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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said that PSNI Special Branch
operation alleging a spy ring in Stormont exposed as a sham in a Belfast
court this morning damaged the lives of ordinary people through the collapse
of the political institutions.

Mr McGuinness said:

" There never was a Sinn Féin spy ring operating from Stormont. This was a
carefully constructed lie created by the Special Branch in order to cause
maximum political impact. Its effect politically has been to collapse the
institutions and personally it has damaged the lives of the four people
originally charged and their families. This operation is as blatant an
example of political policing as you are likely to find.

" Sinn Féin said very clearly at the time that eventually this case would
fall apart. There was no evidence to sustain it. However that was not the
motivation of those responsible for carrying out this operation. Their
motivation was to collapse the political institutions and stall further
progress on policing change including of course the transfer of power to
locally elected and accountable politicians.

" The effect of this operation was to stop the work of the Executive in its
tracks. At the time as Minister of Education I was involved in important
work including the autism centre planned for Middletown and the review of
post primary education.

" At a policing level very serious questions now need to be addressed by the
British government and the PSNI. At a political level those who eagerly used
this operation to walk away from the political institutions need to reflect
long and hard on their position." ENDS



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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP said that the not guilty verdicts in the case against three people charged in relation to what was dubbed 'Stormontgate' prove conclusively what Sinn Féin have been saying all along
about the case.

Mr Adams said:

"This operation was a blatant example of political policing aimed at collapsing the political institutions.

"Faceless securocrats subverted the democratic wishes of the electorate north and south who voted for the Good Friday Agreement.

"The collapse of this case should now focus attention onto the Special Branch and those responsible for planning, carrying out and authorising this entire operation.

"Their activities have continued unabated since then to the detriment of the conflict resolution process, including of course the arrest last week of respect Sinn Fein Assembly member Francie Brolly in a Special Branch smear
operation." ENDS



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Tá Cathaoirleach Náisiúnta de chuid Shinn Féin Féin agus BPE do Bhaile
Átha Cliath, Mary Lou McDonald, i ndiaidh a cheistiú an bhfuil an rialtas
iomlán réidh do thús stádas oibre na Ghaeilge mar theanga oibre in Aontas
na hEorpa i mí Eanáir 2007.

Labhair Iníon McDonald amach tar éis cruinniú i bParlaimint na hEorpa idir
feisirí na hÉireann agus feidhmeannigh de chuid na hEorpa.  Nochtadh ag an
chruinniú go bhfuil na feidhmeannaigh ag moladh go gcuirfear siar cur i
bhfeidhm iomlán mar nach bhfuil aistritheoirí go leor ann.

Ag caint inniu, dúirt Iníon McDonald:

"Ba é aidhm an chruinnithe ná a fhiosrú faoi na céimeanna praicticiúla atá
le glacadh sula mbeidh an Ghaeilge mar theanga oibre iomlán de chuid an
Aontais Eorpaigh. Baineadh siar dom nuair a d'fhoghlaim mé go bhfuil
feidhmeannaigh de chuid na hEorpa ag moladh go gcuirfear an cur i bhfeidhm
siar de bharr easpa aistritheoirí.

"Chuir na feidhmeannaigh in iúl duinn go bhfuil an fhreagracht ar rialtas
na hÉireann cinnte a dhéanamh go bhfuil daoine go leor oilte mar
aistritheoirí don Ghaeilge i bParlaimint na hEorpa.

"Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar rialtas na hÉireann: an bhfuil muinín go
leor acu go mbeidh aistritheoirí ar fáil le cinnte a dhéanamh go dtarlóidh
cur i bnhfeidhm iomlán stádas oibre ar 1 Eanáir 2007.


"Caithfidh an rialtas a rá anois, go poiblí, an bhfuil siad ábalta an
dushlán a thabhairt agus traenáil aistritheoirí go leor a éascú in am don
dáta sin i gceann bliana.

"Beidh mé ag tógail na ceiste seo leis an rialtas amach anseo.

"Le triocha bliain anuas tá Gaeilgeoirí i mbun feachtais ar an ábhar seo
le go n-iarrfadh an rialtas stádas iomlán don Ghaeilge. Bheadh sé
doghlactha go mbeadh a thuilleadh moill ann anois mar gheall ar theip an
rialtais a ullmhú do thús na Gaeilge mar theanga oibre in 2007." CRíCH


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Ógra Shinn Féin activists have occupied part of the IBEC offices on Baggot St. in solidarity with Irish Ferries workers still in control of vessels docked at Holyhead. Brian Keane of Ógra Shinn Féin called on young people to take to the streets tomorrow.

Mr Keane said: "We are doing this to show solidarity with Irish Ferries workers ahead of the march tomorrow but we are also doing it to focus on the dangers for young working class people that exist in the race to the bottom and the displacement of Irish jobs.

