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Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard has written to fellow councillors inviting them to make a joint statement appealing for a reduction in sectarian tensions in the Co. Derry town of Garvagh.

The Cllr. Leonard has approached members from the Ulster Unionist, SDLP and DUP.

Cllr. Leonard said:

"I have written to the other councillors proposing the basis of a joint statement and that we meet next Tuesday evening when we would be together at a Council meeting.

"I have stressed that my thoughts on this approach preceded Michael McIlveen's tragic death but obviously it gives a very poignant and direct concentration. I feel that we can transcend the usual differences and debates on incidents and make a very focused statement on the cancer of sectarianism.

"We must be able to take the lead and stress that people should be viewed as human beings not mere sectarian labels and that difference can be handled without violence to people or property.

"It is essential that we cut across the cul-de-sac debates to make a joint and firm statement that Garvagh does not want sectarianism, that we want tensions to be reduced and that we do all we can to avoid further incidents. None of us compromise our political positions by joining forces against sectarianism.

"There are real worries that things could get worse. Surely we as public representatives can say that things can get better by taking sectarianism out of the picture. "ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin assembly member Philip McGuigan has commended the North Antrim 1981 remembrance committee for taking the decision to call off a planned vigil for Francis Hughes in the town of Portglenone on Friday night.

This decision was taken in light of the recent sectarian murder of Michael McIlveen in Ballymena and the obvious intention of Unionists to use the vigil to further heighten tensions in the Borough.

Mr McGuigan said:

"It became obvious in the public domain that some within Unionism wanted to create an issue over the planned commemoration of Francis Hughes. As Irish Republicans this commemoration was intended to a respectful and dignified vigil in honour of a brave man and comrade who died on hunger strike.

"In light of the threat from Unionism and the level of tension in the borough, I think this decision is the right one and shows particular leadership from Republicans in the area. I'm disappointed but not surprised that Unionists and Loyalists were intent on using this vigil to further create community division in Portglenone.

"It worries me further that the same party in Ballymena that calls on people to be calm at this time, is the same party that has publicly backed such protests against the Nationalist and Republican community.

"I would also urge other groupings like the Orange Order to reflect upon this responsible initiative to reduce tensions and act accordingly." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has called upon Greencore to honour the severance package agreed with workers at the former Irish Sugar plant at Mallow. 250 workers are being laid off tomorrow afternoon and are only being offered statutory redundancy despite a Labour Court judgement ordering that the agreed severance package be fully honoured. Deputy Ferris also called upon the Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan to meet with unions representing workers at the plant, as they have been requesting for the past six weeks.

Deputy Ferris said: “It is an absolute disgrace that the closure of Mallow is being made worse for workers there by the refusal of Greencore to honour the severance package. Greencore stands to make a considerable profit from both the sale of the plant and the compensation for the selling out of the Irish sugar sector, and yet are refusing to adequately compensate those workers whose jobs were sacrificed. It is vital that the Government ensure that Greencore does honour the severance package, and that Minister Coughlan meets the workers representatives given the role that her Department has to play, and the fact that she is responsible for the state’s share in Greencore.” ENDS

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Tomorrow, Friday 12th May, marks the 25th Anniversary of the death on Hunger Strike of legendary IRA Volunteer Francis Hughes. Republicans across Ireland will gather to mark the event. The main commemorations are as follows

South Derry

Friday 12th May - Black Flag Vigil on the Glenshane Pass 6.30pm

Saturday 13th May - Republican Centre in Guladuff at 8pm discussion on the legacy of the Hunger Strike involving Laurence McKeown, Danny Morrison and families of the Hunger Strikers

Sunday 14th May - Annual Francis Hughes Commemoration will take place at 2.30pm in Bellaghy graveyard. Francie Molloy will be the main speaker.

