Speaking at the launch of the Law Centre's 'Sanctuary in a Cell' report into the plight of Asylum Seekers in the Six Counties, Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy said:
" This is an updated version of a report made public three years ago. At that time it made 33 recommendations. Despite a Sinn Féin motion to the Assembly which was unanimously passed calling for these recommendations to be adopted only 1 of the 33 has been accepted by the British Home Office.
" The current British policy regarding those fleeing persecuting in their own country has been to lock them up as criminals inside Maghaberry prison. This practice can only be described as internment and has included young children and pregnant woman. This sort of treatment is unacceptable and must end.
" The British Home Office need to take note of this report and face up to this issue. So far attempts by local politicians to meet the British Home Office to discuss the internment of Asylum Seekers in Maghaberry have been ignored and they have so far resisted calls to end this disgraceful practice." ENDS
North Belfast Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly has welcomed today's meeting between Jean McBride and British Minister John Spellar.
Mr Kelly said:
" The McBride family had been keen to meet with Mr Spellar given his role in the Army Board which retained the killers of Peter McBride in the British Army after their murder convictions. Initially Mr Spellar had refused to meet with the McBride family.
" This was an issue which was of concern to nationalists in general and Sinn Féin in particular given that his responsibilities covered Human Rights. We raised this with Mr Spellar and his office on a number of occasions. I welcome the fact that a meeting between Mr Spellar and the McBride family has now taken place.
" Sinn Féin will continue to raise the case of Peter McBride with the British government at every opportunity." ENDS
Sinn Féin Representatives Alex Maskey and Conor Murphy will this afternoon meet with British Direct Rule Minister John Spellar at Castle Buildings at 2pm. The meeting will discuss the cancelled Assembly elections, the Human Rights Commission and the need to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented.
Cllr. Maskey said:
" This afternoon's meeting will provide an opportunity for us to again demand from the British government a date certain for the Assembly elections. It is obvious to us all that the political institutions are at the very centre of the Agreement.
" The absence of these institutions and the cancellation of the Assembly elections by the British government has put great pressure on the entire process. As has ongoing and very public difficulties within the Human Rights Commission.
" This situation has been worsened by the British government pandering to negative and reactionary unionism. As we head this week into yet another round of internal unionist wrangling we will make it clear that if the crisis is to be resolved we need to see a date set for the elections and we need to see the political institutions re-established." ENDS
Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy will attend the launch of the updated Law Centre 'Sanctuary in a Cell' report into the situation regarding Asylum Seekers in the six counties tomorrow morning (Monday 11th) at 10.30am in the Equality Commission. Speaking in advance of the launch Mr. Murphy said:
"This report was first launched two years ago and a Sinn Féin motion to the Assembly calling for its recommendations to be implemented was unanimously passed. Unfortunately two years on the situation which Asylum Seekers in the six counties find themselves in has not improved.
"People, including pregnant women and children who have committed no offence are being interned in Maghaberry. This is a breach of the most basic human rights standards. Indeed the British government have even refused to meet with local politicians to discuss this situation, preferring instead to try and minimise publicity and minimise the fact that they are engaging in human rights abuses.
" Irish Republicans have an affinity with those people who are victims of oppressive and undemocratic regimes in their own homelands and we have an affinity with those being interned without having committed any offence. We will continue to highlight this issue and campaign for an end to the internment of Asylum Seekers in Maghaberry."ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Marylou McDonald has called on people throughout Dublin to support the search for truth in relation to British state collusion with unionist paramilitaries which caused the deaths of hundreds of people throughout Ireland, including people in Dublin City. She called on people to attend the march and rally against collusion which will take place in Belfast tomorrow, Sunday 10th August at 3pm.
