Speaking during Questions to the Taoiseach in the Dáil today Sinn Féin's Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin called on the Government to challenge the British Government's refusal to co-operate with the Barron Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings. Deputy Ó Caoláin revealed to the house that he had received a response, which he described as 'extraordinary', from the British Government in which they stated contrary to Justice Barron's report that they had provided all relevant information from their files. He also questioned whether or not there had been an investigation in to the files that had gone missing from the Department of Justice relating to the bombings, which he said was a 'national scandal'.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The Taoiseach will recall that my Sinn Féin colleagues and I, in the presence of the Taoiseach, raised the Barron Report with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair at our meeting in Downing Street on 17 December. The British Prime Minister promised to reply to me in detail. I have since received a letter of less than 200 words from British Minister of State Jane Kennedy. I have the letter here and it actually claims that all relevant information from British files has already been passed to Justice Barron. Does the Taoiseach agree with that extraordinary statement?
"Judge Barron states in his Report that the British Government's representatives told the Inquiry, at a meeting in London, that there are some 68,000 files of possible relevance in the Northern Ireland Office alone. Yet the Barron inquiry received only a ten-page letter from the British Secretary of State in February 2002 and a similar follow-up letter.
"Justice Barron says that no copies of original documents were supplied and that the scope of his report is limited as a result of the shortage of information from the British.
"Has the Taoiseach urged Tony Blair to ensure the release all relevant files? And crucially, has he urged him to instruct all those from the British side who are, or may be, summoned by the Oireachtas Committee to attend its hearings?
"As regards the ongoing, unfolding events in the joint committee's sittings, I note today, again in terms of Mr. Justice Barron's attendance, the line of questioning, what steps were taken by the Taoiseach, his Department and the various Departments with responsibility to try to establish what happened to the missing files? I note from the engagement taking place in the committee shortly before the resumption of business in the House this afternoon that not only were these files missing in original form but the duplicates at another location were also missing, which is an incredible position. Were they stolen, deliberately lost or destroyed? What steps have been taken by the Government to try to discover the files' location? If files relevant to any of the other tribunals or major investigative processes taking place in this State or to any former Member of the House or any other area of interest were missing, would it not be a national scandal? Is it not, therefore, a scandal that we have not been able to establish definitively what happened to the files which were in the care of Departments and other arms of the State? ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Issues Gerry Kelly has warned the British government 'not to consider extending proposals to change the burden of proof in certain trials and admit secret intelligence reports as evidence to the judicial system in the six counties'. Mr Kelly's remarks come after the British Home Secretary David Blunkett publicised these proposals while touring in India.
Mr Kelly said:
"Sinn Féin have been at the forefront of arguing with the British government to radically change the ethos and direction of the criminal justice system in the North. Decades of repressive legislation have resulted in hundreds of wrongful convictions and a complete lack of confidence in the judiciary amongst the nationalist and the republican constituency.
"David Blunkett's proposals to hold secret trials and use intelligence reports as factual evidence are extremely dangerous and should be opposed by anyone with an interest in human rights or with a desire to see a fair and impartial criminal justice system.
"I would take this opportunity to warn the British government that their focus regarding the six counties has to be to remove repressive legislation not reinforce it. The first Criminal Justice Bill they produced was not up to scratch. We have since returned to it and hope to see significant improvements in the amended version. Certainly these proposals from David Blunkett can form no part of any future system here." ENDS
Sinn Fein's EU Candidate for Dublin, Mary Lou McDonald today accused the Government of "passive indifference and inaction on the emergence of a two-speed EU." Referring to the coming February 18 "Big 3 Summit" between Britain, Germany, and France at which they will discuss a range of EU issues including economic growth, immigration and the proposed EU Constitution, McDonald said:
"This is not the first time that such meetings with selective agendas and selective invitees have occurred. Previous meetings led to an agreement between these same states on enhanced cooperation in the area of defence. This is the emerging elitist two tier Europe Sinn Fein have consistently argued against. Unfortunately, we don't have to wait until the proposed Constitution accelerates a two-speed Europe, it is a reality even today."
"And where is the Irish Government in all this? Nowhere.
"The best the Government can commit to is that it 'won't stand in the way' of those states seeking to exercise their dominance via enhanced cooperation. And the Government proved its deference and lack of political will when it stood back while Finland took the lead for the European neutrals in opposing the mutual defence clause in the draft Constitution - an issue that strikes to the heart of Irish foreign policy. That kind of passive indifference and inaction on the emergence of a two tier EU is not good enough. The people of this state deserve better.
