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Around 300 Sinn Féin activists tonight packed into the Roddy McCorley club in west Belfast for the selection convention to agree the party’s candidate for west Belfast.

Gerry Kelly MLA chaired the event and Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew officiated over the nomination and selection process.

There were no other candidates standing and Gerry Adams was unanimously selected to represent Sinn Féin in the next Westminster election in a few months.

Mr. Adams who received a standing ovation thanked the convention for their support.

After thanking the convention for its vote of confidence in him he criticised those who have used the difficulties faced by his family to attack him and the party. He said:

“Let me begin by telling you that prior to the broadcast of the UTV programme in December I asked to meet with the Belfast and west Belfast leadership to inform them of the programme and of my view that the difficulties faced by my family were likely to be used to attack me and the party.

I have never done anything deliberately to harm republicanism, the struggle or Sinn Féin and I believed that the leaderships here in the city had the right to know what was likely to develop.

We met again just over a week ago and reviewed the situation, including the deliberate and despicable and untruthful campaign that some elements of the media have engaged in against me.

I want to thank everyone who has expressed their solidarity with me and with my family since December. We have been uplifted by the good wishes of countless people.

A month ago Colette and I were told that she had cancer. That was a huge shock.

Last Thursday she had surgery. It went well. And she is in good spirits.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the medical and health staff and our own doctor for their good work.

I also want to thank Colette’s friends and those of you who knew and who have been very supportive.

I have always taken my responsibilities as an elected representative very seriously. I am proud to represent this constituency for Sinn Féin. I am proud to be a member of this activist community and to represent the people of this proud republican heartland.

Every election we have fought since the Assembly election of 1982 has been fought not just against the SDLP and the unionists but also against the Irish Labour Party, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, at times the Catholic Hierarchy and the establishment media.

We have met the challenge head on and prevailed!

Sinn Féin has helped transform west Belfast. We have ably and conscientiously represented all the people and our increasing vote and public representation is recognition of this fact. Working in partnership with community organisations we have succeeded in effecting real change in peoples lives.

Working through the peace process and the political institutions Sinn Féin in west Belfast has encouraged and secured investment, employment, training, new build projects, progress on projects like Conway Mill, the Colin Gateway Initiative, the Shankill Peacewall Art Project, planned improvements in roads and transport infrastructure, environmental progress, the growth of the Irish language, and much more.

This party provides a constituency service unrivalled on this island and we are proud of the support and help we provide to those in need.

The effectiveness of Sinn Féin is evident also in the recent agreement reached at Hillsborough.

This saw a date for the transfer of powers on policing and justice, as well as programmes for improving the efficiency of the Executive and Assembly and the all-Ireland arrangements, as well as progressing the outstanding elements of the St. Andrews agreement.

In recent days I was able to reveal that the Minister of Culture, Arts and leisure will be bringing forward a draft strategy to the Executive by the end of March to enhance and develop and protect the Irish language.

In addition, and after a long negotiation with the British government we secured £20 million of additional funding for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund and for resource and infrastructure projects for the Irish language.

Today, this party is more involved and more active in unionist areas of this constituency than ever before.

Whether it is through the west Belfast Task Force, or on housing, education and community work, Sinn Fein draws no distinction between citizens. In west Belfast, whether in Ballymurphy or Poleglass or Springmartin or the Lower Falls or the lower Shankill, we are insisting that deprived communities materially benefit from the radical change that is taking place and which this party is driving.

Sinn Féin is an Irish Republican Party. We are still the only all-Ireland party. We are the only party with credibility on national independence. Our primary goal is a free, independent and United Ireland. Everything we do as Irish republicans is about building political strength to advance and achieve this.

This weekend Sinn Fein will host a conference in London to encourage the debate on a United Ireland. This is the latest in a series of such conferences.”

Concluding Mr. Adams said:

“I am proud to be your representative for Sinn Féin in west Belfast. Sinn Féin is for citizens and citizens rights. We are determined to uphold the rights and entitlements of citizens. To make a difference to their quality of life. To build communities where people enjoy equal citizenship.” CRÍOCH

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Commenting on Defence Minister Willie O’Dea’s “personal explanation” Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

“Minister O’Dea’s statement will convince no-one. It is absurd for the Minister to claim that the matter was ‘a personal one’ between him and ‘a Sinn Féin representative in Limerick’.

