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Sinn Féin Mayor of Armagh City and District Council Noel Sheridan has said the flying of Loyalist UVF and UDA flags and emblems on the Mall in Armagh City has disgusted and angered many.

Cllr Sheridan said:

"I have been approached by a number of residents about the Loyalist flags on the Mall, they have all expressed their disgust that emblems of organisations which have been responsible for the deaths of innocence people are being allowed to remain on display in one of the most beautiful areas of the city.

"Indeed some traders in the City pointed out that they were served with enforcement notices to remove advertisements from the same polls within 21 days or face being taken to court, but yet these emblems festooned in the area are allowed to remain to the detriment of their businesses."

The Mayor went on to say that the Mall was a shared space which all sides of the community enjoyed.

He added:

"Substantial amounts of Rate payer's money is used to maintain what is regarded as one of the most celebrated areas of any Town or City in Ireland. As Mayor I have pledged to play my part in promoting good relations. We all have our part to play to end the divisions and old hatreds, not only here in Armagh City and District but throughout our island. That means pro-actively tackling the scourge of sectarianism.

"Difference in our past meant division, in the future we need to ensure that difference isn't seen as a threat but instead as something to cherish and celebrate. I will be ensuring that the Council actively promotes a Good Relations policy."

Cllr Sheridan also confirmed that he would be asking the Council to contact the PSNI and Roads Service to request the removal of the offensive Loyalist killer gang flags and emblems.

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South Antrim MLA, Mitchel McLaughlin has appealed for the 17 year old youth being sought in connection with a serious sexual assault on a 13 year old girl in South Antrim to hand himself into the PSNI.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"I strongly condemn this serious sexual assault on a thirteen year old child and send my sympathy to her and her family. I understand that there is a 24 year-old man in custody but that the PSNI are also seeking a 17 year-old in connection with this attack.

"I appeal to this youth to come forward to the police and help them with their enquiries. I would also strongly urge any other person who may have information that would help in this investigation to go to the PSNI with that information." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness today said that the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Assembly had to happen and happen quickly. Mr McGuinness' remarks came after Peter Robinson spoke on the on the issue this morning.

Mr McGuinness said:

"While Mr Robinson's comments are fair enough as far as they go the reality remains that this issue should have been resolved by May under the terms of the St. Andrews Agreement and the DUP and the governments are already in default.

"There is an onus on the two governments and all of the parties who were part of St. Andrews to deliver on it.

"We are involved in discussions with the DUP and we have agreed that these will intensify in the short time ahead.

"The transfer of powers on policing and justice is not an optional extra - it is a commitment which needs to happen and needs to happen quickly." ENDS

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Mary Lou McDonald will attend a press conference at 11.30am tomorrow (Tues 1st July) in the Assemblée Nationale, Bureau No. 1, 3 Rue Aristide  Briand, Paris 7°.  Among those attending the press conference will be Jean-Luc Mélenchon French Socialist Senator, and President of Pour la République Sociale (PRS), PS member of the Assemblée National Marc Dolez, and Marie-Georges Buffet, General Secretary of the PCF.

 

Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and Raymond McCartney this morning briefed Ambassadors from EU member states on what needs to happen following the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty and ongoing developments in the peace process.

Ms. McDonald has an article published in the French newspaper L’Humanité today on the eve of the French taking over the Presidency of the European Union.  She is travelling to Paris tomorrow (Tuesday 1st July) for a series of engagements with senior French politicians who led the successful campaign against the EU Constitution.  They will discuss what needs to happen following the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty including the need for parties across Europe to work together to secure a better deal.

Speaking in Dublin today Ms. McDonald said:

“This morning Sinn Féin briefed Ambassadors and Embassy representatives from across the EU on the outcome of the Lisbon Treaty referendum.  We discussed the reasons for the no vote and we outlined the need for the ratification process to stop and a new Treaty to be brought forward.  

“Tomorrow I am traveling to the French capital to meet with senior politicians who played a leading role in the French campaign against the EU Constitution.  We will be discussing the need for a new Treaty, which deals with the concerns raised by people across Europe about democracy, militarisation, workers rights and public services.  We will also be discussing how parties across Europe can work together to help bring this about.

