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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has said that he is confident on progress on a review of the Housing Executive's allocation system that will lead to a fairer allocation of points, particularly for young homeless people and end the misery of prolonged stay in temporary accommodation.

Cllr McCann said:

"Following a number of meetings with Direct Rule Housing Minister David Hanson and the Housing Executive I am confident that there will be early progress on a far reaching review of the Common Selection Scheme used by the Housing Executive to allocate housing.

"David Hanson has now confirmed that the Housing Executive will take forward a review that will lead to a fairer allocation of points, particularly for young homeless people and end the misery of prolonged stay in temporary accommodation.

"The decision that greater recognition should be attributed, within the allocation points system, to the length of time that homeless people placed in temporary accommodation should have to wait for permanent housing is long overdue.

"Sinn Féin have argued for radical reform of the housing allocation system and I am confident that research being undertaken by Ulster University will further add weight to the campaign for comprehensive changes to the Common Selection Scheme." ENDS

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As work on the long awaited Regional Task Force Report on suicide prevention nears completion, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has said that there can be no more equivocation on suicide prevention.

Mr Adams said:

"In view of the anticipated release of the Task Force report on suicide prevention, there is a heavy onus on everyone to ensure that real and effective measures are taken to prevent and halt the alarming rise in suicide rates, not only in Belfast, but also across the whole island. My communication with both governments on this issue is ongoing. I have asked Shaun Woodward, the direct rule Minister for Health for a copy of the interim report prepared by the Task Force. I welcome his decision to make suicide prevention a priority for the Department of Health.

"Sinn Féin believes that any meaningful strategy on suicide prevention must be set in the context of an all Ireland approach, which will best utilise the resources available, as for example the targeting of mental health resources across the various health boards north and south in one coordinated approach. This needs to be done throughout the 32 counties. I have asked Shaun Woodward and Mary Harney, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health, to make suicide prevention an area of co-operation under the North-South Ministerial Council to give the issue the strategic co-ordination it requires.

"Moreover, local communities must be resourced and supported. They are in the front line on this issue. West and North Belfast have been disproportionately affected by the high rate of suicide. It is also abundantly clear that a huge shortfall in mainstream British government funding has stymied much-needed mental health services in these areas.

"Most importantly all of this needs to be linked in with the families who are dealing with the consequences of their loved ones who have taken their own lives, or have attempted to do so. These families need our continued support. This is the very least that any caring society can provide.

"We must all strive to have in place the most effective framework for ensuring that the well being of our citizens and particularly our young people are catered for. Our young people are our future; we need to cherish them and invest in that future.

"This ethos must be reflected in the forthcoming Task force report, along with a clearly defined strategic and practical framework to deal with the issue. All of this should be speedily implemented. The time for equivocation on this issue has long since past." ENDS

Notes for Editor

1. Following a meeting earlier this year with the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP for West Belfast and a delegation of families bereaved and community activist campaigning on suicide awareness, the Minister for Health Shaun Woodward announced the creation of a regional Task Force to make recommendations regarding the development of a regional suicide prevention strategy.

2. Globally, the World Health Organisation identifies suicide as one of the top three causes of death in young people. In Ireland, suicide is the second leading cause of violent death in young people. Young men between the ages of 15-24 are most at risk.

3. Suicide rates in Ireland, north and south, have increased by more than 25% over the last decade The rate of suicide in north and west Belfast (19 per 100,000) is almost twice the rate for the north of Ireland (10 per 100,000)

4. Report of the Registrar General for the north of Ireland between January 2005 to June 2005 indicates that there were 96 deaths from suicide or self-harm. Almost half of these were people under the age of 35, with nearly 4 times as many men as women taking their own live during that period.

5. In a request for information from Gerry Adams MP earlier this year, figures from the North Ireland Statistics and Research Agency showed that the number of recorded suicides exceeded the number of deaths as a result of the conflict over the last 35 years.

