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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has said that the 19 % increase in domestic rates will further drive up the cost of living and push greater numbers of people into poverty. He also warned that along with a number of other measures including water charges and electricity and heating cost increases that there will be long-term consequences for the local economy.

Mr Molloy said:

"Stealth taxes are the hallmark of the British Labour Party government. It is an approach which hurts people on low and fixed incomes and is bad for the small and medium businesses that are so crucial to our economy.

"The 19% increase in the domestic rate will drive up the cost of living and push even greater numbers of people into poverty.

"Across a whole range of areas British direct rule ministers are putting in place measures, including water charges, that will compound the problems created by high energy costs and high insurance costs that will have a long-term detrimental impact on the economy.

"When we had a functioning Executive we were able to successfully cap both business and household rates increases because we could see what the impact of such super inflation busting increases would be. British direct rule clearly has a very different agenda driven by Whitehall.

"While British direct rule is driving up rates it is also cutting the money available to local councils in crucial areas such as waste management. This approach is very worrying when it is proposed that a number of functions will be moved to local government." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP today released details of the main annual Sinn Féin Easter Commemorations. Mr Doherty said that this weekend would see tens of thousands of republicans taking part in marches, commemorations and wreath laying ceremonies across the island.

Mr Doherty said:

"This year marks the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. It is an important time for Irish republicans. It is a time for remembering our friends and colleagues who have given their lives in pursuit of our republican ideals and goals. It is a time for reflecting on these ideals.

“Events organised by Sinn Féin’s National Commemoration Committee will take place in all 32 Counties. It is a very positive development that the Irish Government has also decided to mark the anniversary with a commemorative event in our capital city and Sinn Féin will participate in this event on Sunday.

"At this time each year Republicans recall the words of the 1916 Proclamation - an historic document - one of the most progressive documents ever written. The Proclamation spells out the demand for social and economic justice and democracy, of cherishing all the children of the nation equally, irrespective of colour, religion, gender, ability or race, equally.

"Easter is also a time of renewal - a time when we as Irish republicans rededicate ourselves to the legitimate and achievable goals of independence and unity for the people of this island.

"The past year has undoubtedly been a momentous one for republicans and the peace process. The historic decisions taken by the IRA in the course of the past 12 months have presented enormous challenges for all of us, not least the unionists and the two governments. Yet despite the progress made unionism has yet to agree the share power on the basis of equality and respect.

“But simply commemorating the events of Easter 1916 is not enough. Learning the lessons of 1916 means putting the issue of Irish unity at the top of the political agenda. It means the Irish government driving forward a process which will deliver national reunification.

"There are over 100 commemorations throughout the island and scores more smaller events. Internationally many Irish exiles will also take part in commemorations. I am calling on people to wear an Easter Lily and to make this years Easter Commemorations and events bigger and better than ever before." ENDS

Sinn Féin Easter Commemorations - 2006

Friday, 14th April

Dublin (Arbour Hill) Assemble at 2.30pm Speaker Sean Crowe TD

Saturday 15th

Dublin City Assemble at 1.30pm Speaker Gerry Adams MP

Dublin (Phibsboro) Assemble at 11am Speaker Mary Lou McDonald MEP

Dublin (Ballyfermot) Assemble 12 noon Speaker Cllr Críona Ní Dhalaigh

Armagh(Mullaghbawn) Assemble 8pm Speaker Cllr Toireasa Ferris

Belfast ( Whitewell) Assemble 5pm Speaker Cllr Paul Butler

Tyrone (Coalisland) Assemble at 3pm Speaker Bairbre de Brún MEP

Waterford City Assemble 3pm Speaker Cllr David Cullinane

Armagh (Portadown) Assemble 12.30pm Speaker Cllr Padraig MacLochlainn

Easter Sunday 16th

Belfast Assemble 1pm Speaker Gerry Adams MP

Cork City Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Martin McGuinness MP

