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Sinn Féin Assembly member John O’Dowd today met the Independent Reviewer of the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007 Robert Whalley. Speaking after the meeting Mr O’Dowd said that the retention of so called security provisions was completely unacceptable.

Mr O’Dowd said:

“A stable society will not be built with the assistance of repressive and draconian legislation. This throwback to the failures of the past must be removed. We made this clear in our meeting with Mr Whalley today.

“Sinn Fein are opposed to draconian legislation. The retention of the provisions of Part VII of the Terrorism Act in this piece of legislation is unacceptable. This legislation has no place in our society.

“We believe that the ‘Independent Reviewer’ should recommend that the British Secretary of State repeal these powers without delay.” ENDS

 Note to Editors

 Under section 40 of the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007 the British Secretary of State is obliged to appoint a person to review the operation of sections 21-32 of 2007 Act (which provide the British army with various powers). This appointee must carry out such a review as soon as practicable after the 31st of July each year and forward any findings in a report to the British Secretary of State.

Robert Whalley has been appointed the ‘Independent Reviewer’ of this piece of legislation.

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Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has slammed the latest attack on St Mary’s star of the sea. The school was targeted in a second asron attack within two weeks.

Speaking today Mr Kelly said:

“This attack on St Mary’s Star of the Sea is the second arson attack within two weeks. In the first instance there was sectarian graffiti painted on the school as well as damage at several parts of the school from fire so we cannot rule out the same motive for this attack.

“Again last night we were lucky that the school was not destroyed. We can see the impact of arson attacks on schools with the razing to the ground of Whitehouse Primary School last week and we are extremely fortunate that this was not the case last night.

“Schools should in no way be targeted. They are attacks on all of our children and on their futures. Schools are not just centres of learning for our children but they also provide, on an ever increasing basis, services and facilities for the wider community.

“I am adding my voice to the chorus of voices across society for an end to these attacks. There is no justification for these actions whatsoever and anyone with any information on any of these attacks should bring it forward to the PSNI.

“In the meantime we need to start exploring initiatives to protect our schools from attacks whether they be sectarian in nature or acts of vandalism and protect our children’s right to education.”

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Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brún has called for all parts of Ireland to be opened to allow for Guantanámo Bay detainees to be given humanitarian access and has welcomed the Irish governments commitment to allow two of the detainees to travel to the south of Ireland.


Speaking today Ms de Brún said:


“The detainees being held at Gauntanámo have had their basic human rights severely abused both thought he means in which they were held and the rendition process that led to them being held in the camp. These people should be freed.


“Obviously on humanitarian grounds many of the people who were held in Gauntanámo would not be able to travel to their homes for fear of further persecution. This leaves them essentially homeless and stateless.


“I believe that European countries should be open to allowing access for many of the Guantanámo detainees. I welcome the commitment by the Irish government to take a two of those held and would call for all parts of the island of Ireland to allow access for the cleared detainees.”

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has announced the award of a £1.8million contract to three local organisations to provide counselling services to all post-primary schools in the north.

The Minister said: “I am pleased to announce that the new contracts have been awarded. All pupils of post-primary age will continue to have access to counselling support. Counselling can assist young people during difficult and vulnerable periods in their lives and so, by having this service available, we aim to address the barriers to learning therefore improving the educational outcomes of all our pupils.”

The new contracts have been awarded to New Life Counselling, Counselling4Youth and Family Works. The counselling support provided conforms to the current best practice and professional standards for school-based counselling, specifically in respect of counsellor qualifications, continuous professional development, supervision policy and safe working practices.

The Minister added: “The service will be in place for the start of the new school year in September. All post-primary schools have been notified of the new arrangements and have already begun holding meetings with the providers.”

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Commenting on figures showing the PSNI spent almost £300,000 on informers in the last financial year, Sinn Féin Policing Board member Martina Anderson said:

 

“Everyone knows that police forces the world over use informants, but given our history here and in particular the use of informants to manipulate, control and direct loyalist death squads people will be rightly concerned with this revelation.

 

“There is also a widely held belief that many informants currently operated by the PSNI are active within various dissident groupings. Many questions, for instance, have been raised by the media in respect of Paddy Murray. There is also a suspicion that many of these individuals are involved in criminal actions while others act as agents provocateur and no decisive police action is being taken to prevent it. This perception clearly undermines confidence in the PSNI in their task to deliver an accountable civic policing service.

