November 11th, 2003
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has criticised the Minister for Justice's plans for restructuring the prison service, saying they "fall far short of the comprehensive and systematic reform needed to stop the overspend and to bring Irish prisons into line with best practice." Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"From a public interest point of view, it makes no sense to close one of the least expensive, and one of the most effective prisons in the state. It makes no sense to privatise the prisoner escort service contrary to a Departmental Expert Group's recommendations. We don't know how to interpret his plans to temporarily transfer the management of two open prisons 'outside the Prison Service'. The Minister must have a plan beyond this, and we have the right to know. If it is a stepping-stone to privatisation or to semi-private PPP institutions, he must at least explain publicly why he would consider this move, which does not conform with international best practice models for a prison service.
"From what we know of them, the Minister's plans do not tackle the fundamental and underlying structural problems of over-incarceration for non-violent and minor offences and excessively high prisoner-staff ratios - both of which are imposing unreasonable costs to the state. They do not address the need to close several other prisons for health and safety reasons as recommended by the Prison Inspectorate. They would not appear to increase rehabilitative and other services to reduce recidivism, and as recommended by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. Mr. McDowell needs to explain the basis for his apparently chaotic and reactionary plans, which would seem to bear no relation whatsoever to expert opinion or evidence.
"The reality is there is a pressing need for comprehensive and systematic reform of the prison service based on best international practice, not unproven rightwing ideology. The Minister should go back to the drawing board." ENDS
November 11th, 2003
Sinn Féin representative for north Belfast, Gerry Kelly, has slammed the Greater Shankill's Community Council's report as stale and that it offers nothing new. Speaking today Mr Kelly said that the GSCC needed to pursue dialogue as the only way forward and not get caught up in dinosaur politics.
Speaking today Mr Kelly said:
"This report, published by the Greater Shankill Community Centre, is stale and offers nothing progressive or new. It is quite clear that the GSCC are lashing out at all others except the Orange Order and their supporters who continue to refuse to talk to local residents.
"What we see is the report making wild assertions about the residents protest, people taking part in the protest and even the Independent International Observers. It uses the language of the political dinosaurs such as DUP and the UDA.
"I have to say if those from the Greater Shankill Community Council are genuinely interested in identifying a way forward then dialogue between the relevant parties must be seriously considered and placed within this document.
"It is only through dialogue between the Orange Order and the local nationalist community that a lasting and satisfactory resolution to this problem can be achieved." ENDS
Sinn Féin candidate Mary Nelis has welcomed the fact that the SDLP have now adopted the Sinn Féin position on decentralisation.
"In the Assembly I proposed that Governmental Departments and Civil Service jobs be decentralised to towns and cities across the Six Counties. This however failed due to lack of support from other parties including the SDLP. I also had a motion passed through Derry City Council on the issue of decentralisation when I served on the Council.
Now that the SDLP have realised that this is an initiative worth pursuing I hope that when the Assembly is reconstituted that we can rely on the SDLP and the other parties to support us in our efforts to make decentralisation a reality - not just an electioneering ploy. After all, Mark Durkan, first as Minister of Finance and then as Deputy First Minister had the opportunity to initiate a policy of decentralisation of Departments but failed to do so."ENDS
Sinn Féin North Belfast representative, Kathy Stanton, has slammed today's pipe bomb attack on a Holy Cross parent. The attack on the home at Kerrara Street targeted of a mother of two children who attend Holy Cross Girls Primary School.
Speaking today Ms Stanton said:
"This attack is completely unjustifiable. The RHD, who have claimed the attack, is simply a cover name for the UDA. They have stated that they were specifically targeting a spokesperson for the Holy Cross Parents. This is a fallacy. What they have done is to select the most vulnerable target and attack a mother and her children in their home.
"What we see here is a continuation of the loyalist campaign against nationalists in North Belfast and as such I would urge nationalists to be vigilant in the coming weeks.
"The UDA is a group that are not on ceasefire and who have been responsible for countless sectarian gun and bomb attacks against nationalists over the past two and a half years. In the run up to an election they may try to flex their muscle, especially in north Belfast, and use intimidation instead of politics." ENDS
Upper Bann Sinn Féin Representative Dr. Dara O'Hagan has welcomed the publication of the Disability Rights Manifesto. The manifesto was produced by Disability Action in association with NIPSA.