Derry City Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Martina Anderson

Armagh(Crossmaglen) Assemble 11am Speaker Cllr Toireasa Ferris

Donegal(Drumboe) Assemble 3pm Speaker Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Tyrone (Carrickmore) Assemble 3pm Speaker Gerry Kelly MLA

Mayo (Castlebar) Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Caitríona Ruane MLA

Waterford (Ardmore) Assemble 3pm Speaker Martin Ferris TD

Armagh (Newry) Assemble 12.30pm Speaker Eibhlín Glenholmes

Sligo Town Assemble 3pm Speaker Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Armagh (Lurgan) Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Alex Maskey MLA

Louth (Dundalk) Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Conor Murphy MP

Derry (The Loup) Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Declan Kearney

Fermanagh (Roslea) Assemble 3.30pm Speaker Jim Gibney

Galway City Assemble 3pm Speaker Micheal MacDonncha

Monaghan Town Assemble 3pm Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin MLA

Kilkenny (Mooncoin) Assemble 12noon Speaker Kathleen Funchion

Cork (Youghal) Assemble 11am Speaker Cllr Sandra McLellan

Limerick City Assemble 12.30 Speaker Cllr Pat Treanor

Kerry (Tralee) Assemble 3pm Speaker Barry McElduff MLA

Laois (Portlaoise) Assemble 3pm Speaker Cllr Killian Forde

Longford Town Assemble 3pm Speaker Davy Hyland MLA

State Commemoration in Dublin City – Pat Doherty MP, Bairbre de Brún MEP, Arthur Morgan TD, Sean Crowe TD and Michelle Gildernew MP

Easter Monday 17th

Dublin (Dun Laoghaire) Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Pat Doherty MP

Wexford (Enniscorthy) Assemble 2pm Speaker Martin Ferris TD

Armagh City Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Conor Murphy MP

North Belfast (Ardoyne) Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Cllr Pearse Doherty

Downpatrick Assemble 6pm Speaker Caral Ni Chulain

Tyrone (Ardboe) Assemble 2pm Speaker Eibhlín Glenholmes

Derry (Swatragh) Assemble 2.30pm Speaker Philip McGuigan MLA

Donegal (Pettigo) Assemble 3pm Speaker Cllr Matt Carthy

Wicklow (Brady) Assemble 11.30pm Speaker Cllr John Brady

Westmeath (Athlone) Assemble 3pm Speaker Cllr Joe Reilly

Easter Tuesday 18th

Antrim(Toomebridge) Assemble 4.30pm Speaker Michelle Gildernew MP

North Belfast (Ardoyne) Assemble 1pm Speaker Arthur Morgan TD

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today demanded that the ‘Irish language is treated no less favourably than other EU languages.’

 

Ms de Brún made her comments after concerns were raised that the British Government’s ‘Draft Education Order (Northern Ireland) 2006' has stated that of the courses offered by a school at key stage 4 “at least one shall be a course in an official language of the European Community (other than English and Irish)."  

 

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

 

“This proposal would treat Irish less favourably than other EU languages. English would not be treated less favourably because the position of English in the curriculum means that schools would already offer this subject.  However, Irish is not already catered for in the same way in English-medium schools, and this proposed clause could have considerable consequences when it comes to the provision of scarce resources.

“At a time when the final preparations are being made for the implementation of the decision that Irish be a full and official working language of the European Union, the British Government is making recommendations that fail to put Irish even on par with these other EU languages in Ireland.  This goes against the grain of commitments being made under the European charter for Regional or Minority Languages.  The Education Order 2000 recognises the unique circumstances of the Irish language in the North of Ireland and these proposals are a contradiction of that recognition.

 

 “The recommendations in the 'Education Order (Northern Ireland) 2006' are sending out the message that the Irish language is somehow a lesser language than any of the other languages of the European Union.