“As the French will take over the Presidency of the EU the people of Ireland will be watching carefully to see if Nicolas Sarkozy respects the outcome of our referendum and indeed the wishes of the people of France and the Netherlands who also rejected the EU Constitution. Will he show real political leadership and facilitate the negotiation of a new treaty or will he try and force through a revamped Lisbon Treaty.”ENDS


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Sinn Féin MP and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness today addressed the annual Derry Volunteers Commemoration. During the course of his speech Mr McGuinness referred to the brutal murder of Emmett Shields in the city this week and he had a clear message for those small micro groups still involved in violence.

Mr McGuinness said:

"These groups should listen to the voice of the people, as was witnessed here on Tuesday night, pack up and go away. We have now come to a point of no return. These people now have choices to make. These small groups have reached a fork in the road. For them the choice is clear, choose the peaceful and democratic road to a United Ireland - which is open to them - or they can choose to go down some sort of quasi-military cul-de-sac. There is no room for grey areas any longer." ENDS

Full text of Martin McGuinness address:

Derry Commemoration 2008 - Martin McGuinness

"We have gathered here in great numbers today in the first instance to pay tribute to the fallen IRA Volunteers and Sinn Féin activists who paid the ultimate price in pursuit of freedom and democracy on this island in the course of the past 35 years and more, and to offer our ongoing support and solidarity to their families who have joined with us here today.

This year marks the 35th Anniversary of the death of Vol Joe Walker, and the 30th anniversaries of Vol. Denis Heaney, Vol. Patsy Duffy and Vol. Pat Harkin. Along with the other Volunteers of the Derry brigade of 0glaigh na hÉireann buried here in this Cemetery Joe, Denis, and Patsy killed on active service and Pat - who died while on the run in Donegal - paid the ultimate sacrifice so that the people of this city and the rest of Ireland could live in freedom, justice and peace. Thousands of their comrades spent many years in prisons the length and breath of Ireland and beyond as members of the most formidable peoples army in the world. We are continuing the work to achieve the primary goal for which they fought and died. It is my firm belief that we now have a framework in which to build that republic without any more of our young men and women losing their lives or spending the best years of their lives in prison.

The families of our patriot dead and indeed the wider republican family in this city are justifiably proud of the contribution, which Derry has made in the struggle for Irish freedom. Since the late 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement emerged onto these streets - the people of this city have been to the forefront in demanding our rights and entitlements. The resilience - the dedication and the determination of Republicans in this city has truly been inspirational.

At a time when it was needed and at great personal sacrifice to themselves men and women across this city joined the republican struggle and changed the course of history forever.

When I joined the IRA in this city it was an army of the people - sustained by the people - supported by the people - and answerable to the people.

That is why the IRA became the formidable guerrilla army that it did. The IRA was nothing without the support of the people.

It had within its ranks ordinary men and women who displayed extraordinary courage, bravery and determination at a dangerous and difficult time in our history. These were the men and women who fought when this community had no other option. They are also the men and women who have the necessary courage to pursue a peaceful path to a united Ireland now that one has emerged.

War is the option of last resort. You do not commit to a war for the sake of it. We are involved in a struggle for a united Ireland. It is about Irish freedom - not about positions, or egos, or personalities, or militarism.

Armed actions in the absence of a political strategy and popular support are pointless and do nothing to advance the cause of Irish freedom. Indeed the opposite is the reality. But that is the space, unfortunately, which a small number of people have chosen to occupy on a wholly negative agenda with wholly negative consequences.

I have heard some within these groups argue that their motivation is to drag the IRA back onto the battlefield. That will not happen. And indeed, myself, Gerry Adams and other Republican leaders have offered to meet with these various groups to set out in very clear terms where we see the struggle sitting and where it is headed in the years ahead. These offers have been repeatedly spurned. But no one should harbour the notion that the republican struggle can be advanced any further by a bogus, armed campaign. This leadership is firmly opposed to such a move. I appeal to the small number of young people who may have been influenced by these groups do not get involved in these pointless activities. If you want to contribute to the achievement of Irish freedom then get involved in the political process. It is through building political strength that we will convince those opposed to Irish unity that it is also in their best long-term interests. There is a place for everyone in this process and we need you to help us make it happen.

Earlier this week on the streets of this city a much loved member of our community was murdered. It was no accident. It was deliberate and it was calculated. It was also criminal - a young man from a family steeped in Irish republicanism was gunned down in our city. The rejection of those responsible for this murder was seen in the popular community opposition from the people of the Creggan, the Bogside, of this city at the vigil held on Tuesday night. The people's message was clear. What happened was totally wrong and unacceptable.

