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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today set out his party's approach to the reconvened Assembly. During the course of an address to the Sinn Féin Assembly team Mr Adams stated that he intended to nominate The Reverend Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness for the positions of First and Deputy First Ministers.

Full text of speech follows:

"This is an emotional week for Irish republicans. Last Friday we marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands.

This Friday is the anniversary of Francie Hughes.

Their deaths and almost 50 others came during an immensely challenging period in our history. As we remember that time and celebrate the lives of these brave men we should also reflect on the hunger strikers commitment to the future.

That is essentially what the hunger strike was about. That is also what we are about.

Republicans need no reminding that building a future based on equality and justice is immensely challenging. No one should be under any illusion about the challenges and risks facing the British and Irish governments and all of the parties in the period ahead.

In recent years, despite the setbacks, there has been significant progress. The situation today bears little relation to that of 25 years ago. But there are still difficulties to be overcome.

Not least of these is the issue of sectarianism which manifested itself in its most brutal form last weekend with the murder of 15 year old Michael McIlveen.

Let us be clear and honest about this. Sectarianism is rampant in this society. It needs to be eradicated. The peace process is consequently the most important issue facing the people of this island today.

The Good Friday Agreement is central to its stability and progress. Progress within the peace process will create opportunity, will create wealth, will improve our standard of living and contribute to further progress. It will usher in equality and remove the causes of sectarianism. Failure will set all this back by decades.

Therefore the next few months are pivotal. For our part, Republicans have demonstrated time and time again our desire and determination to make the peace process work.

We want to work in partnership with unionists to create a better place, a shared space for all our people.

In my opinion the current phase of the political talks will decide the future of the Good Friday Agreement - the stakes are that high.

Next Monday the British Secretary of State is convening an Assembly. It is important that everyone understand that this is not the Assembly envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement. This is an inferior model designed by Mr. Hain. This is the 'Peter Hain Assembly'.

Sinn Féin understands the rationale behind the strategy of the two governments at this time, and the positives involved. But we are equally clear about the shortcomings. The British legislation which underpins this approach provides for an Assembly period between May15 and the end of June in which to form an Executive. If that does not happen, a further period after the summer recess has been set ending on November 25.

Although the two governments have declared that the primary purpose is the appointment of the Executive, this legislation authorises the British Secretary of State to allow other business to be conducted. The Assembly‚s rules have also been changed.

Sinn Féin will not acquiesce to this. Our singular focus will be on the formation of the Executive. We will use our mandate for this purpose and to prevent either the governments or any party here from diverting proceedings into time wasting distractions.

Understandably there is a lot of scepticism and cynicism about whether Ian Paisley will do the business. The early goodwill and high hopes that were invested in the Assembly after the Good Friday Agreement was achieved over 8 years ago have also eroded.

Despite this I detect an undercurrent of optimism that progress can be made.

The significant moves by republicans last year have emboldened many to hope that this time it will be different - that this time real progress can be made. There is also a very clear feeling that business, the economy needs local politicians to take charge. So, if so the focus can be kept on the formation of the Executive and away from other distractions progress is possible.

For these reasons scepticism should be suspended and the upcoming period approached in a very positive way. In this context a big effort has to be made to keep the two governments on the right lines.

For example, it emerged recently that the two governments were considering assembly arrangements put forward by the DUP that would over-ride the Good Friday Agreement safeguards.

At a meeting with the Taoiseach I made it clear that this was unacceptable. And the following day after a meeting with Mr. Blair in Downing Street Sinn Féin publicly ruled out participating in any form of Shadow Assembly.

It is also worth noting, despite the understandable goodwill that the Taoiseach receives for his work on the process, that any initiatives, imperfect though they may be, have come from the British government, mostly at the behest of Sinn Féin. For some time now Sinn Féin has campaigned for the Assembly to be reconvened with the purpose of forming the power sharing Executive.

All of our public and private discussions with the two governments have had that priority.

Next Monday's meeting here is the result of that work. However not unexpectedly, instead of stoutly defending the Good Friday Agreement, the governments have pandered to the DUP.

For example, in March Peter Hain put forward a proposition which would have excluded Sinn Fein from negotiations. He didn't push the issue. He was only trying it on. And we immediately blocked his proposal. But what was even more significant is that he was supported by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern. So for all these reasons there is a need for great vigilance in the time ahead.