 

“I would ask the British Government to think again.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan, a member of the British - Irish Parliamentary Body, said that along with his fellow members he looked forward to hearing from the DUP at the Kerry gathering later this month. However Deputy Morgan said that people would want to hear from the DUP that the stalling was coming to an end and that they were going to accept sharing power on the basis of equality and respect.

Deputy Morgan said:

"I welcome the fact that the DUP are going to attend the forthcoming meeting of the British - Irish Parliamentary Body. Dialogue at every level is vital if we are to build the political process and seize the opportunities presented by the momentous decisions taken by the IRA last year.

"However we will want to hear from the DUP that they are going to end the stalling and the prevaricating. We will want to hear from them that they accept the way forward is laid out in the Good Friday Agreement and that they accept the democratic will of the people.

"Every other party within the Parliamentary Body have signed on for the Good Friday Agreement. We are united in our belief that the best way forward is through the power sharing and all-Ireland political architecture laid out in the Agreement.

"The DUP are alone as a political party on these islands who still clings to the notion that unionist majority rule in the six counties is a remote possibility. It is time for them to use this opportunity to step up to the mark and engage in the real politick which is a fully functioning Assembly, Executive and All-Ireland Ministerial Council." ENDS



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West Belfast Sinn Fein Assembly member Fra McCann has accused the PSNI of deliberately disrupting life on the Falls Road in order to engage in a cheap publicity stunt.

Mr McCann said:

"Today the PSNI paraded down a section of the Falls Road on the back of two horses accompanied by the usual media pack. However to facilitate this publicity stunt in addition to the horses which we are told have been borrowed for the occasion from the Guards, there was a significant armed PSNI presence both on foot and in patrol vehicles.

"This is similar to a stunt performed for the cameras in Derry last year when two PSNI members were placed on bicycles and given armed back up to pose for the cameras in a nationalist part of that city never to be seen again once the cameras left.

"Hugh Orde would need to catch himself on. This type of stunt does not impress anybody in areas like West Belfast. In fact if anything it causes even more annoyance with local people‚s lives disrupted further by an unnecessary PSNI presence in their community.

"Getting policing right is about dealing with the outstanding issues. It is about proving to communities like West Belfast that the PSNI are capable of anything other than political policing. Parading down the Lower Falls on horseback for the benefit of the media does nothing to advance this agenda." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh today met with senior Gardai to discuss possible investigations into the use of Shannon Airport for so-called 'rendition' flights by the US government. The meeting followed the presentation of a 'book of evidence' by the Dublin South Central TD to the Gardai earlier this year which outlined the concerns raised by a number of bodies and individuals about these flights.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "It emerged over the weekend that the US used an Irish airport to facilitate the sale of helicopter gun-ships to Israel.

The landing of a plane carrying the helicopters was apparently sanctioned by the Department of Transport on the basis that the plane would only land on its return and would be empty. However, the plane landed on both its outward and home bound journeys and was carrying a military cargo on both in direct contravention of the terms of the permission offered. It should be noted that helicopter gun-ships are often employed by the Israelis to carry out extra judicial killings in Palestine and have been responsible for the deaths of many Palestinian children.

"In light of this development it is clear that the assurances of the US in relation to military flights through Shannon cannot be trusted and it demonstrates the urgent need for this government to take active steps to bring an end to Irish complicity in the crimes of the US.

"Today I met with senior Gardai to discuss the issue of extraordinary rendition and to give them more material detailing the link between the CIA flights and Shannon airport. The Gardai told me that they do not have the power to search the planes identified in media reports and by highly reputable international human rights bodies as being involved in the United States' illegal rendition programme. That is a totally unsatisfactory catch-22 situation whereby the Gardai are saying they need the type of evidence they may find on a plane to get permission to search a plane in the first place. It is absolutely ludicrous.

