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Sinn Féin MP for Mid-Ulster Martin McGuinness has branded the arrest of a woman in Coalisland this morning in connection with the Northern Bank robbery as the latest piece of stage managed political policing by the PSNI.

Mr McGuinness said:

"This woman was arrested this morning at her home in Coalisland and is currently being held by the PSNI Special Branch in their Antrim barracks.

"The media have of course been briefed about her identity and linked this woman to the Northern Bank robbery. This sort of prejudicial briefing is now standard practice from the political detectives within the Special Branch.

"Everyone knows that this arrest has nothing at all to do with finding those who robbed the Northern Bank. It is about smearing a family and a community at a delicate time in the Peace Process. This woman should be released immediately and allowed to return home to her family." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh today introduced amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 in an effort to have the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) prohibited until the Children Act 2001 is fully operational, if they are to be introduced at all. The amendment to the Bill was one of 52 amendments tabled by Sinn Féin at Committee Stage in the Dáil today. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the purpose of the Sinn Féin amendments to section 1 of the bill was to prevent the Minister from introducing unnecessary legislation, specifically in relation to ASBOs.

The Sinn Féin TD said, "All legislative responses to anti-social behaviour must be both proportionate and necessary. While Sinn Fein is fundamentally opposed to the principle of ASBOs our amendment would ensure that ASBOs could only be introduced with Oireachtas approval and this approval could only be sought in the Houses of the Oireachtas 10 years after all sections of the 2001 Act become fully operational. Our amendment provides for a necessity test."

"The ASBO provisions currently before us allow for a serious and open-ended curtailment of some of the most fundamental rights of individuals. The provisions are disproportionate. It is well documented that ASBOs are inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child but they may also be unnecessary.

"We do not need more legislation we need the resourcing and operationalisation of the existing provisions contained in the Children Act 2001.

"ASBOs are proven to fail at addressing their stated purpose i.e. reducing anti-social behaviour. Studies conducted in Liverpool demonstrate that ASBOs extend the discretionary powers of the police without improving accountability; name, shame and criminalise children; fast-track young people into prison and; undermine due-process by allowing hearsay evidence.

"The Minister has failed to produce any evidence demonstrating that ASBOs actually work."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to say, "The government are trying to roll back on child protection. They are attempting to legislate away complex problems that, by contrast, Sinn Fein recognises require the resourcing and implementation of existing laws and investment in communities.

"Sinn Fein advocates a multi-dimensional approach to the issue of community safety. Our policy is focused greatly on the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour. The Minister should abandon his aspirations to introduce ASBOs and instead promote investment in communities and recreational services for young people in particular, early interventions for those at risk of offending and effective rehabilitation programmes." ENDS

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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly commenting on the £33 million allocated to Loyalist working class areas has said that it is a serious mistake to sectarianise poverty.

Mr Kelly said:

"It is a serious mistake to sectarianise poverty. The only way to tackle poverty, wherever it exists, is on the basis of objective need, and need alone.

"Setting aside New TSN policy and equality legislation is also wrong and will have serious legal implications. It raises serious questions about commitment of the British government to the equality agenda and concerns about how future funds will be allocated.

"Poverty, educational under achievement and unemployment are huge issues across all sections of our society. The only approach should be to tackle need where it exists. Instead of taking decisions along sectarian lines the objective should be to tackle educational under achievement everywhere that it exists by putting money where it is most needed. The same approach should be taken with unemployment, poor skills, housing and health.

"Everyone accepts that there are serious levels of poverty in disadvantaged working class loyalist areas and particular problems around educational under achievement. By the same measure it should be accepted that all of the recent objective evidence shows that poverty and disadvantage is more widespread in nationalist areas. Seven of the 10 most deprived areas in the north are in nationalist areas. Nationalists are still more likely to be unemployed and a greater percentage leave school with no qualifications." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, has said the government is running scared of multinational pharmaceutical companies, given its refusal to sue them over the Hepatitis C and HIV infection of blood products. He said it was "deplorable" that while the Government refuses to sue these companies it is to pay one of them €6 million for a bird flu vaccine.

This week's Irish Medical News reveals that Baxter International, which is implicated in the scandal of infected blood products being supplied to haemophiliacs, is one of two companies supplying the avian flu vaccine to the Irish government at a cost of €6 million.

