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Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has invited people across Dublin to take part in citywide public events and protests to highlight the crisis in the health service. Sinn Féin's Day-of-Action on healthcare will begin at the GPO on O'Connell Street at 11am tomorrow, Saturday 13th with an event attended by the party's elected representatives from across Dublin city and county. It will be followed by local events across Dublin.

Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin TDs Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Crowe will be available to talk to the media at the GPO tomorrow, Saturday 13th, at 11am.

Ms. McDonald said:

"Access to decent healthcare is one of the biggest issues facing people today. We have just come through one of the worst winters in recent years for Accident and Emergency units with up to 490 people per day waiting on trolleys and chairs at its worst. At the root of this crisis is the fact that we have a grossly unequal, two tier, public-private system. Those who can afford it can get the best care quickly. Everyone else has to wait, sometimes for years. Sinn Féin is demanding change.

"Tomorrow, as part of a wider campaign on Health, Sinn Féin will be holding protests across Dublin city and county. We are calling on people not just to complain about the health services but to campaign and to demand the decent, equitable and efficient services that we need." ENDS

Sinn Féin Day-of-Action on healthcare

Dublin events will begin in the City Centre at the GPO - O' Connell Street at 11am with a protest attended by Sinn Féin's MEP, TDs and Councillors from across Dublin.

Clondalkin - Picket at Mary Harney‚s constituency office. Main Street Clondalkin 1pm to 2pm

Donaghmede - Picket and Leafletting - Donaghmede Shopping Centre 12:30pm

Coolock - Picket and Leafletting - Northside Shopping Centre - 2pm

Phibsboro - Stall and Leaflet drop Phibsboro Shopping Centre 2pm

Dun Laoghaire - Picket at Loughlinstown Hospital - 12pm and leaflet drop and Street Theatre Dun Laoghaire Main Street at 1.30pm

Tallaght - Picket at Tallaght Hospital 1pm - 2pm

Dundrum - Picket and leafletting at Dundrum shopping centre 1pm - 2pm

Dublin South East - Launch of constituency health survey

Crumlin - Picket and leaflet drop Crumlin Shopping Centre - 12.30pm to 1.30pm

Ashleaf Shopping Centre - Picket and leaflet drop - 12.30pm to 1.30pm

Ballyfermot - Picket and leaflet drop - Tescos, Upper Ballyfermot Road 12.30pm to 1.30pm

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has accused the SDLP of being out of touch with reality after Dolores Kelly claimed that Sinn Féin had supported the abolition of the Rural Development Council, which is a lie.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Dolores Kelly in engaged in pedalling lies and myths about Sinn Féin's support for rural communities. Perhaps if Dolores spent a bit more time working with and for rural communities she would realise the stupidity of trying to weaken the growing opposition to the proposed planning guidelines being pushed by British direct rule ministers.

"Both Sinn Féin and the Ulster Farmers Union backed the seven council model. We did so for a variety of reasons but principally because it put ordinary people, citizens, at the heart of local government and not politicians. Indeed many people are wondering just why the SDLP have bought into the unionist opposition to the seven council model. But then again they split the nationalist consensus on policing and settled for minimum change as opposed to trying to achieve the maximum change. On rural planning we clearly need the maximum change to the current draft plans.

"The reality is that the SDLP have not even recognised the importance of community planning and the potential of Area Based Committees that can give local communities a statutory role in the planning process and strategic development of their communities involving all of the government agencies.

"I also want to nail the lie that Sinn Féin supported the attack on the Rural Development Council. Sinn Féin want to see the abolition of every quango that cannot justify its existence because far too many of them are part of the democratic deficit and stuffed with political cronies from parties such as the SDLP. However the RDC has more than proved its importance to the development of sustainable rural communities.

"If the SDLP is as concerned about rural communities as it claims then it needs to stop peddling lies about Sinn Féin and recognise that we need to maximise the campaign to oppose the draft rural planning proposals. They would also benefit rural communities if they abandoned the unionist position on seven councils and started to develop consensus on the powerful role that community planning should have in defining local communities because this can have a particularly important role in rural communities." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP today said the pattern of violence against young Catholics must be stopped. He said part of this had to involve positive leadership from Ian Paisley and the DUP.

Mr McGuinness said:

"In November 2004 James McMahon was murdered in Lisburn. In August 2005 Thomas Devlin was murdered in North Belfast and last weekend young Michael McIlveen was murdered in Ballymena.

