Sinn Fein T.D Sean Crowe today urged the Government to reconsider their position on not including the Morning Star Mother and Baby Home as an institution for consideration by the redress board.
Speaking today Deputy Crowe said, "It is a matter of some urgency that this situation be resolved. A former resident of the home Marie Therese O'Loughlin has felt compelled to go on hunger strike outside the Dail over this issue. She is now in the second week of her protest.
"Minister Hanafin says that the reason she cannot include this institution for consideration by the redress board is because the department of Health and Children can find no records to indicate that a statutory body had any regulatory or inspection role in relation to the Morning Star. If this is the case then there has been stunning negligence on the part of the state. I have information that mothers as young as fourteen were in the Morning Star. In addition young children were left there while their mothers were hospitalised, sometimes for extended periods. It is therefore clear that a statuary body should have had a regulatory or inspection role.
"I urgently appeal to Minister Hanafin to liase again with the Department of Health and Children to clarify this matter in the hope that a solution can be reached. It is an indictment of this Government that a woman should be entering the second week of a hunger strike camped outside Leinster House in such terrible weather conditions." ENDS
Sinn Féin Policing and Justice spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has said that disclosures today by ex CID officer Jonty Brown underline that 'a key threat to the new beginning to policing is the political cartel of Special Branch members'.
Mr Kelly said:
"Sinn Féin have consistently highlighted evidence of institutional collusion, a culture of serious malpractice and the protection of murderers who were also state agents by the RUC Special Branch. Many of those responsible for operating the policy of collusion transferred en bloc into the PSNI. These are the people who were responsible for a policy of collusion that led directly to the death of hundreds of people.
"Ex-CID officer Jonty Brown's remarks provide one inside view of political policing and the role of the special branch 'force within a force'. Other recent disclosures have shown the protection of state agents involved in serious crime including murder and drugs; the theft and leaking of information for political effect at sensitive times in the peace process; and high profile politically motivated raids.
"This goes to underline that a key threat to the new beginning to policing and a peaceful future is the political cartel of Special Branch members, both serving and retired. What everyone wants to know is will these human rights abusers be weeded out?" ENDS
This weekend more than a thousand republicans will gather in Dublin to celebrate 100 years of Sinn Féin.
Party President Gerry Adams will deliver a keynote address at the Céad Bliain event in the City West Hotel, Saggart, County Dublin on Saturday 5th November.
Mr Adams will address the assembled guests at 9.00pm and it will be open to the media. ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has said the Taoiseach must insist on full co-operation from the British government and its agencies in the forthcoming Oireachtas Committee hearings on the murder of Séamus Ludlow.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “The report of Justice Barron is an indictment in particular of senior Garda management who prevented the investigation being pursued in 1979 even though they had the names of the four suspects, two of whom were members of the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment. The Report’s conclusion that the decision not to pursue this was taken by Deputy Commissioner Laurence Wren, possibly in consultation with senior officials of the Department of Justice, raises very serious questions.
“Once again, as in the case of his Dublin-Monaghan bombings investigation, the work of Justice Henry Barron has been hampered by lack of co-operation from the British authorities. He has concluded that he finds it hard to accept that requested documentation does not exist.
“The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, at his next meeting with Tony Blair, must insist on full co-operation from the British authorities with the forthcoming hearings of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on this latest Barron Report. This must include making available witnesses and documentation.” ENDS
Commenting on today's HSE report on hospital hygiene, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD said:
"This is a very grave report which starkly highlights the gross inadequacies in hospital hygiene throughout this State. A comprehensive response is essential. Issues which must be addressed include the need to improve cleaning and waste disposal services in all hospitals. Pay and conditions for contract cleaning workers should be improved.
"The report highlights the need to combat the high incidence of MRSA in Irish hospitals. We need to know the full extent of the problem. It is now a common experience that patients and their relatives are not being informed when patients have contracted MRSA in hospitals. This must change and all patients who contract MRSA must be fully informed, as must their relatives." ENDS
Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that the treatment of Irish Ferries workers is "indicative of the bargain basement approach to workers' rights throughout the EU".
Ms McDonald made her comments before she attended a rally in Dublin City Centre in support of workers at Irish Ferries. The march will begin at 1:30pm at Liberty Hall and make its way to the Dail.