“Willie O’Dea was speaking as a Cabinet Minister and Fianna Fáil TD and he made a deeply defamatory and personally damaging statement about Maurice Quinlivan. The Minister did this not because of personal animosity between them, but because Maurice was a candidate in the local government elections of last year and had rightly been highly critical of the Government and of Minister O’Dea in his political capacity.

“The Minister claimed that he corrected ‘the mistake’ when he realised it. That is stretching credibility since it took him four months to do so.

“The Minister’s statement in the Dáil was neither ‘non-argumentative’ nor ‘strictly personal’ and so was outside the provisions of Dáil Standing Orders for such a ‘personal explanation’.

“Sinn Féin has now tabled a motion of no confidence in the Minister.” ENDS

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Speaking on a private members’ motion in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said his party wants to see a public inquiry into the Government’s role in the banking crisis.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The High Court ruling which brought an end to an inquiry being conducted by a sub-committee of both of the houses of the Oireachtas did not remove the right of the houses of the Oireachtas to conduct an inquiry.

“Sinn Féin supports the Bill as it clarifies and establishes the right of the houses of the Oireachtas to investigate matters and identify areas where the legislature needs to make systematic legislative change.

“Transparency in government and the banking system is important to reassure those engaged in international investment and financing that Ireland is an attractive place to do business. The ability for the houses of the Oireachtas to conduct investigations promotes the perception of transparency and freedom from corruption.

“The Government with the tame acquiescence of the Green Party have successfully deflected any public scrutiny of their role in the banking crisis. We want to see a public inquiry into the government’s role in the banking crisis. The Irish people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding the banking crisis considering the huge amounts of money being spent to recapitalise the banks.

“It is not acceptable that the people of Ireland should have to wait while the government clings grimly to power before they can make a judgement at the ballot box on their performance during the banking crisis. I am sure that judgement will be emphatic and unforgiving.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Enterprise, Trade and Employment Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has said the controversy over the jobs at SR Technics should never have been allowed to develop.

Deputy Morgan said it is an indictment on Mary Coughlan and the Government that we are in a situation in which the likes of Michael O’Leary can name his price from the Government for the retention of jobs that should never have been at risk.

Speaking this afternoon Deputy Morgan said:

“Minister Mary Coughlan’s handling of the SR Technics debacle has been nothing short of shambolic. Many of the jobs that have already been lost at the company could have been saved had the Government had of intervened at the time.

“The failure of the Government to intervene has left the workers and the Government at the mercy of the likes of Michael O’Leary who now feels that he can hold the state to ransom and name his price for the creation of these jobs. This situation is an indictment on the Minister and the Government.

“Does the Minister actually believe that Michael O’Leary was serious about the prospects of creating 300 jobs, or was he merely seeking cheep publicity on the backs of the hopes of the 830 former SR Technics workers.

“This situation that has now erupted at Dublin Airport exposes the Government’s lack of any plan to create or retain jobs and shows that they had no plans to help former SR Technics employees to find work elsewhere. This situation should never have been allowed to develop.” ENDS

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Speaking following the publication of the final report of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, Sinn Fein spokesperson on children Deputy Caoimhghin O Caolain, said that the report presented an important opportunity to strengthen children’s rights in the State.

The Sinn Féin TD said:

“After 62 meetings of the Committee a cross-party consensus was reached on the wording of an amendment to enshrine children’s rights in the Constitution, which is contained in the latest and final report from the Committee. The representatives from each of the political parties on the Committee agreed that it is now time for a referendum to be held that will ensure children have constitutionally recognised rights as individuals, beyond those derived from their status as members of a family as defined in the Constitution.

“Sinn Féin believes that this report is an important step on the road to cherishing all children of the nation equally. It is now up to government to take the wording offered and hold a referendum that will afford children specific rights to care and well-being and their right to be heard in matters concerning them.

“The amendment should also go some way to addressing the obstacles affecting child protection systems. If an amendment such as the one contained in the report was enshrined in the Constitution, the State would have sufficient power to intervene on behalf of all children at risk regardless of their parents marital status. The principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have been reiterated in numerous international and national treaties and the proposed wording in this report is linked to principles contained in this Convention. It is now time we began to take a rights based approach to how children are treated in our laws and policies.

