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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has urged the Government to fully resource the Children First National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children.  Speaking in the Dáil during statements on the Ferns report today he made a number of recommendations that he said “need to be implemented urgently if this scourge is to be taken seriously.”

Deputy O Caoláin said, “This report reveals a clerical establishment that wilfully ignored what can only be described as an epidemic of abuse.  It reveals a picture of rogue clerics preying on successive generations and being facilitated in this by the church authorities.  What emerges is an attitude on the part of the Church that sees children as objects rather than human beings.  They were objects of temptation for so-called ‘weak’ priests.  The little action that was taken was about helping the priest to resist ‘temptation’ - the children were irrelevant.  The perceived precedence of the Church’s reputation over all other considerations led to untold suffering.

“I would make a number of recommendations that need to be implemented urgently if this scourge is to be taken seriously.

“The 'Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children' need to be fully resourced and implemented so that all the agencies covered including the Garda Siochana, the Health Service Executive, schools and voluntary organisations are enabled to fulfil the role outlined for them.

“For every 1 staff member working with children in this country there are at least 20 volunteers.  Garda vetting must be made available to the voluntary sector as a matter of urgency. 

“The basic child protection awareness module delivered to trainee Gardai in Templemore is grossly inadequate given the key responsibility they have in the area of child protection.  A comprehensive child protection training package should be developed and delivered to all Gardai as a compulsory part of their training.

“The numbers of Children First Information and Advice Persons in the HSE's and their resources should be increased to ensure that the child protection training they are delivering to staff and volunteers working with children is available to all who need it.

“This Report exposes the extent to which the power of the Church in Ireland was used to destroy the rights and the lives of children. For too long that power went unchallenged by the state. Indeed it was enchanced by the state which abandoned so many children into the hands of the abusers. The lessons must be learned and action must follow.” ENDS

Full text of speech follows:

Children First must be fully resourced – Ó Caoláin

This report reveals a clerical establishment that wilfully ignored what can only be described as an epidemic of abuse.  It reveals a picture of rogue clerics preying on successive generations and being facilitated in this by the church authorities.  What emerges is an attitude on the part of the Church that sees children as objects rather than human beings.  They were objects of temptation for so-called “weak” priests.  The little action that was taken was about helping the priest to resist “temptation” - the children were irrelevant.  The perceived precedence of the Church’s reputation over all other considerations led to untold suffering.

The authority enjoyed by the church at the time was something that was valued not just by that institution but by many other conservative forces in society as well.  The inability or unwillingness of the Gardai to take action on this matter is a case in point.  At one stage an allegation of the most appalling abuse carried out on the altar against young girls preparing for their first holy communion ran into a brick wall because the file disappeared, not the witnesses or victims mind, just the file.  I would seriously question how the disappearance of a file, containing witness statements, could cause such a serious investigation to fail.  Surely in a matter of this gravity the taking of statements for a second time was not too much to ask in order that children could be protected.  I note also that the Garda responsible for the disappearance of this file was subsequently honoured by he Vatican for services rendered.  It would be most useful if the Church could clarify the circumstances and reason for this honour.  Until they do the suspicion must be that the attitude of cover up stretched right into the heart of the Vatican, possibly even emanating from there.

I don’t intend to go into individual cases here.  However it is worth mentioning the case of Sean Fortune to illustrate the processes at work.  Here we have a priest who had been identified as a predatory paedophile before he was even ordained, yet he was ordained.  Throughout his time in the priesthood the most vile allegations followed him around like a dark cloud.  The dogs in the street knew what he was yet he continued on with all the air of a man that considered himself untouchable.  And well he might.  Time after time his bishop ignored the reports that were reaching him and allowed him to continue to wreak havoc with young lives in the diocese.  So much so that at least two of his victims were driven to commit suicide.  In these circumstances those that knew and did nothing are as culpable as the abusers themselves. Perhaps even  more so.

Abuse is something that was perpetrated in all areas, in the home, in schools, at social events indeed anywhere the abuser could find a victim.  But make no mistake about it, child sexual abuse is not confined to clerics. While the Ferns Report is indeed shocking, it reflects but the tip of an iceberg that lies deep in Irish society and beyond.

