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North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said that the lack of clarity from Minister for Social Development Margaret Ritchie about the future of the Neighbourhood Renewal Scheme is putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

Ms Ní Chuilín said,

"Everyone knows that Margaret Ritchie is trying to off-load her responsibility for neighbourhood renewal onto local government but the worrying aspect is that she is trying of off-load this responsibility with no clear commitment to provide funding for local councils to carry out this function.

"There is no certainty of whether or not the funding will be put in place. This is causing a great deal of stress and concern not just for those people employed within the community and voluntary sector but also for many people living in deprived areas who could end up losing these vital services..

"Many of those employed through Neighbourhood Renewal Scheme have their contracts coming to an end at Christmas or in March. Margaret Ritchie should stop playing games with people's livelihoods and set out very clearly how she plans to retain these vital posts.

"What we are getting from Minister Ritchie is a lack of clarity and as a result of that people in marginalised communities will suffer greatly."



In an article in this week's An Phoblacht Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA has revealed that following a process of consultation and discussion, particularly with victims and victims groups, Sinn Féin has concluded that the best way forward on this issue is through the establishment of an Independent International Truth Commission.

The Sinn Féin President said:

"In the last few years these families have come together to organise and campaign for the truth. Campaigning groups like Relatives for Justice, Justice for the Forgotten and the Pat Finucane centre, are making similar demands. Also across this island and in Britain there are other families involved in campaigns. Some of these are victims of republican actions who are also seeking truth.

The issue of state killings and of collusion - which was an administrative practice and part of the British government's strategy - must also be dealt with.

There is understandable concern about the British governments commitment to a truth recovery process. Their actions in refusing to co-operate with the Barron Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; their refusal to hand over files in relation to the killing of Pat Finucane and others; and their wilful stalling and obstruction of the Saville Inquiry, are all evidence of an unwillingness on the part of the British government, and its military and intelligence establishment, to end the cover ups and to take responsibility for their actions during the conflict.

Brushing it under the carpet, revising our history to exorcise the role of the British state in fomenting and prolonging conflict in our country, is in no ones interest - especially the families.

Republicans have clearly acknowledged many times the hurt they inflicted during the conflict. I have expressed my personal and sincere regret and apologised for that hurt. The IRA has also acknowledged what it has done. That is the right and proper thing to do. The IRA has apologised to all those non-combatants it killed or injured and their families.

For our part Sinn Féin is very mindful of all of the difficulties involved in truth recovery, particularly for victims and their families. But we believe that as society seeks to leave conflict behind and to move forward there is a requirement that all of us address the tragic human consequences of the past.

Sinn Féin supports all of the families in their efforts to achieve truth. In 2003 Sinn Féin published a discussion document on "Truth". Its purpose was to set out our view of the timing and purpose of a truth recovery process and the nature and form of such
a process.

In this spirit Sinn Fein has put forward principles which we believe should underpin any effective truth recovery process. The principles we identified are:

  • All processes should be victim-centred and deal with victims on an all-Ireland basis;
  • Full co-operation by all relevant parties is essential to the success of any commission;
  • There should be no hierarchy of victims;
  • All processes should be politically neutral;
  • Any future panel should be international and independent;
  • One of the purposes of any future panel/commission should be to examine the 'causes, nature and extent' of the conflict;
  • An objective of any process should be healing - both for direct victims and for society in general;
  • A common aim should be to enable society to build the peace;
  • Reconciliation should be the core aim of any truth process; and Respect and generosity should inform the parties seeking to reach agreement.

Those of us charged with political responsibility must agree and deliver a process that is meaningful and substantive. There is an onus on all political leaders to promote this. This includes the Irish government which has a constitutional, legal and moral responsibility to actively promote this course of action.

That means thinking beyond any sectarian, sectional, party political or self interest. So, a truth process to deal with the war in Ireland must be victim centred and inform future generations of the lessons from our conflict.

It must be a process that can deliver the truth to bereaved families as a result of independent investigation.

And it must analyse the policies and practices that sustained and fuelled the conflict.

Being victim centred means that it must embrace all the victims, all the protagonists, whether they live in Ireland or England or elsewhere.

