Over the next two days - polling day and the count - we will have extensive coverage of the 2003 Assembly election campaign on the IRM section of the Sinn Féin website. (www.irishrepublicanmedia.com)
We will be posting news updates throughout today and tomorrow and we will be catching up with the Sinn Féin team for live reactions on our video/audio site.
We will have reporters in all the major polling stations to make sure that we are first to you with the results. These will be easily accessible by clicking onto any of the constituencies that we have laid out in map form, and also by looking at a table on the end of the page, which will be updated regularly.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking on the eve of poll said: "This is a crucial election for the peace process. A vote for Sinn Féin will deliver maximum change following this election.
"As we prepare to go to the polls I want to appeal to all voters in this election to vote for Sinn Féin and to transfer to Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin has been and continues to be the dynamic for change. We deliver.
"A vote for Sinn Féin is the most effective response to the DUP and other opponents of change. The days of second-class citizenship are gone forever. There will be no return to the failures of the past. There will be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.
"Sinn Féin are problem solvers. We are building a better and a brighter future for all our people.
"A vote for Sinn Féin on Wednesday 26th will ensure increased strength for our negotiators to advance the process of change, the transformation of our society and the achievement of an Ireland of Equals.
"I want to appeal to each and every voter to endorse the work that Sinn Féin is doing and to join us in making history."ENDS
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West, Seán Crowe TD, has said a recent survey by the Irish Management Institute (IMI) which showed that the pay of Irish bosses had increased by as much as 50% in the last year "vindicates" Sinn Féin's call for 50% tax rate on the superrich. The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social and Community Affairs made his comments after the IMI released figures showing the pay of some chief executives increased from €249,000 in 2002 to €386,000 this year.
Deputy Crowe said: "This news clearly vindicates Sinn Féin's call last week for a new top rate of tax at 50% for incomes in excess of €100,000. For far too long the ordinary PAYE worker and those on relatively meagre incomes have been baring the brunt of the taxation policies of this Government.
"These latest figures, which graphically illustrate that the gap between the rich and poor is widening, provide a clear indicator for Charlie McCreevy ofwhere his priorities should lie in relation to generating tax revenue.
"That bosses are able to give themselves increases of up to 50% while the ordinary worker is bound to a 7% increase over two years shows that Irelands ridiculously low corporation tax of 12.5% is being used and abused to help fatten the already over bloated wallets of the captains of industry.
"Charlie McCreevy, instead of targeting the most disadvantaged in society with his proposed €58m cuts in social welfare while the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern digs his head further into the sand in relation to the levels of child poverty, should tackle the culture of corporate greed in this state and force the wealthy to pay their fair share. " ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty has called for the International Observers who have travelled to the six counties to monitor the election to be allowed access to the polling stations.
Mr Doherty said:
"Serious concerns have been raised by a variety of bodies and political parties about the conduct of the registration process here. Tens of thousands of people have been disenfranchised and thousands of others who have managed to get on the register do not have the correct form of ID.
"In light of this Sinn Féin welcome the fact that International Observers have travelled here to monitor the election. Remarkably however, the Electoral Office has banned these International Monitors from entering polling stations on the day of the election.
" Exactly what is the Electoral Office trying to hide? Why are they preventing observers who have monitored elections across the world from visiting polling stations here?
" I m calling on the Chief Electoral Officer Denis Stanley to revoke this decision and allow these monitors full and free access to the polling stations. Confidence in the ability of the Electoral Office to conduct the electoral process is already seriously damaged without adding further to it with decisions like this." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will be in North Belfast tomorrow morning for a walkabout with some of the party's election candidates. They will leave the party's offices on the Antrim Road at 11am.
Look at the record of Sinn Féin -- Adams
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking alongside Martin McGuinness MP, Gerry Kelly, Alex Maskey, Bairbre de Brún and Michelle Gildernew MP today in An Culturlann in West Belfast said:
"We are coming to the end of the publicity campaign for this election. I want, at this point, to give some sense of where I think the politics are at.
First of all, Sinn Fein more than any other party has been involved in intensive canvassing on the doorsteps. For us this election started two years ago and while I have not been as involved as usual in canvassing because of recent family bereavements, I can identify clear trends.
It is my view that a small amount of more far-sighted unionist voters are going to give our party a preference. This is because the electorate are looking at the record of Sinn Fein in the peace process. Whether they like our politics or not and an increasing number do, progressive people know that we have taken real risks for peace. They know the peace process is the future and they know that we are the party that can be trusted to manage that process in a way, which is to the best advantage of everyone who lives here.
There is also the issue of effective representation. The Sinn Fein Ministers and Chairs of Committees did a good job.
