Real and lasting peace is the most important issue facing the Irish people today
Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin speaking at the launch of the party's manifesto for the Westminster election said "
"Real and lasting peace is the most important issue facing the Irish people today. Defending and advancing the peace process is Sinn Féin's primary focus. We need to halt the downward spiral and the pointless recriminations. Peace is too important. The peace process is too important.
On April 6th, Gerry Adams took a major initiative to:
· Revive the peace process
· Remove unionist excuses for non-engagement
· Put the onus firmly on the Irish and British governments to move forward
"Gerry Adams initiative is a huge challenge, not just to the IRA, but also to all other participants in the process to face up to their responsibilities.
"We now have an unprecedented opportunity to make progress, to finally and conclusively deal with outstanding issues and to see the Good Friday Agreement realised in full.
"Sinn Féin is about building a political alternative. Our Westminster manifesto sets out in detail our policies on defending and advancing the peace process, on protecting public services, on tackling the crisis in rural communities and on redressing structural inequality. We also set out our approach to improving the health service and education system and a range of other social, economic and cultural issues.
"The under-funding crisis that has engulfed all of the Education Library Boards has been mismanaged and frontline services are now under threat. The Executive's Children Fund was abolished and there have been cuts in funding for community groups and rural development groups. Plans to improve the health service were abandoned and it is under increasing pressure. The crisis in the agriculture industry continues to be ignored as does the crumbling infrastructure and of course we have attempts to introduce water charges.
"In recent years the electorate has backed Sinn Féin in growing numbers. In this election we are the strongest pro-Agreement party, we are the strongest nationalist party and we are the only all-Ireland party.
"A vote for Sinn Féin in this election is a vote for the peace process. It is an endorsement of our role in that process. It is a vote for a free, united and independent Ireland. It is a vote for change. It is a vote for a republican alternative that puts equality and change at the heart of society.
"Sinn Fein is standing candidates across all 18 constituencies and on May 5th I am asking the electorate to endorse our work and vote Sinn Féín."ENDS
Sinn Féin's priorities are:
· Seeking support for Gerry Adams initiative to rebuild the peace process
· Challenging the British and Irish governments to deliver on their responsibilities on demilitarisation, equality, human rights, Irish language and justice and policing
· Challenge unionism to reject sectarianism and accept equality and inclusivity
· Transfer of powers on policing and justice
· Campaigning to get the Taoiseach to commission a Green Paper on Irish unity
· The 18 Westminster MPs to be automatically accorded membership of the Dáil, with consultative and voting rights
· Campaigning with others, including the SDLP, for the holding of a Border Referendum.
· The introduction of an Irish Language Bill for the North
· A strategy to eradicate the unemployment differential between Catholic and Protestant males
· The development of an all-Ireland economy with one tax regime, one currency and economic strategies that benefit the island as a whole
· An an-Ireland approach to agriculture and co-ordinated cross-departmental programme for rural development
· A Minister for Children and the publication of an all-Ireland 'State of our Children' report
· Universally available, publicly funded pre-school education for all children from the age of three to five years
· The extension of student loans and grant programmes and the abolition of student top up fees
· A free, prompt and co-ordinated breast-screening programme for all women over 40
· Opposing water charges and the privatisation agenda being pursued by direct rule ministers
· A total ban on tobacco advertising and smoking in the workplace, alongside restrictions on smoking in public places
· Opposing incineration as a means of waste disposal and calling on all councils to have a minimum target of 50% recycling by 2010
· The establishment of an all-Ireland Environmental Protection Agency with strong enforcement powers
· Department of Social Development to be stripped of housing power with the Housing Executive to take the lead role in the build and supply of social housing
· A time limited programme to make all public transport accessible
· Fundamental review of the standard of living of senior citizens, including pension provision, cost of living, fuel poverty and disposable income
· The creation of a Minister for Europe in any future Assembly
· All political parties to sign an anti-racist pledge