Speaking today Ms McDonald said:
"I am attending today‚s rally in support of over 500 workers who are about to be displaced from their jobs, and in solidarity with those low cost third country nationals who are set to replace them.
"Sinn Féin believes that with real political will, this issue can be resolved at both a national and European level. Over this past number of weeks I have met with the Trade Unions and the Irish EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy to press the case for support on the Irish Ferries issue.
"The Irish Ferries dispute is not a stand alone issue. It is indicative of the bargain basement approach to workers‚ rights and conditions throughout the EU, and the widespread drive towards privatizing everything that moves. Sinn Féin opposes this approach as history and experience dictates that it can only lead to price increases, a marked decrease in the service provided and increases in the cost of provision according to consumer associations. In addition, this process contributes to destroying jobs and invariably leads to the creation of private monopolies.
"Sinn Féin is up for the fight of protecting our public services, and creating an alternative to the politics of privatization both at home and within the EU." ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA Michael Ferguson has welcomed the visit of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to Poleglass. The local MLA will be there to meet with him and intends to speak to him about the regeneration of the area and the deficit of resources in the area.
Commenting on the meeting Michael Ferguson said,
"The visit by the Taoiseach to the Colin Neighbourhood a community characterised by multiple deprivation is most welcome.
"I recently visited the Ballymun Regeneration Board to look at how the Dublin government and Dublin City council worked with the Community and the Private sector to ensure the integrated delivery of investment to the area and areas like Poleglass and Twinbroook need the same commitment.
"I am hopeful that today's meeting will herald greater co-operation and the sharing of good practice and I hope that other cross boarder meetings can follow." ENDS
Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin accused British direct rule ministers of failing to take forward projects to develop infrastructure on an all-Ireland basis.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"Having met with direct rule ministers on a number of occasions it is clear they are failing to push forward the all-Ireland agenda in a number of areas, particularly on infrastructure and transport.
"The Department of Regional Development and the Department of Transport must spearhead joint working mechanisms to develop transport corridors across Ireland. Ignoring the Northwest, which has suffered prolonged social and economic hardship, is a mistake. The region needs vital infrastructure to attract and sustain investment and much needed employment. It is not enough to talk about Derry/Donegal in policy documents when nothing is done to develop the Northwest region.
"In Dublin, Martin Cullen this week announced a 34 Euro billion ten year road and transport. This includes an Atlantic Corridor with a dual carriageway from Letterkenny to Waterford. Yet, Direct Rule Ministers say it will be 2025 until we, possibly, get a dual carriageway from Derry to Belfast.
"The DUP and others who refuse to share power with Sinn Féin have a stark choice to make. Act with courage and confidence and make a new future for all through co-operation or condemn those who voted for you to bad government and British direct rule.
"Sinn Féin and others continue to work towards building a consensus for Irish unity and it is imperative that all who recognise the folly of partition, including those in the business, educational, health, agriculture and community sectors, increase pressure on both governments to adopt a co-ordinated approach to investment and development on an all-Ireland basis. Many now recognise that partition presents obstacles for economic and infrastructural development that cannot be addressed except through integrated strategic planning on an all-Ireland basis." ENDS
Today in a letter to be read out at the rally in support of the workers at Irish Ferris outside the Dáil, the Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, expressed his solidarity with their cause. Mr Adams congratulated the workers for "standing up and defending your rights in the face of corporate greed." He went on to say that the "displacement of Irish workers at a profitable company is unacceptable". He further called on the Government to "introduce a licensing regime for ferries operating within Irish territorial waters to prevent the outsourcing of labour and the exploitation of workers."
The full text of Mr Adams letter of support is as follows:
Sinn Féin wishes to express our solidarity with the workers at Irish Ferries, who are facing forced redundancy. We congratulate you for standing up and defending your rights in the face of corporate greed. If you did not do this, workers present and future would suffer, and terms and conditions won over many years would be swept away.
The displacement of Irish workers at a profitable company is unacceptable. The exploitation of workers on board ferries operating under flags of convenience out of Irish ports must not be permitted. To the migrant workers on board the 'Normandy' we vow to continue to raise the unacceptable regime on that ship in the Dáil, the European Parliament and elsewhere.
Sinn Féin is demanding the Government call on the European Commission to urgently introduce a European Ferries Directive, to combat 'social dumping' on ferries and set minimum labour standards on intra- EU ferries.