I'm getting that back on the doorsteps, particularly in relation to the former Ministers of Health and Education. They took decisive action. In fact our party opted for departments, which others deemed not to be a priority.
Compare Sinn Fein's record in Government to that of the, here today gone tomorrow approach of the Ulster Unionists or the semi detached approach of the DUP. Voters know who has made the difference.
So too with the SDLP. It is very obvious that SDLP voters are going to opt for Sinn Fein this time. I have been told of the dissatisfaction with the SDLP's negative, carping and begrudging campaign against Sinn Fein. And that trend is repeated throughout all of the constituencies. I want to appeal to those SDLP supporters who have made or are making that choice to give us a number 1 vote.
Many SDLP voters are telling us that they are voting for Sinn Fein this time. We are also being told that the SDLP's failure to scrap student fees and the proposal by their Ministers to bring in Water Charges are key issues of concern.
There is also, in our opinion, a direct relationship between the strengthening Sinn Fein mandate right across this island and the willingness of increasing numbers of unionists to come to terms with the new situation.
It is little wonder that there is a crisis within unionism but is also very obvious as the UUP go through contortions and the DUP play catch up that they know they have to deal with the new reality. That is the new reality of confident, assertive, magnanimous and generous republicanism. That is why the dialogue between Irish Republicanism and Unionism is so important.
My view is, and I have said this to our party, lets take nothing for granted. Lets continue to go for votes from every quarter. Lets go for the largest number of seats possible because only by strengthening Sinn Féin's hand can this process work right across social and economic issues, right across the institutions and effective representation in them, right down to the nitty gritty of building the peace and bringing about a new dispensation. And moving from there towards Irish Unity and Independence.
So our view is that we are going to take new voters, that a small but significant tendency of far-sighted unionism will vote for us and that SDLP voters are going to give us first preference votes. But we take none of this for granted. As I have said the publicity campaign is almost over, but we will be back on the doorsteps asking every single person to give us a number 1 vote. And I am appealing specially to SDLP voters to give us a number 1 preference on Wednesday." ENDS
Throughout the election campaign Irish Republican Media have been interviewing Sinn Féin candidates and members of the party leadership on-line. Today they talk to Gerry Kelly about prospects for taking two seats in North Belfast and his determination to secure a new begining to policing.
On election polling day and count day Irish Republican Media will have regular video updates and the results as they come in at www.irishrepublicanmedia.com
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will lead a press conference outlining the party's priorities for Government, tomorrow Monday 24th. It will take place at 11am in the Culturlann on the Falls Road in Belfast
Also attend the press conference will be Martin McGuinness, Bairbre de Brun, Alex Maskey and Gerry Kelly.
Sinn Féin Councillor Alex Maskey speaking at the launch of the party's Youth Manifesto for the Assembly Elections said "this is a manifesto written by and for young people. It sets out their demands for Irish Unity, for youth rights and against racism and sectarianism." Mr. Maskey said:
" Sinn Fein is the second largest party youth wing on the island. It is an active youth organisation which plays a crucial role within Sinn Féin also. Membership of Ográ Shinn Fein is not a pastime. It is a campaigning movement. It is unafraid to take to the streets of Belfast to demand a new beginning to policing, to the streets of Dublin to demand a fair deal on insurance for young drivers or to the streets of Drogheda to demand the closure of Sellafield.
"Young people who join Ográ Shinn Fein believe they can make a difference and this is the feeling that is missing from other young people across the island. They believe their vote makes no difference and they are asking why the British brought in regulations to make it harder for young people to vote,ensuring that many young people will be disenfranchised in this weeks election.
But they can deliver change. They can make a difference. But to do so they must vote for a party that can deliver change, for a party that is genuinely different. In Sinn Fein they see a revolutionary political party. They sense change coming, great change, and they want to be a part of it.
"Listening to the young people speaking here today I am reminded of the huge contribution made to the development of the republican movement and Sinn Fein by young people across Ireland. It was young people, from North and South, who took part in the first civil rights marches that challenged the discriminatory Northern state. It was young people who sacrificed their youth, sometimes their lives, in the internment camps and prisons where the British government tried to destroy Irish republicanism once and for all. And it is the energy, radicalism and commitment of young people that has spearheaded Sinn Fein's dramatic electoral successes of the last five years and the successes we will enjoy on November 26th. Increasing numbers of young people are joining Sinn Fein, standing behind the Ográ Shinn Fein banner that bears the slogan Independence and Socialism, and working for a better future and an Ireland of equals.
