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Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Enterprise, Trade and Investment committee, Paul Butler, has stated today that the main point that should be taken from the visit to the Assembly by the British Treasury Select Committee is that it highlights the severe lack of fiscal powers for local representatives to react to economic downturn.

Speaking today Mr Butler said:

"The key point highlighted today is the fact that the Assembly lacks fiscal abilities to explore the full range of initiatives and responses to the severe economic downturn. The Assembly and Executive are more restricted than they should be to help industry, compel banks to act and to alter the way public finances are administered.

"We need to see the Minister for Finance meet his counterparts in other regional assemblies to argue the case for a united approach towards the British treasury to relax the accounting rules permitting front loading and acceleration of public expenditure programmes.

"One of the positives coming from this meeting is that the committee chairman John McFall has stated that he will now examine the accounting rules.

"This would have major advantages. It would strengthen the retention of skills capacity, keeping the local work force in employment. It would also enable the early delivery of vital capital projects, in some instances an entire year before planned helping to kick-start the economy.

"This would be of no cost to the budget. In fact it would allow payments to be drawn down in the budget years in which the programmes were designated.


"Taking these things together, locally elected representatives would be much better placed to weather the economic crisis and we would not have to wait on Westminster to raise our financial concerns."

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Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Daithi Doolan has welcomed the news that Dublin City Council has initiated Planning Enforcement Action against 100 property developers for non-payment of Development Contributions. Councillor Doolan said the move was "long overdue considering the City is now owed over €24m in Development Contributions."

Speaking form City Hall tonight, Councillor Doolan said, "I have been asking the City Manager for this information since January. The non-payment of levies by major developers is nothing short of a disgraceful. These developers are holding the City to ransom and must be faced down. A number of the cases are now listed in the District Court. These developers must be named and shamed and the Council must ensure these developers are refused planning permission in the near future.

"Property developers and land speculators have been making millions of euros from developing land while the tax payer has funded infrastructural services. Now that we are facing cuts to local government spending right across the board we need to ensure that public services don't suffer while any levies remain uncollected." ENDS

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SINN FÉIN President Gerry Adams has accused the government of having facilitated bankers and developers to distort the housing market during the 'Celtic Tiger' era and helping to destroy the Irish economy. He said that those whose greed put housing beyond the reach of ordinary people and undermined the state's competitiveness must be made be made to shoulder the burden of any tax increases Taoiseach Brian Cowen intends to implement over the coming months.

The Sinn Féin President made the remarks while in Tullamore, County Offalyat the launch of the election campaign of local Sinn Féin candidate Brendan Killeavy.

Gerry Adams said:

"I'm very pleased to officially launch the campaign to have Brendan Killeavy elected to Tullamore Town Council and Offaly County Council next June. Brendan is a first time candidate who has been active in Sinn Féin for 10 years now. He is committed to improving the living and working conditions of the people of Tullamore, of Offaly and of Ireland. I believe that if elected he will make a very effective public representative.

"A key issue in this area is the lack of social and affordable housing. There are 750 families on the housing waiting list in Tullamore with 15 new families coming onto that list every week now.

"This is not just a problem affecting Tullamore or the other major towns in Offaly. There is a severe lack of social housing across this state with over 59,000 on the social housing waiting list and 5,000 people homeless.

"These individuals and families were forgotten by the so-called 'Celtic Tiger' economy. There are many, many families with one or both parents in full-time employment, who in recent years simply could not afford to buy their own home in a scandalously over-priced housing market. The Government, including Brian Cowen during his term as Minister for Finance, refused to intervene to curb the escalation in house prices. Had this been done things would not be as bad as they now are. The failure to curb rising house prices pushed up the cost of living and the cost of doing business.

"At the same time that so many of our people are in dire need of housing we have the absolute scandal of 270,000 properties lying vacant across the 26 Counties.

"Sinn Féin believes that social and affordable housing needs to be at the centre of a new approach to meeting housing need. We are calling for a doubling of the output of social housing across the state to meet need that exists. There must also be Government assistance to those families currently at risk of losing their homes due to the reckless banking practices that have recently been exposed. County Councils must be supported There needs urgently to be a halt to the despicable practice of illegal evictions.

