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North Antrim Sinn Féin Assembly member Philip McGuigan has accused the DUP
MP Nigel Dodds of operating 'breathtaking double standards' in his approach
to the prisoner release programme under the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr McGuigan said:

" Nigel Dodds has stated this week that Sean Kelly should not have been
freed from prison in July 2000. He claims to oppose the early release scheme
set up under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and has demanded that
those freed be returned to prison. Given this position it is reasonable to
ask Mr Dodds whether or not this approach applies to members of his own
party.

" In December 1992 Malachy Carey a Sinn Féin election agent in North Antrim
was shot dead by unionist paramilitaries. One of those convicted in
connection with the murder was Gary Blair. Gary Blair originally served his
sentence on the UVF wings in Long Kesh before leaving them to join up with
the anti-peace process LVF led by Catholic killer Billy Wright.

" Gary Blair as a qualifying prisoner was released early under the terms of
the Good Friday Agreement in July 2000. Since then he has returned to live
in the Ballymoney area and he assumed a senior position within the DUP in
North Antrim constituency acting as the local PRO.

" It seems reasonable to ask how Mr Dodds or indeed the local MP Ian Paisley
squares the circle of their stated opposition to the early release scheme
and their demands for those freed under it, like Sean Kelly, to be returned
to prison, and the presence in their own ranks in North Antrim of Gary
Blair." ENDS



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Sinn Fein Economy Spokesperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin writing in
Today's Derry News has argued for a long-term strategic response to the
economic development of the North West and the designation of the region as
an area of exceptional need to enable special initiatives to encourage
investment, promote and create employment.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The hype about the buoyancy of the North's economy is designed to conceal
the serious weaknesses in our local and regional economy. Close analysis of
the Northwest economy demonstrates that the area continues to experience
erosion of its economic base with both increased unemployment and a widening
prosperity gap between the haves and the have-nots

"A comparison of the six council areas (all West of the Bann) identified by
Invest NI (INI) as the six most income-deprived and employment-deprived
areas shows that they have received less financial assistance and will
receive less planned investment in total than the wealthy parliamentary
constituency of South Belfast alone. This is simply unacceptable.

"A calculation of the financial assistance by Invest NI per head of
population shows that the six council areas identified received on average
investment by INI of £5,752 per person living in those council areas
compared to £27,054 or nearly five times this amount, for each person living
in the affluent South Belfast.

"It is time that Invest NI stopped making excuses and got on with the job of
supporting economic development in areas that are most in need.

"The weakness in the Derry economy shows that:
· There is a high rate of out-migration by traditional manufacturing
companies
· The "unemployment" rate of 5.4% is double the North of Ireland average
· The Northwest has the highest Economic Inactivity rate in the North of
Ireland and Britain - 38%

"The haemorrhaging of jobs and shrinkage in manufacturing base is set to
continue unless we take responsibility for promoting the Region and creating
the atmosphere that will attract inward investment as well as encourage
indigenous entrepreneurial activity.

"Sinn Fein will continue to lobby for the development and expansion of the
principal third level education institutions such as Magee University, North
West Institute of Further and Higher Education, Limavady College of Further
and Higher Education and the Letterkenny Institute of Technology as
essential drivers for economic growth in the Northwest Region.

"The latest figures show that the North West region had nearly 1000
redundancies during 2004 and has lost over 6,000 manufacturing related jobs
in the past 7 years. The financial loss this represents to the local economy
is frightening.

"It is time for a policy change that designates the North West region as an
area of exceptional need.  This will enable special initiatives to encourage
investment, promote and create employment and improve the overall prosperity
for the people of the North West.

"The priorities should focus on the renewal and revival of our regional
economy. As a start Invest NI should locate its Headquarters in the North
West. This policy change should focus on:
· Growth of established indigenous enterprises
· Encouraging investment from the rest of the island of Ireland
· Development and growth of Social Economy
· Incentives for research and development
· Seeking Foreign Direct Investment
· Improve access to business finance particularly for indigenous business
· Investment in essential skills
· Encourage the competitiveness of disadvantaged neighbourhoods through
support for locally nurtured/incubated enterprises

"The key issues to be addressed in the Northwest are:
· Lack of jobs
· Low wages
· Economic inactivity rates
· Industrial De-rating
· Lack of public investment

"The level of economic inactivity is a measure of higher poverty level that
exists throughout the Northwest. Some 25,000 people in Derry are currently
living in poverty. The removal of Industrial De-rating without a structured
form of assistance to Small and Medium Enterprises in our current economic
climate could contribute to further economic inactivity, business failures
and job losses. This could pose a further a significant risk to our regional
economy.