I would make a number of recommendations that need to be implemented urgently if this scourge is to be taken seriously.

The 'Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children' need to be fully resourced and implemented so that all the agencies covered including the Garda Siochana, the Health Service Executive, schools and voluntary organisations are enabled to fulfil the role outlined for them.

For every 1 staff member working with children in this country there are at least 20 volunteers.  Garda vetting must be made available to the voluntary sector as a matter of urgency.

The basic child protection awareness module delivered to trainee Gardai in Templemore is grossly inadequate given the key responsibility they have in the area of child protection.  A comprehensive child protection training package should be developed and delivered to all Gardai as a compulsory part of their training.

The numbers of Children First Information and Advice Persons in the HSE's and their resources should be increased to ensure that the child protection training they are delivering to staff and volunteers working with children is available to all who need it.

This Report exposes the extent to which the power of the Church in Ireland was used to destroy the rights and the lives of children. For too long that power went unchallenged by the state. Indeed it was enchanced by the state which abandoned so many children into the hands of the abusers. The lessons must be learned and action must follow.

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has urged the extension of paid maternity leave from 18 to 26 weeks and for the issue of childcare and early childhood education to be the responsibility of a single Government Department.

He said, “Today in the Dáil I challenged both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance on the issue of childcare. I am disappointed that the Taoiseach did not accept that childcare and early childhood education need to be the responsibility of one government department. At present it is scattered across several departments –including Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children, Education and Science and Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The need for a single Minister with responsibility for childcare and early childhood education, as well as the interests of children generally, is very clear.

“I have also urged the Minister for Finance to ensure in Budget 2006 that comprehensive childcare measures are provided for, including the extension of paid maternity leave from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks. This would harmonise leave on an all-Ireland basis and make a real difference to many thousands of families. Sinn Féin will be pressing for this and other essential childcare measures in the run-up to the forthcoming Budget.” ENDS

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1137 appointments at Letterkenny General Hospital had to be cancelled in the first half of 2005 due to the ongoing beds shortage at the Hospital.

Donegal Sinn Féin have said that An Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney is hiding behind the Health Services Executive (HSE) in relation to answering questions about the ongoing beds crisis at Letterkenny Hospital.

In a joint statement, Sinn Féin Councillors, Pádraig MacLochlainn, Pearse Doherty, Gerry McMonagle, and Tony McDaid accused the PD Minister of once again failing to demonstrate leadership and compassion towards the needs of the people of Donegal. They said: "She also failed miserably while Minister for Enterprise and Employment to tackle the jobs crisis in the county. Now she is in denial about the need for 70 extra beds at Letterkenny General Hospital. It is time that those elected representatives who share power with Ms Harney in this county made her sit up and listen".

They continued:

"We recently met with management and union representatives at Letterkenny General Hospital and were alarmed and dismayed at the conditions that they are forced to work under. The fact that Letterkenny Hospital manages to function at all under these pressures is down to the commitment and dedication of management and staff at the hospital. We want the public across Donegal to understand that when cancellations are taking place and when they are forced to wait for long periods in Accident and Emergency, it is because the Government has failed to provide the necessary funding for 70 extra beds at the hospital and no other reason. It is time that the excuses stopped and the action began".

"Following our visit, we asked our party spokesperson on health, Deputy Caoimghin O Caolain to put the following questions to Minister Mary Harney in the Dáil:

Is the Minister aware that 1137 appointments at Letterkenny General Hospital had to be cancelled in the first half of 2005 due to the ongoing beds shortage at the Hospital.?

Is the Minister aware that the average beds occupancy throughout 2005 in Letterkenny General Hospital has been 105% with patients at times on trolleys in the coffee dock of the hospital?

When will the Minister grant the management of Letterkenny General Hospital the 70 extra beds that they urgently require?

When will the Minister meet with the union representatives of the staff at Letterkenny General Hospital to discuss this crisis?

She responded by stating that the questions relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004.