A truth process must reach out to these people.

One way of achieving an independent process is to have an international inquiry. The United Nations or another reputable agency could be involved. In Ireland many of the victims groups have been looking at the possibility of establishing an Independent
International Truth Commission.

Sinn Fein has now met many of these groups and we have concluded that the establishment of an Independent International Truth Commission is the best way of taking this issue forward.

Key to the success of such a Commission is the full co-operation by all relevant parties. And clearly the willingness of individuals to voluntarily participate will be greatly enhanced if the Commission is seen to be independent, have an international dimension and be fair and equitable.

Of course, it won't be easy. There are vested groups who will not want the truth; and who will oppose the creation of a meaningful truth recovery process. So this is going to be an immensely difficult and painful process and experience. It must therefore be
conducted in a sensitive and generous way.

Building a united harmonious society demands that these difficult issues are dealt with in an inclusive way as a necessary part of putting the past behind us. Looking after victims and victims' families and survivors is a significant and important part of this." ENDS


In June Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams met with the Officers of the Portadown District LOL No 1 of Portadown Orangemen. The meeting came after many requests by Mr Adams to meet with the Orange Order to discuss the issue of contentious parades.
The following month Mr. Adams wrote to Robert Saulters, the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and to William J. Logan the Sovereign Grand Master of the Imperial Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth.

Mr. Adams expressed Sinn Féin's support for the right of the Loyal Orders to organise and to hold parades and commemorations. He also expressed Sinn Féin's support for local communities.

In his letter Mr. Adams said that Sinn Féin would be pleased to receive a briefing from the various Loyal Orders and on their view of parades, but also about the place and future of Orangeism in our society. The Sinn Fein President suggested the possibility of meeting in September after the marching season was over.

Mr Adams said:
"It is and always has been the Sinn Féin position that the issue of parading can only be resolved through dialogue between the Loyal Orders and local communities.

"Sinn Féin supports the right of the Loyal Orders to organise and to hold parades and commemorations. However, where parades are contentious the right to march is conditional on agreement by local residents.

"For a number of years I have written to the Loyal Orders offering dialogue around the issue of contentious parades and about Orangeism and its place in modern Ireland. My meeting with Portadown Orangemen was part of this and was an informative and useful discussion.

"While Mr. Saulters acknowledged receipt of my letter and sent some literature, however he did not agree to meet. Consequently in a letter to him in late July I again suggested a meeting. I await his response to this request.


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA was in New York last week
for a series of meetings with key US investors.

On Friday Mr. Adams met Bill Thompson the New York City Comptroller
who earlier this year announced a $150 million investment package
for the north.

Mr. Adams discussions with the New York comptroller ranged over
likely investment opportunities in west Belfast, as well as the
importance of the investment package being targeted at areas of
social disadvantage and high objective need.

The previous day the Sinn Féin delegation met with New York State
Comptroller Tom Di Napoli. Mr. Di Napoli told the Sinn Fein leader
that he was very impressed with the investment opportunities in the
north and that his office has been looking closely at potential
opportunities in recent months.

Gerry Adams also met New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and he
separately met with several of New York City's senior people who
work with small business development. Mr. Adams said; "New York has
an excellent record of creating new jobs through small businesses.
We want to explore how their experience can help our small
businesses to grow."

Mr. Adams also attended the prestigious Clinton Global Initiative
which was established in 2005 by former US President Bill Clinton.
The CGI brings together global leaders from all backgrounds,
regions, and religions to take action to address some of the
world's biggest challenges including energy & climate change,
global health, education, and poverty alleviation.

Gerry Adams said:

"Our priority during this visit was to meet with those investors
and potential investors who can bring much needed jobs and
resources into west Belfast, and other areas of the north and the
border counties suffering from high levels of unemployment and
social deprivation."


Sinn Féin condemn brutal West Belfast attack

Sinn Féin Councillor Angela nelson has today condemned an attack on a man in the Twinbrook area during the early hours of this morning.

Cllr Nelson said,

"This is a truly tragic event and my thoughts and those of my party are with the family of this popular and well known local man.