Ms. McDonald said:
"British state collusion with unionist paramilitaries has taken a heavy toll on lives throughout Ireland, including our capital city. In December 1972 and January 1973 three bus workers were killed, in May 1974 in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings 26 people died in Dublin and in May 1994 Martin Doherty was killed having foiled an attempted bombing of the Widow Scallan's pub in Dublin. The full extent of British operations in the 26 Counties or the role of Irish government ministers has never been revealed
"This weekend thousands of people, from all over Ireland will be marching in Belfast in support of the families of hundreds of people believed to have been killed as a direct consequence of Britain's collusion strategy. We will be calling for collusion to stop and for the truth to be revealed. I am calling on people throughout Dublin to support the campaign for the truth and to attend the march and rally against collusion which will take place in Belfast tomorrow."ENDS
Commenting on the latest statistics from the EU (Eurostat, Statistics in Focus, Population and Social Conditions, No 20/2003) which show that Ireland has lowest life expectancy in Europe Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said:
"The lower than EU average life expectancy in this State is a damning indictment of successive governments, but especially the FF-PD administration of the past six years. Government policies have widened the gap between rich and poor and it is those on lower income who suffer more from ill-health and reduced life expectancy. This brings down the national average life expectancy. It is a direct result of our grossly unequal economy and our crisis-ridden health service." ENDS
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, West Belfast representative Cllr Sue Ramsey has welcomed the decision of the Eastern Health Board to implement a continuous admissions service for emergency medical admissions but urged management at the Royal Victoria Hospital to ensure that the Falls Road entrance to the hospital remains open on a permanent 24-hour basis.
Cllr Ramsey said:
"Sinn Féin have argued that once the infrastructure was in place that there was a need for continuous admissions service for emergency medical admissions at the Royal. This decision has to be welcomed.
"However, it is vital in addressing issues around access that the management at the Royal Victoria Hospital ensure that the Falls Road entrance to the hospital remains open on a permanent 24 hour basis.
"Sinn Féin have received a number of complaints from hospital users and staff about the closure of the Falls Road entrance to the hospital. Whether by design or otherwise the closure of the Falls Road doors grossly inconveniences the normally large numbers of people who wish to access the hospital at this point."ENDS
Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson, Bairbre de Brún speaking after meeting British Minster John Spellar has said that the British government must act on equality and human rights‚ commitments in the Good Friday Agreement.
Ms de Brún said:
"Sinn Féin requested this meeting to discuss how the provisions of the two governments‚ Joint Declaration will deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, particularly dealing with the Equality and Human Rights elements of the Agreement and with the core mechanisms established to advance and protect these.
"The British government must take decisive action to ensure that public confidence in the Human Rights Commission, as a key mechanism arising from the Good Friday Agreement is restored. Those most in need of rights expect and deserve to have a Human Rights Commission that will stridently champion their rights in an independent and effective manner. We need to look at a restructuring that will include the composition and appointments, the powers and resources of the Commission. The Human Rights Commission is broken. It needs fixed.
"The Equality agenda must not be slowed down or frustrated. The British government must send out the signal that discrimination will not be tolerated and will be tackled vigorously.
"There must be economic development and investment in areas of greatest need allowing communities, whether nationalist or unionist, to receive help commensurate with the level of need they experience. This will assure everyone that decisions will be taken on the basis of objective need." ENDS
Note to Editors: The Sinn Féin delegation led by Bairbre de Brún included West Belfast councillor Chrissie McAuley and Upper Bann representative Dr Dara O‚Hagan.
Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has accused the DUP's Gregory Campbell of playing a dangerous game by distorting the reality of spending ands disadvantage figures.
Ms Gildernew said:
"Gregory is playing a dangerous game by distorting these figures. He is feeding into a sectarian analysis of need. The reality is that the Irish language is more widely used than Ulster Scots with 10% of the population having a knowledge of Irish. There has also been an explosion in the popularity of Irish medium education. In sport, in terms of both participation and support, Gaelic games have a substantial and growing popularity.
"Gregory also quotes selectively from a recent report into the allocation of European funding. 56% of its three-year budget went to nationalist areas precisely because there is a greater objective need largely as a result of discrimination. Gregory also fails to mention the fact that Catholics are still more likely to be unemployed and suffer greater deprivation.
"As for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, if the British government stopped obstructing the search for truth and opened the files then progress would be relatively quick and the costs greatly reduced.
"Instead of admitting that Unionism, through its political power and the use of violence, has created division and structural discrimination against Catholics Gregory is feeding the myth that somehow the Peace Process discriminates against Protestants. This is untrue.