"We need economic investment to build a regional economy focused on R&D,
agriculture, tourism, fishing, IT, data processing, bio- technology and
pharmaceutical research and production to ensure action and a change of
focus in favour of indigenous and social economy development.

"The socio-economic crisis that currently exists within the North West
Region demands significant intervention and investment by both governments.
Sinn Fein is demanding the area be designated as an area of exceptional
economic need and as a priority job creation zone.

"The North West Region over the past 30 years has suffered economic
discrimination and neglect in terms of public expenditure, new investment
opportunities and job creation. It's time that this situation is reversed
but it will take co-operation by all the stakeholders and political leaders
in the region to make it happen." ENDS



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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment and Workers Rights, Arthur Morgan T.D. has said that it is unacceptable for any company, let alone a semi-state company, to use the harassment tactics outlined in the leaked memo to bring about 'voluntary redundancies'. Deputy Morgan said the leaked memo was further evidence of the 'Ryanair-isation' of the state airline.

Deputy Morgan said, "The workers at Aer Lingus have contributed to the huge turn around of the airline in recent years. For management now to turn around and use harassment tactics accurately described by the unions as "psychological warfare" to persuade workers to accept voluntary redundancies is an absolute disgrace. Unions have also indicated that they are aware that a number workers have reported that they have been subjected to tactics similar to those put forward in the leaked memo.

"This cannot be allowed to rest. An urgent review of management practices particularly in reference to the treatment of workers must be carried out. Those who drew up this memo and who implemented or attempted to implement its suggestions must be held accountable.

"Management at Aer Lingus have been attempting to copy to low fair airline model of Ryanair. This model is based on anti-workers practices which Aer Lingus is now clearly emulating. The workers of Aer Lingus are employees of this State and the Government cannot stand idly by and allow them to be treated in this way." ENDS

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Sinn  Féin  TD  Seán  Crowe  has  described  as ‘alarming’ news that the Minister  for Justice, Michael McDowell has signed an agreement with the US  that allows for the detention and interrogation of people in Ireland by  US  secret service agents and that also allows agencies like the CIA access  to personal details including their bank accounts.  Deputy Crowe said  it  was a ‘particularly sinister development’ in relation to civil liberties and human rights in this State.

The  Dublin  South  West  TD  said,  “The signing of this agreement is a particularly  sinister and dangerous development for civil liberties and human  rights  in  this  State  and  indeed the sovereignty of the State itself.   It  is  absolutely  unacceptable that an organisation like the CIA, given the malevolent role it played in creating the war in Iraq and given  its  absolutely  appalling  record  in  relation  to  respect for international  law  and  human  rights,  should  be allowed by the Irish Government to conduct investigations and interrogations on Irish soil.

“This  is  not an agreement of ‘mutual assistance’ – this is all one way traffic.  It is designed to aid the USA's so-called war on terrorism – a war  that  has  already  seen the deaths of at least 25,000 civilians in Iraq, mostly at the hands of the US and British armed forces.

“The retrograde step that the US has taken in relation to protecting the rights  of  its  own  citizens  and  the erosion of fundamental freedoms following  9-11,  which  had  included  the internment of people without charge  or  access  to  a lawyer and the kidnapping of people from other jurisdictions  must  not be allowed to become part of the norm here.  It doesn’t  matter if other EU countries have signed up to this agreement –we  should not – and certainly not without a proper public debate on the issue.

“Michael  McDowell  has  already  claimed  he  is against a rights based society.  That claim takes on a much more alarming significance in light of this latest agreement he has signed.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein Education & Library Board Members will hold a protest outside the Belfast Headquarters tomorrow to coincide with the first Board meeting of the year following the election of the new Board.  The Sinn Fein team will be joined by Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson and parents from two schools who have been hit by the cuts.

