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Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has said that the party's Belfast Education and Library Board members will not be supporting the Board cuts to Special Needs Services, Patrol Crossings, Teacher Redundancies or any of the proposed budget slashing.

Commenting upon the cuts Michael Ferguson said,

"The proposal by the Belfast Education and Library Board to save money for British Direct Rule Ministers by reducing Special Needs educational provision, risking the health and safety of our children crossing roads and paying off teachers is treachery.

"This is also only the tip of the iceberg because cuts in all of the Boards may result in over 500 more teachers losing their jobs while the condition of school estates will worsen and all because we have no local Assembly.

"We should not undermine our own education system by doing Angela Smith‚s dirty work and Sinn Fein Board members will not be policing this budget for the British Government. We are also calling upon other Political Parties to support us in not enforcing these budget cuts.

"The British Direct Rule Minister is using falling rolls as an excuse when falling rolls should allow us to mainstream the special educational needs of our children, provide better teacher pupil ratio in our class rooms and address the numeracy and literacy difficulties that leaves almost 25% of school leavers without any qualifications every year.

"We need a return to our own local Assembly with our own accountable local ministers if we want a real budget to support education and learning." ENDS

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Last night North Antrim's Moyle Council joined with Omagh and Strabane District Councils in declaring its support for Irish unity and agreed to send a letter to An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD, asking him to be more proactive in pursuing All-Ireland agenda policies.

The motion was passed at last night‚s monthly Council meeting. The motion had the support of Sinn Féin and 2 SDLP Councillors. One SDLP Councillor, Catherine McCambridge, broke ranks with her party and abstained. Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor, Cara McShane, said she welcomed the decision to send a letter to Bertie Ahern.

Cllr McShane said:

"Irish Unity is the stated objective of all nationalist and republican parties on the island of Ireland including the present Irish government administration. This proposal is challenging Bertie Ahern to put his money where his mouth is. It is a challenge to An Taoiseach to be more pro-active in pursuing the All-Ireland agenda policies and to move on from the long and drawn-out rhetorical stage. The passing of this motion clearly sends out a signal to An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that he must start acting on the democratically expressed wishes of its Irish citizens in this part of the 32 Counties.

"While I am not shocked that Unionist representatives were vocal in their opposition to the motion, as they often are with any policy which promotes All-Ireland Co-operation, I trust that they accept that it is a legitimate right to pursue the objective of Irish Unity through political and democratic means. This motion is a legitimate mechanism through which to achieve this objective. Moyle Council is far from being a Œcold house for unionists‚ as was suggested at last night‚s meeting. In-fact Moyle has an excellent track record of good relations within the Council and All-Ireland co-operation.

„This motion is clearly challenging Bertie Ahern to spell out what pro-active strategy his government is going to undertake in pursuance of the stated objective of a United Ireland. The support of Moyle Council in North Antrim to take An Taoiseach to task over the stated objective, quite blatantly shows the present Irish government administration that Ireland does not stop at the border.‰ ENDS

Note to Editor

The motion proposed was:

This Council welcomes the fact that Irish Unity is now the stated objective of all nationalist parties on the island of Ireland including the present Irish government administration.

This Council therefore believes that An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD has a unique responsibility in giving practical expression to his administration‚s and nationalist Ireland‚s stated objective on the issue by immediately commissioning a green paper on Irish unity.

This Council further calls on An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD to initiate a holistic consultation process amongst all sectors of society north and south to assist in the formulation of a green paper.

This Council further calls on An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD to give immediate effect to the constitution‚s recognition of the entitlement of every person born on the island of Ireland to be part of the Irish nation by legislating for: Six County representation in Dáil Éireann, the right of people in the Six Counties to vote in national referenda on articles of the constitution and the right to vote in presidential elections.

This Council communicates the above requests in writing to An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD.