The Sinn Féin leadership has thoroughly examined the current situation and its possible potential and pitfalls.

After a thorough discussion we have agreed very strict guidelines and conditions for our party's participation in the Peter Hain Assembly. Consequently;

Our focus will be on the restoration of the institutions. So, I intend to nominate The Reverend Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness for the positions of First and Deputy First Ministers.

If this is unsuccessful we will seek to return to this business at the earliest possible time.

We will also participate in a Business Committee to ensure that the election of the First and Deputy First Minster, and any business for the urgent preparation of the restoration of government is discussed by the Assembly.

It has been suggested that the Peter Hain Assembly will provide the opportunity for discussion of important issues, like education reform, water charges, health and rates increases. This would be pointless. In reality the Peter Hain Assembly is powerless on all these issues. It would be nothing more than a talking shop.

Of course, there is a way to effectively tackle these matters but that depends on local politicians taking up their responsibilities. 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.

What are the chances for success? I don't know. It is too early to tell.

What I do know is that Sinn Féin is here to do business and totally committed and determined to rise to the needs of the situation.

I have no doubt that the DUP will enter into power sharing arrangements. But for understandable reasons they want to do so on their terms.

That is not possible unless the Good Friday Agreement is torn up. The objective therefore has to be to get Ian Paisley into the power sharing arrangements on the terms contained in the Agreement. Until this is achieved the Assembly should have no other role.

However, while Sinn Féin is deeply opposed to the politics and the polices of the DUP we recognise their electoral mandate and the right of their leader to be First Minster under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. For their part the DUP want the Assembly to stay away from the formation of the Executive. They want a shadow forum, including shadow committees. Sinn Féin will not permit this.

Having said all of this, do I believe Ian Paisley will be First Minister? I don't know. I don't even know if he knows. But I'm sure he will be conscious of the irony involved in Sinn Féin preparing to go to Stormont to have him elected as First Minister.

That's the politics of the peace process. Sinn Féin's resolve is to make these politics work. If politicians fail or effuse to do this, then they cannot with credibility condemn the politics of sectarianism or sectarian killings like that of Michael McIlveen. Like it or not we are the role models. Our duty is to lead by example." ENDS

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Speaking this morning at a Press Conference organised by GMfreeireland, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD condemned the ongoing attitude of the current Government towards the introduction of genetically modified crops and food products into Ireland. The conference was specifically planned to oppose the granting of a license for a GM potato crop in Meath, but Deputy Ferris pointed out that this is only the latest in a series of pro-GM decisions made without proper democratic consultation or approval.

Deputy Ferris said: "There has been no debate on the issue either in Leinster House or among the general public. No elected body has voted in favour of GM and yet Government officials have consistently adopted a pro-GM stance in Brussels. Fianna Fáil had also broken the promise it made in its 1997 Manifesto to oppose GM.

"When myself and other TDs have raised this Government's voting record, we have been fobbed off and told that the relevant officials are satisfied that GM poses no risk to either health or conventional crops. This despite the fact that there is evidence that the EU has suppressed reports highlighting dangers to health, and that the former Chief Scientific Officer in this state requested the EU Commission to withhold a report confirming the inevitability of crop contamination.

"The implications of GM for Irish agriculture are enormous. If GM crops are allowed to be grown here, non-GM crops will inevitably be contaminated with all the potential damage which that would have on the safety of Irish food produce, and the image of this island as the source of clean safe food."

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Speaking following the publication of the Health and Safety Authority's annual report, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment and Workers Rights, Arthur Morgan T.D. demanded that the Government bring forward legislation on Corporate Manslaughter. He also asked that work related deaths that occur outside of the workplace which are not included in present statistics, in particular work related illnesses and diseases that result in workers dying prematurely, be included in official statistics in the future.

Deputy Morgan said, "In 2005 23 more people were killed in workplace accidents than 2004. Twenty-three people were killed in workplace accidents in the construction sector in 2005, compared to 16 in that sector in 2004. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) annual report shows that there were only 40 prosecutions for offences related to breeches of health and safety laws. This extremely low figure is a major cause of concern and undoubtedly sends the message to unscrupulous employers that there is a very good chance that they will get away with flouting the law on health and safety in the workplace.