Commenting upon the Protest Michael Ferguson said,

 

“Sinn Fein’s Board members will not be policing an inadequate budget set by the Government and a budget which is having an adverse impact on education services.

 

We are calling upon the other elected and non-elected members of the Board not to support the scheduled cuts and to oppose any attempt to introduce further cuts. The government needs to get real and provide a real budget that supports education and learning”

 

Theresa Calvert a mother of a child at St Mary’s Star of the Sea in North Belfast will be in attendance at the protest and commenting upon her attendance said,

 

“ We are loosing three teachers and as a consequence the special needs teacher is now being moved to fill one of the gaps so their will be no cover for the kids with special needs”

 

Patricia Reid a parent from Vere Foster School in West Belfast and also attending the protest said,

 

“ Our school is loosing three teachers, a supervisor and the school canteen is being closed and on top of this classes are to be amalgamated. None of this is good for our children’s education and I am protesting to ensure a good education for my child”.

 

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will lead a party delegation to meet Irish EU
Affairs Minster Noel Tracey tomorrow, Friday 22nd July, at 3pm in the
offices of the Irish Secretariat in Belfast to press the case for an EU
PEACE III programme for the period 2007 - 2013. The party delegation will
include Mitchel McLaughlin MLA and Arthur Morgan TD.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Ms de Brún said:

"Sinn Féin have been engaged in a number of on-going initiatives aimed at
securing an EU Peace III programme for the 2007-2013. We have been
organising meetings throughout the Six Counties and the border counties with
people and groups working on the ground, tackling disadvantage, the legacy
of the conflict and on conflict resolution and peace building, often with
the support of EU peace funding.

"The current PEACE II extension will end next year and this will place much
of this important work at risk unless plans for the future are made now.
Sinn Fein have identified a clear need for continued support to cover the
period 2007 -2013.

"Our programme of outreach is part of a number of on-going initiatives and a
wider campaign to secure a PEACE III programme and a bottom up approach to
its design and delivery.

"A ballpark figure of some 200 million Euro for the 2007-2013 period was
mooted by the Luxemburg EU Presidency last month. We have met with a number
of local organisations and councils to discuss the way forward, including
the need for the British and Irish governments to secure a realistic figure
for peace funding from the EU and from government sources.

"It is vital that both the British and Irish Governments commit themselves
to helping secure additional funding for the period 2007 - 2013." ENDS



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The Belfast Education and Library Board has responded to criticisms from
Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson about the potential loss
of half of the City's Educational Youth Provision.

Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson who has been highlighting
the case of 28 educational youth workers who are facing redundancy next
month has been critical of the BELB response and damning of the Education
Department. He said,

" The BELB has responded to the potential loss of half of its educational
youth provision by claiming that it has been in negotiation with the
Education Department for sometime to resolve the problem.

"The truth of the matter is that we have experienced frontline youth workers
who have been on six month to twelve-month contracts for five years when
this essential service should have been mainstreamed.

"The Department of Education itself has published a report called
'Transforming Youth Services' in which they recommend one youth worker for
every thirty young people and yet there are only fifty-six throughout the
entire city and half of these are under threat while the rest are on 6-12
month contracts.

"We have high levels of poverty and deprivation in the city, we have
unprecedented levels of self-harm and suicides among young people and we
need at least 100 youth workers who are on the mainstream parole. The BELB
are being disingenuous in their response and should have the courage to
challenge the Department and the Department is abdicating their
responsibility for educational youth provision even by their own standards.

We need a Real Education Budget that supports Education and Learning and
youth services central to this provision."ENDS


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Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has met David Hanson, the British
direct rule Minster responsible for inland fishing, to put the case for
direct aid to support the sustainable development of Elver Eel stocks in
Lough Neagh. Speaking after the meeting Mr McGuinness said:

"Lough Neagh is a natural habitat for the Elver Eel. Maintaining sustainable
stock levels is vital to providing for the long-term future of eel fishing
on Lough Neagh.

