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Commenting after Freddie Scapatticci gave an interview to the media Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly said:

"Last weekend, British Intelligence comprehensively briefed the British and Irish media. Faceless and nameless securocrats in British Intelligence made a raft of serious but unsubstantiated allegations against Freddie Scapatticci. This storm of accusations and allegations against Freddie Scapatticci has been accepted and repeated as fact by a large section of the media without question, without criticism. Mr Scapatticci has denied the allegations in categoric terms. These allegations were made by the same people who:

• killed Pat Finucane;

• ran Brian Nelson and used him and other agents to control and direct loyalist death squads against republicans, nationalists and Catholics;

• continue to control and direct the unionist paramilitaries;

• continue to target and gather intelligence, not just on Sinn Fein, but also on their own government;

• at every turn of the peace process maliciously leak and brief misinformation to create crises and to bolster anti-agreement elements.

"Even before these recent events, there was a clear need for full disclosure of the activities of these faceless and unaccountable agencies. That case is now over-whelming. The files must be opened up. There must be full disclosure." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD, has welcomed the decision of the IFA to engage on a more positive level with the current proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. Sinn Féin has already indicated that it is in broad support of the proposals with the proviso that certain changes are made regarding income thresholds and the use of modulated funds. The party, which last week was engaged in high level talks with EU Agriculture Commission officials on the reforms, has argued since the publication of the proposals last July that Irish farming representatives needed to be actively engaged in the debate, and to be presenting their own counter-proposals.

Deputy Ferris said:

"It has long been apparent to Sinn Fein that the Common Agricultural Policy as it currently stands is not going to secure the interests of Irish farmers in the years ahead. Reform is needed and we believe that much of what is contained in the current proposals presents a way forward. Decoupling certainly appears to offer a solution to the problem of guaranteeing farmers income while at the same time allowing them to produce without being tied to the current wasteful system of premia and subsidies. We would, however, argue that certain changes ought to be introduced at this stage and we made several such suggestions in discussion with Mr Pirozi-Biroli and Mr Haniotis in Brussels last week. Among these would be to raise the exemption threshold from €5,000 to €20,000 and to introduce an upper limit. We would also like to see guarantees regarding the use of the monies saved through modulation, and in particular that they remain within their country of origin. We will also be arguing for a much broader programme of rural development to enable rural communities to deal with the changes that will follow reform.

"While much of the emphasis from the two Departments of Agriculture in Ireland has been on the need for farmers to become 'competitive', we detected a different tone emanating from Brussels. Officials did refer to the need for agriculture to become more market oriented, but put this in the context of de-coupling and the opportunity for Irish farmers to move towards higher quality higher value production. If farmers are guaranteed a certain level of income security, which we believe can be enhanced by raising the exemption threshold, they will then be free to concentrate on producing quality. Again, that presents an opportunity to capitalise on Ireland's natural advantages and to move away from the historical dependence on bulk export of relatively cheap raw material". ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality Bairbre de Brún, on a four day trip to the United States, today met with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to update them on the current difficulties in the peace process, in particular the cancellation of the Assembly elections. She was assured of their support for the holding of June elections

Among those who she met were Congress members Richie Neal, Frank Pallone, Donald Payne, Carolyn McCarthy and Peter King. Speaking following the meeting Ms de Brun said:

"Today I met with members of Congress to update them on the current difficulties in the peace process, in particular the cancelling of the Assembly elections. During our discussions today I was assured of the ongoing support for the peace process and in particular their support for the immediate calling of the elections.

"Earlier this week support for the holding of the elections was voiced on the floor of Congress

"We also discussed ongoing revelations regarding Britain's involvement in the assassination of its citizens over many decades and the need for all of the files on these matters to be opened up and for there to be full disclosure."ENDS

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Sinn Féin group leader in Leinster House, Caoimhghin O Caolain, has this evening welcomed as a "positive step forward" the comments made by the Taoiseach in the Dáil today in relation to northern representation in the Oireachtas. In those comments Bertie Ahern said "the Irish Government is in favour of the rights of MEPs to attend and participate in committee debates on the EU and for Northern Ireland elected representatives to participate in debates on the Good Friday Agreeement and other relevant debates". The Taoiseach went on to say that all that was required was "agreement in the House".