"I would like to echo the calls from the Council of Europe and more recently the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in urging the government to make the granting of permissions for any planes that may be linked to the CIA operations to use Irish airspace or airports subject to a capacity for An Garda Siochana to randomly search these planes. This is not an unreasonable request." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe will be available to talk to the media outside the St. Stephens Green offices of Auctioneers James Adams & Sons before the sale of 1916 memorabilia gets underway tomorrow (April 12th). Deputy Crowe will be there at approximately 10am to voice his concern and opposition to the sale of goods connected to the 1916 Rising, which he said "should be the property of all the people of Ireland."

Deputy Crowe said, „This is our shared heritage. It is part of what we are as a people and a country. This sale amounts to nothing more than the vulgar prostitution of our collective history. I have no doubt that much of this material will be bought up by private speculators with an eye to the 100th anniversary of the Rising in ten years time.

"This material should be on display in our museums for all to see. It should not become the personal trophies of a select few or worse still viewed by profiteers as an item that will increase in value as we approach the 100th anniversary." ENDS

Seán Crowe TD will be available to the media at 10am outside the offices of James Adams and Sons, at 26 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland.

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Donegal Sinn Fein county councillor Pearse Doherty has called for the suspension of the Frontier Exploration Licences applications off the coast of Donegal. Councillor Doherty has demanded an immediate review of the present terms and conditions that apply to these offshore oil and gas exploration licences.

Cllr. Doherty said

"I find it quite remarkable that this government has sought and accepted five applications for oil and gas exploration off the Donegal coast in which the highly flawed 1992 licensing terms for offshore oil and gas exploration and development will apply. The 1992 Gas exploration legislation is extremely flawed and represents an extremely bad deal for the Irish People. The deal gives no royalties to the government and an extraordinarily low rate of tax, all of which can be written off.

"At the time of this legislation it is reported that former Minster Ray Burke, against the advice of senior officials in his department, held a meeting on his own with the oil companies after which the terms and conditions previously attached to licenses were changed dramatically in favour of the companies.

"This flawed legislation effectively ends any hope of Ireland benefiting from what Nature has provided for her. An oil tax rate of 25% was introduced, the lowest in the world, all of which can be written off. The abolition of royalties and all other production- related levies was agreed and the fatal flaw of no commitment by the oil companies to use any Irish jobs, goods or services, means that this vital national resources only benefits the oil companies who will in turn sell us back our own resources giving Ireland little if any economic spin.

"I acknowledge and welcome that the application by Grianan energy offers a tangible difference to the other applications. This Donegal based company have agreed to allocate 10% of their profits to an independently run charitable trust that will invest this money in infrastructure, health and education projects in Donegal and the west of Ireland. However Grianan energy Ltd are only one of the five applicants for these licences, and none of the other four share the same social conscience as the Donegal based company does. Therefore the only way to ensure that Donegal benefits is to change the term and conditions to ensure that all companies that are allocated licences pay their fair share to the state and also bring benefits to the local economy.

"Sinn Féin have consistently challenged the government to suspend these current round of applications which are only 40 kilometres of the Donegal coast until terms and conditions could be agreed that would benefit the Irish people. We need a major review of the 1992 legislation and until such times as this happens the Government must put the interests of the Irish People before the corporate interests of the oil and gas companies.

"The Marine Minister Frank Fahey, in 2001, said that in the event of a significant discovery off the Donegal coast during that year that the Government would seriously consider changing the 1992 oil and gas legislation. Yet in 2003 the junior minister for the marine John Browne speaking in relation to the exploration of the coast of Donegal said that results clearly demonstrate the presence of a working petroleum system and, as such, have profound implications for the future exploration.