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Antrim Philip McGuigan this morning said he was 'outraged and angry' after posters appeared overnight in Ahoghill warning local people not to wear GAA jerseys in the town.

Mr McGuigan said:

" I have this morning been contacted by nationalist residents in Ahoghill who have woken this morning to find posters erected warning people not to wear GAA jerseys in the town.

" It seems that this is the latest stage in the unionist campaign to force all Catholics and nationalists from the town. Over the summer this campaign used pipe bombs, paint bombs and violence to force innocent people from their homes. It seems that this has now moved on to a poster campaign aimed at nationalists and in particular nationalist children and young people living in and visiting Ahoghill.

" Ahoghill is home to a successful GAA club and this campaign is clearly aimed at that club, its members and the wider nationalist community in the area. People in Ahoghill will wait now to hear the response of the local MP Ian Paisley who was of course very slow in coming forward to deal with the violent campaign over the summer months." ENDS

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Sinn Féin International Affairs and Defence spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said, “Irish taxes are subsidising the overflights of the US military on their way to and from Iraq to the tune of over 10 million euro over the last 5 years.”  Speaking at a press conference in support of the Shannon 5 today he expressed, on behalf of Sinn Féin, solidarity with the 5 men in demanding that the criminal charges against them be dropped.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “On behalf of Sinn Féin I would like to express our solidarity with the Shannon 5 in demanding that the criminal charges against them be dropped.  I would also like to pay tribute to their bravery and moral conscience.

“I would remind the Irish people that the accused are tax-payers and that Irish taxes are subsidising the overflights of the US military on their way to and from Iraq to the tune of over 10 million euro over the last 5 years and 3.6million last year alone.  Jimmy Massey, a US marine and veteran of the Iraq war, while speaking in Ireland last week acknowledged that the US military are committing war crimes and breaching international law in Iraq and Irish taxes are paying for the trial on criminal charges of 5 individuals who simply and bravely sought to prevent this.

“Last week I put a priority question to the Minister for Defence relating to the presence in Shannon departures lounge of hundreds of US soldiers dressed in full military uniform, photographs of these soldiers can been seen in today’s issue of An Phoblacht. But the Minister refused to answer my question transferring it instead to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.  Willie O Dea is refusing to address the government’s complicity in the illegal war on Iraq and the resulting massive loss of life.  And yet it is this very complicity which poses a greater threat to Irish security and creates the potential for a serious breach of Irish defence.  Again and again we have asked the Ministers’ for Foreign Affairs, Transport and Justice to answer for this state’s complicity in these crimes against humanity – all have run from the issue.

“We have passed the milestone of 2000 US military deaths in Iraq.  And while this figure palls into insignificance when compared to the countless deaths that have been suffered by the people of Iraq it nonetheless represents a tragic loss of young lives for a war that was based on a lie.

“It should be remembered that our Government can not absolve itself of their role in this continuing conflict.  They have abused and rendered meaningless this states claims to military neutrality.  The have made a mockery of the Irish people’s proud tradition and desire to play an impartial and constructive role in resolving conflicts around the world.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dail today about the seizure of cocaine worth around €200,000 in Loughlinstown, South County Dublin, Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh demanded an emergency debate on "the government's ongoing failure to recognise and address this states growing cocaine crisis despite increasing seizures, such as that in Loughlinstown, or to produce and resource a coherent plan to deal with the rising level of cocaine dealing and abuse in this state even though the consequences for communities are devastating".

Afterwards he said "myself and my colleague Deputy Sean Crowe have raised this issue with the Minister's responsible repeatedly over the last number of years and as recently as last month.  It is unacceptable that this government continues to abandon communities to the devastating consequences of this crisis which includes growing incidents and patterns of anti-social behaviour".

