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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today called upon the European Parliament to 'thoroughly investigate allegations that airports in the North of Ireland have been used in connection with the unlawful transfer of prisoners'.

Amnesty International has said it has evidence that planes which have been used to take prisoners to illegal imprisonment and torture centres in third countries landed and refuelled at both City of Derry and Belfast International Airports.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms de Brún said:

"There has been increasing speculation for many months that a number of European countries have allowed their airport facilities to be used by the CIA for the illegal transport of prisoners to third countries. Indeed, a European Parliament Committee was recently established to ascertain whether or not this practice exists and how widespread it may be.

"The British Government must respond to the allegations that planes which have been used to take prisoners to illegal imprisonment and torture centres in third countries landed and refuelled at both City of Derry and Belfast International Airports. Equally the Irish Government also has questions to answer about the alleged use of Shannon Airport.

"The Amnesty International report entitled: Below the radar: Secret flights to torture and 'disappearance' makes chilling reading and I echo calls for an independent inquiry into any local involvement with such practices.

"I also call upon the European Parliament committee responsible for investigating this matter to take onboard the mounting evidence that two airports in my constituency have been used in connection with this abhorrent practice. This practice known as "rendition" is a clear violation of basic human rights. We must ensure that our airports and airspace are not used to support and facilitate renditions or rendition flights." ENDS

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Speaking from Stormont today after a meeting with DRD officials heading up the controversial Rural Planning Policy (PPS14) proposals, Sinn Féin Environment spokesperson, Philip McGuigan MLA has said that it is essential that during the consultation that the Department for Regional Development and British direct rule Ministers listen to the concerns raised by the rural community.

Mr. McGuigan said:

"This meeting allowed the Party the first real opportunity to take issue with the sustainability arguments proposed in adopting the propensity against rural regeneration, and to tease out the inter-departmental approach which this consultation needs to take to ensure that the right balance of planning and meeting the needs of rural communities is found.

"The development of flexible planning regulations to create the conditions, which do not negatively impact on our unique rural character, whilst at the same time allowing the conservation of that unique rural landscape, must be the objective. Sinn Féin are totally engaged in this process, and intend to reflect and make our views known throughout the consultation process."

The North Antrim Assembly Member commented that with current planning regulation there exist huge anomalies in terms of how planning decisions are arrived at. This is particularly noticeable when current planning regulation is applied in the rural context.

" Whilst acknowledging that there are many social and indeed economic forces at work in this whole process, the move to curtail in such a drastic fashion countryside development needs balanced consideration." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson will join Youth Service providers outside the Belfast Education and Library Board Office in Academy Street at 2pm before the BELB Youth Services meeting.The protest comes just a week after the BELB non elected members voted through £3.6m of cuts by 1 vote.

The Members of the Committee will be presented with an Audit of youth services and an impact assessment of cuts on this provision.

Commenting on the protest Michael Ferguson said,

"The proposed cuts to youth services provision will result in the closure of all Midnight Clubs, affecting over 300 young people, a reduction of 15.000 youth work hours a week, end work with secondary schools, while impacting on cross border, cross community and IT services.

"The cuts will also adversely impact on the top 10 TSN areas; increase the number of young people on the streets by 2000 as a result of the reduction in part time hours.

"It is important that those non elected members of this Committee understand the implications of their decisions and this protest is to hold them accountable publicly and also to make them aware that we will be seeking an equality impact assessment".

"I will also be referring all decisions to the Equality Commission for assessment while at the same time asking the Office of the Children‚s Commissioner to review the loss of provision particularly in TSN areas". ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness, who is in Dublin today to meet with Irish government officials, said "there is a heavy responsibility on all of the parties and the two governments to move the peace process forward on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement".

Mr. McGuinness said: "Last night's killing of Denis Donaldson was a tragedy for his family and has been condemned by people the length and breadth of Ireland. While we don't yet know who was responsible, it is unfortunate that already we have seen opponents of the Good Friday Agreement try to use this death to undermine current efforts to make political progress.