"These three young men had their whole lives ahead of them yet they fell victim to anti-Catholic hatred, bigotry and sectarianism. This pattern of sectarian violence cannot be allowed to continue. Politicians have the primary responsibility to demonstrate leadership and unionist politicians in particular have a role to play in challenging sectarianism within their community. Sinn Féin will stand shoulder to shoulder with any politician willing to stand with us against sectarianism.

"I have to say that remarks made by many unionist politicians in recent days have been encouraging. However the remarks by the DUP Councillor Roy Gillespie stating that Michael McIlveen will not enter heaven because he is a Catholic, are disgraceful and we need to hear commentary from Ian Paisley on this matter.

"Unionist politicians refusing to talk or share power with nationalists and republicans is at one end of the scale which ends up with young catholic lying dead on the street. That is the reality of the society in which we live and that is the reality which must now changed. Ian Paisley has a major role to play in ending the cycle of the murder of young Catholics on our streets. He now has to rise to that challenge." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Trade and Employment, Arthur Morgan TD has described comments by Minister Micheal Martin on the abolition of the Groceries Order as "pathetic" and said "once again people have been duped by this callous and cynical Government." Deputy Morgan was reacting to comments made by the Minister on RTÉ's Morning Ireland show this morning.

Deputy Morgan said, "The real rationale behind the removal of the Groceries Order was not as it was claimed by the Government and others to benefit the consumer by reducing prices. Minister Martin's attempts this morning to explain away why prices have continued to rise was not only pathetic but a blatant falsehood.

"The removal of the Groceries Order was never about protecting the consumer -- instead it was about facilitating large retail multiples expand their operations and dominate the market.

"It should not be forgotten that the abolition of the groceries order was opposed by many of the anti-poverty organisations, including the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Combat Poverty Agency and Crosscare on the basis that families on low incomes would be at greater risk of food poverty if it were repealed.

"Prices will not come down as a result of the abolition of the Groceries Order. Instead profits and the size of retail outlets will continue to rise and rise. Once again people have been duped by this callous and cynical Government -- aided in the process this time by a willing fool in Fine Gael -- who also supported the abolition of the Order.

"Once again it is obvious as far as this Government is concerned that the interests of big business come before the citizens of this state." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew will lead a party delegation to meet with the Ulster Council GAA at their headquarters in Irish Street in Armagh tomorrow, Friday 12th May, at 11am to discus the campaign to force British direct rule ministers back to the drawing board over their draft proposals on rural planning.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Ms Gildernew said:

"There is widespread anger among people living in rural communities at the way British direct rule ministers are trying to impose a model of rural planning that may well suit Britain but will be hugely detrimental to rural communities here in this part of Ireland.

"Sinn Féin have launched a campaign to try and force the British government back to the drawing board because unless there is a serious reassessment of how to proceed then the long-term future for rural communities does not look good. The GAA both centrally and at local club level have come out strongly against these draft plans as have a number of other rural and farming
organisations.

"It is important that we all work together to see how we can maximise this campaign. It is also important that we come up with solutions that strike the right balance between protecting the environment and protecting our rural communities." ENDS



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Sinn Féin all-Ireland spokesperson West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff speaking ahead of a high level meeting between Senior Officials of both Health Departments, North and South, aimed at putting in place 'real, meaningful North/South Cooperation in the area of GP Out of Hours Services' has said that the border and the existence of two separate Health Departments in Ireland is acting as a major barrier to proper GP access in border areas.

The meeting will take place tomorrow, Friday 12th May, at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan involving Mr Fergal Goodman, Principal Primary Care Officer, Department of Health and Children (Twenty-Six Counties) and Ms Christine Jendoubi, Director of Primary Care, Department of Health (Six Counties) and Sinn Féin Health Spokespersons, Caoimhghín O Caoláin TD and John O'Dowd MLA, Newry Armagh MP Conor Murphy, Barry McElduff MLA and Donegal County Councillor Tony McDaid.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Mr McElduff said:

"Sinn Féin have been liasing closely with both Fergal Goodman and Christine Jendoubi to establish the seamless provision of Primary Care Services across the border. At least 65,000 people living close to the border actually live closer to GP Out of Hours Services provided 'in the other jurisdiction'. Progress in breaking down the barriers to accessing GP Out of Hours Services would have a huge impact.