Speaking at the launch in Belfast Dr. O'Hagan said:
" It is important that the voices of disabled people are heard, particularly during an election campaign. The publication of this manifesto today provides a template for all of the political parties, and more importantly for the newly elected Assembly and Executive."ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP will be joined by party colleagues Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD and Martin Ferris TD at a press conference in Belfast tomorrow morning.
They will set out Sinn Féin's all-Ireland agenda and outline our priorities for the incoming Assembly as we continue to prepare for Irish Unity.
The press conference will take place at 11am in the Cultarlann, Falls Road, Belfast.
November 11th, 2003
Speaking at a press conference today before a debate in the Dáil later on a Bill which would enshrined the right to housing in the Constitution, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan TD said:
"Adequate housing is universally viewed as one of the most basic human needs. Sinn Féin believes that housing is a fundamental right, which must be enshrined in the Constitution and that is why we are launching this campaign today and bringing a constitutional amendment Bill before the Dáil. It is totally unacceptable that people are living in this State without access to adequate housing.
"The Fianna Fail/PD coalition government has consistently failed to address the housing crisis, which has become progressively worse during the six years that this coalition has been in power. Under the stewardship of Martin Cullen and his sidekick Noel Ahern, housing has slipped off the Government agenda. All we get from the Government these days are denials from Noel Ahern that there are hundreds of people sleeping rough on Dublin streets, insinuations that those seeking disabled housing grants are less than genuine and claims that housing affordability has been helped by the now passed economic boom. There is no recognition or acknowledgment from the Government of the crisis that affects, in one aspect or another, every family in the 26 counties.
"Sinn Féin believes that the current absence of such a right to housing has resulted in a relatively weak commitment from government and officials in addressing the housing issue and the increasing levels of homelessness. The absence of such a constitutional protection for the right to housing has allowed the government to get away with not acting in the interests of the homeless and others affected by the housing crisis.
"The tabling of this Constitutional amendment Bill represents the first initiative in Sinn Féin's campaign to force the government to address this issue for which there is widespread support ? for example: A survey carried out on
behalf of the Simon Community proper to the 2002 General election found that 71% of those surveyed support the inclusion of a right to housing in the constitution. Focus Ireland will also be launching their campaign on the "Right to a Home" this coming Thursday (13th).
"Sinn Féin rejects the Government's arguments that the inclusion of social and economic rights in the Constitution is undemocratic. We reject the assertion that social and economic policies are the sole prerogative of democratically elected and accountable politicians.
"The Constitution must be updated to include what are now internationally recognised social and political rights.
"Sinn Féin believes that a rights-based approach ensures that a basic standard with respect to housing provision will be upheld and that the voiceless and most marginalized within our society will not be penalised by their lack of political strength or representation.
"A constitutional right to housing would oblige statutory bodies to provide adequate and appropriate housing for all of the people of this State.
"Sinn Féin is confident that an overwhelming majority of the people of this State would support the enshrinement of the right to housing in the 1937 Constitution. We hope the Government will accept the Bill and that a referendum on the issue will be brought before the people at an early date."ENDS
November 11th, 2003
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP speaking at a press conference in Belfast this morning said: "Sinn Féin has taken real risks for peace. We did so because we have a strategy to bring about a lasting peace. Central to this strategy is the intense dialogue with unionists. Although in an embryonic stage it has already delivered progress and we intend to build on it following the elections." Mr. McGuinness was accompanied by Conor Murphy, Michelle Gildernew MP, Cora Groogan and Philip McGuigan.
Mr McGuinness said:
"A lot has been achieved not just in the last five years but over the last decade and the Ireland we live in today is a very different place. Ten years ago there was a conflict that many said could not be resolved. We believed differently. We set about our peace strategy and worked day and night to develop the Irish Peace Process.
"The result of this effort is to be seen in every town and village in Ireland, not least in interface areas across the north this summer.
"The peace on our streets this summer happened because republicans and unionists worked together to make it happen.
"Dialogue and engagement delivered real benefits at the interface areas. At a wider level the dialogue between Sinn Féin and the UUP is the basis for future progress.
"We have made progress. We need to build upon this after the election.