"At first the Ministers denied the extent of the problem and then they refuse to resource a response to it.  Contrast this with the government response to foot and mouth where every apparatus of the state was employed to control the problem.  Drugs and drug related crime cost human lives yet judging by governmental inactivity on the cocaine crisis certain lives are less important than others." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe TD today called for the introduction of a specific offence around the dealing or storing of drugs in designated areas such as schools or youth clubs, where young people are being targeted and that schools should be drug free zones.

Speaking after a sizeable amount of cocaine was seized in a south-side schoolyard the Tallaght based TD said, “The seizure of €200,000 worth of cocaine in a Dún Laoghaire schoolyard shows that there are no depths to which dealers will descend in their pursuit of hard cash. This drugs seizure is timely in that it the quantity and availability of cocaine throughout the country and particularly in Dublin communities. This cases also highlights the need for a new offence to be introduced to deal specifically with the targeting, by drug dealers, of school children.  Schools and other places where children gather should be drug free zones. 

“In many other jurisdictions where drug dealers are found in the vicinity schools they face stiffer sentences.  Drugs and particularly cocaine are now rampant in many communities.  Society needs to respond to this new theat.

“Many of these communities are still trying to overcome the ravages of the heroin epidemic of the eighties now face a new menace; cocaine and crack cocaine.  This is new territory. In the light of this seizure I am calling on the Justice Minister Michael McDowell to introduce new measures to deal with this growing problem and insure that schools are drug free zones.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Human Rights spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the Government's ongoing failure to extend "essential" Garda Síochana vetting services to cover volunteers who work with children is "unacceptable".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "In September 2004 Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Children Brian Lenihan announced that the Garda Siochana's vetting services would be extended to cover volunteers who work with children. Over a year later there is yet to be any sign of delivery on this promise. Indeed just yesterday, in the wake of the Ferns report, Minister for Education Mary Hanafin indicated that volunteers will not be vetted. The government's ongoing failure to deliver this essential effort towards the prevention of child abuse is simply unacceptable.

"The Garda Siochana are the only agency in the state with statutory responsibility for the investigation of child abuse. As such it is imperative that each and every Garda receives comprehensive child protection training to a level adequate to equip them for dealing with child protection issues.

"The demands made by Sinn Fein and others today must be met if the new and next generation of children are to be protected from abuse." ENDS

Full speech follows:

FERNS REPORT STATEMENT

Aengus O Snodaigh -- 09 November 2005

I would like to join with my colleagues in this House in paying tribute to the courage and strength of the many victims of child abuse on this island. I would also reiterate the imperative that lessons from the Ferns report are taken on board.

Both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Child Care Act 1991 enshrine the principle that the welfare of the child must be the paramount consideration in all decisions and interventions. If the government is to deliver on this moral duty and legal obligation a number of issues must be addressed. My colleague Deputy O Caolain identified a number of measures and Deputy Crowe has made the case for the resourcing of Children First. I would add to his contribution that, funding should also be made available directly to the youth work sector to enable it to deliver appropriate child protection training as the needs specific to that sector are identified. This might be rolled out under the aegis of the Child Protection Unit in the National Youth Council of Ireland.

The undertaking of the state's special responsibility to protect children must be underpinned by two primary components: Prevention and Response. As Sinn Fein spokesperson for Justice, Equality and Human Rights I will elaborate on the 2 further recommendations, relating to prevention and response respectively, made by Deputy O Caolain this morning, namely: Garda vetting and Garda training.

In this state for every employee working with children there are at least 20 volunteers. In September 2004 Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Children Brian Lenihan announced that the Garda Siochana's vetting services would be extended to cover volunteers who work with children. Over a year later there is yet to be any sign of delivery on this promise. Indeed just yesterday, in the wake of the Ferns report, Minister for Education Mary Hanafin indicated that volunteers will not be vetted and the reasoning she offered was to protect volunteerism. This notion is at stark odds with the reality that the main source of demand for vetting of volunteers is the voluntary sector itself. The government's ongoing failure to deliver this essential effort towards the prevention of child abuse is simply unacceptable.