"The DUP would serve their own community better if they were honest with them. It is time for the DUP to recognise that there must be economic development and investment in areas of greatest need allowing communities, whether nationalist or unionist, to receive help commensurate with the level of need they experience. This will assure everyone that decisions will be taken on the basis of objective need." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokespersons on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD and Assembly member Gerry McHugh, and the party's European election candidate for Dublin Mary Lou MacDonald have questioned the support given by the Vatican for genetically modified food.
Deputy Ferris said:
"Both the ethical and scientific arguments against Genetically Modified Food have raged for many years, we the Irish people have never had the opportunity to air these views, and to counter the arguments put by the GM corporations. It was for this reason that we held a press conference on July 29 calling on both the Irish, and 6 county administration, to hold a simultaneous public consultation.
"The arguments for Irish agriculture are straight forward. We are a small country who cannot compete with larger countries in producing bulk commodities, and whatever the large GM corporations say there is no economic benefit for Ireland to grow GM crops. However the debate is much more complex than just economics. It has become enormously political. This can be seen in the way the U S government has endorsed Genetic Engineering, the manner in which President Bush criticised the E U for failing to adopt GM food and the strong link that the current American administration has to GM companies.
Mr McHugh said:
"This political argument has been seen as the main reason Michael Meacher was removed from his Ministerial post to the back benches, for his total opposition to GM food. The Blair government is setting the stage for the formal adoption of GM food later this year. All this comes on the back of the EU decision to adopt regulations on the labelling of GM food and the co-existence guidelines which prohibit national or regional governments from banning the use of GM organisms. This huge political support for GM food is a tremendous boost to the GM companies. They can refer to this support as a benchmark for the safety and the positive benefits which they say Genetic Engineering has.
"But last week possibly the most important and certainly the most symbolic endorsement of GM food came from the Holy See, in which the Vatican stated that GM holds " - the answer to world starvation and malnutrition". The Vatican goes on to say " - that the future of humanity is at stake and that there is no room for the ideological arguments advanced by environmentalists". This argument does not stand up. India has over 300 million undernourished people and yet can produce a grain surplus of 60 million tons. Food surpluses exist throughout Asia so it is wrong to say that G M is need to resolve world starvation.
"How will GM food feed the people of the third world who are currently starving because they cannot access food, food production processes or simply cannot afford to buy it? The GM companies have developed terminator technology to prevent this year's harvested seed, being re-grown next year. They have removed the gene that allows the seed to germinate. This will mean that farmers who have no money now will have to purchase seed every year from the GM company. This seed will also have a patent, which ensures the company have the full economic rights to charge whatever they like.
Mary Lou McDonald added:
"From a consumer perspective, the safety of GM has not been proven. The GM companies will not guarantee that there will be no side affects, and at the same time many scientists have grave concerns about the future impacts on human health. There is no guarantee that the genes from animals transferred into plants will not cross into the human food system.. Indeed the whole process of gene transfer is a very difficult one with no apparent accuracy as to where the gene will attach itself. There are also deep concerns that the inserted gene may produce a protein that is toxic to humans. The GM companies do not have to carry out toxicological tests for each new GM food, and there are no set acceptable daily intakes (ASI's) for G M food.
"Dozens of Non governmental organisation such as Friends of the Earth; and others who specifically work in third world countries, with undernourished children and communities are totally opposed to the introduction of GM. Given the esteem that the Vatican holds, and the influence this decision will have on millions in the developing world we are calling on the leadersof Irelands Catholic population to set out the economic, scientific and environmental reasons for the Vatican decision on GM.
"We are firmly of the opinion that the best way to resolve the needs of the starving is for Europe to lead the world in cancelling the debt of impoverished nations, the UN has estimated that if the funds to pay off debt were diverted into health and education the lives of seven million children a year could be saved. There is also a need for fair trade principles to be established at the forthcoming WTO talks in Cancún in September, so that barriers can be brought down to allow third world countries access to European markets." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today appealed to people to support Sunday's march and City Hall rally against collusion. The West Belfast MP said:
"Collusion involves the sharing of information, weapons and membership between the British military and intelligence networks and unionist paramilitaries. To improve efficiency British military intelligence reorganised and rearmed unionist murder gangs in the 1980's. Hundreds of people were killed and many more injured and maimed in a campaign of state sponsored murder.