Dublin

Friday 12th May - White Line Picket in memory of Francis Hughes and James Connolly at the GPO at 1.30pm

5.30 - 6.30pm - Vigils - Drimnagh Road; Kylemore Road Roundabout; Dolphins Barn Bridge

Vigil at junction of Marine Road and Georges Street in Dun Laoghaire at 5.30pm

Belfast

Black Flag protests will take place across Belfast from 5.30 - 6.30pm

Cork

Commemoration at the Tadhg an Astna monument in the town centre at 8.30pm

Vigil 7pm Ballincolig

Louth

Drogheda - Black Flag vigil on the Peace Bridge, 5.30 - 6.30pm

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP is in Dublin today for a series of engagements in Dublin North West and Dublin West with Councillor Dessie Ellis and Councillor Felix Gallagher.  During the visit Mr. Adams will visit the Ballymun Health Centre and meet with members of staff and union officials in James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown.  Last week Mr. Adams met with staff in Louth County Hospital and Navan Hospital.  Tomorrow he will be launching the party’s health campaign in Wexford.

In the Ballymun Health Centre at 2pm today Mr. Adams will announce details of dozens of events and protests which the party will be holding in a Day-of-Action on healthcare on Saturday 13th May.

Mr. Adams said:

“On Saturday next, May 13th, Sinn Féin activists and supporters from across the entire island of Ireland will participate in a Day-of-Action on healthcare.  From Donegal to Kerry, from Dublin to Galway, republicans will undertake a series of public events and protests to highlight the crisis in Healthcare provision on this island.

“We are calling on people not just to complain about the health services but to campaign and to demand the decent, equitable and efficient services that we need.

”While  there  will be a focus on healthcare provision in rural areas in the Six  Counties  the  main  focus of the protests will be in the 26 Counties, where  the  crisis  in  healthcare delivery has developed an almost runaway momentum   of  its  own  that  is  fuelled  by  the  Government’s  reckless pro-privatisation policies.

”Saturday’s  Day-of-Action,  involving almost 50 protests, is but one  part  of  a  wider campaign on Health initiated by Sinn Féin last week with the launch of our comprehensive Healthcare Policy Document, Healthcare in  an  Ireland  of  Equals.  The campaign will include the distribution of hundreds of  thousands of  newsletters,  leaflets and posters.  It will be brought  to  every  county  and  will  form  a  central part of Sinn Féin’s political priorities for the coming year.


”The message Sinn Féin will be delivering to people across the island is a simple  and  realistic  one.   We believe that healthcare can and should be provided on the basis of need alone not on your ability to pay.  We believe it should be paid for through a fair and progressive system of taxation and be free to all at the point of delivery.  We absolutely reject the current system  that  favours  the  private  healthcare  sector,  which  serves  a privileged minority, against the interests of the majority.

”This state is a very wealthy state.  It can afford to improve dramatically the provision of healthcare delivery to every man, women and child.  But it is  clear  that that will only be achieved if we have a change of direction from this government or a change of government.

“We  will be asking people to join with us in demanding that change.  We are demanding  that  this  government  live  up  to  the  ideals  of  the  1916 Proclamation  and  to  reverse policies which cherish the health of some of the  children  of  the  nation  “more equally”  than others.  The time for rhetoric is over – the time for action is now.”ENDS

 

Sinn Féin Health Day-of-Action – 13th May 2006

Munster

CORK - Cork City: Protest and street theatre at Daunt Square, 3pm, incorporating demand for A&E and ambulance service on Cork’s northside. Mallow: Protest outside town hall against down grading of Mallow Hospital, 11am. Clonakilty: Protest at Astna Square, 3pm

WATERFORD - Waterford City: Distribution of leaflets in city centre, 3-5pm

KERRY - Tralee: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-3pm. Killarney: Distribution of leaflets, town centre, 1-2pm.

LIMERICK - Limerick City: Stall in city centre, 2-4pm.

TIPPERARY - Thurles: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-2pm. Nenagh: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-2pm. Clonmel: Picket in town centre at 1pm “Upgrade health services in south Tipperary”

CLARE - Ennis: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-2pm. Shannon: Distribution of leaflets in town centre, 1-2pm.

LEINSTER

LOUTH - Dundalk - Picket and leafleting @ Louth Hospital, Dundalk 1-2pm and at shopping centres between 2pm-4pm. Drogheda - Picket and Leafleting the Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda from 1-2pm

WEXFORD - Wexford Town -  whiteline Picket and leafleting - 3pm.

