Sinn Féin - On Your Side

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Sinn Féin MLA Francie Molloy has reaffirmed the Party's continued support to halt the imposition of the double taxation policy of the British Government as outlined in the Water & Sewerages Draft Order 2006.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance was speaking at a cross party sponsored event organised by the Consumer Council at Stormont to address key issues prior to the establishment of the new Government Owned Company (Go - Co) in April 2007.

Mr. Molloy commented:

" This morning's event allowed all of the political parties to put forward their views on key issues, such as metering, regulation, affordability, sustainability, formation of the Go-Co and crucially protecting workers rights and entitlements.

"The Water Reform agenda has managed to do one thing, unite all the political parties in voicing their opposition to such a non-democratic and unfair set of proposals.

"The Consumer Council have been a key agency in the whole water reform agenda I congratulate them on the role they have played to date in sharing information and informing consumers. I would particularly thank the Consumer Council in the organising of today's event.

"Sinn Féin have consistently outlined our stance on the introduction of a separate charge - we are vehemently opposed to this British revenue raising policy. We are constantly lectured by British Direct Rule, one day a week Ministers, that if our communities want adequate health services, better educational delivery for our children, roads, infrastructure and so on, that we must pay for it. This mantra is rhymed out despite the fact that rating reform will mean severe increases in householder bills, socio-economic deprivation not been addressed, ever rising energy costs, all set against the backdrop of slashed budgets in our roads, education and health services as things stand.

"The Sinn Féin analysis is simple, we have been paying for water and sewerage provision through the domestic rating system for decades. Why should we pay twice?

"Sinn Féin are deeply sceptical about the timing and entire roll out of this privatisation agenda. We have concerns over two key issues, which are often overlooked. One is the issue of the establishment of the Go-Co, and future sustainability of such a body. The second is the right of current water service employees to retain their status as public sector employees with all existing pay, pension and working conditions attached.

Mr. Molloy said:

" There is absolutely no guarantee whatever that the Water Service as it morphs into a Go-Co will be sustainable in the long term.

"The GoCo is to be created on commercial principles. It ( the Go-Co) will be able to simply increase the rates paid and the charges levied for a range of services currently provided by Water Service.

"The only way this can be achieved is for the service to remain a public service. Crucially, it is about ensuring that workers rights and entitlements are upheld.

"I appeal to my colleagues who attended today's event, none more so than the DUP to show leadership and responsibility, engage with all the political parties, in the first instance with Sinn Féin to revive the political institutions on the basis of equality, so that as elected representatives, we are the one's who take the decisions which lie before us, to tackle the socio-economic agenda which is failing all our communities. Sinn Féin are serious about resolving the issue of water charges - are the DUP? This issue goes right to the heart of the equality agenda. Will the DUP deny its electorate their right to equal treatment as well as the rest of us? I hope not." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney and the Health Service Executive to recognise the depth of public anger displayed at today's protest in support of Monaghan General Hospital. He demanded that they restore the services that have been removed from the Hospital.

Speaking after participating in the protest in Monaghan this morning, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Some 10,000 people today voiced their unequivocal opposition to this Government's ongoing destruction of Monaghan General Hospital. The numbers of people who mobilised from early in the morning and from every part of County Monaghan and beyond have sent a powerful message to the Government and the Health Service Executive. We want the restoration of the services which have been axed from Monaghan General Hospital and we want our hospital developed as a key part of the healthcare infrastructure in this region.

"Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney and the HSE must recognise the depth of public anger. They must also recognise the weight of opinion from patients, relatives of those who have died as a result of the downgrading of Monaghan General Hospital, and the expert testimony of frontline healthcare workers in this region. To date the Minister and the HSE have placed more value on the reports of faceless consultants such as those who authored the totally unacceptable Teamwork Report.

"Minister Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher eventually performed his road-opening ceremony in the company of his Fianna Fáil colleagues Dr. Rory O'Hanlon TD and Senator Francis O'Brien. Their furtive photo-opportunity, after they had to avoid the protest of thousands of local people, can only be described as pathetic.

"Sinn Féin invites all those concerned with the state of our health services, including the downgrading of local hospitals, to attend our major rally in Dublin on Saturday 21 October which will be demanding Healthcare Rights for All."