"Finally, those with political responsibility in this state must ensure that the developers and the bankers who destroyed our economy and used the housing market to do so, are made to pay the price. If, as the government has said, increased taxes are to be introduced, then those who have the most must pay the most." ENDS

Note to Editors:

The Sinn Féin candidates for Laois/Offaly are:

Offaly County Council Local Election and Tullamore Town Council - Brendan Killeavy

Laois County Council - Cllr. Brian Stanley

Portlaoise Town Council - Cllr Brian Stanley and Alan Hand

Laois CountyCouncil Local Election (Emo Electoral Area) - Aidan Mullins

Laois CountyCouncil Local Election, (Mountmellick Electoral Area) - Adam Haughton

Mountmellick TownCouncil Election - Stephen Lynch

Laois CountyCouncil Local Election, (Luggecurren Electoral Area) - Marie Johnston

EU candidate Ireland East - Cllr. Tómas Sharkey

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Castlederg Sinn Féin Councillor Ruairí McHugh has accused the PSNI of brutality following an incident in Hillview Park in the town which resulted in two brothers being hospitalised after being beaten and attacked with CS Spray.

Cllr Mc Hugh said:

"Brutality is the only way to describe what happened to these two brothers in the early hours of Saturday morning when PSNI officers arrived at their Hillview Park home.

"One of the brothers, who was still awake downstairs, answered the door and was told by the PSNI that they were looking for someone who they know doesn't even live there. Rebel music was being played in the living room, and on hearing it one of the PSNI officers told him to turn that 'sh..e off' or he would turn it off. At that his other brother, who had been sleeping upstairs, came down to see what the commotion was. PSNI officers were trying to get into the house but the brothers wouldn't let them. The PSNI then manhandled the brothers onto the street before punching, kicking and spraying them with CS gas in the face.

"The PSNI hurriedly left when neighbours began coming out onto the street. An ambulance arrived on the scene and the two victims were bought to the A&E at Altnagelvin hospital where they were treated for various injuries including blisters and burns to the face.

"Later yesterday morning, and after being discharged from hospital, the brothers went straight to Strabane Barracks to lodge an official complaint. However, in what local people see as a clear attempt to counter their brutality, PSNI officers landed in force at the brothers' home yesterday evening and cautioned one of the brothers for disorderly behaviour.

"I have spoken to both victims and while they are badly shaken by the ordeal they are nonetheless determined to pursue the PSNI officers responsible through their solicitor and through the Police Ombudsman. This incident has set back confidence within the local nationalist community about the ability of PSNI to act in a non-partisan manner and it requires urgent investigation." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has written to the Speaker of the Assembly Mr Willie Hay asking him to intervene and ask the Minister for Health Mr Michael Mc Gimpsey to answer a written question which is now outstanding for 4 months.

Mr O' Dowd's call comes after repeatedly asking the Health Minister, Mr Michael Mc Gimpsey as to why the DHSSPS was currently disregarding the Good Friday Agreement as well as the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages and not issuing Medical cards with the correct Irish spelling of children's names, including fadas, as they appear on their Birth certificates. The failure of the Central services agency to do so mean all medical records and documents are then recorded with the incorrect spelling of Irish names.

Mr O Dowd said
"I first raised this matter with the Minister on the 17/9/O8 and I submitted a second question on the 24th of October seeking clarification as to what action the Minister of Health is taking to rectify this situation. The Minister informed me he was unable to provide an answer at this time and will provide one a later date.

"I again sought an answer through Assembly procedures on the 15th December only to be told on the 22nd of December that an answer would be available when the information requested was available.

"This simply is not good enough. The current situation actively discriminates against those people who wish to use the correct spelling of their child's name in all aspects of their child's life as other parents have the right to do so.

"The Good Friday Agreement as well as the European Charter secures these basic entitlements for those EU citizens using their native languages.

Concluding Mr O' Dowd said;

"I now have asked the Speaker to intervene to protect the right of MLAs not only to question Ministers but also to receive answers to questions.

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Balmoral Sinn Féin representative Vincent Parker has written to Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy MP to call for provision to be made for cycle lanes on the Lisburn Road.

Mr Parker said,

"There are many health, environmental and financial benefits to cycling, especially on the journey to and from work. This is particularly true given the current economic climate and the instability of the price of fossil fuels.