Gorey, Enniscorthy Town and New Ross leafleting and pickets 2-4pm

WICKLOW - Wicklow Town, Bray and Arklow – leafleting throughout the day

MEATH - Ashbourne, Navan and Trim  - whiteline picket and leafleting in main shopping centres in from 2-4pm.

LONGFORD - Picket and leafleting at Longford Shopping Centre 1-2pm

WESTMEATH - Picket and leafleting at Athlone Hospital 1-2pm. Leafletting on Mullingar Main Street 1-2pm

CONNAUGHT ULSTER


MONAGHAN - 10.30am, Church Square, Monaghan Town, for leaflet distribution


CAVAN - Leafletting in Cavan Town

DONEGAL - Donegal Sinn Féin will participate in a major rally in Letterkenny on Sunday 14th May commencing at 2pm from Market Square organised by Donegal Action for Cancer Care.

GALWAY - Galway City – protest at UCG 11am-1pm and petition signing on Shop Street 2pm-4pm

SLIGO - Petition signing on O’Connell Street 2-5pm

MAYO - Breast Check protest outside Castlebar Hospital 1.30-2.30pm 

SIX COUNTIES

Sinn Fein will hold a meeting in Dungannon on Saturday which will bring together activists from across the Six Counties to launch a campaign prioritising rural health issues.

DUBLIN 

Dublin events will begin in the City Centre at the GPO - O’Connell Street at 11am with a protest attended by Sinn Féin’s MEP, TDs and Councillors from across Dublin.

 

Clondalkin - Picket at Mary Harney’s constituency office. Main Street Clondalkin

1pm to 2pm

Donaghmede - Picket and Leafletting - Donaghmede Shopping Centre 12:30pm

Coolock - Picket and Leafletting - Northside Shopping Centre - 2pm

Phibsboro - Stall and Leaflet drop Phibsboro Shopping Centre 2pm

Dun Laoghaire - Picket at Loughlinstown Hospital - 12pm and leaflet drop and Street Theatre Dun Laoghaire Main Street at 1.30pm

Tallaght - Picket at Tallaght Hospital 1pm - 2pm

Dundrum - Picket and leafletting at Dundrum shopping centre 1pm - 2pm

Dublin South East - Launch of constituency health survey

Crumlin - Picket and leaflet dropCrumlin Shopping Centre - 12.30pm to 1.30pm

Ashleaf Shopping Centre - Picket and leaflet drop - 12.30pm to 1.30pm

Ballyfermot - Picket and leaflet drop - Tescos, Upper Ballyfermot Road 12.30pm to 1.30pm

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy has been put forward as one of the Deputy Speakers in the Assembly. This is the first time a Sinn Féin member has held this position and is a reflection on the increased political strength of the party over recent elections.

Commenting today after his appointment Mr Molloy said:

"Obviously I welcome the fact that Sinn Féin have taken this position. However what is much more important is moving swiftly to the position where the Assembly can meet along with the Executive and All-Ireland Ministerial Council as the fully functioning power sharing institutions demanded by the Good Friday Agreement. What Peter Hain is proposing on Monday falls short of that.

"I will not be taking part or chairing debates on issues over which the Assembly has no power. I am not interested in a talking shop. I will play a full role in trying to get an Executive elected and through that allowing the Assembly to begin to do its job.

"Given the historic initiatives taken by republicans over recent times I believe that a real opportunity to make progress does now exist. We have an opportunity to send British Ministers home and for local politicians, who know the issues, to take responsibility for deciding the future direction of Health and Education, the Environment, Policing and Justice and much more.

"But big decisions lie ahead for Ian Paisley and his party. Are they up for sharing power on the basis of equality and respect or are they going to continue running away from the difficult but challenging business of decision making." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has expressed the hope that a return to a fully functioning Assembly and Executive can also herald a renewed emphasis on the promotion of good health and on tackling the glaring health inequalities that still exist across the north today.