“Sinn Féin is calling on the government to table legislation to hold a referendum on the issue of children’s rights as a matter of urgency.” ENDS

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has said there will be no more state sponsored testing of 10 year old children.

The Minister was responding to a call for the return of the State sponsored 11 plus transfer test. Minister Ruane said: “The last state sponsored 11 plus tests were held in 2008 and we will not be reinstating an outdated system which has no proven educational benefit for the individual or society.

“Two years ago, after extensive consultation, I developed compromise proposals which reluctantly included the retaining of selection during a three year transition period. At the end of the transition period selection would come to an end. These proposals were not even discussed by the Executive and had to be withdrawn.

“We have made significant progress since then with the publication of Transfer 2010. This official policy statement sets out a clear pathway to allow children to transfer to post-primary school without the need for selection tests and will help determine admissions for Transfer 2011.

“There is a growing movement amongst teachers and the wider community against the use of selection. It is time that certain politicians regained the courage of their convictions and worked to end, once and for all the socially unjust, educationally unsound practice of selection rather than calling for reinstatement of a system they claim to be so opposed to.”

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that Defence Minister Willie O’Dea abused both democracy and the courts and should resign. He said his “continuing defence of the indefensible” made his position untenable.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“What has been forgotten in the controversy over Defence Minister Willie O’Dea is that the falsehood he swore in an affidavit to the High Court was in the context of an election.

“Last year prior to the local elections Minister O’Dea made a false accusation against Sinn Féin candidate, now Councillor, Maurice Quinlivan. Maurice sought an injunction in the High Court to prevent the Minister repeating the accusation. The High Court refused the injunction on the basis of the Minister’s affidavit which falsely swore that he never uttered the defamatory statement. In other words he misled a High Court judge into refusing the injunction at that crucial time.

“This was the situation at the time of the local elections in June. Our candidate had to fight that election with the Minister’s false accusation hanging over him. Many people thought that because Maurice had lost the application for a High Court injunction he had lost the action for defamation.

“Minister O’Dea subsequently changed his story when the tape-recording of his interview was revealed. But the damage had been done during an election and it was only in December that Maurice succeeded in his defamation case. The Minister was forced to withdraw his comments and to apologise.

“I do not believe Minister O’Dea when he says that he forgot he made the defamatory remarks. I believe he has abused the democratic system and the courts and should resign. His continuing defence of the indefensible makes his position untenable. He should resign as Minister and if he does not do so the Taoiseach should dismiss him.

“How can people in this State have confidence in a Cabinet Minister who has acted in this way? How can the people of Limerick have confidence in such a Minister who has also presided over record unemployment in the Mid-West region and the virtual collapse of the long-promised Limerick regeneration?” ENDS

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Sinn Féin chair of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee Barry McElduff MLA has said that yesterdays announcement by the British Government of a £20 million investment in Irish language projects will have tangible economic benefits throughout the community.

Speaking this morning he said;

“The reality of the situation is that this money will see £12 million going to extend the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund; this will provide job security and further opportunities for actors, presenters, directors, producers, editors, cameramen, sound engineers, wardrobe assistants, set designers, the list is endless. It will also see training opportunities for young people who wish to pursue careers in the world of broadcasting and media.

I am sure and certain that the many people who work within this industry will celebrate yesterday’s announcement.

On top of the extension of the broadcasting fund, we will also see £8 million towards the development of a number of infrastructural projects, bearing in mind that this sector has been an underfunded and often overlooked one over a long number of years. It is the job of government to provide support in the form of financial top-ups to community driven projects which meet the objectives of a variety of government departments.

I was disappointed but not particularly surprised that yesterday’s news was met with hostility from the usual naysayers, however the vast majority of our citizens recognise not only the cultural benefits of developing the Irish language but also the ever increasing economic and employment benefits too.” CRÍOCH

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Dúirt Cathaoirleach an choiste Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta, Barra Mac Giolla Dubh CTR, go mbeidh tairbhí inláimhsithe eacnamaíoch ag teacht ón fógra go mbeidh infheistíocht £20 milliún sa tionscadal Gaelach.