"Today I am in Dublin to meet with Irish government officials. There is a heavy responsibility on all of the parties and the two governments to move the peace process forward. This is best achieved by implementing the Good Friday Agreement, not by pandering to those who are totally opposed to the power sharing institutions and political process.

"Many people are now asking - who are the governments listening to - those parties who support the Agreement and want to work together or to the DUP - a party that is isolated and clearly opposed to power-sharing.

"Sinn Féin will continue to do all in our power to get power-sharing institutions back up and running. But it must be real democracy and accountability, not a Shadow Assembly with no powers." ENDS

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Ógra Shinn Féin today held a protest to halt 'Ireland's inaugural private healthcare conference' in the Berkeley Court Hotel. They did this through direct action protest and read the following statement to the conference attendees. The action is to attempt to stop the privatisation of the Irish healthcare system by obstructing those who attempt to subvert it for profit from organising.

The statement said:

We are here to protest against those assembled here who seek to make a profit from people's pain, profit from people's suffering and profit from people's fears and their ill-health.

I refer to those in the private health industry who are here today in an attempt to further Americanise and commodify the health of the Irish people. They collude in this with our increasingly right-wing Government, which sees the enrichment of the corporate elite as preferable to the well-being of the Irish people.

We in Ógra Shinn Fein believe that health is for people - not for profit. Corporations such as GE make everything from light bulbs to cars and now they wish to treat sick Irish people; as long as they have money.

The Irish people are not only paying for their health with their taxes, they are also paying with their suffering and death at the hands of an under-funded health service.

We believe that access to health care is a universal and inalienable right for all; not a privilege for the wealthy, nor should the lack of such universal provision be punishment for the poor.

Onwards towards to Socialist Republic. ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has this today reacted angrily to the Irish Government’s announcement that it plans to sell off the nation’s stake in Aer Lingus.

Speaking today Mr Adams said:

“The decision by the Government to break up Aer Lingus is against the wishes of the vast majority of the Irish people. This government could not wait to sell off its majority share in the company. It is intent on auctioning off a vital piece of national and strategic infrastructure to the highest private bidder.

“Sinn Féin is steadfastly opposed to the relentless privatization agenda which remains prevalent in Ireland and across the EU. Indeed, there has been widespread opposition to this move from the members of Ireland's largest union SIPTU, who represent the majority of Aer Lingus workers and also by local authorities from Dublin to Cork." ENDS

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Charlie McCreevy today told MEPs that "The European Parliament has clearly shown the way" on the controversial EU Services Directive.

Speaking in Strasbourg, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún said:

"The fact that Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has wholeheartedly endorsed the view of the European Parliament on the controversial EU Services Directive should give the Socialist Group pause for thought.

"Let us be clear about it. The revised Commission proposal will still leave workers across Europe in competition with each other in a 'race to the bottom'.

"Apart from a certain number of exceptions the rules of the market and free and unfettered competition will take precedence over social protection.

"Fortunately the European Commission has taken on board some of the exclusions specified by the European Parliament, for example in the field of health. However, the scope of the Directive is still too broad, and leaves too much uncertainty about what is and is not included.

"The Commission's definition of Social Services is far too narrow, and needs to be broadened to cover the whole range of social services. And member states need to take a stand in defence of public services, many of which are still under threat.

"Those who are obsessed solely with cost reduction can rejoice at having such a doughty defender of their interests in Commissioner McCreevy. However, those who are interested in job security and quality public services should also take heart - the fight for a Europe of equals is far from over." ENDS

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Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has "condemned without reservation news of t he murder of Denis Donaldson".

Mr. Adams said:

"I want to condemn without reservation the murder of Denis Donaldson. I also want to extend condolences and sympathy to the Donaldson family. I want to disassociate Sinn Fein and all republicans who support the peace process from this killing.