"The Lough Neagh Fisherman's Co-operative has played a vital role is
sustaining current stocks  in purchasing over 74 million Elver eels since
1985 at a cost of over £1.5 million to restock the Lough. However, the
reality is that it is generally accepted that the minimum annual recruitment
of Elver into Lough Neagh should be 8 million in order to protect the
indigenous local industry.

"The continued purchase of an adequate quantity of Elvers each year is
essential to ensure the continued viability of the industry. Without direct
aid it will be hard to sustain the required level of recruitment of wild eel
into Lough Neagh.

"Sinn Fein has highlighted the imbalance of investment in economic
development and assistance, particularly outside of Belfast and West of the
Bann, by Invest NI. Providing grant aid to stock Lough Neagh would be just
one way for direct rule ministers to provide evidence that the accept that
the anti-West of the Bann and pro-Belfast, pro-East Coast bias is damaging
to important economic sectors here.

"Across Europe the growth in eel farming has meant that there is now a major
decline in the natural recruitment of wild eels into the European water
systems and has resulted in most European eel fisheries being in terminal
decline.

"The management of both brown and silver eel stocks is of the highest
standard, far exceeding EU recommendations in many areas.

"Lough Neagh is now the major commercial wild ell fishery in Europe. Its
status is protected and production levels maintained through sustained local
investment. However, the concern is that failure to provide assistance would
undermine the local industry that would lead to lower stocking levels and a
vicious circle that would see both the decline in this economically
important local industry and to the Elver population in Lough Neagh.

"The government needs to give a firm commitment to support eel fishing on
Lough Neagh. It plays a vital role in the life of people living along the
banks of the Lough and is sustaining the local economy. The loss of the wild
eel fishing industry from Lough Neagh would have both serious consequences
for some of the most deprived areas in the North and for one of our natural
resources, the wild eel.

"Every year hundreds of tons of Elvers are exported from Europe to the Far
East yet this will cause long-term damage to the native European wild eel
fisheries unless action is taken. There are very serious concerns that the
course of action under consideration by the EU will destroy the industry
rather than ensure its long-term sustainability." ENDS



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Sinn Fein Agriculture spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michel Gildernew has said that falling beef prices require concerted action.Ms Gildernew said:

"The farming community is once again in the grip of mounting losses, due to the sharp downturn in beef prices.

"Farmers were optimistic earlier in the year, that with the start of the Single Farm Payment leading to a reduction in the numbers of cattle together with strong trade in the marts would mean that beef prices would move ahead.

"Instead farmers are almost in a situation of being panicked into getting cattle into factories. Some factories are not taking cattle for six weeks with no firm promise on prices.

"The importing of large amounts of Non EU beef is also contributing to the downturn in prices. Whether it be from Brazil or Argentina, it makes little difference, farmers here cannot even begin to compete.

"It is disappointing that when farmers have committed themselves to a partnership approach in terms of a first class quality product, that supermarkets continue to use their buying power to push down prices, by either buying large quantities of Non EU beef, or by using this beef as a price base line to force down the price for top quality Irish beef.

"It would be interesting to hear from the large supermarkets, who trumpeted the new partnership approach with farmers, if they are purchasing Non EU beef, it would also be interesting if hear from our local processors in the NI Meat Exporters Association (NIEMA) how much if any Non EU beef they are currently processing.

"It is time that the whole meat industry became a lot more transparent in the way it operates, and supermarkets stopped leading farmers up the garden path with promises of partnership they have no intention of keeping. Farmers

deserve a fair price for their produce and questions need to be asked about

where the profits are being made because it is certainly not on the average

family farm." ENDS

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Sinn Fein County Councillor Gerry Murray has called on the Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny to the give the people of Mayo a clear and rational explanation for the bizarre set of events that took place in the Council Chamber on Monday night. In a statement Councillor Murray said that Fine Gael had done a gross disservice to local democracy and further undermined people's faith and perception of local government in the County.

"After Monday night's comedy of errors in the Council chamber there is a clear onus on Fine Gael to convene a full meeting of Mayo County Council so they can fully account to the Public for their actions."

Councillor Murray said that the Fine Gael had no right to rescind motions that had been democratically adopted some hours earlier.