I would urge anyone with information to come forward and make it available to the investigation."



Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has said that the President of the UFU Graham Furey should withdraw his comments attacking the Agriculture Minister and particularly comments about her pregnancy.

The party Agriculture Spokesperson said:

"Graham Furey should reflect on his unprecedented attack on the Agriculture Minster. His remarks at inaccurate, ill-conceived and do a great disservice to the farming community that he claims represent.

"It is beneath contempt that any farming official, let alone this new President of the UFU should even bring the pregnancy of the Minister into any argument.

"Michelle Gildernew has fought the corner of our farmers every step of the way, not least in Europe. If the UFU President seriously believes that a local Minister has not made a huge difference then he should look in detail at the victories achieved on behalf of farmers in Europe and with DEFRA. Would any other Minister have acted as decisively during the threat from Foot and Mouth Disease when the Minster personally intervened and demonstrated genuine leadership?

"Perhaps he personally wishes that our farmers were subjected to a Minister who would tow the British government line at every twist and turn. If that is the case he would be selling our local industry short." ENDS


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún speaking after attending the National Ploughing Championships in County Kilkenny has said that farmers and rural businesses from the North are at the heart of building sustainable rural communities.

During the three-day celebration of rural Ireland, Bairbre de Brún MEP visited the stands of Northern exhibitors to check how business was going, attended the DARD reception hosted by Minister Michelle Gildernew, and met with farming organisations IFA, ICMSA and ICSA as well as speaking to thousands of visitors and other exhibitors.

Some 208,000 people attended this week's National Ploughing Championships in Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny. That figure makes it the best attended three-day event in the 77-year history of the championships. The event will be held next year near Athy in Co Kildare, where the first championships were staged in 1931.

The exhibitors the Six County MEP visited included:

McAuley Trailers, Toomebridge, Co Antrim
Chieftain Trailers Dungannon, Co Tyrone
Nugent Engineering Galbally, Co Tyrone
McGurk Engineering Dungannon Co Tyrone
PGS Pre Cast Concrete Anti Foul Cattle Drinkers, Co Tyrone
Dea Gate Automation Cookestown, Co Tyrone
A1 Power Systems Dungannon, Co Tyrone Millwood Craft Ltd, Benburb, Co Tyrone
Spite Cottages, Moy Road Dungannon, Co Tyrone
Country Cottages, Newry, Co Down
Jem Oils Limited Castlewellan, Co Down
Mount Mills Cold Pressed Flax Oil, Glen Rd, Newry, Co Down

Speaking after the event Ms de Brún said:

"Record numbers of people from across Ireland attended this year's National Ploughing Championships in County Kilkenny. This is a testament to the resilience, determination and hope for the future that exists right across rural Ireland.

"In the North we have an opportunity to rise to the many challenges facing our rural communities and our farmers. Our relationship with Europe is essential to that future. We are developing a new relationship with Europe that gives our local industry a real say in decision making at EU level.

"After meeting many of the rural organisation and the many exhibitors from the North I believe that farmers, rural businesses and local communities must be at the heart of building sustainable rural communities.

"Sinn Féin are determined that our rural communities will have a vibrant future. This is why we refuse to settle for second best when it comes to rural planning and why I also believe that in the concept of the Rural Champion being developed by the Agriculture Minster Michelle Gildernew and the Rural Network and Rural Development Programme we have tools to support rural communities that will sustain jobs and economic development and sustain our rural communities and families.

"I would call on Invest Northern Ireland to match this vision and to provide help for rural businesses not only once they have become successful under their own steam but when they need backing most to break into new and emerging markets such as those in Russia and Eastern Europe or to extend into markets across Ireland." ENDS


Sinn Féin Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, was today celebrating European Languages Day at Shimna Integrated College - a specialist languages school in Newcastle.

Speaking at the event Ms Ruane said:

"As a Spanish and Irish speaker, I have long believed that the ability to speak more than one language can open up a world of new opportunities.

"Learning a second language can help our young people to become creative, confident and articulate individuals, able to play their full part in society and achieve their full potential.