Mr Ahern was responding to a question from Caoimhghin O Caolain in which he asked the Taoiseach if he recognised "that following the unilateral suspension of the Assembly elections by the British Government, people in the Six Counties have no democratic forum to which to send their representatives?" He also asked the Taoiseach "what steps are being taken?to pursue the recommendations of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution regarding access for elected MPs in the Six Counties's constituencies to the Houses of the Oireachtas?"

This evening Deputy O Caolain said:

"The Taoiseach's response today was a positive step forward in relation to gaining rights for elected representatives from the Six Counties to take part in debates in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Since the undemocratic suspension of the Assembly by the British Government it is now more important than ever that

the Irish Government paves the way to allow Irish elected representatives access to an Irish elected forum. I would call on the Taoiseach to follow through on the commitment he made today to pursue this issue with the urgency it requires. Following the report of the all-party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution I believe there is all-party support to introduce the necessary mechanisms and changes needed to make this a reality. I believe that all that is really required is the political will of the Taoiseach and in that I welcome the commitment he has given me today that he will 'take ownership of this matter'." ENDS

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Commenting on the ongoing controversy around the activities of FRU and other British Intelligence Agencies, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty said: ' We need to see a full independent judicial inquiry into the activities of the Special Branch and British Military Intelligence. Clearly the war is not over for British Intelligence Agencies. Their activities continue unchanged.' Mr. Dohety said:

"The media reports at the weekend about an alleged agent all emanated from faceless elements within British Military Intelligence with all the resources of the British state behind them. They were aimed at a named individual who has no such means to counter these allegations and who has since denied these allegations.

"These allegations, speculation and dis-information come on the back of the Stevens Inquiry and revelations from the UVF and Michael Stone that loyalist death squads were manipulated and directed by FRU and the Special Branch.

"The activities of these faceless securocrats must be subjected to full scrutiny. We need to see a full independent judicial inquiry into the activities of the Special Branch and British Military Intelligence. Clearly the war is not over for British Intelligence Agencies. Their activities continue unchanged."ENDS

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Commenting on the threatened closure of the A&E Department of Wexford General Hospital next Monday and the withdrawal of on-call services by ambulance crews in that County, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has challenged the Minister for Health to say who is in charge.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

The imminent closure of A&E at Wexford comes within a week of the announced closure of a 25-bed unit at Crumlin Children's Hospital and the loss of 250 beds in the five main Dublin hospitals. This is while the public health doctors' dispute is escalating.

The Minister for Health Mícheál Martin must be asked who is in charge. The Wexford situation is a classic example of the decision-making paralysis in the health services. The all-powerful Medical Council is preventing the Hospital from appointing two junior doctors, even though this will lead directly to the closure of the A&E unit. Gross understaffing in the ambulance service has forced workers to withdraw on-call services.

The Government is at loggerheads with the public health doctors, ambulance crews are working inhuman hours and are forced into a dispute and doctors cannot be appointed quickly to deal with accidents and emergencies. This is a shambles and the Minister and his Government colleagues are directly responsible. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Affairs, Seán Crowe, has described the Government's strategy to tackle homelessness as nothing more than 'another broken promise. Speaking at the launch of the Dublin Simon Community's Annual Report the Dublin South-West TD said:

"It is three years since the Government launched its national homelessness strategy. It is one year since they were returned to power with a Programme for Government which included two commitments on Homelessness.

· We will ensure that the comprehensive Homelessness Strategies now in place are implemented.

· We will ensure that homelessness, and rough sleeping in particular, is tackled in a coordinated manner in all parts of the country.

An Agreed Programme for Government.

"As Simon pointed out today, the Government has simple not lived up to its pledge to provide three year multi-annual funding for projects and theircommitment on homelessness merely amount to another broken promise.