It remains to be seen who carried out this killing. It also remains to be seen which organization will claim responsibility for the murder of Emmett Shiels. But many local people are utterly convinced that Emmet's killer came from one of those groups I have just referred to. I also believe that to be the case. To this point, 5 days on, there is no statement of responsibility. We will know soon enough who killed Emmet Shiels. But what I do know is this. Innocent victims, like Emmet Shiels, have been and will be the inevitable casualties of the acts of violence we have witnessed from these groups, particularly in recent months. Acts of violence, which can play no part of any serious attempt, no part of any effective strategy, to advance the cause of Irish freedom and national and democratic rights.

For the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Derry City this is unacceptable. It has to stop. And it has to stop now. These groups should listen to the voice of the people, as was witnessed here on Tuesday night, pack up and go away. We have now come to a point of no return. These people now have choices to make. These small groups have reached a fork in the road. For them the choice is clear, choose the peaceful and democratic road to a United Ireland - which is open to them - or they can choose to go down some sort of quasi-military cul-de-sac. There is no room for grey areas any longer.

Our people want a united Ireland. They want peace. They want safe communities and they want to be free from fear.

Last year during the debate on policing Republicans faced those opposed to our strategy in public meetings across the six counties including here in Derry. We did likewise in the Assembly election that followed. Republican communities spoke overwhelmingly in that poll. They did so again locally at Tuesday nights' vigil.

Sinn Féin overwhelmingly represents Republican communities. Some republicans may not agree with the path being offered by Sinn Féin - and that is their right. If they wish to offer an alternative political analysis that is fair enough and the people can decide - that is politics - that is democracy. But the message going out from here today and from the people of this city all week is very clear to these micro groups - accept the reality of a changed political landscape and listen to the people. Listen to the people of Derry, to the people of Ireland who are demanding that you halt your self serving and destructive activities now.

Meanwhile our task is to continue to drive forward. If republicans are to prevail, if the peace process is to be successfully concluded and Irish sovereignty and reunification secured, then we have to set the agenda - no one else is going to do that for us. So I would urge people to stay united - to stay focused on the prize and all of the time look ahead.

There is in place a strategy, which can deliver a united Ireland. It is up to all of us here to play our part and make sure that it happens." ENDS

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Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams today attended the ordination of Monsignor Noel Treanor in Belfast as the new Bishop of Down and Connor.

Speaking afterward Mr. Adams said:

"Bishop Treanor will face many challenges in the time ahead but he will have the best wishes of the people of the diocese.

"I congratulate him on his ordination and wish him well." ENDS

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Sinn Féin west Belfast Assembly member Jennifer McCann has appealed for the people of Poleglass to be 'very vigilant' following the theft of a car, and a handweapon and radio, belonging to a member of the PSNI last night.

The car and radio have now been found in the Poleglass area. The radio was discovered in a garden of a house.

Ms. McCann said:

"Anyone with any information about this incident and the whereabouts of the handgun should immediately come forward.

"I would appeal to whoever may still have the weapon to hand it back.

"Given that the radio has been found in a garden there is also the possibility that the gun may also have been thrown away. In which case it presents a real threat to local children. I would urge parents and residents to be very vigilant.

"There also needs to be a thorough investigation by the PSNI into the circumstances surrounding the theft of a weapon." ENDS

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Every child deserves a safe route to school according to Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA. Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew and Transport Minister Conor Murphy attended the launch of the Rural Safe Routes to School initiative in St Mary's Primary School, Derrytrasna, County Armagh.

This small eco-school, with a big environmental focus is one of 18 rural schools involved in the project, coordinated by sustainable transport charity Sustrans. The initiative aims to keep children safe on their journeys to and from school, to improve children's health and to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

Speaking at the launch the Sinn Féin Minister Michelle Gildernew said:

"This project is an excellent example of what can be achieved by a small rural school in the heart of the community, when everyone works together. The Rural Safe Routes to School initiative is an innovative project that integrates health, fitness, environmental and safety concerns. It's important to keep our children as safe as possible and this project not only improves the safety of the infrastructure near the school, it also educates our young people about how to travel safely.

"Sustrans and DRD Roads Service have worked closely with the school to effectively address safety concerns and not only have they improved the infrastructure outside the school they have also installed solar powered flashing signs and a new cycle shelter. It is important to encourage young children and their parents to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and children who stay fit now by walking or cycling to school are more likely to stay active when they are older."