"We are asking the electorate to join with us and endorse this work. We are asking them to support us in the forthcoming elections so that we can go into the negotiations stronger and bring about the type of lasting change which can be delivered through the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."ENDS
Upper Bann Sinn Féin Representative Dr. Dara O'Hagan has demanded that the British Security Minister Jane Kennedy remove RIR man Jonathan Russell from the ranks of the RIR. Dr. O'Hagan's comments came after he was convicted of causing a disturbance at Drumcree last year.
Dr. O'Hagan said:
" Today RIR member Jonathan Russell was convicted of a violent offence committed at Drumcree last year. Yet we can only presume that he will be rearmed and placed back onto nationalist streets by his RIR regiment.
" It is not surprising given its history that the RIR contains individuals who would be involved in violent loyalist protests. However this does not make this any more acceptable. Jane Kennedy has a duty to disarm this loyalist and remove him from the ranks of the British Army.
" However, given the British governments failure to remove the murderers of Peter McBride from their army's ranks, people in Upper Bann will not be confident that she will dot he decent thing in this case either." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness will lead a party press conference on the peace process tomorrow, Tuesday 11th at 11am in the Culturlann on the Falls Road in Belfast.
The press conference will set out what Sinn Féin has delivered on the peace process and address the ongoing negotiations.
Also attending the press conference will be Conor Munphy - Newry/Armagh, Michelle Gildernew MP, Philip McGuigan - North Antrim and Geraldine Dougan - Mid Ulster.
The Irish Republican Media has an exclusive interview with Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness from today's campaign launch on its website, www.irishrepublicanmedia.com.
Mr. McGuinness discusses Sinn Féin's Assembly election campaign and why he is confident that Sinn Féin will make big gains on 26 November.
Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Paul Butler has said that the decision of the British Conservative Party to abandon the position of NI spokesperson in their Shadow Cabinet was 'a recognition of the reality of post Good Friday Agreement politics'.
Cllr. Butler said:
" Today's decision by the British Conservative Party to abandon the position of NI spokesperson in their Shadow cabinet is a recognition of the reality of post Good Friday Agreement politics. It shows the journey the Tories have been forced to travel since their former leader Thatcher declared the Six Counties 'as British as Finchley'.
" Increasingly British politicians are coming to the realisation that they should become persuaders for Irish Unity. The main parties should now move to this position as a matter of policy." ENDS
November 10th, 2003
Sinn Féin will hold a press conference in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street, tomorrow Tuesday November 11th at 10.30am to outline details of the party's Private Members' motion to the Dáil that evening which seeks to have the right to housing enshrined in the Constitution.
Speaking in advance of the Press Conference, Sinn Fein's spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD said:
"Sinn Fein is confident that an overwhelming majority of the people of this State would support the enshrinement of the right to housing in the 1937 Constitution. The current government has consistently failed to address the housing crisis which has become progressively worse during its six year reign. It has become obvious that the absence of a constitutional protection for the right to housing has played a significant role in allowing the government to get away with not acting in the interests of the homeless and others affected by the housing crisis. We hope the Government will accept the Bill and that a referendum on the issue will be brought before the people at an early date".
Also attending the press conference will be Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, Marylou McDonald -Sinn Féin EU candidate for Dublin - and Mary Nelis MLA - Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson in the Six Counties. ENDS
November 10th, 2003
At the launch of the party's election campaign, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness was joined by party colleagues Caitríona Ruane, Kathy Stanton, Alex Maskey and Pat Doherty.
Mr. McGuinness said:
"The story of this election will be the return of Sinn Féin to the Assembly as the largest nationalist party.
"The pro-Agreement electorate recognises that Sinn Féin are the most effective negotiators.
"For that reason people want to see a Sinn Féin First or Deputy First Minister. I believe that will happen.
"We have delivered significant change. Republicans have taken risks for this process and we are asking people to endorse this.
"Sinn Féin is on the verge of an historic advance which will be seen across the north in Belfast, North and South Antrim, East Derry, Upper Bann, Lagan Valley and South Down, as well as republican heartlands West of the Bann and in Newry & Armagh.
"In this election we are asking people to join with us in defending the Good Friday Agreement against those who wish to destroy it. There will be no renegotiation. Sinn Féin will ensure that the Agreement is implemented in full. I am appealing for people to come out and vote in this election. We cannot take anything for granted.