"We are calling for young people to get out of their workplaces, schools and colleges tomorrow and take to the streets in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Athlone, Waterford, Rosslare and Tralee to fight for their future and for their jobs. It was the young people of Ireland who led the campaign against the war on Iraq and it is they who must seize the day to take a stand against the exploitation of Irish and foreign workers and demand equal treatment for all workers.

"Ógra Shinn Féin will be taking part in the march on Friday alongside our comrades in Sinn Féin and the labour movement and we call on all young people to stand up for yourselves and your class." CRÍOCH

 

 

 

 

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Sinn Féin Social Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has expressed his disappointment at the failure of the Finance Minister Brian Cowen to at least double the Fuel Allowance in today’s budget as he had previously called for.

Deputy Crowe said, “The €5 increase in the Fuel Allowance announced by the Finance Minister Brian Cowen today will not be enough to adequately deal with the problem of fuel poverty. It is extremely disappointing that the Minister did not recognise the need to at least double the allowance as I and anti-poverty groups had called for.

“Some 1,500 to 2,000 people die in winter months due to poor housing and cold weather. The Minister has not gone far enough to deal with this particular problem even though he had the resources to do so. His failure to recognise this basic need is a sign of how far removed the Minister is from the reality families suffering fuel poverty.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Arthur Morgan T.D this evening slated the Government for failing to deliver on social housing in today’s budget.

Deputy Morgan said, “The 48,000 families currently on social housing waiting lists will be dumbfounded by the fact that the Government has failed to make provision for their urgent needs in the budget.  This budget amounts to a slap in the face for families waiting for social housing.  Expenditure on local authority and social housing programmes will increase by a mere 5%. This figure does not even keep pace with the annual increase in the costs of building houses or purchasing land. 

“What hope can people waiting on social housing have for the future?  For 12 months Sinn Féin has been asking the Minister for Environment and Local Government if the Government will accept the NESC recommendation for an increase of 73,000 permanent social housing units between 2005 and 2012.  Yet there is no target for the elimination of housing waiting lists nor is there any commitment to deliver the number of social housing units which are needed.  Housing is a basic human requirement and it is hard to comprehend how this Government can so blatantly ignore the plight of so many people who are in desperate need of housing.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin spokesperson for International Affairs and Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD raised the issue of the complete absence of criteria to ensure safeguards against Irish complicity in human rights abuses and breaches of Irish neutrality covering the applications from foreign soldiers for training in the Curragh.

The Minister of State Tom Kitt, who was substituting for no-show Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, acknowledged that all applications for training from foreign militaries that have been received have been accepted.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Responses to quite valid parliamentary questions from myself show that the countries of origin of these soldiers include Israel, Russia and many NATO countries.

"In the case of both Israel and Russia UN resolutions have been either completely ignored or only partially complied with by these states and their military forces. Arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions remain the hallmark of the conflict in Chechnya and Russian federal forces were responsible for about 450 abductions last year. It would appear that there are no safeguards in place to ensure against either complicity in human rights abuses or against breaches of Irish neutrality.

"Any part that is being played in these atrocities by this state is too big a part and instead of lending these countries legitimacy or meeting their needs, we should instead be boycotting the militaries in particular of these countries and especially until the Israeli abuses of the Palestinian people cease.

"Will the Minister of State offer a guarantee to the effect that no country whose military are involved in breaching international law will receive training in the Curragh camp or anywhere else in this jurisdiction in the future?"

Minister Kitt promised to urge Willie O'Dea to take on board the human rights concerns raised by Sinn Féin. Speaking afterwards Deputy Ó Snodaigh welcomed this commitment. ENDS

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Speaking on the Budget in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said, "With this Budget Fianna Fáil is attempting to erase the memory of all those budgets from Champagne Charlie McCreevy who rewarded the very wealthy and allowed the gap between rich and poor in Irish society to widen.

"The Government is now attempting to be seen to address inequality. If that effort results in some positive and long overdue measures then that is welcome. All credit to those who have campaigned long and hard for social justice and economic equality. We in Sinn Féin count ourselves among that number.

"For Sinn Féin the real test is not rhetoric but the putting into effect of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It means "cherishing all the children of the nation equally" in practice.

"But over almost a decade in office the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition has failed that test.

"Despite the unprecedented prosperity in the Irish economy, it is one of the most inequitable in the developed world.

"This level of poverty is inexcusable given the affluent Irish economy of the 21st century. Record budget surpluses have been achieved year after year, yet the opportunity to move towards an Ireland of Equals has been squandered. Very belatedly some positive measures are being undertaken in this Budget but this should have begun in 1997 when this Coalition took office.

"There is sufficient wealth in our society to ensure that, at the very least, no child should want for any of the basics of life and all should be able to look forward to a full and rewarding future. The lack of vision, the incompetence and the conservatism of successive governments in this State have robbed generations of children of their birthright.

"Reversing all of this will mean a change in policy, a shift in emphasis towards social need and equality. As we in Sinn Féin have repeatedly pointed out, such a change will include moving away from this outdated model of annual budgeting and the 'Budget Day' ritual and towards multi-annual budgeting based on medium to long-term planning.