Among the priorities of Ógra Shinn Féin in this election are:
Letter From Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams
Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. We are a party of radical change. We are an all Ireland party. We are the fastest growing political party in Ireland, and the only party with a strategy for the reunification of our country.
As republicans we are totally committed to ending inequality and to bringing about a society where all are treated equally. We have been leading the way for change in our communities, in political institutions and in the negotiations. We have stood up to the rejectionists, inside and outside of government and we will continue to do so.
Are you interested in politics? Do you want to have a say in how your life is run? Do you believe that the politicians in charge are representing your interests properly? Five years after the publication of the Good Friday Agreement do you, as a young person, feel more included in the political life of your country?
These are just some of the important questions facing you in the upcoming election.
This manifesto has been produced by Ogra Shinn Féin. It has been produced by young people, for young people. It sets out the commitments of young republicans.
If you want to know more about Sinn Féin and our policies, or join the party, why not log onto our new web site www.sinnfein.ie
Remember your voice can be heard — but only if you make it. I am asking you on November 26th to use your vote and to vote Sinn Féin.
Ógra Shinn Féin is the most vibrant and radical youth wing of any political party in Ireland. We are dedicated to bringing about revolutionary social change, ensuring youth rights and culture are respected, challenging corruption and imperalism at home and abroad and achieving the freedom of our country.
Is e Ógra Shinn Féin an t-aon pháirtí uile-Éireannach agus tá sé mar idhm againn poblacht daonlatach 32-contae a bhunú agus deireadh a chuir le riail Shasana in Éireann.
Through protest action, political discussions and international solidarity we campaign on issues that matter to young people' in particular:-
Irish Unity and Independence
Ógra Shinn Féin is an Irish repubican party. We are working to bring about Irish Unity and Independence. Ógra Shinn Féin will be part of the generation that will see freedom, justice and a lasting peace in Ireland.
Ógra Shinn Féin is campaigning for:
Five Years of British and Unionist Stalling must end
The Good Friday Agreement heralded a new political dispensation on this island. For the first time, people were promised a real say in how our lives were governed. The Agreement opened the way to all Ireland development and real change on the equality, human rights and economic and social justice fronts.
For the last five years we have had ongoing loyalist attacks and the Unionists and the British government have been stalling and blocking the implementation of the Agreement. This failure to stand by the Agreement has created a lot of anger among young people.
It is important that we do not become disillusioned, change cannot be prevented. The Agreement must be implemented in all its aspects. And Sinn Féin will continue to be at the forefront of the campaign for change.
Ógra Shinn Féin is demanding:
Education is a human right, and should be open and accessible to all. Ógra Shinn Féin is demanding :
Homelessness and housing shortages are a problem which affect many young people.
Ógra Shinn Féin believes that:
We are constantly told that employment is on the increase, and that there is a reduction in the numbers of those out of work. However what they are not telling you is that the way in which unemployment statistics are counted has changed 11 times since 1997. The present figures mask the real level of unemployment in our society, especially among young people.
Ógra Shinn Féin demands:
Crime is a serious issue in our society. However young people are often criminalised as the sole problem, particularly in term of anti social behaviour. This should not be the case, indeed young people have an active role to play in combating issues such as anti-social activity.
Ógra Shinn Féin is demanding:
Policing & Demilitarisation
Young people in nationalist areas have born the brunt of unjust and violent policing for many years. Ógra Shinn Féin was at the forefront of the campaign to disband the RUC and remain committed to campaigning to achieve the new beginning to policing promised in the Agreement.
Ógra Shinn Féin are demanding:
Access to Political Institutions
If young people are to play a full part in the political life of our country then we need to see our political institutions and politics open up and become more accessible to young people. Too often political institutions are seen as the preserve of middle class men in dull grey suits, with little or no knowledge of young people and our needs and aspirations.
Ógra Shinn Féin believes that:
Equality cannot be a meaningful aspiration, it must become a reality for all. Young people must have equality of opportunity and outcome in all aspects of life. Anything short of that is unacceptable.
Ógra Shinn Féin is demanding:
Sectarianism & Racism
In the recently published 'A Shared Future' Document there was not one single substantive reference to young people and our experience of sectarianism. Likewise in the recently passed race Relations Act (NI) young peoples concerns and needs, especially second generation young people, were almost completely ignored. Sectarianism and Racism need to be viewed as structural forms of discrimination which permeate our society in all its aspects, and which have specific effects on specific groups of people.
Ógra Shinn Féin believes that tackling the root causes of racism and sectarianism require:
Our society is becoming increasingly globalised. This brings many advantages but also many disadvantages. The globalisation of corporate culture and imposition of a bland, homogeneous and consumer led culture is not in the interests of our society, its culture or indeed our young people.