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson, John O'Dowd MLA, has said that the presence of a part-time direct rule health minister is failing nurses in the Six Counties. He made his comments following the release of a new survey published today by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) which revealed that almost half (47%) of nurses in the North reported that they have been harassed or assaulted by patients or their relatives in the last 12 months.

Over a quarter (27%) of the survey‚s respondents said they had been physically attacked at work and over two-thirds (68%) had suffered from verbal abuse. Nearly a quarter of those interviewed also felt that they had been bullied or harassed at work in the past twelve months.

The Upper Bann assembly member said, "The RCN figures are supported by two British government reports. One shows that in the period from 1 April 2004 to 31 March 2005, there were 1,032 officially recorded verbal attacks and 2,305 recorded physical attacks on nursing and midwifery staff. The second report, released yesterday (Monday 27th February), revealed that over 1200 staff employed as nurses, midwives and health visitors had left those professions in the past year."

O'Dowd added, "These figures also show that more than half of those who left were aged under 39, so we are talking about substantial numbers of relatively young staff, many of whom are women, leaving the nursing professions.

"These problems are clearly inter-related and need to be tackled urgently if we are going to stop more nurses leaving the profession.

"All right-thinking people would agree that the nursing professions are the front-line of the health service. Indeed the health service is dependent upon their dedication and expertise.

"However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the current part-time direct rule health minister is completely failing nurses. Shaun Woodward seems to be more interested and focussed on driving forward a pro-privatisation agenda for the health service than he is in properly rewarding those who work and provide patient care.

O'Dowd continued, "I have no doubt many people in the Six Counties will see through the hypocrisy of Woodward's own double standards. On one hand, people see Shaun Woodward, along with his colleague Gordon Brown, insisting that nurses should only receive a derisory 2 per cent pay increase this year. On the other hand, they can also see the same Shaun Woodward pocket over £15 million pounds from a single property deal in Oxfordshire in Britain." ENDS

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A Sinn Féín delegation met with Dublin Transport officials today to discuss the crucial area of infrastructure development required to meet the needs of the Western Seaboard or the Atlantic Corridor.

The delegation included Sinn Féin West Tyrone MLA , Barry McElduff, Foyle MLA, Raymond McCartney, Dublin South West TD Sean Crowe, incoming All Ireland Co-ordinator Sean Oliver, and County Councillors Pearse Doherty (Donegal) and Gerry Murray (Mayo).

Mr McElduff said:

"This meeting represents the unique All Ireland dimension which Sinn Féin brings in outlining our vision for transport and infrastructure development. Sinn Féin continue to demand that the Irish and British governments to live up to the policy commitments as contained in the Common Chapter with Transport being one of the nine areas identified within National Development Plan 2000 ˆ 2006.

"It is no longer viable to ignore peripheral regions such as the West and the North of island while the Belfast ˆ Dublin corridor enjoys unparalleled bias. The discussion with the Department of Transport All Ireland co-ordination unit, is part of the wider acceptance that the All Ireland approach is vital to balanced regional development and to halt the rot of regional disparity. It is accepted that the Border continues to isolate and exclude communities from accessing key services because of weak transport infrastructure. The Celtic Tiger has not seen a motorway, dual carriageway and rail networks that is it for purpose for the Western Seaboard.

"The situation facing socially and economically peripheral regions such as rural Donegal, West Tyrone, Fermanagh, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan demand action. Sinn Féín wants to see a modern integrated transport system that can meet the needs of these communities. If the island is to reap the full benefits of economic advances this must be coupled with a redistribution of key infrastructure assets to the North and West of Ireland.

"With Transport 21, the Strategic Investment Board Investment Strategy, the new Common Chapter 2007 ˆ 2013, and establishment of greater integration of regions at EU level, there is are clear frameworks to lead the way forward. What is required is the political will to deliver. We need to move beyond the cosmetic and friendly relations between Departments North and South if we are to experience real, meaningful and lasting progress in this area. Integrated systems at regional and sub regional levels needs to occur."