"Sinn Féin is demanding that the Government introduce legislation to provide for the crime of Corporate Manslaughter as recommended by the Law Reform Commission in their report of October 2005. Reckless employers must be held criminally liable for workplace accidents and fatalities. Only by putting in place effective deterrents can we ensure that these needless deaths cease. Corporate Manslaughter legislation, already in place in many countries, is a key tool in the battle to reduce workplace accidents and fatalities.

"While the figures in the HSA report are deeply worrying there is a real concern these figures do not reflect the true level of work related fatalities as only work-related fatalities that occur due to injuries/accidents inside in the workplace are counted in official statistics. There are other examples of work related deaths that occur but are not counted as such, in particular work related illnesses and diseases that result in premature death. These fatalities must be included in official statistics in the future." ENDS

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Sinn Féin leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has today welcomed the Irish Government’s move to extend payments of the Centenarian’s bounty to any Irish citizen born on the whole island of Ireland.  Deputy Ó Caoláin had raised the issue in the Dáil this afternoon.   During the course of his response the Taoiseach said, "Under the new arrangements, payment of the bounty, which amounts to €2,500, will be extended in respect of any Irish citizen who was born on the island of Ireland, regardless of where he or she may currently reside."

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "I welcome this move by the Government to extend the Centenarian’s bounty to all Irish citizens born on the island of Ireland, north and south.  It was wrong that this wasn’t always the case.

"I would also like to welcome the fact that the Taoiseach has responded positively to the demand to have the payment applied retrospectively so that those who have already reached or surpassed their 100th birthday can apply for it, irrespective of where they live, north, south or overseas. 

"I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all individuals who may qualify for this payment or their families and friends to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs, as they have been tasked with the management of the scheme, or your local Sinn Féin representative to get application details." ENDS

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Leitrim Sinn Féin Councillor Martin Kenny has called on Fine Gael to clarify its position on nuclear power after the Fine Gael Chairperson on Leitrim County Council, former TD Gerry Reynolds, opposed a motion calling on the Council to join a nuclear free group despite the group being chaired by Louth Fine Gael Councillor Michael O’Dowd. Councillor Kenny had proposed a motion calling on the Leitrim County Council to join the All Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Forum but was most surprised when the main opposition to his motion came from a party colleague of the chairperson of the forum.

Councillor Kenny said, “Last night I called on Leitrim County Council to join the All Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Forum to highlight the opposition of the people of Ireland to nuclear power.  The Chairperson of the group is Louth Fine Gael Councillor Michael O’Dowd who is also the brother of the Fine Gael Environment spokesperson Fergus O’Dowd.  However, the main opposition to my motion came from a party colleague of Michael O’Dowd, the chairperson of Leitrim County Council Gerry Reynolds who said ‘it would be wrong to rule out nuclear energy as an option.’

“Fine Gael needs to clarify its position on nuclear power.  Are they now going to say that councillor Reynolds was speaking in his own personal capacity at a council meeting? Or was he actually reflecting the position of Fine Gael on nuclear fuel? Or are they just making it up as they go along? This seems to be another inconsistency within the Fine Gael party.

“I wonder will Enda Kenny now distance himself from Gerry Reynolds’ comments in the same way that he distanced himself from Fine Gael’s Dublin North West general election candidate Bill Tormey’s comments regarding AIDS tests for immigrants and keeping socially disruptive people in one locality.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokerson and Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has expressed his concern at the comments of Donegal Fianna Fáil TD Jim McDaid who has who has accused people of glorifying suicide victims at their funerals and who has described suicides as ‘sometimes selfish acts’ where mental illness was not a factor. Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Caoláin called on the Taoiseach to “make a commitment to fully resource and implement the Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention for 2005-2014.”

He said, “There has been huge concern and much debate here in the Dáil recently about the terrible death toll from road traffic accidents.  But the number of deaths on the roads is exceeded by the number of deaths from suicide in Ireland and we have among the highest rates of suicide in the world.  It is the most common cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 24, the highest in the EU for this age group.  It is clear that we need a far higher level of awareness of this very serious problem.

“In that context I would like to express my concern at the comments of Deputy Jim McDaid who has accused people of glorifying suicide victims at their funerals and who has described suicides as ‘sometimes selfish acts’ where mental illness was not a factor.  My purpose is not to personalise this but to highlight the need for greater awareness and to avoid statements such as those of the Deputy which only add to ignorance, stigmatise people and cause distress to bereaved families.  