On Childcare Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Early Childhood Supplement of €1000 per child per year is a disappointment. It will do little for those who cannot afford the very high cost of childcare places for their children. Similarly the increase in Child Benefit should have been greater.

"Maternity Leave increases are welcome but it is a disgrace that nothing has been done on paternity leave.

"The Minister has announced a National Childcare Investment Programme up to 2010, promising 65,000 additional places. We must await the detail of this plan but, as I have stated, the Government has an awful lot of catching up to do. I hope that this plan will not go the way of the National Health Strategy which was unveiled in 2001 in the run-up to the 2002 General Election. That strategy is now in tatters like the promise of a world-class health service that accompanied it."

On Health the Cavan/Monaghan TD said:

"If there is one fatal flaw in this Government's political strategy it is located in the biggest spending Government department and it is in the hands of the Progressive Democrats -- Health.

"There is total incoherence on the part of this Government on this key area of social provision. Minister Cowen carried that contradiction into the Budget when he extended the tax breaks for the developers of private hospitals. The tax foregone in this way should instead be spent on the provision of the primary care centres were promised but which were shelved by the Tánaiste last year. But there is nothing in this Budget to provide for those essential primary care centres which must be part of the solution to the crisis in our Accident and Emergency departments.

"There is nothing in this Budget to provide for the 3,000 additional acute hospital beds that are needed to address the crisis in our health system. "The Government could and should have extended the medical card to all those under 18. This would have cost €223 million -- a very affordable sum in the context of this Budget, but one which would have been of very real benefit to many families with children. I deplore the failure of the Government once again to introduce this measure.

"There is nothing in this Budget for the 325 people who today are languishing in our Accident and Emergency units on trolleys and chairs. And A&E is only the tip of the iceberg in the health service crisis."

On Tax he said:

"I welcome the removal of a range of property-based tax reliefs. But the Government deserves no credit for this. We didn't know what most of those reliefs cost. We do know that speculators made a massive amount of money out of them. This Government and the speculators who benefited from their tax breaks are like fraudsters who know the game is up and who now have to move on to another scam. And that scam is assuredly the tax breaks for the private health industry."

On Housing he said:

"The Minister spoke of a significant package of social and affordable housing. But we heard nothing to provide for the 73,000 new social housing units required by 2012 and as recommended by the National Economic and Social Council. For a decade this Government has totally abandoned housing policy to the market and the losers have been those people in the 48,000 households on the local authority waiting lists."

On Disability he said:

Like Health, this Budget has been a major disappointment for peope, with disabilities. For years we have sought a Cost of Disability Payment which recognises the additional costs and burdens borne by people with disabilities. I deplore the Government's failure once again to deliver it.

On Transport Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Minister used the Budget to re-announce the Transport 21 package which was itself a recycled package. But like so much else in this Government's record that package does not measure up to scrutiny. Public transport provision is still totally inadequate and is virtually non-existent in many part of the country such as the Border region."

Concluding he said:

"This is undoubtedly a pre-election budget. The Minister has his plans set out to win the General Election for Fianna Fáil in 2007 or perhaps next year. He and the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and their colleagues are hoping that the people have very short memories, that they will forget the waste and the inequality of the McCreevy years, the waste and the inequality that they are desperately trying to cover up now. But people are not so foolish. After nearly a decade of rule by this Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government the people know that this Coalition has squandered theopportunities of the economic boom."ENDS

Full text of speech by Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD

Like the student who wasted his college years this Government is now trying to cram in the run-up to the big final exam -- the next General Election. With this Budget Fianna Fáil is attempting to erase the memory of all those budgets from Champagne Charlie McCreevy who rewarded the very wealthy and allowed the gap between rich and poor in Irish society to widen.

This year was the 20th birthday of the Progressive Democrats, a party that has had an influence on economic policy in this State way beyond its electoral strength. It seems that Minister Cowen's predecessor Charlie McCreevy was even more influential in the genesis of that party than we previously thought. And he certainly formed a powerful axis with them when he was in Government. But after the Taoiseach discovered he was a socialist last year, Minister McCreevy's days in Finance were numbered and today he languishes in Brussels, albeit on a very hefty salary.

The Government is now attempting to be seen to address inequality. If that effort results in some positive and long overdue measures then that is welcome. All credit to those who have campaigned long and hard for social justice and economic equality. We in Sinn Féin count ourselves among that number.

The attempt by the Government to catch up, to make up for lost time and for wasted money is due in no small measure to the growing political strength of Sinn Féin. In the wake of Sinn Féin electoral advances in the 2004 local government and EU Parliament elections, the Taoiseach discovered he was a socialist.

In 2005 Fianna Fáil has rediscovered that its sub-title is 'the Republican Party'. Even the Progressive Democrats now want to be called republicans. And the State commemoration of the 1916 Rising is to be revived.

In the closing months of the current Dáil, as a General Election approaches either in 2006 or early 2007, we believe this pattern will continue. This Budget is part of the picture.