"Sinn Féin believes that proper accommodation is a basic inalienable right and in the coming months we are planning to introduce legislation to Leinster House to bring forward a referendum that will enshrine the Right to Housing in the Constitution. We need increased and sustained funding of local authorities to provide housing with a target of supplying suitable accommodation within the lifetime of this Government for 70% of applicants on the waiting lists.

"The money is available for this. Sinn Féin proposed in our election manifesto an increase in Capital Gains Tax on speculative owners of multiple dwellings and a series of legislative proposals to tackle the homelessness problem.

"The figures released by the Government today, indicating vast swathes of Ireland without any kind of homeless problem bears no reality to what is seen on the ground by groups like the Simon Community. Dublin Simon's Annual Report reveals that the number of new people in contact with Street Outreach Services in the first three months of 2003, already exceeds the number for the first six months of 2002.

"The problem is getting worse, but the solution is clear, all that is required is the political will to do what is necessary. It is time for the Government to take seriously the problem of homelessness in Irish society." ENDS

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Commenting on media speculation surrounding the activities of a British Agent codenamed 'Stakeknife' Sinn Féin Policing Spokesperson Gerry Kelly said:

" The claims being made in the weekend media surrounding the alledged activities of a British Agent working for FRU are extremely serious. They add further weight to what is now a compelling arguement that the British State operated a policy of assasination against citizens living in the Six Counties.

" FRU was not a rogue element of the British war apparatus, it was and continues to be, under a new name, at the very core of British military policy in Ireland. Sinn Féin will continue to demand that the British government come clean on their collusion policy and we will continue to support the families of those killed through it in their demands for the truth." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O'Toole has called on Dubliners to rally behind the campaign to save Number 16 Moore Street from demolition. The final surrender of the Easter Rising took place in the house but it is now under threat from developers who want to build a new shopping and commercial precinct on its site.

Cllr O'Toole called on all those who support the campaign, particularly those whose ancestors took part in the Rising, to assemble on Moore Street at 5pm on Monday evening and march to City Hall where the Council will be discussing the issue.

Cllr O'Toole said:

"Number 16 Moore Street is a building of immense historical value and must be preserved. It unwittingly played host to one of the most significant events in Irish history when the final surrender of the Easter Rising took place at the house. Any other country in the world would make this house a national monument. It should be a treasured link with the past and this country's long struggle for independence.

"I am calling on Dubliners, particularly those whose ancestors took part in the Rising, to rally behind the campaign to save Number 16 Moore Street from demolition and join us at 5pm on Moore Street for a march to City Hall where the Council will be discussing the issue." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has claimed that the UUP's John Taylor has 'let the unionist strategy out of the bag'. Mr Doherty's comments come after Mr. Taylor predicted 'direct rule for a generation'.

Mr. Doherty said:

"John Taylor today proclaimed that he could not see Assembly elections going ahead and he predicted direct rule for a generation. It is clear from Mr. Taylor's remarks that the unionist strategy all along has been to avoid an Assembly election and avoid a return to an inclusive assembly and executive. In short a unionist veto over progress.

"Last week Jeffery Donaldson proclaimed that the Joint Declaration would not pass a UUC meeting. This along with Mr. Taylor's remarks today have quite obviously let the unionist strategy out of the bag.

"Tony Blair should reflect on the remarks made by Mr. Taylor and reflect upon the role he played in allowing the unionist veto to once again subvert the democratic process. It is the continual pandering of the British government over many years which gave the UUP leadership the encouragement to develop this wreckers charter and see Downing Street deliver it." ENDS.

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Speaking today in response to comments made by An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in the Dáíl regarding the IRA statement, Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Martin McGuinness said:

"The IRA statement on Tuesday made it clear that Gerry Adams answers to Tony Blair's questions accurately reflected their position.

"The implication of the Taoiseach's remarks in the Dáil yesterday, is that if Tuesday's IRA statement had come earlier it would have ended the current impasse.