Regional Development spokesperson Raymond McCartney added:

"Sinn Féín remains committed to the establishment of Integrated Area Planning in the Border Corridor Area. Integrated in terms of:

Economic planning and investment;

Health service provision, tourism and education;

Telecommunications, broadband access and the eradication of inadvertent roaming mobile charges;

Urban and rural development;

Waste management and environmental protection;

Upgraded, accessible, multi modal and interconnected rail, air / seaport, road transport systems.

"We must look to integrate and innovate how we prioritise our collective needs, share resources and in how we govern such progress. The process of reintegration must be financed and underpinned by common understanding of the need for equality and inclusivity. Sinn Féin will continue to press for the rights and entitlements of all citizens living on the island of Ireland across every sector which affects marginalised regions."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP late this afternoon met Raymond McCord, the father of Raymond McCord jnr. who was killed by the UVF in November 1997.

Speaking after the meeting Mr. Adams said:

"There is an abundance of evidence to prove the existence of collusion between British state forces and unionist paramilitaries.

"We also know from other cases, including that of Pat Finucane, of the lengths to which the Special Branch and other British agencies will go to cover up their involvement in state sponsored murder.

"The McCord family want the truth. Like all families they have the right to the truth and Sinn Fein will do whatever we can to help them in this respect." ENDS

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Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has warned that "any proposals from the British government around suicide prevention need to meet the needs of those at risk and their families, while ensuring that sufficient funds are available to effectively resource any plan of action."

Mr. Adams was speaking today after a meeting with relatives bereaved through suicide and a number of support groups from west and north Belfast and County Down.

The meeting was held in advance of a planned announcement in March from the Health Minister Shaun Woodward who is expected to publish for consultation a draft strategy on suicide prevention and announce an allocation of funds to implement it. The announcement will be based on a report by the Suicide Prevention Taskforce which was established last year.

Speaking after the meeting Mr. Adams said:

"'The families bereaved through suicide, community support groups and Sinn Féin will scrutinise very carefully any proposals brought forward by the Minister. The key to a successful strategy, and to tackling this increasingly serious problem, will be the proposals contained in the Minister's announcement, the government's preparedness to implement and resource them, and a commitment to an all-Ireland approach to this issue.

Today's meeting agreed that the families and support groups, as well as Sinn Féin, will judge any recommendations against the campaign demands of those working on this issue.

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Sinn Féin Human Rights and Equality Spokesperson, South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane speaking after a meeting with British direct Rule Minster David Hanson has said that the two governments must press ahead with the setting up of the Roundtable Forum on the Bill of Rights.

Speaking after meeting Mr Hanson in Belfast today, Ms Ruane said:

"The British government is in no doubt about the need to press ahead with the setting up of the Roundtable Forum on the Bill of Rights.

"Sinn Féin lobbied the two governments for the Roundtable Forum in our negotiations leading up to the Joint Declaration and succeeded in getting both governments to commit to it. They need to fulfil their long-overdue commitment on this and demonstrate immediate movement on the Roundtable Forum now.

"The Bill of Rights has been stalled for almost 7 years. It is unacceptable that the British government, in particular, have been allowing unionists a veto progress. Rights are non negotiable and the failure to progress the Bill of Rights is detrimental to people across all communities. Sinn Fein firmly believe that the Roundtable will allow politicians and people across all communities to fully understand and appreciate the importance of a strong Bill of Rights." ENDS

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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has said that the revelation that the last appointments to the Parades Commission were confirmed without references being checked throws into chaos the appointments process.

Mr Kelly said:

"This is not the first time that the appointments process being used by direct rule ministers has been exposed. Clearly these appointments in relation to the Parades Commission were not carried out in accordance with normal standard procedures. Sinn Féin have raised these concerns, and concerns about the appointment of the Victim‚s commissioner directly with Peter Hain.

"Sinn Féin share the serious concerns which exist throughout nationalist and republican communities across the North with regard to the make-up of the new Commission.

Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd added:

"I am also aware that other equally controversial evidence regarding procedures may also emerge in court during a legal case being initiated by one of my constituents from the Garvaghy Road in Portadown.

"This revelation does not help the Commission. It also should not be overlooked that the people who oversaw this appointments process - The Security Operations and Policy Department of the NIO - are the same people who were responsible for the infamous and brutal 'game plan' strategy used against the Garvaghy Road community in 1997." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Newry Armagh MP Conor Murphy has said that John Alderdice and the other 3 members of the IMC should resign and the Commission should be scrapped.

Mr Murphy said:

"The IMC was established outside and in breach of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. It is a tool for the securocrats and the opponents of change. It is not and never has been independent. It is politically biased, has a clear anti Sinn Féin agenda, and its procedures are flawed.

"Sinn Féin has met with the IMC on a number of occasions and challenged each of the members of the Commissioners on their political bias, their lack of independence and their failure to employ any of the normal standards of proof required of other tribunals or similar bodies.

"When we met with the IMC, John Alderdice concealed the fact that he remained a member of the Alliance Party. His resignation from the Alliance Party at the end of last week does not mean that he will suddenly cease to be a political opponent of Sinn Féin.

"Sinn Féin has told both governments that the IMC is a problem which they created and it is one which they must resolve.

"John Alderdice and the other three members of the IMC should resign immediately and the IMC should be scrapped." ENDS

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Gerry Adams has asked Peter Hain to support efforts to rescue TriVirix International which went into administration on the 21st February.

TriVirix is a high tech manufacturer of electronic equipment for the medical industry. It is based at the Springvale site in west Belfast.

Mr. Adams met with Peter Hain on Saturday morning.

Both he and west Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson met with Billy Hayes the General Secretary of the CWU union which represents most of those employed at TriVirix, along with several workers employed on the site.

Mr Adams said:

"The medical industry is a growth industry and TriVirix is a cutting edge manufacturer with significant potential. Everything should be done to prevent this company from collapsing. Invest NI should urgently step in to protect the public investment and jobs at TriVirix and ensure that the company can be sold as a going concern.

"There is 13 % unemployment in west Belfast. For the rest of the city the figure is 4.8%. It is obvious that Belfast but particular the constituency of west Belfast cannot afford to lose the jobs at TriVirix. Peter Hain should intervene. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Review of Public Administration, South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has said that a strong legal framework on equality, power-sharing and democratic accountability for the structures that arise from the Review of Public Administration will be at the top of the agenda when a Sinn Féin delegation meet with British direct rule Minster Jeff Rooker tomorrow, Monday 27th February, at 3pm at Stormont for an update on progress across a broad range of issues.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Mr Maskey said:

"Sinn Féin have welcomed many of the aspects of the Review of Public Administration, particularly the 7 council model, but only on the basis that there is a strong legal framework to ensure equality, power-sharing and accountability.

"It is essential that all of the structures that are put in place as a result of the review are both efficient and effective and deliver services that represent not just value for money but are also built upon a legally enforceable framework of equality.

"It is important that the system of checks and balances that Sinn Fein argued for deliver genuine power-sharing and protect the rights of all equally across all local government structures.

"In particular we look forward to getting an update on the issue of quangoes. Along with a legal framework on equality and power sharing the issue of quangoes is at the top of our agenda. There continue to be concerns about the failure to address the problem of quangoes and the democratic deficit that has been created by the over dependence of this form of governance." ENDS

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Speaking in South Armagh, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caolain said the British must end their military campaign in Ireland and close all their bases and spyposts. Following the discovery earlier in the week of a document exposing the extent of British Army spying on the local community, Ó Caoláin called on the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern to press the British to end this violation of civil rights.

The Sinn Féin Dáil leader was speaking at the annual commemoration for Volunteers Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley in South Armagh on Sunday 26 February. During the course of his oration he stated:

"The IRA has formally ended its armed campaign, a brave decision, a very difficult decision for many Republicans. But the British Army, MI5 and the RUC Special Branch within the PSNI have yet to end their military campaign. The Taoiseach and the Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern should place further pressure on the British government to bring about the complete demilitarization of this area and of the entire Six Counties."