"Especially during the Presidency we need our public representatives in Europe to actively campaign against the emergence of a two-tier Europe, and for an EU of equals. This elitist EU power bloc needs to be challenged to stop their end runs around the smaller states, and I urge the Taoiseach to show leadership by using the Presidency to do so." ENDS
February 3rd, 2004
A Sinn Féin delegation led by party Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA Cllr John O'Dowd and Spokesperson on Children's Issues, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Cllr Thomas O'Reilly will meet direct rule Health Minister Angela Smith today, Tuesday 3rd February 2004, at 4.30pm in Castle Buildings.
Speaking ahead of the meeting Cllr O'Dowd said:
"Sinn Fein will raise a number of issues with Angela Smith. There is widespread concern that the accountability deficit that has opened up is affecting the implementation of key service developments throughout the Health Care system.
"In particular there is concern that many of the key elements of the 'Developing Better Services' policy that focus on the Health Care Structures as opposed to hospital sites, have slipped off the agenda. This is bad not just for our health care system and the development of better services but also for people who rely on these services."ENDS
February 3rd, 2004
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources, Martin Ferris TD is to question Minister Dermot Ahern on inconsistencies regarding earlier Dáil replies on the possible impact of landslides in the Pollathomas area on the proposed Corrib gas pipeline. Deputy Ferris has placed the question following a report to Mayo County Council which states that had the pipeline been in place at the time of the landslide on Dooncarton Hill last September, it would have potentially caused an environmental disaster.
Deputy Ferris said:
"Last October I placed a number of questions to the Minister regarding the possible impact of the landslide on the route of the proposed pipeline. In his replies, Minister Ahern stated that the landslide would not have impacted on the pipeline in any way. It is now clear in fact that had the pipeline been in place that the landslide might have had disastrous consequences for the area. It is also clear that the Minister was completely reliant on reports from Shell, the company responsible for the pipeline project, and that this is not an adequate basis for assessing the major risks associated with this project". ENDS
February 3rd, 2004
An Fírínne (the victims group campaigning for the truth about collusion between British state agents and agencies and Unionist Death Squads in the killing of citizens) will tomorrow hold a mass picket at the headquarters of MI5 and at Tory Party Offices in central London.
100 relatives of those killed as a result of collusion will be in London to picket, for the first time, the government departments and agencies responsible for the policy of collusion. Hundreds of people were killed, and many more injured and maimed, as a result of collusion in what was a campaign of state sanctioned murder.
2pm MI5 HQ, Millbank
2.30pm Tory Party Headquarters
February 3rd, 2004
Opening Remarks By Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA to the Review of the Good Friday Agreement.
The review as set out in the Good Friday Agreement is about improving the delivery of the Agreement. It was never envisaged that it would take place during a suspension of institutions - indeed the British government had no right to suspend the institutions, and had to step outside the Agreement to unilaterally take that power on themselves and I do not accept for one second the British Secretary of States defence of this action.
The reality at this time is that instead of stable political institutions with the people's elected representatives making decisions on important issues, which affect all our lives, across a range of social and economic issues; instead of a fully operational Assembly and all-Ireland institutions leading the delivery of change, advancing the equality agenda and championing human rights based society; we have continuing impasse.
It is almost three months since elections to the Assembly.
Those results show that the Good Friday Agreement continues to enjoy the substantial support of the majority of the people. Those who voted did so in the expectation that those they elected would be part of working institutions.
We are entitled therefore to ask the British Government to explain at this point the inconsistency between their assertion that the Agreement cannot be renegotiated and their failure to restore the political institutions which are the democratic core of the Agreement.
We are entitled also to ask the Democratic Unionist Party to explain how they intend to contribute to discussion on how best to implement the Agreement when they have declared their intention to subvert it.
The answers to such questions will at least allow the emergence of some clarity with respect to both the nature of and the likely outcome of the review. The review was never meant to deal with a process which is on hold so it is vital from the outset that we do not lend to any ambiguity about the purpose or expected outcome.
The review is not a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. It is an opportunity to accelerate the process of change promised in the Agreement. It is an opportunity to re-endorse the Agreement. And yet we have parties to this review who are either in breach of the Agreement, ambiguous about the Agreement or determined to destroy it. But you are we welcome. Your presence here is implicit recognition of how, despite our differences, we can discuss these issues.