"We all know that the world is becoming a smaller place because of improvements in communication and technology. As a result, there is an increase in the number of international opportunities open to young people with bi-lingual skills. Speakers of European languages are well equipped to explore employment opportunities in the offices of the European Union or the United Nations and many other organisations.

"I would like to thank the Principal of Shimna College, Kevin Lambe, and all the staff and young people who have made my visit such an enjoyable one." ENDS

Notes to Editors

  1. The first European Day of Languages took place on 26 September 2001 as part of the European Year of Languages 2001, jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union.
  2. Shimna Integrated College was designated as a language Specialist School in September 2006 with French, German, Spanish and Irish as the four main subject areas.


Sinn Féin Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has announced the establishment of a Rural Network for the North of Ireland to assist in the delivery of the NI Rural Development Programme (NIRDP) 2007-2013.

The NIRDP is co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

The contract has been awarded to the Rural Development Council (RDC), who will manage the Network on behalf of the Agri Rural Forum, a consortium of key stakeholders in the rural development sector.

The minister said:

"I am delighted to announce this new dedicated rural network which will provide a range of services and support for those involved in the delivery of the Rural Development Programme. The Network will be able to draw on the experience of all of the members of the Agri Rural Forum and ensure there is an exchange of expertise between everyone involved in the NIRDP."

The Rural Network will help to identify and share good practice, lessons learned and experience gained in delivery of rural development programmes. It will also provide training for those delivering the NIRDP and will work with Local Action Groups to promote and assist the development of co-operation projects.

The minister continued:

"The Rural Development Programme provides opportunities to build a more sustainable rural economy and improve the quality of local life. The Rural Network for the North will play an important role by providing newly established delivery bodies with the necessary training to enable them to get up and running quickly and start providing support to those in need." ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 was approved by the European Commission in July 2007. The programme is co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and is worth £540m.

2. The programme comprises fourteen measures which support:

• Improving the competitiveness of he agriculture and forestry sectors;
• Improving the environment and the countryside; and
• Improving the quality of life in rural areas and encouraging diversification if the rural economy.

3. Further details of the programme can be found at

4. The Rural Network is being set up as part of the Rural Development Programme.

5. The Rural Development Council tendered for this contract as a member of the Agri Rural Forum consortium. The Agri-Rural Forum was established in 2000 to increase mutual understanding between the different interests on agri-rural issues arising from the 2000-2006 EU Structural Funds programmes. The Agri Rural Forum is a consortium of key stakeholders in the rural development sector including the Ulster Farmers' Union, Rural Development Council, Rural Community Network, NI Leader Network and NI Environmental Link. The individual organisations involved in this work have continued this association through to the 2007-2013 funding period.


Lisburn Sinn Féin councilor Sam Baker has expressed "shock and disbelief" that the principal of St. Colms school in Twinbrook secrectly invited a British Army regiment, the Royal Marines, into St. Colms school on Monday past.

Cllr Baker said:

"I was approached last night by a number of parents of children who took part in an exercise with the British Army's Royal Marines in St. Colms School last Monday.

"The parents informed me they knew nothing about this secret visit by the British Army, a visit arranged by the school principal Imelda Jordan.

"This morning I spoke with the school principal and I listened carefully to her explanation. Her excuse beggars belief and reflects a view which is totally out of touch with the experience of the people of Twinbrook who suffered at the hands of the British Army over the last thirty years.

"The principal should not have under any guise invited the British Army into her school.

"The British Army is in occupation of part of this country. The Royal Marines record of occupation is notorious; they killed many people here in the north. They are currently in occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and I am sure they are doing there what they did here; kill and harass local people.

"I hope this is the last time any regiment of the British Army is invited to a school in a nationalist area." CRIOCH


Sinn Féin MEP and former health minister Bairbre de Brún has welcomed moves by MEPs to bring forward plans to tackle childhood obesity.

Speaking after today's vote on the Foglietta report Ms de Brún stated:

"Obesity sets in for many people in childhood due to a poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle. By providing children with a proper diet such as through the proposed schools' fruit programme we can help make sure that obesity is not allowed develop in the first place.

