTABLE - NÍ CHUILÍN

Sinn Féin's DSD spokesperson Carál Ni Chulin has slammed the failure of the DSD to collect and deliver child maintenance amounting to over £80m. Ms Ni Chuilín has stated that the Social Development Minister has failed and is continuing to fail thousands of vulnerable children.

Speaking today Ms Ní Chuilin said:

"Today's revelation that over £80m is owed to children through child maintenance highlights years of systematic failure to provide for vulnerable families in the delivery of child maintenance.

"Some people had hoped with the passing of the Child Maintenance Bill which, while imperfect, had certain clauses that could deliver for vulnerable families and their children. The revelation now that 12,000 children out of 57,000 are not receiving maintenance and that over £40m of the above debt will be written off has shown that the gross failures of the past are being passed into the new system.

"Margaret Ritchie has held the position of Minister for DSD since May 2007 and cannot wash her hands of past errors or the errors of her office since taking the post. Indeed changing the name of the agency charged with the responsibility of collecting child maintenance from the Child Support Agency to the Child Maintenance Enforcement Division is proving to be only a cosmetic exercise. Whatever the name, countless families are still loosing out.

"What this amounts to is thousands of families loosing out financially and being let down over years of neglect, something which Margaret Ritchie has not been able to stop or even address." CRÍOCH

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FURTHER CONSULTATION MAY BE REQUIRED ON AIRPORT EXPANSION - Ó DONNGHAILE

Sinn Féin's East Belfast Representative Niall Ó Donnghaile has stated that the revelation that numerous schools in the vicinity of Belfast City Airport have raised concerns over disturbances caused by air traffic in the east and south of Belfast, clearly displays the need for further and a more exhaustive consultation process.

Speaking today Mr Ó Donnghaile said:

"Serious concerns have been raised by schools in the area with regards to the volume of air traffic and the flight paths of air carriers using Belfast City Airport. These have included the smell of fumes from the over flying aircraft, disruption to classes and more importantly disruption to examinations that may well decide the future of pupils at these schools.

It is clear that previous consultations have failed to uncover the concerns raised today by local schools. While any form of consultation is to be welcomed, given that 18 of the 30 schools in the locality have raised concerns it seems that a more in-depth and exhaustive consultation process is the only way forward.

This should happen as soon as possible in order for such concerns to be factored in to any decision making process with regards the future expansion of Belfast City Airport. What is a priority here is the education and health of children in the locality."

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Níl an streachailt ar son an Achta críochnaithe go fóill - Sinn Féin

Ag caint inniu dúirt Uachtarán Shinn Féin nach bhfuil streachailt ar son Acht na Gaeilge críochnaithe go fóill.

Dúirt sé,

"Tá Sinn Féin go hiomlán dírthithe ar chuspóirí s'againn chun Acht a bhaint amach don phobail Ghaelach anseo sna Sé Chontae.

Is cúis imní dúinn ar fad go bhfuil daoine áirithe ó pháirtí Aontachtach ag cuir in neadán an fheachtais seo go fóill. Nár cheart go mbeadh eagla chóiche ar duine ar bith roimh an Ghaeilge.

Ní bhaineann an Ghaeilge le cuid den phobal amháin, is linne uilig í.
Ta an-dul chun cinn déanta ag an Ghaeilge le deich mbliana anuas ach ar a bharr seo caithfidh muid Acht fiúntach bunaithe ar chearta a fhéiceáil anseo sna sé chontae.Tá athbheochan na Gaeilge ar an scéal is rathúla sa tír seo ó thaobh an chultúir de.
Tá líon na gcainteoirí Gaeilge ag dul ó neart go neart, an t-am ar fad agus mar gheall téann sé le ciall go mbeadh meas ag an rialtais ar cearta na caintóirí seo.
Tá méadú suntasach go háirithe ar líon na bpáistí óga atá ag fáil a gcuid oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge agus is iad a dtodhchaí siúd agus a gcearta siúd a chaithfear a chinntiú trí achtú.
Is í eochair fhorbairt bhuan na Gaeilge ná a dhéanamh cinnte de go mbaineann sí le gnáthshaol daoine. Imríonn Sinn Féin ról lárnach san obair seo. Is iomaí bliain atá muid ag obair i bpáirtíocht le grúpaí Gaeilge.
Rinne Sinn Féin cinnte dearfach de go mbeadh An Ghaeilge scríofa isteach i gcoinníollacha Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta agus in athuair go mbeadh sí ar chlár chomhráití Chill Rìmhinn agus go mbeadh dul chun cinn breise sa chomhaontú deireanach a tháining amach astu.

Tá difear an domhain, áfach, idir gealltanais a fháil ó rialtais ar infheistíocht don Ghaeilge, nó Acht Teanga a chur i bhfeidhm, agus ag iarradh orthu a gcuid dualgas a chomhlíonadh.

Tá Sinn Féin tógtha le seasamh an fhóid ar son ár dteanga agus bheith mar chuid lárnach den fheachtais ar son na hAchta ní bheith muid a gcúlú ón seasamh seo; tá dualgais ar Rialtas na Breataine comhlíonadh leis na comitmintí a gheall said i gCill Rímhín i dtaca leis an Achta agus tá Sinn Féin a choineál an bhrú sin orthu. Chomh maith le sin tá muid ag cuir búigh ar rialtais Baile Átha Cliath i dtaca le tionachar s'acu a úsaid ar son an Acht.

Tá mise cinnte go mbeidh Acht Gaeilge ann.

Seolaim comhgairdeas le POBAL agus an scoth-oibre atá ar bun acusan agus grúpaí ghaelach fud fad na tire ar son na hAchta, go néirí linn!"

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