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Reacting to a report by the International Telecommunications Union which found that Irish customers pay some of the highest prices for the slowest broadband in Europe, Sinn Féin Communications spokesperson Seán Crowe TD once again warned that "Ireland is fast becoming the information technology laughing stock of Europe when it comes to broadband and its provision." The report also identified that take up of broadband in the state was at an extremely low rate and Deputy Crowe accused Minister Dempsey of deliberately setting unambitious targets.

The Dublin South West TD said: "Irish broadband subscribers are failing to get value for money. They pay €30 for a basic Eircom broadband package while in the Netherlands customers pay €8 less and have a connection that is no less than 20 times faster. On average broadband was 18 times faster than that used by Irish customers for the same price. It cannot be denied that Irish broadband customers are getting a raw deal.

"We are continuing to lag behind most European countries in broadband uptake. While Minister Dempsey lauds the fact that there are now 410,000 broadband subscribers in Ireland, a 2004 report by Forfás stated that this target should have been reached two years ago. It is crystal clear that the Minister has set unambitious targets to deflect attention away from the disastrous Eircom privatisation and the ensuing technological infrastructural mess.

"With privatisation and the opening up of the telecommunications market Irish customers were promised increased competitiveness, cheaper prices and higher quality products. Instead we have ended up with high broadband costs, slow speeds and a government that is failing to maintain our competitiveness."

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While welcoming today's ending of peak-time restrictions on the free travel scheme, Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Seán Crowe TD, pointed out that "there are simply not enough buses to service public transport as it is." He went on to call for Minister Cullen to honour his commitments to supply new busses to augment the over-stretched existing Dublin Bus fleet.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "Sinn Féin has long campaigned for these peak-time restrictions to be lifted and I genuinely welcome Minister for Social and Family Affairs Seamus Brennan's move on doing so, however belatedly.

"But the fact remains that there are simply not enough buses to service public transport as it is. With more people now forecast to avail of public transport at peak times, it makes perfect sense for the government to increase public bus capacity and fund the purchase of new buses. How much longer must Dublin Bus users be held hostage by the PDs?

"It is high time that Minister for Transport Martin Cullen honours his commitments and supplies Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann with the necessary funding to purchase new extra buses. I am sure if the Minister had to cram onto a packed bus on a daily basis and face the regular stressful challenges of commuters, his cavalier attitude would change."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will lead a large party delegation to the 2006 National and World Ploughing Championships in Carlow this week. It will include agriculture spokespersons Martin Ferris TD and Michelle Gildernew MP, MEPs Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún, Councillors David Cullinane (Waterford), John Dwyer (Wexford), Pearse Doherty (Donegal South-West), Padraig MacLochlainn (Donegal North-East) and Carlow/Kilkenny representative Kathleen Funchion.

Over the four days Sinn Féin will set out its pre-election priorities for rural development and agriculture, and launch a key discussion document on the retention of the sugar beet plants at Mallow and Carlow and Ireland's sugar processing industry. Sinn Féin members from Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford will also be in attendance to highlight the need for people to get on the electoral register.

Tuesday 26th

In advance of the Ploughing Championships Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD and Wexford Councillor John Dwyer will visit bio-fuel producers in Wexford. Later that day Deputy Ferris will visit the site of the sugar beet factory in Carlow where he is expected to call for it to be retained and adapted for bio-fuel.

 

Wednesday 27th

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and Martin Ferris TD will attending the Ploughing Championships and unveil some of the party's key priorities for rural communities in the run up to the election.  They will be available to speak to the media at 11.30amat the party's tent at Stand 235, Row L.

Thursday 28th

Martin Ferris TD and Wexford Councillor John Dwyer will launch a key discussion document on the Irish sugar industry.  They will be available to speak to the media at 2.30pmat the party's tent at Stand 235, Row L.

 

Friday 29th

Sinn Féin MEPs Mary Lou McDonaldand Bairbre de Brún will launch a campaign to encourage people, especially those in rural communities, to get on the electoral register at the party's tent Stand 235, Row L.