For Sinn Féin the real test is not rhetoric but the putting into effect of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It means "cherishing all the children of the nation equally" in practice.

But over almost a decade in office the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition has failed that test.

Published in 2005, the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions shows that one in seven children in the 26 Counties - almost 150,000 - are living in consistent poverty. They suffer economic hardship on a weekly basis that excludes them from the quality of life and the opportunities for their future enjoyed by a majority of children.

A further significant minority of 242,000 children - some 23.9% of young people in the State - are at risk of poverty. They live in households which have less than 60% of the State-wide median income.

The National Anti-Poverty Strategy set the year 2007 as the target date for consistent child poverty to be reduced to below 2% and eliminated altogether if possible. Clearly, with some 14% of children in consistent poverty, the target is far from being reached in 2007. The truth is that this target should have been reached ahead of time in an economy which has seen growth almost unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

Despite the unprecedented prosperity in the Irish economy, it is one of the most inequitable in the developed world. In the United Nations Human Development Index for 2005 this State comes third last in a league of 18 OECD countries in terms of poverty. Only the United States and Italy, among the developed countries, have worse levels of poverty and inequality. It should be noted that the so-called 'United Kingdom' is fourth from the bottom in this league and that included in its figures are the Six Counties where child poverty levels are worse than in the 26 Counties, adding to the total of avoidable hardship for children in Ireland.

This level of poverty is inexcusable given the affluent Irish economy of the 21st century. Record budget surpluses have been achieved year after year, yet the opportunity to move towards an Ireland of Equals has been squandered. Very belatedly some positive measures are being undertaken in this Budget but this should have begun in 1997 when this Coalition took office.

There is sufficient wealth in our society to ensure that, at the very least, no child should want for any of the basics of life and all should be able to look forward to a full and rewarding future. The lack of vision, the incompetence and the conservatism of successive governments in this State have robbed generations of children of their birthright.

Reversing all of this will mean a change in policy, a shift in emphasis towards social need and equality. As we in Sinn Féin have repeatedly pointed out, such a change will include moving away from this outdated model of annual budgeting and the 'Budget Day' ritual and towards multi-annual budgeting based on medium to long-term planning. It will require participatory democracy with the people and the Oireachtas having a real say in policy and in spending plans, Department by Department,Minister by Minister.

Childcare

In November 2004 Sinn Féin in the Dáil tabled a motion calling for the development of a comprehensive and accessible childcare infrastructure and a wide range of measures to assist parents, whether caring for children full-time in the home or working outside the home and using childcare services. 50 TDs supported the motion in the Dáil division.

Prior to Budget 2005 Sinn Féin published our proposals as our Budget Priorities document Putting Children First. In doing so we consulted widely within the childcare sector. Our Budget 2006 Priorities updated and reiterated those proposals.

The Dáil debate on the Sinn Féin motion heard Government commitments to develop childcare in the State but the subsequent Budget 2005 was a major disappointment and further fuelled the national debate and the demand for action. It was widely recognized that the biggest omission from Minister Cowen's first Budget was Early Childhood Care and Education.

Budget 2005 was followed by a national debate on the need for this society to care better for our children. The debate recognized the intense pressure placed on parents and children and family life in an economy with high demand for labour from employers. But the nature of work itself has also been addressed in the debate and the demand has been raised, as never before, that the work of people caring for children in the home must be fully recognized and supported. The same applies to other carers in the home also.

The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) published a landmark report on Early Childhood Care and Education in September 2005. In 2000 the National Childcare Strategy had stated that childcare provision was "uncoordinated, variable in quality and in short supply". That this is still the case in 2005 was confirmed by the NESF report which pointed to "the very inadequate implementation of policy on childcare in Ireland and the markedly insufficient financial investment in the education and care ofour younger citizens".

The NESF Report set the benchmark which this Government must reach. The measures announced by the Minister fall short of that benchmark. These measures represent some progress but cannot make up for almost a decade of neglect in the whole area of Early Childhood Care and Education by this Government.

The Early Childhood Supplement of €1000 per child per year is a disappointment. It will do little for those who cannot afford the very high cost of childcare places for their children. Similarly the increase in Child Benefit should have been greater. There was no movement on Child Dependant Allowance which has been frozen for years and could and should have been increased.

Maternity Leave increases are welcome but it is a disgrace that nothing has been done on paternity leave.

The Minister has announced a National Childcare Investment Programme up to 2010, promising 65,000 additional places. We must await the detail of this plan but, as I have stated, the Government has an awful lot of catching up to do. I hope that this plan will not go the way of the National Health Strategy which was unveiled in 2001 in the run-up to the 2002 General Election. That strategy is now in tatters like the promise of a world-class health service that accompanied it.

