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Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has joined the local apple industry in their celebrations of the bicentenary of the Bramley apple.

This year marks 200 years since the pip that grew into the first Bramley apple tree was planted in Nottinghamshire. Locally Bramley apples have been grown here since the early part of the 19th Century.

During a visit to the Bramley Apple Blossom Fair, at the Manor Estate and Country Park in Loughgall, the Minister spoke to many representatives from the local Bramley apple industry including growers, processors and packers.

Following a tour of the exhibitions at the event Minister Gildernew said:” It is a privilege to be able to celebrate the long tradition of apple production in the Orchard County and also mark the bicentenary of the Bramley apple. I appreciate the considerable work the industry has put in to make this event a success and I am pleased that my Department has been able to assist by offering support through our local Regional Food Programme. I have no doubt this fair will help raise the profile of the Armagh Bramley.

“It has been very encouraging to meet with a range of people from across the sector here this evening. Co-operation between all players within the supply chain is vital to the industry. As with many sectors, this year will be a challenging one for those in the production, processing and marketing of apples but I am sure that the people involved will meet these challenges head on. My Department will continue to work closely with the apple sector through ongoing support with technology transfer, training and supply chain development.”

At the Bramley Apple Blossom Fair Minister Gildernew also met well known and much acclaimed chef, author and TV presenter Darina Allen from Ballymaloe Cookery School, Co Cork. Darina showed off her considerable culinary skills demonstrating some of the many ways to use Bramley by providing recipes to try at home.

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Spokesperson on Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called for the full implementation of all the recommendations of the Report of the Monageer Inquiry. He said it is "alarming" that the Minister of State or Children Barry Andrews in launching the report refused to accept the first and most important recommendation for a State-wide out of hours social work service.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"In commenting on this Report I extend continuing sympathy to the families of Ciara Dunne (nee O’Brien), Adrian Dunne and their children Lean and Shania who died so tragically in their home in Monageer, County Wexford on 23 April 2007.

"It is of great concern that sections of this Report’s Conclusions and Recommendations have been deleted by the Minister of State before publication. No adequate explanation has been given for this and the Minister of State should publish the Conclusions and Recommendations in full.

"The most important thing now is to learn what lessons can be learned and apply them in order to help prevent another such tragedy. It is accepted that even if all the requisite services had been in place and if different procedures had been followed this tragedy may not have been averted. But the Report makes conclusions which identify very serious gaps in services which remain and which must be addressed urgently.

"It is of huge concern that the Report concludes that a fundamental problem has been the State’s failure to provide an out of hours social work service to assure a response to all serious child protection and welfare concerns.

"Therefore it is essential that the Government implements the first recommendation of the Report which is that a national out of hours social work service be provided.

"In launching the Report Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews claimed to acknowledge the need for such a service but then said its provision ‘would not be the best use of funding’. The Minister of State is refusing to accept and implement the most important recommendation. Instead he has offered an ill-defined review and reconfiguration of existing HSE services.

"While this Report focuses on one terrible tragedy, there were three other such suicide/murder tragedies in Co. Wexford in the past four years yet there is till no 24-hour social work service provision in that county or in any other county." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has condemned the shooting of a 30-year-old  man in his home last night.   "I condemn the brutal shooting of a man in front of his wife and child in his home in Ardoyne last night," said Gerry Kelly.

"This is the latest in a series of shootings in Ardoyne over recent months.

"One man, who was critically injured last month in a shooting outside his home, remains in hospital after spending weeks in intensive care.

"I am calling on those who have admitted these shootings to desist. No one has the right to use guns in this community and these groups have no support in this community.

“The people of Ardoyne have suffered enough over the last 40 years without guns being turned on local people. This should stop and stop now before someone is killed."