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Sinn Féin President, West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has extended his deepest sympathies to the family of West Belfast councillor and Assembly member Michael Ferguson who died suddenly during the night.

Michael Ferguson had been receiving treatment for testicular cancer.

Mr Adams said:

"I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Louise and their four children and to Michael's wider family circle.

"No one who met Michael could fail to see his passion for life and determination.

"Despite his illness Michael's death will come as a great shock to the many people who knew and respected him." ENDS

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Speaking at the protest to mark the International Day of Action on Iraq in Dublin’s Parnell Square today, Sinn Féin’s International Affairs spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD called on people to hold the government to account, saying there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, are complicit in the violence going on in Iraq. He also called for the broad anti-war movement to look at ways of re-energising the campaign and assess new ways forward.

 

The Dublin South-Central TD said: “Earlier this week the UN’s special investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, said that the amount of torture in Iraq is ‘totally out of hand’ and ‘many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein’. Three years from the US invasion of Iraq, this is the freedom the Iraqi people were promised.

 

“The Council of Europe has previously identified Ireland as a stop-over point for CIA planes, many of which are associated with the illegal transportation of prisoners to third countries. This government, including the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Transport and Justice has become adept at passing the buck on this issue.

 

“Yet Irish complicity in the war in Iraq has slipped off the radar screen of the political and media establishment in Ireland. That is why events like this are important, to remind the Irish people of their role, through their government, in what is going on in their name and I would congratulate everyone here for turning out.

 

“But I would also say that perhaps it is time for those of us opposed to the war in Iraq and Ireland’s role in it, to come together to assess a new way forward, to reenergise the movement that a couple of years ago was able to shut this city down for a day. To explore new and direct ways of shutting down Shannon Airport as a US military base.

 

“Meanwhile, this government continues to collude in the increasingly brutal occupation of Iraq by US and British forces, while Bush beats the drum for a new offensive against Iran. There must be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Bertie Ahern and the Michael McDowell, as Taoiseach and Tánaiste, are complicit in the violence and human rights abuses going on in Iraq and the people must call them to account.”

 

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Speaking at a Sinn Féin seminar in Dundalk on the health services in the North East region Sinn Féin's Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the removal of services from hospitals in the North East region (Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath) should be halted and the Teamwork Report recommendations for further centralisation of hospital services should be rejected. He went on to say the downgrading of hospitals had led to loss of lives and must be opposed.

 

Deputy Ó Caoláin called for optimum use of existing hospitals and said the new proposed regional hospital should provide services “in addition to and enhancing the five hospitals currently in place”.

 

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: “The answer to the longstanding crisis in our hospital services in the North East lies in the reversal of decisions taken in recent years by Health Board and HSE managers at the behest of the Department and Minister of the day. We know we cannot have all services at all hospital sites but we believe firmly that our existing hospital network should be retained with essential services provided at all five and with specialist services available on an apportioned basis where appropriate.

 

“The Teamwork Report envisages only the most basic of care provision at all existing hospital sites. Minor injuries, routine diagnostics and Outpatient Clinics will be the order of the day. All surgical and medical emergencies and all A&E will be centred in the new regional hospital. What of travel times from all parts of the North East? What of the so-called Golden Hour? I am convinced that under this plan more people are actually being condemned to death because the doors of hospitals will be closed against them.

 

“The Teamwork Report presents an idealised picture of hospital services in the North East with the new Regional Hospital in place and with the five existing hospitals working under the new regime. But what happens in the meantime while we are waiting years for the new regional hospital to be built – if it is ever built? Already services have been downgraded further in Monaghan, Dundalk and Navan and ever more pressure is being placed on Cavan General Hospital and the Lourdes Hospital.

 

“Teamwork relies heavily on an ambulance service fully staffed with fully trained paramedics. We do not have such a service. Only a tiny proportion of ambulance crews – some 2% - are trained up to this level. Yet under Teamwork paramedics would be responsible for emergency care until patients reach the new regional hospital. It is cloud cuckoo land.

 

“Are we opposing a new regional hospital? Certainly not. But it must be a hospital that will provide services in addition to and enhancing the services provided at the existing five hospitals. Of course there will have to be major change and real improvement in the region. Key services and specialties will be located in the regional hospital. But our focus must be on services as near to the patient and as near to the community as possible.