Ms de Brún made her comments at a European conference to discuss 'Gaps in Health Systems'. Today's conference was addressed by MEPs, academics and health professionals and Ms de Brún spoke from her experience as Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the Assembly.

Topics under discussion at today's conference include a health response to gender based violence, migrants‚ access to healthcare in the EU, sustainability of healthcare systems and a global perspective on health inequalities. The conference will also hear a presentation on European policy health impact assessment.

Speaking today the former Assembly Minister said:

"Today's conference provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the gaps which exist in health systems across the world and from my own experiences in Ireland.

"At today's conference I stressed that the attainment of good health is not merely the absence of illness, but is about a holistic state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. This concept lies at the heart of the 'Investing for Health, strategy which I initiated during my time as Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the Assembly. I hope that a return to a fully functioning Assembly and Executive can also herald a renewed emphasis on the promotion of good health and on tackling the glaring health inequalities that still exist across the north today." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning called upon the European Union to join with national parliaments and local authorities in a major push to tackle the homeless crisis.

Ms de Brún made her comments before chairing a European conference organized by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA).

Speaking from the European Parliament Ms de Brún said:

"Approximately three million people are homeless in the EU - these are the cold statistics. These issues can be addressed both at EU and at local and national levels - but only if the will exists to deal with this crisis

"While the EU remains fixated with other priorities, thousands of people across the EU will be sleeping rough, will be victims of unprovoked violent attacks, will find themselves in temporary shelters, will be isolated from the mainstream of policy-making, and many will be caught in a cycle of homelessness and will experience mental health related problems.

"Today's conference on homelessness at the European Parliament should act as a wake up call to the EU and its agencies and to national governments and local authorities. The focus of the conference will be on implementation of homeless strategies, and on providing local authorities with practical toolkits for developing appropriate strategies. The FEANTSA conference also aims to facilitate European or "transnational" exchanges to help local authorities strengthen local strategies based on lessons learnt from other countries." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Dublin Spokesperson on European Affairs, Councillor Daithí Doolan, today challenged, "the Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, to stop misleading the public and to come clean on how the government will fund EU Battlegroups."

Speaking at today‚s National Forum on Europe debate with Minister O'Dea, Cllr. Doolan said:

"The objective of these Battlegroups is to wage war. It is clear that this State's involvement in the European Union Battlegroups will be funded by the Irish tax payer. This comes at a time when ques for hospital beds are ever lengthening, housing waiting lists grow by the day, homeless die on our streets and schools remain closed for want of basic repairs. The Minister may well dismiss my arguments and I am sure he will. But the fact is Javier Solana, EU Foreign Policy chief has said that the main purpose of the common defence fund is 'to ensure that we spend more, spend more together and spend more effectively'.

"These groups will also have to be mutually supportive and complementary to NATO, in doing so member states must address shortfalls in cruise missiles, precision guided munitions, attack helicopter battalions & field artillery battalions so our neutrality will once again be totally undermined as well as tax money being diverted away from funding health care to funding the arms industry.

"Ireland has a very long and proud history of involvement in UN Peacekeeping Forces, yet these Battlegroups also pose a very real threat to the future of the UN. With 156,000 troops involved in the EU Battlegroups the UN will suffer depleting numbers at a time when the strain on peacekeeping could not be greater. It appears that Minister O‚Dea has simply prioritised Battlegroups over legitimate peacekeeping."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on the Minister for Defence, "to publicly justify the funding and prioritising of the arms industry while our healthcare system remains in crisis." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew and Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy will attend the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Breakfast at the Balmoral Show in Belfast tomorrow morning, Thursday 11th May.

Speaking today Ms Gildernew said:

"It will not be lost on the farming community that last year the DARD Breakfast was Jeff Rooker's first formal engagement and that 12 months on we will have yet another part-time direct rule Minister whose first engagement will be the Balmoral Show.

"The revolving door of Agriculture Ministers is not good for the industry and I think everyone accepts that we need to put a stop to it. Of course over the next number of weeks there is a clear opportunity for the political parties to stand up and say enough is enough. This represents a particular challenge for the DUP.

"We don't need yet another part-timer who's interests lie elsewhere, to the detriment of local farmers and the rural community, we need a locally accountable minister in charge.

