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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today addressed a rally in Letterkenny to mark the end of the 1981 hunger strike. Mr Adams spoke of the 10 hunger strikers but also of the current political crisis in the process and the approach of the DUP.

The hunger strike ended on October 3rd 25 years ago after 217 days. By that point 10 men had died inside the prison and almost 50 more people had been killed on the streets. This year Irish republicans have been commemorating the events of that year but in particular the heroism and generosity of the ten hunger strikers.

Mr Adams said:

"The huge generosity of spirit, self-sacrifice and unselfishness has made Bobby Sands and his 9 comrades role models for Irish republicans everywhere. Their titanic battle against great odds and over five difficult, harrowing years, caught the imagination and touched the hearts of millions.

"The determination of the men in the H Blocks and the women prisoners in Armagh ultimately defeated the British government's criminalisation strategy. The enduring legacy of the hunger strikers is to be found all around us. Like the Easter Rising 65 years earlier it is a watershed in modern Irish history. The political growth of Sinn Féin and of Irish republicanism is in no small measure a result of their courage.

"But more importantly, their legacy is to be found in the peace process and the positive transformation it has wrought in Irish society in recent years. That process of change continues. It is taking place every single day. For many the twenty fifth anniversary of the deaths of the H Block hunger strikers has been a personal as well as a political time of remembrance. But for everyone interested in freedom and justice and peace in Ireland it has been a time to reflect on the lessons of the past and to commit to continuing the struggle to achieve a free, democratic and united Ireland."

Speaking on the current situation Mr. Adams said:

"Republican remains firmly focused on building a nationwide movement for change not only to end partition but for social justice and equality across the island of Ireland. The big challenge in the short term is to get the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement back in place. Obviously this cannot be down without Ian Paisley's DUP agreeing to share power with the rest of us.

"While most people are justifiably sceptical about the DUP's intentions no one should be in any doubt about the limits to the DUP's options in the time ahead.

"Of course, Ian Paisley may decide not to participate in the power sharing government but what does that achieve in the longer term for his party or their constituents?

"It condemns them to living in a second-class society with second-class public services undermined by punitive fiscal policies administered by unaccountable British Ministers.

"Not only is that counterproductive but it will have no long term effect on Sinn Féin's efforts to develop our vision for the future. So the DUP's approach is limited to delaying tactics that may give the fundamentalists some respite in the short term but it will not stop the process of change.

"That process will continue including on an all-Ireland basis and across a myriad of cross-border measures and agreed partnership arrangements. If and when unionism decides to come back to the negotiating table in the future the progress that will have been made in those areas cannot and will not be undone or wished away.

"Irish republicans will be generous and magnanimous in our outreach to unionism because that has to be the mark of our vision which includes a view that orange and green can be united on the basis of equality. The demands of this time need more than King Canute like tactics. Unionism also needs to be generous and magnanimous." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and Dublin Central candidate Mary Lou McDonald MEP has today expressed her solidarity with protesting workers at Dublin's Port Tunnel who were informed last Friday afternoon that they were no longer needed on site.

A number of workers have walked off the job and are continuing their protest at the main gate of the Port Tunnel, East Wall this afternoon.

Speaking at lunchtime Ms McDonald said:

"It is my understanding that on Friday afternoon last, a number of employees working on the Port Tunnel were approached by a Dublin recruitment agency and informed that their services were no longer required as of that evening. Whilst it was expected that there would be a gradual scaling down in personnel required as the tunnel nears completion, the manner in which they were informed was unacceptable.

"Many of the men who were told that they were no longer required have as much as five years service. Common courtesy and employment norms dictate that employees be informed in writing and given adequate notice. To my knowledge none of this happened. Clearly, employees at the Port Tunnel are angered by this and many of them have downed tools and are on protest at the treatment of their co-workers.

"It is worrying that workers are being treated in this manner and it reflects a growing trend across Ireland and Europe where employees are regarded as expendable commodities. I will be seeking to discuss this issue further with SIPTU, who represent most of the men affected.