Health

If there is one fatal flaw in this Government's political strategy it is located in the biggest spending Government department and it is in the hands of the Progressive Democrats -- Health. The Government may hope that the measures announced today will take the heat out of childcare as an election issue. They won't. Not enough has been done. But even more significantly the fundamentally flawed approach to our health services by this Government will come back to haunt it as surely as that approach has caused misery to so many people and prevented the development of what should be the best health service in Europe. Look at the contradictions at the heart of this Government. Before the last General Election Fianna Fáil said they wanted to 'the end of the two-tier health system'. The Tánaiste denies there is a two-tier system. She goes further. Exactly a year ago she stated: 'I believe in a minimalist role for the State in all our lives, including health care."

In June this year, she stated:

"The fact that more and more people are getting private health care is a good thing. It's a sign of increasing disposable income."

There is total incoherence on the part of this Government on this key area of social provision. Minister Cowen carried that contradiction into the Budget when he extended the tax breaks for the developers of private hospitals. The tax foregone in this way should instead be spent on the provision of the primary care centres were promised but which were shelved by the Tánaiste last year. But there is nothing in this Budget to provide for those essential primary care centres which must be part of the solution to the crisis in our Accident and Emergency departments. Those centres are also essential for general public health as primary care is the most effective level of healthcare.

But instead the Tánaiste prefers to provide tax breaks for the private health system and to open private clinics like that in Sandyford which will be unaffordable and inaccessible to people with medical cards and others on low incomes.

There is nothing in this Budget to provide for the 3,000 additional acute hospital beds that are needed to address the crisis in our health system. The Government could and should have extended the medical card to all those under 18. This would have cost €223 million -- a very affordable sum in the context of this Budget, but one which would have been of very real benefit to many families with children. I deplore the failure of the Government once again to introduce this measure.

There is nothing in this Budget for the 325 people who today are languishing in our Accident and Emergency units on trolleys and chairs. And A&E is only the tip of the iceberg in the health service crisis.

Health is the big omission from this Budget. It will reinforce the two-tier system. It will not provide the extra nurses and doctors and hospital beds needed.

Tax

I welcome the removal of a range of property-based tax reliefs. But the Government deserves no credit for this. We didn't know what most of those reliefs cost. We do know that speculators made a massive amount of money out of them. This Government and the speculators who benefited from their tax breaks are like fraudsters who know the game is up and who now have to move on to another scam. And that scam is assuredly the tax breaks for the private health industry. That industry is being driven not by the health needs of the people but by the profit motive of speculators and shareholders The Minister promised to keep those on the minimum wage out of the tax net and to keep those on the average industrial wage out of the higher tax band. He promised that in Budget 2005 but in the past year many in those categories were allowed to slip back into the tax net or into the higher tax band. He must guarantee that that will not happen again in 2006.

Housing

The Minister spoke of a significant package of social and affordable housing. But we heard nothing to provide for the 73,000 new social housing units required by 2012 and as recommended by the National Economic and Social Council. For a decade this Government has totally abandoned housing policy to the market and the losers have been those people in the 48,000 households on the local authority waiting lists. This Budget also fails to address the spiralling cost of house prices which place homes beyond the reach of people even on incomes above the average industrial wage.

Disability

Like Health, this Budget has been a major disappointment for peope, with disabilities. For years we have sought a Cost of Disability Payment which recognises the additional costs and burdens borne by people with disabilities. The rate of unemployment among disabled people is disgracefully high. And many of these are people who are kept out of employment not by their disability itself but by the fact that they lose many State benefits when they go to work. That's why a Cost of Disability Payment is essential and I deplore the Government's failure once again to deliver it.

Transport

The Minister used the Budget to re-announce the Transport 21 package which was itself a recycled package. But like so much else in this Government's record that package does not measure up to scrutiny. Public transport provision is still totally inadequate and is virtually non-existent in many part of the country such as the Border region.

Conclusion

This is undoubtedly a pre-election budget. The Minister has his plans set out to win the General Election for Fianna Fáil in 2007 or perhaps next year. He and the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and their colleagues are hoping that the people have very short memories, that they will forget the waste and the inequality of the McCreevy years, the waste and the inequality that they are desperately trying to cover up now. But people are not so foolish. After nearly a decade of rule by this Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government the people know that this Coalition has squandered the opportunities of the economic boom. They have squandered the chances to build real equality and to develop our public services to the best European standard and beyond. We have every right to expect the best but this Government has disappointed us again and again. Nowhere is that more stark than in our health services for which this Government has nothing to offer in this Budget.

I predict that that Health will be the rock on which this Government and the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition will founder.

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Brussels this afternoon said "A spotlight must be shone on Britain's role in Ireland, and the EU member states, Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers need to be questioning the British Government on its involvement in the murder of Irish citizens, particularly whilst it currently holds the Presidency of the European Union."

Today Sinn Féin hosted a delegation of campaigners to the European Parliament whose loved ones were murdered as a result of British state violence and collusion with unionist paramilitaries.