"If Ian Paisley is as concerned about the future of farmers as he claims, then he will act in the next two weeks to ensure that the North had its own agriculture minister and scrutiny committee. This is what the rural communities want. As chair of the previous Agricultural committee Mr Paisley put himself forward as the champion of rural communities, but he has shoulder much responsibility for the poor decisions taken by direct rule ministers."

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness this afternoon visited the family of murdered Ballymena schoolboy Michael McIlveen to express personally to them his condolences and those of the Sinn Féin leadership. Speaking after the visit Mr McGuinness called on civic, community and political leaders in Ballymena to organise a mobilisation against
sectarianism in the town in memory of Michael.

Mr McGuinness said:

"The sectarian murder of Michael McIlveen is firstly a massive tragedy for his mother and family. It is also a tragedy for wider society. Michael is the second 15 year old Catholic to be murdered in just over a year. This cannot be allowed to continue. The McIlveen family have received expressions of sympathy from all sections of the community.

" We are over ten years into a peace process. Sectarian hatred in our society must be tackled and dealt with. Ballymena has obviously been in the headlines in recent years as Catholic churches, homes and business have seen regular attacks. The murder of young Michael McIlveen has brought matters to a head.

"No longer can civic leaders in Ballymena turn a blind eye. No more can civic society in the town ignore this problem. I am calling publicly today for all civic, community and political leaders in Ballymena to come together and organise a mobilisation against sectarianism in our society in memory of Michael to ensure that this needless and unjustifiable sectarian killing is the last. Sinn Fein will stand side by siade with any unionist politican in
challenging sectarianism within this society." ENDS



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Sinn Féin’s Dublin Spokesperson on the Environment, Councillor Daithí Doolan, has today described as appalling, "the fact that those at the cutting edge of emergency services have been excluded from the Framework for Major Emergency Management in Ireland."

Speaking today following a meeting of the Oireachtas Subcommittee of the Environment & Local Government, Cllr. Doolan said:

“This framework plan is fundamentally flawed. We have a ridiculous situation whereby fire fighters and fire officers have even not been consulted on this strategy. In fact the Minister with responsibility for it's application, Dick Roche refuses to meet with the fire services. This blatant disregard for emergency services must stop. The fire service continue to provide an excellent service right across the State, they have invaluable experience in dealing with emergencies and crises. Their experience would dictate that they be the lead agency in any emergency situation, but unfortunately the Minister claims otherwise. Fire service have experience in fire cover, fire prevention, providing emergency medical cover, road traffic accidents yet this service did not even receive a copy of the framework document until they arrived before the Oireachtas Committee here today. The situation can not be allowed to continue.” 

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on , “the Minister for the Environment & Local Government Dick Roche to meet with SIPTU as a matter of urgency and to fully consult and engage with them in the drafting and application of this emergency response strategy.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP is in Dublin tomorrow (Thursday 11th) for a series of engagements with Councillor Dessie Ellis in Dublin North West and Councillor Felix Gallagher in Dublin West.

In Dublin North West Mr. Adams and party candidate Councillor Dessie Ellis will visit a number of community and youth organisations.  They will also visit the newly opened Ballymun Health Centre where they will launch Sinn Féin’s health campaign for the constituency. 

Mr. Adams will be available to talk to the media at 2pm at the Ballymun Health Centre.

Later tomorrow afternoon Mr. Adams will travel to Dublin West and he and party colleague Councillor Felix Gallagher will meet with members of staff at James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.  He will then meet with staff and local people in the Corduff Community Centre.  Tomorrow evening at 8pm he will speak at a public meeting in the Paddocks Bar in Laytown.

On Friday, Mr. Adams will travel onto Wicklow Town and Wexford for a series of engagements.

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon during EU Day, Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, accused Fine Gael, Labour and the PDs of "gross hypocrisy" over the welcome they gave to EU Commissioner, Marian Fischer Boel, to debate in the Dáil chamber while they have rejected proposals to allow for northern representation in the Dáil.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Isn’t it deeply ironic that an unelected political appointee, Commissioner Marian Fischer Boel, was here speaking today and taking part in a political debate at the invitation of people like John Deasy and his Party leader Enda Kenny and supported by the Labour Party and the Progressive Democrats.  Ironic and hypocritical.