Sustrans were awarded almost £1million towards the implementation of the project from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) through the EU Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity. Funding was also received from the Department for Regional Development (DRD) Roads Service, the Department of Education and the DOE Road Safety Education Branch.

Sinn Féin Transport Minister Conor Murphy said:

"This is an excellent partnership project that also highlights the benefits of considering alternatives to the 'school run' which accounts for 20% of the traffic each morning and adds to congestion outside schools. I commend the work of all the partners but especially the work of my own Department's Roads Service who were responsible for organising the installation of the school safety zone measures."

The Rural Safe Routes to School project was just one product of the 2000-2006 Rural Development Programme that has made a real and meaningful difference to the lives of rural people. Further opportunities exist through the new £500million Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 with over £100million specifically set aside for improving the quality of life in rural areas, contributing to sustaining local communities and diversification of the rural economy.

Congratulating everyone involved in the project, Minister Gildernew said:

"This project is a fine example of working in partnership in pursuit of common goals for the good of local dwellers and the development of the local community." ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Rural Safe Routes to Schools is funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) through the EU Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity, Department for Regional Development (DRD) Roads Service, the Department of Education and the DOE Road Safety Education Branch.

DRD Roads Service traffic engineers were responsible for installing the school safety zone, improved road markings and installation of new cycle paths.

Sustrans' Rural Safe Routes to Schools project in the North of Ireland caims to achieve a 10% reduction in car journeys in 18 schools and also to increase levels of walking and cycling. St. Mary's Primary, Derrytrasna is a small rural school with 71 pupils and 26 pupils in the nursery unit. The project at St. Mary's includes the installation of the following infrastructure:

  • Solar Powered Flashing Signs
  • High Friction Red Surfacing
  • New Footpath and kerb built out at the front of the school for pedestrians
  • Keep Clear Lines
  • Kerb built out with bollards to stop people parking in front of the schools
  • Cycle Shelter
  • Overgrown hedges have been taken back to improve visibility

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Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitríona Ruane today attended the opening of the new state-of the-art sports facility at St Colman's Primary School in Annaclone, Banbridge.

Supported by The Big Lottery Fund, the new facility enables pupils to enjoy sports such as Gaelic, soccer, hurling and basket ball in all weathers.

Speaking at the launch Ms Ruane said:

"I would like to congratulate St Colman's on the first rate sporting facilities now available at their school. I was also impressed that the new facilities are to be shared with neighbouring schools ensuring that the benefits of this impressive new sports development are shared by all.

"It is vital that we encourage our children to lead happy, active and healthy lives. As part of my ongoing investment of sport in schools, last year I introduced a programme whereby primary schools were able to access the skills of coaches from both the GAA and IFA. This programme teaches children to learn basic game techniques and helps develop a life-long interest in sport.

"I would like to thank The Big Lottery Fund for their support with this project, enabling St Colman's to achieve these magnificent new facilities. I am sure they will be enjoyed by the children in the area for many years to come." ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS:

St Colman's will be sharing the new sporting facilities with St Mary's PS, Rathfriland, St Patrick's PS, Drumgreenagh and St Paul's PS, Cabra.

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Vice-Chair of Moyle District Council, Cllr Cara McShane, has demanded "a concerted community response" following the latest blatantly racist attack in the Bushmills area.

The Sinn Féin representative was speaking after an arson attack on a pizza parlour managed by a Bulgarian man in Bushmills during the early hours of Friday morning. The bistro is situated next to a holiday hostel in the village which also had to be evacuated.

Cllr McShane said:

"The community of North Antrim has a civic duty to stand together following this latest racist attack in Bushmills. We must not allow a tiny minority of thugs to target valuable members of our community on the basis of prejudice and bigotry.

"This is not the first time that the victim's property has been attacked. Once again I want to register Sinn Fein's complete condemnation of these attacks.

"Not only are these racist attacks utterly wrong and highly dangerous. They also demonstrate the total stupidity of the attackers in damaging our economic and tourist potential.

"One of the great selling points along the North Coast is our ability to promote a welcoming tourist environment. The potential for Bushmills, in particular, is being wasted by a minority of thugs in the area who are simply intolerant of other cultures.

"That is not acceptable. As Vice-Chair of Moyle Council I am calling for a concerted community response to this latest attack. Political leaders and civic society throughout North Antrim - but especially in Bushmills - must publicly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who have been attacked.

"We must show that we are determined to provide an equal and better future for everyone in our society by facing down racism.