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated: "Many people in Ireland and throughout the world have died as a result of receiving transfusions of contaminated blood and blood products supplied by multinational pharmaceutical companies. People have been infected with HIV and Hepatitis C because of the criminal practices of these companies who manufactured and sold their products with total disregard for patient safety. Five years after Health Minister Micheál Martin initiated legal advice on this matter the Government has still not made a decision on whether to take a legal case for damages against these companies on behalf of the Irish people.

"Now we find that it is 'business as usual' with these companies as far as the government is concerned. This is deplorable.

"The Government is running scared of these giant multinationals. Yet at the same time the State has fought cases all the way to the Supreme Court against Irish citizens seeking education and other services for their disabled children. The government mobilises all the legal resources of the State against autistic children but not against multinational drug companies who have poisoned and killed people." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment Arthur Morgan T.D. has reacted angrily to the comments by Forfás that "Ireland should consider the possibility of developing nuclear energy as a more long-term solution," saying that Nuclear power will never be an acceptable option in Ireland.

Deputy Morgan said, "For many years we have been warning of the dangers of over dependency on oil. The failure to make the transition away from the use of fossil fuels and towards renewable energy including, wind, wave and solar power has been highlighted by environmental groups, those seeking to develop renewable energy and technologies and by parties including my own. The Government has consistently dragged its feet. Only now are grants for householders seeking to install solar panels, geothermal heating system and wood pellet stoves coming on stream.

"I believe a kite is being flown in relation to nuclear power. The comments contained in the Forfás report come only a short time after the Government refused to join with Austria and Germany in opposing nuclear power at the recent European Council. This Government's support for the European Council's call for a new generation of nuclear power was highly significant indicator of a changing position in relation to nuclear power.

"Now as a result of the Government failure, since coming to office in 1997, to act to develop renewable energy and energy saving technologies we are being told that there is an energy crisis. We will be told that the energy crisis must be treated as a national emergency, in order to advance the pro nuclear agenda. We will be told that we have to do things that we mightn't do in a different set of circumstances, that we have no choice but to turn to nuclear power.

"When the Government published the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Bill 2006 in recent months Sinn Féin highlighted our concern at the fact that the proposed legislation included in the infrastructure developments to be fast tracked "an industrial installation for the production of electricity, steam or hot water with a heat output of 300 megawatts or more". We asked if a nuclear power station could be fast tracked under this provision. That question is now more pertinent than ever.

"The Irish people are overwhelmingly opposed to nuclear power. It will never be acceptable here. The potential costs of nuclear power in terms of the destruction of human life and the environment are a price the Irish people have made clear they are not willing to pay." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning called for EU member states to "remove restrictions placed on migrant workers and allow for the free movement of workers right across the EU".

Ms de Brún made her calls before she spoke in a European Parliament debate in Strasbourg today on worker's rights. The report by Csaba Ãry MEP was entitled "on the transitional arrangements restricting the free movement of workers on EU labour markets".

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"On May 1st 2004, with the accession of the 10 new EU member states Ireland, Britain and Sweden opened up their labour markets to workers from the new member states. The other 12 states decided to apply certain restrictions to the recently joined countries. 8 of those states have now opted to extend these transitional arrangements.

"The positive experience of Ireland should encourage other countries who introduced transitional arrangements to lift these restrictions. Sinn Féin and the trade union movement support the decision not to introduce transitional arrangements in Ireland and I have signed the written declaration here in the parliament calling for such restrictions to be lifted.

"Ainneoin na himní a léirigh daoine éagsúla nuair a méadaíodh an tAontas ó thráth go chéile, níor chuir saor-ghluaiseacht oibrithe isteach ar shaormhargaí náisiúnta.

"Tar éis an mhéadaithe is déanaí bhí tionchar dearfach ag an ghluaiseacht imirce ar gheilleagar chúig bhallstát déag an Aontais Eorpaigh. Níor brúdh amach oibrithe áitiúla ag saoránaigh na mball nua ach chuir siad leis an gheilleagar ar dhóigh chabhrach.

"The Irish experience has been overwhelmingly positive, with migrant workers contributing to society and enriching the cultural fabric of the nation.