"Sinn Féin is pushing for an integrated all-Ireland approach to health care provision. Nowhere is the folly of two separate Health systems in the same small country more apparent than in the experience of people living in border areas who have to travel the longer distance to be treated by a doctor if they fall sick in the evenings or at weekends. Health is an Area of Cooperation under the Good Friday Agreement and everybody accepts that a single-island approach is the patient's solution.

"However, it is clear that there is opposition somewhere within the health establishment on this issue and the Monaghan meeting is aimed at removing any hurdles to proper GP access in border areas. I am calling for greater joint working between the two Health Departments and Sinn Féin will be following up Friday's meeting with direct lobbying of the two Health Ministers, Mary Harney and Paul Goggins.

"People living in the Lifford-Strabane area, the Keady-Castleblaney area, the Derry-Buncrana area and the Fermanagh-Leitrim border deserve the best in terms of essential health care. Yet, both the border and Departmental red tape are standing in the way of this entitlement. " ENDS

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Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard has written to fellow councillors inviting them to make a joint statement appealing for a reduction in sectarian tensions in the Co. Derry town of Garvagh.

The Cllr. Leonard has approached members from the Ulster Unionist, SDLP and DUP.

Cllr. Leonard said:

"I have written to the other councillors proposing the basis of a joint statement and that we meet next Tuesday evening when we would be together at a Council meeting.

"I have stressed that my thoughts on this approach preceded Michael McIlveen's tragic death but obviously it gives a very poignant and direct concentration. I feel that we can transcend the usual differences and debates on incidents and make a very focused statement on the cancer of sectarianism.

"We must be able to take the lead and stress that people should be viewed as human beings not mere sectarian labels and that difference can be handled without violence to people or property.

"It is essential that we cut across the cul-de-sac debates to make a joint and firm statement that Garvagh does not want sectarianism, that we want tensions to be reduced and that we do all we can to avoid further incidents. None of us compromise our political positions by joining forces against sectarianism.

"There are real worries that things could get worse. Surely we as public representatives can say that things can get better by taking sectarianism out of the picture. "ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin assembly member Philip McGuigan has commended the North Antrim 1981 remembrance committee for taking the decision to call off a planned vigil for Francis Hughes in the town of Portglenone on Friday night.

This decision was taken in light of the recent sectarian murder of Michael McIlveen in Ballymena and the obvious intention of Unionists to use the vigil to further heighten tensions in the Borough.

Mr McGuigan said:

"It became obvious in the public domain that some within Unionism wanted to create an issue over the planned commemoration of Francis Hughes. As Irish Republicans this commemoration was intended to a respectful and dignified vigil in honour of a brave man and comrade who died on hunger strike.

"In light of the threat from Unionism and the level of tension in the borough, I think this decision is the right one and shows particular leadership from Republicans in the area. I'm disappointed but not surprised that Unionists and Loyalists were intent on using this vigil to further create community division in Portglenone.

"It worries me further that the same party in Ballymena that calls on people to be calm at this time, is the same party that has publicly backed such protests against the Nationalist and Republican community.

"I would also urge other groupings like the Orange Order to reflect upon this responsible initiative to reduce tensions and act accordingly." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has called upon Greencore to honour the severance package agreed with workers at the former Irish Sugar plant at Mallow. 250 workers are being laid off tomorrow afternoon and are only being offered statutory redundancy despite a Labour Court judgement ordering that the agreed severance package be fully honoured. Deputy Ferris also called upon the Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan to meet with unions representing workers at the plant, as they have been requesting for the past six weeks.

Deputy Ferris said: “It is an absolute disgrace that the closure of Mallow is being made worse for workers there by the refusal of Greencore to honour the severance package. Greencore stands to make a considerable profit from both the sale of the plant and the compensation for the selling out of the Irish sugar sector, and yet are refusing to adequately compensate those workers whose jobs were sacrificed. It is vital that the Government ensure that Greencore does honour the severance package, and that Minister Coughlan meets the workers representatives given the role that her Department has to play, and the fact that she is responsible for the state’s share in Greencore.” ENDS

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Tomorrow, Friday 12th May, marks the 25th Anniversary of the death on Hunger Strike of legendary IRA Volunteer Francis Hughes. Republicans across Ireland will gather to mark the event. The main commemorations are as follows

South Derry

Friday 12th May - Black Flag Vigil on the Glenshane Pass 6.30pm

Saturday 13th May - Republican Centre in Guladuff at 8pm discussion on the legacy of the Hunger Strike involving Laurence McKeown, Danny Morrison and families of the Hunger Strikers

Sunday 14th May - Annual Francis Hughes Commemoration will take place at 2.30pm in Bellaghy graveyard. Francie Molloy will be the main speaker.

