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Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has said that she will be meeting with representatives from the local poultry sector to discuss the challenges facing the industry.

It is estimated that the poultry industry generates over £400million in revenue each year and provides work for around 4,500 employees.

Discussing her plans, the Minister said: “The poultry sector makes an important contribution to the local rural economy and I am aware that they, like other parts of agriculture, are facing a number of difficulties at this time.

“My Department has already invested £3.1million in the poultry sector, through programmes such as the Marketing and Processing Grants scheme. The Farm Nutrient Management Scheme has also assisted poultry farmers by providing funding to help them comply with the Nitrates Directive.”

Discussing the new EU welfare regulations for Battery Hens, the Minister said: “The EU ban on conventional cages for laying hens and the move to enriched cages, which was announced in 1999 (Council Directive 99/74/EC), and transposed into domestic legislation in 2003, comes into force in 2012.

“My Department have been working with the industry since 2005 to ensure they are fully aware of the need to convert to alternative production systems and to prepare for that change. Around 60% of egg producers here have already invested in alternative production systems (i.e. enriched, barn or free range) in order to comply with EU law.”

The Minister added: “I am also aware that the South has announced funding proposals to assist poultry producers to convert to alternative systems. This funding is part of a package arising from the CAP Health Check agreement, which included additional funding for the South through increased compulsory modulation rates. However, similar funding is not available to the North or to Britain.

“In light of the challenges the poultry industry currently face, I hope to meet representatives from the sector to discuss their concerns.”

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Arson attack destroys school in Castlewellan

Sinn Fein MLA for South Down Willie Clarke has slammed those who were behind an arson attack on the Irish language school in Castlewellan, Bunscoil  Bheanna Boirche, on the Circular Road in the early hours of this morning. The arson attack completely destroyed three portacabins that were being used as classrooms and a nursery and all the contents within.

Speaking earlier Mr Clarke, whose daughter attends the school , said:

 “This arson attack has destroyed this school and has shocked the community, the teachers and the those who attend the school. What is particularly sickening is that this attack comes only days before the school and nursery were set to reopen for the new school year.

“Everything in the three portacabins has been destroyed. This includes all the schools equipment, the pupils work and the pupils files along with all the work the teachers may have prepared for the new term.

“The entire episode will cause major disruption. While some of the classes are taught in the local community centre we, as a community, will have to find temporary accommodation for the other classes and nursery that used these portacabins in order to minimise the upset to the pupils.

“I would call on anybody who saw anything suspicious, especially around the hours of 4-30 to six to contact the PSNI straight away and give them what information is there. This attack is an attack on our children’s future and those behind it need to be apprehended. “

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Sinn Féin Vice-President Mary Lou McDonald has expressed her support for striking workers at Dublin’s docklands. Speaking as workers launched a blockade of the port in a flotilla this afternoon Ms. McDonald said the workers hand has been forced by the company management which is refusing to engage with the Labour Relations Commission and using bully boy tactics.

Ms. McDonald said, “Marine Terminal Limited seems to think that it can simply walk all over its workforce without any repercussions. Management at the company are using bullyboy tactics in an attempt to force redundancies on many workers and new terms and conditions including longer hours and less pay on others. This is completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

“The company’s refusal to engage with the Labour Relations Commission has forced the workers hand to the extent that they have had to resort to industrial action and pickets such as the one today at Dublin Port.

“In the past number of months we have seen an increasing amount of companies attempting to use the current recession and in particular the unemployment crisis as an excuse to drive down hard fought terms and conditions for workers. This practice must be stamped out and Sinn Féin will continue to stand side by side with workers such as those at Dublin Port and others as they stand up for their rights.” ENDS

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Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on the Minister for Health to reverse the cutbacks at Crumlin Children’s Hospital after the general outpatients ward was forced to close for two days this week. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Medical Tower at the hospital which was only opened a couple of years ago has admitted no outpatients this week and consultants are being paid to do nothing while patients are forced to travel across the city for treatment.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “These cutbacks have more to do with the privatisation and centralisation of crucial health services than any cost cutting measures. They are ideologically driven and completely nonsensical and Minister Harney should have them reversed immediately.

