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Sinn Féin launch new border initiative (Aontú) to bring Irish reunification closer

27 January, 2005

This week Sinn Féin will unveil the first in a series of major initiatives to advance the party's all-Ireland agenda and advance preparations for Irish reunification. The launch of Aontú (Uniting), the Sinn Féin strategy group for cross-border integration, will take place in the Clinton Centre, Enniskillen tomorrow Friday, 28th January at 10am. Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin will speak at the event. It will be followed in February with the launch of the party's Green Paper for Irish Unity.

Aontú has been set up by the party leadership to bring forward and implement plans for the integration of services, developments and infrastructure throughout the border region. It will be headed by Sinn Féin spokesperson on All-Ireland Integration, Barry McElduff MLA and will be made up of Sinn Féin's representatives on the various cross-border groups, like the North West Region Border Group, the Irish Central Border Area Network and the East Border Region Group, along with the party's MLAs, TDs, council group leaders and Sinn Féin councillors from both sides of the border. Although denied access to membership of the North West Region Border Group, Donegal Sinn Féin councillors Pearse Doherty, Padraig MacLoughlainn, Tomas Pringle and Tony McDaid have joined Aontú to address the specific problems of social and economic marginalisation suffered by the people of Donegal as a result of partition and the decades of inaction by establishment politicians in the County.

Speaking in advance of the conference Aontú spokesperson, Barry McElduff said, "Life along the border for many people is characterised by poor planning, inadequate transport systems, insufficient energy supply and ICT (broadband) networks and, critically, by a duplication of services that is uneconomic and inefficient.

"Government discrimination, inadequate representation and poor planning have ensured that the border corridor is less developed and growing more slowly that the rest of the economy. It is also poorly serviced by bus and rail links, the energy infrastructure is not capable of supporting significant economic and social development, the agriculture sector is in difficulty and, despite having excellent natural resources, the proportion of tourist expenditure in the border corridor area is low and falling in many areas.

"In 2003, Sinn Féin brought forward a document "Reunification Through Planned Integration" which set out innovative solutions to these problems and this is already impacting on debate and planning at local government level.

"It is clear that only co-ordinated cross-border integration that creates common systems and shared infrastuctures and services will deliver the balanced development needed for people living and working within the Border Corridor. The need for greater Cross-Border Integration will require local government councils and departments working together for the benefit of all communities.

"Sinn Féin, as the only all-Ireland party with a dedicated cross-border strategy and councillors in every county in the Border Corridor Area, is ideally placed to develop the dynamic cross-border links between councils - links that are essential for the development and long-term prosperity of the border region.

"The formation of Aontú illustrates Sinn Féin's absolute commitment to achieving real progress not just in the Border Corridor Area but beyond. The Strategy Group will ensure that we use our political strength to promote dynamic and productive cross-border links between councils and government departments to deliver cross-border integration. The group will also engage with civic society, trade unions, business community and farming organisations, disadvantaged communities and groups who are marginalised to ensure that process of cross-border integration is an inclusive one.

"On Friday we will set out proposals our representatives will be seeking support for in the time ahead." ENDS

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