We are also calling on the Government to introduce a licensing regime for ferries operating within Irish territorial waters to prevent the outsourcing of labour and the exploitation of workers.
Sinn Féin will continue to support you, the workers at Irish Ferries, in your campaign to retain your jobs with current pay and conditions.
Uachtaráin Shinn Féin
Concluding the Sinn Féin Private Members Business motion debate on Irish reunification in the Dáil today Sinn Féin TD for Louth, Arthur Morgan described the Government amendment to the motion as "absurd" saying it would effectively make the whole peace process "dependent on the response of rejectionist unionism."
He said the "Irish Government has a particular responsibility to commence planning for reunification. Central to this is the need for the Government to initiate and sustain a planned programme of all-Ireland social and economic development, which aims to remove the obstacles created by partition."
Deputy Morgan said: "An all-Ireland economy would serve business and would serve the people of Ireland best. This is recognised by the business community, including by many unionists.
"There was not one word in it (the Sinn Féin motion) that any reasonable person could object to, let alone those who claim to be committed to unity.
"This motion was put forward in the spirit of constructiveness with the aim of achieving a consensus among the parties in this House, who avow to support unity. Why is it that Fianna Fail in particular are running away from having a constructive debate on Irish Unity? All reference to unity is absent from the amendment put forward by the Government.
"I would like to refer for a moment directly to the government amendment and in particular the following section: 'Opposes any political move or initiative which would increase tensions between the two main traditions on this island'.
"This is an absurd notion that would see the process stagnate and would make the process dependent on the response of rejectionist unionism. Arguably to advocate the restoration of the institutions is enough to increase tensions among some sections of unionism.
"I challenge grass roots members of Fianna Fáil to step back and appraise what is actually being done to achieve their aspirations for a United Ireland; to ask themselves if they are satisfied with empty rhetoric which is not matched by actions. Are the PDs going to be allowed to dump the Taoiseach’s proposal for very limited participation of Six County MPs here? I urge the Taoiseach, once again, to press ahead with his proposal.
"There is an imperative for us to begin the preparations for Irish Unity now.
"In conclusion my Sinn Féin colleagues have set out our vision of an inclusive Ireland, a better Ireland, an Ireland where diversity is valued and the greatest possible participation of the people of the island in the civil and political life of the country is a primary objective. We are working to create an Irish Republic which vindicates the rights and entitlements set out in the 1916 proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil." ENDS
Full text of Irish contribution by Arthur Morgan TD to Dáil debate on Irish reunification
It is not often that this House has taken the time to debate what this state needs to do to prepare politically, socially and economically for Irish re-unification.
The Irish Government has a particular responsibility to commence planning for reunification. This is vital if we are to have a successful transition to the United Ireland which the majority of parties in this House profess to support.
As Deputy Ó Caoláin said last night we must strengthen and build upon the all-Ireland aspects of the Agreement.
Central to this is the need for the Government to initiate and sustain a planned programme of all-Ireland social and economic development which aims to remove the obstacles created by partition.
We need to integrate the economy. An all-Ireland economy would serve business and would serve the people of Ireland best. This is recognised by the business community, including by many unionists. The IBEC-CBI Joint Business Council are currently promoting 20 key North-South actions to increase economic co-operation on the island of Ireland. These moves are to be to welcomed.
The Sinn Féin motion was succinct and straightforward. There was not one word in it that any reasonable person could object to, let alone those who claim to be committed to unity.
This motion was put forward in the spirit of constructiveness with the aim of achieving a consensus among the parties in this House, who avow to support unity, regarding how this state prepares politically, socially and economically for Irish unification. Why is it that Fianna Fail in particular are running away from having a constructive debate on Irish Unity? All reference to unity is absent from the amendment put forward by the Government. Taoiseach, when will you live up to the ideals of Padraic Pearse, whose picture adorns your office wall.
I would like to refer for a moment directly to the government amendment and in particular the following section:
“Opposes any political move or initiative which would increase tensions between the two main traditions on this island”. This is an absurd notion that would see the process stagnate and would make the process dependent on the response of rejectionist unionism.