"I want to express my solidarity with those workers who are out on strike this afternoon." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has expressed concerns that the European Parliament may roll back on a number of its commitments on provision for Irish as an official and working language of the European Union by January 2007.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"As a Gaeilgeoir and an Irish MEP I would find any backsliding on implementing the decision to make Irish an official and a working language of the European Union unacceptable.

"On October 5TH the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament is to have a first discussion on the question of amending the Rules of Procedure of the parliament. There is a concern amongst some that there will be fewer services for Irish in the European Parliament eventually than for other languages with the same legal status. This would be a huge departure from the present legal situation.

"The Irish government was prompted by a strong public campaign including street protests to seek official and working language status for Irish last year. Now that that status has been agreed it must be defended.

"What is now required is for the Irish Government through its MEPs to step in and defend the rights and entitlements of Irish language speakers and indeed people across Ireland. The Government must demand that there be no roll back on the previous agreements. Previous mistakes in seeking the correct status in the past must not be compounded by any lack of energy or drive now.

"Over the coming weeks and months Sinn Féin will be fighting to ensure that the European Parliament sticks to its obligations. I recognise that there will be teething problems but any lack of political will on behalf of the Parliament is unacceptable. We can only imagine the uproar if French, English or German language commitments were rolled back on - so why should Irish be treated any differently?" ENDS

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Speaking as Aer Lingus shares are formally admitted to the Official Lists of the Irish and British Stock Exchanges, Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Seán Crowe TD expressed his regret that the Government has decided to 'push ahead with this unpopular decision despite numerous negative forebodings'.

In a recent Dáil question to Minister for Transport Martin Cullen Deputy Crowe was informed that the Minister "expects the state to make around €200 million from selling off the majority of its shares in Aer Lingus."

The Dublin South-West TD said: "This is obviously a generous estimate however as other reports have signalled that the state, essentially the people as taxpayers, will recoup only €142 million from the sale of our national airline. The fact that this government have sold off our national airline for roughly the price of a couple of airplanes is nothing short of scandalous.

"Despite government and right-wing media spin, this privatisation of Aer Lingus has been an act of economic sabotage. The only real winners will be those international investors who swooped to invest in Aer Lingus at a knock down price and who will inevitably sell-off shares to make a quick profit.

Aer Lingus' new investors will not be concerned with the strategic interests of our island nation, nor will they be preoccupied with the future of employees. They will be driven by profit and profit alone.

"This move by Fianna Fáil and the PDs makes no economic sense. As a profitable airline the Government had a golden opportunity to invest in Aer Lingus but instead initially used the pretext of being unable to invest under EU law to dodge the issue until this falsehood was comprehensively exposed.

"Aer Lingus has performed extremely well over the last number of years in an extremely volatile market. Our former national airline made just under €180 million profit in the last two years, while it has been essentially sold off for around the same amount by this Government. All the sacrifices of past and current Aer Lingus employees and support from the travelling public have accounted for nothing as the Government have sold off our national airline for a song."

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Speaking after training of the first batch of volunteers for McDowells Garda reserve force commenced last weekend Sinn Féin spokesperson for Justice, Equality and Human Rights Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh said "This training is dangerously inadequate. In just a few short weeks these volunteers will be vested with powers and privileges akin to those of full members of the Garda Síochána yet they will undergo a mere fraction of the training and on-the-job learning."

He said, "This is not fair on communities who deserve policing of the highest standard, from a fully trained and professional service. Neither will it be fair on the reserve volunteers themselves who will form part of a parallel police force incapable of ensuring comparable human rights standards in their activities.

"There is a gulf between the Garda Síochána and working class communities in this state and the reserve force will do nothing to close this gap. It is not an acceptable substitute for proper resourcing of community policing and will do nothing to create greater community confidence in the Gardaí. The bulk of the Gardaí want nothing to do with the reserve force and both the GRA and AGSI are opposed to it, so why should communities be expected to settle for it?

"The prospect of under-trained, unaccountable volunteers with police powers is becoming a reality which poses significant human rights concerns and I am again calling on the Minister to abandon his plans. Rather, any extra Garda numbers needed should be achieved through the civilianisation of a number of Garda duties in particular admin duties and by introducing a dedicated civilian traffic corps. An Garda Síochána have a very low percentage of civilian staff by comparative international standards." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources, Martin Ferris TD has slammed the decision to proceed with the 34% increase in gas charges. The Kerry North TD claimed that the international situation has changed recently with regards to the price of oil and that the massive hike is not only disproportionate but will have a detrimental impact on the living standards of many low income households.