 

“This information should first of all have been brought to the Policing Board and discussed there. Now that it is in the public domain I expect a statement on the issue from the Chief Constable at our next meeting.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams will meet the Holland family next week to discuss and agree what representations we make to the British Attorney General.

 

Commenting on the decision by the PPS to refer the convictions in the Harry Holland case to the British Attorney General Mr. Adams today said:

 

“Harry Holland was murdered in September 2007. He was a gifted, generous and loving family man and his killing shocked the west Belfast community. There is widespread community support for his family who since then have demonstrated enormous courage in dealing with the subsequent trial.

 

The family and community were outraged at the deal done to reduce the charges in the case of two of those involved and of the leniency of the subsequent sentences.

 

Like the family I am deeply dissatisfied with the way this case has been handled by the Public Prosecution Service and by the judiciary.

 

The decision by the PPS and what representations we make to the British Attorney General will be discussed at our meeting next week.

 

The family’s campaign for justice has placed a focus on the criminal justice system and in particular the serious deficiencies within the Public Prosecution Service.

 

The PPS needs to change. There needs to be a root and branch examination of how prosecution cases are conducted.

 

We must ensure that we attain a prosecution service which is truly independent, accountable and which has the confidence of all sections of the community.

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Sinn Féin’s Dáil Leader and Health and Children Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has renewed his calls for legislation to prohibit sunbed use by under-18s in the wake of a new study showing it to be much more dangerous than previously suggested.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said:

“The links between ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer are well known and Sinn Féin has long called for legislation to protect children from the dangers of sunbeds. The report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, published in The Lancet, indicates that the dangers are even greater than previously realised. According to the study the risk of melanoma is increased by 75 per cent where sunbed use begins at an early age. The report further states that sunbeds should be moved to the ‘highest cancer risk’ category.

“In replies to the repeated questions I have raised on this matter, the Minister for Health has stated that she intends to prohibit sunbed use by under-18s as part of a forthcoming Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. However, this bill will contain a number of different measures and its publication has been repeatedly postponed since it first appeared on the government’s Legislative Programme in January 2007. No satisfactory reason has been given for this delay.

“The Minister must now act with urgency to stop children being subjected to these highly-dangerous sunbeds. Legislation must be prepared in time for the Dáil resumption in September, even if this requires a standalone bill. Any further delay will only add to the government’s litany of appalling failures to protect the lives and well-being of Irish children.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD has called on the Minister for Agriculture to ensure that all farmers who are part of the REPS III scheme receive their full entitlements in the current year. He was responding to a report that some payments might be held over until 2010 because the final bill is expected to be higher than forecast in the estimates.

Deputy Ferris said: “Farmers are already under fierce pressure due to cutbacks and with further cuts recommended in the McCarthy report. It is therefore essential that those who are part of the REPS III receive the money that is due to them before the end of the year. Farmers ought not to be expected to pay the price for accounting errors within the Department.” ENDS

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Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has welcomed the latest moves towards the establishment of a science park in Derry in partnership with Magee University.

Martina Anderson said:

"I welcome confirmation by Dean of Academic Development at Magee, Prof. Deirdre Heenan that the Science Park is now actively examining possible developments in Derry in conjunction with the university

“Progress is long overdue on this issue and I hope that we are finally starting to see some movement.

“The Science Park was established in Belfast in 1999 in partnership with the two universities and supported by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment. Its stated aim was to create a self sustaining, internationally recognised knowledge-based facility.

“The Park has proved a huge benefit for Belfast but a commitment was also made at the outset to establish satellite centres across the North including Derry.

“However, almost ten years on, the Derry centre has still not materialized which is why I raised this matter directly with the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster

“It is my understanding that her Department is now examining the feasibility of a Derry centre as part of their business plan for the year ahead.

“I will continue to lobby for this commitment to be honoured because a Derry centre would provide a much-needed boost to the local economy and would play a key role in taking forward the planned expansion of Magee University.

“It would provide a hub and support for small and medium high-tech industries as well as employment opportunities for Magee graduates.” ENDS

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South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has welcomed the news that convicted sex offender Paul Hunter Redpath has been apprehended in Wicklow. However, he has said that this issue has raised serious questions about the large number of sex offenders who are being housed in the South Belfast area and the ability of the PSNI to manage them.