 

“In our policy document Health in an Ireland of Equals we call for a halt to the ‘over-centralisation of hospital facilities and reversal of cutbacks in services at local hospitals’. We also propose:

 

‘Configure all hospitals to ensure that emergency services are available as locally as possible. For the vast majority of the population, these services should be located less than 45 minutes travel time away. No one should be more than one hour's travel time from an A&E Unit, when the three critical access factors are taken into account: hospital location, road conditions and ambulance provision.’

 

“This is the policy basis for our discussions today. And on this basis we reject the totally unacceptable Teamwork Report.”

 

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Sinn Féin Magherafelt Councillor Sean McPeake is the new President of NILGA. In a statement after his appointment was confirmed today Cllr McPeake set out his vision for the years ahead and said that people are bemused by the fact that the parties can work together in local government yet the Assembly and Executive remain suspended.

In a statement after the event Cllr McPeake said:

"The fact remains that many people out there who I meet in the course of my work are bemused by the fact that all of the parties including my own and the DUP continue to work together at local government level yet the Assembly and Executive remain suspended.

"The public view clearly is that if people can operate in local government together then there seems little logic in adopting a position were local politicians remain excluded from exercising power over the many big challenges which face us - Water Charges, Rates, Education and Health Cuts - the issues we hear from our constituents every day of the week.

"It is my hope that the DUP will come on board with the rest of the parties and sign on for power sharing at Assembly level before November 24th as they have already done on various local councils across the six counties, and that we as local councillors can work closely with a new Executive to improve delivery and services at local level." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP has today questioned the relevance of Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern's presence at a committee set up to investigate Ireland‚s alleged involvement in the process of extraordinary rendition flights.

Ms McDonald made her comments after it emerged that Dermot Ahern had been invited to attend the European Parliament's hearing allegations of the illegal transportation of prisoners by the CIA to secret detention centres throughout Europe.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Minister Ahern is on record as saying that the government is opposed to the process of extraordinary rendition and this is to be welcomed. However, verbal opposition is not enough. The Minister may very well be opposed to this practice but a Council of Europe report names 14 European Countries identified with the practice - of which Ireland is one of them.

"This raises questions the usefulness of Minister Ahern‚s testimony to the European Parliament committee set up to investigate this matter. Given the refusal by Irish authorities to investigate allegations of Irish involvement in extraordinary rendition, Minister Ahern is likely to sit in front of the committee unable to answer many of their questions.

"Given the blind eye turned by the Irish authorities to these serious allegations, Mr Ahern's presence is likely to be an irrelevant public relations exercise on behalf of the government.

"The Council of Europe has previously identified Ireland as a stop-over point for CIA planes, many of which are associated with the illegal transportation of prisoners to third countries and this government, including the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Transport and Justice have become adept at passing the buck on this issue.

"We need a commitment from this government that the Irish authorities will investigate all future flights connected with CIA and the United States military." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has reacted angrily to the SEUPB's proposals for Delivery Structures for Peace III. Following the allocation of €267 million for a Peace III programme earlier this year the SEUPB conducted a round of pre-consultation on the content and delivery mechanism for the new fund.

This week they circulated a discussion paper outlining their views on the possible delivery mechanisms for Peace III. Central to their proposals is the British government's 'A Shared Future' document, a document that has been heavily criticised as misusing the term 'community relations' in order to undermine equality measures. In the latest SEUPB proposals, the Community Relations Council is proposed as the only Intermediary Funding Body, moving away from the distinctiveness of the PEACE programme and the benefits that EU Commission involvement has brought to peace building and reconciliation for more than a decade now.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"Peace III provides communities here with a significant opportunity to continue important work across a wide range of areas including tackling discrimination, promoting social inclusion, addressing the legacy of discrimination, building good community relations and promoting national reconciliation. It also provides important opportunities for community empowerment, promotion of Irish language development, assistance for victims and survivors of the conflict and reintegration of former political prisoners into family and community life.

"The Programme as initiated by the European Union makes space for all of these objectives.