Ag labhairt do ar maidin, dúirt sé;

"Beidh an t-airgead seo ag dul chun leathnú na Ciste Craolacháin; cuirfidh seo ar fáil le slándáil fostaíochta agus deiseanna breise do na haisteoirí, láithreoirí, stiúrthóirí, léiritheoirí, eagarthóirí, fir ceamara, innealtóirí fuaime, cúntóirí cófraí , dearthóirí, tá an liosta gan deireadh. Cuirfidh sé fosta deiseanna oiliúna ar fáil do dhaoine óga ar mian leo a slite beatha a shaothrú i saol na craoltóireachta agus na meáin.

Táim cinnte go mbeidh neart daoine a oibríonn agus a tacaíonn leis an earnáil ag ceiliúradh an nuacht ó inné.

Ar bharr an síneadh ar an chiste craoltóireachta, feicfimid freisin £8 mhilliúin ar thionscadail bhonneagair a fhorbairt, tá seo tábhachtach go hairithe, nuair a chuimhníonn muid gur rinneadh neamhaird ar an earnáil seo ar feadh na blianta. Tá sé mar dualgais ar an rialtais tacaíocht a sholáthar i bhfoirm airgeadais do phobail faoi thiomáint thionscadail a chomhlíonann na cuspóirí éagsúla de ranna rialtais.

Bhí díomá, ach chan mórán iontas orm go raibh naimhdeas ó na “naysayers” is gnách, i dtaca leis an scéal seo, ach táim cinnte go feiceann formhór ár saoránach, ní hamháin na buntáistí cultúrtha fa choinne fhorbairt na teanga Gaeilge ach freisin an méadú eacnamaíochta agus buntáistí fostaíochta chomh maith." CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA John O’ Dowd has challenged Reg Empey, Minister responsible for Further and Higher Education to reveal how many times since becoming Minister he has brought policy and discussion papers before the Executive in relation to Further and Higher Education; and how many of these papers resulted in legislation being brought  before the Assembly.

Mr O’ Dowd revealed he asked the Minister Empey the same question through the process of Assembly questions but received the bland and less than informative answer from Mr Empey stating that:

“It is not our practice to disclose details of Executive business. The detailed content of Executive papers, including the agenda and minutes of the meeting, are confidential”

Mr O’ Dowd said the answer is unacceptable given Mr Empeys repeated claims that ‘education’ has not been discussed at the Executive in 2 years.

Mr O Dowd added:

“The reality is, when Reg Empey and certain other commentators talk about 'education' they really mean, their mono policy of retaining the 11plus. The absence of any broader education policy or debate is unacceptable from a Minister in his position.

 “Reg Empey is the, Minister for Further and Higher education but appears to be unwilling to reveal what if any work he has been doing at the Executive in terms of education.  

When Reg Empy states that “It is not our practice to disclose details of Executive business.” he obviously means to do with Further and Higher education as he has no problem, on a weekly basis, offering up to cameras his opinions on the Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane work at the Executive.

“He continues to claim wrongly that education has not been discussed at the Executive in 2 years.  Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has brought several policy papers on education to the Executive these include, Transfer, Special Educational Needs and the Educational Skills Authority, Every School A Good School and the Sustainable Schools policy.

“Reg Empey will also be aware that there have been several attempts to discuss Transfer proposals at the Executive, as he was one of the Unionist Executive Ministers who refused to even discuss the Education Ministers compromise proposals.

 “It is clear that when the Minister for Further and Higher Education talks of education he really means the narrow needs of the AQE Grammars. His mono policy on education appears to have caused to him to forget that his department has a role in education. I am sure the public would be interested in knowing as to how many debates, policy papers and pieces of legislation he has brought to the Executive to strengthen further and higher education.”

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Sinn Fein education spokesperson John O’Dowd has challenged the SDLP to state where exactly they stand on education reform and the ending of academic selection and how their policy in this issue has changed over the past two years

This follows the SDLP endorsing the reintroduction of testing at 11.

Speaking today Mr O’Dowd said:

“The SDLP and their education spokesperson Dominic Bradley just do not know where to stand on the issue of academic selection following their acceptance of a proposal for the reintroduction of a state sponsored test for 11 year olds.