Sinn Féin is bringing a positive attitude to the review and we will proactively listen to the views of the other parties. We submitted a comprehensive agenda for discussion to the governments and have prepared detailed positions across these; including, the political institutions, the suspension powers, participation in NSMC and expansion of the Implementation Bodies, an All-Ireland Inter-Parliamentary Forum and All-Ireland Consultative Forum, the transfer of powers on policing and justice and many other matters.
The Review must address in particular the lack of progress on the equality and human rights front, identify the causes of this and seek a commitment from all to put it right.
It must address the failure of those in Ministerial Office to adhere to their Pledge of Office. It must deal with the need to define the duties of Ministerial Office, to include a requirement to attend Executive meetings or meetings of the North South Ministerial Council.
And of course it should also reflect on what is working well. It must consider for example the improvements recommended by the Procedures Committee and subsequently endorsed by the Assembly, including all the parties here.
Sinn Fein intends also to raise matters such as electoral registration, collusion, including the refusal of the British government to publish the Cory report, and the absence in many deprived areas, both unionist and nationalist working class neighbourhoods, of a real social economic peace dividend. These are matters directly linked to the Good Friday Agreement and which require focus and discussion and action taken.
Sinn Fein is prepared to play our full part in facing up to our responsibilities. I have set a peaceful direction for all republicans to follow and I reiterate that today.
There is also a heavy responsibility on the two governments - and especially on the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister - to provide the essential political leadership required to move the overall process on. As the leaders of the two governments and the joint and co-equal guarantors of the Agreement, it falls to them to marshal the pro-Agreement forces and implement a strategy to do this.That is the unambiguous desire of the electorate in returning 74 pro-Agreement candidates out of a total of 108.
Of course, Sinn Féin has its own responsibilities in this as the largest pro-Agreement party. The electorate has made clear in successive votes since 1998 that they oppose efforts to turn the clock back or to sustain a status quo, which is not an option. There is an onus on the British government to lift the suspension of the institutions and allow the process defined in the Agreement to take its course.
It also means that the two governments have to honour their obligations made in the Agreement, made in last years Joint Declaration and made in subsequent discussions. In order to advance this entire process of change the British government needs to press ahead with all its commitments to secure peoples rights and entitlements. This has not happened. Instead the tactical approach of the last 5 years has encouraged the rejectionists.
This cannot continue.
To be effective this review must defend and accelerate the process of change promised in the Good Friday Agreement And we, sitting around this table must not lose sight of the fact that the Agreement, which as the culmination of an enormous effort by the two governments and the parties to tackle the causes of conflict, continues to hold the promise of a new beginning for everyone.
We should also take encouragement from the fact that we collectively, whatever about our differences, have transformed the situation. There has been huge progress made, not least through the efforts of the people in this room and those who support us on this island. ENDS
February 3rd, 2004
Sinn Fein representative for Dublin South East, Daithi Doolan speaking at a press conference organised by Democracy and Public Services in Europe (DAPSE) called on the Irish government to use the Presidency to oppose the privatisation agenda in the Lisbon Agenda and defend public services.
Daithi Doolan said:
"The draft EU Constitution accelerates the commercialisation and privatisation of the health and education sectors within the EU, something which Sinn Féin strongly opposes. We are concerned that the removal of the requirement of unanimous voting will mean that important matters in relation to education and health will be decided by international trade agreements; the power and influence of member states would be drastically reduced. Such deals would move power away from the Parliament and would become the sole and exclusive responsibility of the EU Commission.
"The drive towards EU privatisation once more reinforces the Sinn Fein view that the European Union is encroaching on more and more areas of national sovereignty and the public sector within Ireland
"Sinn Fein calls upon the government to use the Presidency to oppose the privatisation agenda in the Lisbon Agenda, and to enhance social protection and defend public services. It should push for the EU-wide upwards harmonisation of workers‚ rights and for further EU equal rights instruments including a specific Gender Equality Directive and a Disability Directive."ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly has said that figures released showing that only 13% of PSNI members have confidence in the Police Ombudsman are 'hardly surprising given the fact that most current PSNI members originated in the RUC'.
Mr Kelly said:
"The PSNI is in the main comprised of former members of the RUC. The RUC for decades operated outside the law and outside any form of effective accountability. It is hardly surprising therefore that only 13% of the PSNI are happy with now being subject to a form of accountability.
"However these figures are a timely reminder of how necessary it is to get policing right and get democratic accountability over policing. There is clearly substantial resistance within the PSNI ranks to the process of change and to the accountability which will be necessary to achieve a new beginning. This will of course include the transfer of powers over policing and justice to locally elected representatives." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald speaking following comments from the Comptroller and Auditor General John Purcell suggesting that there is a strong case for tests on the new electronic voting machines said 'it is time that the Department of Environment took their heads out of the sand and recognized that there are serious flaws in the electronic voting system that they want to use. These flaws can be quickly addressed if the political will is there."