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Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy MP MLA, Minister for Regional Development today convened a cross-party roundtable discussion which included representatives from Coleraine, Limavady and Donegal Councils to discuss the future of the threatened Magilligan to Greencastle ferry service.   Speaking after the meeting, Francie Brolly MLA said,   "Sinn Féin are fully committed to this very important ferry service and its long-term viability. The British Government imposed an unnecessary security regime on the service which placed a huge financial burden on Council but also discouraged local people and visitors from using the ferry since they had to endure this ridiculous security regime.   "Thankfully Minister Conor Murphy has secured the commitment from the British Government to remove such impediments and restrictions which means the associated costs will no longer be imposed. This will remove the financial burden but also allow Council to provide other services which local ratepayers actually need.”   Sinn Féin Mayor of Limavady, Brenda Chivers welcomed todays news. She said,   "I along with my colleagues in both Limavady and Coleraine Councils, including Cllr Paddy Butcher and Cllr Billy Leonard have campaigned on behalf of the local communities to save this much needed lifeline. We welcome todays announcement by Conor Murphy. However, we now must ensure that the longterm future of the service is guaranteed. This will involve the local Councils working together and securing its financial viability now and for the future." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has said that recent cuts in the size of Social Fund loans available affects the most vulnerable in society. Mr McCartney was speaking after he was contacted by a constituent.   Raymond McCartney said:   "I have been contacted by a constituent who claimed that when he applied for a Social Fund loan he was informed that the maximum available had been unilaterally reduced a number of months ago. I had this checked out and it was confirmed that the maximum loans available had been reduced by between 25% and 30%.   "This means that the maximum loan to a couple with children has been cut from £1195 to £971. These loans which, have to be paid back out of benefits, were available for emergency situations to people who obviously would have no other access to credit. The only thing that this cut will achieve is that while some will just do without others will unfortunately be pushed into the hands of unscrupulous moneylenders.   "The fact that the cuts were made unilaterally and without public announcement or consultations is unconscionable and should be reversed.

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Commenting on an overnight attack on his home in which a number of petrol bombs were thrown, Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin said:

“Once more cowards came in the dark of night and attacked my home in an attempt to intimidate me and my family. The difference this time was that they attempted to set my home on fire with petrol bombs with no regard for anyone who was in the house at the time. This is attempted murder and there is no other way to describe it.

“To those individuals who are responsible I would say, ‘if you have some difference with me have the courage to confront me face-to-face’. Your actions are those of the most cowardly and will not intimidate me or deflect me from the course I am on.

“To those groups ultimately responsible for this type of attack through their rhetoric and public threat I call on them to come forward and explain how these types of actions will progress the cause of Irish freedom one iota. They had the opportunity to test their position at the forthcoming European elections but obviously realise that they would have been totally rejected by the Irish people and did not have the courage to put forward a candidate.