"The Lisburn Road is one of Belfast's main arterial routes and suffers heavily from traffic congestion and pollution from exhaust emissions. The high level of traffic on this road puts many people off cycling in this area, and when they do cycle they often opt to cycle of the footpaths for safety reasons. This, however, causes problems for pedestrians

"Minister Conor Murphy has already stated that he is committed to improving the cycle infrastructure in the North in order to encourage more people to travel by bike. I have, thereofore, written to him to ask him to ensure that his Department gives consideration to providing cycle lanes on the Lisburn Road". CRÍOCH

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Speaking today at the beginning of Seachtain na Gaeilge 2009 (Irish Language Week), Mayor Chivers has welcomed the opening of another Irish medium school in the Limavady area.

Mayor Chivers said:

"It is wonderful to see the Irish language growing in the Limavady area. I would like to congratulate everyone at the Naiscoil for their hard work and dedication in the opening of this school to give parents in the area the option of an Irish medium education for their children.

"Pupils benefit greatly from an early start to language learning and it can increase their interest and success in learning throughout their education. It can also help to improve their confidence, self-esteem and motivation to learn. Children who are bilingual enjoy a real advantage throughout their lives. The ability to speak another language can open up a world of new experiences, literature and culture.

"I must again congratulate and commend the founders of the Naíscoil for their work in promoting the Irish language and culture." Críoch

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The Sinn Féin Chairperson of Omagh District Council, Cllr Marty McColgan says that there was great sadness at the vigil held in Omagh last night to coincide with the decision by the Western Trust to withdraw acute services provision at the Tyrone County Hospital.

Speaking following the vigil Cllr McColgan said,

"The sense of sadness at this event was matched by a sense of anger about the Western Trust's handling of the situation. Previous commitments given that a level of acute service provision would be maintained at Tyrone County until the new A&E hospital at Enniskillen become operational have fallen by the wayside and the general feeling is that the Trust were not pro-active in ensuring that this commitment was fulfilled.

"The haste by which this move to withdraw acute services was implemented has also left a situation whereby nursing staff, who have given so much loyal service to the people of this area down through the years, are now being forced to make a return journey for duties at Altnagelvin or Erne on a daily basis before they even have an opportunity to be formally re-assigned.

"Given the long distances that acutely ill-patients in the catchments area of Tyrone County are be now expected to travel it is incumbent upon the Trust to ensure that additional emergency ambulance cover is provided in this area." ENDS

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In advance of tomorrow's (2 March) Sharm El Sheikh Conference for Gaza reconstruction and support for the Palestinian economy, Bairbre de Brun MEP has called on the EU and US to demand that the border crossings at Gaza be opened and that free movement be allowed into and out of Gaza. She stressed that without an end to the siege of Gaza reconstruction would not be possible.

Speaking from Palestine where she is part of a cross-party delegation of MEPs who are meeting political figures, community organisations, human rights organisations and international agencies, Ms de Brun said:

"Our cross party group of MEPs has seen for ourselves the terrible destruction that has resulted from the recent Israeli assault on Gaza. Homes and businesses have been destroyed, schools, hospitals and ambulances attacked and Gaza has been left without the basic civilian infrastructure needed to sustain life. The vast majority of the population has now become dependent on food aid. Those we have met have told us how they want to get back to providing for themselves. They do not want to be forever dependent on international agencies for emergency aid.

"In order to rebuild their lives they need to be able to travel freely in and out of Gaza, to import materials needed to rebuild businesses and to export the goods they produce once they get back on their feet. None of this is possible if the present restrictions on the movement of people and goods are not lifted.

"One businessman even went so far as to suggest that if the border crossings are not open the international donors would be better off giving the money to Darfur or Somalia because it would not have the intended effect in Gaza. People are also fearful that Israel will carry out further attacks.

"At the Sharm El Sheikh conference for Gaza reconstruction, the EU and US must call for the crossings to be opened, and for the free movement of people and goods. They must also press the Israeli government for a commitment that the destuction and loss of life we have just witnessed will not happen again."

Ms de Brun also welcomed the agreement by 14 Palestinian parties to start an intensive dialogue with a view to forming a Government of Unity for Palestine. Five committees with representatives of all the 14 groups will meet from 10 March to try and agree by the end of March on steps to form a government of consensus, to have new elections, to have a unified, independent and professional Palestinian security force and to reach reconciliation to overcome bitter intra Palestinian divisions.