“This week the outpatient ward was forced to close on both Tuesday and Wednesday while the Medical Tower, which was opened just a couple of years ago, admitted no outpatients this week.

“Consultants at the hospital are being paid this week for doing nothing. At the same time we have patients having to travel across the city for access to vital services. This is a disgrace.

“Similar closures are planned for next month and will result in even more chaos. Sinn Féin will continue to oppose these nonsensical cutbacks.” ENDS

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Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has welcomed the settlement in the dispute at Caroll’s Joinery. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the settlement highlights the benefits of dialogue and participation in the Labour Court process. He called on management at CocaCola to engage with its staff as the dispute there developed into industrial action by the workers today.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “I welcome the settlement in the dispute a Caroll’s Joinery. This case shows the value of dialogue and participation in the Labour Court process.

“I would now call on the management at CocaCola to engage with the staff there to find a resolution to the conflict that is acceptable to all sides. The company’s refusal to talk with its workers can only lead to an unnecessary extended period of disruption and dispute.

“Workers and politicians alike must be alert to the attempts by many companies to use the recession, and in particular the unemployment crisis, to drive down workers rights, their wages and conditions of work which have been hard fought for and won by past generations of workers.

“This practice must be stamped out and it will be the workers of this state who will be on the front line of that campaign. However, politicians also have a role to play and must defend the rights of workers wherever they are under attack.

“Never has the need for legislation allowing for the right to collective bargaining been more pertinent. This legislation should be brought forward on the return of the Dáil next month.” ENDS

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Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has appointed Mr Seán Hogan Chairperson (Designate) of the new Education and Skills Authority (ESA).

Announcing the appointment of Seán Hogan the Minister said: “This appointment is a significant step in the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority. I congratulate Seán on his appointment and look forward to working with him in tackling the challenges ahead.

“This is an exciting time in education as we work to implement a progressive reform programme for the benefit of all in our schools. The establishment of the ESA will see a fundamental reform in the administration of education. ESA will play a key role in improving the delivery of education to our children and young people and raising standards at all levels. I know that Seán’s skills and experience will enable him to make a valuable contribution to education.”

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, today congratulated young people on this year’s GCSE results.

A*-C grades were achieved by 75.1% of candidates, with 9.1%being awarded the top A* grade. This is respectively 0.6% and 0.2% higher than last year, demonstrating that high standards have, yet again, been maintained.

Commenting on the results, the Education Minister Caitríona Ruane said: “These are excellent results and they show the determination of our young people to work to the best of their ability. Congratulations to all the students receiving results today. Teachers and parents have inspired and motivated our young people to work hard to achieve these results and they should also be congratulated for their hard work and dedication.

“Young people today are determined and committed to their education as they are more focused on their future career and pursuits. I wish everyone who received results over the past week, the best of luck in pursuing their career goals.”

“While these are excellent results, there are still too many young people leaving education without the necessary five GCSEs and that is why I have been implementing progressive reforms to improve the education system. We need an education system that will provide the skills and abilities so our young people will thrive and prosper.”

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Sinn Féin Representative for east Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile has condemned those responsible for last night’s sectarian attack on a minibus used by the Doyle Youth Club from the Short Strand.

The bus was attacked while children from the club, aged between 12 and 14, were playing a football match in Victoria Park.

Speaking after viewing the damage to the bus this morning Mr Ó Donnghaile said;

“There is a considerable amount of damage to the bus, a resource used extensively by the Doyle Youth Club, ironically enough, quite often for the purposes of cross community work and engagement.

Thankfully no one was hurt in last night’s sectarian attack, although undoubtedly this will cause a great deal of trauma to the children, not just who were there last night, but the children who depend on this bus week in and week out.

