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"We must hear the public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free"

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin Sinn Féin Kerry North TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh and Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald called for an urgent debate on GM food and crops and issued a call to keep Ireland 'GM free'.

Deputy Ferris, who will meet with the three farm organisations over the summer, to get their opinion on Genetic Engineering said:

"Since legislation on the regulation of genetically modified food and feed was passed at the start of July by the European Parliament, along with further passing of co-existence guidelines which wish to prohibit national or regional governments in banning the use of Genetically Modified Organisms, the European Union has rolled over to the threats of the US and the profit hungry GM companies.

"The legislation allows for the sale of GM food products once it is labelled for GM content above 0.9%. The way will now also be open to grow GM crops although there may be some scope to allow member states to prevent the growing of such crops in specific zones. It is vital that a full public debate takes place in this country and that all of the issues surrounding GM are aired.

"In a written reply to a parliamentary question by me on Tuesday 17 June Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh stated that he does not have any proposals to initiate a formal public consultation. This is a typical of a Minister who is out of touch with public opinion, and an arrogant denial of the right of Irish People to have their say in whether they want to consume Genetically Modified Food.

"Irish farmers are also being denied the opportunity to voice their opinion. This debate must take place on an Island wide basis; this island cannot allow one part to opt for Genetically Modified Crops or Food, while the other part abstains. Cross contamination of hybrid plants and crops could contaminate the whole island.

"We need to look at the future of the Irish agriculture industry and the potential of selling and marketing Irish food as safe and environmentally friendly. WE also need a real assessment of the economics of GM crops, particularly for a small country that exports 80% of what we produce. We must hear our public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free.

"We must expose the myth that GM increases agricultural productivity. Research from the United States proves that the main GM crop, Roundup Ready soya has up to 11% lower yield than non-GM soya. A Soil Association report, Seeds of Doubt concluded that GM crops have led to lower yields, greater dependency on herbicides and pesticides, a loss of markets and lower productivity for farmers in the US.

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Commenting on the publication of the latest Permanent TSB house price index which has shown that house prices in the State have increased by an average of 6.9% in the first six months of this year, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan T.D. blamed government inaction for the continuing rise.

Deputy Morgan said

"Government inaction in the face of ever increasing house prices is highly irresponsible. Houses are becoming more and more unaffordable. Minister of State Noel Ahern must explain why at a time of economic slowdown, house price increases are greater than for the same period last year.

"The ongoing housing crisis will have enumerable consequences for Irish society in the years ahead. The government has not shown any initiative to control the spiralling cost of houses. Measures must be taken to control land prices which are the greatest contributor to the price of houses. A national housing agency must be established as a matter of urgency. We need to see a strategy from the government outlining how they intend to tackle this crisis" ENDS

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Responding to the news that the PSNI are to re-investigate the murder of Cllr. Patsy Kelly in July 1974, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has said:

"Patsy Kelly's family and local people are convinced that members of the UDR murdered him and dumped his body. There has been years of cover-up and obstruction by the RUC. In effect the RUC assisted Patsy Kelly's killers to escape justice. Many of those officers remain in place and the PSNI are refusing to confirm that these individuals will not be involved in any re-investigation. Given this fact there is little hope that the PSNI will investigate this case properly.

"The Kelly family are convinced that the only mechanism to establish the truth is through an independent inquiry separate from the PSNI. There is a real fear that this latest move is nothing more than a further stalling exercise and has indeed been done without consultation with the Kelly family." ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has contrasted the speed in which the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr. Kelly was established and the treatment of the Finucane family.

Mr Kelly said:

"In the immediate aftermath of the death of arms expert Dr. David Kelly, Tony Blair moved to establish a judicial inquiry. Contrast this with the treatment of the family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane. Fourteen years after his murder through collusion the Finucane family are still battling to see an independent judicial inquiry established.