Deputy Ferris said: "The fact that oil prices have dropped by 20% in recent months means that the scenario on which the gas price increase was based no longer pertains. At the very least, therefore, the Government ought to have deferred the move and requested the Energy Regulator to look again at the issue.

"It is generally accepted that fuel poverty is a significant factor among low income families and there is no doubt but that this increase and the proposal to significantly up electricity prices after Christmas will have a massively detrimental impact on low income households.

"I also note the Minister's reference to the need to bring on stream the Corrib gas. I would fully concur but would also point out that under the current arrangement whereby the Shell led consortium have said that they will charge Bord Gáis the market rate, that this would make no difference to domestic prices. Proper use of the Corrib field requires an entire revision of the terms under which it is being exploited by the companies in question." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today addressed a rally in Letterkenny to mark the end of the 1981 hunger strike. Mr Adams spoke of the 10 hunger strikers but also of the current political crisis in the process and the approach of the DUP.

The hunger strike ended on October 3rd 25 years ago after 217 days. By that point 10 men had died inside the prison and almost 50 more people had been killed on the streets.  This year Irish republicans have been commemorating the events of that year but in particular the heroism and generosity of the ten hunger strikers.

Mr Adams said:

"The huge generosity of spirit, self-sacrifice and unselfishness has made
Bobby Sands and his 9 comrades role models for Irish republicans everywhere.
Their titanic battle against great odds and over five difficult, harrowing
years, caught the imagination and touched the hearts of millions.

"The determination of the men in the H Blocks and the women prisoners in
Armagh ultimately defeated the British government's criminalisation
strategy. The enduring legacy of the hunger strikers is to be found all
around us. Like the Easter Rising 65 years earlier it is a watershed in
modern Irish history. The political growth of Sinn Féin and of Irish
republicanism is in no small measure a result of their courage.

"But more importantly, their legacy is to be found in the peace process and
the positive transformation it has wrought in Irish society in recent years.
That process of change continues. It is taking place every single day. For
many the twenty fifth anniversary of the deaths of the H Block hunger
strikers has been a personal as well as a political time of remembrance. But
for everyone interested in freedom and justice and peace in Ireland it has
been a time to reflect on the lessons of the past and to commit to
continuing the struggle to achieve a free, democratic and united Ireland."

Speaking on the current situation Mr. Adams said:

"Republican remains firmly focused on building a nationwide movement for
change not only to end partition but for social justice and equality across
the island of Ireland.


The big challenge in the short term is to get the political institutions of
the Good Friday Agreement back in place. Obviously this cannot be down
without Ian Paisley's DUP agreeing to share power with the rest of us.

"While most people are justifiably sceptical about the DUP's intentions no
one should be in any doubt about the limits to the DUP's options in the time
ahead.

"Of course, Ian Paisley may decide not to participate in the power sharing
government but what does that achieve in the longer term for his party or
their constituents?

"It condemns them to living in a second-class society with second-class
public services undermined by punitive fiscal policies administered by
unaccountable British Ministers.

"Not only is that counterproductive but it will have no long term effect on
Sinn Féin's efforts to develop our vision for the future. So the DUP's
approach is limited to delaying tactics that may give the fundamentalists
some respite in the short term but it will not stop the process of change.

"That process will continue including on an all-Ireland basis and across a
myriad of cross-border measures and agreed partnership arrangements. If and
when unionism decides to come back to the negotiating table in the future
the progress that will have been made in those areas cannot and will not be
undone or wished away.

"Irish republicans will be generous and magnanimous in our outreach to
unionism because that has to be the mark of our vision which includes a view
that orange and green can be united on the basis of equality. The demands of
this time need more than King Canute like tactics. Unionism also needs to be
generous and magnanimous." ENDS

 

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Speaking with Sinn Féin elected representatives and members in Dublin, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP said it was crucial that there is a big turn out for the party's "Demand your healthcare rights" rally on October 21st.