"The British agencies that executed this policy remain in place. RUC Special Branch is now the PSNI Special Branch. The British Army Force Research Unit has been renamed the Joint Services Group and MI5 continues to operate as before.
"No member of the Special Branch or British military Intelligence has been indicted for these crimes. This policy of collusion has never been reversed. It remains intact today.
"The truth about the role of the British government and its agencies is long overdue. The families of those who died as a result of a collusion policy have a right to the truth and in their pursuit of the truth deserve the support of the wider community.
"On August 10 Sinn Fein in conjunction with the families of victims of the collusion policy will stage a march to and rally at Belfast City Hall. By attending in large numbers we can add to the mounting pressure on the British government to place the details of this policy in the public domain.
"Its time for the truth about collusion." ENDS
Antrim Sinn Féin Councillor Martin McManus has accused the PSNI of deliberately endangering the lives of himself and his family. Cllr. McManus' allegation comes after the PSNI wrote to his solicitor and claimed to have visited Cllr. McManus on April 26th and advised him of a death threat. No such visit took place and no warning was received by Cllr. McManus or any member of his family.
Cllr. McManus said:
"Recently a loyalist was convicted of possessing the details of a Sinn Féin Councillor in Antrim and he received a suspended sentence. After this case my solicitor wrote to the PSNI demanding to know whether or not this information related to me. The PSNI have now written back claiming that the information this man had did not relate to myself.
"However in the letter the PSNI claim that I was informed of a separate threat to my life on April 26th 2003. I was not informed of such a threat. In fact I was actually out of the country on that date and family members have confirmed that the PSNI did not come to my home on that date.
"It seems that the PSNI have information relating to a threat on my life but have decided not to pass that information on to me. In this letter the PSNI have been caught out playing God with peoples lives. Serious questions need to be answered. The PSNI have deliberately endangered not just my life but also the lives of my wife and children." ENDS
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said the International Monetary Fund report confirms the folly of the Government's housing policy. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The IMF Report is solely concerned with housing as a commodity in the market and not as a social necessity. That is exactly how the Fianna Fáil/PD government has treated housing in the past six years. Their approach to the housing crisis is totally market driven. They have starved local authorities of the resources in land and finances that they need to provide homes for the 50,000 households on the waiting lists. We have a Minister of State for Housing, Noel Ahern, who denies the reality of homelessness and turns a blind eye to the homeless on our streets.
"Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy has welcomed the IMF Report. Instead he and his colleagues should face the reality that it is they who have driven up house prices far beyond the means of most working people. Sinn Féin will be campaigning in the months ahead for a radical change in Government housing policy, to one based on the accommodation needs of people and not on the interests of speculators and landlords."ENDS
Commenting on the publication this afternoon by the UPRG of a 6 month review of the alleged UDA cessation, Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Paul Butler has said that the UDA need to 'demonstrate clearly that their campaign against Catholics has ended and that their extensive drug dealing and other criminal enterprises have ceased rather than issue further threats against the nationalist community'.
Cllr. Butler said:
"Within the last six months UDA activity has diminished. However they have murdered at least one man, carried out numerous assaults and attacks on Catholics and were yesterday caught with £2.5 million worth of drugs. This is not the actions of an organisation on cessation.
"The UDA need to demonstrate clearly that their campaign against Catholics has ended and that their extensive drug dealing and other criminal enterprises have ceased. Rather than issue further threats as they have done this afternoon.
"This statement threatening further violence will do little to convince the nationalist community that violent unionism is serious about engaging in the peace process and serious about going on cessation."ENDS
Commenting on remarks made today by Gregory Campbell after his appearance last night at the West Belfast Festival, in which he claimed the DUP only confronted but did not engage with Sinn Féin, Cllr. Alex Maskey said that the DUP know fine well that further engagement with his party in the future is inevitable.