“They have no clear and consistent position on this issue and have provided no leadership. Instead they have sought to gain party political points.

“If we reflect on what Dominic Bradley stated when the Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane proposed  in May 2008 the phasing out of the 11+ over a three year period a process which would of had  a guaranteed outcome of ending selection he stated that it was a ‘climb down’ and that:


“The minister has caved into pressure from those who are opposed to reform.
This decision is the thin end of the wedge for the continuation of the 11-Plus into the future and is an indication of the minister's failure to carry through reform."

Yet now his comments are:

“We are now moving towards some version of the temporary testing regime which Education Minister Caitriona Ruane herself proposed in 2008.”

“Does Dominic Bradley and the SDLP really believe that, following their proposal for the reintroduction of so called ’temporary testing’, the unionist parties will suddenly be compelled to do away with their support for the 11+ and academic selection? The fact is there is no plan or intention under the proposals backed by Mr Bradley to end selection.

“The public will certainly see through this reversal of policy from the SDLP and judge them on their lack of education policy and foresight. Certainly Sinn Féin don’t have to make the arguments against the SDLP, they do for themselves.”

Note:

The comments by Dominic Bradley, the SDLP spokesperson on Education can be found at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7399606.stm

Incidentally they do now not appear in the SDLP’s news archives on the party’s website.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams in his Blog ‘leargas’ on the Belfast Media Group site (www.leargas.blogsport.com) has revealed that the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure,’ Nelson McCausland, has committed to bringing forward a draft strategy on minority languages to the Executive by the end of March, one element of which will be “to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language as set out in Section 28D of the Northern Ireland (St. Andrews) Act 2006.”

The Sinn Féin leader has also revealed that following discussions with the British Prime Minister on the need to continue resources for building the Irish language infrastructure and the arts, Mr. Brown has “committed the British government to carry on funding the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund for a further four years after 2011, and will provide resource to continue the development of Irish language infrastructure. The resource, including the extended funding for the Broadcast Fund will amount to £20 million.

Given that this is not coming out of the Executive budget this is a welcome development.”

Writing about the Irish Language in his Blog Mr. Adams said:

“Martin McGuinness and other republican Ministers on the Executive have engaged at the British-Irish conference on this issue and with the Scottish Executive. I have engaged with Paul Murphy, the Welsh Secretary of State and Martin and I have talked at length with Gordon Brown on Irish language issues. We will continue all these discussions with the two governments and the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies. Bairbre de Brún MEP will also continue with her work in the European Parliament.

Our position in relation to the British government is straight forward.

The 1737 Act must go. (The 1737 Administration of Justice Act bans the use of Irish in the courts)

The British government, as part of the agreement at St. Andrews, undertook to introduce an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and Ireland and to work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language. Sinn Féin has continued to hold the British government to that commitment.

It was our negotiating team which won this in the first instance and we have no intention of giving up on it.

At Hillsborough we agreed with the DUP to set up a working group to deal with outstanding elements of the St. Andrews agreement. The First and Deputy First Minister will provide a report to the Executive by the end of February detailing the level of progress made on each outstanding matter. This includes the Irish language.

They will also seek Executive approval to set up a Working Group to recommend on how progress could be made on those matters which have not been acted upon. Within four weeks of the Working Group’s initial report the First and Deputy First Minister will agree a programme to effect completion of the agreed conclusions of the Working Group.

Martin McGuinness has also raised Irish language issues directly with Peter Robinson.

In the meantime Sinn Féin Ministers will continue to support and introduce gaeilge-friendly policies in their departments, including bi-lingual services and signage, and the DUP is in no doubt about the need also for the Executive to deliver for everyone, including gaeilgeoirí.

The Minister of Education Caitriona Ruane is doing pioneering work in respect of Irish medium education. An Gaelscolaíocht has been put on a more secure footing across the north as it continues to expand and develop. At a time of falling enrolments and school closures across the education sector parents in increasing numbers are choosing Irish language schooling for their children. There are now 23 freestanding schools, 12 units and plans to develop more schools and nurseries over the next 18 months. Millions of pounds of funding and capital investment has been secured for the sector.