"Unfortunately the SEUPB appears intent on dramatically narrowing the scope and potential of the programme. The central focus on the British government's 'A Shared Future' policy makes clear the SEUPB's narrow focus on only one kind of work as a definition of peace building.

"Furthermore their proposal of the Community Relations Council as the sole Intermediate Funding Body distributing the Peace III programme, reinforces this narrow definition of peace building.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the SEUPB is working to a narrow political agenda, promoting a definition of peace building that panders to specific political interests. In doing so they are actively undermining the great potential that exists within Peace III and are acting contrary to the intended purpose of the peace programme as designed by the European Union.

"I will be seeking urgent meetings with European Commissioner Danuta Huebner and Direct Rule Minister David Hanson in the coming weeks

"The SEUPB needs to radically reconsider its position if it is to succeed in ensuring that the benefits of Peace III are realised." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams is on the third day of a visit to the USA. Since his arrival he has attended a small reception for Heads of State and Foreign dignitaries attending the Clinton Global Initiative event and addressed the prestigious New York based Council on Foreign Relations.

Mr. Adams provided the Council with an update on the current state of the peace process in Ireland.

He said:

"The key to stability and progress in any peace process is the guarantee that the status quo, which led to the conflict, is changing and that discriminatory and repressive policies used in the past are being abandoned and replaced by a rights based inclusive dispensation based on equality..

"Unionist political leaders have demonstrated time after time a predisposition toward diluting, minimizing and if possible stopping change. All of us have a duty to persuade unionism that the peace process and inclusive arrangements between the parties is the only road which can lead to a better future. The principle responsibility for advancing the rights and entitlements of citizens contained in the Good Friday Agreement lies with the two governments. And these cannot be vetoed by the DUP.

Next months discussions are not therefore about a choice between Plan A - the restoration of the institutions and the implementation of the Agreement - and Plan B - the two governments agreeing new partnership arrangements to implement human rights, justice, economic, and policing arrangements. What is required is a clear commitment from the two government that they are determined to move ahead whatever happens with a continuous, seamless process of change." ENDS

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Basque political prisoner Inaki de Juana has been on hunger strike since August 7th. Having served 18 years in prison he was due to be released in October 2004. However folowing the publication of a number of articles in the daily newspaper Gara, in which de Juana outlined his support for the Basque independence movement he has been accused and convicted of 'supporting terrorism'. As a conequence he has received an additional sentence of 90 years in jail.

De Juana has embarked upon a hunger strike in order to draw attention to his plight.

Speaking in advance of protests due to take place across Ireland this weekend, Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brun has called for the 'Spanish government to intervene immediately and release Inaki de Juana.'

Speaking from Belfast Ms de Brun said:

"Inaki de Juana should have been released from prison 2 years ago. His continued incarceration is unjust and undemocratic. He has now been on hunger strike for 49 days and his situation is becoming critical.

"At a time when Basque society is working to build a peace process this situation is actively undermining that work.

"The Spanish government must intervene immediately and release Inaki de Juana.' ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources, Martin Ferris TD has said that the statement by Terry Nolan, deputy director of Shell, ruling out an offshore platform in the Corrib gas field, makes a mockery of the company's claim to be genuinely interested in consulting the local community with regard to the location of the pipeline and processing facilities.

Deputy Ferris said: "The fundamental objection which the protestors have is with regard to the siting of a dangerous pipeline onshore. Shell has failed to address the proposal for a shallow water platform, erecting a straw man argument about deep water platforms that no-one is making. It is clearly determined to proceed with the project as currently envisaged regardless of the ongoing objections to the project.

"It is also clear that everything that has taken place since the release of the Rossport Five almost one year ago has been a cynical public relations exercise and that Shell and its partners are still prepared to ride roughshod over the interests of the Rossport community in order to force the project into operation.

"What is also clear however, is that the campaign in Mayo is as strong as ever, with substantial pickets involving scores of local people, over a hundred at one point, ensuring that attempts by Shell to enter the Ballinaboy facility have failed. Sinn Féin remains committed to supporting this campaign and I congratulate and commend the people involved.

"I would take this opportunity to reiterate my earlier assertions that given the current licensing and revenue terms surrounding oil and gas exploration the Corrib field will bring little or no benefit to the Irish people."