"There are several businesses next to the bistro. This latest racist incident has been particularly distressing for those people who are trying to do their best for the village, not least the adjoining holiday hostel where families and holidaymakers had to be evacuated in the middle of the night." ENDS

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A number of telephone threats were made against Sinn Fein's North Antrim MLA and Policing Board member Daithí McKay, as well as local Sinn Féin Councillor Anita Cavlan and a member of Daithí's constituency staff.

Daithí McKay said:

"A number of threats were telephoned into the office claiming that a bomb was left outside my home, that a gun would be put to the head of Councillor Anita Cavlan and that a member of our constituency office staff hadn't long left to live. The caller also claimed that a bomb was left outside Dunloy Chapel that would explode in one hour."

"This is a particular chilling threat made not just against me but other party members as well as against the general public. Although no-one as yet has claimed responsibility for this, it is clear that those issuing these threats have nothing to offer our communities and will not deter Sinn Féin from pursing our objectives of Irish Unity." Críoch

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WITH recriminations and accusations over the Lisbon Treaty 'No' vote still ping-ponging back and forth between the media and the pro-treaty parties, two newly-published polls on why voters made their choices are providing interesting reading but not clarity on the referendum result.
The European Commission in Ireland published the results of a 2,000-voter phone poll by Gallup last Thursday (19 June) while a Sunday Business Post phone poll conducted by Red C in association with leading academics in Trinity College, Queen's University and Nottingham University was profiled in the paper last weekend.
A third poll by TNS/mrbi for The Irish Times, which included questions about reasons underpinning voter intentions and which was conducted nine days before polling, offers an interesting benchmark to compare both the post-referendum surveys.
However, even though polls are essentially about numbers, the context in which they are presented is vital, and the EU Commission's poll was leaked early last week to the Irish Independent, which gave it a front page on 13 June with a headline that read "Revealed: Why we voted 'No' to Lisbon."
The factors driving the 'No' vote cited by the Irish Independent included assertions that "People who did not understand the treaty voted No" and "The huge influx of immigrants into the country was a factor in the No vote".
When An Phoblacht got a copy of the preliminary results on Friday, it was difficult to find the same detail that the Independent had presented on its front page days before.
For example, of those surveyed in the Gallup poll who didn't vote, 52 per cent said they "did not fully understand the issues raised by the referendum". However, only 22 per cent of those who voted 'No' gave "I do not know enough about the treaty and would not want to vote for something I am not familiar with" as a reason for voting 'No'.
The Irish Times poll conducted on 3 and 4 June, before the referendum, has 30 per cent of 'No' voters saying that a reason for voting 'No' was either "I don't know what I'm voting for" or "I don't understand it", so the decrease across the two polls is interesting.
On the question of immigration in the Gallup poll only 1 per cent said they voted 'No' "To avoid an influx of immigrants. Interestingly, on the 'Yes' side, 1 per cent of those surveyed said they voted 'Yes' because "It makes the EU more able to fight cross-border crime, illegal immigration etc." This shows perhaps that was not an issue for either side in the referendum but raises a further question of why didn't Gallup and the European Commission ask the same question to both sets of voters, as you cannot directly compare the results.
Other interesting findings of the Gallup survey were that 68 per cent of all voters thought that the 'No' campaign was "the most convincing" with 57 per cent of 'Yes' voters thinking the 'No' campaign was more convincing compared to 81 per cent of 'No' voters.
55 per cent of all voters made their mind up in the last weeks of the campaign with little difference between the 'Yes' and 'No' voters on this question. 21 per cent of all voters polled changed their mind during the election. This translates into 25 per cent of 'Yes' voters had their minds changed during the campaign and 17 per cent of 'No' voters changed sides during the referendum campaign.
Women were slightly more likely to vote 'No' than men with 56 per cent of women voting 'No', compared to 49 per cent of men.
The largest disparity in voting intention is registered by age. Of those people surveyed, 65 per cent of the 18 to 24 age group voted 'No'. 59 per cent of the 25 to 39 age group voted 'No', falling to 52 per cent of the 40 to 54 age group. The high percentage of young 'No' voters prompted Fianna Fáil Foreign Affairs Minister Mícheál Martin to admit: "We have lost a generation in terms of engagement with Europe."
Also noteworthy was the 69 per cent 'No' vote from those who were still in education - so expect the next referendum to be held right in the college exam period, in the middle of the week. The self-employed voted 'Yes' 60 per cent to 40 per cent 'No', while manual workers were 74 per cent 'No'.
89 per cent of all voters supported Irish membership of the EU, with 'Yes' voters coming in at 98 per cent compared to 80 per cent for the 'No' voters.
76 per cent of 'No' voters believed that the Irish Government could renegotiate the treaty compared with 38 per cent of 'Yes' voters.
The Sunday Business Post poll asks some similar questions to the Gallup EU Commission survey. The Business Post devoted two articles to immigration in its Lisbon coverage last weekend along with a front-page headline which read "Abortion, tax and jobs fears boosted Lisbon No vote."
In the Red C poll those surveyed were asked more direct questions such as "If the treaty had been passed, do you think it would have made the practice of abortion more likely in Ireland." 58 per cent of 'No' voters agreed compared with 28 per cent of 'Yes' voters.
77 per cent of 'No' voters believed the treaty would have led to a change in tax on business compared to 38 per cent of 'Yes' voters. 75 per cent of No voters believed the treaty would have reduced Ireland's influence on EU decisions compared to 37 per cent of 'Yes' voters.
On the question of jobs, 58 per cent of 'No' voters believed that the treaty would "cause even more unemployment" compared to 14 per cent of 'Yes' voters.
When asked did they agree that "There should be much stricter limits on the number of foreigners coming into Ireland" 56 per cent of 'No' voters agreed compared to 44 per cent of 'Yes' voters. According to the Business Post, 65 per cent of 'No' voters agreed that immigration was an issue in the campaign. However, they stress that this view is "held across all demographics and political allegiances; half of all those who voted for the treaty supported this view".
Here is where the Business Post Red C analysis becomes questionable. They say that this view on immigration is strongest among working class voters and those who voted for Sinn Féin in the 2007 Leinster House elections.
Red C say that 78 per cent of Sinn Féin voters agreed with the stricter limits question compared to 60 per cent of Fine Gael and Labour voters and 57 per cent of Fianna Fáil supporters. However, these assertions are being made off very small samples. In the case of Red C, 1,000 people were interviewed which according to their poll, 10 per cent, or 100 people, were Sinn Féin voters. A much larger sample of each party's voters are needed to accurately back up the claims in the Business Post article.
Then there is the crucial difference where 1 per cent of 'No' voters say immigration was an issue in the Gallup poll compared to 65 per cent of 'No' voters agreeing with the need for "stricter limits on the number of foreigners" in the Red C poll. In the Irish Times poll, only 8 per cent of 'No' voters unprompted said they were voting 'No' "to prevent too much immigration to Ireland". Someone has their figures wrong here.
For now we can say that both the Red C poll and the EU Commission surveys are the preliminary findings of larger studies which will make interesting reading when published.
So we need to tread carefully. The authors of the Red C poll only claim that they "can highlight what differentiates the 'Yes' and 'No' sides". The Irish Independent and Business Post journalists have decided to go a step further. For now, it is a case of 'don't believe the hype' and it won't change the fact the 'Yes' vote lost!