"However, we must go further than merely calling for free movement of labour. We must defend the rights of those workers to equal treatment. We cannot ignore the issue of employment conditions and the continued exploitation of workers. Even in Ireland unscrupulous employers have used the lack of free movement of workers within the EU to introduce discrimination as regards salaries and working conditions based on nationality. We must combat this strongly. We must also oppose restrictions on social security and other social protections.

"Irish emigrants have forged a life for themselves outside of Ireland, in places like Britain, North America and Australia, and we must embrace those who come to Ireland in the same way. At the same time we must work to combat exploitation and discrimination wherever it exists." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Seán Crowe TD, has expressed shock and sadness at the tragic school bus accident in which a fifteen year old boy was tragically killed today in County Offaly.

Deputy Crowe said, "It was with tremendous shock and sadness that I learned of this latest tragedy on our roads. I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the young boy killed in today's tragic accident and to wish a full and speedy recovery to all the other injured children.

"I would call on the Government to make the fullest possible supports both physical and emotional available to all those involved. I would also call for an immediate investigation to find the causes of the accident and to ascertain, what measures and procedures recommended following last years fatal school bus crash in Meath, which left five dead, have actually been implemented and if the process needs to be speeded up." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Seán Crowe has described the news that this weekend saw the 100th road fatality as a "tragic milestone, which should make us all, as individuals and collectively, sit up and take notice."

Deputy Crowe said, "The month of April has barely begun and already we have reached one hundred fatalities on our roads. It is a tragic milestone, which should make us all, as individuals and collectively, sit up and take notice. Behind every one of these deaths lies a devastated and heartbroken family trying to make sense of what is often a senseless and avoidable tragedy.

"However, there are measures we can adopt. There are things that can be done to prevent this carnage. Is it too much to ask that Garda resources be focused in an efficient and practical manner? Instead of adopting a "shooting fish in a barrel" approach in relation to setting up high visibility speed traps on our motorways shouldn't these resources be aimed at the areas and times when accidents are known to happen? Over 40% of accidents occur on just 7% of the roads in this state. Many of these accidents occur on non-primary routes, in the small hours of the morning as pubs and nightclubs shut. This is one area where the enforcement of existing regulations and laws needs to be rigorously pursued.

"There is also the outrageous issue of driving tests and the crazy number of learner drivers waiting to be tested with some of the 130,000 waiting up to a year. There is no excuse for this other than sheer incompetence on behalf of the Government. The time for PR stunts is over - real action is needed.

"At the current rate of fatalities we could be looking at well over 400 deaths by years end. That is over four hundred families traumatised through the loss of a loved one. That thought alone should be enough to make all of us behave in a more responsible way on our roads. For those who don't or won't then the full force of the law should be applied." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today thrown her support behind a new initiative to combat food poverty and promote access to healthy and affordable food for low-income groups in Ireland.

Organisations Crosscare, Combat Poverty Agency and Society of St. Vincent de Paul are in the process of establishing a 'Healthy Food for All Initiative' (HFFA). The initiative aims to promote access to healthy and affordable food for low-income groups, including the provision of school meals.

Speaking today the former Assembly Health Minister said:

"I want to welcome the establishment of the 'Healthy Food for All Initiative'. Access to food is a fundamental right, and just as important is the ability to access healthy and nutritious food. I am particularly pleased that this initiative to tackle food poverty will be conducted on an all Ireland basis and I would urge all of the relevant agencies to support this project in the promotion of healthy living and tackling health inequalities.

"The publication of a report 'Food Poverty and Policy' (2004) revealed that the issue of food poverty is of serious concern to health experts in Ireland. It has been known for quite some time that there is a correlation between inequalities in dietary habits and social disadvantage. It stands to reason that poor dietary habits will lead to poor health in the longer term. Food poverty also impacts on educational achievement and therefore on the ability to break the cycle of disadvantage. It is a major issue for low income families.

Ms de Brún also welcomed European Parliament support for a call she and other MEPs had made for charities across Europe to be able to continue food aid for the most deprived and vulnerable." ENDS

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Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson, who has backed the campaign for justice, has welcomed the not guilty verdict in the case of local man Kieran Milnes today and said that the verdict is an indictment of the PSNI handling of this case.

Mr Ferguson said:

"This is the right result. Kieran was not guilty. I‚m sure this result is a huge relief to Kieran and his family.