"There is no doubt that with proper terms and conditions any oil or gas find of the Donegal coast would have massive benefit for Donegal. However it is reckless in the extreme for Minster Dempsey to issue new licenses without first carrying out a major review of the 1992 legislation. The time has come for this Government to start putting the interests of the Irish People before the corporate interests of the oil and gas companies. In the present economic crisis we must have a clear explanation from the government with regard to their handing over of potentially billions of euro worth of Irish resources that will be of little benefit to the Irish state and I am calling on the government to suspend these applications until a full review has been conducted. ENDS

Note for editors

Press release Dept. of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources

Dublin, 23 March 2006

The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey T.D., today announced that five applications had been received for Frontier Exploration Licences in the Frontier Sylne/Erris/Donegal Licensing Round by the close of the deadline at 12.00 noon on Wednesday 15th March. These applications are now under consideration within the Department.

The Minister was pleased with the number of applications and the number of blocks applied for - 6 full and 10 part blocks (see attached map) - and saw this as being due to a number of factors including the industry's confidence and commitment to exploration offshore Ireland, the current high energy prices and the work of the Department in promoting exploration offshore Ireland.

The Minister hoped the outcome of the Round would lead to the discovery and development of new hydrocarbon resources and reduce Ireland's present high level of dependency on imported energy. The five applications received were from four companies, applying for various blocks in the licensing area. The applications received were:

1. Statoil Exploration (Ireland) Limited with Shell E. & P, Ireland Limited as a partner.

2. Serica Energy (UK) Ltd.

3. Island Oil & Gas plc with Lundin Exploration BV and Endeavour Energy (UK) Ltd. as partners.

4. Island Oil & Gas plc with Lundin Exploration BV and Endeavour Energy (UK) Ltd as partners.

5. Grianan Energy Ltd.

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning visited a peace and reconciliation project and paid tribute to the 'vital all-Ireland and cross community work which it has undertaken.'

Ms de Brún visited the offices of the Horizon project in South Belfast to learn more about their work in exploring diversity, inclusion, special educational needs, social awareness and community development.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work undertaken by Horizon. This is a shining example of the type of work that European PEACE funding helps to support.

"This organisation provides a safe space for young people from across Ireland to engage with each other. On my visit, I was given a sense of the work carried out, through the organisation of school exchange visits, provision of youth leadership training, residential weekends and work around the theme of citizenship.

"Programmes such as this require continued support if they are to continue to function effectively as a valuable resource for young adults. Horizon is also well-placed to make a key contribution to the future development of citizenship as an element of the curriculum here. Continued joint support from both Departments of Education on the island and through the EU PEACE programme can ensure the longer term survival for this very exciting and worthwhile project.

"As a former teacher, I have been very impressed by what I have seen of Horizon. They have a clear grasp of the changing nature of society here and the opportunity now available to us to celebrate diversity and to build on the contribution made by people from across the social spectrum. Those committed to building, promoting and celebrating diversity in all its forms will undoubtedly find working with this project a very rewarding experience." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Dublin South East Representative, Councillor Daithí Doolan, was tonight delighted that, "Dublin City Council will honour one of it's forgotten women of 1916."

Speaking after today's Council meeting, Cllr. Doolan said:

"I tabled a motion today calling on Dublin City Council to honour Elizabeth O‚Farrell in a fitting & honourable manner here in Dublin‚s south inner city. To many Elizabeth O‚Farrell will be known as Nurse O‚Farrell, who while accompanying Padraig Pearse, handed over the official surrender to the British forces at Moore Lane in Easter 1916. I was delighted that my motion received unanimous support form all parties.

Elizabeth, a member of Cumman na mBan, played a full and active role in the Rising of 1916, but unfortunately Elizabeth O‚Farrell was immediately written out of Irish history. Revisionists have attempted to air brush her out of our history. A brush was literally taken to the picture of the historic event and she was vanished from history in a manner Stalin would have been proud of.

"I feel it only fitting that we remember this great woman and recognise the full role she played during those historic events of 1916. In this the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916 I firmly believe that we should honour her with a statue where she lived in the City Quay area of Pearse Street."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan, said, „I am sure this motion will ensure that we can use the event to reflect on her role in 1916 and ensure that women take their rightful place in the records of Irish history."ENDS

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Sinn Fein Ballymena Councillor Monica Digney has said that Ballymena Council have serious questions to answer after she was threatened on the floor of the Council Chamber shortly before a full committee meeting of the council last night.