Dublin

Friday 12th May - White Line Picket in memory of Francis Hughes and James Connolly at the GPO at 1.30pm

5.30 - 6.30pm - Vigils - Drimnagh Road; Kylemore Road Roundabout; Dolphins Barn Bridge

Vigil at junction of Marine Road and Georges Street in Dun Laoghaire at 5.30pm

Belfast

Black Flag protests will take place across Belfast from 5.30 - 6.30pm

Cork

Commemoration at the Tadhg an Astna monument in the town centre at 8.30pm

Vigil 7pm Ballincolig

Louth

Drogheda - Black Flag vigil on the Peace Bridge, 5.30 - 6.30pm

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP is in Dublin today for a series of engagements in Dublin North West and Dublin West with Councillor Dessie Ellis and Councillor Felix Gallagher.  During the visit Mr. Adams will visit the Ballymun Health Centre and meet with members of staff and union officials in James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown.  Last week Mr. Adams met with staff in Louth County Hospital and Navan Hospital.  Tomorrow he will be launching the party’s health campaign in Wexford.

In the Ballymun Health Centre at 2pm today Mr. Adams will announce details of dozens of events and protests which the party will be holding in a Day-of-Action on healthcare on Saturday 13th May.

Mr. Adams said:

“On Saturday next, May 13th, Sinn Féin activists and supporters from across the entire island of Ireland will participate in a Day-of-Action on healthcare.  From Donegal to Kerry, from Dublin to Galway, republicans will undertake a series of public events and protests to highlight the crisis in Healthcare provision on this island.

“We are calling on people not just to complain about the health services but to campaign and to demand the decent, equitable and efficient services that we need.

”While  there  will be a focus on healthcare provision in rural areas in the Six  Counties  the  main  focus of the protests will be in the 26 Counties, where  the  crisis  in  healthcare delivery has developed an almost runaway momentum   of  its  own  that  is  fuelled  by  the  Government’s  reckless pro-privatisation policies.

”Saturday’s  Day-of-Action,  involving almost 50 protests, is but one  part  of  a  wider campaign on Health initiated by Sinn Féin last week with the launch of our comprehensive Healthcare Policy Document, Healthcare in  an  Ireland  of  Equals.  The campaign will include the distribution of hundreds of  thousands of  newsletters,  leaflets and posters.  It will be brought  to  every  county  and  will  form  a  central part of Sinn Féin’s political priorities for the coming year.


”The message Sinn Féin will be delivering to people across the island is a simple  and  realistic  one.   We believe that healthcare can and should be provided on the basis of need alone not on your ability to pay.  We believe it should be paid for through a fair and progressive system of taxation and be free to all at the point of delivery.  We absolutely reject the current system  that  favours  the  private  healthcare  sector,  which  serves  a privileged minority, against the interests of the majority.

”This state is a very wealthy state.  It can afford to improve dramatically the provision of healthcare delivery to every man, women and child.  But it is  clear  that that will only be achieved if we have a change of direction from this government or a change of government.

“We  will be asking people to join with us in demanding that change.  We are demanding  that  this  government  live  up  to  the  ideals  of  the  1916 Proclamation  and  to  reverse policies which cherish the health of some of the  children  of  the  nation  “more equally”  than others.  The time for rhetoric is over – the time for action is now.”ENDS

 

Sinn Féin Health Day-of-Action – 13th May 2006

Munster

CORK - Cork City: Protest and street theatre at Daunt Square, 3pm, incorporating demand for A&E and ambulance service on Cork’s northside. Mallow: Protest outside town hall against down grading of Mallow Hospital, 11am. Clonakilty: Protest at Astna Square, 3pm

WATERFORD - Waterford City: Distribution of leaflets in city centre, 3-5pm

KERRY - Tralee: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-3pm. Killarney: Distribution of leaflets, town centre, 1-2pm.

LIMERICK - Limerick City: Stall in city centre, 2-4pm.

TIPPERARY - Thurles: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-2pm. Nenagh: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-2pm. Clonmel: Picket in town centre at 1pm “Upgrade health services in south Tipperary”

CLARE - Ennis: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-2pm. Shannon: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-2pm.