Cllr. Maskey said,
" Like the recent DUP demand for the disbandment of Sinn Féin, the pretence that they do not engage with but only confront my party, is as farcical and unrealistic as their demand for a re-negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.
" The reality is that Sinn Féin is supported by the majority of the nationalist community in the north. The reality is that there will be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. Some of Dr Paisley's party colleagues know, and privately accept, this.
" Today's comments from Gregory Campbell about only confronting Sinn Féin are less about Sinn Féin and more about the ongoing battle within unionism. Gregory Campbell knows fine well that further engagement with Sinn Féin in the future is inevitable." ENDS
Sinn Fein Representative and local election candidate for Donaghmede, Killian Forde, today called for an imaginative, creative and tough approach to the car insurance rip off and public transport shambles in the state. He called for the introduction of 'weekend only' car insurance to attract car owners to public transport during the working week.
He made his comments in advance of the publication of the Oireachtas Committee report on reducing insurance premiums.
Mr Forde said:
"At the moment car owners are not attracted to the idea of leaving their car at home and taking public transport after forking out hundreds of Euro on car insurance.
"The introduction of 'weekend only' car insurance would encourage car owners to leave their vehicles at home during the working week and use public transport to get to work.
"Increased use of cars for commuting to and from work is not sustainable in a city with the growth rate of Dublin. This government needs to introduce incentives to get people onto public transport and out of their cars, such as the option of weekend only insurance and pre-paid tax-deductible travel tickets.
"It would be ideal if public transport could serve people all day, every day of the week, but the reality is that due to increased suburbanisation and the ongoing siting of shops, cinemas and services near motorways, such as the M50, car ownership is a real need for most families in Dublin.
Mr Forde added:
"A weekend insurance rate for a car could save a family over €1,200 per year. That money, in a contracting economy like ours, could be better spent elsewhere and kept out of the pockets of the profit driven insurance industry, who only last week announced profits of €183 million.".
"The Minister for Transport needs to take immediate action if the ongoing transport crisis is to be addressed. He needs to get creative, he needs to look further afield at transport models that work and he needs end profiteering by greedy insurance companies." ENDS
Bairbre de Brún, the party‚s spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality will be leading a delegation tomorrow to meet with British Minister John Spellar.
The meeting was requested by Sinn Féin to discuss how the provisions of the two governments‚ Joint Declaration will deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking in advance of tomorrow‚s meeting Bairbre de Brún said:
"This meeting will deal specifically with the Equality and Human Rights elements of the Agreement and with the core mechanisms established to advance and protect these.
"We will stress to John Spellar that his government must take decisive action to ensure that public confidence in the Human Rights Commission, as a key mechanism arising from the Good Friday Agreement is restored. Those most in need of rights expect and deserve to have a Human Rights Commission that will stridently champion their rights in a wholly independent manner.
"The Equality agenda is being slowed down and frustrated on many levels. The British government must send out the signal that discrimination will not be tolerated and will be tackled vigorously."
Note to Editors: The meeting will be held at 11.30am Friday 8th at the NIO offices, Belfast. The Sinn Féin delegation team will consist of: Bairbre de Brún; Dr. Dara O'Hagan and Belfast City Councillor Chrissie McAuley.
Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has claimed that the judiciary in the north are 'unashamedly biased'. Ms Gildernew's remarks came after the latest loyalist gang to appear before the courts here was granted bail.
Ms Gildernew said:
"This morning a loyalist gang caught with £2.5 million worth of drugs appeared in court. As has now become standard practice for loyalists they were all granted bail by the judge.
"Contrast this with the continuing internment without prospect of trial of North Belfast man John O'Hagan. John O'Hagan has now been held for 17 months on document charges. He has received no trial date and has been repeatedly refused bail. The reason for this is simple. John O'Hagan is a republican.
"The judiciary in the north are discredited, sectarian and unashamedly biased. The treatment of John O'Hagan when contrasted with the cases of various unionist paramilitaries is a clear example of that." ENDS
Sinn Féin President and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has accused the Department of Social Development of 'deliberately seeking to undermine the Targeting Social Need criteria in the distribution of European Peace money' and of 'presiding over a shambles which will see up to £55 million returned to Europe, instead of being spent here in seriously deprived communities.'