Ms de Brun said: "We in Ireland learned the benefit of having a broad alliance of people from a variety of political approaches in an effort to promote a viable peace process. I welcome the start of dialogue towards forming a government of consensus in Palestine. I wish the working committees that have been formed every success in their work" ENDS

Note to Editor

Upon her return from Gaza, Bairbre de Brun will speak about her experiences
at an event in the Culturlann next Thursday, 5 March, beginning at 6.30p.m.

A representative from the Irish Medical Aid for Palestine (Irish MAP) charity, Dr. Saeb Sha'ath,
who is from Gaza, will also speak at the event at which money raised by Sinn Fein activists

to provide urgent medical supplies in Gaza will be officially handed over.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will, this coming Monday, launch the party's planned events for Seachtain na Gaeilge 2009.

He will begin by launching the booklet, 'Essential Irish for Sinn Féin members' in the party offices at Stormont.

The following is a list of the events organised by the party.

Irish language week 2009 -Sinn Féin's Events:

1. Launch of the book 'Essential Irish for Activists' by Gerry Adams at Stormont.

Time: Monday 2nd March, 11.45am
Place:Stormont.
The Sinn Féin President will launch this Irish language book and kick off Sinn Féin's events for Seachtain na Gaeilge.

2. Unveiling of an Irish language mural at the site of the old Andersonstown barracks.

Time: Tuesday 3rd March, 1.00pm
Place: Barracks site, Andersonstown
Sinn Féin will be showing our support for the Irish language at this historic site throughout Seachtain na Gaeilge.

3. Intensive Irish language course for Sinn Féin members.

Time: Saturday 14th March, 10.00am
Place: Rodaí McCorley Club, Glen Road
Intensive Irish language day course with classes at all levels for those who want to brush up on their Irish.

4. 'Seachtain na Gaeilge' Coffee Morning at Stormont for MLAs

Time: Tuesday 10th March, 10.30am
Place: Stormont.
An opportunity for elected representatives to celebrate the Irish language at Stormont.

5. Celebration of Belfast's Irish language Sinn Féin cumann - Cumann Chaoimhín Mhic Bhrádaigh - after their first year.

Time: Monday 16th March, 7.00pm
Place: The Cultúrlann
Some craic and a glass of wine to celebrate the work of the new cumann and to finish off Seachtain na Gaeilge '09.

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Cuirfidh Uachtarán Sinn Féin Gerry Adams tús le imeachtaí an pháirtí do Seachtain na Gaeilge 2009 an Luan seo ag 11:45rn i Oifigí an Pháirtí i Stormont.

Seolfadih Gerry an leabhairín 'Gaeilge Riactanach baill Shinn Féin'.

Seo thíos liosta de na himeachtaí a bhfuil eagraithe ag an pháirtí

Seachtain na Gaeilge 2009 - Imeachtaí Shinn Féin:

1. Seoladh leabhair 'Gaeilge riachtanach do ghníomhaithe' le Gearóid Mac Adhaimh ag Stormont.

Am: Luan 2 Márta, 11.45rn
Áit: Stormont.
Beidh Uachtarán Sinn Féin ag seoladh an leabhar Gaeilge seo agus ag cur tús le himeachtaí Shinn Féin fá choinne Seachtain na Gaeilge.

2. Nochtadh múrphictiúr Gaeilge ag suíomh na seanbheairice Bhaile Andarsain.

Am: Máirt 3 Márta, 1.00in
Áit: Suíomh na seanbheairice, Baile Andarsain
Beidh Sinn Féin an léiriú tacaíochta don Ghaeilge ag an suíomh stairiúil seo le linn na Seachtaine.

3. Dianchúrsa Gaeilge do bhaill Shinn Féin.

Am: Satharn 14 Márta, 10.00rn
Áit: Cumann Rodaí MhicCorlaí, Bóthar an Ghleanna
Dianchúrsa Gaeilge le ranganna ag gach leibhéal do ghníomhaithe ar mhaith leo snas a chur ar a gcuid Gaeilge

4. Maidin Caife 'Seachtain na Gaeilge' ag Stormont do Chomhaltaí Tionóil

Am: Máirt 10 Márta, 10.30rn
Áit:Stormont.
Deis do na baill tofa teacht le chéile chun an Ghaeilge a cheiliúradh ag Stormont.