We have to ask, Is Minister Harney now responsible for our health service or not? Does she need to ask permission to meet with union representatives at Letterkenny General Hospital? Does she know what being in a position of leadership entails?"

They concluded:

"How long are the elected representatives who share power with Ms Harney in this county going to tolerate this treatment? Mary Harney also failed miserably while Minister for Enterprise and Employment to tackle the jobs crisis in the county. Now she is in denial about the need for 70 extra beds at Letterkenny General Hospital and the need for the retention and enhancement of cancer care services in the county. It is time that those elected representatives who share power with Ms Harney in this county made her sit up and listen". ENDS

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Sinn Féin economy spokesperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has called on British direct rule Enterprise Minister, Angela Smith and Irish Minister for Communications Noel Dempsey to indicate when they will make a statement on the results of the consultation announced in early September into all-Ireland Mobile Phone charges.

Mr McLaughlin said:

„ I have written to both Ministers requesting information on when they intend to make a statement concerning their request to the Mobile phone operators to devise means of introducing all-Ireland Mobile phone tariffs. In early September Direct Rule Minister, Angela Smith and Irish Minister for Communications, Noel Dempsey gave the Mobile phone companies operating on the island three months to work with the two telecommunications regulators and come up with solutions to the problem of roaming charges in border areas.

"I led a delegation to a meeting with both Regulators earlier this year and was encouraged with the positive position held by the them on this issue. And I have to acknowledge that in similar meetings with a number of the Mobile Phone operators I found little resistance to the idea of all-Ireland Tariffs if a suitable formula could be identified.

„Sinn Fein has long campaigned to have this issue resolved in the interests of the many users that are being charged unwarranted roaming rates on a daily basis. I welcome the fact that there seems to be some movement on the issue by the Operators and the Regulators but I would like to see it addressed with much more urgency.

"Sinn Féin has put our proposals on how we think the problem can be resolved to the two regulators. If acted upon they would see the establishment of single all-Ireland tariffs jointly regulated by both regulators. But our intention is to see the problem addressed in a way that will be most beneficial to the end user. Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the mobile phone companies and regulators to achieve the best result for customers.

"The operation of two separate markets is a huge burden particularly for people living in border areas. Sinn Féin believes that it makes good economic sense for the development of a single all-Ireland telecommunications market. It would be of particular benefits for people living in border areas and for marginalised rural communities.

" As part of this review of telecommunications Sinn Féin also calls for the roll out of integrated broad band networks across the island of Ireland." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Loughgiel councillor Anita Cavlan has accused the DUP of failing the disabled community after DUP councillors refused to back a motion calling on the council to adopt the Barcelona Declaration, which has already been adopted by the Irish and British Governments and also over 400 councils on the island of Ireland.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Cavlan said:

"I am more sad than angry about the DUP in Ballymoney refusing to recognise the need for more provisions for the disabled people in the Borough. This declaration would help to promote better awareness of disabled persons in our community and realise their potentials and contributions among the general public.

"I put this motion to the council because I have been contacted by many groups and individuals campaigning for better treatment of the disabled people in the North.

"Unfortunately, the DUP in Ballymoney can't see past their bigoted mindset to back a very important motion, just because it was put forward by a Nationalist party.

"It's about time that the DUP caught a grip of themselves and realise that there politics and views are being left out in the cold, while the rest of the elected representatives are working to create a better society for all. The day they realise this, couldn't come quick enough for the people of the North." ENDS

Notes to editors:

Motion for November meeting of Ballymoney Council:

"This council adopts the Barcelona Declaration and commits itself to taking positive and radical measures to improve the quality of life for citizens with disabilities across the borough.

"This council will promote better awareness of disabled persons, their rights, their needs, their potentials and their contributions among the general public. We will liaise with the Equality commission and disability groups, such as Disability Action, to ensure that the Council meets its commitments under the declaration.

"This council will also use its position to lobby other parts of the government and statutory agencies to adopt the declaration." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Gereldine Dougan has organised a Stormont conference on Thursday, 17th November, in the Long Gallery to discus the denial of access to treatment for women diagnosed with Breast Cancer with the cancer drug Herceptin.