"It was a huge injustice when he was originally found guilty and forced to fight the legal system.

"The approach of the PSNI to this case was a disgrace. The case against him was maliciously pursued and based on pure fantasy. The not guilty verdict in this case is an indictment of the PSNI." ENDS

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A senior Sinn Féin delegation has met British direct rule Social Development minister David Hanson today, Monday 3rd April, to discuss the proposed funding for Loyalist areas. Speaking after the meeting Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Poverty, North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton said that a politically motivated approach to tackling poverty is wrong.

Ms Stanton said:

"The approach of the British government to the issue of poverty suggested by giving money exclusively to working class loyalist communities is wrong. It will not address the serious issues of poverty, multiple deprivation, unemployment or educational under achievement that affects many sections of our society. All it will do is create division.

"The only way to comprehensively tackle poverty, wherever it exists, is on the basis of objective need, and need alone. Setting aside New TSN policy and equality legislation is wrong and will clearly have serious legal implications.

"While no-one would argue that there are serious levels of poverty in disadvantaged working class loyalist areas and particular problems around educational under achievement, all of the recent objective evidence shows that poverty and disadvantage is more widespread in nationalist areas. Seven of the 10 most deprived areas in the north are in nationalist areas.

"We will not tackle poverty with an ad hoc strategy based on political expediency or by setting aside clear priorities based on targeting social need, equality and fairness. Poverty will only be tackled by understanding its' root causes and through long-term strategies.

"Throwing millions at a small number of loyalist areas is not a solution. The implications for the equality agenda are huge. This approach undermines the legal requirement to act fairly and exposes both the British government and its civil service to the allegation that they are willing to sideline the equality agenda in the name of political expediency." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for Mid Ulster, Geraldine Dougan has criticised the decision by the Northern Health Board (NHSSB) not to fund the Speechmatters programme for the incoming year.

Ms Dougan said:

"It is with great disappointment that I have learned that Speechmatters in the 'Northern Health and Social Services Board', will not receive funding for the year 2006/07. The absece of this vital funding from the NHSSB means that all Speechmatters services in the Homefirst area will close from April 2006.

"Speechmatters provides an invaluable service and support to those with Aphasia and their families.

"This will have a devastating effect on the organisation and on the many people who have suffered a stroke or head injury that they help on a daily basis.

"I have written to the Department of Health and to the NHSSB urging them to do all in their powers to prevent the loss of such an invaluable service in this area and to make available the much needed funding that is required." ENDS

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson, John O'Dowd MLA, has welcomed the reduction in the number of people waiting to be admitted to hospital for treatment and paid tribute to the hard work of hospital staff across the Six Counties concerned in helping to achieve this.

"However", he said, "there is clearly much more that needs to be done, particularly when one examines the soaring numbers who are waiting for a first outpatient appointment. These dreadful statistics spell misery for so many people.

"A truer picture would show the number of people who should be on inpatient lists and are otherwise not even counted because they are waiting for further appointments such as scans, ultra sound tests and other investigations.

"We welcome the Minister for Health's, Shaun Woodward's, recognition of this misery and his pledge to deliver much shorter waiting times for all patients." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth, Arthur Morgan, has today reiterated his call for the Taoiseach to meet with the family of Seamus Ludlow, the forestry worker kidnapped and shot dead by loyalists in 1976 and to respond positively to the family's demand for a public inquiry in his murder.

Deputy Morgan said, "As the apparatus of Britain's war machine is today being dismantled from the hills of South Armagh it serves as a timely reminder of the sinister role played by the so-called security services on both sides of the border during the conflict.

"While Seamus Ludlow was picked up and murdered by a loyalist death squad controlled and operated by the British state it was the forces of law on order in this state that were criminally negligent in prosecuting a proper investigation in to that murder. And it is these actions or inactions that need proper and thorough scrutiny. Serious questions need to be answered as to the behaviour of both Gardai and politicians following the murder of Seamus and the manner in which they deliberately tried to prevent the truth emerging in relation to this case.

"The Taoiseach recently supported an all-party Dáil motion calling for a full public inquiry in to the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. I welcomed that move. However, if that stance is only adopted in relation to incidents that occurred outside the jurisdiction of this state then it will prove to be nothing more than empty rhetoric.