"Today’s exercise, while marginally useful terms of the EU and Agriculture, really highlighted in a dramatic way the gross hypocrisy of Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte and Mary Harney and their respective parties who have been venomous in their opposition to affording the same right to democratically elected representatives of Irish people living in the north-eastern six counties of this country."

Speaking later Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "So now that we have had EU day and everybody involved seems to be exceptionally pleased with themselves - can we now look forward and finally agree to regular All-Ireland Days based on the proposals previously brought forward by the Taoiseach allowing for northern representation in the Dáil?" ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson West Belfast MLA Fra McCann and Spokesperson on Poverty North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton will meet Direct Rule Housing Minister David Hanson tomorrow, Thursday 11th May, at 12.15 in Belfast to discus social housing supply, affordability and sustainability.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Fra McCann said:

"Sinn Féin have repeatedly called for a review into social housing supply and the housing allocation points system. These are two pressing issues that must be a dealt with.

"It is clear that there is a serious under provision in the supply of social housing that is getting worse with every year because new build targets are not being met. Unless a new approach is developed the gap between demand and supply will continue to grow.

"There are also very serious long-standing problems with the operation of the housing allocation points system that is leaving many people trapped on the waiting lists who should be a high priority and many people stuck in often unsuitable hostel accommodation.

"The issues of affordability will not be addressed, in my opinion, by a total dependence on co-ownership. We need to also look at the operation of the buy-to-let markets and the activities of property developers and speculative landlords who are manipulating house prices.

"How we build sustainable communities is a far broader issue encompassing not just the housing market but also issues around recreation, community safety, education and economic activity." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today said that 'Europe Day' should be about addressing Europe's inequalities.

Ms de Brún made her comments as the Dail devoted its business to the discussion of European matters to coincide with 'Europe Day'. Ms de Brún is also due to chair a conference session addressing homelessness in the European Parliament tomorrow (Thursday 11th May).

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"Europe Day should be about refocusing and redoubling our efforts to deal with some of the most crucial issues facing the European Union today. One such issue is regarding poverty levels across the EU. It has been estimated that more than 68 million people are living in poverty within the European Union and approximately 3 million people are homeless.

"Of course, these figures do not accurately reflect the individual and collective problems associated with living in poverty. Such statistics, while shocking in themselves do not fully reflect the situation which many people find themselves in, or take into account the millions more people who are living in overcrowded conditions or poor quality accommodation.

"Whilst many people continue to live in poverty in the EU - one of the world's wealthiest regions, Europe's elites continue to drive an agenda which prioritises military spending at the relative expense of many social considerations.

"We should be using 'Europe Day' to rededicate ourselves to building a Europe with different political priorities, and a Europe which seeks to protect the most vulnerable citizens." ENDS

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Commenting on yesterday's statement from the Loyal Orders condemning the murder of Michael McIlveen, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP said that the Orders had it in their gift to greatly reduce tensions over the summer months by voluntarily re-routing the very small number of parades which seek to parade through areas where they are not wanted or at a minimum engaging with nationalist communities.

Mr Doherty said:

"This time last year we publicly flagged up our fears that the Orange Order had taken a decision for political reasons to heighten tensions around the marching season. Unfortunately our predictions came through and the Order was linked to widespread violence, intimidation and terror. Sectarian tensions were raised to levels not seen for some years. No right thinking person wishes to see a repeat performance from the Orange Order this summer.

"I note the statement of the Orange Order condemning the brutal sectarian murder of Michael McIlveen in Ballymena and a commitment to reduce sectarianism. However the Loyal Orders have it in their own gift to greatly reduce sectarian tensions during the course of their marching season. The Loyal Orders should proceed as normal with the thousands of parades which are non-contentious but to think seriously about voluntarily re-routing the very small number of marches which cause offence and raise tensions by seeking to parade through communities where they are not wanted or at a minimum engage with the representatives of those areas.