I want to commend the quick action of the volunteers who were with the children last night and who ensured their safe return to the area.

I would call on anyone who may have been in the park, walking the dog, going for a run or even just taking a dander, and who saw anything to bring that information to the PSNI as soon as possible in order to help apprehend the thugs responsible for this serious attack.” CRÍOCH

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Speaking this morning Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris said “the Lisbon Treaty was a bad deal for rural Ireland in 2008 and it remains a bad deal today”. The Kerry North TD called on ‘Farmers to say No to Lisbon.’

Deputy Ferris said:

“Padraig Walshe has this morning called on Irish farmers to support the Lisbon Treaty.

“During the last Lisbon referendum there were serious concerns raised by the farming community about the World Trade Organisation trade talks. Irish farmers and development NGOs are rightly concerned at the agenda being pursued by the then European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, an agenda that was bad for Irish farmers and the developing world.

“The approach of that Trade Commissioner is part of a pattern that emerged under his predecessors Pascal Lammy and Leon Brittan and is continuing since he left under the current Commissioner Catherine Ashton.

“The Commission’s trade agenda aggressively promotes free trade irrespective of the costs to European family farms and rural communities, or the world poorest communities and countries.

“Article 2 (b) of the Lisbon Treaty gives the EU exclusive competence over commercial policy, including the negotiating of international trade agreements.

“Article 188C contains new provisions that will considerably strengthen the Commission in its pursuit of free trade over fair trade.

“If the Lisbon Treaty is passed the EU Commission will have the power to initiate and conclude international trade agreements and in all but the most exceptional circumstances the Irish government will no longer have a veto at the European Council. This would allow the European Commission, with the support of the Irish government, to do with the farming industry exactly what they have done with the fishing industry.

“For this reason I am calling on all Irish farmers to vote No to the Lisbon Treaty.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA today met with representatives from the Blackwater Regional Partnership regarding the Ulster Canal.

During the meeting the minister received an update on the restoration of the 12km stretch of canal that links Clones with Upper Lough Erne and was also informed of the potential social and economic benefits of re-watering of the canal to Lough Neagh.

After the meeting Minister Gildernew said:

“I recognise the potential that exists in the restoration and regeneration of the Ulster Canal and how this project could boost the local economy and tourism potential of rural communities. It would act as a catalyst for the regeneration of towns and villages in counties, Armagh, Monaghan and Tyrone and bring long term benefits for the local communities along the route of the canal.

“Opportunities currently exist under the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013, including through the ‘Basic Services for the Economy and Rural Population’ and ‘Village Renewal and Development’ programmes. These initiatives aim to improve the living conditions of those living in rural areas through the development of basic services and village initiatives which promote community development and regeneration.

“The Blackwater Regional Partnership is making a valuable contribution to developing its area and I would urge it to work closely with the Local Action Group responsible for the delivery of this aspect of the Rural Development Programme.”

Blackwater Regional Partnership (BRP) was set up to provide a vehicle through which Dungannon and South Tyrone, Armagh City and District and Monaghan County Councils might adopt an integrated approach to rural development.

The long-term objective of the restoration of the Ulster Canal is to link the Shannon to Lough Neagh through the Erne waterway.

The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Notes to editors:

Further information on the Rural Development Programme and the assistance available can be found at www.rdpni.info or by calling 0845 3044 509 to request an information pack.

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Sinn Féin’s Policing and Justice spokesperson and Policing Board member Alex Maskey MLA, has said that the internal PSNI report, leaked to the local media, only goes to highlight what people have known for some considerable time.

Speaking this evening Cllr Maskey said;

“Firstly I welcome the fact that this is an internal PSNI report and therefore an acknowledgement that these issues, raised by ourselves and others over a period of many years, must be addressed.

This report doesn’t tell us anything new, we have been raising these problems, and others, within policing here for years.