5. Ceiliúradh bliana Chumann Chaoimhín Mhic Bhrádaigh de chuid Sinn Féin

Am: Luan 16 Márta, 7.00in
Áit: Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich
Caint agus gloine fíona chun obair an chumainn úir a cheiliúradh agus chun críoch a chur le Seachtain na Gaeilge '09.

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Sinn Fein Vice President and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald today launched a day of action by the party in support of Dublin Bus and its workers outside Dublin Bus Offices on O’Connell Street in Dublin.
 
Representatives and activists across the city are taking part in a series of actions throughout the day along the routes affected by the impending cuts in services and job losses. Speaking from Dublin Ms McDonald said:
 
“The decision to withdraw 120 buses from the capital city’s public transport service in incomprehensible, particularly in the context that it is happening under the Green Party’s watch. This is a bad decision for workers, the people of Dublin, for public service delivery, for the environment and for the city’s sustainability.

“Ireland made commitments along side its European partners in December to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. Clearly the government, despite the influence of the Green Party from within its ranks, has little intention of honouring these promises.
 
“The government’s inaction on this issue has been shocking but not surprising. Let’s not forget that Dublin’s dependency on car usage has been created by decades of bad public transport policy and underinvestment by Fianna Fáil.

“Dublin should have a first class integrated public transport system that is the envy of Europe. We don’t and this is because successive Fianna Fáil governments have been short on vision, leadership and a real commitment to Dublin’s commuters and businesses alike.

“And lets not cod ourselves that Fine Gael would do it any differently. The day the cuts were announced Fine Gael were fast out of the traps calling for further privatisation of Dublin’s bus services. Privatisation of public services doesn’t work. Just look at Eircom’s failure to deliver broadband around the country and the negative impact of privatisation on our health service.
 
“But this can change. Make your voice heard. Demand that the cuts in Dublin Bus be reversed. Demand that government deliver sustainable integrated public transport for the people of Dublin. We deserve better.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brún's visit to Palestine can be followed online at the new EU website.

Follow her daily blog at http://www.sinnfeineu.com/en/topic/1

Writing late last night Bairbre de Brún said:

Today we visit Bethlehem and Hebron on the West Bank

By building the Wall around Bethlehem, the Israelis have choked the life out of the place. The elected Mayor of Bethlehem describes it as the unseen destruction of the town. Moreover, the wall is being used to define the border and to further annex Palestinian land.

The Mayor tells us that if the settlements continue then within one year there will not be enough land to build a viable Palestinian state. None of the citizens can leave the city unless they have a special permit from the Israelis. A woman peace worker tells us that the work they were doing building dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian women has now been disrupted because the Israeli women are not allowed to go into Bethlehem and the women from Bethlehem are not allowed out to where the Israeli women live.

There are three sources of income for Bethlehem. The biggest is not surprisingly pilgrimage and tourism. Last time I was here the wall had choked off most of the tourist traffic into Bethlehem. It was like a ghost town so I'm interested to see if there is any more life around the place now. I had since heard that things had improved and the Mayor of Bethlehem tells us that once the Israelis stopped making each tourist get out of the bus at the checkpoint things started to pick up.

It is much better now but still not what you'd expect for a city that houses the famous Church of the Nativity.

Agriculture was the second biggest industry but now all the cultivated land is on the other side of the wall so this form of income is cut off from them. The third biggest industry was those who went to work in Jerusalem, but this has dropped dramatically because people cannot get a permit.

Most of the children of Bethlehem don't know Jerusalem and have never been there even though it is only 9km away. Even someone who has had a stroke or heart attack can only get specialised treatment in Jerusalem and must be transferred at the checkpoint from an Arab ambulance to an Israeli ambulance, which is medically really dangerous. Many people who visit Bethlehem have painted slogans on the apartheid wall. Some are messages of hope and peace. Others are humorous. One very serious question painted on the wall really struck a chord with me: "Israel - have you become the evil you deplored?"