"Such a move would undoubtedly improve community relations and significantly increase hopes that we can proceed through the summer months without the fear associated with past summers and without raising sectarian tensions further in the wake of this brutal murder." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for Upper Bann John O'Dowd has said that much hypocrisy and double standards seem to apply from the political establishment after it emerged that a former PSNI member Thomas Bell failed to turn up for a trial yesterday at Craigavon.

Mr O‚Dowd said:

"Yesterday two former members of the PSNI were due to appear in court charged with serious offences. However one of them Thomas Bell failed to turn up. This fact barely received a mention in the media. It was rightly left to the courts to get on with their job in issuing bench warrants and dealing with the matter.

"Contrast this with the approach adopted by many in the political establishment to the failure of four Belfast men convicted in relation to the Bobby Tohill case to turn up in court. Then it was a political crisis. It was Sinn Féin‚s responsibility. People were knocking down the door of the IMC all eager to create another crisis in the political process or yet another excuse not to move forward.

"Yet in the wake of the Craigavon case nobody was haranguing Hugh Orde about the whereabouts of his former colleague or demanding that Peter Hain tell us where this individual is hiding out. Indeed a similar approach was adopted when it emerged that 60 members of the PSNI have been convicted of criminality over the past two years.

"It seems to many republicans and impartial observers that a great deal of hypocrisy and double standards seem to be continually in operation by the political establishment here." ENDS

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Commenting on the announcement today confirming the closure of a number of RIR bases across the six counties Sinn Féin spokesperson on demilitarisation Davy Hyland MLA said that nobody with an interest in building a democratic future will shed any tears over the disbandment of the RIR Home Service Battalions.

Mr Hyland said:

"The RIR Home Service battalions were a unionist militia. It grew out of the old B-Specials and UDR. Only last week in media reports it was confirmed that the British government at the highest levels knew that this organisation was up to its necks in collusion with unionist paramilitaries.

"Anyone with an interest in building a shared future based upon democracy and peace will shed no tears at the removal of this militia from the political landscape.

"What this announcement does do today is free up significant amounts of land which opens up exciting opportunities for communities who have suffered for so long with British war apparatus in their midst.

"It is important that these sites are developed with the interests of these communities at the core of any future plans." ENDS

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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA's Gerry Kelly and Kathy Stanton have called on the Chief Executive of Prudential to get into immediate talks with the Amicus Trade Union to discuss the loss of 500 jobs after the closure of its Belfast Call Centre operations.

Mr Kelly, after a meeting with the Amicus Union at Sinn Fein's North Belfast office, has also questioned the Prudential Belfast Centre closure, pointing out that the centre has in the past been hailed as one of Prudential's most cost-effective.

The company is transferring its operations to three centres in Stirling in Scotland, Derby in England and Mumbai in India.

Mr Kelly said:

"My colleague Kathy Stanton and I are contacting Prudential's Chief Executive to ask that he enters into immediate discussions with the Amicus Union. We are of the opinion that this should have been the first thing that the Chief Executive did when planning and announcing this closure. Nonetheless, he should meet with Amicus now as a matter of urgency.

"The loss of 500 jobs will have a devastating impact on people who are losing their jobs as well as a serious knock on effect on the local economy.

Mrs Stanton said:

"We are alarmed that Prudential are moving from it's Belfast centre that has high union membership to other centres without union recognition.

"We also recognise the loss this will cause to the local community, as workers from Prudential have been involved in great work within schools in North Belfast, attempting to increase employability for local youths moving from education into full-time employment.

"The closure of the Prudential Call Centre operations in Belfast also highlights the vulnerability of an economic development strategy based on attracting call centres generating low value jobs which, by their nature, are transitory.

"Sinn Fein believes that the current approach of direct rule ministers and economic development agencies is misguided and short-sighted. They continually tell us that the main way to get out of poverty is through employment, though these job losses go uncontested in one of the most deprived areas in the north.

"The first job of a new Executive must be to put developing a long-term strategy in place that harmonises regimes across the island and puts investment in indigenous businesses at its heart." ENDS

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