“Rather than blaming or stigmatising the victims of suicide what we need are effective programmes which reach out to all those who can be identified as being at risk of self-harm and suicide.  There is a key role for the education system in all of this.  We need far greater awareness and education on the overall issue of mental health to combat the stigmatising of the mentally ill and to increase awareness of mental illness which will affect one in four of the population at some time in their lives. 

“The Taoiseach must therefore make a commitment to fully resource and implement the Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention for 2005-2014 in this State.  He must also seek co-operation under the All-Ireland Ministerial Council to give the issue the strategic co-ordination it requires on this island.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has reiterated his call for the Taoiseach to demand a special summit meeting on collusion with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. His call came after the Taoiseach, responding to a Question from Deputy Ó Caoláin, stated in the Dáil that the Government would examine the files uncovered by the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten in London which show detailed knowledge at top British government level of how the UDR was inextricably linked with loyalist paramilitaries as far back as 1973.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "The Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten have uncovered files in the public records office in London which show detailed knowledge at the highest level of British government as far back as 1973 that the Ulster Defence Regiment was inextricably linked with loyalist paramilitaries. The files show that the British government knew that up to 15% of UDR members were also loyalist paramilitaries and that the UDR was the best single source of weapons for loyalist paramilitaries. The question must be asked as to why voluntary organizations have had to uncover these documents. Judge Barron and the other various inquiries did not uncover them nor did any representatives of the Irish government. The documents show the British Ministry of Defence in 1974 -- the year of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings -- agreeing to the extension of the intelligence role of the UDR. The uncovering of these documents clearly exposes as a lie the British government claim that it has no more evidence to give to inquiries on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings of 1974 or the many other cases. For this reason I reiterate my call for the Taoiseach to call a special summit meeting on collusion with the British Prime Minister."

Deputy Ó Caoláin urged the Taoiseach to press the British government to co-operate with the investigation into the murder of Séamus Ludlow. He also condemned what he called "the brutal sectarian murder" of young Michael McIlveen in Ballymena and urged "all political leaders at all levels to confront sectarianism in whatever form it takes so that such tragic deaths can be avoided".

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today called upon the Irish Government to use 'Europe Day' as an 'opportunity to urge the EU to support Irish unity and to adopt a strategic approach to reunification'.

Ms McDonald made her comments in light of a Dail decision to set aside speaking time tomorrow (10.05.06) devoted entirely to European issues as part of 'Europe Day'.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"I want to welcome the decision to devote Wednesday‚s Dail business to a debate on a wide range of European issues. Sinn Féin has said consistently called for such engagements and initiatives to address the EU‚s democratic deficit. Given that the EU has become such an integral and over-bearing component of national political life, we must embrace any debate which makes the EU more accountable to Irish citizens.

"Given that this Government has publicly stated that it is in favour of Irish unity, it should use Europe Day as an opportunity to urge the EU to support Irish unity and to adopt a strategic approach to reunification. Over this past number of years a clear consensus has emerged that all Ireland cooperation is not only common sense but essential.

"Sinn Féin has said consistently that the economic prospects for a united Ireland look very promising. Therefore it is in the interest of the EU to do what it can to encourage this development and to act as advocates for Irish unity.

"A strategic approach to reunification will ensure that the costs involved will diminish as Irish society and the Irish economy integrate. Such costs are far outweighed by the costs of a continually divided Ireland, with its policy mismatches, back-to-back infrastructural development, partitionist planning, ongoing economic distortions, discrimination against and marginalisation of people and communities and a range of other problems.

"This should be the focus on Europe Day, the Irish Government making a clear statement of intent on unity and a commitment to pressing the EU and its institutions to invest politically and economically in the integration of the island." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has welcomed Ireland‚s adoption of the EU Free Movement Directive but has called for its provisions to be extended to the partners of Irish citizens also.

The MEP and General Election candidate for Dublin Central said, "Sinn Féin has long called for residency rights to be extended to unmarried and same-sex partners on the same basis as spouses. The adoption of this directive is a welcome step in the right direction.

"However, an anomaly exists in the law whereby it only applies to the partners of non-Irish EU citizens. The unmarried partners of Irish citizens still have no right to reside in the State.

"This same anomaly exists in our laws concerning residency rights for spouses. Under European law, such applications must be processed within six months - but only if the EU spouse is a non-Irish citizen. The spouses of Irish citizens are not covered by this law and their residency applications are not prioritised by this Government. Currently, such applications are taking fourteen months. This is causing great hardship for these couples, as the immigrant spouse is subject to our restrictive work permit laws.