"This is a question of political will and double standards. The failure to establish an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane is a symptom of the British establishments attitude to Ireland. It seems that this British government is intent on attempting to cover up the legacy of it predecessors policy of state sanctioned murder." ENDS

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South Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Alex Maskey has accused the political leadership of unionism of 'again running away from the issue of loyalist attacks on Catholics'.

Cllr. Maskey said:

"In recent weeks we have witnessed a new wave of attacks against catholics across the north. In Antrim, Lisburn, Dunmurry, Magherafelt and elsewhere catholics have been attacked and in some cases forced from their homes.

"In response to this we have heard no commentary from David Trimble, Reg Empey, Jeffery Donaldson or any other senior unionist politician. The silence from the Direct Rule Ministers is equally deafening.

" It seems that there is a acceptance of a certain level of violence being directed against the catholic population. This has to end. The unionist political leadership has a role in preventing attacks on the catholic community. Their silence must end as a first step towards tackling this issue." ENDS

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Pearse Doherty Fundraising The Vol. Philip McFadden Sinn Féin Cumann Killybegs hosted a very successful fund raising venture on Thursday the 24th of July in the Bayview Hotel Killybegs in aid of Neil Boyle of Aranmore who was seriously injured in a tragic car accident a year ago.

The fundraising function was an initiative by the newly formed Sinn Féin cumann in Killybegs and raised Eleven thousand Euro for the Neil Boyle Fund.

Local Sinn Féin representative Pearse Doherty said:

"We are totally overwhelmed by the support we received from the community, and the generosity of those who provided sponsorship for the raffle on the night which on its own raised over fifteen hundred Euro for this worthy cause."

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Sinn Féin Assembly Group leader, Newry Armagh representative Conor Murphy commenting on the publication of party finances by the Electoral Commission has said that a significant proportion of the salaries of all elected representatives goes towards funding party growth.

Mr Murphy said:

"Across Ireland paid Sinn Féin elected representatives donate a considerable proportion of their salaries to fund party growth.

"Within the Assembly every Sinn Féin MLA is paid exactly the same salary, regardless of whether or not they are a Minister or hold any other position that attracts additional salary. Our MLA's return at least 40% of their salary to fund party growth. This has generated over £300,000 in the north to deliver top quality constituency services, to fund party growth and build the agenda for Irish reunification.

"This commitment to the development of Sinn Féin from elected representatives is unique in Irish politics and is a demonstration of the commitment of all our representatives." ENDS

Note to editors

There is also some confusion around the money spent by Sinn Féin on election campaigns. The figure of money spent centrally is considerably lower than other political parties in the north as a result of how Sinn Féin is organised. Local areas fund the majority of election expenses.

The maximum donation of wages in the south that can be donated back to the party by TD's is 6,000 Euro.

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Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams yesterday held a one-hour meting with US Senator Ted Kennedy in his Boston office.

Speaking following the discussions Mr Adams welcomed Mr Kennedy's forthright support for the holding of elections in the 6 counties.

Mr Adams said:

"I briefed Senator Kennedy on the current crisis in the political process and on our recent discussions with the British and Irish governments and the other parties.

"We agreed that the legitimacy of the electoral process and of the political process has been severely undermined by the cancellation of the elections. The democratic and political imperative now is for the British government to set an unqualified, without precondition, date certain for elections. This is essential if we are to reinvigorate the process.

"Unionism can not forever be allowed to exercise a veto over the necessary social, economic and political change." ENDS

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Newry/Armagh Sinn Féin Spokesperson, Conor Murphy has called on people to support the demand from victims families that the truth is told about collusion.

Mr Murphy said;

"Since the creation of the six county statelet here in the north of Ireland a campaign of state-sponsored murder and collusion with Unionist paramilitaries has existed at the highest levels of the British military and political establishment. During the last 30 years of conflict Unionist paramilitaries have been supplied with information and their actions directed and controlled by Special Branch and British Intelligence Services.