Cllr. Digney said:

"No-one should be threatened because of either their political opinion or religious background. This was a frightening and disturbing incident. It is totally unacceptable that any elected representative should be threatened anywhere, let alone on the floor of the council chamber.

"What was more concerning was that a number of my council colleagues sat by and did nothing. I am also very concerned that my assailant was able to freely enter the council building and the council chamber without being challenged.

"I will be raising this matter with the Council Chief Executive.

"Unionists on Ballymena Council through their behaviour continue to send out a message that republicans and nationalists should not be treated equally and with dignity and respect.

"It is no co-incidence that on councils where unionists refuse to accept power sharing and equality are found in areas where loyalist violence continues to be directed at nationalists and republicans." ENDS

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Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin today said that it was absurd that the DUP had spent their time in the lead position within unionism lobbying the British Government for seats in the House of Lords instead of working with the rest of the parties in re-establishing the political institutions to tackle real issues of concern such as Water Charges or Health and Education cuts.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The announcement that three of the DUPs top brass are to be given seats in the British House of Lords comes at the end of a long campaign by that party since it assumed the lead position within unionism.

"It says much about the attitude of the DUP that they have spent their time lobbying for what will be seen as privileges for their own members rather than working with the rest of the parties in re-establishing the political institutions to tackle issues of real concern to communities such as Water Charges or Health and Education cuts.

"It is my belief that many within unionism will be at a loss to see how the DUP demands for seats in the British House of Lords will impact positively on their lives. Yet if the DUP finally move to accept power sharing institutions in line with the Good Friday Agreement they will have the opportunity to exercise real power and make real decisions which will make a real difference to peoples lives.

"That remains our focus in the time ahead. We will not allow ourselves to become distracted from the real business at hand. That is delivering the Agreement and the institutions which people voted for eight years ago."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has urged people to attend and support the events throughout the country in the coming week commemorating the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. He said people were “celebrating the spirit of 1916” and the best way to do this was for all who are committed to Irish reunification to work together for that goal. He called on the Irish Government to publish a strategy for Irish unity in the form of a Green Paper and to provide for Six-County representation in the Dáil.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "The coming weeks will see hundreds of events, large and small, throughout the country to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Events under the auspices of Sinn Féin’s National Commemoration Committee will take place in all 32 Counties – from all our major cities to small towns and villages and many rural locations. It is a very positive development that the Irish Government has also decided to mark the anniversary with a commemorative event in our capital city. People are celebrating the spirit of 1916 and paying tribute to all of those brave men and women who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom.

"I would urge everyone to attend and support these events. By attending your local commemoration you are not only honouring the patriots of the past but also showing the relevance of the Proclamation to the Ireland of today. This should be an occasion to renew our commitment to Irish unity and national sovereignty and to reconciliation between all the people who share this island.

"The best way to celebrate the spirit of Easter 1916 is for all of those who are committed to Irish reunification, regardless of party political affiliation, to work together for that worthy and achievable goal. This places a special responsibility on the Irish Government to set out its strategy for Irish reunification and to seek maximum support for a process of national unity and reconciliation. This should include a Green Paper on Irish Unity and representation in the Dáil for elected representatives from the Six Counties." ENDS

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Speaking after over 60 MLAs, councillors and political activists from across the Six Counties held a protest outside Newtownabbey Council offices today, Tuesday 11th April, at 12 noon to highlight the ongoing discrimination of unionists against nationalists on the council as part of the 'Smash Discrimination Anois' campaign.