"I have an entirely open mind as to who was responsible for this murder. Denis Donaldson worked for the Special Branch who ruthlessly used him to collapse a democratically elected government. Last year they were about to publicly expose him in a further effort to destabalise the process. It is likely that his death at this time is intended to undermine current efforts to make political progress.

"Those who carried out this murder are clearly opposed to the peace process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has said the Fianna Fáil/PD government is "throwing Aer Lingus to the wolves" with its decision to go ahead with flotation of the national airline on the stock market. Speaking after challenging the Taoiseach in the Dáil on this issue during Leaders Questions, Ó Caoláin said the decision "makes a mockery of democratic accountability and consultation".

Comparing the Aer Lingus sell-off to the privatisation of Eircom, Ó Caoláin said the Taoiseach had "ominously" failed to acknowledge what a disaster the Eircom privatisation was.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "The Taoiseach's response today makes clear that the Fianna Fail/PD Government is determined to throw our national airline to the wolves. There is huge concern among Aer Lingus staff and among the wider public at the prospect of this privatisation. Local authorities around the country - including Dublin, Cork and Limerick City Councils and many more - have passed resolutions opposing the privatisation of Aer Lingus.

"The ICTU has asked the Government to acknowledge that investment in a profitable state company is not prevented by EU law. The Government has not was addressed seriously the ICTU proposal for a State Holding Company for all state-owned enterprises.

"The Oireachtas Committee on Transport is due to consider the issue of Aer Lingus this Thursday. The Cabinet has taken its decision in advance of that important engagement and this makes a mockery of democratic accountability and consultation.

"At Leaders Questions the Taoiseach did not take the opportunity to agree with the vast majority of people that the privatisation of Eircom was a disaster. The Government appointed the same international banker to advise them on Aer Lingus who also advised them on the disastrous privatisation of Eircom.

"We are told that the Government will retain strategic shares. But there will be absolutely nothing to stop multinational capitalists coming in, buying up the company and disposing of it as they please. They will not be concerned with the strategic transport needs of this country. They will not be concerned with maintaining direct routes from Ireland to destinations across Europe and the United States. They will be concerned only with the bottom line and if the short-term stripping of the company guarantees them the return they want then it is their interests, and not the long-term interests of this country, that will dictate the future of Aer Lingus." ENDS

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Friday 31st March -- Launch of 12 page Special Easter Commemorative Edition of Dublin News. 110,000 copies will be delivered door-to-door between now and Easter.

Thursday, 6th April - Relaunch of James Connolly's "Socialism Made Easy".
Cobblestone Bar, Smithfield, 8pm
Speakers -- Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Cllr Larry O'Toole and Noel Murphy, National Secretary IWU. Traditional music and ballads and readings from Socialism Made Easy.

Friday, 7th April -- Ballymun Sinn Féin Easter Function
Penthouse Bar, Ballymun with music by the Irish Brigade
Doors open at 8.30pm and Táille - €8

Sunday, 9th April -- 1916 Historical Walking Tour As Gaeilge. Meeting at GPO @ 12.00pm.

Sunday, 9th April -- Showing of Hunger Strike film H3 to coincide with 25th anniversary of Bobby Sands' election as MP for Fermanagh -- South Tyrone
Irish Film Centre, Eustace Street, Temple Bar at 2.30pm
Former H-Block prisoners' speakers
Táille - €5

Monday 10th April -- Dublin Launch of the Easter Lily
Central plinth at the GPO, 12.00pm

Monday, 10th April -- Public Meeting -- Countess Markievicz Memorial Lecture
Theme: Women and the Irish Revolution
Madison Bar Rathmines, 8pm
Speaker: Martina Anderson ex-POW

Tuesday, 11th April -- 3rd Annual James Connolly Memorial Lecture
Theme: 1916-1981 The Unbroken Connection
Speakers: Former hunger striker Dr Laurence McKeown and Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD
Wynns Hotel, Abbey Street at 8pm

Wednesday, 12th April -- Showing of the play, "The Blanket"
Ar an Phlúid, (On The Blanket) tells the story of the Blanket protest from the perspective of one man — Kieran Nugent, the first H-Block prisoner to refuse to wear a prison uniform after the ending of political status in March 1976.
ATGWU Hall Middle Abbey Street
Táille - €10

Friday, 14th April -- 1916 Walking Tour. Meeting at GPO at 12.00pm

Friday, 14th April -- Arbour Hill Commemoration.
Assemble at 2.30pm at the gates of Arbour Hill Cemetery.