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A meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC), Aquaculture and Marine Sector was held today in the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, accompanied by OFMDFM Junior Minister Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA, met with Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) Minister, Eamon Ryan TD, and DCENR Minister of State Seán Power.

The Ministers welcomed the opportunity to come together to discuss issues relating to the operation of the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission (FCILC), one of the six North/South Implementation Bodies.

Speaking after the meeting Minister Gildernew said:

"I am delighted to host this meeting in Belfast today. We have seen the progress being made towards sustainable development within the Foyle and Carlingford Areas both with the proposals for the regulation of the oyster fishery in Lough Foyle and the strategy for the development of angling and marine tourism.

"The Loughs Agency is continuing its good work in relation to the conservation and protection of inland fisheries and, with the first Commencement Order in operation since 1 June, will be able to progress further towards the introduction of an aquaculture licensing regime for the areas. I value these meetings as an opportunity to discuss current issues and also to assist the Agency in carrying out its functions."

At the meeting, Ministers were given a presentation by the Loughs Agency on its proposals for the sustainable development of angling and marine tourism within the Foyle and Carlingford Areas, and approved Regulations to prohibit the sale of salmon and sea trout caught by rod and line and for the regulation of the oyster fishery in Lough Foyle.

Notes to Editors:

For more information visit the NSMC website http://www.northsouthministerialcouncil.org/index/sectoral-meetings.htm

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Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan has said that those who dumped potentially poisonous toxic waste in the Carna Forest area cared little about the community.