"The two governments now have the IRA position and if it was the basis for forward movement last week, it logically, is the basis for forward movement this week. The question for the Taoiseach is whether he is now going to push the British government to reschedule the elections for June."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at a press conference in London today said:

"The most important thing to say today is that Mr Blair's decision to stop the elections is a serious mistake and a slap in the face to the Good Friday Agreement. Its as if the rule book for conflict resolution has been torn up. Peace requires justice and peace processes are about empowering people, are about a rights centred disposition and are about making politics work. Mr Blair should reverse his decision on the elections and enable them to go forward as soon as possible. There is no reason why there cannot be a June election.

Mr Adams said:

So where is the peace process now?

We have on the one hand a Joint Declaration from the governments that is not an act of completion, but a qualified plan to implement over years the rights and entitlements of citizens. Despite its conditionality this is progress. But the two governments, also stepped outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and introduced in their Joint Declaration a further concession to Mr. Trimble in respect of sanctions. This process of excluding Ministers and parties is specifically aimed at Sinn FÈin, and is to be used against us in the event of any allegations about IRA activities.

On the other hand, we have an IRA leadership that is;

- determined there will be no activities which will undermine in any way the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement;

- has clearly stated its willingness to proceed with the implementation of a process to put arms beyond use at the earliest opportunity.

- despite the suspension of the institutions authorised a third act of putting arms beyond use to be verified under the agreed scheme by the IICD.

And accepts that, if the two governments and all the parties fulfil their commitments this will provide the basis for the complete and final closure of the conflict.

This too is significant progress.

No one should underestimate the significance of the IRA engaging with the IICD while the institutions are suspended, or the IRAs willingness to undertake another act of putting arms beyond use. This followed a suggestion by me to facilitate David Trimbleís stated intention of calling a UUC meeting only after the IRA acted on the arms issue. The sequence of events was to be the Joint Declaration - a statement from me in response to this pointing up the difficulty caused by David Trimbleís refusal to commit to being part of institutions.

He was then to publicly commit himself to recommending participation in the institutions to the UUC. This public pledge would have triggered the IRA putting more arms beyond use.

When the IRA say their arrangements were at an advanced stage they mean that Volunteers sat for days with a substantial amount of equipment waiting for a yes from the UUP or the British government. That yes never came.

So with the UUP implacably opposed to progress at this point and a British government willing to exercise a unionist veto, we now face into a period of political uncertainty.

For our part, Sinn Féin is in this process to the end.

Our objective in the time ahead will be to campaign to have elections held, and to hold the two governments to the commitments which we negotiated with them over many months and which are in the Joint Declaration.

The substance of these commitments and of those contained within the Good Friday Agreement is about the rights and entitlements of citizens. It is about a new political dispensation on the island of Ireland and a new relationship between Ireland and Britain.

It is about change - fundamental and deep-rooted change - including constitutional and institutional change - across all aspects of society. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Policing Spokesperson Gerry Kelly has re-iterated Sinn Fein's demand for the full publication of the Steven Report and an independent international judicial inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane and other victims of state sponsored murder. Speaking as PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde met the Policing Board to discuss the Stevens Report, Mr Kelly said:

"The Stevens Report, or the fraction of it that has been made public, demonstrate the existence of the wholesale and systematic collusion of the British state with Unionist paramilitaries in the killing of citizens.

"The issue of state sponsored murder is one that is of the deepest and gravest concern to the public. The Stevens Report should be published in full. It is in the public interest. There should be no excuses.

"The Policing Board should not provide cover for Hugh Orde or anyone else who wishes to block the publication of this report.

"Sinn Féin fully supports the families who have lost loved ones as a result of a British state policy of colluding in the murder of citizens in their demand for an independent international judicial inquiry." ENDS

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A Sinn Féin delegation met with the Chef d'Cabinet of the Agricultural Commission Corrado Pirozi-Biroli and a member of the Cabinet with responsibility for CAP reform, Anastassios Haniotis to discuss the current reform proposals. The delegation, which was in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday of this week, consisted of the party's spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD and Gerry McHugh MLA, and Newry/Armagh Councillor Patricia O'Rawe.