Friday, 14th April -- Annual Hunger Strike Memorial Trophy 5 a side Soccer tournament
Eamonn Ceannt Park, Sundrive Road, Crumlin at 12.00pm.
Contact 086 8694689 for further details

Saturday 15th April -- Unveiling of Plaque to Fian Seán Healy -- aged 14 killed during Easter Week 1916 -- assemble @ 11am at Doyles Corner, Phibsboro

Saturday 15th April -- Annual Ballyfermot Republican Easter Commemoration
assembling at 11am at Upper Ballyfermot Road (Sinn Féin Office) and march to Countess Markievicz Park.

Saturday, 15th April -- Annual Republican Easter Commemoration
Assemble at 1.30pm at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square
Speaker: Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP

Saturday, 15th April -- Annual Sinn Féin Átha Cliath Dinner Dance
Royal Dublin Hotel, O'Connell Street, 8pm
Contact 01-8726100 for tickets

Sunday, 16th April -- Wreath laying ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery
Assemble at 11.00am at the gates of Glasnevin Cemetery.

Sunday, 16th April -- Annual Eamonn Ceantt Crumlin Republican Easter Commemoration
Assemble at 3.00pm at Errigal Field (back of Childrens Hospital) and march to Eamonn Ceannt Park.
Refreshments afterwards in the Transport Club.

Monday, 17th April -- Annual Dún Laoghaire Republican Easter Commemoration
Assemble at 2.30pm at Bakers Corner and march to Deansgrange Cemetery

Monday, 17th April -- Annual Asgard Howth Republican Easter Commemoration
Assemble at 3.00pm at the East Pier

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has called today for and end to the secrecy surrounding the Council of Ministers meetings.

Ms de Brún made her comments as the European Parliament debated a report by David Hammerstein Mintz MEP "concerning the openness of the meetings of the Council when acting in its legislative capacity". The report opposes the continuing practice of the European Council of Ministers meeting in secret.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms de Brún said:

"Sinn Féin has long made the point that the European Union and its institutions not only lack democratic accountability but just as importantly are fundamentally out of touch with the people of Europe. Consistently, EU wide opinion polls show that people are not aware of the many decisions being taken in their name until they become law.

"The European Council has consistently refused requests to hold its legislative business in public. Such an approach further serves to reinforce the view that the EU lacks both transparency and accountability.

"The secrecy surrounding the European Council's business is all the more worrying since the Council is the body which represents national governments when ratifying EU law. Sinn Féin is calling for an end to this lack of transparency. Many people regard the EU as a self serving old boys club, and this image of secrecy and elitism will not change until the EU radically overhauls the manner in which it conducts its business. In the meantime, the European Union will continue to be seen as an elitist preserve that excludes ordinary people from the debate about the direction of the EU." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Mid-Ulster Martin McGuinness has branded the arrest of a woman in Coalisland this morning in connection with the Northern Bank robbery as the latest piece of stage managed political policing by the PSNI.

Mr McGuinness said:

"This woman was arrested this morning at her home in Coalisland and is currently being held by the PSNI Special Branch in their Antrim barracks.

"The media have of course been briefed about her identity and linked this woman to the Northern Bank robbery. This sort of prejudicial briefing is now standard practice from the political detectives within the Special Branch.