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún speaking at Business Agenda Hustings event in the Europa Hotel today has said that despite billion being poured into the banking system there is no guarantee that our businesses that deserve support can access the cash flow they need.     The MEP also called for greater fiscal powers for local politicians in the north. She said that we need to be able to target specific support; to vary tax rates; to raise revenue fairly to finance our choices to suit our requirements.     Ms de Brún also called for a stronger partnership between employers, trade unions and politicians.     The event ‘Business Agenda for NI Economic Questions & Answers’ was organised by the CBI, the Institute of Directors, Chamber of Commerce NI, the NI Independent Retail Trade Association and the Food & Drink Association.     Ms de Brun said:     “Billions have been poured into the banking system yet business, homeowners and potential buyers still face a credit drought. There is no guarantee that our businesses, who deserve the support, can access the cash flow they need to come through this time and look to the future.     “Thankfully, there is some flexibility with the European Investment Bank, and the likes EU Economic Recovery Plan, but we need the message coming from everyone – from Europe and locally; that we need sensible lending to support our local firms.     “We have much going for us. Our industriousness; an agriculture and agri food sector which produces top quality goods; a rich heritage; and the potential of our tourism, of our ability to generate green energy, and a growing but still largely untapped potential in innovation and IT     “We need to harness these positives. We need a renewed focus on developing and growing our local businesses – on turning them into exporters and market leaders -and on bringing financial institutions into supporting these efforts.     “Yes, more than £1 billion has been re-prioritised within the Executive Budget through the in-year monitoring rounds with infrastructure projects being front loaded. Yes, we are seeing local firms gaining more success at competing for government contracts.     “But in the Assembly and Executive we need to be able to target specific support; to vary tax rates; to raise revenue fairly to finance our choices to suit our requirements.     “We need to maximise the opportunities available through the EU to support our construction sector; to improve access to broadband; and to maximise the opportunities in renewable energy and energy efficiency as a way of boosting the local economy and tackling fuel poverty and climate change.     “We need to build up our skills base and develop an even stronger partnership between ourselves and the rest of Ireland; ourselves and the rest of Europe; and between our trades unions, our politicians our businesses and our employers.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún speaking at her campaign launch in North Belfast today for the European elections on June 4th has said that Sinn Fein are fighting for every vote in every county in Ireland.     Ms de Brún was joined for the campaign launch by Party President Gerry Adams, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Junior Minister Gerry Kelly and fellow North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín.     Speaking from the campaign launch Ms de Brún said:     “Sinn Féin has been out on the ground visiting local communities and listening to the concerns of people across the North. We are a strong voice for local communities when it comes to Europe and when it comes to defending the peace process. We are fighting for every vote not just in North Belfast or the North but in every county in Ireland.     “Our campaign is based on our leadership – and our record at home and in Europe.     “Sinn Féin will continue to deliver progress on advancing Irish Unity, on policing, for local communities, on jobs and the economy, and to challenge those who want to slow down the process of change.”     Mr Adams said:     “We want to maximise the Sinn Féin vote across Ireland and maximise the vote for progress – for political progress, for economic progress and for a new relationship with Europe that puts Ireland first.     “We know that a some small number of people are opposed to the progress of recent years and we are asking people to come out to defend the Peace Process; to defend the progress that we have made in the past decade; To give us a mandate for change.” ENDS

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Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has branded as ‘shallow electioneering’, the paper put forward by the DUP this afternoon proposing and end to the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister, amongst other proposals.   Speaking this evening Mr McGuinness said,   “The DUP know very well that unless they reach agreement with Sinn Féin there will be no alterations to the institutions.   Sinn Féin is committed to efficient Government that is cost effective, however we will not allow the equality and representative safeguards to be diluted in any fashion.   What we are seeing here is shallow electioneering on the part of the DUP, and I am certain that people will see through that.” CRÍOCH

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has been speaking about diversity and equality in education at a seminar in Nicosia, Cyprus.

The seminar was organised by the Reconstruction and Resettlement Council (RRC) which is tasked with finding solutions to key issues post-reunification of Cyprus.

The Minister said: “This important seminar has been looking at the role of education in building peace in a community in conflict. Through education our young people can understand their shared history and learn to respect diversity. Education can help develop an understanding of the importance of human rights and equality and also foster a sense of social justice. But, it is important to remember, that education alone cannot deliver and sustain peace, all aspects of government and society have a role to play in the broader political picture.

“I took the opportunity to explain to delegates the reforms I am progressing to bring our education system up to date, including my policy proposals for Transfer 2010. In Cyprus, children move from public primary schools to secondary schools without any written examination. At secondary school, after three years of general education, students elect an educational route to suit their needs and abilities. These arrangements are similar to my proposals for our system in which every child should have access to the education to which they are entitled.”

The Minister also visited a school in Nicosia, which caters for children from Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot and other communities. Minister Ruane also met with the Minister of Education and Culture, Mr Andreas Demetriou and senior officials from the education department.

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described the death of a man who suffered a heart attack at Knockatallon, Co. Monaghan as "a tragedy that bodes ill for others in the future" after it took 42 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Details have emerged of the death of a Donegal man who was attending his sister-in-law’s birthday party at the Slieve Beagh Hotel and Tourism Centre, Knockatallon, Co. Monaghan on 1 May. The man suffered a heart attack, CPR was carried out by nurses attending the event and an ambulance was called.

"It is an outrage that it took 42 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the Slieve Beagh Hotel. The man suffered a second heart attack and was pronounced dead at the scene. The ambulance based in Monaghan General Hospital was en route to Cavan General Hospital and a Dundalk-based ambulance was called in.