Alex Maskey MLA said,
“The fact that South Belfast houses the highest number of sex offenders in the North has long caused concern to those who live in the area. The PSNI have consistently tried to allay the fears of the public in this matter by assuring us that they are confident that their management strategy can deal with this situation.

“Today we learned that Paul Redpath Hunter, a man regarded as a serious risk, had went missing from his accommodation. We also learned that this was the third time that he had done so. While I would wholeheartedly welcome the fact that this man has been apprehended, this case poses serious questions about the PSNI’s ability to manage the large number of sex offenders who are being housed in the South Belfast area”.
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Derry Sinn Fein Councillor, Gerry MacLochlainn has slammed comments by Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh who is calling into question all-Ireland investment in vital infrastructure for the North West.

Speaking today Councillor MacLochlainn said

“As a TD for Donegal Joe McHugh should know only too well how much the North West region has suffered from government underinvestment and the devastating effects partition has had on our local economy. Recent investment by the Irish Government in projects that it sees as beneficial to Irish Regional economies should be welcomed by politicians throughout the North West regardless of political affiliation.

“The investment in City of Derry Airport by Derry ratepayers is beneficial to the entire region in terms of tourism and business travel and that includes Donegal. Recognising the regional benefit of the Airport as essential to maintain our region’s links with the wider world both, administrations took the prudent decision to invest in the facility. The £7 ½ million contributed by the Irish government was based on a full business assessment that considered the benefits to the region.

“Almost 50% of users of Derry Airport travel to or from Donegal whilst the airport brings some £20million annually into the regional economy. Donegal reaps a substantial portion of this economic activity. Therefore the Irish government investment is modest in comparison to the returns.

“A politician that had the best interests of the region in mind, rather than grabbing a headline for purely party political purposes, would see this investment as part of an over-all regional regeneration project. Alongside the Road developments that will link us with Dublin, Project Kelvin that will give Derry and Donegal access to the fastest internet connections to North America the City of Derry Airport provides direct access to the region for business travellers. We at last have the opportunity to build our economy and lift our people’s standard of living and Joe McHugh chooses to undermine that opportunity. His attitude of putting party before region only endangers future growth.

“Perhaps Joe should pay some heed to the recent IBEC-CBI Joint Business Committee report that sent a very clear message to both administrations on this island that a focused approach on building an all-Ireland single economy is the best way for forward for economic regeneration.
“Other business leaders across Ireland also realise that all-Ireland makes sense. They realise that two separate economies on an island of under 6 million people, now more than ever, will only serve to hamper efforts to revitalise the economy. They recognise that unnecessary economic competition will lead to stagnation and wasteful spending on duplication of services.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy was welcomed an announcement that Sainsbury’s is creating up to 200 new jobs at the Newry based Teleperformance Call Centre. Teleperformance which recently secured hundreds of jobs from the Swine Flu helpline has now been awarded the Sainsburys contract which will provide helpline and customer service facilities for the supermarket’s first phase of adding non-food merchandise to its website.

Commenting on the announcement Mr. Murphy said,
“The decision by Sainsburys to locate 200 jobs in Newry is not only a boost to the local economy but also a vote of confidence in the existing staff and management of Teleperformance. Newry and Armagh has a highly motivated and skilled pool of people willing to engage in meaningful employment and I hope that this decision will encourage more companies to set up base in this area.
"At a time when the economy is shrinking this news will add confidence in the area and coming on the back of the news of the new jobs being created by the Swine Flu helpline it proves that with the right approach we can create employment opportunities in the region

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Sinn Fein MLA for West Belfast Fra McCann has said the recent release of the Quarterly Housing Bulletin highlights once again the serious problems we face in the provision of social housing.

Speaking today Mr McCann said:

“What the DSD bulletin highlights is the serious lack of social housing being built and the large amounts of people still declaring themselves as being homeless. Alongside this there is a huge increase in those having mortgage possession actions taken against them.

“The state of housing provision and responses to deal with those people who have been hit hardest by the economic downturn is at crisis point.

“Large parts of the North have not had a social house built in their area for many years. This worrying trend is having an impact on many with waiting lists increasing and no hope for people wishing to be housed.

“Homelessness figures show that the numbers of people declaring themselves homeless in the first 3 months of this year remains high at 4,991 just a decrease in 2% from the same period last year.

“On top of this actions for mortgage possessions, which sits at 1,020 for the first 3 months of this year, a 35.3% increase over last year.