"It was quite clear that Councillor Tim Quinn's motion calling on Shell to process the gas at sea had been carried by the council in a very conclusive fashion, indeed Councillor Quinn sough clarification that it had been carried before the Council moved on to deal with the formal agenda. We seem to have arrived at the rather bizarre situation where Fianna Fail are now opposing Government policy while Fine Gael are supporting Government Policy. Meanwhile the Rossport five are still in jail with no resolution in sight. Instead of both parties frantically trying to spin their way out of the current set of circumstances they should come clean and tell the people of the County where exactly they stand in relation to this most sensitive and serious of issues." ENDS

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Responding to attacks by the DUP to plans to hold an anti-internment march
in the nationalist end of Ballymena next month, North Antrim Sinn Féin
Assembly member Philip McGuigan said:

" This proposed march is not being organised by Sinn Féin or on our behalf.
It is being organised by a local flute band. However what has been stark has
been the reaction of local unionist politicians to the plan and in
particular the DUP.

" The proposed route of this parade is in the nationalist end of Ballymena.
It does not, unlike Orange Order parades in Ballymena and elsewhere seek to
march through areas where it would clearly cause offence. In the coming days
I will seek to meet with the residents who live along the proposed route and
also talk with the parade organisers to ensure that consultation and
dialogue have taken place before any parade proceeds.

" However it is my belief and I have stated it for some time that the
attitude of unionists in Ballymena to the nationalist community in the town
has bred great resentment and anger particularly amongst young nationalists.
Discrimination is rife. Attacks on Catholics and their homes are routine The
local catholic church is frequently attacked. Senior members of the DUP took
part in the blockade of the church. Nationalist housing estates in the town
are neglected. The Council is seen as a cold house. This reality needs to be
tackled by the DUP as the lead unionist party in the town.

" Ballymena can only move forward if everyone in the town is treated with
equality. The days of second class citizenship which the unionist parties in
Ballymena still hark after have to be left behind. There can be no other
realistic solution to the towns many problems." ENDS



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Sinn Féin spokesperson on demilitarisation, Newry Armagh MLA Davy Hyland has
said that confirmation that three British Army soldiers charged with war
crimes for activities in Iraq were members of the Royal Lancashire Regiment
that served in South Armagh in 2001 require an investigation into the
behaviour of the British Army in the Six Counties.

Mr Hyland said:

"Confirmation that the 3 British Army soldiers that stand accused of war
crimes in Iraq were members of the Royal Lancashire Regiment that served in
South Armagh in 2001 opens up a can of worms that requires wider
investigation.

"There is ample evidence of widespread collusion between the British Army
and Loyalist paramilitaries, the involvement of the British Army in the
torture of nationalists and the actions of British Army soldiers in the
murder of citizens throughout South Armagh.

"If the British government is prepared to charge its soldiers with war
crimes because of their actions in Iraq then they must also be prepared to
investigate the behaviour of the British Army here. To date the British Army
has never been held to account for any of the crimes it has committed here.
From Bloody Sunday to the murders of Aidan McAnespie, Ferghal Carragher and
countless others the British government has refused to take action. On the
few occasions where British soldiers have been brought before the courts or
convicted they have subsequently had convictions overturned or even been
admitted back into the British Army and promoted." ENDS



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Sinn Féin General Secretary, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has accused Gregory Campbell of peddling lies about the nature of disadvantage, discrimination and unemployment in the Six Counties.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The DUP are obsessed with peddling lies and myths about the true nature of disadvantage, discrimination and unemployment in the Six Counties.

"There is no question that many in the protestant community are disadvantaged but the reality is that on every single indicator that Catholics face greater disadvantage.

"The facts speak for themselves. 70% of people living in the 10% most deprived wards, as measured by the Noble Index, are Catholic

"The multiple deprivation statistics published in May this year show that West and North Belfast, Derry City, Craigavon and West of the Bann continue to be the most deprived parts of the Six Counties.

"People from the Catholic community are more likely to be unemployed than Protestants. That is also an indisputable fact. Action is required to tackle the unemployment differential between the two communities not the lies peddled by the DUP.

"If we are going to tackle the social and economic problems created by the patterns of economic activity throughout the Six Counties then we need to be honest about what is happening. Ignoring the true extent of the problem will not help us to put in place the long-term solutions required. Telling lies and propagating myths is part of an attempt to stop resources being targeted on the basis of objective need and objective need alone.