The group engaged in a wide-ranging discussion that covered the main aspects of the proposals including de-coupling, modulation and increased support for rural development. While the officials emphasised that the proposals had still not assumed their final shape, they did stress that negotiations had reached an crucial stage and that it was vital that a conclusion be made if possible by the end of June.

The Sinn Féin representatives posed a number of questions which elicited detailed responses. On de-coupling, Mr Pirozi-Biroli claimed that this would provide the means to guarantee any farmers who wished to remain in the sector, the opportunity to produce in order to meet specific consumer demands, while being guaranteed a payment based on the historical reference years. In response to a question regarding the falling numbers engaged in farming, Mr Haniotis said that this would continue, but that the reform proposals presented a means to reconcile the need for a more market oriented agriculture with the broader social and political goals inherent in the European Model of Agriculture.

The Sinn Féin representatives also made a number of proposals which they felt would strengthen the proposals and ensure a greater degree of income security for small to medium farmers. Among these were that the lower threshold of €5,000 be increased and that an upper limit also be put in place. The Commission members argued that increasing the threshold would limit the amount of money available and that the original upper limit of €300,000, which has now been removed, would only apply to a small number of farmers in the EU.

There did, however, appear to be a much greater willingness to amend the proposals regarding young farmers although they argued that there are likely to be very few new entrants to farming over the foreseeable future. The Sinn Féin members argued that the reference year element would have to be changed in order to allow young farmers establish a viable entitlement, and that there was a case to be made for farmers who may leave dairying in order to embark on different systems over the next number of years.

In discussing the implications of the ongoing WTO negotiations and the growing trend towards an open competitive market model of agriculture, Mr Pirozi-Biroli and Mr Haniotis agreed with the Sinn Féin delegation that farmers should be encouraged to return to the co-operative system as a counter-balance to the domination of the processing sector by a small number of large businesses which absorb an increasing share of the price paid to consumers.

Other issues which were discussed included the question of the destiny of modulated funds; the need for a much broader approach to rural development to enable communities to cope with the economic and social changes taking place in agriculture; the various proposals for partial de-coupling; and the manner in which the CAP reform proposals have been debated in Ireland. The Commission officials agreed that there has been a great deal of confusion over the proposals due to the lack of engagement in the debate and of counter-proposals.

Speaking after the meeting, Deputy Ferris and Mr McHugh said;

"We feel that this has been an extremely valuable encounter. Sinn Féin has made no secret of the fact that we have had major concerns over the manner in which the CAP has affected Irish agriculture over the past 30 years, and in particular the situation of small to medium family farms. While we would have difficulties with some aspects of the current proposals and while we would still argue in favour of certain changes regarding income limits, and the need to ring-fence and match the modulated funds, we do see merit in reforming the CAP so that farmers may face the future with a greater deal of certainty than they have enjoyed over the past decade and more. Otherwise the future will be one of continual decline in income levels and in the numbers of family farms. Above all, we would call on all with an interest in Irish farming to engage fully in the debate on the proposals so that the best interests of the majority of Irish farmers north and south can be placed at the centre of the negotiations".ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality, and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the launch of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency as "an essential step in the right direction to combat a serious and pervasive social problem affecting nearly one in five Irish women." Attending the launch at Dublin Castle, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Sinn Féin believes that every woman, man, older person, and child has an equal right to safety and security in their homes, and to live free of abuse in their personal and family relationships. But we know the appalling statistics -- particularly concerning violence against women in Irish society. Almost one in five Irish women have been abused by a current or former partner. Almost one quarter of perpetrators of sexual violence against women as adults are intimate partners or ex-partners. Fully 88% of domestic violence fatalities have a documented history of physical abuse.

"In Sinn Féin's Pre-Budget Submission we called on the Government to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves by dedicating more resources to this area and developing an integrated response. So I am very pleased that this initiative has now been launched, and I look forward to positive results for the women, men, and children directly affected, and for our communities as a whole. Studies from other countries have also shown the high economic cost of domestic violence, and so from every point of view - social and economic - this whole initiative is a good investment.