Arguably to advocate the restoration of the institutions is enough to increase tensions among some sections of unionism. Who could accept that element of the Government amendment
Last month Minister Seamus Brennan claimed that Fianna Fáil should not be ashamed of saying it still wants a united Ireland and that this should not frighten unionists. From the contributions last night and the Fianna Fail amendment he appears to be alone within the parliamentary party in holding this view.
In the absence of any strategic preparation for Unity the supposed new found republicanism of the larger government party rings very hollow. Though plans for an annual commemoration to commemorate the men and women 1916 are welcome and long overdue, it would be a greater honour to their memory if this State was to commence, through the process of bringing forward a green paper on unity, identifying steps and measures which can promote and assist a successful transition to a united Ireland.
I challenge grass roots members of Fianna Fáil to step back and reappraise whether that party any longer represents their aspirations for a United Ireland, to ask themselves if they are satisfied with empty rhetoric which is not matched by actions. Are the PDs going to be allowed to dump the Taoiseach’s proposal for very limited participation of Six County MPs here? I urge the Taoiseach, once again, to press ahead with his proposal.
It seems that for Fine Gael and the PDs to seek to unite Ireland by peaceful means is inflammatory and will destabilise unionism. To invite ALL MPs from the North to participate even in a very limited way in this Oireachtas will offend unionists. But it seems that it doesn’t matter that the refusal to work for Irish Unity will disappoint nationalists in the Six Counties. It doesn’t matter that Fine Gael, Labour and the PDs have slammed the door in the faces of the SDLP and Sinn Féin, the representatives of nationalist in the North. That is what the opposition of these parties to the Taoiseach’s proposal means. The sensitivities of nationalists mean nothing to these parties.
The contributions made by deputies Allen and O’Keefe on behalf of Fine Gael do not merit response.
I am surprised that the Labour Party which claims to follow in the footsteps of Connolly is willing to take its policy lead on this issue from a party such as Fine Gael that has its routes in the fascist movement and is opposing even limited northern representation in the Dáil. I know many members within the Labour party aspire to a United Ireland and are genuine in their adherence to the ideals of Connolly who vociferously opposed any partition of Ireland and warned of the “carnival of reaction” that would follow the cutting of Ireland to “pieces as a corpse would be cut upon the dissecting table”.
Briefly on the issue of demilitarisation, some progress has been made but the pace is too slow. The deployment of foreign troops is occurring in such a way as to be extremely provocative and totally unnecessary.
I recently attended a conference in the Ti Cuchulan Centre in Mullaghbán in South Armagh and on my way there I met two PSNI cops accompanied by more than 20 British troops. This carry on – this nonsense needs to stop. It is ludicrous that there is still nearly twice as many British troops in the north as there are Iraq
There is an imperative for us to begin the preparations for Irish Unity now. My colleague Deputy Ó Caoláin at the commencement of this debate outlined the necessity for bringing forward a green paper on Irish Unity. I hope that people will come away from this debate with an understanding of why such a green paper is crucial.
In conclusion my Sinn Féin colleagues have set out our vision of an inclusive Ireland, a better Ireland, an Ireland where diversity is valued and the greatest possible participation of the people of the island in the civil and political life of the country is a primary objective. My colleague Deputy Crowe has made clear our commitment and ongoing work to engage with unionism. We are working to create an Irish Republic which vindicates the rights and entitlements set out in the 1916 proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil.
Sinn Féin Irish Language spokesperson, East Derry MLA Francie Brolly has said that the proposed budget for the Irish Language all-Ireland implementation body Foras na Gaeilge will inevitably lead to a de facto cut in the organisation's spending power.
Mr Brolly said:
"This weekend Irish Language organisations from across the island will gather in Cork for the culmination of events at Oireachtas na Gaeilge 2005.
"Friday's meeting of Foras na Gaeilge in Cork, held to coincide with the Oireachtas, provides an opportunity to focus attention in the Irish Language sector on the fact that the proposed budget for an Foras from the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure will inevitably lead to a de facto cut in the spending power of an Foras.
"This is unacceptable and flies in the face of the demonstrable need in the sector.
"Increased spend is required if an Foras is to sustain development. Sinn Féin will be seeking an early meeting with Minister David Hanson to press for an urgent review of the proposals from DCAL." ENDS
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has said that the decision taken by Unionist Politicians on the Southern Education and Library Board not to reinstate the School Bus service is an appalling lack of understanding of the needs of rural communities.