Ógra Shinn Féin believes that:
Arts & Culture
For too long arts and culture have been relegated to the status of poor cousin to other areas of social and public policy. This needs to change. Young people have a right to express themselves and have access to the variety of artistic and cultural mediums which the arts have to offer. These practices must not be the right of the privileged few.
Ógra Shinn Féin believes that:
Sport & Leisure
Like arts and culture Sports and Leisure are often relegated down the funding ladder by government. This has to change. More resources are needed to ensure that all young people have equal access to sports education and facilities and leisure facilities within local communities.
Ógra Shinn Féin supports:
South Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Alex Maskey has accused anti-Agreement loyalists of being behind a vicious attack on one of his canvass teams this afternoon in the Cairnshill area.
Mr. Maskey said:
"This afternoon one of my canvass teams working in the Cairnshill area close to Forestside Shopping centre was attacked by a large crowd of loyalists who arrived at the scene in cars. A mini bus was severely damaged and a number of my election team were hurt.
"Sinn Féin will not be put off by these bullyboy tactics. This sort of incident is evidence that anti-agreement unionists fear the Sinn Féin agenda of change. We will continue bringing this message to homes across the six counties. There are no no-go areas for Sinn Féin in this campaign.
"The response on the doorstep has been fantastic and I am sure that the electorate will give their answer to these anti-Agreement thugs at the ballot box this week. I also look forward to hearing what those parties who represent this anti-Agreement fringe have to say about the resort to this type of intimidation and violence." ENDS
Speaking today from the canvas trail in his West Belfast constituency Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that claims by the SDLP that they are the party to stop the DUP agenda are 'simply laughable'.
Mr. Adams said:
"The SDLP have been claiming that they are the only party to stop the DUP agenda. These claims are simply laughable when placed against the reality.
"For years on the Local Councils the SDLP accepted inequality, second class citizenship and discrimination. However, the face of local councils were changed forever with the arrival of Sinn Féin into the council chambers. The DUP know this, they are frightened of the Sinn Féin agenda for change. You only have to read their election material and listen to their leadership to see that.
"It is Sinn Féin who have a long standing record of effective representation and a long standing record of challenging the DUP agenda. Sinn Féin is the party best placed to rise to the challenge presented to the Good Friday Agreement by the DUP and the other rejectionists." ENDS
There has been enormous progress across Irish society over the last ten years. There has been a political transformation, which many people thought was not possible.
In this election Sinn Féin is asking the electorate to defend the Agreement, to give their first preference to Sinn Féin candidates and to transfer to Sinn Fein candidates. We are asking you to return Sinn Féin First or Deputy First Minister and to maximise nationalist representation.
In this election we can make history.
Republicans took huge risks for peace. We need you to endorse our work. Our electoral support makes a difference.
The strength of Sinn Féin's electoral support has made that difference. It delivers. For decades others failed to deliver change. They engaged in endless talks about talks. In our Local Councils, before Sinn Féin arrived, others accepted inequality, discrimination and second class citizenship, Sinn Féin Councillors did not. They confronted the bigots. They delivered change right across the six counties.
In September 1997 Sinn Féin entered the negotiations. By April 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was achieved. Since then we have continued to negotiate to see this Agreement implemented.
When others gave up, Sinn Féin did not. We demanded and secured commitments from the British government on policing, demilitarisation, Irish language, equality and human rights.
Sinn Féin also initiated an unprecedented dialogue with Unionism to overcome difficulties and divisions. We will return to this dialogue after the election. Sinn Féin is a problem solving party.
Of course there have been difficulties including a failure on the part of other parties to uphold their commitments and attempts by those opposed to change to undermine the whole Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement must be implemented in full. Negotiations after the elections will therefore be crucial.
Sinn Féin will stand up to those who are opposed to change. We will refuse to let the governments off the hook and insist that they stand by the Agreement. We will settle for nothing less than equality and justice.
The electorate has backed Sinn Féin in growing numbers making us the third largest party on the island. Nationalists are voting for Sinn Féin in greater numbers because Sinn Féin is delivering change. The DUP and rejectionists also know this. That is why they have made Sinn Féin a central plank of their campaign. The strongest response to the DUP is a strong vote for Sinn Féin. The Good Friday Agreement will not be renegotiated.
In this election we are asking people to endorse our work and to vote and transfer to Sinn Féin to enable us to return to the negotiations stronger, able to achieve more.
With your support we can maximise nationalist representation, ensure that we have equality for nationalists in the Assembly and the Executive, and ensure that the 50:50 division of ministries is maintained.