Referring to current talks, he said:

"In the months to come we will engage again with the two governments and the other political parties to attempt to restore the Good Friday Agreement. That is the only purpose of the talks. Nothing less will be acceptable.

"Will the two Governments allow the DUP a veto on the process? This we will oppose and we will demand that the two Governments move forward and implement the Agreement. There can be no going back.

"Whatever the outcome of the current talks, such as they are, the equality agenda must move forward. Demilitarisation must proceed. There must be a new beginning to policing. People in these Six Counties have a right to representation in the Oireachtas. On all these issues and more Sinn Féin will mobilize and campaign and we will never rest until each and every one of them is won." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking has described the actions of those responsible for rioting in Dublin city centre this afternoon as 'entirely wrong and reprehensible'.

Mr. Adams said:

"There is no justification for what happened this afternoon in Dublin. Sinn Féin had appealed to people to ignore this loyalist parade and not to be provoked by it. Our view was that it should not be opposed in any way and we made that clear.

"Regrettably a small, unrepresentative group, chose to ignore our appeal. Their actions were entirely wrong and reprehensible."ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Sean Crowe has said there was absolutely no justification for the disgraceful scenes, which occurred in Dublin city centre this afternoon. He called on those involved to end their confrontation with Gardaí immediately.

Deputy Crowe said:

"Willie Frazier and the Love Ulster campaign came to Dublin today to be provocative and get a reaction. Sinn Féin urged people not to be provoked and to stay away and the vast majority of Dubliners, including members and supporters of Sinn Féin, did just that.

"It is disappointing that a small number of individuals did exactly what Willie Frazier wanted. There is absolutely no justification for the disgraceful scenes, which occurred in the city centre this afternoon. I would call on those involved to end their confrontation with Gardaí immediately."ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South Central, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, welcomed the news that trade unionist Joanne Delaney is to be reinstated to her job at Dunnes Stores. Joanne Delaney, a shop steward with the union Mandate, had been sacked from her position at Dunnes Stores in the Ashleaf centre in Crumlin for wearing a union badge on her store uniform

Deputy Ó Snodaigh, who is a TD for the Crumlin area, said:

"Joanne's reinstatement is to be welcomed and is long overdue. She should not have been sacked in the first place. It is a tribute to Joanne and to all those who supported her campaign that Dunnes Stores has backed down.

"The management of Dunnes Stores clearly underestimated the strength of public opinion on this issue. Public disquiet with the anti-union stance of Dunnes and people's support for Joanne Delaney played a pivotal role in bringing this dispute to a successful conclusion. I hope other unscrupulous employers will recognise that the undermining of workers' rights will not go unchallenged." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has called on Dublin people to ignore what will clearly be a provocative and sectarian march on the streets of our capital City tomorrow.  Deputy Crowe was speaking today in relation to the controversial  ‘LoveUlster Rally’, which takes place on the streets of Dublin tomorrow afternoon.

He said, “I would urge all Dublin people to ignore what will clearly be a provocative and sectarian march on the streets of our capital tomorrow afternoon. This march has nothing to do with supporting victims of the conflict and everything to do with promoting sectarianism. Willie Frazier is bringing his group here to stir up a negative reaction and I would hope that the people of Dublin will send him home disappointed. 

“It is very disturbing that among the images which are due to be on display tomorrow will be photographs remembering those responsible for the biggest mass killing of civilians on this island over the last 30 years – the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Something which will cause offence not only to the families of those killed and injured but people across this city.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin councillor Larry O'Toole has called on people to support demonstrations and pickets taking place right across the country in support of sacked Mandate Shop Steward Joanne Delaney. Sinn Féin activists are responding to a call for a National Day of Action made by Dublin South East councillor Daithí Doolan at last week's Ard Fhéis.