Our activists will continue with the work of winning support for the gaelicisation of communities, including An Ceathrú Gaeltacht in Belfast.
The work of our Irish language Cumainn will get support from the party leadership, as will initiatives like – Glór na Poblachta - our own Irish language magazine available from Sinn Féin shops and an Ceathrú Póilí. Or contact Niall Ó Donnghaile in our press office.

So, the Irish language cause is being actively pursued on a number of fronts by Sinn Féin.
This Blog has also been busy lobbying the British Prime Minister on the need to continue resources for building the Irish language infrastructure and the arts.

I am pleased to be able to reveal that Gordon Brown has committed the British government to carry on funding the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund for a further four years after 2011, and will provide resource to continue the development of Irish language infrastructure. The resource, including the extended funding for the Broadcast Fund will amount to £20 million.

Given that this is not coming out of the Executive budget this is a welcome development.

The work goes on.

But it’s bigger than Sinn Féin. We cannot change society on our own. But we can and do work with others. Our party wants to be used as a resource by those who want to create a bi-lingual society. This has to include services that ensure cradle to the grave opportunities to live through the medium of Irish, if that is your choice.

There is plenty of room for everyone in this endeavour.

It should truly be a national effort. Bígí linn." CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has described Mary Hanafin’s comments regarding the two by-elections as outrageous. Senator Doherty has accused the Government of cherry picking democracy and said the people of Donegal South West cannot afford to wait till the end of the year for a by-election.

Senator Doherty said:

“Mary Hanafin’s comment’s regarding the timing of the two by-elections are outrageous. There is nothing stopping the Government from calling the by-elections in the spring or early summer.

“The people of Donegal South West should not be made to wait any further for a by-election to fill the seat left vacant by Pat the Cope Gallagher’s election to the European Parliament.

“This is clearly a case of the Government cherry picking democracy. If the seat in Donegal South West was winnable by the Government we would already have had the election.

“We have already had three by-elections to fill Seanad vacations which the Government where sure to win. However, simply because the Donegal South West seat is tough for the Government they have decided to leave the people without their proper representation.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has described Mary Hanafin’s comments regarding the two by-elections as outrageous. Senator Doherty has accused the Government of cherry picking democracy and said the people of Donegal South West cannot afford to wait till the end of the year for a by-election.

Senator Doherty said:

“Mary Hanafin’s comment’s regarding the timing of the two by-elections are outrageous. There is nothing stopping the Government from calling the by-elections in the spring or early summer.

“The people of Donegal South West should not be made to wait any further for a by-election to fill the seat left vacant by Pat the Cope Gallagher’s election to the European Parliament.

“This is clearly a case of the Government cherry picking democracy. If the seat in Donegal South West was winnable by the Government we would already have had the election.

“We have already had three by-elections to fill Seanad vacations which the Government where sure to win. However, simply because the Donegal South West seat is tough for the Government they have decided to leave the people without their proper representation.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for south Belfast Alex Maskey has sent best wishes to the north’s Chinese community on the celebration of the Chinese New Year, the year of the Tiger.

Speaking after attending a celebration event in Belfast’s St George’s Market along with party colleague and east Belfast representative Niall Ó Donnghaile, Mr Maskey said;

“It was great to see such a colourful and entertaining family event in the heart of Belfast today, bringing together the many cultures that live in our city to celebrate a hugely important date in the Chinese community’s calendar.

I commend all those involved in organising today's event and thank them for providing such first class entertainment and education.

To all our Chinese citizens I wish them well in the year ahead; “Xin Nian Kuai Le.” CRÍOCH

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Addressing the media during a break in his party’s Ard Chomhairle meeting Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said today:

“Today was the first meeting of the Ard Chomhairle since we reached agreement at Hillsborough.

“Already elements of that agreement have begun to be implemented.

“The working group on Parading has met everyday this week and we look forward to them concluding their work.

“Rightly there has been a broad welcome for what was agreed at Hillsborough and it is our firm belief that there is now a solid basis upon which we can collectively move forward in partnership and equality.

“As a party we have the Ard Fheis in three weeks and preparations are advanced for that and we are heading into at least one by election in this state and a Westminster election within a matter of months.