Speaking after hosting a press conference for the families Ms McDonald said that the families were well received at the Parliament and met with a number of MEPs representing six of the seven European groupings.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Today's visit to the European Parliament by the relatives of those murdered as a result of the British state violence and collusion was very significant.

"This is their second visit to the Parliament in the space of one year and is a clear indication of their determination to break down the wall of silence with regard to British government involvement in the murder of Irish citizens.

"The families met with representatives of six of the seven European groupings in the EU Parliament and expressed their hope for support from Europe. The fact that a diverse range of groups met with the families is a testament to the families' persistence and determination to find the truth of what happened to their loved ones.

"Europe has a part to play in assisting the families in their quest for justice. For years the British Government denied the very existence of the policy of collusion against Irish people. There is now a particular onus on the British Government to state the truth.

"In the coming weeks Sinn Féin will continue to work with the families to try and secure a cross party fact finding delegation from the European Parliament.

"A spotlight must be shone on Britain's role in Ireland, and the EU member states, Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers need to be questioning the British Government on its involvement in the murder of Irish citizens, particularly whilst it currently holds the Presidency of the European Union." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today welcomed a British EU Presidency recommendation that the PEACE programme should receive €200 million in funding for the period 2007 -2013. This decision arose directly from meetings held by Sinn Féin with the EU Commission in October and separate discussions in recent weeks with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said that the proposal was "recognition of the need for a PEACE III programme, for which we have long campaign".

The recommendation came as the British Presidency presented EU leaders with its overall proposed financial perspectives for the period 2007-2013.

Ms de Brún said:

"The British Presidency proposals for a PEACE III programme covering the period 2007 to 2013 are very welcome. The proposals represent a first indication that the British Government is prepared to advocate €200 million in spending on EU PEACE projects.

"Sinn Féin have been lobbying for a PEACE III programme for several years. This work intensified following our entry to the European Parliament last year, with a round of meetings at the European Parliament and Commission. I and party President Gerry Adams met with the EU Commissioner for Regional Development, Danuta Hubner in October and I also met with her earlier this year to personally make the case for continued funding for PEACE and IFI funding. The matter has also been raised formally by Sinn Féin delegations with Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.

"Work still remains to be done to ensure a further round of PEACE funding is secured and it is imperative that the EU Council of Ministers ratify this proposal when they meet to finalise the Financial Perspectives later in the month.

"The proposal also makes clear that a future PEACE III fund 'will be implemented in full respect of additionality of structural fund interventions' (Point 52 of British Presidency document). This means that a future PEACE III fund must compliment and be additional to existing levels of government expenditure rather than replace it. Sinn Féin will be following proposals closely to ensure that this happens.

"I want to take this opportunity to praise the work of community group‚s right across the country for ensuring that this issue was highlighted and fought for. My hope is that future PEACE and IFI funding will enable them to continue to deliver first class peace and reconciliation work in their local communities.

"Sinn Féin believes that a future PEACE III projects must be targeted towards tackling discrimination and disadvantage and the promotion of peace and national reconciliation. My hope is that such funding will provide a further opportunity to cement the peace process and peace building." ENDS

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Sinn Féin will hold a press conference tomorrow, Thursday 8th December, at 2pm in the party's Sevastopol Street offices to announce details of the second annual Day of Reflection organised by Sinn Fein Mayors and Chairs across the Six Counties.

Building on the initiatives last year in Fermanagh, Derry City, Magherafelt, Strabane and Omagh, Sinn Féin first citizens in Omagh, Strabane, Fermanagh, Magherafelt, Derry City, Moyle and Newry and Mourne Councils will be holding a variety of 'Day of Reflection' events this year on December 10th to mark International Human Rights Day.

Speaking ahead of the press conference Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin MLA said:

"Last year Sinn Féin mayors and chairs throughout the six counties initiated a number of events to mark a Day of Reflection.

"In the past 12 months Sinn Fein have built upon this work. It is guided by a commitment to providing civic leadership and equality. It is about facing up to the challenge of building peace and tackling difficult and divisive issues through engagement between people of different faiths and traditions.

"It is a genuine efforts to acknowledge the loss of all those who have died as a result of war and conflict and to acknowledge all those who still live with the pain and memory of that loss.

"The Day of Reflection events are not intended to replace the existing commemorative events but are underpinned by a desire to provide civic leadership with the aim of promoting reconciliation and equality.

"We hope that these efforts will build upon the important work by former Derry Mayor Gerry O Hara and by Alex Maskey, during his term as mayor of Belfast, to develop the concept of recognising the experiences of all equally, and together." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said grave concerns have been raised by what appears to have been the leaking of confidential Garda files to individuals outside the Department of Justice in relation to three individuals, including the head of the Centre for Public Inquiry, Frank Connolly, who Minister McDowell named in a Dáil reply last night.

Deputy Ó Caoláin also described as "an outrageous abuse of Dáil privilege" the allegations made by the Minister last night about the three men in a written reply to a Parliamentary Question from Deputy Finian McGrath.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "Michael McDowell's comments, made in the Dáil last night  through a written reply to a question, are nothing short of an outrageous abuse of Dáil privilege.  That he used a Dáil mechanism to put on record unsubstantiated allegations marks a  very sinister development in his ongoing campaign against the Centre for Public Inquiry.