Fra McCann went on to say:

“Why is the Minister of Social Development not doing any thing about this? I remember her March ‘07 statement about the new housing agenda. This included help for those losing their homes because they fell into difficulties. This has not been forthcoming.

“Margaret Ritchie has done very little from that period to help these people besides holding a consultation and putting some small amount of money towards the advice sector.

“The core of the problem remains that without action being taken the increase in the figures will continue.

“The failure to deal with the seriousness in homeless figures is also an indictment on the Ministers ability to tackle this problem head on. With falling prices in the construction sector and large amounts of land under her control we should be getting more houses for less money. This however is not the case.

“The Minister needs to tell us what she proposes to do to deal with this mounting problem. What strategies are in place to tackle these increasing figures? Margaret Ritchie cannot keep refusing to answer the fundamental questions on housing provision. Political spin does not house people.”

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Balmoral Sinn Féin representative Vincent Parker has requested a meeting with representative of NI Water to discuss a sewage overspill occurring at the back of homes in Orchardville Crescent.

This is an ongoing problem which, most recently, has occurred 3 times in the last two weeks.

Vincent Parker said,
“The ongoing problem of overflowing sewers at the back of a number of houses on Orchardville Crescent is unacceptable. Residents have informed me that this overflow, which occurs on a regular basis, results in the back gardens of a number of properties in the street being covered in sewage. Not only is this highly unpleasant for the residents but it also represents an obvious health risk, especially for families with young children.

“While NI Water reacted quickly when I initially contacted them, and have offered short-term respite during recent occasions when there has been an overspill, the reality is that this is an ongoing problem which needs a permanent solution.

“NI Water have given a commitment to increase the capacity of the sub-station, and this is to be welcomed. However, residents remain concerned that increasing the capacity of the sub-station, in itself, will not resolve this problem.

He concluded,
“I have asked water service for a formal site assessment and have requested that a meeting with a representative of NI Water and local residents. This problem clearly poses a health risk and I would urge the Water Service to tackle this issue as a matter of urgency”.
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Sinn Féin MLA for Upper Bann John O’Dowd has called those responsible for tying up a 70 year old man and robbing a Craigavon GAA club as nothing more than cowards.

Speaking today Mr O’Dowd said:

“Those behind the robbery of the Eire Og GAA Club in Craigavon in which they tied up a 70 year old man while brandishing a gun are nothing more than cowards. They have selected an easy target when not many people were about and left an elderly man extremely shaken.

“The GAA plays a strong community role providing pulling together all ages for arrange of activities on a non profit basis. This robbery has taken money from the local team and club, taken it from the community who use this facility and taken it straight from the very positive activities that are run by the club.

“I would appeal to anyone with information or who may have seen anything to pass this information to the PSNI. People like this cannot be allowed to prey on our community.”

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Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has rounded on comments made by DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds on the media this evening saying that the British Government had ‘nothing to be sorry about’ in relation to the murder of Aiden McAnespie.

Speaking this evening Ms Gildernew said,

“The comments made by DUP deputy leader on BBC Radio Ulster News this evening were nothing short of callous.

The fact that an elected MP and deputy leader of a political party cannot bring himself to rise above petty prejudice is an indication of where this individual’s head is at.

This is yet another example of unionist denial, denial at the legacy of British injustice in Ireland, and a denial of the systematic British Government policy of collusion and shoot to kill.

This morning’s announcement from Shaun Woodward indicate that the British Government, not least due to the tireless campaigning of Aiden’s family, have been brought to a point where they can no longer deny the facts, it is a gross situation when Nigel Dodds cannot even do the same..

Nigel Dodds’ comments are yet another indication that the DUP are still prepared to justify Britain’s seedy and dirty war in Ireland. ” CRÍOCH

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Commenting on the expression of regret by British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward and the British Defence Minister on the shooting dead by the British Army of Aidan McAnespie at Aughnacloy in 1988, Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called for the publication of the special Garda enquiry into the murder and said: 

"This British expression of regret comes very late in the day and it causes further insult by asserting again that Aidan McAnespie was killed by a ricochet, a self-serving claim that has no credibility. The statement highlights the years of lies from the British government, the British Army and the RUC about the murder of Aidan McAnespie. 

"Aidan's murder by a British soldier was compounded by the lies that were told afterwards. The soldier who fired the fatal shot claimed his finger slipped onto the trigger when he was moving the General Purpose Machine Gun. This lie was exposed by the Historical Enquiries Team report last year. The McAnespie family and the community were vindicated.