"Everyone knows that this arrest has nothing at all to do with finding those who robbed the Northern Bank. It is about smearing a family and a community at a delicate time in the Peace Process. This woman should be released immediately and allowed to return home to her family." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh today introduced amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 in an effort to have the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) prohibited until the Children Act 2001 is fully operational, if they are to be introduced at all. The amendment to the Bill was one of 52 amendments tabled by Sinn Féin at Committee Stage in the Dáil today. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the purpose of the Sinn Féin amendments to section 1 of the bill was to prevent the Minister from introducing unnecessary legislation, specifically in relation to ASBOs.

The Sinn Féin TD said, "All legislative responses to anti-social behaviour must be both proportionate and necessary. While Sinn Fein is fundamentally opposed to the principle of ASBOs our amendment would ensure that ASBOs could only be introduced with Oireachtas approval and this approval could only be sought in the Houses of the Oireachtas 10 years after all sections of the 2001 Act become fully operational. Our amendment provides for a necessity test."

"The ASBO provisions currently before us allow for a serious and open-ended curtailment of some of the most fundamental rights of individuals. The provisions are disproportionate. It is well documented that ASBOs are inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child but they may also be unnecessary.

"We do not need more legislation we need the resourcing and operationalisation of the existing provisions contained in the Children Act 2001.

"ASBOs are proven to fail at addressing their stated purpose i.e. reducing anti-social behaviour. Studies conducted in Liverpool demonstrate that ASBOs extend the discretionary powers of the police without improving accountability; name, shame and criminalise children; fast-track young people into prison and; undermine due-process by allowing hearsay evidence.

"The Minister has failed to produce any evidence demonstrating that ASBOs actually work."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to say, "The government are trying to roll back on child protection. They are attempting to legislate away complex problems that, by contrast, Sinn Fein recognises require the resourcing and implementation of existing laws and investment in communities.

"Sinn Fein advocates a multi-dimensional approach to the issue of community safety. Our policy is focused greatly on the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour. The Minister should abandon his aspirations to introduce ASBOs and instead promote investment in communities and recreational services for young people in particular, early interventions for those at risk of offending and effective rehabilitation programmes." ENDS

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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly commenting on the £33 million allocated to Loyalist working class areas has said that it is a serious mistake to sectarianise poverty.

Mr Kelly said:

"It is a serious mistake to sectarianise poverty. The only way to tackle poverty, wherever it exists, is on the basis of objective need, and need alone.

"Setting aside New TSN policy and equality legislation is also wrong and will have serious legal implications. It raises serious questions about commitment of the British government to the equality agenda and concerns about how future funds will be allocated.

"Poverty, educational under achievement and unemployment are huge issues across all sections of our society. The only approach should be to tackle need where it exists. Instead of taking decisions along sectarian lines the objective should be to tackle educational under achievement everywhere that it exists by putting money where it is most needed. The same approach should be taken with unemployment, poor skills, housing and health.

"Everyone accepts that there are serious levels of poverty in disadvantaged working class loyalist areas and particular problems around educational under achievement. By the same measure it should be accepted that all of the recent objective evidence shows that poverty and disadvantage is more widespread in nationalist areas. Seven of the 10 most deprived areas in the north are in nationalist areas. Nationalists are still more likely to be unemployed and a greater percentage leave school with no qualifications." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, has said the government is running scared of multinational pharmaceutical companies, given its refusal to sue them over the Hepatitis C and HIV infection of blood products. He said it was "deplorable" that while the Government refuses to sue these companies it is to pay one of them €6 million for a bird flu vaccine.

This week's Irish Medical News reveals that Baxter International, which is implicated in the scandal of infected blood products being supplied to haemophiliacs, is one of two companies supplying the avian flu vaccine to the Irish government at a cost of €6 million.

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated: "Many people in Ireland and throughout the world have died as a result of receiving transfusions of contaminated blood and blood products supplied by multinational pharmaceutical companies. People have been infected with HIV and Hepatitis C because of the criminal practices of these companies who manufactured and sold their products with total disregard for patient safety. Five years after Health Minister Micheál Martin initiated legal advice on this matter the Government has still not made a decision on whether to take a legal case for damages against these companies on behalf of the Irish people.