"While we may never know what might have happened had an ambulance arrived earlier and conveyed the patient to either Monaghan or Cavan General Hospital, the fact is he did not have the chance of earlier hospital treatment which may have saved his life.

"This tragedy bodes ill for others in the future and is a sign of things to come with the threatened taking of Monaghan General Hospital ‘Off Call’ and the ending of all acute inpatient services from 31 May.

"The axing of these services in Monaghan General Hospital is totally unacceptable but even this is being carried out without the promised improvements in ambulance services being put in place. There has clearly been no improvement when it took an ambulance 42 minutes to get to the scene of this tragedy.

"The HSE ‘Transformation’ plan of April 2008 spoke of ‘extending and enhancing the ambulance service’ in the context of the downgrading of Monaghan General Hospital but we have seen no evidence of extension or enhancement, as this latest tragedy shows.

"The HSE, the Minister for Health & Children and the entire Fianna Fáil/Green Government, including its Cavan/Monaghan Oireachtas members, must live up to their responsibility and pull back from the brink now. Otherwise 31 May will prove to be, quite literally, a ‘dead line’ for many patients." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Leader Martin MCGuinness MP,MLA has called on 32CSM spokesperson, Gary Donnelly as a representative of the organisation who facilitated the event at which threats against the Sinn Féin Leadership were made in Derry City Cemetary on Easter Sunday to publicly condemn the attacks on the home of Mitchel McLaughlin and his family.

Martin McGuinness said:

"Whether the individuals who carried out the attack on the McLaughlin home acted unilaterally or in concert with any particular group, the 32CSM who organised the event in Derry City Cemetary on Easter Sunday at which clear threats were directed at the Sinn Féin Leadership can not absolve themselves from the actions of those that are encouraged by these comments.

"I therefore call on Gary Donnelly as a member of the 32CSM to explain that organisations role in setting the stage for these attacks and how they see these actions as contributing to achieving Irish unification. Those who are opposed to the Sinn Féin political project and strategy had the opportunity to oppose us in the European elections but chose not to do so because they know that the vast majority of the Irish people agree with the Sinn Féin strategy.

"It is obvious that those responsible for carrying out these attacks and those in organisations such as the 32CSM who set the context for them are more opposed to Sinn Féin than British government interference in Ireland." Ends

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South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey, speaking after attending today’s fun-day at Cherryvale organised by Bredagh GAC, has praised the great work carried out by the club in South Belfast; saying that over the 125 years of the GAA’s existence it has remained at the heart of many local communities bringing vision and energy to those that it reaches.
 
Alex Maskey was joined on the visit by Party colleague Bairbre deBrún MEP.
 
Alex Maskey MLA said:


“The GAA’s 125th anniversary is being celebrated across the country and events such as today’s fun-day have proven to be at the heart of many communities, as has the GAA itself over its lifetime.
 
“In organising today’s event Bredagh GAC are to be congratulated. This event shows the strong grounding that they have in the local community and serves to highlight the great work that is done in South Belfast by this club, once again highlighting the great commitment that the club has shown to the local community and the youth of this area”.
 
Bairbre deBrún MEP added:


“With clubs such as Bredagh in place at the heart of the community I believe that the GAA will continue to grow and develop across Belfast. The founders of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael could not have envisaged how it would develop but I’m sure that they would be proud of everything that has been achieved and of the work being done throughout the country by clubs such as Bredagh”.

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald MEP has this afternoon announced Cllr. Christy Burke as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming Dublin Central by-election. Ms McDonald and Cllr. Burke were joined by Sinn Féin Dublin South candidate Shaun Tracey for today’s announcement.

Ms McDonald said:

“I am delighted to announce that long serving Councillor Christy Burke will be Sinn Féin’s candidate in the forthcoming Dublin Central by-election.

“Christy Burke was first elected to the City Council in 1985 and has since served the interests of the people of the North Inner City, working on many committees, projects and forums to protect and deliver for the city. Christy leads the Sinn Féin’s Dublin City Council team of Councillors.

“Dublin Sinn Féin has a big challenge ahead contesting local, European and two by-elections on June 5th. Our message to the electorate over the coming weeks will be a straightforward one. If want change, vote for change.