LEINSTER

LOUTH - Dundalk - Picket and leafleting @ Louth Hospital, Dundalk 1-2pm and at shopping centres between 2pm-4pm. Drogheda - Picket and Leafleting the Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda from 1-2pm

WEXFORD - Wexford Town -  whiteline Picket and leafleting - 3pm.

Gorey, Enniscorthy Town and New Ross leafleting and pickets 2-4pm

WICKLOW - Wicklow Town, Bray and Arklow – leafleting throughout the day

MEATH - Ashbourne, Navan and Trim  - whiteline picket and leafleting in main shopping centres in from 2-4pm.

LONGFORD - Picket and leafleting at Longford Shopping Centre 1-2pm

WESTMEATH - Picket and leafleting at Athlone Hospital 1-2pm. Leafletting on Mullingar Main Street 1-2pm

CONNAUGHT ULSTER


MONAGHAN - 10.30am, Church Square, Monaghan Town, for leaflet distribution


CAVAN - Leafletting in Cavan Town

DONEGAL - Donegal Sinn Féin will participate in a major rally in Letterkenny on Sunday 14th May commencing at 2pm from Market Square organised by Donegal Action for Cancer Care.

GALWAY - Galway City – protest at UCG 11am-1pm and petition signing on Shop Street 2pm-4pm

SLIGO - Petition signing on O’Connell Street 2-5pm

MAYO - Breast Check protest outside Castlebar Hospital 1.30-2.30pm 

SIX COUNTIES

Sinn Fein will hold a meeting in Dungannon on Saturday which will bring together activists from across the Six Counties to launch a campaign prioritising rural health issues.

DUBLIN 

Dublin events will begin in the City Centre at the GPO - O’Connell Street at 11am with a protest attended by Sinn Féin’s MEP, TDs and Councillors from across Dublin.

 

Clondalkin - Picket at Mary Harney’s constituency office. Main Street Clondalkin

1pm to 2pm

Donaghmede - Picket and Leafletting - Donaghmede Shopping Centre 12:30pm

Coolock - Picket and Leafletting - Northside Shopping Centre - 2pm

Phibsboro - Stall and Leaflet drop Phibsboro Shopping Centre 2pm

Dun Laoghaire - Picket at Loughlinstown Hospital - 12pm and leaflet drop and Street Theatre Dun Laoghaire Main Street at 1.30pm

Tallaght - Picket at Tallaght Hospital 1pm - 2pm

Dundrum - Picket and leafletting at Dundrum shopping centre 1pm - 2pm

Dublin South East - Launch of constituency health survey

Crumlin - Picket and leaflet dropCrumlin Shopping Centre - 12.30pm to 1.30pm

Ashleaf Shopping Centre - Picket and leaflet drop - 12.30pm to 1.30pm

Ballyfermot - Picket and leaflet drop - Tescos, Upper Ballyfermot Road 12.30pm to 1.30pm

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy has been put forward as one of the Deputy Speakers in the Assembly. This is the first time a Sinn Féin member has held this position and is a reflection on the increased political strength of the party over recent elections.

Commenting today after his appointment Mr Molloy said:

"Obviously I welcome the fact that Sinn Féin have taken this position. However what is much more important is moving swiftly to the position where the Assembly can meet along with the Executive and All-Ireland Ministerial Council as the fully functioning power sharing institutions demanded by the Good Friday Agreement. What Peter Hain is proposing on Monday falls short of that.

"I will not be taking part or chairing debates on issues over which the Assembly has no power. I am not interested in a talking shop. I will play a full role in trying to get an Executive elected and through that allowing the Assembly to begin to do its job.

"Given the historic initiatives taken by republicans over recent times I believe that a real opportunity to make progress does now exist. We have an opportunity to send British Ministers home and for local politicians, who know the issues, to take responsibility for deciding the future direction of Health and Education, the Environment, Policing and Justice and much more.

"But big decisions lie ahead for Ian Paisley and his party. Are they up for sharing power on the basis of equality and respect or are they going to continue running away from the difficult but challenging business of decision making." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has expressed the hope that a return to a fully functioning Assembly and Executive can also herald a renewed emphasis on the promotion of good health and on tackling the glaring health inequalities that still exist across the north today.

Ms de Brún made her comments at a European conference to discuss 'Gaps in Health Systems'. Today's conference was addressed by MEPs, academics and health professionals and Ms de Brún spoke from her experience as Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the Assembly.