The wall snakes around the whole of Bethlehem and it also cuts in two what was previously the main road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and on to Hebron. Now it is a dead end, and we move on to Hebron by another route. When last I was in Hebron there were efforts under way to entice Palestinians back into the Old City of Hebron and to revitalise the area.

The Hebron Rehabilitation are regenerating and restoring many of the apartment buildings which Palestinians had abandoned due to harassment and the pressure of living under very difficult conditions. As with Bethlehem this morning, I am keen to see whether things in Hebron have changed for the better or worse. In fact when we arrive many things are the same as before. Hebron is well known for the particular violence of the settlers against the Palestinians.

In a story reminiscent of Holy Child in Ardoyne we meet with young Italians from an NG0 whose main job for a couple of years was to accompany primary school children to school in a village near Hebron in order to deter attacks on them by settlers. Since 2006 this function has now been carried out by Israeli soldiers. The international NGO is not allowed to accompany the children any more but they still monitor from a distance because the children are frightened of the Israeli soldiers.

One positive note is that the work of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee has indeed progressed and many of the old buildings have been restored and preserved. They have renovated more than 800 apartments and prevented them being either wrecked or taken over by settlers.

Once the settlers take over a house it is no just the house that is lost to the Palestinians. Suddenly there is a whole area around the house where Palestinians are no longer allowed access. Palestinian families who move into the renovated apartments get free restoration and free electricity, and even if they do not own the renovated apartment they are allowed to stay there for free. In spite of all of that there are still vacant apartments as quite a few people prefer to live where there is greater security, rather than put up with constant harassment from the settlers. We walk around the old city and the Israeli forces try to prevent us even from going into some of the streets I was able to visit .

I'm standing in the middle of a stand off with the Israelis outside the Ibrahimi Mosque where the prophet Abraham and his wife Sara as well as Isaac and Jacob are buried.

I am talking on the phone to Feile FM live, telling them about the stand off as best I can as well as describing the horrors of Gaza as I experienced them yesterday as behind me an armoured jeep arrives with reinforcements to deal with the formidable Italian MEP Luisa Morgantini who never takes no for an answer where Palestine is concerned.

Now it is late in the evening and we are heading back towards Jerusalem after a meeting with the Mayor of Hebron. As so often on this trip his message to us is that nothing can move forward unless the settlements go. He also tells us he has challenged political figures abroad to tell him if they could live alongside the type of crazed and aggressive settlers that have moved en force into Hebron. With a wry smile he entertains us with anecdotes of those international figures who came to see for themselves and had to admit they couldn't put up with being stuck to the Hebron-type settlers either!

In touch of irony the earlier stand off with the Israeli forces ended up with a victory for the good guys and we got to walk down the streets where we wanted to go. However, before we got back to the bus the skies opened and we were all drenched. The soldiers didn't laugh but whether that was because of our status as MEPs or their lack of a sense of humour I'll never know. As I sit on the bus my mind strays back to the question Feile FM asked me about what Europe can do. There is only one answer given all that's going on here; suspend the EU-Israeli preferential trade agreement until Israel respects human rights and ensure that there is accountability over the slaughter and destruction in Gaza in recent weeks."

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has sharply criticised the government after the Minister for Drugs announced that the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing non Garda confidential free phone line will cease to operate when funding runs out, which could be imminent. This is despite the success of the initiative in generating useful information and leads for Garda investigations, a fact acknowledged by the Minister himself.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said today, "The Minister has confirmed to me in an answer to a Dáil question that the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing phone line will cease to operate when funding runs, which could be imminent.

"This is an absolutely ludicrous position to be in just five months after the campaign was officially launched. The project has been extremely successful and it is not at all expensive relative to the cost of drug related crime. Certainly it has more than provided value for money unlike some of the other schemes that this Government has embarked on. The Minister himself has previously noted the success of the scheme.

"This week I sought a guarantee on the future of the phone line from the Minister. In response he revealed that there is a fixed price per call made to the line and when the small amount of dormant accounts funds remaining are expended the service will cease to exist. We are in the paradoxical situation whereby the more successful this initiative is the quicker it will be pulled by government.