"There is absolutely no sense to having one rule for the partners of non-Irish EU citizens and a different, more stringent rule for the partners of Irish citizens. It simply defies logic.

"I am calling on the Minister for Justice to take immediate steps to resolve this anomaly and give the partners of Irish citizens equal rights under the law. I further reiterate Sinn Féin's view that unmarried and same sex partners should be treated no differently to spouses." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will deliver a key note address in the Long Gallery in Stormont tomorrow morning (Wednesday 10th May) at 10am. Mr Adams will set out in detail the Sinn Féin approach to the reconvened Assembly.

A meeting of the Sinn Féin Assembly group will also take place tomorrow in Stormont to prepare for the restoration on Monday.

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking at the launch of a major campaign to secure a future for rural communities has said that people must make their voices heard during the consultation of the proposed planning guidelines, PPS 14.

Ms Gildernew was joined by party colleagues Bairbre de Brún MEP, Francie Molloy MLA and Councillor Brenda Chivers.

Ms Gildernew said:

"These guidelines will have a huge impact on our rural communities. It is essential that everyone in rural communities makes their voices heard during this consultation.

"Sinn Féin will be holding public meetings across the north, in West Tyrone, Fermanagh South Tyrone, Newry Armagh, Antrim, East Derry, South Down starting tomorrow night in County Antrim. We will be encouraging people to get involved in the campaign to secure a future for our rural communities and publishing 50,000 leaflets that people can use to make submissions directly to the department.

Speaking about the specific challenges facing the farming community Ms Gildernew said:

"Farmers are facing up to new challenges as a result of CAP reform with cross compliance measures and particularly the pressures to diversify and develop greater reliance on off-farm activities and a stronger role in countryside management and protection.

"They are doing this against a backdrop of falling incomes and high levels of debt.

"The impact of these draft planning guidelines, particularly on smaller farmers will be devastating. Many will face huge hardship because of unserviceable debt, difficulty in diversifying and others will not meet the viability criteria to allow them to sustain their businesses.

"There is a clear contradiction in the direction that farmers are being urged to develop and the restrictions that PPS 14 will have on their ability to be part of a sustainable rural economy."

Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy added:

"There is much more to rural communities than bricks and mortar. They are sustained by people who live and work in rural areas, by schools and local businesses. If we make it unsustainable or impossible particularly for young people to live in rural areas then we starve rural communities of their future.

"No one should accept the rural way of life that has been built up over generations being threatened in this heavy handed manner by British direct rule ministers who have little or no conception of rural Ireland. The rural way of life is an essential facet of Ireland that has evolved over centuries. It has survived the famine and British colonialism.


"We cannot look at the issue of rural planning in isolation. We need to take a comprehensive approach to planning across our countryside and our towns and villages. We need to look at how we sustain the rural economy and our rural communities.

Sinn Féin Councillor Brenda Chivers commenting on concerns about the rural environment said:

"No one is under any illusions that there are huge difficulties with the current planning guidelines and particularly the inconsistent and weak implementation of these guidelines by Planning Services. What we need is to get the balance right between protecting the environment for this and future generations and protecting rural communities for this and future generations.

"The countryside is not a theme park. It has been sustained by generations by rural communities. We must find that balance that does not threaten the rural way of life. Part of that is recognising what damage there is and understanding what forces have caused that damage. This means we need to look at under investment in infrastructure such as sewerage and solutions such as on-site biodegradable sceptic tanks. It is also about recognising just how bad Planning Service has been and inconsistent in applying planning policy and the way that unscrupulous property speculators have exploited this.

Bairbre de Brún highlighting a basis for progress said:

"There is a way forward. But it is essential that people get involved in the campaign to secure a future for rural communities.