Topics under discussion at today's conference include a health response to gender based violence, migrants‚ access to healthcare in the EU, sustainability of healthcare systems and a global perspective on health inequalities. The conference will also hear a presentation on European policy health impact assessment.

Speaking today the former Assembly Minister said:

"Today's conference provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the gaps which exist in health systems across the world and from my own experiences in Ireland.

"At today's conference I stressed that the attainment of good health is not merely the absence of illness, but is about a holistic state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. This concept lies at the heart of the 'Investing for Health, strategy which I initiated during my time as Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the Assembly. I hope that a return to a fully functioning Assembly and Executive can also herald a renewed emphasis on the promotion of good health and on tackling the glaring health inequalities that still exist across the north today." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning called upon the European Union to join with national parliaments and local authorities in a major push to tackle the homeless crisis.

Ms de Brún made her comments before chairing a European conference organized by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA).

Speaking from the European Parliament Ms de Brún said:

"Approximately three million people are homeless in the EU - these are the cold statistics. These issues can be addressed both at EU and at local and national levels - but only if the will exists to deal with this crisis

"While the EU remains fixated with other priorities, thousands of people across the EU will be sleeping rough, will be victims of unprovoked violent attacks, will find themselves in temporary shelters, will be isolated from the mainstream of policy-making, and many will be caught in a cycle of homelessness and will experience mental health related problems.

"Today's conference on homelessness at the European Parliament should act as a wake up call to the EU and its agencies and to national governments and local authorities. The focus of the conference will be on implementation of homeless strategies, and on providing local authorities with practical toolkits for developing appropriate strategies. The FEANTSA conference also aims to facilitate European or "transnational" exchanges to help local authorities strengthen local strategies based on lessons learnt from other countries." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Dublin Spokesperson on European Affairs, Councillor Daithí Doolan, today challenged, "the Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, to stop misleading the public and to come clean on how the government will fund EU Battlegroups."

Speaking at today‚s National Forum on Europe debate with Minister O'Dea, Cllr. Doolan said:

"The objective of these Battlegroups is to wage war. It is clear that this State's involvement in the European Union Battlegroups will be funded by the Irish tax payer. This comes at a time when ques for hospital beds are ever lengthening, housing waiting lists grow by the day, homeless die on our streets and schools remain closed for want of basic repairs. The Minister may well dismiss my arguments and I am sure he will. But the fact is Javier Solana, EU Foreign Policy chief has said that the main purpose of the common defence fund is 'to ensure that we spend more, spend more together and spend more effectively'.

"These groups will also have to be mutually supportive and complementary to NATO, in doing so member states must address shortfalls in cruise missiles, precision guided munitions, attack helicopter battalions & field artillery battalions so our neutrality will once again be totally undermined as well as tax money being diverted away from funding health care to funding the arms industry.

"Ireland has a very long and proud history of involvement in UN Peacekeeping Forces, yet these Battlegroups also pose a very real threat to the future of the UN. With 156,000 troops involved in the EU Battlegroups the UN will suffer depleting numbers at a time when the strain on peacekeeping could not be greater. It appears that Minister O‚Dea has simply prioritised Battlegroups over legitimate peacekeeping."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on the Minister for Defence, "to publicly justify the funding and prioritising of the arms industry while our healthcare system remains in crisis." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew and Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy will attend the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Breakfast at the Balmoral Show in Belfast tomorrow morning, Thursday 11th May.

Speaking today Ms Gildernew said:

"It will not be lost on the farming community that last year the DARD Breakfast was Jeff Rooker's first formal engagement and that 12 months on we will have yet another part-time direct rule Minister whose first engagement will be the Balmoral Show.

"The revolving door of Agriculture Ministers is not good for the industry and I think everyone accepts that we need to put a stop to it. Of course over the next number of weeks there is a clear opportunity for the political parties to stand up and say enough is enough. This represents a particular challenge for the DUP.

"We don't need yet another part-timer who's interests lie elsewhere, to the detriment of local farmers and the rural community, we need a locally accountable minister in charge.

"If Ian Paisley is as concerned about the future of farmers as he claims, then he will act in the next two weeks to ensure that the North had its own agriculture minister and scrutiny committee. This is what the rural communities want. As chair of the previous Agricultural committee Mr Paisley put himself forward as the champion of rural communities, but he has shoulder much responsibility for the poor decisions taken by direct rule ministers."