"From the mid-eighties onwards British Intelligence Agencies effectively controlled all Loyalist paramilitary activity through the use of agents and informers. This included the murders of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and many other Nationalists and Republicans.

"An RUC Chief Superintendent who investigated the bombing of Donnelly's Bar, Silverbridge in south Armagh in 1975 told the Pat Finucane Centre that he believed this was carried out by Loyalists from the Portadown area and included 1 RUC Reservist and 2 members of the UDR. He also claimed that members of the RUC and UDR were involved in other attacks such as the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, Kay's Tavern in Dundalk, the murder of 2 GAA supporters at Tullyallen and the Reavey brothers. Further investigation revealed the possibility that this same group were involved in many more attacks on Nationalists and Republicans in this area.

"In a sworn affidavit an RUC Sergeant John Weir alleged that a farmhouse owned by an RUC reservist was used as a base to mount bomb attacks in Newry/Armagh and cross-border areas resulting in the murder of at least 87 people and hundreds injured. The group responsible for these attacks was comprised of members of UVF in Portadown, the 8th and 11th Battallions of the UDR and members of the RUC Special Patrol Group and British Intelligence Agencies.

"No member of the Special Branch or British military Intelligence has ever been charged and convicted for these crimes. The members of the RUC Special Branch transferred en-bloc and remain today in control of the PSNI.

"Sinn Féin has organised a march and rally to Belfast City Hall at 3.00pm on 10th August. We urge people to support the demand from the families of the victims of collusion that the truth be told." ENDS

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The event, attended by over 300 people, raises funds for the Irish American Partnership. This organization provides financial support to community and educational projects in Ireland.

Mr. Adams said:

At this time there is little sign that unionism is contemplating a more positive approach to the Agreement, or that those who would advocate such an approach are in a position to deliver.

If this is the case does this mean the process is over?

That is essentially a question the unionists and the British government have to answer.

The British government has pandered to unionism. There can be no doubt about that. But the cancellation of the elections was motivated also by London‚s agenda. There can be no confidence that the political process will survive unless Mr. Blair commits to a date certain for the election as soon as possible, and without any preconditions or qualifications.

This is a matter of political principle.

It is the democratic imperative.

It is also the right tactical and strategic thing for Mr. Blair to do.

An election is also required to set a new context and to reinvigorate the process.

The two governments also need to make it clear that for unionism the Good Friday Agreement is as good as it gets.

There can be no renegotiation. The price unionism has to pay for a return to devolved structures, a northern Assembly, is that these are in an all-Ireland context with all-Ireland institutions and interlocking and interdependent political structures.

But if unionism refuses to play a partnership role with the rest of us then pottering along with direct rule is not an option.

If there cannot be political institutions of the kind envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement at this time then the two governments need to proceed along an all-Ireland path to implement all other elements of the Agreement, and within a democratic mechanism in which London and Dublin are both held accountable by the rest of us.

Such an arrangement needs to be put in place until the unionists are prepared to engage properly and on the basis of equality.

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has expressed his bitter disappointment at the refusal of the Minister for Justice to agree to a meeting with the father of murdered teenager Kevin Reilly to address his serious concerns with the Garda investigation.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "The case has gone on for over ten years at this stage. Successive Justice Ministers have come and gone and refused to take the issue seriously. Over a dozen elected representatives from all parties, including Councillors, Senators, TDs and MEPs signed our letter asking for the Minister to institute a review of the Garda investigation.

"Instead, we get a reply that is nothing more than a bland restatement of policy of the type that has been issued again and again by the Department. There is nothing in his response he has not already said, often word for word, in answer to other letters or to parliamentary questions. He is clearly not listening.