"Now we find that it is 'business as usual' with these companies as far as the government is concerned. This is deplorable.

"The Government is running scared of these giant multinationals. Yet at the same time the State has fought cases all the way to the Supreme Court against Irish citizens seeking education and other services for their disabled children. The government mobilises all the legal resources of the State against autistic children but not against multinational drug companies who have poisoned and killed people." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment Arthur Morgan T.D. has reacted angrily to the comments by Forfás that "Ireland should consider the possibility of developing nuclear energy as a more long-term solution," saying that Nuclear power will never be an acceptable option in Ireland.

Deputy Morgan said, "For many years we have been warning of the dangers of over dependency on oil. The failure to make the transition away from the use of fossil fuels and towards renewable energy including, wind, wave and solar power has been highlighted by environmental groups, those seeking to develop renewable energy and technologies and by parties including my own. The Government has consistently dragged its feet. Only now are grants for householders seeking to install solar panels, geothermal heating system and wood pellet stoves coming on stream.

"I believe a kite is being flown in relation to nuclear power. The comments contained in the Forfás report come only a short time after the Government refused to join with Austria and Germany in opposing nuclear power at the recent European Council. This Government's support for the European Council's call for a new generation of nuclear power was highly significant indicator of a changing position in relation to nuclear power.

"Now as a result of the Government failure, since coming to office in 1997, to act to develop renewable energy and energy saving technologies we are being told that there is an energy crisis. We will be told that the energy crisis must be treated as a national emergency, in order to advance the pro nuclear agenda. We will be told that we have to do things that we mightn't do in a different set of circumstances, that we have no choice but to turn to nuclear power.

"When the Government published the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill 2006 in recent months Sinn Féin highlighted our concern at the fact that the proposed legislation included in the infrastructure developments to be fast tracked "an industrial installation for the production of electricity, steam or hot water with a heat output of 300 megawatts or more". We asked if a nuclear power station could be fast tracked under this provision. That question is now more pertinent than ever.

"The Irish people are overwhelmingly opposed to nuclear power. It will never be acceptable here. The potential costs of nuclear power in terms of the destruction of human life and the environment are a price the Irish people have made clear they are not willing to pay." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning called for EU member states to "remove restrictions placed on migrant workers and allow for the free movement of workers right across the EU".

Ms de Brún made her calls before she spoke in a European Parliament debate in Strasbourg today on worker's rights. The report by Csaba Ãry MEP was entitled "on the transitional arrangements restricting the free movement of workers on EU labour markets".

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"On May 1st 2004, with the accession of the 10 new EU member states Ireland, Britain and Sweden opened up their labour markets to workers from the new member states. The other 12 states decided to apply certain restrictions to the recently joined countries. 8 of those states have now opted to extend these transitional arrangements.

"The positive experience of Ireland should encourage other countries who introduced transitional arrangements to lift these restrictions. Sinn Féin and the trade union movement support the decision not to introduce transitional arrangements in Ireland and I have signed the written declaration here in the parliament calling for such restrictions to be lifted.

"Ainneoin na himní a léirigh daoine éagsúla nuair a méadaíodh an tAontas ó thráth go chéile, níor chuir saor-ghluaiseacht oibrithe isteach ar shaormhargaí náisiúnta.

"Tar éis an mhéadaithe is déanaí bhí tionchar dearfach ag an ghluaiseacht imirce ar gheilleagar chúig bhallstát déag an Aontais Eorpaigh. Níor brúdh amach oibrithe áitiúla ag saoránaigh na mball nua ach chuir siad leis an gheilleagar ar dhóigh chabhrach.

"The Irish experience has been overwhelmingly positive, with migrant workers contributing to society and enriching the cultural fabric of the nation.