Speaking after the protest Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights Ms Caitriona Ruane MLA said:

"The challenge is for unionists to demonstrate that the are able and willing to share power with nationalists on the basis of equality. There is no place for discrimination in any form anywhere within our society. It is time that unionists acknowledged this and moved to embrace equality for all and also the principles of power sharing.

"Unionists on Newtownabbey have an appalling record of discrimination against anyone who does not fit into their view of the world. Unionist control of Newtownabbey Council has been one of dominance where minorities have been excluded. This is the start of a particular focus on Newtownabbey Council. Sinn Fein will be putting Newtownabbey under the spotlight."

Sinn Féin Newtownabbey councillor Briege Meehan said:

"The attitude of unionists on Newtownabbey council is one of total disregard for the political mandate for nationalists. This is not acceptable. There is a civic responsibility on all elected representatives to embrace equality and power sharing.

"The union flag flies over all council buildings 365 days of the year in direct violation of equality guidelines to ensure that such buildings are neutral.

"There are also no council amenities in nationalist parts of the council such as Glengormley and an examination of the council employment practices, where 87 per cent of council staff are Protestant also highlights what are serious problems within the council.

"The personal abuse handed out by unionists and the absolute refusal to adopt power sharing also show just how far unionists on Newtownabbey have to travel before there can be confidence that they accept that discrimination and bigotry must be consigned to the history books" ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today welcomed the French Government decision to scrap a controversial employment law "as a victory for workers across the EU".

After weeks of demonstrations by the trade unions and students and amidst concerns that it would have made it easier for employers to sack young workers, the law was axed.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"I want to welcome today's decision by the French Government to scrap a piece of employment law which would have essentially allowed employers to put those under 26 years of age on probation and sack them without explanation.

"For a number of weeks, students and trade unions mobilised in opposition to a piece of legislation which would given employers an unacceptable hold over young workers. Whether workers are in struggle in Paris or Dublin it is important that we voice our concerns about such unacceptable treatment and practices.

"Over this past number of years there has been a relentless drive towards eroding the rights and conditions of employees in favour of the employer. However, there is also a fight-back occurring across Europe to this type of EU, and what it stands for. Opposition to the EU Services Directive, Port Services Directive and the treatment of the GAMA workers amongst others, is further proof that people do care about our public services and the protection of the rights of our workers." ENDS

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A Sinn Féin delegation consisting of South Down Assembly member Caitriona Ruane and the Assembly Group leader John O'Dowd today held talks with an SDLP delegation in Stormont.

Speaking after the meeting Sinn Féin Assembly member Caitriona Ruane said:

"Today's meeting with the SDLP focused primarily on the proposals from the two governments to re-establish the political institutions. Both parties agreed that our shared objective in the time ahead was to see a fully functioning Executive and fully functioning All-Ireland Bodies.

"Neither party was interested in a talking shop or shadow assembly. We agreed to remain in close contact and to meet regularly to discuss this and other issues in the time ahead." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin South East Representative Councillor Daithí Doolan, today called on Dublin City Council to honour one of their forgotten women of 1916.

Speaking ahead of today's Council meeting, Cllr. Doolan said:

"I have tabled a motion today calling on Dublin City Council to honour Elizabeth O'Farrell in a fitting & honourable manner here in Dublin's south inner city. To many Elizabeth O'Farrell will be known as Nurse O'Farrell, who while accompanying Padraig Pearse, handed over the official surrender to the British forces at Moore Lane in Easter 1916.

Elizabeth, a member of Cumman na mBan, played a full and active role in the Rising of 1916, but unfortunately Elizabeth O'Farrell was immediately written out of Irish history. Revisionists have attempted to air brush her out of our history. A brush was literally taken to the picture of the historic event and she was vanished from history in a manner Stalin would have been proud of.