"The Minister states that he has asked the Gardai if they are satisfied with the case, they say they are and as far as he is concerned, case closed. Mr Reilly certainly is not and has identified enough discrepancies that as well as instituting a review of the investigation, we believe the Minister should at least agree to a meeting with Mr Reilly to hear his side of the story. Perhaps if a member of the PDs could have been found to sign the letter we sould have received a better response." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness will meet with the head of the Human Rights Commission, Brice Dickson this week. The meeting comes at Mr. McGuinness' request after recent resignations from the body.

Mr. McGuinness said:

"As Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator I wanted to meet with the Human Rights Commission and raise with the Chief Commissioner at first hand the very serious concerns which have been raised by both former Commissioners and the wider Human Rights Community.

"The Human Rights Commission is a cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement and those of us who support that Agreement and wish to see it implemented have a duty to raise concerns about its operation.

"After this meeting I will meet with both the British and Irish governments and raise these very important matters in the course of those discussions." ENDS

Editors Note: Mr. McGuinness will meet with the Human Rights Commission on Wednesday morning at 10am at their offices in Belfast.

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Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has accused the judiciary and the PSNI of 'colluding in the operation of a policy of internment without trial'. Ms. Gildernew's remarks come after North Belfast man John O'Hagan was again refused bail and has now been held for 16 months without trial or the prospect of getting a trial.

Ms. Gildernew said:

"John O'Hagan has now served 16 months in prison without trial or indeed the prospect of a trial. This is almost the equivalent of a three year sentence. He again appealed for bail on Friday. Again at the insistence of the PSNI, Mr. O'Hagan was refused bail by the judge. The circumstances of this case can be described as nothing more than internment without trial.

"Contrast this with the attitude of the judiciary to loyalists awaiting trial. Jim Fulton who is awaiting trial on 64 charges was first released on bail and then had the conditions relaxed in order to allow him to attend Orange marches. Only last week another loyalist on a serious charge of attacking a catholic neighbour in Magherafelt was immediately granted bail.

" Nationalists and republicans have no faith in the current criminal justice system. It is clear from John O'Hagan's case that the malign influence of PSNI Special Branch holds more sway over the Diplock Judges than any notion of natural justice." ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Paul Butler has blamed the UDA for last nights attack on three Catholics, two of them teenagers, in Queensway Dunmurry.

Cllr. Butler said:

"The political representatives of the UDA are continually appearing on the media assuring us that the UDA is on cessation. The reality on the ground for Catholics in places like Dunmurry and Lisburn is very different.

"There is a co-ordinated and vicious anti-Catholic campaign being waged. Last Sunday there was a sectarian murder attempt on a local golf course and last night we have an armed gang attacking people for no other reason than they are Catholic. This was not some group of kids. This was an armed and masked gang and was the UDA.

"Local unionist political representatives have a role to play in stopping these attacks. Unfortunately they have so far failed in this challenge. Instead of confronting sectarianism they have decided to institutionalise it in the local Council. The exclusion of nationalists from civic positions is only one step removed from the violent incidents we have witnessed in recent weeks." ENDS

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Mid-Ulster MP Martin Mc Guinness has called on Unionist Leaders - political and community- to speak out against those individuals or groups involved in attacks on Catholic churches and other property that is perceived to be owned by Catholics or members and organisations from the nationalist community.

Mr Mc Guinness made his call following the latest sectarian attack on St john‚s Chapel on the Castledawson Road in his Mid-Ulster Constituency.

The Sinn Féin MP said:

"It is incumbent on unionist politicians and community leaders to speak out in the strongest terms in denouncing those responsible for the arson attack on St John‚s Chapel on the Castledawson Road. This is just the latest in a long number of attacks on Catholics and their property in the Magherafelt area over recent months. Sectarianism from whatever source is a cancer in society that can not be ignored lest it spreads."

"It is imperative that responsible people let these bigoted few that indulge in this type of hatred know that they will not be tolerated in our communities. Whether these attacks are directed at Catholic or Protestant Churches, Orange or GAA halls or individuals homes they are wrong and must be stopped."