Ms. McDonald said:
"Since the introduction of electronic voting in 2002 more and more people have voiced their concerns about the electronic voting system being used by the Department of Environment. These include many political parties, including Sinn Féin, but also the Computer Science Department in Maynooth and a computer company 'Zerflow' which was employed by the Environment Department to carry out a security assessment of the system. Zerflow pointed out that there are serious flaws in the system and while the Department recognised the flaws they refused to act.
"Among the flaws Sinn Féin identified with this system are how the current system was produced, how the count is recorded and the inability to independently recheck through the retention of a paper copy of the vote, verified by the voter. These are fundamental to the very electoral process.
'It is time that the Department of Environment took their heads out of the sand and recognized that there are serious flaws in the electronic voting system that they want to use. Electronic voting using a kiosk type system is achievable and these flaws can be overcome in time if the political will is there."ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness commenting on speculation that the British government is about to announce an inquiry into intelligence claims leading to the Iraq war said:
"The controversy in Britain around the reasons offered for the War in Iraq highlight one of the difficulties in our process. Obviously in terms of the British situation either the intelligence services were incompetent, gave false information and the war started on that basis, or they deliberately gave false information in order to foment a war.
In the north of Ireland these same British intelligence services have played a central role in creating a succession of crises in the peace process. Unsubstantiated allegations, still presented as fact by elements of the media, have been used as an excuse to tear down the political institutions.
The British intelligence system has repeatedly conspired to destroy the peace process and promote conflict. Despite this there is no talk of inquiries by the British government.
Just as significantly the British government refuses to agree to inquiries into proven instances of collusion between British state forces and loyalist death squads which resulted in the deaths of hundreds. And the British government continues to sit on the Cory report despite the fact that Judge Cory has told the families that he believes public inquiries are justified. Once again we see one law for the Irish and another for everyone else.ENDS
February 2nd, 2004
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin to intervene directly to address public concern at the current situation in Cavan General Hospital. This follows representations to the Minister from consultants at Cavan and the continuing delay in beginning an inquiry into a dispute between two consultants - an inquiry established in August 2003.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said that while the death of a child at the weekend had added to concern over the situation in Cavan Hospital, pending the result of the autopsy and the inquiry by the Health Board, it is too early to draw any conclusions. The Cavan/Monaghan TD, who visited the bereaved family in Cootehill this (Monday) evening said they were greatly distressed by repeated phone calls to their home from journalists. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
"Our foremost thoughts must be with the bereaved Sheridan family in their time of grief. Parents Brian and Rosemary and their surviving children are greatly distressed as they prepare to lay Frances to rest. I regret to say that some members of the media have displayed insensitivity and I would urge them to give the family the space to grieve in peace and quiet.
"Until the autopsy results are known it is too early to come to any conclusions on the full circumstances of this tragic death. It is an open question as to whether it relates in any way to the current difficulties at the hospital. It must be said that the family themselves have expressed gratitude for the care they received at Cavan General Hospital in the past."
Turning to the current problems in the hospital, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Cavan General Hospital has been in an uncertain state since before the suspension of two consultants last year. An inquiry was established by the Minister in August 2003 and it is a disgrace that nearly six months later that inquiry has not even begun. It is a scandal that a dispute by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association over what doctors serving on the inquiry panel will be paid should be allowed to cause such a delay.
"I welcomed the news last August that the two consultants had been suspended and an inquiry initiated. This was a long-running dispute and a real cause of concern to staff and patients alike. It has added to the pressure on the hospital during the past 18 months after the Accident and Emergency unit at Monaghan was taken off call. This placed an added burden on Cavan, as did the closure of the Maternity Unit at Monaghan.
"Back in August I called on the Health Board executive to ensure that the suspensions caused minimum disruption to patient services, as they promised in their statement at the time. But clearly this has not been the case.
"The Minister for Health and Children must intervene directly to address public concern at the current situation in Cavan General Hospital. We cannot wait for the outcome of an inquiry which has not even begun. I will be raising this matter in the Dáil this week." ENDS
Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member John O'Dowd has supported calls being made for a full independent inquiry into Shoot to Kill incidents in North Armagh in the 1980's. Mr O'Dowds call comes as the family of Gervaise McKerr launch a court bid in the House of Lords to force the British government to carry out an inquiry into his killing.