“So the coming period will be a busy one, but one filled with both challenges and opportunities for republicans.” ENDS

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Commenting on the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on hospital emergency departments, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

“This report confirms that the Fianna Fáil/Green Government has failed abysmally to address the crisis in our hospital A&E Departments, a crisis Health Minister Harney once described as a national emergency. The C&AG has set out clearly how the system is not working for patients with nearly half of patients in emergency departments waiting 12 hours or more for treatment. And we know that this has disproved further with a record 500 people on trolleys and chairs in A&E departments on one day in January 2010.

“It is highly significant that the report finds a major deficit in the on-site availability of senior clinical decision makers and prompt access to other specialist consultants. Twenty-three of the thirty-three departments surveyed had delays in accessing senior decision makers.

“The report points out that the recently negotiated contract with consultants which provides for increased working hours should improve the situation. But it finds, quite damningly, that the HSE has not yet put procedures in place to confirm that the service gain envisaged under the new arrangements is achieved. As a result access to consultants was rated as unsatisfactory in most cases. The fact that the new consultants' contract is not being implemented in many cases is confirmed in figures from the HSE which show that 17 consultants in the HSE West region are dealing predominantly with private patients in breach of their contracts which sets a limit of 20% private patients.

“The C&AG Report also finds that the HSE is not meeting the aims of its so-called hospital reconfiguration which has seen the slashing of services in local hospitals. It finds that 'considerable work remains to be done' to align current service provision with the objectives of the desired reconfiguration. In other words patients are being let down again.

“The facts exposed in this report constitute one of the principal reasons why this Fianna Fáil/Green Government should resign.” ENDS

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Responding to Deirdre de Burca’s resignation from the Green Party today Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on the Green Party to collapse the Government and facilitate a general election.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Deirdre de Burca has highlighted some hard truths for the Green Party. Since entering Government in 2007 the Green Party has abandoned one policy after another to the extent that they have become an extension of Fianna Fáil and a defender of their right wing policies.

“They have stood over and supported decisions such as the cutting of social welfare, the cutting of special needs assistants in schools and the application of prescription charges for medical card holders.

“The reality is that the Green Party is afraid to face the electorate after the drubbing that they got in the local elections last year. John Gormley has prostituted the Green Party to his Fianna Fáil sugar daddies for the price of two Ministerial positions in which they don’t even seem to be able to implement Green policy.

“He should do the honourable thing and pull down this discredited Government to facilitate a general election.” ENDS

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Limerick City Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan, speaking today after talking to an employee of O2 who attended the company’s meeting to discuss job losses said:

“Today’s announcement that the Raheen based plant is to make redundancies with the loss of almost 50 jobs is very worrying.

“02 today have announced 50 job losses, and it is my understanding that all of these will be in the Raheen facility. Whilst my thoughts are with those who have been told their jobs are gone I would urge 02 to ensure that proper redundancy packages are made available to staff affected.

“The company also has an obligation to do what it can to assist these people in finding alternative work. Already this year Limerick City, which has one of the highest national rates of unemployment, has suffered huge job losses. We now have more than 22,000 people on the Live Register and more than 60% of young males under 25 in Limerick are now unemployed.

“The Government have no strategy to create or maintain jobs and Limerick City needs to be treated as a priority. We currently have amongst the highest unemployment rates in the state with a number of unemployment blackspots contained throughout the City."

Críoch

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South Dublin Sinn Féin Representative Shaun Tracey has called on Fine Gael to waste no time in moving the writ for the by-election to fill the seat left vacant by George Lee.

Mr. Tracey said Fine Gael had pushed hard for a date for last year’s election when they were confident of winning it and any delay in moving the writ now would show a level of hypocrisy on their part.

Speaking in the aftermath of George Lee’s resignation Mr. Tracey said:

“The electorate in South Dublin were made to wait eleven months after the death of Séamus Brennan to have their representation in the Dáil restored as Fianna Fáil sought to get their house in order. They were heavily criticised at the time for the delay by other party’s including Fine Gael.

“This time round, as it is a Fine Gael seat to be replaced, the unwritten rule says that it is up to Fine Gael to move the writ and they should waste no time in doing so. If there is any un-due delay on the part of Fine Gael in moving the writ for the Dublin South by-election it will show a level of hypocrisy on their part.

“Fine Gael should this week indicate a time in which they intend to move the writ for the Dublin South by-election to take place.” ENDS

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