Cllr O'Toole said:

"Currently we have protests planned in Belfast, Drogheda, Dundalk, Castlebar, Ballina, Kilkenny, Kerry and of course here in Dublin, demonstrating the All-Ireland nature of Sinn Féin and the effort the organisation is putting into standing up for this woman, sacked by an exploitative employer for standing by her union. More protests are being planned in other parts of the country and we are confirming mobilisations for future dates as well."

Dublin Protests listed below. Call Justin Moran on 086 3667694 for more details on Dublin protests.

Northside Shopping Centre

12.30pm

North Earl Street, City Centre

12.30pm

George's Street, City Centre

Time tbc

Cardiff Bridge Road, Finglas

12pm to 2pm

Ashleaf (Non party political), Crumlin

12pm

Crumlin Shopping Centre

12pm

Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire

2pm

Northumberland Avenue, Dun Laoghaire

2pm

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Commenting on the case of three Co Antrim Loyalists who were today jailed for pointing a rifle at motorists, and who had previously escaped sentencing, Sinn Féin MLA for North Antrim Phillip McGuigan has today said:

"The initial decision will no doubt reinforce the notion amongst many people that there is an inherent tolerance of violent loyalism and ambivalence towards their actions. It is only a few short months since the nationalist community of North Antrim came under an orchestrated and sustained attack from loyalist thugs in the area." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today praised community groups from across Belfast for delivering 'exemplary peace and reconcilation work.'

Ms de Brún made her comments as she hosted a PEACE III seminar for community organisations at the Wellington Park Hotel in South Belfast. The event was chaired by South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey and was addressed by Seamus McAleavey, Chief Executive of NICVA.

In recent months the EU has pledged €200 million in funding for the next seven years to the six counties and border regions, subject to overall agreement on the EU budget. This is apart from whatever extra the two governments provide for this vital work.

Speaking after the event Ms de Brún said:

"Today's discussion proved that those engaged in peace and reconcilation work to date at grassroots level are both willing and able to play a leading role in planning the next round of funding. The event provided an opportunity for community groups and activists from across Belfast to inform us of their hopes for the roll-out of a PEACE III programme between 2007-2013. I was particularly pleased to see the turnout from across the community and from both nationalist and unionist areas of the city.

"Sinn Féin has long called for maximum engagement between those who plan and administer such funding and those groups who will be in receipt. Previous funding has not fully taken into account the concerns raised by the community sector. There must also be recognition of the importance of social inclusion and the role of women in reconciliation. The practical planning for PEACE III must not take place behind closed doors. Indeed, an inclusive approach to the roll-out of PEACE III could be a beacon for the type of inclusion needed in preparing for change more generally and in planning for the future."

Alex Maskey MLA added:

"I want to take this opportunity to praise the valuable work undertaken by local communities throughout Belfast - on education projects, after schools clubs, crèches and cross community work. My hope is that through this next round of PEACE funding they can continue to deliver first class peace and reconcilliation services in their local areas.

"Sinn Féin is only too willing to assist these groups in whatever way possible." ENDS

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Dún Laoghaire Sinn Féin representative Michael Nolan has welcomed the release the three bricklayers jailed earlier this month for contempt of court after they refused to give a commitment not to picket building sites operated by Collen Construction.

Mr. Nolan said, “The jailing of these three men was unjustifiably harsh action and I welcome the fact that they have been released and can now go home to their families who have also been victims of this debacle. These men must not be further victimised because of the pro-union stance they took in relation to this protest.

“This case, along with others including the GAMA workers and the Irish Ferries scandal, has highlighted the need for this Government to adopt a new approach to how they deal with the issue of workers rights.

“This week Sinn Féin put a motion forward in the Dáil highlighting the conflict of interest that exists within the current Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and calling for the establishment of a stand alone Department of Labour Affairs. This case is one of the many cases that highlights the need for such a department.” ENDS

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