Mr O'Dowd said:
"Gervaise McKerr was shot and killed by the RUC along with Eugene Toman and Sean Burns in November 1982. They were unarmed yet more than 100 rounds were fired into the car they were travelling in.
"Three years ago in a landmark legal victory the European Court demanded that a proper investigation into the circumstances of these killings and other state murders be carried out. The British government have repeatedly refused to give effect to this judgement.
" Because of this the McKerr family have been forced to go to the House of Lords. This is a test case and if successful will have serious repercussions for the British government.
" However it is a disgrace that the McKerr family have been forced into further legal action. The British government need to end their policy of concealment and need to face up to the legacy left by the policy of state sanctioned and state supported murder." ENDS
Families of those killed and injured through the British government policy of collusion will tomorrow hold a protest at Stormont at 12.15 pm to coincide with the start of the Review.
Group spokesperson Mark Sykes who was shot and seriously injured in the Sean Graham Bookies Shooting today said:
"Tomorrow a group of relatives who have been bereaved through the British policy of state sanctioned murder will hold a short protest at Stormont to coincide with the start of the Review process.
" It is important that the British government realise that the victims of collusion will not rest until the truth comes out. The issue of collusion and the legacy it has left needs to be on the agenda of the British government and those parties in the Review.
" Tomorrow's protest will come on the eve of a trip to London on Wednesday when almost 100 relatives will picket the Ministry of Defence and the Headquarters of the British Tory party. The families are determined that the truth surrounding the murder of our loved ones will not continue to be suppressed by the culture of concealment which operates at the heart of the British Establishment." ENDS
February 2nd, 2004
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as a "debacle" the threatened strike by hospital consultants over their disagreement with a new insurance scheme and has called on them to withdraw their proposed action. He said the Government also bore responsibility for failure to renegotiate the consultants' contract. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"This is a debacle which should never have been allowed to develop. Because of this dispute, patients will suffer. The consultants should immediately withdraw their threat to pull out from all but emergency hospital cover in three weeks' time.
"The issue of insurance cover for consultants should have been resolved long ago as part of the promised revision of the consultants' contract. Instead negotiations have continued since 2001 with no end in sight. The Government's own target date for revision of the contract, as set out in the Health Strategy, was the end of 2002. Therefore the Government also bears responsibility in this debacle.
"The existing contract gives hospital consultants a privileged position whereby most are paid handsomely for practice in the public system without proper accountability while also carrying out lucrative private practice. They are now seeking renewed insurance cover from the State to cover liability from private practice in the past. Their dispute is essentially with their British insurers - the Medical Defence Union -and they should not make Irish patients suffer in that row.
"This, once again, underlines the need to totally revise the consultants' contract and to create a new grade of hospital consultant who would work exclusively in the public system, as part of an overall effort to dismantle the grossly unequal two-tier public-private system." ENDS
February 2nd, 2004
Sinn Féin representative in Dublin South East, Daithi Doolan has criticised the careless attitude towards building site safety in Dublin City. He was speaking after a 200-foot crane collapsed in their neighbourhood which resulted in 60 residents from Emerald Cottages, Barrow Street and Grand Canal Street in Ringsend being housed in a nearby hotel.
After speaking with the residents Sinn Féin Representative for the area, Daithí Doolan said:
"I have spoken to some of the residents who have been temporarily re-housed. They are obviously very shaken and also angry about what has happened.
Some of these residents had raised concerns in recent weeks about their safety in relation to this building site. The danger of these cranes being used in a residential area was obvious to them.
I am calling on the Minister for the Environment to put an immediate hold on the use of these cranes in residential areas. The government should also completely review building site health and safety regulations and ensure that existing regulations are enforced.
It is far too easy for property developers to get away with breaking health and safety regulations. These developers, many of whom, make millions, seem to treat health and safety on their sites with disregard. The reality of our legal system is that if a property developer is brought to court they will most likely walk away with a fine, even if someone has died due to a breach in health and safety regulations.
Of course accidents do happen but it seems to me that far too often it is the public and workers who pay for these accidents, many of which are preventable. The whole building industry needs to be tightened up. Property developers take their profits seriously; it's time they took the safety of their workers and the public just as seriously.