"Such was the outrage at Aidan's death that the then Fianna Fáil government ordered a Garda inquiry. During the course of that inquiry I met with Deputy Commissioner Eugene Crowley and outlined the litany of harassment Aidan had endured. Like others who participated in that inquiry I find it totally unacceptable that the report is still being kept secret after over 20 years. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should now publish that report. 

"Aidan McAnespie was killed after he had been subjected to years of harassment by the British Army and the RUC. It must be recorded that the British Army and the RUC were facilitated in their conduct towards Aidan and many others like him along the Border at the time by the attitude and actions of the forces of this State. This was because Aidan was also subject to harassment by members of the Garda Síochána, undermining any credibility the authorities in this State may have had in raising his case with the British government." ENDS

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has said that plans for the new Whitehouse Primary School are progressing well.

Cáitríona said: “Last week when I met the Principal, David McConkey at the school, I said that my Department would do all possible to minimise disruption to the children following the arson attack. Plans are well under way to enable the use of spare capacity in Newtownabbey Community High School supplemented with mobile classrooms so children can return to school after the summer break.

“My Department is also working to progress the planned new school as quickly as possible and we would hope construction can start later this year. Whitehouse Primary, like many schools, plays an important role in the life of the community and it is important strong support is offered to get the school operational as soon as possible.”

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Sinn Féin Donegal Senator Pearse Doherty has called on the Agriculture Minister to reopen REPS noting that “the measures implemented by Brendan Smith earlier this month wrongly target new entrants into the sector and ignores the hardship this decision will cause farmers completing five-year contracts.”

Senator Doherty said:

“The challenges facing the farming sector continue to be ignored by this government. Decades of underinvestment in critical infrastructure and services and the failure of government run state agencies to develop Ireland’s indigenous agri-sector and export market has resulted in the steady decline in farming with the overall number of farms falling from 228,000 in 1975 to 128,000 in 2006. The decline of small farms has been particularly marked and government policy has failed to address the reasons why.

“Fianna Fail’s decision to withdraw REPS with the support of the Green’s is more of the same. The Rural Environmental Protection Scheme is an important state investment. It enables farmers to establish farming practices and production methods that are environmentally sound and helps to ensure that quality food is produced in an environmentally friendly manner. It is what it says on the tin. Yet rather than see it as an investment in the farming sector, the environment and Ireland’s agri-food sector Fianna Fáil Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith’s sees it merely as a scheme that ‘is now oversubscribed’ to.

“Rural Ireland deserves better than Fianna Fáil’s short term decision making and its refusal to invest for the long haul. The farming community must ensure its voice continues to be heard and that pressure remains on representative organisations to continue to fight against the imposition of such measures. Public finance efficiencies and reforms must be made but Fianna Fáil and the Green’s cannot treat this process as a mere book keeping exercise that makes short term gains but at the cost of a sustainable future for rural Ireland.

“Earlier this year Sinn Féin published a public finance document that could save the exchequer nearly 5 billion euro in a 12 month period. Sinn Féin’s measures are fair and unlike the government does not target the low paid, the vulnerable, working families or rural Ireland. Sinn Féin understands the challenges facing rural Ireland and we are committed to ensuring a future for the people living and working there.” ENDS

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South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey, speaking after contacting the Department for Regional Development about recent flooding in the Ballynafeigh area, has said that the Drainage Improvements Scheme currently being carried out in the area should, when completed, prevent further flooding in the Ballynafeigh area.

The South Belfast MLA said,
"In recent weeks there has been incidences of flooding during heavy rainfall in parts of Ballynafeigh. I have been contacted by residents in the area who are concerned that this problem could get worse during heavier rainfall.

“It is widely accepted that the current drainage system in the area is past its sell-by date. The current drainage system is a century old and simply cannot cope with the amount of housing and other developments in the area and is in fact a serious health hazard in the event of any flooding onto the streets.

“Last year work began to upgrade the system in the area. This work, currently taking place, involves renewing a substantial section of the sewerage system and installing a new storm drainage system. This means increasing the overall capacity of the system and separating the sewerage from the rainfall.

“I have been advised by the DRD that when this work is completed it should resolve some of the flooding issues which have occurred in the Ballynafeigh area. I look forward, as I am sure residents in the area do so also, to the speedy completion of this work”
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