Mr Boylan said:

"Those who roam our countryside illegally dumping their dangerous toxic waste are motivated only by greed. They care nothing about the communities on where they abandon their poison.

"This was a selfish act."

Crossmore area Councillor Darren McNally said that the cost and the amount of extra working hours needed to clear up the mess and environmental hazards being created by incidents of unlawful dumping was on the rise all the time.

Cllr McNally added:

"It's costing councils and private land owners millions of pounds annually to clear up actions of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household and industrial waste that are being dumped illegally at sites throughout the north." ENDS

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Newry and Armagh Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan, who is vice chair of the Assembly's Road Safety Committee, has said that whilst news that any driving ban would apply throughout the island of Ireland as well as in England, Scotland and Wales was to be welcomed, it was essential that the island of Ireland had an overall single strategy for road safety.

Mr Boylan said:

"We are dealing with the same road-safety issues, and there are a large number of accidents and casualties on many of the roads that are shared between the North and the South.

"The news today is another example of co-operation, however there is a need for harmonisation on other serious issues such as alcohol limits, ways to tackle speeding and cross-border educational initiatives.

"Sinn Féin has called for zero tolerance, not only in the Twenty-six Counties, but across Ireland. Anyone who is travelling North or South with a pint on them could be dealt with in the same way, North and South, if there were one set of measures.

"We believe that there should be zero tolerance of drink-driving throughout Ireland, but that that will be possible only if we harmonise legislation on an all-Ireland basis. There also needs to be continued increased North/South ministerial co-operation to look at the following: a single road safety authority; a harmonisation of speed limits and road signs; an all-Ireland licensing system; a common penalty points system; the fitting of safety-compliant speed inhibitors on all new cars; increased provision of night-time public transportation; full-time posts for road safety and road education officers throughout the island.

"There is also a need to look at practices in other European countries such as making it compulsory to drive with headlights on all day in order to increase vehicle visibility." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy today officially switched on a new 10.4km subsea electricity cable which extends from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island.

The new cable connects islanders to the main electricity network for the first time and provides them with the same level of supply as the rest of the north.

The minister said:

"The new subsea cable installed by NIE will deliver a more reliable electricity supply to the homes and businesses on Rathlin Island, as well as supporting the entire island with its various development plans.

"The cable provides a capacity and quality of electricity supply to the island which is equivalent to that of other customers. It will also ensure a supply to islanders for their future electricity demands. This is essential to ensure the long term sustainability of the Rathlin Island community including its potential to support tourism."

Work on this project has been ongoing since 2005 and has been welcomed by the Rathlin Development Community Association.

The development of renewable energy projects on the island could also be enhanced by the completion of the cable project, as it now provides the opportunity to export generated renewable electricity.

Notes to Editors:

  • Prior to the installation of the new subsea electricity cable, Rathlin Island was not connected to the main electricity system with power being provided over past years by wind turbines, diesel generating sets and battery storage.
  • The new high voltage subsea cable runs from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island and provides the island with an electrical power supply of the same quality as that provided to other customers.
  • The new cable may also allow residents on the island to consider renewable energy projects and export some of the generation.

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Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has confirmed the introduction of a part-payment option under the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme (FNMS).

From September this year, any FNMS farmer will be able to claim 50% of their approved funding under the scheme as soon as their building work is finished. This will be conditional on production of acceptable receipts when the farmer submits their claim for payment. The balance of grant due will be paid after a clear inspection of the storage built has been completed.

Outlining the new part-payment option, the minister said:

"The Agriculture Committee requested that I consider making interim payments under FNMS. Unfortunately interim payments would have created a need for more red-tape through extra inspections and offered little benefit to the farmer.

"To address this need I am putting in place a part-payment option so that farmers can claim half of their grant back quickly after building work on their slurry store or tank is complete. The pre-payment inspection will then be undertaken before the other half of their claim is paid. This will be of real benefit to farmers, particularly those who have borrowed money to fund their building work."

The minister also reminded farmers of the December 31 deadline for completion of FNMS work, she said: "As we move closer to the deadline at the end of the year, we anticipate a surge in FNMS claims and may not be able to sustain our current target of full payment within twelve weeks. To ease this we propose that this new part-payment option will be in place by September. A letter explaining the new option is being sent to all those with approval but who have not yet submitted a claim for payment.