"Otherwise the Taoiseach should immediately open his door to the Ludlow family, as he has done for others and hear their story. He should also support, in the same spirit as his supported for the Finucane Inquiry, the establishment of the public inquiry into Seamus' killing. The family have been through too much -- its time their nightmare was ended."

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Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy has today welcomed the beginning of the demilitarization of the remaining British Army watchtowers in South Armagh and called for the completion of the process as speedily as possible. Mr. Murphy said that local people also needed to be assured that the British Army would bring an end to all of their spying on local homes and businesses.

Speaking from Jonesboro Mr. Murphy said:

"Sinn Féin has actively sought the removal of Britain‚s war machine from South Armagh and right across the Six Counties. This has been a crucial element of our discussions with the British Government over this past number of years. Consistent pressure from Sinn Féin has ensured movement on this issue.

"However, there is considerable anger and frustration at the slow pace of movement regarding demilitarization.

"The people of South Armagh need to know that in removing the Jonesboro watchtower, there is not a correlating increase in covert spying operations. In February of this year, documentation was discovered that the British Army was continuing to spy on local homes and the Dromintee GAA club. Actions such as these only serve to increase local anger.

"I am calling for the completion of this process as speedily as possible and the lands taken from local communities to be returned to them forthwith." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Monica Digney has said that Ballymena Borough Council should enshrine the rights of people with disabilities in the area by signing up to the Barcelona Declaration. Councillor Digney has tabled a motion to Ballymena Council for tonight's monthly meeting (Monday 3rd April) asking that Council adopt the manifesto.

Cllr Digney said:

"The Barcelona Declaration advocates the right of disabled people to equal opportunities and recognises their contribution to the society and the environment they live in. By adopting this motion Ballymena Borough Council will undertake to consult people with disabilities and their advocates. Furthermore, the Council shall agree to devise a plan of action for the implementation of the Barcelona Declaration.

"The Barcelona Declaration is divided into three parts. The first part consists of a five point statement highlighting barriers in our society that impacts on the status of people with disabilities and outlines actions to be taken in order to improve the worth, dignity and independence of everyone. The second part is a preamble with four points concerning rights and entitlements.

"The third part lists seventeen agreements which outline actions to be undertaken by local councils in pursuit of inclusive design in all environments. The Barcelona Declaration enshrines the principle that every person has a value and a right to be treated with dignity. The declaration recognises that disability affects society as a whole and not only individuals and their families.

"There is a responsibility on Ballymena Council to provide more favourable conditions for the full development of people, and thereby avoiding or removing the causes that hinder or prevent such development. Thus, there is an onus on us to provide the necessary supports and resources that will promote equal opportunities for inclusion, integration and environmental access for all its citizens." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP and North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly will meet with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street this afternoon. This follows a meeting with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin last week. Speaking prior to their departure Martin McGuinness said:

"Sinn Féin's message to Tony Blair today is very simple - the British and Irish governments need to lift the suspension and restore the political institutions and they need to do this immediately.

"The sole task of the Assembly is the formation of a power sharing government as set out in the Good Friday Agreement. If the DUP refuses to allow this to happen then the governments need to move ahead. A Shadow Assembly with scrutiny committees is nothing more than a DUP attempt to restore unionist domination. That is not acceptable.

"Sinn Fein is the largest nationalist party in the Assembly and we will not consent to such an arrangement. What we want to see is full power sharing within the institutions as laid out in the Good Friday Agreement. All of the parties with the exception of the DUP have stated the same."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has accused British Direct Rule Housing minister, David Hanson of covering up the real extent of the housing crisis and manufacturing figures.

Mr McCann's comments after the publication of the Department of Social Development corporate plan today, and the claim by Mr Hanson that they will allocate 10,700 houses in 2006-07 despite being unable to identify how many new houses will be built in the social sector.

Cllr McCann said:

"I seriously doubt if the claim to allocate over 10,000 homes this year will stack up to scrutiny.

"The fact is that we are only bringing on stream a very limited number of social new build, perhaps only a few hundred on a yearly basis. Over 98% of all building new starts are in the private sector. Yet over 18,000 people declare themselves homeless every year and thousands more endure misery trapped in hostel accommodation or on the Housing Executive waiting lists.