In saying this I do welcome the PSNI now owning up to the problems that are there and it is important to acknowledge that just last week the Policing Board began discussions with them on how best to tackle these issues in the time ahead.

People expect and deserve the highest standard of effective, civic and community orientated policing and we will continue to work with the PSNI and all the other relevant stakeholders to achieve this aim.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin’s Equality and Human Rights spokesperson Martina Anderson has stated her party’s total commitment to creating a truly inclusive and equal society in Ireland.

Speaking today the Foyle MLA and Policing Board member said;

Sinn Féin stands on its record of challenging sectarianism, racism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice, intolerance and hate.

Sinn Féin has consistently campaigned for equality and rights for all. This is not hollow rhetoric but the essential foundations for building a society were prejudice, intolerance and hate has no place.

There are some that are opposed to equality and rights for all in our society. All parties must demonstrate political leadership to build a society based on these principles and opposed to prejudice, intolerance and hate.

Sin Féin has demonstrated though our work in the political institutions and on the ground that we are about building a society, in which everyone has a place, everyone has rights and everyone is treated equally.

Sinn Féin is working in communities to reduce the potential for conflict at interfaces and at sectarian parades. Can other parties stand over there actions?

Sinn Féin is working to address sectarian attacks and murder. Sinn Féin has continued to address sectarianism in the Coleraine area following the brutal murder of Kevin McDaid. Other parties have yet to acknowledge the level of sectarianism that exists in this area.

Sinn Féin has condemned and encouraged people to cooperate with the PSNI to tackle attacks on Orange Halls, GAA grounds and churches. Have other parties demonstrated that they respect such cultural bodies and places of worship?

Sinn Féin is working to address racism and Martin McGuiness again led from the front in meeting with the Roma families who were the victims of recent attacks. Caitríona Ruane, as Education Minister, has brought forward special initiatives to deal with the needs of Irish Travellers and Roma Children. What have the other parties done to meet the needs of ethnic minority communities?

Sinn Féin has been to the fore in tackling homophobia and attacks on the LGBT community. Sinn Féin has sought to have homophobia addressed in the CSI strategy, has campaigned for additional resources to meet the needs of this community and promoted there rights and entitlements. Sinn Fein has supported Pride throughout Ireland; one must look at the pronouncements and actions of other parties.

There are those who are opposed to Equality and Rights, who through their opposition to this, give succour to prejudice, intolerance and hate. Sinn Féin stands on its record on this issue.

We have a vision of the type of society we want to create and we are working to achieve it.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Fein Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has today rejected Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin’s claim that that the Lisbon Treaty referendum “represents a new proposal and respects the will of Irish people”. The Cavan-Monaghan TD said the decision to “put exactly the same Treaty to the people again proved that Fianna Fáil has little regard for the will of the people.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“Almost 900,000 people said No to the Lisbon Treaty in June 2008. Since then the government has failed to secure a single change to the text of the Treaty. The so-called legally binding guarantees do not alter the text of the treaty or its implications for Ireland or the EU.

“The government’s decision to put exactly the same Treaty to the people again proves that they have little regard for the will of the people

“To suggest that the so called guarantees represent any kind of meaningful response to the concerns of the electorate is simply untrue.

“Contrary to Minister Martin’s claim the government has not secured a permanent Commissioner for every country including Ireland. Rather they have secured a temporary stay of execution. The Lisbon Treaty proposal to reduce the size of the Commission remains and if the Treaty is ratified it is my firm belief that this provision will be implemented in 2014.

“The concerns of the Irish electorate and the millions of Europeans who oppose this Treaty can only be addressed if the Lisbon Treaty is defeated and a new and better Treaty is negotiated.” ENDS

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Speaking in response to Ryanair Chief Michael O’Leary’s comments today in support of the Lisbon Treaty, Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald has said that “voters need to ask themselves, do we really want a Ryanair Europe?”

Ms McDonald said:

“It comes as no surprise that the man behind the low-cost airline should support the Lisbon Treaty.