Tá Sinn Féin, an t-aon pháirtí uile-Éireann, ag obair chuig aontacht agus neamhspleáchas na hÉireann agus lánfheidhmiú Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta.
A vote for Sinn Féin is this election is a vote for the peace process. It is an endorsement of our role in that process. It is a vote for equality in our political institutions, investment in public services, tackling the crisis in rural communities, ending child poverty and in bringing an end to years of structural inequality in many urban and rural communities and West of the Bann.
A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for a new Ireland, a free, united and independent Ireland. It is a vote for change. A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for strong leadership that delivers change and equality. A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for the future.
Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh speaking on the final weekend of campaigning before next week's Assembly Election said:
"As we reach the final weekend of the election campaign Sinn Féin activists and elected representatives from right across Ireland are in the Six Counties working to secure the strongest possible representation in the next Assembly. Alongside our TDs are party members from every region who are canvassing with those who helped secure such important advances in last year's General Election in the 26 Counties.
"Sinn Féin is the only party with a strategy and policies for achieving Irish Unity and independence. We are the only party that people can vote for, whether they live in Derry, Kerry, Wexford, or Antrim.
"We are asking the electorate to vote for Sinn Féin and to transfer to Sinn Féin so that we can continue our work to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented and the peace process advanced."ENDS
Ogra Shinn Féin will launch their manifesto for the Assembly elections at the Sinn Féin office on the Ormeau Road at 3pm (tomorrow Sunday 23rd). It will be hosted by South Belfast representative Cllr. Alex Maskey.
Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Councillor Paul Butler has said that many people in Lisburn believe that the murder of a young man in the town last night was a sectarian attack carried out by loyalists.
Cllr. Butler said:
"Firstly, I would wish to send my condolences to the family of this young man.
" I have been speaking to people in Lisburn throughout the day and there is a belief that this murder was sectarian and was carried out by a loyalist gang. In recent times there has been a marked increase in loyalist paramilitary activity in the town, both against catholics and indeed against members of the unionist community.
" It seems that the PSNI have sat back and allowed these loyalist groups to operate with impunity. People in the town are angry at this complete lack of response by the PSNI. Catholics in Lisburn and across Lagan Valley feel that they have been abandoned time and again to the violent excesses of loyalist paramilitaries." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will return to the campaign trail tomorrow (Saturday 22nd). He will be available to speak to the media at 10.30am tomorrow morning in Castle Street before embarking on an extensive canvass in his West Belfast constituency.
Ag caint ag seoladh Forógra don Gaeilge de chuid Sinn Féin, dúirt Bairbre de Brún, ball d'Ard Chomhairle an pháirtí agus í ina hionadaí do Bhéal Feirste Thiar, dúirt sí:
"Is gné lárnach í an Ghaeilge sa chultúr Gaelach atá mar oidhreacht chomónta d'achan duine a chonaíonn ar an oileán seo. Is linne uilig an teanga, pé creideamh ná dearcadh polaitiúil atá againn. Saibhraíonn an teanga muid uilig. Seo an fáth a chreideann Sinn Féin go docht go bhfuil gá leis an teanga a chosaint.
"Is é aidhm s‚againne ná sochaí dátheangach a chruthú ag gach leibhéal. Is é cuspóir s'againne go mbeidh muintir na hÉireann ábalta an teanga a shealbhú arís.
"Léiríonn an doiciméad seo bealach praicticiúil leis sin a dhéanamh trí reachtaíocht, craoltóireacht agus soláthar seirbhísí óige agus sóisialta.
"Bhí Sinn Féin chun tosaigh ag cur na Gaeilge chun cinn agus ag cinntiú áit don teanga san idirbheartaíocht roimh Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta. Ó shin amach táimid ag cur na teanga chun cinn ar bhonn uile-Éireann.
"Bhí ról lárnach againn i mbunú Foras na Gaeilge, an foras uile-Éireann a bhfuil freagracht aige ar chur cun cinn na Gaeilge. Agus d'éirigh linn sa streachailt le buiséad Foras na Gaeilge a fháil ar ais arís tar éis ciorruithe an Rialtais anuraidh.
"Rinneamar iarracht, taobh istigh den Tionól agus san Fheidhmeannas, go dtabharfaí an stádas don Ghaeilge atá tuillte aici agus go ndéanfaí labhairt na Gaeilge a éascú agus a chur chun cinn.
"Tá tuilleadh le déanamh le cinntiú go gcuirfí i bhfeidhm na geallúintí sin a tugadh don Ghaeilge. Sin an fáth go bhfuilimid ag foilsiú an Fhorógra seo agus sin an fáth a bhfuil coimitmint againn go mbeidh soláthar seirbhísí Gaeilge ina ghné lárnach sa chéad Tionál eile."