“Sinn Féin is different to other political parties. We stand up for the interests of ordinary people, not vested interests. We deliver for communities across Ireland. We were the only party on the side of the people in the Lisbon Treaty.  Our TDs, Senator and MEPs only take home the average industrial wage, the rest of their money goes into their constituencies. This is a principal we are proud of and it means we as a party and as individuals actually understand the challenges facing the communities we represent.

“Sinn Féin was the first party to produce a comprehensive Job Retention and Creation Strategy to tackle Ireland’s soaring unemployment which has left 200,000 workers jobless since this government took the helm in 2007. This strategy included key measures such as a 300million job retention fund to subsidise workers in viable SMEs struggling through the current financial crisis. Sinn Féin’s public finance package submitted to government in advance of the emergency called for a wealth tax, reform of the taxation system, abolishing once and for all tax exile, shelters and loopholes. We called for the National Pension Reserve Fund to be invested into desperately needed infrastructure such as a national school building programme.

“Sinn Fein also called for the establishment of Eolas Glas Éireann a new national green technology body for research, promotion and funding of green energy and environmental technologies. Sustainable Energy Ireland would be the key element of this new body and would provide leadership in the sector, working with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Unit, as well as forming partnerships with the Irish Wind Energy Association, the ESB, Eirgrid and others, to formulate and implement an all-Ireland strategy on green technology use.

“Dublin needs new leadership. This city just cannot afford to keep Fianna Fáil on.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin west Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has described reports in today’s ‘Sunday Telegraph’ regarding claims by Sinn Féin MPs as ‘a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the situation in the run up to an election’. He made it clear that all Sinn Féin employees receive the same industrial wage.   Speaking this afternoon Mr Doherty said,   “It is widely known that Sinn Féin MP’s travel regularly to London on Parliamentary business and utilize the accommodation that we rent when there. We do not purchase properties at public expense and therefore do not profit from the expenses claimed as of right.   Sinn Féin makes no apology for refusing to sit in the British House of Commons. The abstentionist position is the one supported by the vast majority of nationalists and republicans in the six counties. We also make no apology for ensuring that those people who vote for Sinn Féin get the same democratic entitlements as everyone else.   Sinn Féin is unique in that we are the only Political Party that voluntarily publishes our financial accounts annually in the interest of openness and transparency. If only other parties would do likewise then the public might have more confidence in their public representatives.   Sinn Féin MP’s, MLA’s, MEP’s and TD’s receive an average industrial wage. All other finance goes into providing first class constituency services for the people and the electorate. All waged members of Sinn Féin, including MP’s and Ministers, receive the same salary.   Today’s story is nothing more than a deliberate attempt by the Tory led media to misrepresent Sinn Féin in the run up to an election, no doubt in the hope that the spotlight will move away from them. Sinn Féin will not allow our open and transparent position to be misrepresented in this fashion.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O’Neill has called on the Health Minister to urgently devise a strategy to deal with the extremely high incidences of diabetes. This follows the revelation that over 10 people are diagnosed with a day.

 

Speaking today Ms O Neill said:

 

“There are currently no targets for reducing the incidence of diabetes. Given the figures and the increasing trend of diabetes it is very clear that the Department of Health must bring forward strategyto address this issue.

 

“The figures indicate that over 55,000 people in North have been diagnosed with diabetes and it is estimated that another 20,000 have the condition but don't know it. With 10 people being diagnosed on a daily basis we need to see urgent action.