“The Ryanair business model has been built on the back of low pay, poor working conditions, and hidden costs to the consumer.

“Whatever ones view of this model for running an airline, there is no doubt in my mind that it is not the way to run the European economy.

“Michael O’Leary supports the Lisbon Treaty because it promotes a Ryanair approach the economy, facilitating a race to the bottom in workers wages and conditions.

“Ryanair opposes trade unions and internationally-recognised labour standards. The Lisbon Treaty facilitates the undermining of collective bargaining, established wage agreements and workers’ rights secured over a century of struggle. The Lisbon Treaty’s Protocol on the Internal Market and Competition provides the EU with a strengthened mandate to remove all ‘distortions to competition’. For Michael O’Leary and the right wing politicians who wrote and support the Lisbon Treaty such ‘distortions’ involve decent wages, good working conditions and consumer protections.

“The question we all have to ask ourselves is should we run our countries or indeed the EU like a low-budget airline? Imagine a Ryanair primary school or a Ryanair hospital.

“That’s not the kind of EU Sinn Féin wants to see and I don’t believe it’s the kind of EU that the majority of the electorate want to see either.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD today outlined his party’s campaign of opposition to NAMA. Morgan described NAMA as the crime of the century and a government-led free for all for developers and banks. Deputy Morgan said the Government should put NAMA to a referendum as its implementation would have ramifications not just for this generation but for future generations of Irish people. He suggested a referendum take place on the same day as the Lisbon referendum.

Deputy Morgan said Sinn Féin has decided to undertake a public action campaign as well as opposing the NAMA legislation in the Dáil, because it felt that the government is relying on people not understanding the complex proposal to push it through. Morgan listed nine reasons to say No to NAMA and called on the public to support the campaign.

Deputy Morgan said:

“The government is claiming that NAMA is the only option to deal with the banking problem. This is a lie and the proposal itself is so inherently flawed and potentially corruptible that I believe NAMA could be the subject of the next decade’s tribunals. This is the crime of the century. It is a government led free for all for developers and banks.

“The government is hoping people will not understand this complex legislation. If people really knew what this was all about, they would be sitting outside their local Fianna Fáil and Green Party TDs’ offices and demanding they don’t support the Bill. The cuts and tax raising measures to date have been severe, but they are nothing compared to what will be needed to pay for NAMA.

“If the Government is determined to push NAMA through then they should put it to a referendum and give the people an opportunity to decide because the ramifications of NAMA will effect not just this generation but future generations of Irish people. A referendum should take place on the same day as the Lisbon referendum.

“Over the next few weeks we will be distributing a leaflet outlining Sinn Féin opposition to NAMA and basic information on the proposal. In September we will be holding an action day throughout the state to explain the problems with NAMA. We will be launching our alternative solution for solving the banking crisis in advance of the Dáil returning.

“We believe there are nine reasons to say No to Nama and we are calling on people to join us in our campaign.” ENDS

Nine reasons to say No to NAMA:

1. Economists have estimated NAMA will cost each man, woman and child in this state €15,000 (€60-€70 billion). That’s a lot of hospitals, schools, jobs and public infrastructure.

2. The government has done nothing to help families and businesses facing repossession, negative equity and economic hardship, they still have to pay their bills, and it is raising taxes and cutting public spending to pay for the mess they, the banks and developers have made.

3. NAMA will pay more for developers’ loans than they are worth and let them pay them back at their leisure.

4. The Bill relies on banks to act in ‘good faith’ when giving the taxpayer information about the bad loans.


5. The loans these developers were given helped to drive up house prices, so we’re being made to pay twice.

6. NAMA will be able to give taxpayers’ money to developers to finish projects and even force a purchase on land in the way of developments.

7. The Minister for Finance (currently a Fianna Fáiler – the builders’ friend) will have the power to overturn ‘independent’ valuation of developers’ loans made by NAMA and pay them more.