Outlining the success of the party's health campaign, Mr Adams encouraged Dubliners, "to take personal ownership of this issue and to demand their healthcare rights - a health system properly funded as a public service that provides care at the point of delivery for all on the basis of need alone and funded from general taxation.

Mr Adams said, "Over the next couple of weeks Sinn Féin activists across Dublinwill be mobilising across the city and county for our health rally on October 21st.

"This rally is the culmination of campaign on the health issue that began with the launch of our policy document, Healthcare in an Ireland of Equals in April.

"A Day of Action in May involved dozens of pickets and stalls right around the state while during the summer we distributed over half a million four page newsletters outlining Sinn Féin’s analysis of the health crisis and our proposals for solution.

'We have also highlighted the deeply flawed proposal from Minister Harney to transfer public land to private hospitals, and efforts to close Tallaght's Children's Hospital.

"During a recent series of visits to hospitals and health care professionals in Dublin, Wexford, Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Waterford, Cork, and Castlebar I have discussed Sinn Féin’s health proposals. These were well received and it is our intention to incorporate suggestions which I and our Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD received from health care professionals. I am delighted at the overwhelmingly positive reaction. 

"I am encouraging Dubliners from every walk of life to turn out on October the 21st, for each to take personal ownership of this issue, to demand their healthcare rights - a health system properly funded as a public service that provides care at the point of delivery for all on the basis of need alone and funded from general taxation.

"A big turnout on October 21st will demonstrate the widespread dissatisfaction there is with the poor state of our health service. It can also help lay the ground work for ensuring that health is at the centre of the public debate in the upcoming general election campaign.  

"Our health service can be better. Sinn Fein is proposing a viable, realistic alternative approach which can end the current inefficient and unequal two tier health system." CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said it is ironic that the future of the Fianna Fáil/PD administration now hangs in the balance over an issue relating to the links between politicians in Government and wealthy business people, given the fact that the PDs "fully share the Fianna Fáil record of granting privilege to the wealthiest in Irish society".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Once again we see the Progressive Democrats posing as the moral guardians of Government. The future of the Fianna Fáil/PD administration now hangs in the balance over an issue relating to the links between politicians in Government and wealthy business people. The Taoiseach, of course, has questions to answer about his own relationship with the donors in the case of the money he received in Manchester.

"However, it is ironic that the PDs are in this position given that they fully share the Fianna Fáil record of granting privilege to the wealthiest in Irish society. The Tánaiste Michael McDowell has described inequality as good for the economy. He and his PD colleagues have fully supported, implemented, and in some cases initiated a whole range of Government polices that rewarded privilege and acted against the public interest. These include:

· Public contracts for private developers and property speculators that have seen the public purse ripped off. A prime example is the purchase at over twice the market value of the Thornton Hall lands for the Tánaiste's proposed super-prison.

· The unbridled control of the housing market by land speculators and the building industry with house prices beyond the reach of people on above-average incomes. The shredding of Part V of the Planning and Development Act and the failure to provide social and affordable housing.

· Massive tax breaks and the allocation of land at public hospital sites for the developers of private for-profit hospitals. This is in the context of a grossly inequitable health service that limps from crisis to crisis.

· The privatisation of Eircom to the benefit of multi-millionaires such as Tony O'Reilly and at the expense of many thousands of conned small shareholders and with the result that we have a sub-standard telecommunications infrastructure in the hands of a private monopoly.

· The privatisation of Aer Lingus, despite the experience of the disastrous Eircom privatisation.

"All of these are valid reasons for the entire Fianna Fáil/PD Government to resign and for a General Election to be called. And the sooner the better." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEPs Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún were joined by the party's spokesperson on agriculture Michelle Gildernew at the Ploughing Championships today for the launch of a campaign aimed at encouraging people from rural communities to get on the electoral register.

Speaking at the launch Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin's National Chairperson said: "As part of our national registration campaign, today we are specifically encouraging people from rural communities to ensure that they are on the electoral register. We have very serious concerns regarding the roll out of the overhaul of the register by local authorities with particular concern for rural communities and hard to reach addresses.