"A vote for Sinn Féin in this election is a vote for change. It is a vote for peace. And it is a vote for the implementation of your agreement."ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris and Fermanagh South Tyrone Candidate Councillor Gerry McHugh have strongly attacked the EU Commission for having succumbed to US pressure to allow the sale of genetically modified food. Deputy Ferris and Cllr. McHugh were speaking following a decision by a Commission group to postpone a vote on the sale of genetically modified sweetcorn until December. The product in question is a variety known as 'Bt 11' manufactured by the Swiss corporation Syngenta.
Deputy Ferris said:
"This attempt by the Commission to approve the sale of GM foods must be regarded with suspicion. It would appear clear that they are trying to get approval for this product before more stringent regulations come into force. The Commission is caving in to pressure from the United States, which has a massive interest in opening up European markets for GM, but is opposed by the vast majority of European farmers and consumers. The fact that the decision was postponed, however, would indicate that there is still opposition among the 15. We will be asking Minister Joe Walsh to explain what way the Irish representative voted, and will be calling on him to ensure that when this issue comes back for decision on December 12, that Ireland oppes the move".ENDS
November 10th, 2003
Speaking at the launch of Society of St. Vincent de Paul research on poverty in Belfast today, for which she has written the forward, former Sinn Féin Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, West Belfast Assembly candidate Bairbre de Brún said:
"St. Vincent de Paul plays a substantial role in our society, providing those most of need with the support, assistance and guidance to make it through the difficult periods of their lives. The results of this research and the recommendations arising from it need to be taken seriously by all of us in society and in public service interested in building a better society.
"One in four adults and one in three children in Irish society, North and South, suffer poverty. It destroys lives, reduces the human capacity to create and achieve and blights communities for generations. The better off you are, the healthier you are; the longer you can expect to live; and the less likely you are to spend the later years of your life suffering from chronic disease or disability.
"The Executive's Investing for Health strategy, for which I had the priveledge of being lead Minister, recognises that poorer families have less money to spend on the key physical determinants that effect health - such as good food and comfortable housing. They live and work in more difficult conditions. They lead more stressful lives.
"We need to do more to eradicate poverty and to break the cycle of ill health, low achievement, high unemployment and debt that affect the most vulnerable in our society." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will formally launch the party's Assembly Election campaign at 11am tomorrow, Monday 10th, in the Culturlann, Falls Road, Belfast.
Mr. Adams will be joined at the press conference by other members of the party's leadership.
November 9th, 2003
West Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Michael Ferguson has accused Jane Kennedy of putting her allegiance to the British military in front of her responsibilities as Education Minister.
Cllr. Ferguson said:
"On Friday the British army disrupted an 11 plus examination at a West Belfast Primary School by hovering over the building. Requests by the school principal to the British military to end the activity were ignored.
"As a result of the deeply flawed system of Direct Rule imposed by the British government the Minister responsible for the education of our young people Jane Kennedy is also responsible for security matters.
"Up until now she has failed to make any comment or take any action after the disgraceful disruption of the 11 plus examination. It seems that Jane Kennedy will, like countless British Ministers before her, put the narrow interests of the British military in Ireland in front of any concerns for the people who actually live here. In this instance 11 year old children.
"Her failure to respond to this very serious matter is an indictment of not just herself, but of the system of direct rule imposed upon us." ENDS
November 9th, 2003
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP in the course of a keynote address at the annual Edentubber Commemoration in County Louth on Sunday afternoon will say that republicans have good cause to be disappointed and good cause to be angry about the events of 21st October but "we must not allow this to cloud our political judgement. We are committed to this process and we do not intend to walk away from it. Nor do we intend to allow others to deny or escape from their obligations with respect to this process." He went on to say "There cannot and will not be any re-negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no new agreement. But there obviously is a need to make sure the unfinished business of the Agreement is completed."
Mr. Adams said:
"I want to comment briefly on events of 21st October and the discussions which led up to these events. It is just over a year since the British Government collapsed the political institutions.
"It's decision to do so, and the cancellation of the May elections, caused enormous frustration and anger among all of us who have vested so much in building the peace process, in constructing the Good Friday Agreement and in pursuit of the full implementation of the Agreement. The approach of both governments in this period and indeed before has tested the patience of republicans to the limit.
"We have good cause to be disappointed and good cause to be angry. But we must not allow this to cloud our political judgement. We are committed to this process and we do not intend to walk away from it. Nor do we intend to allow others to deny or escape from their obligations with respect to this process.