8. There is no guarantee that the banks will start lending even after NAMA clears their bank sheets.

9. It will cost money to sort out the banks and the bad loans, but nationalisation would allow us to deal with the developers, kick out the corrupt management, get banks lending again, protect homeowners and businesses, and entail the least pain for the taxpayer.

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Minister Michelle Gildernew today visited ASDA’s Westwood store in West Belfast to hear first-hand of the new ‘in-store’ butchery partnership which the multiple retailer recently announced with McGee’s Butchers.

McGee’s is a Dungannon based butchery business offering local meat products sourced largely from it’s own farm and local farmers. McGee’s will have responsibility for running the ASDA meat counter at Westwood using the McGee’s brand.

Minister Gildernew met Joe McGee and ASDA representatives during her visit to the store and congratulated them on the partnership.

She said: “By combining the convenience and value of a large scale multiple retailing operation with the quality and provenance associated with a local, highly respected butchery operation, you have managed to provide a package that meets all current and foreseeable market trends.

“The McGee’s brand is recognised as a quality, local meat and to integrate it into the in-store butchery counter of one of the world’s largest retail operations is a novel and innovative concept which I trust will pay dividends for all concerned – including the primary producers. Farmers have seen their share of the profit in the supply chain eroded over the years, so hopefully initiatives such as this will lead to better returns for producers and a more sustainable supply chain.”

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Debate opened on planning reform

Sinn Féin MLA for Newry/Armagh and his party’s spokesperson on planning, Cathal Boylan has called on local councillors to make their voices heard in relation to proposals for reform of the local planning announced by the Department of Environment.

Mr Boylan said,

“Local government bodies and local councillors have an opportunity to mould a new planning system which will best suit the rural dwellers of the North.

“The new planning system will be a key function for local Councils and will enable planning to be at the heart of the new councils.

“It is essential that local representatives make their voices heard at each of the events in order to best shape the future of planning.”

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Swine flu guidance issued for schools and parents

Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has said all schools have been given guidance on how to manage the outbreak of swine flu.

The Minister said: “Since the start of this outbreak I have had meetings with the Health Minister to monitor the spread of the virus and discuss the potential implications for schools.

“Schools have started to reopen as planned for the new academic year and we have issued guidance to principals on how to reduce the risk of infection and deal with any cases that arise. In addition, advice has been prepared for parents or carers of school age children and those in early year’s settings.

“Meetings have also been held with colleagues from across the education sector in preparation for the new school year. Contact with health and education colleagues will continue, to ensure schools are properly prepared.

“My key concern is for the welfare of pupils and staff. Schools, parents, pupils and every member of our community can play their part in reducing the spread of this virus through the practice of good hygiene procedures over the coming weeks and months.”

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Children found playing with needles in Armagh

 

Armagh Sinn Féin councillor Cathy Rafferty has asked parents to be vigilant after children were seen playing with used needles in a wooded area of the city.

 

Cllr Rafferty said,

 

“I understand that a number of young children were seen playing with needles near Longstone at about 5pm on Tuesday.

“It seems that the syringes were found among a number of medical items.

“I would call on parents to warn their children to stay away from the park at this time and also to warn them of the dangers of these materials.”

 

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Reacting to the news that Senator Edward Kennedy has passed away after a long battle with illness, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

“It is with great sadness that I heard of the death of Senator Edward Kennedy . He has served the American people with courage and commitment for nearly 50 years. His service to Ireland through his role in the Peace Process was exceptional and contributed significantly to its progress.

“Senator Kennedy also carried out sterling work with, and on behalf of, the undocumented Irish in the United States and brought forward proposals to see this issue, that affects so many, resolved.

“My sincere condolences to his wife Vicky and family, to his sister Jean Kennedy Smith, who as Ambassador to Ireland also played a crucial role in the Peace Process, and to his wide family circle .

“My condolences also to his colleagues in the Senate and Congress and to the American people who have lost a champion. Ted Kennedy will be deeply regretted and much missed.”

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