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD has questioned the commitment of the EU to family farming in the light of statements made yesterday by Farm Commissioner Mariann Fischer. Among other things, Commissioner Fischer said that milk quotas would most likely disappear when the current CAP package comes up for review in 2013. She also stressed that dairy farmers would need to decide soon whether to ‘adapt’ or to leave the industry.

 

The Kerry North TD said: “Coming as it does after the ‘Agri Vision 2015’ report that forecast a decline of over 30,000 farms by 2015 – with just one third of those being viable – and with just 15,000 dairy farmers, it is vital that the EU outlines what its vision for the future of farming is. Does the ‘European model of farming’ based on family farms still mean anything, or is the EU happy to allow a situation in which market forces reduce numbers to a small core of large-scale operations?

 

“That would appear to be the implication of Commissioner Fischer’s remarks. If so, then it is vital that the EU is open about this and that the implications of this are recognised and fully debated within the sector here. There are opportunities for small to medium farms not only to survive but to prosper under the new conditions but this will require a far more imaginative approach by the Irish Government and a more pro-active stance by Irish Ministers in relation to future EU plans for the sector.”

 

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Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty today led a party delegation including Bairbre de Brún MEP and Barry McElduff MLA to meet with the Joint Chairs of the North West Gateway Initiative.

The meeting took place in Strabane and was held to explore the remit, work plan and implementation framework of the Gateway Initiative. During the meeting the Sinn Féin delegation stressed the importance of active engagement with groups and individuals in the North West at all stages of the formation and implementation of future plans.

They also emphasized the need for formal ministerial meetings to drive the agenda forward in developing the North West area through active cross border work.

Speaking today Mr Doherty said:

"We raised the lack of road, rail and energy networks in the region. I specifically raised with the Department of Transport representative local demands for infrastructure and development around the N14/A5/N2 road route. I conveyed to him the outcome of my recent meetings in Strasbourg with the EU Transport Commissioner.

Ms de Brún said:

"Today's meeting was a positive engagement, and a commitment to future discussions was agreed. Officials also undertook to forward us further information in regards to this issue." ENDS

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An historic decision by Sinn Fein to participate in policing could come within weeks of a timeframe being agreed for the transfer of powers to local politicians.

And with crucial negotiations in Scotland getting closer, Gerry Kelly has acknowledged "massive changes" since the days of the old RUC.

In the event of republicans endorsing policing, the senior Sinn Fein negotiator said their involvement would not be "half hearted" but "full-bodied".

"You are talking about the full package. You are talking about having achieved a new beginning to policing, then being full-bodied behind it," the party's policing and justice spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I think that we have proved ourselves in the past, that when we have said we will do something, and we achieve that goal, then we go for it," he continued.

But he stressed that the "full package" of police reforms had yet to be delivered.

Working institutions at Stormont, including agreement on a new Policing and Justice Department and the powers to be transferred as well as a timeframe for achieving this, are all crucial if republican participation is to be achieved.

"Clearly in those circumstances we will be going (to a special Ard Fheis) with a leadership proposal," Gerry Kelly said.

And on the timeframe for that, he suggested it could be "weeks rather than months".

This, he said, was the "biggie". "Some people have described it (as being) as big as the Good Friday Agreement in republican terms," the North Belfast MLA said.

And what would republican participation in policing mean?

"I think once you go to that point, you're in the full package," Gerry Kelly said.

"I want Sinn Fein to be involved in the justice process and be involved in any Ministry of Justice - You wouldn't be able to go to an Ard Fheis and say, "Well, we think somebody should be a justice minister, but not (be) on the (Policing) Board‚."

And how difficult would it be for him and other Sinn Fein leaders to encourage young republicans to join the police?

"Well I think if you are convinced, and remember we are 'futuring' here, if you make a decision and you believe that it is the right political decision to make, then you have to stand over it.

"There's no point going in half measures and I won't go at it in half measures," the senior party negotiator said.

He emphasised that policing had to be got right, adding, "I think we are close to it." ENDS

Policing feature

The 'p' words of the peace process can be heard in pretty much every political sentence.

There is little talk now of decommissioning or demilitarisation. These are more or less dead issues - things that have been dealt with, things of the process's past.