"More serious though, and a matter which is of grave concern is the question of whether or not the Minister or his department was responsible for the leaking of confidential Garda files to persons outside his Department and who shouldn't have been in possession of or had access to these files or the information contained therein.

"People should be rightly concerned at the increasingly brazen and reckless behaviour of the Minister. This Minister has shown scant regard for due process in the past but this latest development, even for him, is a new low.

"No other Minister in government would be allowed to act with such scant regard for the law. It is time that Michael McDowell was reined in." ENDS

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Sinn Féin councillor Tony Smithers has reacted furiously to efforts by senior members of City Management to gag him at a meeting of Dublin City Council on Monday night. Cllr Smithers, who is a part-time taxi driver, was prevented from speaking on the issue of taxis and hackneys last night.   Cllr Smithers said: “I am proud to be a taxi driver and in order to be as upfront as possible I have always made it clear whenever I speak on the any related subject that I am a taxi driver. But the idea that I am not allowed talk on a vital issue of Dublin transport like the taxi system, of which I have a great deal of firsthand knowledge, is ludicrous. No-one is saying that councillors who are teachers should not discuss issues related to the Vocational Education Committees, or that architects cannot be involved in planning decisions. I am not hiding my profession, being a taxi driver is nothing to be ashamed of, I am trying to contribute to the debate about improving the transportation system in Dublin.”   Sinn Féin Group Leader Cllr Christy Burke agreed, saying, “The really annoying part of this is that it had already been agreed, with cross-party support, in the Protocol Committee that there was no problem with Tony speaking on an issue like this. We have demanded that the Law Agent of the Council come back to us with a thorough report but in my opinion this was blatant targeted censorship against one of our councillors because he is a taxi driver and a member of Sinn Féin. I can assure City Management that this is not acceptable to our party.” Críoch

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Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has broadly welcomed the Education Minister's desision to scrap the 11+. Commenting upon the announcement Michael Ferguson said:

"Martin McGuinness as Minister for Education under the Assembly, initiated the consultation that has lead to the demise of the 11+ system. I broadly welcome the end of the 11+ because it was a system that branded 80% of our children as failures every year.

We now have an opportunity to deliver an education system that celebrates all intelligences and allows all children to achieve their human potential and learn at a pace which suits them.

However if we are to build confidence in a new system then we need to invest in our children, in our teachers and in our schools and the current Minister and Government are intent on taking 173 million from our schools by 2008 when we need to be investing."ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Irish language Francie Brolly MLA this evening welcomed Direct Rule Minister David Hanson‚s positive comments on the Irish language but said it was long past time that these comments were backed by action. The Sinn Féin Assembly member called for the immediate enactment of an Irish Language Act which would give legal protection to the Irish speaking community and outlaw discrimination and petty bigotry against the language.

Mr. Brolly said:

„Sinn Fein welcomes the commitment to the principles of the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages expressed on behalf of the British Government by David Hanson, Direct Rule Minister for Culture. We particularly welcome his acknowledgement of the importance the Irish language plays in our society.

"However, the reality is that the Minister‚s views are odds with the behaviour and actions of many government departments and officials and the result is that Irish language speakers continue to face discrimination.

"For example, 30% of the viewing public in the Six Counties still cannot access TG4 on terrestrial TV despite repeated undertakings to remedy this; the Administration of Justice (Language) Act Ireland 1737 bans the use of Irish in the courts again despite repeated undertakings to remedy this; the Department of Regional Development has instructed Newry & Mourne District Council that fáilte (welcome) signs it has erected on the outskirts of Newry will have to be removed because they are in Irish.

"These are just a few examples of the ingrained prejudice against the language. Minister Hanson must ensure that his positive remarks are matched by positive actions. One way in which he can do this is to support the enacting of an Irish Language Act which will give legal protection to the Irish speaking community and outlaw discrimination and petty bigotry against the language."ENDS

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Three Sinn Féin TDs today criticised the level of funding being provided for the National Drugs Strategy after it was revealed there was a €15m shortfall in this years Estimates. The TDs also attacked the Minister of State Noel Ahern for his failure to "work in partnership with the local Drugs Task Forces and the National Drugs Strategy Team," which they said had led to the resignation of an "experienced" community sector representative from the National Drugs Strategy Team.

Speaking during Order of Business, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said, "The Minister of State Noel Ahern has failed to work in partnership with the Local Drugs Task Forces and the National Drugs Strategy Team and this, coupled with the measly funding provided for in the Estimates which is totally inadequate to meet the needs identified in local communities, has forced the resignation of the experienced and dedicated Fergus McCabe from his position as community sector representative on the National Drugs Strategy Team."