"Mr Hanson has also claimed in the report that everyone has access to good quality affordable housing in the tenure of their choice. This is very misleading. The only form of 'so-called' affordable housing being pursed by the minister is co-ownership yet in many cases this proves more costly over the 25 years of a mortgage.

"The clear failure to recognise the importance of prices on the housing sector leads to a flawed analysis of the problem. Mr Hanson plays down the fact that the super inflated price of houses and land is stopping people from securing affordable quality homes, particularly in rural communities.

"This is having a huge impact on the rural way of life, particularly as the situation is compounded by the fact that there is little or no social housing being built in rural areas or indeed anywhere.

"David Hanson is trying to cover up the real extent of the housing crisis by manufacturing figures. We don‚t need new Labour spin, what is required is a fundamental review of the social and affordable housing sectors and action to address the years of neglect and under provision." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness this weekend addressed an International Conference in Limerick organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The conference was titled 'Towards Peace and Justice in Palestine and Israel' and Mr. McGuinness spoke about building peace through dialogue and inclusive politics.

Mr. McGuinness said:

"Sinn Féin's peace strategy began almost twenty years ago with the key documents, Scenario for Peace and Towards a Lasting Peace in Ireland At the core of the peace strategy was the need for a peace process to resolve the causes of conflict. With others, we set about the task of putting such a process in train. The embryonic peace process emerged publicly in 1993 in the first joint statement by Gerry Adams and John Hume and the IRA's cessation of military operations in 1994 opened up a huge opportunity for progress.

"Despite the difficulties that have dogged the peace process in Ireland since that time, it has begun the process of transforming the country. And if the Irish and British governments hold their nerve and stand by the Good Friday Agreement, which came about due to the peace process, then much more can be achieved in the time ahead.

"One of the core principles of the Irish peace process is that conflict resolution should be based on inclusive dialogue based on equality and respect. But these principles equally apply in the Middle East, in South Africa and beyond.

"Although no two conflicts are the same we did learn much from the ANC in South Africa and we have attempted to share our experiences and the lessons we learned with others, most recently in the Basque Country and Sri Lanka. Wherever we can Sinn Féin's has sought to promote conflict resolution and to assist in whatever way we can the development of a peace process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty speaking this morning said “It’s decision time for the two governments.”  He said “In the coming days the Irish and British governments are due  to set out their proposals for the restoration of the political institutions.  It is vital that these proposals are guided by the principles at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement and not by the insatiable demands of Ian Paisley.”


Mr Doherty said:

“This month marks the eight anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.  It is nearly twelve years since the IRA called its ceasefire and last year it formally ended its armed campaign.  Despite all of the progress that has been made, the reality is that there is a deepening political crisis -  power-sharing institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement haven’t functioned for nearly three years and key elements of the Agreement are at risk of vanishing altogether.

 

“Sinn Féin, the Irish and British governments and most other political parties believe that the best way to end this impasse is through the restoration of the Assembly, the Executive and all-Ireland structures.  The only party preventing this from happening is the DUP.

 

“Once again this morning Ian Paisley set out the DUP's position.  It is clear that there has been no road to Damascus conversion. The DUP remain as opposed to the Good Friday Agreement as they were in 1998. They are opposed to power-sharing political institutions.  They are opposed to key elements of the Good Friday Agreement.

 

“The difference now is that the governments seem intent on allowing Ian Paisley to dictate their approach to the way forward.  This is deeply concerning to nationalists and republicans throughout Ireland.

 

“Sinn Féin wants to see the political institutions restored.  We want to see an end to British day release ministers making a mess of the economy and taking disastrous decisions in relation to health, education, farming and transport.  But creating mickey mouse work for a Shadow Assembly with no real powers is not the way forward.  It would be a costly, undemocratic farce.

 

“We believe that the suspension should be lifted and the Assembly reconvened to elect a First and Deputy First Minster and the appointment of Ministers. If this fails to happen then the Assembly should be scrapped and the salaries paid to the MLAs should be withdrawn.  The governments should then proceed with all of the outstanding aspects of the Agreement.

 

“In the coming days the Irish and British governments are due to set out their proposals for the restoration of the political institutions.  It is vital that these proposals are guided by the principles at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement and not by the insatiable demands of Ian Paisley.”ENDS


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