"However, we must go further than merely calling for free movement of labour. We must defend the rights of those workers to equal treatment. We cannot ignore the issue of employment conditions and the continued exploitation of workers. Even in Ireland unscrupulous employers have used the lack of free movement of workers within the EU to introduce discrimination as regards salaries and working conditions based on nationality. We must combat this strongly. We must also oppose restrictions on social security and other social protections.

"Irish emigrants have forged a life for themselves outside of Ireland, in places like Britain, North America and Australia, and we must embrace those who come to Ireland in the same way. At the same time we must work to combat exploitation and discrimination wherever it exists." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Seán Crowe TD, has expressed shock and sadness at the tragic school bus accident in which a fifteen year old boy was tragically killed today in County Offaly.

Deputy Crowe said, "It was with tremendous shock and sadness that I learned of this latest tragedy on our roads. I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the young boy killed in today's tragic accident and to wish a full and speedy recovery to all the other injured children.

"I would call on the Government to make the fullest possible supports both physical and emotional available to all those involved. I would also call for an immediate investigation to find the causes of the accident and to ascertain, what measures and procedures recommended following last years fatal school bus crash in Meath, which left five dead, have actually been implemented and if the process needs to be speeded up." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Seán Crowe has described the news that this weekend saw the 100th road fatality as a "tragic milestone, which should make us all, as individuals and collectively, sit up and take notice."

Deputy Crowe said, "The month of April has barely begun and already we have reached one hundred fatalities on our roads. It is a tragic milestone, which should make us all, as individuals and collectively, sit up and take notice. Behind every one of these deaths lies a devastated and heartbroken family trying to make sense of what is often a senseless and avoidable tragedy.

"However, there are measures we can adopt. There are things that can be done to prevent this carnage. Is it too much to ask that Garda resources be focused in an efficient and practical manner? Instead of adopting a "shooting fish in a barrel" approach in relation to setting up high visibility speed traps on our motorways shouldn't these resources be aimed at the areas and times when accidents are known to happen? Over 40% of accidents occur on just 7% of the roads in this state. Many of these accidents occur on non-primary routes, in the small hours of the morning as pubs and nightclubs shut. This is one area where the enforcement of existing regulations and laws needs to be rigorously pursued.

"There is also the outrageous issue of driving tests and the crazy number of learner drivers waiting to be tested with some of the 130,000 waiting up to a year. There is no excuse for this other than sheer incompetence on behalf of the Government. The time for PR stunts is over - real action is needed.

"At the current rate of fatalities we could be looking at well over 400 deaths by years end. That is over four hundred families traumatised through the loss of a loved one. That thought alone should be enough to make all of us behave in a more responsible way on our roads. For those who don't or won't then the full force of the law should be applied." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today thrown her support behind a new initiative to combat food poverty and promote access to healthy and affordable food for low-income groups in Ireland.

Organisations Crosscare, Combat Poverty Agency and Society of St. Vincent de Paul are in the process of establishing a 'Healthy Food for All Initiative' (HFFA). The initiative aims to promote access to healthy and affordable food for low-income groups, including the provision of school meals.

Speaking today the former Assembly Health Minister said:

"I want to welcome the establishment of the 'Healthy Food for All Initiative'. Access to food is a fundamental right, and just as important is the ability to access healthy and nutritious food. I am particularly pleased that this initiative to tackle food poverty will be conducted on an all Ireland basis and I would urge all of the relevant agencies to support this project in the promotion of healthy living and tackling health inequalities.

"The publication of a report 'Food Poverty and Policy' (2004) revealed that the issue of food poverty is of serious concern to health experts in Ireland. It has been known for quite some time that there is a correlation between inequalities in dietary habits and social disadvantage. It stands to reason that poor dietary habits will lead to poor health in the longer term. Food poverty also impacts on educational achievement and therefore on the ability to break the cycle of disadvantage. It is a major issue for low income families.

Ms de Brún also welcomed European Parliament support for a call she and other MEPs had made for charities across Europe to be able to continue food aid for the most deprived and vulnerable." ENDS

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