 

“While medically we can treat diabetes, this does come at a rising cost given the rising prevalence of the disease in our society . Prevention is obviously better than cure and we must make more health organisations and schools aware and support their efforts to reduce the likes of obesity and tackling poor diets. In all a comprehensive strategy, and far reaching approach must be brought forward by the Health Minister, MichaelMcGimpsey.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún in a statement to mark Europe Day on May 9th has said that we need a Europe where people are at the heart of decision making and that it is vital that people become more engaged with Europe and its institutions.   Ms de Brún said:     “We have benefited greatly from Europe and the decisions taken at EU level have a huge impact on our daily lives. We need to look ahead and ensure that we build on this and create a Europe where people are at the heart of decision making. I know that the EU seems distant to many but that will only change when people become more involved. Across Europe we can learn much from each other.     “Sinn Fein’s approach to the EU is guided by a simple principle. Sinn Féin put the interests of Ireland first in Europe – our people, our rural communities, our natural environment and our future prosperity.     “We have led the way in developing a new working relationship with the EU that will deliver real results, providing real leadership in demanding that Ireland – North and South – is not squeezed out of the decision making process.     “The gap between ordinary people and Europe is growing. We need more people to become engaged with Europe and its institutions. This must be based on greater democracy and accountability.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA this evening addressed the last in the series or ‘Townhall’ meetings in the Craigavon Civic Centre.   In his remarks the Sinn Fein leader attacked the role of the Public Prosecution Service and called for a fundamental review and change in the way that prosecution cases are conducted.   Mr. Adams comments were in part a response to the deal done this week in the Harry Holland Murder trial, which saw the charge of murder dropped against two of those involved.   But his call for radical change within the public prosecution system also reflects the widespread nationalist concern, particularly during the years of conflict, about the role of the DPP, and now the PPS, in protecting the British state and its security and policing agencies from the legal consequences of their actions in the murder of hundreds of citizens.   Mr. Adams said:   “This year this series of Townhall meetings fit into our commitment to engage with people in Ireland and internationally about the future of Ireland; it is about a national conversation about the future direction of Ireland and about how we achieve Irish reunification.   The reality is that 40 years after the Battle of the Bogside and the pogroms in Belfast, and the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement to achieve fundamental change, the Orange State is no more.   Of course, the legacy of that period still exists in discrimination, in the inequalities and divisions which persist, and in the scourge of sectarianism.   Partition remains the great immoral interference with Irish national rights.   And there remain serious matters to be tackled in aspects of the justice system, not least of which is the role of the PPS.   The Unionist and British establishment always understood the key importance of controlling the law and justice and policing.   The Unionist state included a legal and judicial system that reflected its tradition and interests.   All members of the judiciary were also in the Orange Order.   The Special Powers Act was introduced to oppress the nationalist community.   The RUC and the B Specials were the armed enforcers of this.   The British government also understand the importance of shaping the law and its agencies to suit its political goals.   It’s most senior military strategist Brigadier Frank Kitson wrote; …the law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal, and in this case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public. For this to happen efficiently, the activities of the legal services have to be tied into the war effort in as discreet a way as possible.’ –   The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) played their part in this.   It was established in 1972 as a so-called ‘independent’ prosecuting authority. It was never that.   The DPP ensured that many of the abuses of the British state never even made it to court.   This despite the huge amount of evidence available concerning the existence of collusion; for example in the Pat Finucane Case, or uncovered by the Police Ombudsman’s office in its investigation into the murder of Raymond McCord jr and the activities of Mark Haddock; or the Oireachtas Committee report; the Barron Inquiry in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings; the Glenanne report into Collusion in South Armagh and the Mid Ulster ‘murder triangle’ and the reports by Stalker and Stevens and much more.   The law did not require the DPP to give reasons for their failure to prosecute in any of these cases.   The Good Friday Agreement envisaged a wide-ranging review of the criminal justice system which led to the Criminal Justice Review published in March 2000. The Review made many recommendations including the establishment of a new office, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).   The report of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate in August 2007 on the PPS identified 40 weaknesses requiring action.   So, there is a big job of work to be done in respect of the PPS.   There needs to be a root and branch reform of the PPS.   The transfer of policing and justice powers represents a unique opportunity to begin this process and to construct a public prosecution service that is representative of and accountable to the community and free from partisan political control. Sinn Fein is committed to the achieving these ends.

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has welcomed the conviction and sentencing today of three major drug traffickers in relation to the seizure of €400million worth of cocaine off the coast of Cork last November. However, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said locking up drug dealers will not alone solve the drugs crisis and efforts must be made to tackle the demand for drugs.