Speakers will include Patricia McPeake and Roisín McCann who have both been diagnosed with the HER-2 form of breast cancer, Patricia McPeake's solicitor Rosemary Connolly and Alan George Ulster Cancer Foundation

Speaking ahead of the conference Ms Dougan said:

"One in four women with the HER-2 form of breast cancer will die unless Herceptin is made available. If it is taken early enough it can halve the risk of breast cancer returning. Many women are not only fighting cancer, they are fighting NHS bureaucrats who are denying them Herceptin.

"The denial of the right to early treatment with Herceptin for women diagnosed with early breast cancer will mean that their chances of beating it are severely reduced.

"This is a human rights issue. It is about defending the right of women to potentially life saving treatment.

"The courage of women like Patricia and Roisín fighting cancer and taking on the department of health should be recognised and supported." ENDS

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Sinn Féin has expressed serious concerns to the Department of Health over plans to privatise or 'outsource' the Regional Interpreting Services programme. Sinn Féin health spokesperson John O'Dowd MLA said he believes this move will adversely affect attempts to mainstream racial equality in the north of Ireland.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Turning such a service, which is based on clear social need, into a 'for-profit' business could result in outcomes which are contrary to TSN requirements. Furthermore there is a concern that the service will become short-term and profit driven as opposed to being on a proper and strategic long-term developmental basis.

"I was also extremely concerned to learn that the Department intends to undertake a short consultation period of only 3 weeks, contrary to the Department's own Equality Scheme and to Equality Commission guidelines. Sinn Féin contacted the Equality Commission to raise our concerns and seek their advice in this matter. The Equality Commission's view was that such a short consultation period was in breach of the Department's Equality Scheme and has advised Mr Seamus Camplisson of the Department of Health's Evaluation and Equality Unit accordingly.

"I have contacted the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Dr Andrew McCormack, and asked him to provide me with evidence to show that privatising the service will offer value for money. I have asked for an assurance that the Department will adhere to its Section 75 duties in this matter and carry out a full consultation and I have also asked to be provided with copies of all the documentation relating to the Equality Screening process for these changes to the Interpretation Services.

"The Department's Regional Interpreting Service was established some years ago as a project within the Department that trained and supplied community interpreters for all aspects of the its' work. It meant, for example, that children were no longer interpreting for adults in GP surgeries, hospitals etc, and that those who didn't speak English could have free access to an interpreter and so fully understand their illness and it's implications. The Department's proposals now means that they are now planning to reverse the mainstreaming of this work and privatise it. Although the Department will obviously deny it is privatisation, this is without doubt a step backwards. It means that a private company could successfully tender for the delivery of interpreting services, which essentially could mean that the focus on health and well-being will be replaced by a profit-making motive." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agricultural and Rural Development spokesperson Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has met the new head of Rural Policy in DARD, Pauline Keegan.

Speaking after the meeting Ms Gildernew said:

"We requested the meeting to discuss the review of policy, the ongoing delivery of the Building Sustainable Prosperity programme, and to get an update on the whole Rural Development programme.

"Later this year DARD will publish the rural policy, and in the early part of next year publish proposals on how delivery should be rolled out. We expressed the need for the new programme to begin on time in 2007, so as no gap would open up.

"We hope that the needs of rural communities will be addressed by other government departments engaging with DARD to come up with rural policies and a budget to address rural need." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has challenged Direct Rule Education Minister Angela Smith to justify the loss of over 500 non-teaching staff in the last two years at a cost of over £6m.

The result has been the loss of 72 Staff from 17 schools from the Shankill to the Falls. Michael Ferguson met with Education Minister Angela Smith to discuss the Post Primary Transfer procedures, the impact of the budgets on provision and school transport in the SELB area.

Commenting upon the figures released and the meetings Michael Ferguson said,

"The budget restrictions on spend across the five boards is estimated to be to as much as £100m by 2008 (£31.6m 2004/05, £33.2m 2005/06 with similar amounts in 2006/07). Across the 5 Education Boards this has resulted in the loss of over 500 non teaching staff and in areas across like West Belfast the loss of 72 staff from 17 schools with redundancy costs in excess of £6m and an incalculable loss to the educational attainment of our children.