"The attempt to rewrite the history of this state and to misrepresent the current reality both feeds into the siege mentality of unionism and undermines the ability of the equality agenda to affect real change that can and should benefit everyone in our society that lives with disadvantage.

"Historic and current patterns of policy and public expenditure show discrimination against the West of the Bann area, the border region and Catholic rural and urban communities. All objective data on disadvantage, poverty and particularly patterns of unemployment, housing and ill health testifies to this reality." ENDS

Note to Editors

The unemployment rate for Catholic men is 9 per cent compared with 5 per cent for Protestant men. Among women, the unemployment rates are 6 per cent for Catholics and 3 per cent for Protestants. A higher proportion of Catholic than Protestant working age men and women are classified as economically inactive. 24 per cent of Catholic men are economically inactive compared with 18 per cent of Protestant men.

Indicators such as economically inactive rates, the 'official' unemployment figures and also at the levels of long-term unemployment, long-term illness and incapacity, and others such as the Noble index of deprivation and indicators of poverty and ill health all correlate. The statistics show that unemployment, ill health and poverty are a bigger problem for the Catholic community.

The monitoring statistics released by the Equality Commission in December show that the Catholic share of the workforce is still below the Catholic proportion of the economically active population. In the Public sector 55.1% of the overall composition is Protestant and 39.8% Catholic while in the Private sector the protestant share is 55.6% protestant and 39.4% catholic.

The composition of the private sector with 26 plus employees also show a pattern of Catholic under-representation. Harland & Wolff employs 12 Catholics and 235 protestants and Shorts Brothers employs only 14.8% Catholics as against some 85.2% Protestants.

The same pattern of under-representation is replicated among government departments, particularly at senior civil service grades. The 2nd Report of the Justice Oversight Commissioner published June 2004 shows that that less than 1 in 4 senior civil servants is Catholic. Across the NIO as a whole, Catholics make up only 28% of the workforce.

At senior civil service grades (5+ and 6/7) there is systematic under representation with less than 25% of all senior grade civil servants coming from a Catholic background, ranging from 15% in the Employment, Trade and Investment Department, 13% in Regional Development to 33% in Education. Given recruitment trends over the last 30 years it would take until 2057 to achieve fair representation.

The Health Department report on Health Inequalities published in May last year show that people living deprived area are a third more likely to die prematurely; 25% more likely to die as an infant; 15% more likely to get cancer; and 25% more likely to be admitted to hospital.

The Housing Executive figures for 2002-03, show that in Belfast the percentage of Catholics on the Housing Executive waiting list for a house was 44%, yet only 28% of those actually allocated a house were Catholic - an 'under-allocation' of 16%. Protestants represented 43% of those on the waiting list, but 64% of those allocated a house - an 'over-allocation' of 21%.

For the same period (2002-2003) across the north as a whole the percentage of Protestants on the waiting list was 47%, with 54% actually being allocated a house - an over-representation of 7%. For Catholics, the figures were 40% on the waiting list, and 35% actually allocated a house - an under-representation of 5%.

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Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has described the loss of 28 Education and Library Board Youth Workers as merely the tip of the iceberg. The Belfast Sinn Fein Education and Library Board Team met with Stephen Hughes in Belfast City Hall today to discuss the how the Education budget crisis had impacted on Youth Service provision.

 

Commenting upon the loss of services Michael Ferguson said,

 

“At the end of August half of the entire workforce from both the statutory and voluntary youth sectors in Belfast will be gone.

 

In areas like North and West Belfast were suicide levels are so high those with the most experience and who work at the coalface of youth provision will be lost to the sector because of cuts to the education budget.

 

 

Sinn Fein has instructed all of its Education and Library Board representatives across the five Boards to oppose cuts, challenge any elected representative or non-elected Board member who supports cuts or further cuts to Education services.

 

The Government need to get real about educational provision and provide a real budget that supports education and learning from the nursery and school to the youth club.

 

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP
Michelle Gildernew has called for government to bring forward proposals for
the mainstreaming of Rural Advice Bureaus to support rural communities and
particularly the farming community after a report from the Health and Safety
Executive highlighted the impact of stress on farmers.