"I feel it only fitting that we remember this great woman and recognise the full role she played during those historic events of 1916. In this the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916 I firmly believe that we should honour her with a statue where she lived in the City Quay area of Pearse Street."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan, said, "I hope we can use the event to reflect on her role in 1916 and ensure that women take their rightful place in the records of Irish history." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Belfast City Council Group leader Paul Maskey was today joined by his council colleague Carál ní Chuilín and the party President Gerry Adams in Belfast City Hall as they launched the latest stage of the campaign to see the Irish government bring forward a Green Paper on the issue of Irish unity.

Councillor ni Chuilín said:

"Last year we set out our roadmap for Irish unity and launched a campaign to urge the Irish government to bring forward a Green Paper and to begin the practical planning for Irish unity now. This campaign has been brought to areas throughout the 32 counties.

"Today we gather as Easter Sunday approaches to launch the next stage of this campaign. We have drawn up a list of 5 simple demands which if acted upon by the Irish will undoubtedly advance the United Ireland agenda.

Sinn Féin are calling for:

  • The Irish government need to produce a Green Paper on Irish Unity.
  • The work of the All-Ireland Ministerial Council should be expanded and additional All-Ireland Implementation Bodies created.
  • Westminster MPs should be given representation in the Oireachtas
  • Voting rights for Presidential elections should be extended to citizens in the six counties
  • The Irish government to actively engage with the British government and Unionism to promote and seek support for re-unification.

"Throughout this year we will be engaging with political parties, the social partners, local communities, the churches, young people in promoting the United Ireland agenda. It is only through driving forward this programme and ensuring that national re-unification becomes a reality that we will truly honour the men and woman of Easter week ." ENDS

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Speaking at an event in Belfast City Hall as part of the Sinn Féin campaign to see a Green Paper on Irish unity brought forward, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that on the eighth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement it remained the only basis for moving forward.

Mr Adams said:

"Today marks the 8th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. I said at the time that I expected it would be a battle a day to ensure its implementation. And there have been difficulties. But despite these, significant progress has taken place in that time and we should be proud of that fact.

"And more can take place. Why should unelected British Ministers, who don't know one end of the north from the other, be allowed to take decisions on education and health, and the environment, and on water rates and council rates, which will have major consequences for every citizen?

"Local politicians should be taking these decisions. The basis for doing that is the Good Friday Agreement. It remains the only show in town. There is no other way forward.

"That is accepted by the governments and all of the other parties, except the DUP. The big challenge is therefore for the DUP. If the DUP refuses to participate then the onus will be on the two governments to deliver on their commitment to jointly implement all other elements of the Good Friday Agreement. And Sinn Fein will also be meeting with the two governments to seek clarity and detail on the accelerated all-Ireland co-operation and action that will replace the Assembly if the DUP is not prepared to share power.

"However, Sinn Fein's focus is the full implementation of the Agreement. On Saturday the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle met, following detailed consultation with our Assembly team, and after careful consideration, we decided to attend the reconvened Assembly on May 15th.

"We have been in touch with all of the other parties in the Assembly seeking meetings with them to discuss how the process of forming a power sharing government can proceed. This afternoon we will be meeting with the SDLP.

"Sinn Féin's objective on May 15th is to see the reestablishment of the political institutions on the basis set out in the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly today said that a report in yesterdays Sunday Business Post newspaper alleging that a former PSNI detective was involved along with a Sunday World journalist in the location and outing of Denis Donaldson's whereabouts in Donegal raised very serious issues for the PSNI to address.

Mr Kelly said:

"We are told in yesterdays Sunday Business Post newspaper that the man who led the Sunday World to Denis Donaldson's home in Donegal and who secretly filmed him there was a former RUC member called Colin Breen. Shortly after the Sunday World exposure, Denis Donaldson was killed.

"Given the role played by Special Branch in Denis Donaldson's life over the course of many years the revelation of the involvement of Colin Breen in this story is extremely sinister. It is clear that the PSNI Special Branch now have very serious questions to answer about their role in publicising Denis Donaldson‚s whereabouts." ENDS

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