"I fail to see how the British Government and its ministers seriously propose to boost confidence in any new post primary transfer procedures when our educational resource has never been so diminished, the moral of our teachers so low and their stress so high.

"The proposed investment by Peter Hain in Education for 2007/08 pails into insignificance given the current diminishing resource which increases with every redundancy never mind what we really need to support the change we require. We need a real budget to support education and learning and we need a real local Administration to begin that process of investment and change." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment, Arthur Morgan TD, has strongly criticised the owners and management of Doyle Concrete from Rathangan in County Kildare for their attempts to force their current workforce out so that they can employ cheaper labour. Deputy Morgan said the actions of Doyle Concrete was further evidence of efforts by employers to engage in a race to the bottom in terms of employment terms and conditions in Ireland. There are currently up to sixty workers on strike at the company.

Deputy Morgan said:

"Attempts by the management and owners of Doyle Concrete in Rathangan to bully their workers into accepting the intolerable terms of conditions of employment is completely outrageous and must be rejected. The arrogance of this company is breathtaking. Obviously taking their lead from Irish Ferries they have basically held a gun to the head of the workers to accept shameful redundancy terms so that the company can then maximise its profits by employing cheaper labour.

"This is further evidence, if it is needed, to show that there is a growing body of employers out there who believe that it is legitimate to attack workers rights, pay and conditions in order to increase profits. The Government must step in and ensure that this appalling behavior does not become normal practice for Irish employers." ENDS

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North Kerry Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris was ejected from the Dáil chamber this evening after he tried to raise the problems that are being faced by patients and staff at Kerry General Hospital with the Taoiseach.   Deputy Ferris had previously unsuccessfully tried to raise the issue with former Health Minister Micheál Martin and current Health Minister Mary Harney.   The Ceann Comhairle ruled that Ferris was out of order and forced him to leave the chamber following his repeated insistence that the Taoiseach address the issue.

Speaking afterwards Deputy Ferris said, “The Tánaiste and Minister for Health Mary Harney knows that the worst performance of all departments at Kerry General Hospital in the recent Hygiene Report was the Accident and Emergency Department.  However, if the Minister was to see for herself the conditions and facilities of that Department she would see the reasons for this performance.  I am calling on the Tánaiste to visit Kerry General Hospital.  I visited and met with staff and patients at the A&E Department on Monday and, not for the first time, I was appalled to see the conditions staff and patients have to put up with.

"There were at least 50 patients waiting to be seen. However there was no consultant available as he was at a meeting. There was only one doctor there and a relief doctor was due at 4pm, and even that was uncertain. There were only four nurses to cope with all these patients who had been waiting several hours. Many had been there for up to five hours.

"But what I saw next was the most appalling of all. I met a lady of 74 years of age lying on a trolley in the corridor. She told me she had been there since 11:30pm on Sunday night. This was at 3pm on Monday afternoon.

"What an absolute disgrace - four nurses to 50 patients, one doctor to 50 patients, no consultant to 50 patients, two porters and one domestic staff to 50 patients. Does the Tánaiste know that there is only one domestic staff on duty for five hours a day, six days a week, to do a 24-hour a day seven day week job? Does she know that there is no domestic staff on duty on a Sunday? Does she know that nurses have to do the cleaning themselves? Does she know that contract cleaners are limited to five hours a day.  This situation has been ignored for far too long despite my efforts to raise it with the Government. I am demanding to know what the Minister and what the Government is going to do about this. It must not be ignored any longer." ENDS

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Deputy Crowe said, "The One in Four group are in possession of evidence which indicates that certain schools allowed unhindered access to abusing clerics.  The result of this was to allow children to be taken from the school for the purposes of abuse.  This is an appalling situation.