Ms Gildernew:

"Sinn Fein have consistently argued that rural communities are not well
supported. We have advocated the rolling out of a one-stop shop Rural Advice
Bureau, such as that piloted by Newry and Mourne Local Action Group,
throughout Newry and Mourne. Rural Advice Bureaus could provide a single
access point for a wide range of services and support both in terms of
giving advice and support particularly on dealing with the increasing levels
of red tape, options for future financial direction and in terms of the
provision of health and social support.

"A piecemeal approach to Rural Advice Bureaus will see the successful pilot
in Newry and Mourne close in October because of the ending of funding. The
hundreds of farm families who have received help and support is testament to
the success of this pilot project.

"This new research shows that feelings of stress arise because of factors
which farmers fell they had little or no control, such as falling market
prices, European and Government regulation, the weather and the farming way
of life.

"It is vital that farmers are enabled to take more control of their lives.
While there is nothing we can do about the weather there is definitely
something that can be done in relation to many other issues.

"The decline in farm incomes and reduction in labour has intensified the
pressure on those who remain in the industry, and long hours and isolation
have been highlighted as significant issues for many farmers.

"It is vital that the ongoing uncertainty facing many in the farming
community is needed because the constant shifting of goalposts, with
frequent changes to rules and regulations, and increased paperwork and
inflexible deadlines that take little account of the unpredictability of
farming.

"It is vital that government put in place a long-term response to support
those at increased risk of stress-related problems, particularly smaller
family farms, livestock farmers, those living in isolated areas and farmers
working until late in life because of financial pressures." ENDS

Note to Editors
The research report RR362 Farmers, Farm Workers and Work Related Stress can
be found on HSE's website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr362.htm

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún speaking at a seminar on EU PEACE funding
hosted by Training for Women Network at the PlayBoard Offices in Belfast in
Belfast today has said that the ballpark figure being talked about at
present for EU peace funding for 2007-2013 is 200 million Euro.

Ms de Brún also stressed the importance of social inclusion and the role of
women in reconciliation.

Ms de Brún said:

"Sinn Féin have been organising meetings throughout the Six Counties and the
border counties with people and groups working on the ground tackling
disadvantage, the legacy of the conflict and on conflict resolution and
peace building, often with the support of EU peace funding.

"The current PEACE II extension will end next year and this will place much
of this valuable work in peril unless plans for the future are made now.
Sinn Fein have identified a clear need for continued support to cover the
period 2007 -2013.

"Our programme of outreach is part of a number of on-going initiatives and a
wider campaign to secure a PEACE III programme and a bottom up approach to
its design and delivery.

"A ballpark figure of some 200 million Euro for the 2007-2013 period was
mooted by the Luxemburg EU Presidency last month. Local organisations and
councils need to lobby the British and Irish governments to secure a
realistic figure for peace funding from the EU and from government sources.

"It is also vital that community based organizations are fully involved in
the design and implementation of the funding programmes with future funds
directed at the twin goals of reconciliation and social inclusion. It is
particularly important that future funds are distributed on the basis of
need.

"Both the British and Irish Governments must commit themselves to helping
secure additional funding for the period 2007 - 2013. They must also
recognise the importance of social inclusion and the role of women in
reconciliation. In planning for a PEACE III programme lessons need to be
learnt from the PEACE II extension discussions. A women's element and a
childcare element is important in ensuring social inclusion in any
programme." ENDS

Note to Editors

Over 20 million euro has been invested in children and related projects
through PEACE II.

17 million euro of PEACE II funding has been awarded to 183 groups directly
supporting women.

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún and Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA have led a delegation to meet with the Chief Executive of Invest NI Leslie Morrison in Belfast today. The position of the EU in relation to the issue of state aid and guidelines on competition were discussed. Sinn Féin also raised issues about the distribution of funding by Invest NI.

The meeting comes at a time when the European Commission are bringing forward new Regional Aid Guidelines. It also comes after fierce criticism of Invest NI from Sinn Féin and the Federation of Small Businesses over the imbalance in financial assistance and planned investment that has seen the border counties, West of the Bann and North and West Belfast lose out to comparatively affluent areas such as South Belfast.