Irish Language - A Priority
Speaking at the launch of the Sinn Féin manifesto on the Irish Language, Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle member and West Belfast representative Bairbre de Brún Speaking at the launch of the Sinn Féin manifesto on the Irish Language, Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle member and West Belfast representative Bairbre de Brún said:
"The Irish language is a central component of our culture which belongs to all of us who live on this island irrespective of creed or political outlook. It enriches all our lives. This is why Sinn Féin believes strongly in the need to protect and promote the Irish language.
"Our policy is aimed at creating a bilingual society at every level. Our objective is to allow the people to reclaim their language. This document sets out practical ways of doing this across a number of key areas - legislation, broadcasting and youth and social provision.
"Sinn Féin has been to the forefront in promoting the importance and safeguarding the position of the Irish language and culture during the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement, and since, on an all-Ireland basis.
" We were instrumental in bringing about the establishment of Foras na Gaeilge, the all-Ireland body with responsibility for promoting the Irish language and we were successful in the fight to restore the budget to Foras na Gaeilge following government cutbacks last year.
" We have sought, both within the Assembly and the Executive, to ensure that the Irish language is accorded the status it deserves and that Irish and the use of Irish are facilitated and promoted." However much remains to be done to ensure the new beginning promised for the Irish language and culture in the Good Friday Agreement is delivered. That is why we have produced this manifesto and why we are committed to making Irish language provision a key component within the next Assembly." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has said that 'a vote for Sinn Féin is the best guarantee that there will be no renegotiation of the Agreement and that a strong and decisive Sinn Féin vote is a strong and decisive vote against the DUP and the rejectionists'.
Mr Adams said:
" The Sinn Fein peace strategy, and the endorsement of this by the electorate in growing numbers, has transformed our society. The DUP and rejectionists know this. That is why they have made Sinn Féin a central plank of their campaign.
" The strength of Sinn Féin's electoral support has made that difference. It delivers. For decades others failed to deliver change. They engaged in endless talks about talks. In our Local Councils, before Sinn Féin arrived, others accepted inequality, discrimination and second class citizenship, Sinn Féin Councillors did not. They confronted the bigots. They delivered change right across the six counties.
" A vote for Sinn Fein is the best guarantee that there will be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. A strong and decisive vote for Sinn Féin is a strong and decisive vote against the DUP.
" In this election we are asking people to endorse our work and to vote and transfer to Sinn Féin to maximise nationalist representation in the Assembly and the Executive and to return a Sinn Fein First or Deputy First Minister." ENDS
National Self-determination and Gender Equality
Ireland is a Nation of Unequals.
Irish Republicanism is defined as the pursuit of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and these Republican ideals have underpinned the struggle for national liberation.
The inequality and discrimination experienced by women in Ireland is in direct opposition to these ideals
National Self-determination and Gender Equality are not sequential issues, they are directly linked.
The principle of freedom is a right that all the people of Ireland should enjoy.
As the people of Ireland deconstruct the defining elements of partition, the steps we take on the road to unity need to be informed by the wider guarantee outlined in the Proclamation of the Republic to "cherish all the children of the Nation equally".
Sinn Féin advocates the right to social, economic and cultural equality. This encompasses the equality of all women irrespective of their race, age, marital or family status, sexual orientation, physical or mental capacities, ethnicity, social origin or political or religious affiliations.
And, it must be recognised at the outset that Women's inequality and in turn gender discrimination, is a collective issue for all society in Ireland.
Women in all parts of Ireland share similar experiences of marginalisation.
Sinn Fein is the only all-Ireland party and as such is the only party in a position to push for and deliver on Gender Equality in Ireland North and South.
Women and Unequal Access to Decision Making
Sinn Fein wants to build an Ireland of Equals and we recognise the vital need for gender balance, gender proofing and gender equality in the decision making process.
Women are not fully represented in either national politics or in local government decision-making structures. In the 26 Counties less than 15% of TDs are women and involvement of women in politics at grassroots level is little better. In the 6 Counties only 14% of the total number of MLA's in the Assembly were women and women only make up 32% of the public appointments.
Sinn Féin is working to redress this and actively promotes women in the party.
Sinn Fein is working for:
However, women occupying positions of power is not enough. The decision making process goes beyond the field of politics to all levels of society where decisions are made.
Women and the Human Rights and Equality Agenda
Sinn Fein recognises the diverse and shared experiences of women throughout the island. By extension the nature of discrimination that is felt by women is equally diverse. For women inequality is manifested differently when combined with other factors such as poverty, educational disadvantage, poor health care, violence and racism. Therefore, society in Ireland must be underpinned by robust human rights and Equality protections.