"It beggars belief that children could be plucked from an environment where they were entitled to feel safe, where the state had a duty of care to them and suffer such abuse.  It is noteworthy that the evidence points to a concentration of this activity in deprived inner city areas.  It is surely no coincidence that the abusers chose these areas, as sadly these people had no voice.  No one in authority seemed to care." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe, today sought to have the business of the Dáil adjourned so that the case of the 13 eastern European periwinkle-pickers, stranded on an island off Skerries last night by an unscrupulous employer could be discussed.  Deputy Crowe called for "greater measures" to be taken to prevent the further exploitation of mistreatment of migrant workers.

During Order of Business Deputy Crowe said, "The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment must take greater measures to prevent to exploitation and mistreatment of migrant workers in the light of the fact that 13 eastern European periwinkle-pickers were abandoned on an island off Skerries in north Co Dublin last Saturday night and had to be rescued by the RNLI lifeboat." ENDS

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Speaking at the launch of this years publication from the Magill Summer School, 'Managing Ireland's Future 2005 - 2030' at the Merrion Hotel, Dublin this evening, Martin McGuinness said,

"The Magill Summer is unique in its ability to draw together in a small rural village in the hills of Donegal the most important and influential political, social and economic thinkers in Ireland. Just as importantly it is open to the public giving the discussions an immediate and at times compelling relevance.

"This book, recording the contributions at this year's summer school, covers a wide range of issues and identifies some of the very real difficulties that we, as a people, must face in the period ahead. It is essential that we ensure that the growing wealth of the nation is shared among all of the people, that it is used to tackle disadvantage and to provide support for the less able in our society.

"Over the last 25 years we have witnessed unimaginable change here in Ireland and globally. The next 25 years will probably see that process of change accelerate. I have no doubt that the Ireland of 2030 will be a much better place for all of its people, just as the Ireland of today is a much better place than the Ireland of 1981. In that year the uneven struggle between naked political prisoners and the British state was convulsing the body politic of Ireland, north and south. Who could have imagined the enormous progress that we have seen towards a peaceful Ireland and I am confidant that that progress will continue in the time ahead. I welcome the presence of the representatives of unionism in Glenties. Their presence is a clear acknowledgment that the isolation of north from south that partition caused is nonsense and that the future lies in engagement, dialogue and agreement.

"The DUP in particular have moved a long way from the politics of no surrender and not an inch. They regularly meet with the Taoiseach, and I welcome that. They accept the architecture of the Good Friday Agreement and I welcome that also. But the process of bringing the peace process to a successful conclusion will be accelerated enormously if they act on the logic of this position and move quickly to re-establish the political institutions.

"As the violent events of this summer have shown, the unionist community needs confident and positive leadership. They need politicians who can deliver for them. There is no way to do this other than through the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. That is the challenge that the DUP faces, I hope that their response is positive and forward-looking.

"The future holds challenges and demands for all of us. We do have many problems to face in the time ahead. Most of them are identified and addressed in this book but I firmly believe that we can face into the resolution of these issues in a spirit of confidence and optimism. I know that the Magill Summer School will continue to make an important contribute to this process of progressive change." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Dublin Spokesperson on the Environment & Dublin South East Representative, Councillor Daithí Doolan, has today welcomed, "the launch of the Play Nice Campaign in Dublin's Temple Bar."

Speaking at the launch in The Morgan Hotel, Cllr. Doolan said:

"This is a serious attempt by Traders in the Area Supporting the Cultural Quarter, (TASCQ), to tackle the ongoing drunken loutish image Temple Bar has acquired in recent years. The 3,000 local residents and dozens of local businesses have had enough of the larger, the trouble and the urine and have together drawn a line in the sand. This behaviour is no longer welcome in Dublin's cultural quarter. The campaign is focused on tackling 6 serious issues including noise levels, excessive drinking, public urination and littering. It is supported by City Council, Dublin Bus and the Gardaí and will involve the installation of 8 CCTV cameras, a publicans charter and on the spot litter fines.

I will continue to work with the residents, the businesses and TASCQ to ensure this initiative sets the standards for others to follow. The government must now row in behind the project and support it through legislation and financial support for Temple Bar's Irish music and cultural festival in February next year."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan, called on the government, "to complement today's initiative and introduce legislation to regulate the private security industry particularly for those involved in the publican industry."

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Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy today said that people in the area were shocked at the brutal killing of a man outside Keady last night.