He said, "I welcome the conviction and sentencing of the three major drug traffickers today. More resources must be given to the Garda Drug Squads in order to secure more convictions of major drug dealers.

"However, while convicting drug dealers is of major importance, it alone will not solve the drugs crisis and a major effort must be made to tackle the demand for illegal drugs.

"Yesterday I launched Sinn Féin’s priorities for the National Drugs Strategy 2009 – 2016. In it my party outlined a number of preventative measures which could be taken to help stem the demand for drugs and to dissuade young people from going down that road.

"Our proposals include the reinstatement of the sports capital grant which was a major component of the previous drugs strategy but which was abolished by the Government in budget 2009. It should be reinstated with a particular focus on areas suffering high levels of drug use and it should be reinforced with community employment schemes to run the facilities.

"We also called on the Government to reverse its cuts in the area of special needs teaching and additional resources for schools again focussing on areas suffering high levels of drug use were many children are at serious risk of becoming involved in drugs and associated crime.

"We argue that it is economically prudent to invest in the fight against drugs because if we fail to prevent an escalation of the current drugs crisis it will incur a massive cost to the exchequer which the state can ill afford. Not to mention the human cost to individuals, families and communities. Experience tells us that economic recessions and drugs crises go hand in hand so now is the time to invest rather that using the recession as an excuse to cut funds to local and regional drugs tasks forces as the Government is currently doing." ENDS

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Last night on the Vincent Browne programme Proinsias De Rossa denied out rightly that he voted in the EU parliament last year against respecting the Irish peoples decision on Lisbon. Responding this morning to his denial Ms McDonald said, “my fellow Dublin MEP is telling a big fat porky. On the 20th of February last year Proinsias voted against an amendment to the de Mendez/de Vigo report submitted by Sinn Féin’s EU parliamentary group that called on MEPs to ‘undertake to respect the outcome of the referendum in Ireland.’

The Dublin MEP went on to say:

“Not only did Proinsias de Rossa vote against the amendment he then went on to justify this shameful decision on the basis that it was and I quote a ‘a Sinn Féin stunt’ that the parliament could not enforce anyway.

“It is incomprehensible to me why Proinsias would deem it appropriate or right to lie like this on national television. And his decision poses a far more serious question. If he can so shamelessly lie about something like this what else is he not being straight about.

“The people of Dublin deserve a far higher standard of representation. They deserve to be respected. They are the people who put Proinsias de Rossa in the European Parliament, not his PES colleagues who were and continue to be recklessly gung-ho about getting the failed Lisbon Treaty past the people of Europe. And let there be no mistake they are the people who can take him out of the European Parliament on June 5th.” ENDS

EU PARLIAMENT RECORD FEB 20TH 2008 Amendment 32 to the de Mendez/de Vigo report on the Treaty of Lisbon on the 20th February 2008, (A6-0013/2008):

Submitted by Francis Wurtz, Mary Lou McDonald, Gabriele Zimmer, Roberto Musacchio, Jiří Maštálka, Eva-Britt Svensson, Erik Meijer, Esko Seppänen, Søren Bo Søndergaard, Ilda Figueiredo, Willy Meyer Pleite, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Pedro Guerreiro, Marco Rizzo, Miguel Portas, On behalf of the GUE/NGL Group

-2a. Undertakes to respect the outcome of the referendum in Ireland.

Results on page 53 of this link http://www.europarl.ep.ec/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+PV+20080220+RES-RCV+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN

Against: PSE: Arif, Arnaoutakis, Assis, Ayala Sender, Badia i Cutchet, Baron Crespo, Battilocchio, Batzeli, Beňova, Beres, Berlinguer, Berman, Bosch, Borrell Fontelles, Bostinaru, Botopoulos, Bourzai, Bulfon, Bullmann, van den Burg, Busquin, Calabuig Rull, Capoulas Santos, Carlotti, Carnero Gonzalez, Casaca, Cashman, Cercas, Chiesa, Christensen, Corbett, Corbey, Corda, CorlăŃean, CreŃu Corina, CreŃu Gabriela, De Michelis, De Rossa,

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