Sinn Féin leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin accused the Government of failing to "commit the resources necessary to implement the National Drugs Strategy." "A failure," he said, "that is evidenced by the Estimates which involved a shortfall of €15m and which must be rectified by additional funding through the Budget."

Deputy Seán Crowe said there was an urgent need for an additional €4.8m euro to be included in the Budget for the Emerging Needs Fund. This needs to be done if the demands for 2006 as identified by the Local Drugs Task Forces are to be met and existing projects built upon he said.

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Sinn Féin Social Welfare spokesperson Séan Crowe TD has called on Finance Minister Brian Cowen to double the Fuel Allowance to €18 per week in Wednesday's budget. Deputy Crowe also called for the payment to be paid up front at the beginning of winter and for it to include the months of April and May.

Speaking in Dublin today he said, "There are now 62,000 households in chronic fuel poverty in the 26 Counties. 16,300 of them are households with elderly people living in them. In all 270,000 people have been in receipt of Fuel allowance as of 2003.

"The current payment is €9 a week. We are calling for it to be raised to €18 per week; for it to be paid up front at the beginning of winter and for it to include the months of April and May. This would be a practical measure that would help alleviate the hardship faced by some of the most disadvantaged people in our society. We believe this would cost in the region of €80-€100 million a year.

"This is just a fraction of the money that has been wasted by this Government on IT systems in the last couple of years - never mind the massive loses suffered by Revenue as a result of very generous tax breaks to the wealthy operated by the Government. Included in that IT figure is the €195 million wasted on the failed PPARS computer system; €57 million on the failed media lab in the south inner city; €61 million on the Garda PULSE system and the €50 million on the E-voting debacle.

"This Government has proved itself to be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to spending public money. This Wednesday I urge Minister Cowen to be wise when it comes to investing in those most in need in our society, rather that fritter away money on white elephants and ego trips." ENDS

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Sinn Féin North Kerry TD Martin Ferris has described the deployment of one extra Garda for traffic duty in Kerry in the run up to Christmas as pathetic. Deputy Ferris said the deployment of one extra Garda was wholly inadequate for a county the size of Kerry. He also said that a government promise of extra gardaí by 2008 was insulting to people’s intelligence when everyone knows there will be a general election on or before 2007.

 

Deputy Ferris said:

“The deployment of one extra Garda for traffic duty in a county the size of Kerry is wholly inadequate and to be quite honest a pathetic attempt by the government to cover up its broken promise of deploying 2000 extra gardaí throughout the state. It is also notable that any commitments being given by the government across a whole range of issues, including promises of extra gardaí, are being made for 2008. Everyone knows that there will be an election on or before 2007, so if there’s even a slight change in government they will be able to renege on any promises they made. It’s an insult to people’s intelligence and they are fooling no one."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has highlighted the case of murdered Human Rights Lawyer Pat Finucane during her tour of Australia and New Zealand this week.

Ms de Brún has travelled to Australia as part of Sinn Féin's centenary celebrations to provide parliamentarians and community activists a briefing on the current state of the peace process and to lobby both governments for continued financial assistance through the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"Over this past year I have met with the Finucane family on a number of occasions and informed them that I was committed to assisting the family both at home and at a European level in order to see a fully independent judicial public inquiry established into the solicitor's death.

"Having spoken to a number of people here in Australia, I would be confident that people, particularly those in the legal profession,  will want to speak out about the British government's attempt to block any hope of a properly independent public inquiry.

"For years the British Government denied the very existence of state sponsored murder and its complicity with unionist paramilitaries in the deaths of citizens in the six counties. Judge Cory's recommendation that a full judicial inquiry be held into Pat Finucane's  murder has shown up the British Government's unwillingness to let the family have the truth. They are actively attempting to block an independent inquiry as part of the state cover up in the aftermath of his murder.

"Not only is the case of Pat Finucane being raised here in Australia, but the families of those murdered as a result of state sponsored collusion are taking their case to the European Parliament this Wednesday (7th September). The demand for the truth is being heard right across the world." ENDS


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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty departs for London today for a series of meetings with MPs and other interested groups. Speaking before his departure Mr Doherty called on the two governments to bring forward an action plan which would see the political institutions re-established.

Mr Doherty said:

" We are now four months on from the historic announcement by the IRA in July formally ending the armed campaign. Unionism has had ample space and time to come to terms with the new political realities created by that initiative.

" We cannot allow the political process to simply drift along hoping that the DUP will finally display the necessary political courage or will. Thetwo governments have an obligation to inject momentum into this process. We need to see an action plan for the governments leading us back into the all-Ireland power sharing institutions.

" The DUP have in the past stated that the only obstacle to power sharing was the issue of IRA weapons. That issue has been decisively dealt with. It now remains to be seen if the DUP can live up to their slogan of a new confident unionism. So far they have turned away from the difficult business of taking up ministerial responsibility and delivering for the people who elect them, preferring instead to stand back and watch from the sidelines as the Direct Rule Administration continue to make bad decisions for all of the people who live here." ENDS



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