"I pay tribute to the many volunteers and groups like Women's Aid who have worked so hard over many years to bring this issue into the public domain, to destigmatise those who suffer abuse, and to convince politicians of the importance of action on this issue. Their hard work has made this significant development a reality and they deserve to be congratulated."ENDS

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Responding to the publication of the IRA statements, Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"The IRA last night made clear that Gerry Adams answers to Tony Blair's questions accurately reflected their position. There is no lack of clarity on IRA intentions.

"The real problem is, as Jeffrey Donaldson stated unambiguously, that the Joint Declaration would have been rejected by the Ulster Unionist Council. This is the reason that the British government exercised a unionist veto and cancelled the elections.

"The substance of the Joint Declaration is about the rights and entitlements of citizens. It cannot be conditional. It must be implemented."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at a press conference in London today said:"The most important thing to say today is that Mr Blair's decision to stop the elections is a serious mistake and a slap in the face to the Good Friday Agreement. Its as if the rule book for conflict resolution has been torn up. Peace requires justice and peace processes are about empowering people, are about a rights centred disposition and are about making politics work. Mr Blair should reverse his decision on the elections and enable them to go forward as soon as possible. There is no reason why there cannot be a June election.

Mr Adams said:

So where is the peace process now?

We have on the one hand a Joint Declaration from the governments that is not an act of completion, but a qualified plan to implement over years the rights and entitlements of citizens. Despite its conditionality this is progress. But the two governments, also stepped outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and introduced in their Joint Declaration a further concession to Mr. Trimble in respect of sanctions. This process of excluding Ministers and parties is specifically aimed at Sinn Féin, and is to be used against us in the event of any allegations about IRA activities.

On the other hand, we have an IRA leadership that is;

- determined there will be no activities which will undermine in any way the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement;

- has clearly stated its willingness to proceed with the implementation of a process to put arms beyond use at the earliest opportunity.

- despite the suspension of the institutions authorised a third act of putting arms beyond use to be verified under the agreed scheme by the IICD.

And accepts that, if the two governments and all the parties fulfil their commitments this will provide the basis for the complete and final closure of the conflict.

This too is significant progress.

No one should underestimate the significance of the IRA engaging with the IICD while the institutions are suspended, or the IRAs willingness to undertake another act of putting arms beyond use. This followed a suggestion by me to facilitate David Trimbleís stated intention of calling a UUC meeting only after the IRA acted on the arms issue. The sequence of events was to be the Joint Declaration - a statement from me in response to this pointing up the difficulty caused by David Trimbleís refusal to commit to being part of institutions.

He was then to publicly commit himself to recommending participation in the institutions to the UUC. This public pledge would have triggered the IRA putting more arms beyond use.

When the IRA say their arrangements were at an advanced stage they mean that Volunteers sat for days with a substantial amount of equipment waiting for a yes from the UUP or the British government. That yes never came.

So with the UUP implacably opposed to progress at this point and a British government willing to exercise a unionist veto, we now face into a period of political uncertainty.

For our part, Sinn Féin is in this process to the end.

Our objective in the time ahead will be to campaign to have elections held, and to hold the two governments to the commitments which we negotiated with them over many months and which are in the Joint Declaration.

The substance of these commitments and of those contained within the Good Friday Agreement is about the rights and entitlements of citizens. It is about a new political dispensation on the island of Ireland and a new relationship between Ireland and Britain.

It is about change - fundamental and deep-rooted change - including constitutional and institutional change - across all aspects of society. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as "appalling" the closure of 250 beds in the five Dublin teaching hospitals. He said the decision comes after "a year of lies and cutbacks by Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats" and that the Government had shown itself totally incapable of providing a proper health service. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The bed cuts in the major Dublin hospitals are appalling and are a direct result of this government's underfunding and mismanagement of the health services. These massive health cutbacks come a year after Fianna Fáil lied to the electorate in the run-up to the General Election, promising the end of hospital waiting lists within two years and the extension of medical card coverage to a further 200,000 people. Instead we have had a series of cutbacks with health boards unable to maintain services at 2002 levels, let alone expand them as falsely promised by this Government. Patients are now suffering after a year of lies and cuts.