"I am calling on the Minister to secure ongoing funding for this campaign to ensure that its operation is secured into the foreseeable future. It must not become another victim of the recession. It is not a huge investment that is required. Sinn Féin feels that investment in combating drugs will have a positive economic return in the long term as associated crime rates drop and the number of addicts seeking treatment falls." ENDS

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Reiterating his Ard Fhéis call for a political alliance for change in Ireland, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said today that the replacement of the current coalition by another coalition with Fine Gael as the main party would be pointless.

The Sinn Féin President said:


“The time has come for a fundamental realignment of Irish politics, to break the grip of the two main conservative parties in Ireland — a throwback to the Civil War which does nothing to help tackle the economic crisis that the country now faces.

“I note recent comments by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. Mr Kenny offers nothing new of substance to the Irish people and merely highlights the fact that the replacement of the current coalition by another coalition with Fine Gael as the main party would be pointless.

“There is nothing in the policies Fine Gael has put forward to differentiate it from Fianna Fail. Despite what Fine Gael may be saying now they did not put forward a critique of the way the Irish economy and society were developing under the current government.

“Fine Gael proposed cutting taxes when the over-reliance of the state on taxes from consumption and property was clear.

“It led the attacks on public sector workers while failing to explain how their proposals for cutbacks would not undermine the delivery of front line public services.

“Enda Kenny’s party is not supportive of the social partnership process that has the ability to build a social solidarity pack to bring us through our current economic difficulties.

“Fine Gael has not demonstrated that it would work with the social partners, in particular the trade unions in getting the Irish economy back on track.

“It has supported government policies which undermined the ability of small Irish businesses to operate – moves such as the attempt to break up the ESB which has seen electricity prices soar and changes to capital gains tax which made it more profitable to speculate on property than to run a small business.

“In short Fine Gael does not have a political vision for the future.

“The Irish people need to be aware that if Fine Gael is helped back into government by parties on the left, things will be no better.

“What Ireland clearly needs is a united, progressive and democratic movement for change in our country — a movement that has an alternative, egalitarian vision to the prevailing politics of greed, inefficiency, waste and corruption. Sinn Féin is ready to join with those parties, community groups and the trade union organizations who seek a real political alternative.” ENDS

















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Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson on the Irish language, Francie Brolly, has stated that the Irish language being represented on Limavady Council workers uniforms is an issue of equality and in no way threatens peoples identity.

Speaking today Mr Brolly said:

"The placing of the Irish language on the logo of Limavady Council was done so in the 2001 and 2005 term as an issue of equality. No objections were raised at that time and the logo is present on council property and vehicles.

"Recently the logo on the council uniforms was updated to standardize the boroughs imagery. This is no threat to anyone or their identity. The two languages on the logos are representative of the people on this island and should be seen as such.

"For a small group of workers, roughly 20 out of 170 employees, to register their protest is their prerogative however it must be stressed that the logo is inclusive and holds no political connotations. To believe this to be so is mistaken and I am happy to meet with those council workers who object to Irish being on their uniforms to hear their position."

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Sinn Féin MLA and vice chair of the Health Committee, Michelle O'Neill, has welcomed the announcement today by the Health Minster, Michael McGimpsey, is to provide an eating disorder unit for the north of Ireland.

Speaking today Ms O'Neill said:

"This announcement is to be welcomed. For too long now sufferers of eating disorders and their families have had to travel abroad for specialist care.

"This has at times been for long term treatment which causes upset to the person suffering, especially as many are young people and as a result of having to stay abroad are separated from their families for a long period.

"Sinn Féin have lobbied the Health Minister to deliver a locally based unit and now to have the promise of one for 2010 is good news for all those who are affected by eating disorders.

"Unfortunately however the demand for such services may very well outstrip what is being provided. There will be only five beds available and eating disorders are on the increase. I would urge the Minister to try and bolster this unit by providing extra care beds and services."

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has criticized the Health Minister after he refused to meet Mr McKay and a constituent regarding the lack of protection for the elderly and vulnerable in care homes. Mr McKay said that the case he was dealing with was truly shocking, but what was even more disturbing was the fact that both children and even animals have more protection than the elderly.

Mr McKay said

"The case we have been dealing with is truly shocking. However what is even more disturbing is that there are numerous other cases of this nature and part of the reason for that is that there is nowhere near enough protection for the elderly and vulnerable people, especially those in care homes.