"In the run up to the summer months the Sinn Féin leadership initiated an intensive dialogue with Ulster Unionists. Our objective was to try and ensure that people living on the interfaces had as peaceful a summer as possible. And although some areas continued to face difficulties, in the main our dialogue succeeded.
"We also sought to ensure that the election, which we were demanding, would take place in a climate most conducive to bringing about restored political institutions on a stable basis.
"This intense dialogue between the UUP and Sinn Féin has been a hugely important development in itself. Notwithstanding the present difficulties and whatever the explanation from the UUP about their failure to deliver on what they had agreed to, this must be protected. The task facing us has undoubtedly been made much more difficult by the position adopted by the UUP. But dialogue, a genuine dialogue with them is key to future political progress. So, we will return to this in the wake of the election.
"For the record let me state again. The culmination of our discussions with the UUP was an agreement on a choreographed sequence of statements and events to give public expression to that agreement. This included statements and actions from Sinn Féin, the IRA, the UUP and British and Irish governments.
"Sinn Féin delivered our part of this sequence as agreed.
"The IRA delivered their part of the sequence as agreed.
"It was then that the UUP walked away.
"Only they can explain why. They have yet to adequately or satisfactorily do so. And whatever their reason or explanation it was certainly not because republicans did not deliver.
"David Trimble knew what the IRA had undertaken to do. And David Trimble knew that neither he nor, for that matter, Sinn Féin or either government, could dictate how the IICD, an independent body, would report this. So, it beggars belief, and it is totally unacceptable, that the entire peace process should be put on hold because the UUP were not satisfied with the IICD description of the IRA initiative.
"But of course, the UUP are not the only ones who have yet to deliver on their commitments. Both governments were also part of the agreed choreographed sequence which was to begin on 21 October.
"So, there is a particular onus on Dublin and London to honour the commitments which they made as part of the overall agreement. This requires them to address and resolve a number of issues including the implementation of a programme of demilitarisation, a resolution of the issue of OTRs, and the need for northern nationalist representation in the Dáil, among other matters. We will also return to all of this after the election.
"Let me make it clear. There cannot and will not be any renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no new agreement. But there obviously is a need to make sure the unfinished business of the Agreement is completed. An increased Sinn Féin vote is one way to ensure that. No one here should be surprised that the two governments have not fully implemented their commitments.
"Why would they when the SDLP is always prepared to settle for less? That is why this election is so crucial. The immediate task for all republicans is to increase the Sinn Féin mandate. We need to strengthen our hand."ENDS
November 9th, 2003
Sinn Fein Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone Assembly candidate Cllr Gerry McHugh has questioned the political leadership of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Cllr McHugh said:
"Everyone in the agricultural industry knows all too well that DARD work at a snail pace. They have NO direction and NO ambition. But whose fault is this? We have had five years of political dithering, NO hard decisions, just photo calls and empty promises.
"Last week the former permanent secretary of DARD Bill Hodges pointed out that dithering in the private sector would lead to bankruptcy. Both the former permanent secretary and the Minister should wake up and smell the roses, farmers are almost bankrupt. Last December I discovered that farmers owed over £500 million to banks alone. £88 per week is the average farm income. Yet DARD is not bankrupt with administration costs of over £4000 per farm. No adequate politician would allow this to continue.
"DARD got a £50 million uplift in the last budget. Farmers have not been prepared for the changes that are around the corner on CAP reform. There will be an enormous shift towards the protection of the environment; we have to ensure that the threshold is not set too high on cross compliance. A new expanded Europe to 25 members, and the likely renegotiation next year of the failed World Trade talks, which will put great pressure on our export refunds are all issues that must be addressed now.
"One of the most crucial decisions to made in the near future is the model to be used in calculating the decoupled payment. This must reflect the fairest distribution of money to all farmers.
"We have the best food in the world; it must be sold as such and on an all-Ireland basis. The beef export ban must be lifted immediately, this is an yet another example of DARD's total lack of will or interest in agriculture and farm incomes.