The Sinn Féin MP revealed that the Party has asked the Equality commission to investigate the Fund and that it will be raised by Bairbre de Brún, Dara O'Hagan, and Chrissie McAuley when they meet British Minister John Spellar tomorrow.
Mr. Adams was speaking at an event in the Springvale Training Centre today at 12 noon where some of the EU Peace II funds are being distributed.
Mr Adams said:
"I welcome the funding coming to the Clonard and Springfield Road communities. It will make a real difference to these communities.
While Clonard has benefited from this European Measure I am greatly concerned as to how this fund has been managed and distributed by the Department of Social Development.
The fund of £12 million was to target the most disadvantaged communities and to redress the legacy of conflict.
While some communities have benefited from the fund. Sinn Fein believes that the design of the fund discriminated against the nationalist community and that the administration by the Department has been a shambles. (Note to editor: this was the term used by the House of Commons select committee reporting Peace II)
The Department developed a very narrow definition of the conflict. It ignores the role of the State and fails to identify those areas which have suffered most from the conflict.
The criteria for funding was reduced to focus in on areas with interfaces and at the cost of areas of higher social disadvantage.
We are entitled to ask where is the funding for the Upper Springfield, Twinbrook, Poleglass, Andersonstown and large sections of the Falls.
We have yet to get a clear understanding of how the measure was designed and the money distributed. What we do know is that nationalist make up between 70%- 80% of the most disadvantaged communities yet received only 56% of this fund.
The decisions made by the Department subverts Targeting Social Need and undermines the Equality Agenda.
We have asked the Equality Commission to use their powers to investigate this fund.
The problems with the fund have not ended with the design.
The distribution of moneys has been delayed for over a year by the Department.
A sizeable portion of the money would have to be returned to Europe if the Belfast Strategic Partnership Board and West Belfast Partnership Board had not intervened to ensure the money reached the Clonard community.
At present the misadministration of the Peace funds by Government Agencies could see as much as £55 million returned to Europe.
When measure 2.11 was designed it was to be a pilot for the new Neighbourhood Renewal Policy of the Department. This measure has failed to target those communities most in need. This mistake cannot be repeated by the Department.
TSN and Equality are central to developing communities and tackling the causes and legacy of conflict. The support offered to communities must be commensurate to the scale of the problem.
It is nonsense to deal with any section of West Belfast in isolation from the rest of the area. Neighbour Renewal must cover the whole of West Belfast to complement the work of the West Belfast Taskforce and the newly established Integrated Development Fund.
A delegation from Sinn Féin, headed by Bairbre de Brún will raise these matters at a meeting with John Spellar tomorrow.
I raise these criticisms of this fund not to take away from what Clonard as a community have achieved or diminish their needs.
The achievements of Clonard community and the vital projects which the fund supports must be replicated throughout West Belfast and in the most disadvantaged communities across the six counties." Ends
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said that there are serious concerns about collusion between the PSNI and the loyalists in the bomb attack on the home of Cllr. Paul Butler yesterday.
Mr Adams said:
" Paul Butler's home is overlooked by a number of spy cameras operated by the PSNI. The PSNI have said in this mornings Irish News that if the cameras were not recording then PSNI personnel were observing them. This means that the PSNI either recorded the attack or witnessed the attack and took no action. They then informed the media that what was clearly a highly flammable device was in fact a hoax.
" In addition to this after the forensic team left the Butler home yesterday parts of the device and a roll of tape possibly used in its assembly were found nearby. It is clear that the examination of the scene was seriously flawed and has ensured that potentially crucial evidence was not retrieved.
" These are classic symptoms of collusion. Loyalists being allowed to move with impunity past security installations and into the heart of republican districts, false spins given to the media and the follow up investigation carried out in such an indifferent manner as to render any convictions unlikely.
" This fits into the pattern of investigation outlined by PSNI detective Roy Suitters recently when he admitted failing to arrest those responsible for the murder of Gerard Lawlor." ENDS