"The bed cuts in Dublin hospitals will have a knock-on effect throughout the State with people who have to attend these hospitals from outside the capital being thrown further back on the waiting lists.

"The government's so-called health policy is in tatters. Health Minister Mícheál Martin has publicly stated that his colleague Minister for Finance McCreevy does not see 'the bigger picture' on health. The Taoiseach has remained silent while two of his senior ministers are at sixes and sevens on this most vital issue of public policy.

"At the weekend we had the revelation that Minister McCreevy is a member of a €35,000 per year exclusive golf club. We can be certain that neither he nor any of his wealthy associates at Carton House Golf Club will be affected by these cuts while the most vulnerable people in our society are made to suffer yet again." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as "appalling" the closure of 250 beds in the five Dublin teaching hospitals. He said the decision comes after "a year of lies and cutbacks by Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats" and that the Government had shown itself totally incapable of providing a proper health service. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The bed cuts in the major Dublin hospitals are appalling and are a direct result of this government's underfunding and mismanagement of the health services. These massive health cutbacks come a year after Fianna Fáil lied to the electorate in the run-up to the General Election, promising the end of hospital waiting lists within two years and the extension of medical card coverage to a further 200,000 people. Instead we have had a series of cutbacks with health boards unable to maintain services at 2002 levels, let alone expand them as falsely promised by this Government. Patients are now suffering after a year of lies and cuts.

"The bed cuts in Dublin hospitals will have a knock-on effect throughout the State with people who have to attend these hospitals from outside the capital being thrown further back on the waiting lists.

"The government's so-called health policy is in tatters. Health Minister Mícheál Martin has publicly stated that his colleague Minister for Finance McCreevy does not see 'the bigger picture' on health. The Taoiseach has remained silent while two of his senior ministers are at sixes and sevens on this most vital issue of public policy.

"At the weekend we had the revelation that Minister McCreevy is a member of a €35,000 per year exclusive golf club. We can be certain that neither he nor any of his wealthy associates at Carton House Golf Club will be affected by these cuts while the most vulnerable people in our society are made to suffer yet again." ENDS

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Commenting on today's proceedings at the Saville Tribunal in London, Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness said:

" During the course of the Saville Tribunal, a number of bogus and wholly unsubstantiated allegations have been made about my role on Bloody Sunday. All of these come from one so-called British security source, name Infliction, whose existence has not even been proven. This person, if he or she exists, will not appear at the Tribunal to give evidence and, critically, my legal team and the legal representatives of the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday will not be able to cross examine this witness or challenge the allegation that have been made.

" My legal team have, additionally, been informed that the cross examination of the various British intelligence "handlers" and other British Security Service officers who are being called to authenticate the evidence of unnamed informers, will be restricted in an unprecedented manner.

• All material in relation to these matters has either been heavily edited or withheld, including any internal assessment of the reliability of any particular informant.

• The cross-examination of any of these witnesses is to be severely restricted as a result of a ruling by the Tribunal,

• Questions must be submitted in writing first with reasons given for asking those questions.

• These will then be shown to the witnesses and their representatives who can object to the questions.

• Only then can the questions be put with the witnesses able to give carefully prepared answers.

Following consultation with my legal representatives, I have decided that they should not participate in this sham of a cross-examination. In circumstances where those who allegedly made these allegations are not to be brought before the

Tribunal then the very least that can be expected is that a rigorous investigation of those who seek to bring those allegations to the Tribunal will be allowed. I am being denied the right to challenge unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations made about me by an anonymous individual. I have therefore instructed my lawyers not to engage in this restricted and meaningless form of cross-examination.

Despite the denial of my rights I will continue to assist the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday in whatever way I can to establish the truth that their loved ones were murdered by the British Army on Bloody Sunday.

My lawyers appeared on my behalf this morning to outline directly to the Tribunal my reasons for this decision.

Unlike Infliction I will be appearing in person before the Tribunal when it returns to Derry" ENDS

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