Sinn Fein's aim is to build an Ireland of Equals. We seek to realise the potential for all-Ireland progress on the whole Human Rights/equality focus as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
The Good Friday Agreement is an all Ireland agreement. The majority of women endorsed it by their vote and are committed to and working towards its full implementation. We insist that the six county Human Rights Commission, as set up under the Good Friday Agreement be re-constituted in a fully comprehensive way to reflect, in terms of representation on the Commission, society as a whole, especially those constituencies who are socially excluded. Sinn Fein calls for:
Women in Poverty
Gender is a crucial factor in determining participation in economic life.
In Ireland, like most other societies, the traditional division of labour has encumbered women with the prime responsibility for domestic work such as childcare, care of the elderly, cooking and cleaning.
As a consequence of the gender differences in the labour market, women rely, to a larger extent than men, on social security benefits in order to support themselves and their families. For example in the 6 Counties:
This figure reflects the relative disadvantage of households headed by women.
Many groups at highest risk of poverty are composed predominantly of women. Sinn Fein fully supports and supplements the recommendations made by the National Women's Council in their call for a human rights based approach to the elimination of women's poverty and social exclusion. On an all-Ireland basis.
Sinn Fein calls for:
Women in the Economy
Today there are more women in work outside the home than ever before. However women are still over represented amongst those on the minimum wage and in the part-time and services sector.
Women are still less likely than men to have an independent income. When women do have an independent source of income their earnings are on average 80% of men's, despite 30 years of equal pay legislation.
Women are also much more likely than men to have part-time, short-term or casual employment. For example in public administration, education and health sectors 42% of female employee's work part-time, compared to 6% of male employees.
The Equality Commission recently took part in a trans-national study, 'Developing Sectoral Strategies to Address Gender Pay Gaps'. The research focused on the IT and retail sectors. The study found that the average hourly pay for women working part-time is 68% of the average full-time male rate. Closing the gender pay gap primarily relies on equalising wage rates within occupations.
The shortage of quality childcare makes it difficult for women to remain in the workforce or to access full-time employment. Women's unpaid caring work still remains unrecognised, undervalued and unmeasured with the denial of basic rights such as social insurance and pension credits. Women returning to the workforce face additional problems in accessing training and education as their work in the home is not recognised and therefore they are not on the Live Employment Register.
It is essential that structures and work practices are developed to allow the reconciliation and harmonisation of family life and work. Only in this way can gender equality and equal participation in employment be promoted.
To support women in the workplace Sinn Fein calls for:
Women & Childcare
The opportunities for women to work in paid employment outside the home have never been greater. However due to the lack of affordable and accessible child care many women are denied the opportunity to participate in paid employment.
The 6 Counties has one of the lowest provisions of childcare in the European Union. Recent surveys have highlighted the fact that the 6 Counties had only 34.8 day nursery places for every 1000 children under the age of 5, compared to the average of 71.3 places in Britain.
Studies have shown that the expense of childcare acts as a disincentive and a barrier for low paid women entering the labour market. In Ireland the vast majority of lone parents are female.
Lone parents in the 6 Counties are specifically disadvantaged as their earnings are about one third lower than comparable levels in Britain.
Sinn Fein calls for:
Women & Health
The weight of evidence is that good health is linked to income, education and employment as well as lifestyle and environment.
Women are more likely to be caught in the poverty trap and more frequently put the needs of their families before their own. The risks to their health therefore can be serious.
Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer among women in Ireland. One in 13 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime (National Cancer Registry of Ireland) A woman living in Ireland is four times more likely to die from breast cancer than her European counterpart.
As Health Minister Bairbre de Brun prioritised cancer and cardiac care, the provision of children's services and the ending of inequalities in health. After this election Sinn Fein will once again seek to take on the challenge of both Education and Health. They remain our priority.
Sinn Féin calls for:
Violence against Women
Violence against women is the consequence of women's unequal status within society.
In Ireland, as with most countries, women experience the vast majority of so-called "domestic violence".
All forms of violence against women must be included when defining the problem. This includes physical, sexual and psychological abuse. We need to recognise that violence can happen in the family, within the community, in the workplace and by the State.
It is not enough for Sinn Féin as a party to reject such abusive behaviour. It is incumbent on us to support rigorous legal instruments and educational and awareness programmes that will ultimately instigate a sea change in social circumstances, behaviour patterns and attitudes in Irish society.
Women & Education
Education, Poverty and Social Exclusion are fundamentally linked. Structural inequality is a key factor in educational deprivation and discrimination. Equality of access to education and vocational training is a precondition to women's full participation in society and sentry into the labour market.