The political focus now is on Paisley and power sharing, and the 'Provos' and policing.

This is the agenda between now and the November 24 deadline - it is the business to be settled and sorted in the October talks in Scotland, and in whatever negotiations might follow.

So, how close is Sinn Fein to taking its biggest step in this long process, the step that brings it from outside to inside policing - inside a future ministry at Stormont, into the Board and, for young republicans, into the PSNI.

We may be closer than many people ever believed possible - closer because republicans want and need policing in their communities - but the circumstances that will make that happen have yet to be achieved.

In the waiting, change is acknowledged.

"We haven't achieved the full package (of reforms) yet, and I think the full package is very necessary."

Gerry Kelly was speaking to me in Sinn Féin's Falls Road offices yesterday. He is one of his party's senior negotiators - the policing and justice spokesman.

"I've never taken the position that everyone - even in the RUC - was bad, neither do I accept that there was only a few bad apples," he told me.

"I think you had a systemised approach,‰ he continued. "It (the RUC) was certainly the frontline troops of unionist rule, and I think that we have made massive changes to that. I think we have someway (still) to go."

But you sense that wherever it is that republicans need this process of policing change to go - in order to achieve their participation - then eventually that can and will be worked, not easily, but, yes, it can be done.

The policing stepping-stones that somehow have to be arranged to allow republicans to cautiously tiptoe into this process have long been identified.

They are in the shape of working political institutions, agreement on a new and shared policing and justice department at Stormont, the transfer of powers to local politicians and an agreed timeframe for achieving this.

Republicans will also want to see and read the changes in legislation.

And, if it can be achieved, how quickly then will the Sinn Fein leadership call that special Ard Fheis - or party conference - to open the door for republicans into the world of policing?

"You are talking weeks rather than months is probably the best way to put it," Gerry Kelly told me.

"Clearly in those circumstances we will be going with a leadership proposal," he continued.

That proposal can only be written one way if the overall political project is to be successful.

It is a proposal that has to be about republican participation - yes, maybe a critical, questioning, participation in policing, but the Sinn Fein leadership will have to direct its supporters and community towards something they have long been suspicious of.

That requires preparation, and a lot of that work has already been done in small and big meetings on both sides of the border.

Gerry Kelly and other senior and significant republicans have already been talking in a structured process to the grassroots.

Some of this has been about exorcising the policing myths in the places where republicans meet and talk, and about introducing new thoughts and the new possibility of a place in policing.

And what will that mean?

It will mean everything from a hoped for involvement in a new policing and justice department at Stormont, to being on the Policing Board, to encouraging young republicans and nationalists to join the police.

It is what Gerry Kelly calls a "full-bodied" participation, if the circumstances can be created.

"I want Sinn Fein to be involved in the justice process and be involved in any Ministry of Justice," he told me. "You wouldn't be able to go to an Ard Fheis and say, "Well, we think somebody should be a justice minister but not (be) on the (Policing) Board."

There are, of course, concerns - big concerns - not least around the decision to transfer responsibility for national security matters to MI5.

"If a person is a member of the PSNI, then that person, at all times, needs to be accountable to the accountability mechanisms connected with policing," Gerry Kelly argues.

"(They) cannot be separately accountable to MI5. They cannot become an MI5 operative and therefore not tell about that part of their duty," he continued.

"And this is crucial and this is something which needs to be sorted out."

The reading between the lines in all of this is that there is a preparation, circumstances allowing, for the next big republican step in this process.

Gerry Kelly, who in an IRA role had an active part in a long "war", is now part of the Sinn Fein management team that is moving republicans in a new and different direction.

It is a further confirmation that the IRA war is over - that the shooting of police officers or anyone else is finished, and that is what is so hugely significant about this possible - even probable - next step.

"We are very, very, aware that this (policing) is the biggest obstacle that we will have to overcome in our peace strategy and our political strategy," Gerry Kelly says.

But republicans are getting ready to climb over that obstacle.

It depends on Ian Paisley and power sharing and on an agreement with the DUP on a policing process and future that could do more for peace than the ceasefires and all of the decommissioning and all of the words of the IRA a year ago. Ends

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning said that DUP MEP Jim Allister's latest rant regarding the political process "reflect the thoughts of a person who is not interested in sharing political power witht the rest of us".