"There has been little or no direction coming from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Local authorities have basically been left to their own devices to run their own registration campaigns. This has led to serious concerns that many people will accidentally be omitted from the register and it is likely that rural communities will be most affected by these inconsistencies due to the large size of rural constituencies and difficulties in getting to everyone. It is for this reason that we are launching this phase of our registration campaign here at the Ploughing Championships today.

"Sinn Féin activists throughout rural Ireland will be working with community groups and organisations, and knocking on doors, over the coming months encouraging people to get on the register. But there is a special urgency about registering people in rural areas, ignored and undervalued by a Dublin focused administration. The best way to address declining farming numbers, unbalanced regional investment and appalling access to public services for people in the country is to ensure as loud a voice as possible is heard at the polls.

"It is crucially important that people make every effort to ensure they are on the electoral register ahead of next year's general election. Our message is clear -- make your voice heard, register to vote and of course vote Sinn Féin."

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has said sky high house prices in this state must be tackled. Deputy Crowe was speaking today after it was revealed that house prices are increasing at nearly twice the rate of wage increases.

He said, "Many young Dublin couples are already being forced out of their home neighbourhoods into so-called commuter towns as it becomes increasingly tougher to afford a home. Living in these towns means that having at least one car is an absolute necessity and childcare costs are unavoidable as they do not live near family who would traditionally have provided these services. And now house prices are increasing at nearly twice the rate of the cost of living. This is having a devastating affect on young people trying to build lives for themselves and their young families.

"The housing crisis in this state has not come about by accident. It is a direct result of the close and inappropriate relationship between Fianna Fáil and the property speculators and unscrupulous developers in this state. This super-weathy section of Irish society has been facilitated at every turn by their friends in the Fianna Fáil/PD Government. Many thousands of families are directly affected by spiralling house prices and the lack of social and affordable homes. This is a scandal that far exceeds the payments to Bertie Ahern currently in the spotlight.

"House price increases must be taken into account in future social partnership negotiations. However, house prices in this state must be tackled and the first step must be the reinstatement of the original Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 before it was watered down by this Government with a nod and a wink from their developer friends.

"The current situation where young couples are stretched beyond their means even though they are earning two wages cannot continue. Not everyone has high profile friends that can lend them the odd fifty grand without expecting to be paid back." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has said that the publication of the Housing Statistics for 2005-06 by the Department of Social Development highlight the huge scale of the housing crisis.

Mr McCann said:

"Theses figures highlight the extent of the housing crisis we are staring into. Only 8% of all new builds were in the social housing sector, which probably translates into fewer than 800 new social homes came on stream last year. Yet, over 20,000 people presented as homeless, a staggering 16% increase on last year.

"The failure to meet demand for social housing was compounded by a further loss of Housing Executive stock with 2,500 less HE tenancies in March 2006 than March 2005.

"There must be a fundamental recognition that the failure to meet the demand for social housing is unsustainable. This demand at present is being met by private landlords, who are already seriously distorting the housing market and in some cases making millions in housing benefit payments.

"There is also an increase of almost 20% in the number of mortgage repossession. While the average price of National House Building Council-registered houses sold during 2005-06 increased of 13.6%.

"Many young people are unable to get into the housing market because of property speculators who are forcing up prices and many young families are taking on mortgages that they simply cannot sustain. At the same time the huge gap between demand and supply in social housing is being filled by the same property speculators.

"But this is only part of the picture. A recent CAJ report backs up an analysis of far deeper problems below the headline figures. Historically, housing discrimination was a source of serious injustice and a key issue that led to the formation of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960‚s. However there is now clear evidence that there continues to be very very serious differences in how the need for social housing is met." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's MEPs Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún, accompanied by the party's agriculture spokesperson Michelle Gildernew MP, will be launching a rural voter registration driver at the Sinn Féin stall Stand 235, Row L at the Ploughing Championships in Carlow at 11.30am, Friday the 29th September.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Ms McDonald, the party‚s National Chairperson, said:

"There is a special urgency about registering people in rural areas, ignored and undervalued by a Dublin focused administration.

"The best way to address declining farming numbers, unbalanced regional investment and appalling access to public services for people in the country is to ensure as loud a voice as possible is heard at the polls." ENDS

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Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams today accepted a cheque for £1300 from St. Bernadette's Primary school in Ballymurphy for the 'Love of Christ Ministries' which runs a hostel for abandoned babies in South Africa.