"Sinn Féin believes that we need a Rural Planning Policy that:

. Supports the growth of vibrant rural communities;
. Permits well designed one-off housing that is integrated with the
environment;
. Recognises the importance of social capital and sense of place;
. Protects the environment for this and future generations;
. Deals with countryside planning as well as planning in our towns and
villages;
. Allows for the growth and prosperity of rural communities;
. Delivers a future for young people and families who want to live in rural
communities;
. Enhances the long-term viability of the farming community." ENDS

Public meetings

· Co Antrim - 7.30 pm, Wed 10th May - The Glens Hotel, Cushendall
· Co Fermanagh - 7.30 pm, Thurs 11th May - Clinton Centre, Enniskillen
· Co Armagh - 7.30pm, Tue 16th May - Tí Chulainn, Mullaghbawn
· East Derry - 7 pm, Wed 17th May - Drummond Hotel, Ballykelly
· Co Tyrone - 8pm, Thursday 18th May - Dún Uladh Cultural Heritage Centre,
Killyclogher
· Mid Ulster - 8 pm, Friday 19th May - Rural College, Draperstown
· South Down - 7.30 pm, Thursday 25th May - The Hillyard House, Castlewellan

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South Dublin Sinn Féin Candidate for the General election Shaun Tracey has welcomed the decision of Dún Laoghaire -- Rathdown County Council to rezone five acres at Airfield Estate in Dundrum from residential to amenity. Mr. Tracey said the decision "reflects the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people of Dundrum and of the late Overend sisters who left the estate in trust for the benefit of the people of the area."

He said, "I welcome the decision of Dún Laoghaire -- Rathdown County Council to rezone the five acres at Airfield Estate back to amenity. Sinn Féin has consistently called on the council to rezone this land so it would be free from the threat of development and can be enjoyed by the people of Dundrum as the late Overend sisters had wanted.

"The decision is a sensible one and one that reflects the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people of Dundrum and of the late Overend sisters who left the estate in trust for the benefit of the people of the area." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has strongly criticised the length of time it has taken the International Criminal Court Bill to proceed through the Dáil, accusing the Government of negligence and of allowing human rights abusers to operate with impunity. Deputy Ó Snodaigh made his remarks as the Bill came before the Dáil for its final stage today.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Sinn Fein welcomed the International Criminal Court Bill from day one and believes it is unacceptable that it has taken so long to be brought to completion. The state signed up to the Rome Statute in 1998. The Irish people directly endorsed the International Criminal Court in a referendum in 2001 yet this Bill is still only reaching report stage now in mid-2006. Obviously it has not been a priority of this government despite its gravity and importance for the protection of human rights internationally. This negligence has been totally inappropriate and a source of embarrassment for this state.

"Perhaps this Bill has been delayed because establishing domestic jurisdiction for ICC Offences and providing for the arrest and surrenders of persons and the enforcement of sentences for committing ICC offences would place a number of current government Ministers in a vulnerable position on foot of their complicity in the US-led war on Iraq and in extraordinary rendition. Not to mention the facilitation of the Israeli military who were allowed to avail of Shannon airport and the Great Southern Hotel yet again last weekend despite their ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine and grave human rights crimes against the Palestinian people

"The purpose of the International Criminal Court is to bring an end to the reality of human rights abusers acting with impunity. Neither Israel nor the US are willing to be held accountable by the ICC for any of their actions. And by accepting US assurances in relation to the extraordinary rendition programme without question and refusing to suspend preferential trade with Israel -- this government is effectively endorsing the impunity with which these two highly abusive administrations act." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has expressed his deepest sympathies to the family of 15 year old Michael McIlveen who was killed in a brutal sectarian assault.

Mr Adams said:

“I want to express my condolences and sympathies to the family of Michael McIlveen. He is the latest victim of sectarian hatred. Sectarianism is rampant in our society. It has to be tackled.

“The key to ending sectarianism is in the hands of political and civic leaders. Political leaders need to work together to challenge those who prefer the old ways. Achieving this means not just ending sectarianism on our streets but also adopting the implementation of policies which can eradicate deep rooted sectarianism and discrimination wherever it exists.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein Education spokesperson Michael Ferguson will join a protest at 1.30pm outside the SEELB Offices on Grahamsbridge Road Dundonald today to lobby Board members to oppose the introduction of cuts to Special Needs services for children. Commenting he said,

  “ Those who disagreed with cuts to services especially those for special needs children must continue to do so. The Education Committee is made up of all Board members and those non-elected representatives who previously agreed to cuts will now be faced with the precise detail of their decision. They will have an opportunity to take a step back from signing off on the loss of services that could have serious consequences for the well being of children especially those with mild to severe learning disabilities”.   “ We now have another new Direct Rule Education Minister but with the same old agenda. Maria Eagle like Angela Smith and Barry Gardiner have one policy agenda and it is about savings, efficiencies, and rationalisation of spending which in real terms this means less schools, less teachers, less class room assistants, less services with bigger class sizes and a lower standard of education.”   “ If we want to stop the erosion of our education system then we need to stop those intent on doing the British Government’s dirty work until we can elect the new Assembly with locally accountable ministers. I would appeal to everyone concerned about the educational entitlement of our children and young people to demand that all of the political parties nominate and appoint an Assembly Executive on May 15th”.  