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Embargo 3pm Sunday 27 July 2003

Speaking in Kilnaleck, Co. Cavan, at the unveiling of a monument to IRA Captain Edward Boylan who was killed in the Civil War, Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Taoiseach‚s clear mandate from the Dáil was to demand of Tony Blair that the postponed Assembly elections be held in the autumn. He said people did not vote for Direct Rule when they voted for the Agreement and called on the Taoiseach to convene a special summit with the British Prime Minister. Deputy Ó Caolain said:

"The current impasse in the peace process is totally unacceptable to Republicans. It is totally unacceptable also to the vast majority of people on this island.

"When the people voted for the Good Friday Agreement they did not vote for Direct Rule from Westminster. Yet that is what we have now - Direct Rule and political drift with the institutions so painstakingly constructed now in suspension at the behest of anti-Agreement unionism.

"A British government which falsely boasts that it is a champion of freedom on the international stage has twice cancelled democratic elections in Ireland and four times suspended the institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement.

"In May the entire Dáil called for the postponed elections to be rescheduled for this autumn. The autumn is rapidly approaching yet there is no sign that the British government is preparing to hold elections.

"I call on the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to arrange a special summit meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss not whether, but when this autumn the elections will be held. The Taoiseach‚s mandate from the Dáil is to accept no less from Tony Blair.

"The political process is being held hostage by the now dominant anti-Agreement faction in the Ulster Unionist Party. On Friday last David McNarry, a leading aide to David Trimble, accused Jeffrey Donaldson of 'trying to cynically side-step democratic decisions'. This is rich indeed coming from a UUP leadership which has thwarted the implementation of the Agreement at every turn.

"The current impasse makes it more important than ever for the Taoiseach to provide for representation in the Dáil for citizens in the Six Counties. This will be Sinn Féin's most immediate demand as soon as the Dáil resumes.

"Sinn Féin will continue our efforts at every level to break the impasse. But we cannot wait forever and if the unionists continue to make the Agreement unworkable then the Irish government must sit down and work out with the other nationalist parties how we proceed and what demands we make of the British government. It was nationalist Ireland that brought about the peace process. If necessary nationalist Ireland must also move it into a new phase." ENDS

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Publication of Bonner Report on Monaghan General Hospital

Commenting on the publication of the Bonner Report on Further and Future Development of Monaghan General Hospital, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it fell far short of what was required but contained recommendations for improvement of the Hospital which should be funded and implemented without delay by the Minister for Health and Children and the North Eastern Health Board.

In his initial comment on the Report, the Monaghan-town based TD said:

"The Bonner recommendations for services to be provided at Monaghan Hospital are essentially the same as those presented by the CEO of the North Eastern Health Board in September 2002. There is no recommendation for the full restoration of the Maternity Unit and no recommendation for the restoration of A&E.

"In the past week one woman has given birth in Monaghan Hospital, even though there is no Maternity Unit, and another has given birth in an ambulance by the roadside en route to Cavan. A doctor and midwife despatched from Cavan did not reach her in time.

"This Report explicitly recognises the sense of community in Monaghan and what it calls the 'huge chasm of mistrust between the community and North Eastern Health Board'. That mistrust is rooted firmly in the failure to restore our Maternity Unit. The Bonner Report itself arose out of the tragic death of baby Bronagh Livingstone.

"Recommendations for management changes and some service improvements are welcome, but of themselves do not meet what I and colleagues have argued is necessary. Welcome also is the call for capital investment and the implementation of the recommendations by the Government and the NEHB without delay. However, this report falls far short of the needs of the people and much more is required."

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Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams will depart on Sunday, 27 July, for a five day trip to the United States. Mr Adams will travel to both Boston and New York for a series of engagements.

Speaking today(Friday 25th) Mr Adams said:

"This trip will take us to both Boston and New York. We will be meeting with a variety of people including Ambassador Haass. The trip will also provide the opportunity to meet with friends of the Irish peace process in both cities.