Gerry Adams visited the orphanage last October on a state visit to South Africa. It was an emotional and uplifting experience. The hostel, which is an old farm outside of Johannesburg, houses some 66 children at least 50 of whom are babies, some suffering from HIV/Aids.

In the course of the visit Mr. Adams held babies as young as 10 days old who had been abandoned and saved by the orphanage. A team of up to 16 volunteer workers from around the world help look after the children.

It is a mammoth undertaking which also includes the running of a small school. In the several hours he spent there it was clear that all of the children were very happy and well cared for.

On his return to Ireland the Sinn Féin west Belfast MP organised an effort to raise funds for the orphanage and several months ago almost £7,000 was sent.

Speaking at the event in the school at which the children handed over the cheque Mr. Adams said:

"I want to thank St. Bernadette's, the teachers, parents but especially the children who worked hard to raise this money. St. Bernadette's succeeded in raising the most money of any school in the west of the City. " ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health & Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as "disgraceful" the remarks of the chief executive of the Health Service Executive Professor Brendan Drumm who accused people campaigning for the retention of services at Monaghan General Hospital of "scare-mongering for self-interest" and of questionable motives.

Professor Drumm's statement was made in the presence of the Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney at the meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children today (Thursday). Deputy Ó Caoláin said it was "deplorable" that Minister Harney stood over the HSE chief's remarks. He stated:

"People throughout the North East region, but especially those in County Monaghan, who have been campaigning for the retention and restoration of vital services at Monaghan General Hospital, have been insulted by the remarks of Professor Brendan Drumm today. In a disgraceful statement he accused people of 'scare-mongering for self-interest' and said that their motives should be questioned. I asked Professor Drumm to withdraw these remarks and he refused to do so. What was equally deplorable was that the Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney stood over the statement of the HSE Chief Executive.

"People in County Monaghan and in the North East region have been motivated by one thing and one thing only -- the health and safety of people using the healthcare services in that region. The cutting of services in Monaghan General Hospital has led directly to the deaths of patients. It has placed huge pressure on other hospitals in the region. To describe people who stand up for justice and fair play in that context as scare-mongering and acting for selfish motives is incredible.

"Professor Drumm should reconsider his refusal to revisit his statement and he should apologise to the people of County Monaghan for what he has said today."

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Congratulating the Gardaí and foreign police forces on the massive heroin seizure in Belgium yesterday, Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD emphasised the damage that would have been done had the shipment gone through. He went on to welcome reports that a review of security at smaller airports was anticipated, but pointed out that with too few customs officials to monitor existing airports, expansion of personnel available was inevitable.

The Dublin South-Central TD said: "The seizure of 50 kilos of heroin with an estimated street value of €10 million is cause for congratulations to the Gardaí, the CAB and the police forces in Holland and Belgium. If this massive drugs shipment had gone through the havoc it would have wreaked in Ireland is horrifying to contemplate. While there has been increasing media focus on cocaine abuse in recent times, large parts of Dublin are still struggling to resist the heroin trade, and it is increasingly common in towns throughout the country.

"But there are also questions to be asked in the aftermath of this success. There are numerous small airports or landing strips in Ireland. How secure are they? What measures are in place to monitor arrivals? This shipment was stopped by good intelligence work, but what is there to prevent the same method being used again by different drugs gangs?

"In that context I welcome reports that there is to be a review of security at smaller airports, but the reality is that there are currently too few customs officials to monitor Irish airports and serious consideration must be given to expanding the number of personnel available for this work."

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for an end to tax incentives developers of private nursing homes. Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh described the tax incentives as a flawed approach and said the money would be better spent in direct provision of care for the elderly.

He said, "The former proprietors of Leas Cross nursing home benefited from tax incentives for the development of that nursing home. That tax incentive has been used by many developers to build such facilities and we have challenged the use of public money in this way. The Department of Finance's report on tax incentives states that the tax incentive was one of the factors leading to an increased number of nursing home places.

"But it also states, 'There is considerable variation across different regions in the number of nursing home beds per capita, the costs to the operator per bed, the rate charged per bed and the average occupancy rates.'