Sadly a large amount of people have died on building sites over recent years and yet still we have a situation where a 200 foot crane can collapse."ENDS
February 1st, 2004
Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald speaking at the 32nd commemorative Bloody Sunday march and rally said 'it is time for British government to bring their culture of concealment to an end.' She said 'It is time that they co-operated with the Saville Tribunal, it is time that they co-operated with the search for truth regarding the Dublin Monaghan bombings and it is time that they tell the truth of British involvement in state sanctioned murder and publish the Cory Report.' Ms. McDonald also offered support to the relatives of those killed as a result of collusion, who are taking their demand for the truth to the heart of the British establishment this week.
Ms. McDonald said:
"Thirty two years ago on these streets where we gather today, British soldiers murdered in the name of Queen and country. Thirty two years after the Bloody Sunday murders, the failure of successive British Administrations, both Tory and Labour, to acknowledge the part played by their military on that day has left an open wound on the psyche of nationalists and republicans on this island and left the relatives of those killed unable to bring this painful chapter to a close.
Bloody Sunday and it's aftermath was the first time in our recent history that we were able to clearly see the culture of concealment which operates within the British establishment. Within minutes of the first shots being fired by the Paras, the lies and the half-truths began to emerge. Nail bombs began to be planted on the dead and injured. In London, Downing Street was meeting to discuss the cover up, Widgery was enlisted and the plan was put into place. As far as the British Military was concerned the job was done.
What they hadn't banked on was the families of those killed and injured and the people of Derry and further afield who would not and will never accept the Widgery lie that became British fact.
The families campaigned and lobbied, not because they wanted to, but because they had no other option. That is the only reason that another Tribunal was established.
In recent times we have heard complaints about the cost of the Saville Tribunal being made by those who have a vested political interest in suppressing the truth of that day.
The reality is that if the British government were prepared to admit what the rest of the world already knows, that its soldiers murdered innocent and unarmed civilians on Bloody Sunday, and then attempted to cover it up for 32 years, then no Bloody Sunday Tribunal would have been required.
The difficulty for the British government and it‚s apologists is that the truth about Bloody Sunday and its cover up makes a mockery of its claims to be an honest broker in Ireland keeping warring factions apart. The same must also be said about the truth relating to the many other killings, which the British state either carried out directly or through its surrogates in the unionist militias.
Like the Bloody Sunday families, the relatives of these victims would not and will not accept the British version. It is through their efforts that the lid is starting to be lifted on the decades long policy of collusion and cover up. I want to support those relatives who are travelling to London this week to take their demand for the truth to the heart of the British establishment.
However, the British culture of concealment is alive and well. We see and hear it each week at the Saville Tribunal and we have recently seen it with Tony Blair's refusal to publish the Cory report and act upon its recommendations. Mr Blair has had the Cory Report since last October. He has refused to move on it. He is clearly dancing to the tune of those securocrats at the very heart of the British system who are frightened that their role in the planned murder of citizens will finally be exposed.
We saw a similar attitude in Dublin last week when former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald and Justice Minister Patrick Cooney attacked the Barron Report into the Dublin Monaghan bombings. These men, who in the words of the Barron Report Œshowed little interest‚ in the Dublin Monaghan bombings were also of course responsible for the introduction of censorship and the operation of the heavy gangs. And sadly they were not alone. It is an appalling indictment of successive governments that they were content to preside over a conspiracy of silence on what happened in Dublin and Monaghan on the 17th May 1974.
Since the Bloody Sunday murders in the early 1970's and the Shoot to Kill and loyalist murder gangs in the 1980's and 1990's the British were content to hide behind the old lie that allegations of collusion were little more that republican propaganda. With the ending of censorship the new line became that bad apples may have been involved, but that collusion was not sanctioned at any level.
And this is not ancient history as some would like to have us to believe. The report by the Police Ombudsman two weeks ago into the killing of Sean Brown in Bellaghy raises serious questions for this British government and for the current regime at the top of the PSNI.
I believe that Tony Blair in his own heart knows what has to be done. I think he knows that he has not delivered, that he hasn't faced down the military establishment, that he hasn‚t faced down those who still pursue a war agenda in Ireland. Will he ever do this? That is a question only Mr Blair can answer.
Will Mr Blair continue to hide behind bogus legal arguments or non-existent human rights concerns or will he do the right thing? Will he publish Cory and act upon it? Will he face the relatives of those killed by British state sanctioned murder? Will he order his military mandarins to co-operate with the Tribunal in the Guildhall?
I would predict that his answers to these questions will say a lot about what direction the entire Peace Process takes in the weeks and months ahead."ENDS
January 31st, 2004
On Wednesday 4th February, Sinn Féin Assembly Group Leader, Conor Murphy and other senior members of Sinn Féin will accompany over 70 relatives of those killed as a result of collusion, where they will picket outside MI5 headquarters, the British Ministry of Defence and Tory party headquarters in central London.