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness this afternoon visited the family of murdered Ballymena schoolboy Michael McIlveen to express personally to them his condolences and those of the Sinn Féin leadership. Speaking after the visit Mr McGuinness called on civic, community and political leaders in Ballymena to organise a mobilisation against
sectarianism in the town in memory of Michael.

Mr McGuinness said:

"The sectarian murder of Michael McIlveen is firstly a massive tragedy for his mother and family. It is also a tragedy for wider society. Michael is the second 15 year old Catholic to be murdered in just over a year. This cannot be allowed to continue. The McIlveen family have received expressions of sympathy from all sections of the community.

" We are over ten years into a peace process. Sectarian hatred in our society must be tackled and dealt with. Ballymena has obviously been in the headlines in recent years as Catholic churches, homes and business have seen regular attacks. The murder of young Michael McIlveen has brought matters to a head.

"No longer can civic leaders in Ballymena turn a blind eye. No more can civic society in the town ignore this problem. I am calling publicly today for all civic, community and political leaders in Ballymena to come together and organise a mobilisation against sectarianism in our society in memory of Michael to ensure that this needless and unjustifiable sectarian killing is the last. Sinn Fein will stand side by siade with any unionist politican in
challenging sectarianism within this society." ENDS



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Sinn Féin’s Dublin Spokesperson on the Environment, Councillor Daithí Doolan, has today described as appalling, "the fact that those at the cutting edge of emergency services have been excluded from the Framework for Major Emergency Management in Ireland."

Speaking today following a meeting of the Oireachtas Subcommittee of the Environment & Local Government, Cllr. Doolan said:

“This framework plan is fundamentally flawed. We have a ridiculous situation whereby fire fighters and fire officers have even not been consulted on this strategy. In fact the Minister with responsibility for it's application, Dick Roche refuses to meet with the fire services. This blatant disregard for emergency services must stop. The fire service continue to provide an excellent service right across the State, they have invaluable experience in dealing with emergencies and crises. Their experience would dictate that they be the lead agency in any emergency situation, but unfortunately the Minister claims otherwise. Fire service have experience in fire cover, fire prevention, providing emergency medical cover, road traffic accidents yet this service did not even receive a copy of the framework document until they arrived before the Oireachtas Committee here today. The situation can not be allowed to continue.” 

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on , “the Minister for the Environment & Local Government Dick Roche to meet with SIPTU as a matter of urgency and to fully consult and engage with them in the drafting and application of this emergency response strategy.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP is in Dublin tomorrow (Thursday 11th) for a series of engagements with Councillor Dessie Ellis in Dublin North West and Councillor Felix Gallagher in Dublin West.

In Dublin North West Mr. Adams and party candidate Councillor Dessie Ellis will visit a number of community and youth organisations.  They will also visit the newly opened Ballymun Health Centre where they will launch Sinn Féin’s health campaign for the constituency. 

Mr. Adams will be available to talk to the media at 2pm at the Ballymun Health Centre.

Later tomorrow afternoon Mr. Adams will travel to Dublin West and he and party colleague Councillor Felix Gallagher will meet with members of staff at James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.  He will then meet with staff and local people in the Corduff Community Centre.  Tomorrow evening at 8pm he will speak at a public meeting in the Paddocks Bar in Laytown.

On Friday, Mr. Adams will travel onto Wicklow Town and Wexford for a series of engagements.

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon during EU Day, Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, accused Fine Gael, Labour and the PDs of "gross hypocrisy" over the welcome they gave to EU Commissioner, Marian Fischer Boel, to debate in the Dáil chamber while they have rejected proposals to allow for northern representation in the Dáil.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Isn’t it deeply ironic that an unelected political appointee, Commissioner Marian Fischer Boel, was here speaking today and taking part in a political debate at the invitation of people like John Deasy and his Party leader Enda Kenny and supported by the Labour Party and the Progressive Democrats.  Ironic and hypocritical.

"Today’s exercise, while marginally useful terms of the EU and Agriculture, really highlighted in a dramatic way the gross hypocrisy of Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte and Mary Harney and their respective parties who have been venomous in their opposition to affording the same right to democratically elected representatives of Irish people living in the north-eastern six counties of this country."

Speaking later Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "So now that we have had EU day and everybody involved seems to be exceptionally pleased with themselves - can we now look forward and finally agree to regular All-Ireland Days based on the proposals previously brought forward by the Taoiseach allowing for northern representation in the Dáil?" ENDS

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