"Approximately 7% of the total national budgets across Europe are spent on treating obesity-related conditions. By prioritising a healthy lifestyle for our children we can create a healthier society and in the medium term free up a chunk of our health budget." ENDS


Cavan/Monaghan TD and Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has obtained an internal memo from the management of the Cavan and Monaghan Hospital Group revealing plans to effectively close the two hospitals over two two-week periods at the end of October and start of November and at the end of December and start of January.

The memo entitled 'Cost Containment' orders the closure of the Out-Patient Departments in both hospitals as well as theatre and day services, including endoscopy and minor operations.

The closures are due to take place from Monday 27 October to Friday 7 November inclusive and from Monday 22 December to Friday 2 January inclusive.

Commenting on the impending closures, Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "What we are looking at here is effectively the closure of Monaghan General Hospital and Cavan General Hospital as far as most services are concerned for a four week period, all in the name of 'cost containment'.

"This is an outrage. It is condemning sick people to further delays and distress and storing up further ill-health for patients and greater costs for the health service in the future. This cut will affect diagnostic services such as endoscopy, increasing the chances that patients will have delayed diagnoses for serious illnesses with very serious consequences.

"The message from the HSE and the Government is 'Don't get ill -- we can't afford to treat you'. "Even before Budget '09 the knives are being wielded and it is the most vulnerable people who depend on our public health services who will feel the pain. "This scandalous decision must not be carried out and the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney must intervene to prevent the closures." ENDS


"Blaze at St John's GAA Club deplorable" - Clarke

Sinn Féin South Down MLA Willie Clarke has condemned a dawn arson attack on St John's GAA hall in Drumnaquoile.

Mr Clarke said,

"Firstly I want to condemn totally those responsible for this cowardly attack on a truly valuable rural community facility. I visited the club this morning and already large crowds had gathered, many of them young people devastated and visibly shaken by the loss of their local club. Early reports indicate that this was indeed a deliberate arson attack.

I want to make the point that this attack has come on the back of recent comments made by senior figures within the DUP against the Gaelic Athletic Association; those ill conceived comments are clearly creating a hostile attitude from within Unionism towards the GAA.

The NIO has implemented fast tracking arrangements to secure compensation for Orange halls damaged in this way; this same fast tracked process must include the GAA halls attacked in this manner also.

The GAA is a community based organisation providing cultural, community and sporting outlets across Ireland, their work with our young people in particular is priceless. The sick minded savages responsible for this attack clearly have no concept of community or indeed respect. I have no doubt the members and supporters of St John's will work tirelessly to re-establish their club."



Speaking on the European Day of Languages today, the Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has slammed Gregory Campbell's proposal for a 'language strategy' in the Six Counties as opposed to a comprehensive Irish language Act as agreed at St Andrews.

Ms de Brún said,

"Once again Gregory Campbell has showed his blatant disregard for one of our richest and most vital assets, an Ghaeilge.

"Gregory Campbell claims that the issue of Acht na Gaeilge has 'been dealt with', how very wrong he is!

"The issue has not been dealt with and will not be dealt with effectively until Gregory Campbell, as Minister for Culture, plays his part in introducing a fully comprehensive and rights based Irish Language Act for speakers here in the North of Ireland.

"This is not an issue that Minister Campbell can simply choose to ignore and that is why once again Irish language speakers from throughout Ireland will take to the streets of Belfast on Saturday 11th October to demand their rights and entitlements as promised at St Andrews.

"Today is the European Day of Languages, and I am calling on Minister Campbell to show respect for the Irish language and Irish speakers and carry out his responsibility to introduce Acht na Gaeilge." CRÍOCH


Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has continued her ongoing consultation with key education partners by meeting with post-primary principals from the South Down area.

Speaking to the 11 principals at the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle, the minister outlined the current reforms and policies she is progressing.

Speaking after the event the minister said:

"Since becoming Education Minister I have ensured that there is maximum consultation with all the key education partners. This meeting has been one of a series of school visits, public and private meetings and conferences I have undertaken to make sure I hear a wide range of viewpoints.