Speaking ahead of the protest Mr. Murphy said:
"I will be traveling to London on Wednesday with relatives of those killed by Unionist death squads during the last 30 years of conflict in Ireland. These Unionist murder gangs were controlled and directed by British state agencies. This policy of Collusion resulted in some of the worst incidents of violence including the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and the reign of terror conducted by the Shankill Butchers.
"In the mid-1980s British intelligence agencies not only recruited members of these Unionist death squads but also actively infiltrated their own agents into senior positions within these organizations. In December 1987 a huge consignment of weapons was smuggled into the north of Ireland and handed over to various Loyalist murder gangs. This was done with the full participation and knowledge of British Intelligence. These weapons were used to murder and injure hundreds of people in Ireland.
"Prominent civil rights lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson became victims of this policy of Collusion which was directed primarily against the Nationalist and Republican community.
"No member of the Special Branch or British military Intelligence has ever been charged in connection with any of these crimes. Special Branch remains as an integral part of the PSNI. The British army Force Research Unit has been renamed as the Joint Services Group and MI5 continues to operate with impunity.
"Sinn Féin fully supports the relatives in the search for truth and their ongoing campaign to highlight the direct involvement of British agencies in the murder of their loved ones."ENDS
January 29th, 2004
Sinn Féin policing Spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has re-iterated Sinn Féin demand that plastic bullets be removed from operational use immediately.
Commenting on the publication of the fourth report of the NIO led steering group into alternatives and the announcement by NIO Minster Jane Kennedy that plastic bullets will remain in operational use until at least 2005 Mr Kelly said:
"The British government committed themselves to the removal of plastic bullets from operational use. These are lethal weapons that have killed 17 people. They should not be in use.
"The consideration of alternatives is no excuse for any further delay in the removal of lethal plastic bullets. The PSNI and British Army have used and misused plastic bullets to kill and maim men, women and children.
"Any alternatives must be non-lethal."ENDS
January 29th, 2004
Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson, South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane has branded David Trimble's attack on international human rights work as a disgrace.
Speaking from Columbia, Ms Ruane said:
"Human Rights organisations have played and continue to play an important role in the advancement of the Irish Peace Process. The work of human rights lawyers like Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson have been vital in defending people and communities against the worst excesses of this state.
"Those who protest loudest against the work of human rights organisations clearly have a vested interest in suppressing the truth about human rights abuses.
"David Trimble's comments have contributed to the culture of impunity that exists within the many armed wings of the British establishment, the British Army, MI5, the RUC and Special Branch who have operated outside of the law and with no regard to international human rights standards.
"Making these remarks at an international conference also gives succour to some of the most repressive regimes throughout the world where there is a refusal to acknowledge international human rights agencies and where there are systematic and massive abuses of human rights."ENDS
January 29th, 2004
Sinn Féin's Environmental spokesperson Willie Clarke MLA, has responded to a report study published in the magazine Science, which claimed that farmed Atlantic salmon from Scotland contains the highest levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the world.
Cllr Clarke said:
"There is a genuine fear that eating farmed salmon increases the risk of cancer. People are worried about toxicity levels, and the growth hormones and chemicals used in large commercial farms. Last week's report in the respected American scientific journal 'Science' claimed that Scottish fish farms were amongst the most contaminated in the world. This report has the potential to damage consumer confidence in the Irish salmon farming industry.
"An integrated all-Ireland approach must be brought forward in order to develop aquaculture, and salmon farming is a key to this industry. There is no long-term economic or environmental sense in trying to compete with the massive Norwegian and Chilean factory farms that have flooded the global market with cheap fish. Irish salmon must be synonymous with safety and quality.
"To achieve this the emphasis must be on low-intensity farming along organic guidelines. It is also essential that we provide proper protection for wild salmon habitats. We need to see further investment in feeding methods so techniques can continue to evolve and improve and natural food sources such as the sand eel preserved. Proper investment and support from the Irish and British Governments will be a key factor in achieving this.
"Every effort must be made to develop a quality product that is sustainable, safe to eat and an alternative to mass production. This can only be achieved with North/South co-operation."ENDS
January 29th, 2004
Sinn Féin EU Parliament candidate Marylou McDonald has claimed the report by CORI today showing that 20% of households living in poverty are headed by someone in employment exposes a problem that "this Government is mentally and ideologically incapable of dealing with." Pointing to massive increases in calls for assistance from employed people to Vincent de Paul last year, McDonald went on to point to regressive stealth taxes such as the Bin Charges and the failure of the Government to take on vested interests and big business as reasons for increasing levels of poverty.