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Meath  West  Sinn  Féin  Candidate for the general election, Councillor Joe Reilly  has welcomed the unanimous decision of Meath County Council to pass a  motion  declaring  the  County  GM  free.   German company BASF has been
granted  a  license  by  the  EPA  to  grow  a crop of genetically modified
potatoes at Summerhill in County Meath.

Councillor  Reilly  said,  “At  the Meath County Council meeting last night councillors  from  all  represented  parties unanimously passed a motion to
declare  the County GM free. I welcome this decision and I would advise the
German  company  BASF  to  take  note of it. They have stated that they are
studying  the  conditions  attached  to  the  EPA’s granting of the license
before  making a decision on whether to proceed.  In doing so they now need
to take note of the fact that they are not welcome in County Meath.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein Assembly member for North Antrim Philip McGuigan has extended his deepest sympathies to the family of Michael McIlveen who was brutally murdered in Ballymena by a loyalist mob in a sectarian killing over the weekend.

Mr McGuigan said:

“I would wish to extend my deepest sympathies to the McIlveen family at this time. This murder was unjustifiable and was motivated entirely by sectarian hatred and bigotry.

“I was in Ballymena last night and there remains much anger at the events of the weekend and indeed at the years of discrimination and inequality which led directly to the circumstances which gave rise to this horrific crime.

“The catholic community in Ballymena have as much right as anyone else to live, worship and conduct business in that town as any other group. Unfortunately there are those within unionism in the town who have for decades sought to demonise and discriminate against nationalists and republicans in Ballymena.

“The local DUP controlled Council fail to share power with nationalists and republicans. The local MP and leader of the DUP Ian Paisley refuses to share power with nationalists and republicans in an Executive. Ian Paisley needs to reflect seriously on his position in the light of this murder and reflect long and hard about the message he is sending out to those within his community who engage in this type of violent anti-Catholic hatred.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, described as "reprehensible" the failure of the government to address the issue of human trafficking. Deputy Ó Snodaigh made his comments following the Primetime Investigates programme in to human trafficking and prostitution on RTE last night.

Calling for the ordinary business of the Dáil to be suspended this afternoon the Dublin South Central TD said the House needed to discuss "the reprehensible failure of this government to take adequate measures to address human trafficking."

"We need to introduce legislation making human trafficking a crime and provide for the prosecution of traffickers. We also need supports for the many women and children who are victims of trafficking including provisions for residency," he said.

He went on to describe as "inexcusable" the failure of the Minister for Health and Children to account for the numerous children who have gone missing from the care of the Health Service Executive some whom he argued may be victims of human trafficking. "I put parliamentary questions to the Minister last September which she panned off to the HSE and over 7 months later I have yet to receive a full response," he claimed.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh pointed out that Sinn Féin passed two substantial motions on these issues at its recent Ard Fheis and raised the issue at the EU Affairs Committee meeting back in October 2005. He also said that under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement that this state had an obligation to introduce measures to protect people from trafficking at least equivalent to those in effect in the Six Counties. ENDS

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Sinn Féin is demanding "Division One" road and rail infrastructure for the northwest and border counties including a motorway/high quality dual carriageway for the N14/A5/N2 main arterial route to Dublin.

The demand was spelt out today at a major press conference at Kelly's Inn, Garvaghy (on the A5 road between Omagh and Ballygawley), which was attended by MPs, TDs, MLA's, Council Chairs and councillors stretching from Donegal, Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Louth right through to Meath.

West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty who launched the party campaign leaflet on the issue at the event said:

"By 2015, and through Transport 21 in the 26 counties and the Regional Development Strategy in the six counties, there will be motorway/high quality dual carriageway infrastructure serving the main arterial routes:

· From Dublin to Wexford and Waterford in the Southeast,

· From Dublin to Cork and Limerick in the South West

· From Dublin to Galway in the West

· From Dublin and Belfast.