Speaking after the meeting Ms de Brún said:

"Sinn Féin will raise issues at the European parliament in relation to the operation of state aid and the EU rules governing competition. We will continue to analyse and engage with the Regional Aid Guidelines as they develop over the summer months. Invest NI also has a role to play in terms of their use of state aid and their wider funding policies. There is a strong case that can be made about the need to tackle the negative impact of the border, the legacy of a disparity in funding, particularly West of the Bann and also in terms of support for a society emerging from a legacy of conflict and discrimination.

"Sinn Féin have very serious concerns about the imbalance in the distribution of Invest NI resources. Given the economic consequences of the border, under investment and patterns of poverty, disadvantage and discrimination it is incumbent on INI to recognise that firstly there is a major problem and major failings in policy and secondly to convince Sinn Fein that they are both serious about and capable of addressing these issues. This may necessitate working with other public bodies and a range of departments.

Sinn Fein Economy Spokesperson Mitchel McLaughlin added:

"Undoubtedly there are many structural issues that must be addressed if we are to have economic development spread equitably across the Six Counties. Sinn Féin firmly believe that the emerging all-Ireland economy needs to be strongly supported as the only long-term solution to these structural weaknesses.

"Agreement at EU level for targeted state aid could and should be part of the solution. However if Invest NI are to have any useful role in economic development they must address the fundamental problems that are reinforced by their own patterns of awarding of financial assistance and investment. In particular it is becoming abundantly clear that the New TSN catchment areas are so wide as to be totally meaningless as part of a strategy to tackle inequality, under investment, disadvantage and discrimination." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has spoken on the Radio today expressing his outrage at the denial of Library Services to the sick and disabled in Hospitals. This is he said indicative of the British Government's approach to Education Provision across the north and across all departments.

Commenting upon the cuts he said.

" These cuts are inhumane and will have an adverse impact on the long term ill, the disabled those in rehabilitation units and those with no families, relatives or friends to visit.

Compare these cuts with the announcement by Ruth Kelly Education Secretary of £460 Million to extended school projects in England and Wales. Compare this with additional budget for increased tuition literacy for 44.000 children and more numracy tuition for 57.000 children in England and Wales. We should not allow our children to be treated differently.

This Government needs to get real about Education and provide a Real Budget to support Education and Learning. The cost of Direct Rule is too high to pay!".

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Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson met with Patrick Yu Director of NICEM this morning because of the crisis in regards to the Educational provision that Ethnic Children will not be receiving on September 1st as Boards cuts the funding for Teachers and 18 Teachers lost their jobs.

Commenting upon the meeting Michael Ferguson said,

"It is alarming that ethnic children who are legislatively entitled to education services under the European Charter, Under Race Relations Orders and under Section 75 will not have their basic needs met.

"Martin Mc Guinness when Minister for Education convened a Conference on the Education needs of Ethnic Children prior to the suspension of the Assembly all of which this Government Department ignored.

"We need a Policy that addresses the educational needs of ethnic children and which has investment ring fenced at Board level to ensure that this policy and those services are met and we have an immediate problem of ensuring that these ethnic children have a support service on September 1st when they start back to school.

"Sinn Fein Board Representatives will be raising this matter at all five Board meetings and We will also be seeking Council support for these children's rights through Motions that we will lodge and I have written to the Minister responsible."ENDS

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Sinn Fein Spokesperson on anti-racism, South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has said that genuine dialogue and engagement is essential if the Racial Equality Strategy announced today by British direct rule Minster Jeff Rooker is to be a success.

Mr Maskey said:

"This strategy identifies dialogue as one of its key aims. Many people I have spoken to this morning, while welcoming the publication of the strategy, have voiced concern that this core shared aim that will set the strategic direct for action from the departments, agencies and wider society is currently lacking. Successful dialogue and engagement must built upon properly resourcing for the sector to allow for an effective input into policy development.

"A well intentioned policy will have no credibility as a strategy for change unless this short coming is addressed.

"Racism and intolerance are two of the biggest challenges facing our society. Fundamental to the success of any strategy must be an honest look at how we develop policy and crucially how we implement and monitor the impact of policy." ENDS

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