"DARD have become an agency that polices the agricultural industry, not a department to assist and nurture new economic activity. No politician should have allowed that to happen. Why has Brucellosis and Tuberculoses not been eradicated? Why after being promised by the North South Ministerial Council that we would have an all-island animal health strategy by December 2002 has this not been put in place? Why was the whole of the Rural Development Programme allowed to drift with little or no affect on farm families? Why have its delivery mechanisms not been made more accessible? It is time that there was political leadership on these vital questions because time for our rural communities and farming industry is running out."ENDS
Sinn Féin South Belfast Representative Alex Maskey has hit out at those responsible for three separate robberies on the elderly in Belfast last night.
Mr. Maskey said:
"Last night in South Belfast robbers attacked elderly people in both Malone and Beechlands. A similar robbery also took place in the North of the city. Unfortunately it seems that these sorts of vicious attacks on the elderly are on the increase.
"The community needs to stand up to those responsible for these attacks. We must look out for our elderly neighbours and friends and ensure that they are not living in the sort of fear that many currently are.
"Yesterday I attended the launch of the Age Sector manifesto in Belfast and for many of those present the dominant issue was one of safety in the home. We must create a society where the elderly are cherished and not attacked in the disgraceful manner we have witnessed in recent months." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and former Health Minister Bairbre de Brún are in South Down this morning canvassing with the party's candidates - Eamon McConvey, Willie Clarke and Caitriona Ruane.
They will be available to speak to the media during a walkabout in Market Place Downpatrick at 11am.
Mr. Adams will address the annual Edentubber commemoration tomorrow (Sunday 9th) in Co. Louth. The parade will leave Ravensdale at 2.30pm.
North Antrim Sinn Féin representative Philip McGuigan has said that reports from the Electoral Commission indicating that 180,000 are not registered and another 36,000 people are without proper ID, is further evidence of the complete mess made of the entire process by the Electoral Office and raises serious questions for the SDLP, UUP and DUP who supported the legislation to allow this disenfranchising exercise to take place.
Cllr. McGuigan said:
"Reports suggest that the Electoral Commission believe that up to 180,000 people are missing from the current register and another 36,000 who are on the register will be unable to vote because of the new ID regulations. It has been Sinn Féin‚s view that the Electoral Office made a complete mess of the registration process and many of these mistakes are being repeated again.
"To the credit of Sinn Féin activists across the north many of those removed from the register last year have managed to reclaim their vote through rolling registration. But this does not take away from the fact that the registration process is deeply flawed and needs changed radically.
"This exercise in disenfranchisement poses many questions for the SDLP, UUP and DUP. They ushered the legislation behind this through the British House of Commons without any regard for its consequences. They put their own narrow political agendas in front of the ordinary citizen and we can all now see the result.
"These parties need to explain their position to those 180,000 people who will now be denied their democratic rights and entitlements as a direct result of their position."ENDS
November 7th, 2003
Sinn Féin will hold a press conference in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street onTuesday next (November 11th) at 10.30am to outline details of the party's Private Members motion to the Dáil next week which seeks to have the right to housing enshrined in the Constitution.
Attending the press conference will be Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, Arthur Morgan TD, the party's spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Marylou McDonald, Sinn Féin EU candidate for Dublin and Mary Nelis MLA, Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson in the Six Counties.
November 7th, 2003
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking as children prepare to sit the 11+ transfer test has said that Jane Kennedy's failure to commit to 2004 as the final exam date is creating uncertainty and confusion.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The uncertainty created by Jane Kennedy's handling of the 11+ has been bad for parents and children and led to uncertainty in the different education sectors. By refusing to confirm that children in 2004 will be the last to sit the 11+ Jane Kennedy has created the space to allow those who support academic rejection of children at 11 the space to peddle their myths and lies.
"The most common myth peddled those who support academic rejection at 11 is that academic selection provides a ladder to success for working class and disadvantaged children. But the truth is that the removal of academic selection will not deprive bright, disadvantaged pupils of the opportunity of a first-rate education. Only 8% of pupils in grammar schools come from low-income families.
"Transfer test results show that the children from privileged backgrounds are 4 times more likely to achieve a grade A in the 11+ than the most disadvantaged of our children. Hardly making a good case for academic selection.
"The worst results in the 11+ are in state schools with high levels of free school meals in working class Protestant areas - in the Shankill less than 2% of pupils achieved a grammar school place. That is a damning statistic. The system is not helping the working class and it is certainly not helping children from working class Protestant families. Those who support academic rejection from unionist parties must ask themselves why they support a system that fails children most in need from within their own community." ENDS