Mr Murphy said:

" Whatever was the motivation behind this killing it was unjustifiable, wrong and should not have happened.

" There is some suspicions locally that one of the dissident micro organisations may well have been involved in this killing.

" Initial reports are suggesting that this was an Armagh man who was abducted from his home in the city yesterday and brutally shot outside Keady.

" There can be no possible justification for this killing. I would extend my sympathies to the mans family and friends at this very difficult time." ENDS

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Speaking today at the EU British Presidency conference on regional and rural development in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún stressed the need to ensure that the drive for competitiveness does not endanger social inclusion.

Ms de Brún said:

"We must ensure that the equality agenda underpins plans for the future use of EU regional and rural development monies. This funding must ensure better opportunities for all.

"We cannot accept an approach that suggests that a rising tide will lift all boats. That same rising tide can often leave the vulnerable swamped, inundated and further marginalised.

"Actions to improve social inclusion, to tackle poverty, to protect the environment, and to ensure balanced regional development must be at the heart of the next cycle of EU regional and rural development funds." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Arthur Morgan T.D. has expressed concerns regarding suggestions that the Government will today agree to abolish the groceries order. Deputy Morgan questioned whether the concerns raised by the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Combat Poverty Agency and Crosscare regarding the impact on low income families of repealing the order had been given proper consideration.

Deputy Morgan said, "Sinn Fein supported the retention of the groceries order. The order was brought in to address the fact that large supermarket chains would in its absence use 'loss leaders' which are products sold at less than the cost of production to lure customers into the store and create a distorted impression that the store is cheaper than rivals. Small stores with tight profit margins find themselves unable to compete. Ultimately communities and consumers suffer as small retailers are forced out of business and people cease to have access to small retailers based in their community.

"In their joint submission to the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Combat Poverty Agency and Crosscare raised concerns that the repeal of the groceries order 'may well cause a negative impact by worsening the inequalities that already exist in the groceries market owing to issues of access and availability of low-cost nutritional foodstuffs in low-density and low-income areas.' I am calling on the Minister to make clear how precisely he intends to address these very particular concerns." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food, Martin Ferris TD, has stated that he fully supports the demands of farmers who are protesting in Dublin today against EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson's proposals to offer cuts in farm supports as part of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation.

Deputy Ferris said: "When the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy was agreed two years ago the clear understanding was that no changes would be made to the projected budget until at least 2013. Farmers in this country only agreed to the changes and to the decoupled Single Farm Payment on the basis that this degree of income security was built into the deal.

"Commissioner Mandelson, however, in proposing to make agriculture the sacrificial lamb in any WTO deal, is threatening to break that agreement and to undermine the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers in the EU. The Irish Government must let him know in no uncertain terms that this is not acceptable and that the terms of the CAP reform must be adhered to." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today said that PEACE III funding can be secured for the period between 2007 and 2013, but that 'the British Government must commit itself to make the formal request to the EU.'

Ms de Brún made her comments after researchers at the University of Ulster said that hundreds of jobs could be lost if a PEACE III programme was not secured.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"Securing a PEACE III programme for the period between 2007 and 2013 is a Sinn Féin priority. We have been working tirelessly towards ensuring that this happens. In recent months I have met with both the British and Irish Governments, as well as the European Commissioner for Regional Development, Danuta Hubner to press the case.

„There is now an onus upon the British government to make a formal request to the European Commission for the allocation of an extended period of PEACE funding. As we emerge from a period of sustained conflict, the British Government has a particular responsibility and contribution to make towards peace and reconciliation in Ireland. The promotion and empowerment of the community sector must be a priority for the British Government if that sector is to be able to carry on its vital work of peace building and reconciliation.

"Without wishing to be alarmist, it is increasingly clear that if PEACE III funding is not secured then many community organisations and projects involved in peace building and reconciliation will find themselves in a precarious financial position. I have witnessed at first hand the invaluable work undertaken throughout the Six Counties and the border region.

"It is my aim to see that the good work of the community sector is not lost, but is built upon in the time ahead.‰ ENDS

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