Speaking today Ms de Brun said:

"Jim Allister's latest familiarly depressing statement makes clear that he is not interested in the November 24th deadline or reaching political accommodation with nationalists about an agreed future.

"His comments that 'November 24th will come and November 24th will go. So why rush our fences? We can afford to wait more than most', reflect the thoughts of a person who is not interested in sharing political power witht the rest of us.

"People will not be surprised by Jim Allister‚s latest rant, but his disdain for the 24th November deadline is a great disservice to his constituents. Whilst the DUP stall and block political progress, the vacuum is filled with unaccountable British Direct Rule Ministers making crucial decisions about all of our futures.

"The DUP has only a short timeframe in which to decide whether or not it wants to remain in the political dark ages. It certainly seems that Jim Allister has already made his choice clear. We can only wait and see if others in the DUP are up to the challenge of entering into fully functioning power sharing institutions with the rest of the parties." ENDS

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Responding to a study by Halifax building society that exposed the inability of key public sector workers nurses, firefighters and teachers cannot afford to buy average-priced homes in Dublin, Galway, Cork and Waterford, Sinn Féin Social Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD blamed government policy for pricing workers out of the cities.

 

The Dublin South-West TD said: “Teachers, firefighters and nurses are just some of our society’s key workers. However, like many other people in this state, they are finding it impossible to purchase homes in our major cities. This is what happens when housing provision is largely left to the market.

 

“The only winners in the housing market today are the property speculators, developers, estate agencies, the banks and solicitors. Young families are faced with crippling mortgages while Minister Noel Ahern is failing miserably to address Ireland’s housing crisis and to stand up to the aforementioned groups.

 

“House prices are estimated to continue to rise by 20% in the next two years. The fact that wage increases are lagging behind the explosion in house prices means that for many, owning their own home is an unrealistic and unattainable dream. Average house prices in Dublin are 14 times the average salary of public sector employees. These key workers are being priced out of cities by a government that values developers and property speculators over teachers and nurses.”

 

CRÍOCH

 

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has harshly criticised the performance of Minister for Children Brian Lenihan at a UN special committee on children’s rights in Geneva. Describing the Minister’s performance as a ‘masterclass in bluff, spin and deception’, he predicted a condemnatory report from the Committee when it publishes its findings.

 

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: “Reports from Geneva yesterday indicate that Minister Lenihan gave a masterclass in bluff, spin and deception to the UN special committee on children’s rights.

 

“As I pointed out ahead of his remarks, his pledge to examine the Constitution to insert a provision for children’s rights cannot be taken as a serious commitment. Fianna Fáil combined with Fine Gael and PD deputies to reject a comprehensive Sinn Féin proposal for just such a provision earlier this year at the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution. He deliberately misled the UN committee yesterday.

 

“Mr Lenihan also told the committee when questioned on youth justice reform that the age of criminal responsibility has raised from seven to 12, but that children as young as 10 and 11 can be prosecuted for certain offences. What he left out however, was that under the Children’s Act the increase in the age of responsibility to 12 applied to all crimes and that it was Minister McDowell’s recent criminal justice legislation that lowered it. So in reality, the most recent legislative change on the age of criminal responsibility for children by this government was to lower it, not to increase it.

 

“The content of the question and answer session in Genevayesterday remind me of a child with poorly prepared homework trying to bluff his way through an exam. His admission that only ‘that morning’ had they noticed financial support for asylum-seeking children was a pittance and his blank refusal to accept standard poverty measurements were particular low-points.

 

“This Government is simply not serious about tackling child poverty, or about putting in place a constitutionally protected rights based approach to children’s issues. In June, the government admitted over 300 separated children seeking asylum have gone missing in Ireland since 2001 and that a number of the centres designated to cater for these children have been operating illegally. Can this government seriously claim to be trustworthy on the issue of children's rights? While Minister Lenihan bluffed his way through the UN committee in Geneva yesterday, I believe the report they publish will be harshly critical of a government for whom children’s rights is very much a minor issue.”

 

CRÍOCH

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