Secondly, the Garda Siochana are the only agency in the state with statutory responsibility for the investigation of child abuse. As such it is imperative that each and every Garda receives comprehensive child protection training to a level adequate to equip them for dealing with child protection issues. Currently only a select few Gardai have received such training. This training should be compulsory for all new and existing Gardai, it should be developed, resourced and rolled out as a matter of urgency.

To conclude, the definition of physical abuse outlined by Children First includes injuries resulting from neglectful failure to protect a child. I put it to this government that the demands made by Sinn Fein and others today must be met if the new and next generation of children are to be protected from abuse.

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has called on the Government to establish a Road Safety Authority.  Speaking during the private members debate on Road Safety this evening Deputy Crowe said, “In order to ensure international best practice on our roads in all areas we need a single agency with whom the buck stops.”

Deputy Crowe said, “Of all the proposals in this motion I regard the immediate establishment of a Road Safety Authority as the most pressing.  It would exercise ultimate authority, and responsibility, for measures and policies in relation to road safety.  The present system seems to be very confused.  You have the Department of Transport, N.R.A and local councils and when something goes wrong it is not clear who is responsible or indeed who if anybody can do anything about it.

“In order to ensure international best practice on our roads in all areas we need a single agency with whom the buck stops.  As long as there is a multi agency approach with no clear definition of responsibility, issues will continue to be kicked from pillar to post, delays will occur, mistakes will remain unrectified and of course avoidable tragedies will continue to occur.” ENDS

 Full text of speech follows:

Of all the proposals in this motion I regard the immediate establishment of a Road Safety Authority as the most pressing.  It would exercise ultimate authority, and responsibility, for measures and policies in relation to road safety.  The present system seems to be very confused.  You have the Department of Transport, N.R.A and local councils and when something goes wrong it is not clear who is responsible or indeed who if anybody can do anything about it.

A case that has come to my attention recently makes the case for this kind of Road Safety Authority in the starkest way possible.  About this time last year a young woman was killed in a road traffic accident on the N59 at Murrivagh Co Mayo.  A look at what happened before, and after this case, illustrates the problems which arise unless responsibility for implementation and enforcement are clearly defined and under the remit of one body.

The stretch of road where the accident happened had only a base course on its surface.  It was lacking the essential surface dressing which provides grip and prevents skidding.  Despite NRA guidelines, which mandate that no white line can be laid until the surface dressing is applied, and where the speed limit is in excess of 50 KMPH, this is in fact what happened.  The result was a stretch of road with a 100KMPH speed limit that was an accident waiting to happen.  In fact prior to the fatal crash there was a crash, in this instance non-fatal but mirroring the circumstances of the later crash.  No action was taken.  The road continued in use at 100KMPH with no signs to warn motorists.  The result was a tragedy that could have been avoided.

Despite the complete absence of signs or warnings Mayo County Council were to subsequently claim this was an unfinished stretch of road.  This claim must be open to question given the presence of the white lines and the NRA’s regulations on this matter.  The NRA however seem to be using this claim as a reason for not getting involved.  When the Health and Safety Authority were consulted they refused to become involved on the basis that no builders vans or other machinery were present and the road was therefore not a workplace. Any enquires to the Department of Transport yield the standard response “the Minister has no responsibility for this matter as it falls under the remit of the local authority.

So here we have the strange case of a road that wasn’t a road.  The completed road that wasn’t completed.  The work in progress that wasn’t a workplace.  It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.  Without wishing to pre judge the report into the Meath School Bus tragedy, which has been withheld, very similar issues to the ones I have raised here were mentioned in the inquiry.

In order to ensure international best practice on our roads in all areas we need a single agency with whom the buck stops.  As long as there is a multi agency approach with no clear definition of responsibility issues will continue to be kicked from pillar to post, delays will occur, mistakes will remain unrectified and of course avoidable tragedies will continue to occur.

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Speaking this evening after learning that An Phoblacht will tomorrow publish photographs of US personnel in full military uniforms in the main lounge of Shannon Airport, Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the Government has “rendered meaningless this states claims to military neutrality.”