"The meeting with South Down principals has given me the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues. These have included the impact of demographic decline and the potential for collaboration in schools. I also welcomed the chance to discuss the key reforms in education policy such as the proposals on post-primary transfer, the implementation of the revised curriculum and the delivery of the Entitlement Framework.

"I would like to thank everyone who attended for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their experiences and ideas with me." ENDS

Notes to Editors

  1. The meeting took place on 24 September 2008 and was attended by the Education Minister, senior officials from the Department of Education and Principals from:
  • Shimna Integrated College
  • Ardmore House School
  • De La Salle High School
  • St Patrick's Grammar School
  • Down High School
  • St Marys' High School
  • St Colman's High School
  • The High School Ballynahinch
  • Saintfield High School
  • St Colmcille's High School
  • Blackwater Integrated College


Sinn Féin MP & MLA for Newry and Armagh, Conor Murphy has welcomed announcements that there is to be an investment of £500,000 in the maternity unit at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.

Conor Murphy said,

"The extra funding will mean an enhanced delivery suite; a dedicated induction area; improvements to the maternity ward and development of an assessment unit outside the maternity ward.

"When I met with the Health Trust recently I sought assurances that there would be no dilution of services at Daisy Hill Hospital and that the people of this area would receive the high standard of health care that they deserve.

"I very much welcome these recent announcements, but I hope that this is part of a long term plan which will ensure that Daisy Hill hospital can provide high quality healthcare for the future." ENDS


Sinn Féin Mayor of Newry and Mourne, Councillor Colman Burns has said he is shocked by a recent attack on a DUP Councillor's home in Newtownhamilton on Thursday.

Cllr Burns said:

"Wednesday's attack was completely reprehensible. Those involved in these anti-community attacks are unrepresentative of the Newtownhamilton Community.

"Such attacks in the past have resulted in death or serious injury and those responsible need to realise the possible consequences of their actions. At a time when communities are striving to cement peace and encourage reconciliation it would appear that there is a small minority intent on causing hurt. They can have no place in our society and those involved should hang their heads in shame.

"I would call on anyone who has any information regarding this incident to come forward." ENDS


Sinn Fein MLA and Vice Chair of the Committee for Enterprise Trade & Investment Jennifer McCann called on the office of the Utility Regulator to consult widely with all stakeholders during the review into the role of the Regulator.

"After listening to representations from The Consumer Council and the Utility Regulators office at the Committee meeting this morning I would have concerns that the terms of reference for this enquiry do not go far enough.

I believe that people need to know whether the price hike of 33.3% in NIE Energy was justified and whether everything is being done to keep energy costs at a minimum.

There is a clear need for a sustainable Energy Strategy to be adopted which will ensure future investment in energy but which also looks to the interests of the customer by adopting innovative policy measures to combat fuel poverty.

NIE Energy also need to explain to their customers why those who have recently purchased electricity through their key pad system will be charged at the increased tariff for electric that isn't used before October 1st. We also need to know will the same apply to those energy suppliers who buy their electricity in advance of October 1st to sell onto other customers.

Fuel poverty is effecting people now and the measures that have been put forward by the Deputy First Minister Martin Mc Guinness to offset the financial difficulties facing households should be implemented immediately."



Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA is to throw open the gates and waive entrance fees to Forest Parks across the North this Sunday.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's Forest Service is holding a Forests Open Day on Sunday September 28 to coincide with the National Trails Day in the South.

The focus of the Open Day is to encourage all sections of the community to visit forests, experience the natural forest environment, and enjoy some healthy exercise along a variety of walking trails, led by a forest guide who will point out features of interest. There will be guided walks at Tollymore, Gortin Glen and Glenariff Forest Parks.

There are more than two-million visits to forests in the North of Ireland every year, with visitors enjoying eco-trails and nature walks, orienteering, horse-riding, cycling, caravan and camping and even car rallies. Announcing details of the Forests Open Day, the minister said:

"I am pleased to be able to offer the public free entry this Sunday to our Forests and I would encourage as many people as possible to come along and enjoy a day in the forest. The demand for recreational use of forests is increasing and diversifying and I want to see forests being used more for recreation, particularly by rural communities.