"The Report goes on to state, 'The weekly cost of places has risen over the last number of years. Indecon survey evidence suggests that the tax incentive scheme has been ineffective in reducing the increase in the cost of nursing home accommodation.'

"This clearly shows the totally flawed Government approach of using tax incentives for developers as a means of delivering a very important social policy -- the care of the elderly. The money foregone by the State in these tax incentives would be better spent in direct provision of care for the elderly in the home, in day care centres and in residential homes established and run by the Health Service Executive and by not-for-profit organizations." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed reports that the UN will call for constitutional change to protect children from abuse. He expressed his disappointment that international intervention was necessary before movement on this issue pointing out that had the Government accepted Sinn Féin's proposals to the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution, this would not have been necessary.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: "Reports this morning that the United Nations committee on the rights of children is to call for a change in the Constitution to protect children from abuse is welcome, but not unexpected. It is somewhat disappointing that it requires international intervention from the UN to provide the jolt badly needed by the body politic in this state when it comes to children's rights.

"The reality is that the impending statement from the UN committee would not have been necessary if the Government had not opposed a comprehensive constitutional amendment on the rights of the child proposed by Sinn Féin at the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution. The minimalist wording that came from the Committee does not address the issue highlighted specifically in the Kilkenny Incest Report as noted in our submission.

"The conclusions from the UN committee should serve as a wake-up call to this Government and to wider Irish society about the state's abject failure to protect and enhance the rights of children in Ireland. I look forward to examining in detail the report due to be published tomorrow by the UN and I hope we will receive a response from Minister Lenihan that is constructive and practical."

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Speaking at the launch of a Sinn Féin discussion document on the Irish sugar industry at the Ploughing Championships in Carlow today, the party's Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD said that a revitalised sugar beet industry could point the way to a thriving Irish bio-fuels industry. Deputy Ferris was joined at the launch by Wexford councillor John Dwyer and local Carlow/Kilkenny election candidate Kathleen Funchion.

The Kerry North TD said: "We are in the midst of a global energy crisis. Simultaneously, here in Ireland, farm family numbers are in steep decline and there is a substantial demographic shift from rural communities into urban centres.

"The document we are publishing today makes the case for a new strategy in rural development that could help address both problems. In laying out the case for the Irish sugar industry, we believe for many farmers its future could be in the production of ethanol for bio-fuels, providing the Irish people with an alternative and secure source of energy while stemming the decline in farming.

"Ireland is heavily and dangerously dependant on imported oil and gas. There is also a European requirement that bio fuel replaces 5.75% of petrol imports by 2010. The government's laissez-faire attitude is that we can import this to avoid fines. But why import what we can grow and produce here?

"Major European countries are using parts of their quotas to produce ethanol. Similarly countries such as China and Russia are growing increasing amounts of sugar beet to produce ethanol. The most efficient method for Ireland to maintain the sugar beet industry would be to gradually process less beet for sugar and more beet for ethanol."

"We need two major Government interventions to make this a reality. Firstly, we need this state's quota for the production of sugar increased and this will require a renegotiation of the EU sugar regime. We also need a Government prepared to invest, politically and financially, in the development of an indigenous bio-fuels industry. This document today, attempts to contribute to the debate about how this must be done."

Note to newsroom: Copies of the document available on request.

CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has this morning called on the Irish Government cease its support for the foreign policies of the United States Administration. Speaking in the Dáil this morning Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Sunday Tribune/ Millward Brown IMS opinion poll clearly shows that the vast majority of Irish people believe that the policies of George Bush have made the world a more dangerous place.

He said, "There is an urgent and increasing need for the government to revisit and cease its support for the foreign policies of the United States Administration in light of the Sunday Tribune/Millward Brown IMS opinion poll which found that 80 per cent of Irish people believe that George Bush's policies have made the world a more dangerous place.

"There is also a particular need for the government to withdraw the use of Irish airports and airspace from all planes associated with the so-called war on terror in light of the recently declassified 'National Intelligence Estimate' which clearly demonstrates that even the United State's own intelligence agencies now acknowledge that global security threats have increased on foot of the American-led invasion of Iraq." ENDS

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