McDonald said: "This is the latest in a series of indicators that Ireland is increasingly dealing with rising numbers of working poor, a group of people this Government is mentally and ideologically incapable of dealing with.
"The Government's response to poverty over the last seven years has been a blank assumption that employment will solve everything. The idea that someone could be working long hours in backbreaking labour and still be living in poverty is a notion they find incomprehensible. But this CORI report indicates almost 20% of households living below the poverty line are now headed by someone in employment. Many more are headed by people outside the labour force who are retired, ill or on disability.
"According to St Vincent de Paul's annual report the number of calls for help they received in Dublin alone increased by 94% last year. The fastest growing group of people seeking the society's help are people who are working, but on low incomes, the type of people crippled by the regressive stealth taxes Minister McCreevy is so fond of.
"Since 1997 this Government has concentrated on tax cuts for the rich while avoiding the reality and ignoring what is required to seriously tackle poverty in Ireland. Job creation alone will not address the appalling inequalities in Irish society. To eliminate poverty in Ireland we need a Government willing to take on vested interests and big business. Instead we have a Government in their pocket." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has described as "profoundly disappointing" and in "contradiction of the Good Friday Agreement" today's judgement in the Supreme Court which ruled that the release of prisoners qualifying under the Good Friday Agreement is at the discretion of the Minister for Justice. Mr Ferris made his comments as two men, Michael O'Neill and John Quinn convicted in connection with events surrounding the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe lost their appeal against the denial of their early release.
Deputy Ferris said: "It is profoundly disappointing that the Supreme Court has ruled in this fashion. The Good Friday Agreement does not draw any distinction between prisoners belonging to organisations on cessation at the time of its signing. It states that all such prisoners will be released within two years of the signing of the agreement.
"Today's judgement confirms that these men are in fact qualifying prisoners under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement as it has applied to others convicted of 'equally or even more serious' offences. However, in its ruling the Court has unfortunately said that it is acceptable for one party to the Good Friday Agreement to act unilaterally and take on itself to go outside the terms of that agreement. That is completely unacceptable and undermines the agreement itself.
"The Irish Government cannot preach to others about their obligations in relation to the peace process when they themselves are not willing to live up to their own responsibilities. And it is certainly not good enough that these men's rights under the Good Friday Agreement are left to the whim of a vindictive and anti-republican Minister for Justice." ENDS
Sinn Fein's EU Candidate for Dublin, Mary Lou McDonald last night spoke at a debate organised by the TCD Historical Society (28.01.04). Representatives of some of the other main political parties also attended the debate, entitled 'That the EU Constitution is the Death of National Sovereignty'.
In her address to the society, McDonald reiterated that Sinn Fein remained concerned about the creeping advances toward a European Super state and the gradual demise of national sovereignty.
Ms. McDonald said:
"The development of the European project from the Coal and Steel Community onwards has seen a gradual but measurable centralisation of power and erosion of national sovereignty.
"Just as with the Nice Treaty, the very welcome enlargement process is used as a pretext for this new constitution. But this is not just a treaty reorganising the EU, it is a treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. As such, the proposed constitution consolidates and strengthens the grip on national sovereignty.
"It should be remembered that the EEC started out as a project of economic cooperation, a partnership of equal states that made decisions by consensus. We have moved very far from the original model of cooperation. There is now not a single aspect of Irish life over which the EU does not exercise some level of legislative control or powerful influence.
"Irish sovereignty is further diminished and imperilled by the draft constitution. Sinn Féin opposes such an EU superstate. It is far removed from the Europe of equals that we are working to create."ENDS
January 29th, 2004
Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy has demanded that the legislation regarding electoral registration is changed. His call comes in advance of the new register being released which is expected to show another fall in the numbers eligible to vote by around 30,000.
Mr Murphy said:
"Last year when the first register compiled under the new legislation was produced well over 130,000 people were missing. Some people did manage to get back onto the register but over 100,000 were disenfranchised as a direct result of legislation demanded by the SDLP and UUP.
"It is obvious from discussions we have had with both the Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission that this situation is going to get worse year on year and that the register will continue to shrink.
"It is my expectation that the register due to be made public on Monday will once again show a significant increase in the amount of people disenfranchised.
"This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The legislation needs to be changed and people's right to vote, once again, needs to be made paramount." ENDS