"Yet Derry, the 4th largest city on the island, along with all the other communities in the northwest and border counties, are being expected to continue to navigate the "Rocky Road to Dublin".

"The communities in the northwest and border counties should not be expected to settle for anything less, in terms of road infrastructure, than communities in all other regions of the country.

"Instead of perpetuating the historical layers of structural inequality that the northwest and border counties have had to contend with as a result of neglect, discrimination and partitionist planning, those in power must be forced to redress it.

"The northwest and border counties cannot be the left as the only region of Ireland left without a strategic transport corridor brought up to motorway/high quality dual carriageway standard. The economic implications of such a scenario would be devastating. How could this region be expected to compete in economic terms with all other regions of the country having "Division One Transport Infrastructure.

"Just as there is a need to redress the "singular" absence of a rail network from this part of Ireland (and Sinn Féin published its proposals on a north west rail link in the year 2000) a motorway or high quality dual carriageway is an essential pre-requisite to equitable socio-economic development on the island.

Addressing the Press Conference, Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin pointed up the need for a fully integrated all-Ireland approach to infrastructure development saying,

"The continuing failure of both governments to pursue a truly joined up approach to transport infrastructure planning is a key factor in why the massive infrastructure deficit in the north west and border counties has failed to be addressed

"Sinn Féin is committed to developing an Ireland of Equals, but for this to happen there must be equality of opportunity for people in every region of the island.

"However, the reality in today's Ireland is that it is the North West and border counties, the areas of greatest socio-economic need, that have benefited least in terms of EU structural funding for infrastructure.

Speaking from a West of the Bann perspective, Lynn Flemming, the Mayor of Derry said,

"There will be those who will contend that improvements have been made and are continuing to be made to the A5 route to Dublin, however, there has been no uniformity in these improvements, they are piecemeal, consisting mainly of road widening and town by-pass schemes and still covering only a minority of the route.

"If anything they are just now bringing these roads up to a standard that was promised 40 years ago. The problem is that road traffic has multiplied 40 fold in the intervening period.

"As we gather here today to launch this campaign for a route of motorway/Dual Carriageway standard and the re-installment of a rail network to the region we are demanding that this historical legacy now be addressed. And we are determined that we will not have to wait 40 years to see these essential developments.

Donegal County Councillor Pearse Doherty said,

"A motorway/Dual Carriageway to the Northwest will bring major benefits not only to the northwest, but also to all the counties and communities along it route. Furthermore it will cost less than 3% of what is to be spent by both governments on infrastructure on this island over the next 10 years.

"On a final point and I am conscious in making it, the number of fatalities on our roads each year and in particular in my own county of Donegal. A motorway/dual carriageway apart from all the other associated benefits will also provide to the northwest and the border counties a significant safety dividend. It is accepted that it could reduce the number of accidents on the N14/A5/N2 by up to 65%.

"So the results of a successful campaign will not only deliver key necessary infrastructure to the northwest, will not only boost the local economy and assist in tackling the spiralling job losses, will not only reverse the trend of neglect and indifference but will also provide safer road for our communities.

Concluding, Pat Doherty MP said,

"In launching this campaign leaflet here today in which the demand for Division One Road and Rail Infrastructure is laid out, we must fully utilize our political strength across to mobilise, build alliances and secure a level of support for this demand that those in power will have to listen to-no matter how reluctant they may be to do so." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has led a party delegation including councillors from Fermanagh District Council to meet with British NIO Minister David Hanson in Belfast to discus the future use of a number PSNI and British Army Barracks in Fermanagh that are due for closure as a result of Sinn Féin negotiations with the British government.

Speaking after the meeting Ms Gildernew said:

"Sinn Féin has consistently argued for the British government to complete the process of demilitarisation. There is progress but they still have a long way to go.

"It is essential now that we see the land used by both the British Army and PSNI to house their barracks finally put to some use that can be of benefit to the local community.

"Some of the sites should be used to develop social housing, particularly in Roslea, Tempo, Derrygonnelly and Lisbellaw where there is a severe lack of social housing. In other areas a number of local community organisations have already come forward and expressed an interest in developing a number of different projects including Kinawley where there are plans for play facilities and we will continue to work with the council to secure this, and Roslea where there are also a number of plans for community use including a substantial arts project.

"However within Roslea there are significantly greater social housing needs than that offered by the barracks and we will continue to work with the Housing Executive and Housing Associations to secure much needed social housing in this area." ENDS

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