"I am pleased that the Open Day coincides with the National Trails Day in the South, which similarly encourages people to enjoy the social and health benefits of walking and hiking. Clearly, there is scope to develop this concept further and we will be liaising with our colleagues in the South to develop the National Trails Day idea in future years."

The minister also revealed plans for a Forest Recreation Strategy, to be published next spring. She said:

"Forests here in the North offer great potential to maximise recreation, tourism, rural development, health and educational opportunities. The New Strategy will create a framework within which these opportunities can be developed."

The minister underlined the important role of partnerships which will be a key feature of the new strategy and its implementation: "Forest Service already works with other organisations in providing recreation in many forests and the new strategy will place a strong focus on developing and expanding partnerships to unlock the potential that forests offer." ENDS

Notes to Editors

  1. There are nine forest parks in Northern Ireland which provide car parking, picnic sites, a range of walks and attractions. In addition, there are over 100 forests that provide some recreational facilities, including woodland walks.
  2. Forest Service is developing a Recreation and Social Use strategy, in consultation with stakeholder groups. The Open Day supports the strategic aim of providing greater recreation provision in our forests.


Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA is encouraging rural communities to attend local information events to find out more about the concept of Rural Champion and enhancement of rural proofing.

Events have been organised at venues in rural areas to give rural communities an opportunity to hear at first hand how the concept is being developed. Community representatives, rural organisations, farmers, farm families and individuals with an interest in rural areas are urged to attend.

The rural champion concept, which has already received the backing of the Executive, aims to ensure that the needs of, and issues affecting, those living and working in the countryside are considered as all new policies are developed.

Commenting on the current consultation, the minister said

"The Rural Champion concept is an important step in rural development, defining how we do things on a regional, local and community scale. It also sets the stage for the development of the Rural White Paper which will better define what government and communities will do to ensure the sustainability of rural areas. I would like to see as many people as possible come along to these events to air their views and ideas. I look forward to receiving feedback from them, which, together with other responses to the consultation, will help to shape how this concept develops and progresses. " ENDS

Notes to Editors

The public consultation on the Rural Champion concept and the enhancement of rural proofing was launched on 13 August and closes on 5 November 2008.

Events are planned for the following locations:

Moneymore Recreation Centre
Moneyhaw Road, Moneymore
30-Sep 7.15 to 9pm

Craigavon Civic Centre
Lakeview Road, Craigavon
01-Oct 7.15 to 9pm

Kircubbin Community Centre
2 Church Gr, Kircubbin
04-Oct 12.30 to 2.30pm

Omagh Community House Ltd
Drumragh Avenue, Omagh
06-Oct 7.15 to 9pm

Cornmill Quay
Marine Park, Annalong
09-Oct 7.15 to 9pm

Islandmagee Community Centre
Island Village, Ballystrudder
11-Oct 12.15 to 2pm

Culleybackey Community Centre
Tobar Park, Culleybackey
14-Oct 7.15 to 9pm

Newtownhamilton Community Centre
The Square, Newtownhamilton
16-Oct 7.30 to 9.30pm

Corick House Hotel
20 Corick Road, Clogher
18-Oct 12 to 2pm

  1. The consultation paper is available from, or on request from R. Griffin, DARD Rural Policy Branch, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 3SB. Telephone 028 90524598.
  2. The Programme for Government PSA17 objective 2- Adopt the Role of a Rural Champion has two actions: to define role of rural champion and enhance the rural proofing process; and develop proposals for a Rural White Paper.
  3. The definition of the Rural Champion concept is a key aim of the DARD Strategic Plan 2006-2011 and DARD Rural Strategy 2007-2013.
  4. The process of rural proofing was developed to consider the impact of government policy on rural areas. The process was a Programme for Government commitment in 2002, designed to ensure that the rural dimension was routinely considered as part of the making and implementation of policy. Responsibility for ensuring that the rural proofing initiative is effectively developed and that Departments have adequate guidance for rural proofing lies with DARD. However, each department must apply the process of rural proofing to its own policies.

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