The present education systems in Ireland perpetuates gender differentiation in relation to educational and career paths.
Education is a tool for empowerment and choice. Gender differentiation and the reinforcement of 'traditional' roles inhibits the life choices of women in Ireland.
Sinn Fein calls for:
Women & Housing
While the numbers of people buying their own homes have steadily increased in Ireland North and South this increase belies a growing problem -- we are in the midst of a housing crisis.
Women, usually as the head of lone parent households, and single people are over-represented on the housing waiting lists.
Poverty and homelessness are clearly.
The use of discriminatory housing policy as a weapon for social and political control still has a negative residual impact in the 6 Counties. A social housing allocation system that perpetuates inequality is compounded still further by commercialisation of dwindling public housing stock.
The present crisis has been created by years of structural neglect North and South. Housing is not a commodity, it is a human right.
Sinn Fein calls for:
The desire for independence, respect and involvement in the decision making process are important factors for older women. The issue of pensions is crucial for older women. Contributory Pensions are determined by the years spent in the paid workforce where an Occupational Pension existed. Unfortunately, many older women are dependent on non-contributory old age pensions. While 52% of retired men in the 6 Counties receive occupational pensions, only 17% of retired women do.
The uncertainty of pension policy has had particular implications for women and their prospects of securing adequate incomes.
More than two-thirds of the 244,039 people receiving retirement pension in September 2001 were women. Most of the existing pension schemes are based on a traditional model of work, which is continuous contribution whilst in full-time work in a lifetime job. This discriminates against women -- particularly those women who were in part-time, periodic employment or low paid jobs
Sinn Fein calls for:
We commend the Carers Associations on the island of Ireland for providing a loud and strong voice for tens of thousands of full-time, and many more part-time carers. The issue has been placed higher on the political agenda than ever before.
The combination of low pay, high transport costs and the high cost of goods and services, especially in rural areas, means that many carers live in poverty.
Carers must be recognised for the work that they do and valued from a human rights perspective. In addition their work saves the State incalculable amounts of money. On an all-Ireland basis Sinn Fein calls for:
• The Social Welfare system to be modified to ensure that recognition for benefits is given to those who worked in the home;
Rural Women & Isolation
Rural living in Ireland is often associated with economic deprivation.
People living in remote rural areas share a number of problems such as distance from services and amenities, and isolation from others. These are particularly acute among women and the elderly.
- Women bearing primary responsibility for child rearing.
- The lack of child-care facilities and access to public transport is a particular problem for women in rural areas.
- Elderly women unable to afford the cost of a car are isolated from society or dependent on relatives and the local community.
In the 6 Counties farm based rural incomes have dropped by nearly 75% over the past four years and are continuing to decrease.
Sinn Fein calls for:
Women with Disabilities
Sinn Féin believes that the rights and needs of people with disabilities must be a Government priority. People who suffer disability need more resources invested in them and their families to ensure equality of access to education, health, transport services and to the workplace. The State must recognise that everybody has the right to a dignified standard of living and general life experience.
Sinn Féin Proposes: -
Promoting Gender Equality through Participation on a Cross-Border and all-Ireland Basis
Opportunities for meaningful participation for the poor and socially excluded are few and far between.
Building an inclusive community for reunification also means ensuring that the voices of the most marginalised are heard and acted upon.
Sinn Féin believes that those in who have been marginalised and the groups that advocate on their behalf are better placed than anybody to vitally contribute to the reconstructive shaping of support services that address their needs
In many instances Women's support groups can be experienced in negotiating services and explaining physical (infrastructural), financial, and social constraints. However they may not have extensive familiarity with participatory processes; either through lack knowledge or lack of practical opportunity.
This lack of opportunity to participate is no longer acceptable from a human rights perspective as well as from a practical policy development perspective.
Sinn Fein is committed to the promotion of common ownership of the decision-making processes of the Nation. We want to bring about equality of outcome throughout the island. We want to see the development of forums that promote real and outcome based participation constructively interfacing Government with Civic society for the benefit of all the people of the island.
With the promotion of increasingly all-Ireland approaches to economic and infrastructural development we must now also begin to consider their social impact.
This document has shown that Women of Ireland share similar experiences in relation to inequality and discrimination. Parallels can be drawn in all the constituencies mentioned above.
In this regard and commensurate with regional policy development groups that advocate on behalf of Women's rights need to organise collectively on a cross border and all-Ireland basis.
The conceptual and practical contexts for realignment already exist. Together we can make gender equality on the island of Ireland an actionable reality.