"The US Administration and Irish America in particular have been long time allies of the Irish Peace Process, and they continue to provide support at this time of crisis in the process." ENDS

Public Itinerary for US Trip

Monday 28th July

  • Meeting with Senator Ted Kennedy at 10.30am

Tuesday 29th July

  • Congressional briefing, Massachuesetts Delegation, Boston Harbour Hotel, 9.30am
  • Press Conference, Boston Harbour Hotel, Board Room, 11am
  • Irish American Partnership Reception and Lunch, 12 noon

Wednesday 30th July

  • Meeting with Bill Flynn in New York, 9am

Tuesday 31st July

  • Meeting with Richard Haass, 2pm

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe will join an International delegation tomorrow (Saturday 26th) and fly out to Colombia for the final phase of the trial of the three Irishmen Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, currently being held in La Modelo Prison Bogota. Speaking before departing to attend the trial summary the Dublin South West deputy said:

"The only logical, just, outcome to this trial is that these three men will be acquitted of the very serious charges against them. The prejudicial comments made against the men, both before and during this trial, by large sections of the media and the political and military establishment in Colombia rendered the chances of a fair trial impossible. Having attended all stages of this long and drawn-out process and having listened carefully to the so-called evidence against them, I am convinced that these men are innocent and should never have stood trial in the first place.

The flawed and flimsy evidence produced in the course of this trial raises many questions about the Colombian justice system and particularly about the ability of the judge to distance his office from all insidious external influences. The central question still surrounds this case and that is, can these men receive a fair trial.

"It has now been two years since their well publicised arrest. Niall Connolly Jim Monaghan and Martin McCauley have been held in cramped and extremely dangerous conditions. There is no safe jail in Colombia particularly for anyone involved in this high profile case. Their lives have been under constant threat since their incarceration and have come under bomb attack on at least one occasion. They have been told that they will be killed by right wing paramilitaries if they are found guilty.

I would once again call on the Irish Government to pursue with vigour the release of these three Irish citizens and seek a commitment from the Colombian Authorities for their immediate release and return home." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's EU candidate for Dublin, Marylou McDonald, has criticised the sponsors of the Irish Open which is taking place in Portmarnock golf club this week, for supporting a club that is "stuck in the dark ages".

The club has come under fire for being one of only two in the whole of the South which does not allow women members.

Ms. McDonald said:

"This week Portmarnock golf club is hosting the Irish Open. The North Dublin club has been allocated €750,000 of public funds to host the competition. But this club denies membership to women.

"It is an absolute disgrace that one of two golf clubs in Ireland which continues to maintain an elitist and sexist policy of not accepting women as full members, should be the chosen location to host such a prestigious event as the Irish Open.

"What is more disappointing is the attitude of the sponsors to this event. It is strange that any body would want to support a club that is stuck in the dark ages. This government purports to promote gender equality, so it is logical and appropriate that there should be gender proofing of all public spending.

"It is also incredible that Nissan, the main private sponsor of this event would risk a possible consumer backlash in light of the extensive media coverage, which the Portmarnock ban on women members is receiving."

Sorcha Níc Chormaic, a Sinn Féin representative for Terenure/Rathfarnham has said that she is disgusted, as a young woman, that Portmarnock golf club is still operating a policy of exclusion against women.

Ms Níc Chormaic said:

"I am disgusted, speaking as a young woman, how any club can get away with a policy of banning women in the year 2003. If you substitute the words 'coloured, Jewish, or Catholic' for the word women, there would be uproar throughout the country.

"The men who run Portmarnock golf club need to get real. The days of the little women staying at home while the men went off for a few rounds of golf, are long gone, and not before time.

"This government also needs to start looking after my rights, and the rights of all women, and stop allocating public money to clubs that should be shut down for back--dated, sickening attitudes to women."ENDS

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