"Now the vast majority of residential and care homes do an excellent job but those who are found guilty of abuse need to be taken to task to protect the reputation of the sector. Neglect is itself a form of abuse and in some cases those on the receiving end are not able to speak out about it. Safeguards must be in place to minimise this abuse and they are simply not there.

"The process for dealing with complaints of abuse in care homes amazed me. When someone makes a complaint against a care home an investigation is carried out. Astoundingly however the investigation is carried out by the care home itself.

"When children or animals are neglected social services and the police have the power to move in right away. This is not the case however when it comes to vulnerable people and this loophole needs to be closed as a matter of urgency. I have already been contacted by members of the public who have had similar experiences and saw the news report on TV earlier this week. I've no doubt that there are many more examples like this one.

"The system undoubtedly needs a radical review and the onus is now on the Assembly to deliver legislative change which will undoubtedly improve the quality of life for many, many people.

"The Health Minister refused to meet with my constituent and myself in regard to this case. I hope that he will now reconsider. Sinn Féin in the meantime has put forward a motion on this dreadful situation to the Assembly and intends to pursue it until the loophole is closed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President and west Belfast MP Gerry Adams has expressed his "deep sorrow" at the news of the death of veteran republican Eddie Keenan, aged 88, who died this afternoon at his home in Twinbrook. Mr. Adams extended his sincerest condolences to Eddie Keenan's family.

Eddie Keenan's wife Mary died last October.

The west Belfast MP said:

"I have known and respected Eddie for many, many years. I met him first when I was still in my teens.

He was a republican activist, a gaelgóir and Irish language enthusiast, a musician, a singer, a dancer and a seanchaí - a story teller - par excellence.

Eddie was widely known and loved throughout Ireland and he was held in the highest esteem. He was great craic and a lovely man.

Eddie was also a former republican prisoner who was imprisoned in Crumlin Road jail in the 1940's, escaped and was subsequently arrested in Dublin with Brendan Behan and held in the Curragh.

He was arrested again in the 1970s and interned in Long Kesh.

In 1976 one of his daughters Rosaleen and her husband Mervyn were killed by a unionist death squad.

He is survived by four daughters Maire, Fionnula, Una and Jennifer and three sons Eamon, Patrick and Fergal. He was also a grandfather and great grandfather.

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Tá Uachtarán Sinn Féin agus FP do Bhéal Feirste Thiar, Gearóid Mac Adhamh, i ndiaidh a "mhórbhrón" a chur in iúl fá nuacht bhás an phoblachtaigh ársa, Eddie Keenan (é 88 bliain d'aois) a fuair bás tráthnóna inné sa bhaile ag Cill Uaighe. Ghabh an t-Uasal MacAdhamh chomhbhrón ó chroí lena clann.

D'éag bean Eddie, Mary, mí Dheireadh Fómhair anuraidh.

Dúirt an Feisire d'Iarthar Bhéal Feirste:
"Tá aithne agam ar Eddie Keenan le blianta fada, agus bhí meas mór agam air i rith an ama sin. Casadh orm den chéad uair é agus mé go fóill i mo dhéagóir.

Ba ghníomhaí poblachtach é, Gaeilgeoir tiomanta, ceoltóir, amhránaí, rinceoir agus seanchaí den scoth - ar na seanchaithe is fearr dá raibh ann.
Bhí clú ar Eddie ar fud na hÉireann agus bhí ardmheas agus grá ag daoine dó in achan áit. Bhí craic ar dóigh aige i gcónaí agus b'fhear uasal é leis.
Ba iar-chimí poblachtach é Eddie fosta, a cuireadh i bpríosún Bhóthar Chromghlinne sna 1940í. D'éalaigh sé ach gabhadh é ar ball i mBaile Átha Cliath, chomh maith le Brendan Behan, agus coinníodh é sa Churrach.

Gabhadh é arís sna 1970í agus imtheorannaíodh é sa Chéis Fhada.

I 1976 mharaigh scuad maraithe aontachtaigh iníon dá chuid, Rosaleen, agus a fear, Mervyn.

Fágann sé ceathrar iníonacha, Maire, Fionnula, Una agus Jennifer, agus triúr mac, Eamon, Patrick agus Fergal. Ba sheanathair agus sin-seanathair é fosta.

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