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “It is not long since we passed the milestone of 2000 US military deaths in Iraq.  And while this figure palls into insignificance when compared to the countless deaths that have been suffered by the people of Iraq it nonetheless represents a tragic loss of young lives for a war that was based on a lie.

“It should be remembered that our Government can not absolve itself of their role in this continuing conflict.  They have abused and rendered meaningless this states claims to military neutrality.  The have made a mockery of the Irish people’s proud tradition and desire to play an impartial and constructive role in resolving conflicts around the world.

“Twice in the last two weeks we witnessed, as evidenced by photos given to me and more photos published in today’s An Phoblacht, our continuing complicity in the conflict in Iraq as hundreds of US military personnel in full uniforms mixed with civilians in the main lounge of Shannon Airport.   Never mind the lie that this gives to our pretence of neutrality but it is also in direct contravention of the Defence Act of 1954, which specifically prohibits foreign soldiers from appearing on Irish soil in their uniforms.  It is an absolute disgrace.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy is in Westminster today briefing MPs from various parties as the Irish and British governments bring forward measures to resolve the issue of On The Runs

Speaking from Westminster Mr Murphy said:

"The British and Irish governments publicly recognised some years ago that an anomaly had arisen with the Good Friday Agreement prisoner release scheme regarding people displaced by the conflict who wished to return home. After
the Weston Park talks in 2001 the British and Irish governments agreed to bring forward the necessary arrangements in each jurisdiction to the resolve this issue.

"The legislation published today by the British government and the announcement by the Irish government should
resolve the cases of a very small number of people who wish to return home.

"In any conflict resolution process there are from time to time issues like this which quite clearly need to be tackled and addressed in a sensible fashion if we are to build confidence in the future.

"I took the opportunity while here in Westminster to brief a wide section of MPs from various parties on the importance for the wider conflict resolution process in resolving as speedily as possible and with minimal further confusion this issue in the time ahead." ENDS



 

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has pledged to raise concerns over the 'Sea fisheries and maritime jurisdiction bill' at national and EU level and to raise them personally with the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg. The commitment was given following a meeting in the European Parliament with a delegation from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and a range of Irish and other MEPs

Speaking in Brussels Ms de Brún said:

"I have serious concerns about what I have heard regarding this forthcoming legislation.

"Those in the fishing industry do not argue against sanctions for breaches of the rules. However they do expect those sanctions to be proportional and they expect fair play. Those engaged in fishing north and south ask only that they be treated fairly, particularly in comparison with those engaged in the industry from elsewhere in Europe.

"I will work closely with our SF TDs in the time ahead on the concerns raised today. I intend also to raise them with Commissioner Joe Borg when he visits my constituency on Friday.

"I thank those who organised this trip for ensuring these matters are fully aired" ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald will tomorrow raise the Irish Ferries dispute with the company's Chief Executive Eamonn Rothwell. She will be accompanied by Arthur Morgan TD and Wexford Councillor John Dwyer.

Ms McDonald will be spelling out in the clearest possible terms that the displacement of over five hundred workers is unacceptable, as is the practice of replacing them with underpaid and overworked third country nationals. ENDS

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Dún Laoghaire Sinn Féin representative Michael Nolan has welcomed the news today that the Gardaí have seized a quantity of cocaine with a street value of €200,000 from a Dun Laoghaire schoolyard.  Mr. Nolan condemned the use of a schoolyard for such purposes. 

Speaking today he said, “Drug dealers are well known for their disregard for the safety of the communities in which the ply their evil trade, but the use of a children’s schoolyard represents a new low for these parasites. 

“The removal of these drugs from the streets of Dún Laoghaire is a welcome development given the chronic rise in the use of cocaine across Ireland.  I’d like to congratulate the Gardaí on a job well done.  This sort of abuse of children’s facilities must not be tolerated.” ENDS

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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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