"I would encourage those with approval not to delay in getting their work completed and their claim submitted." ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  • The FNMS scheme provides financial assistance to farmers who are installing facilities to increase storage capacity on farm manures produced within the farm, and assists compliance with Action Programme measures to be implemented under the Nitrates Directive.
  • The department received 4,891 applications to the scheme which closed on 31 March 2006. All work must be completed and claims for payment submitted by the 31 December 2008 deadline. All claims must be paid by 31 December 2009.

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Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly MLA along with Jeffrey Donaldson has welcomed the statement from North Belfast MLAs calling on young people to 'Say no to interface violence'.

Minister Kelly said:

"Earlier this week I and my ministerial colleague Jeffrey Donaldson hosted the launch at Parliament Buildings of a poster campaign designed by young people and aimed at young people with the clear message Wise up M8. Say no to interface violence.

"These young people have shown commendable leadership and I am delighted to say that the unique statement of support which has come from all six local MLAs further endorses that message."

Notes to Editors:

The six north Belfast MLAs are: Fred Cobain (UUP); Nigel Dodds (DUP); Gerry Kelly (SF); Alban Maginness (SDLP); Nelson McCausland (DUP); Caral Ni Chulin (SF)

The statement from the six North Belfast MLA's reads as follows :-

Say No to Interface Violence

As elected representatives for North Belfast, we want to send a very strong message of support to this year's poster campaign. We believe it is our responsibility to exercise positive political leadership by clearly encouraging our young people to say no to interface violence.

It is of great significance that the campaign has been shaped, the posters and leaflets designed and distribution carried out by young people from our part of Belfast. It is these young people who are saying to their peers "Wise Up M8 (Mate). Say no to interface violence." We agree wholeheartedly with that message.

North Belfast is a fast improving part of the city. This campaign has in recent years been a vital part of a range of initiatives which involves everyone in the community working together, which have seen summer months becoming increasingly peaceful. We don't take this improvement for granted and we don't underestimate the amount of work which has been done by many people to have achieved what we have now in North Belfast.

In making this statement of support we would want to add our challenge to everyone in North Belfast. As we see our young people take a positive stance against interface violence, we must all get behind them in agreement and support.

Everyone, Say no to interface violence this year and every year.

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Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly has praised the role of women in building peace across the world and stressed the need for them to be empowered to play a full role in building post conflict societies.

Speaking at the closing day of the Peace by Piece conference in the Waterfront Hall he told delegates that women had been instrumental in picking up the pieces and rebuilding relationships after violence had passed. He said they now needed to be further empowered to take that work forward.

"They held families together in time of great hardship and conflict. But they were the voices to the fore regarding social change, tackling poverty, demanding equality and human rights. They also became some of the strongest and vocal supporters of the conflict resolution process. It was through women in the community sector, in residents' associations and women's group who first began to build networks across divided communities.

"That does that not mean that there was a common agenda by all sections of the women's movement. The divisions within our society by class, culture and politics are replicated throughout the women's sector. However this sector identified the common ground around the rights of women, embraced diversity and equality and also demonstrated a willingness to listen and to reach agreement. These are principles and approaches which underpin the process of conflict resolution.

"Women must be empowered to develop and participate in areas of society which previously excluded them, areas such as decision-making and governance at local and central levels. Women are still significantly under-represented in key institutions.

"It is imperative we undertake initiatives to redress the inequalities of the past, remove the barriers which inhibit the progress of women and ensure that women have equal opportunities to participate in the design and development of a post-conflict society." ENDS

Note to Editors

The conference was attended and addressed by speakers from countries across the globe where conflict is either current or part of their recent history, including Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Africa, Burma, Nepal and Burundi.

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has said that Gordon Brown's comments and the launch of today's announcement on a 'green revolution' consultation should act as a spur for the North of Ireland to put renewable energy centre stage in our economic development plans.

Ms de Brún said

"By helping to meet our share of the European Union target of achieving 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources such as wind and tidal power as well as solar power and biomass, we can boost the local economy, and create jobs while meeting the challenge of climate change.

"The world economy is moving to meet this challenge and the Executive needs to ensure that we don't get left behind. We have wind, wave and tidal resources here and we have some great individual projects. We also have the possibility to work on cross-border projects. The Executive must provide the push and the incentives for the development of renewables on both a small-scale and large scale, and to move beyond individual projects to put the development of renewable energy firmly centre stage in our economic development plans.

"The moment is right with the forthcoming Action Plan from the EU Task Force and the recent US investment conference. What we need is the drive, the foresight and the political will from our leaders." Críoch

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