Commenting on the vote that was split 13 for reinstatement of the Bus Service and 14 against, Michael Ferguson said:
"It is obvious that Unionist Politicians have no conception of the importance of the School Bus service to schools in rural areas.
"School children and teachers along with parents from the Controlled, Maintained, Integrated and Irish School sectors were united in calling for the reinstatement of this service.
"It is a crying shame that Unionists Politicians could not join the rest of us and for once, show that we can be united particularly in defence of our children's educational entitlement.
"It is also disappointing that an un-elected member of the board had the casting vote in this instance however, Sinn Fein's Board Members and I are committed to the reinstatement of this service and we will continue to support the children, parents and teachers from all of the schools concerned.
"We have politically drawn a line in the sand in defence of school services and we will demand that the Government provides us with a real budget to support education and learning." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has called for community organisations to have a greater say in designing and implementing Rural and Regional development programmes. She has also called for these programmes to be adequately funded.
Ms de Brún made the call in Rural Derry today where she was taking the temperature of local community opinion in advance of a major conference in Newcastle upon Tyne next week. The conference is organised as part of the British EU Presidency.
The Sinn Féin MEP will travel to Newcastle upon Tyne as part of the European Parliament Regional Development committee delegation to discuss the EU's Regional and Rural Development programmes for 2007-2013.
Ms de Brún has been involved in a number of discussions with local stakeholders about these future programmes.
Her meetings today include visits to Eglington, Claudy and Park areas of Rural Derry as well as meetings in Derry City.
Ms de Brún said:
"We need a bottom up approach to the design and implementation of the next round of Rural and Regional Development Programmes. We also need a set of properly funded programmes to ensure that areas are not left behind as the economy develops and improves.
"These are the messages I will bring to those I meet at the British EU Presidency conference next week as well as the practical experience of groups working in local communities across the North." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Women and Older People, Newry Armagh MLA Pat O'Rawe has said that the publication of new data on pay inequalities by the Department of Social Development (Individual Incomes Series, NI 2003/04), that show that women only receive 65% of the income of men in the Six Counties is an indictment on the failure of policy and political will deliver pay equality.
Ms O'Rawe said:
"It is a indictment that in the 21st century women's income is only 65% of men's. The situation has not improved because of a failure of policy and political will to deliver pay equality.
"The only growth in jobs has been in the part-time, low wage female service sector. This means that pay inequalities may get worse unless there is a concerted political effort to take action to address the issue. This will require a totally new approach to equality and pay inequality.
"We need to make a choice - is pay inequality wrong and does it make the risk of poverty greater. The answer to both these questions is yes. What we now need to do is analyse why this pay differential exists and bring forward a strategic plan of action to address and eliminate the differential.
"It is also clear that income levels in the north for both men and women are very low in comparison with the rest of Ireland and Britain. The cost of living is also high here, as are energy cost, yet British direct rule ministers are determined to force through water charges and huge rates increases that will only increase the threat of poverty." ENDS
Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Paul Butler has said that the revelations today on the Talkback show by leading Stoneyford loyalist Mark Harbinson that he has been involved in election work for the DUP raises once again very serious questions for that party regarding their relationship with unionist paramilitaries.
Cllr. Butler said:
" The DUP have for decades continued to deny any connection with violent unionist paramilitaries. This is despite well publicised links with groups like Ulster Resistance. In recent days Gary Blair a man convicted for his part in the killing of my party colleague Malachy Carey in Ballymoney in 1992 who went on to form an alliance with Billy Wright and the LVF while in prison has emerged as spokesperson for the DUP in Ian Paisley's North Antrim constituency.
" Today on the Talkback show leading Stoneyford loyalist Mark Harbinson a leader of violent protests at Drumcree and suspected of involvement in the intimidation of Catholics in Stoneyford and the surrounding areas confirmed that he has taken part in election work for the DUP.
" Nationalists are sick of the hypocrisy and double speak from the DUP. On one hand they continue to hold up political progress through their nonsensical position of refusing to talk to the largest nationalist party in the north Sinn Féin, while on the other hand they have no problem associating with individuals like Gary Blair and Mark Harbinson.
" It is time for the DUP leader to comment on this situation. It is no longer tenable to hide behind two line statements from their Press Office." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has has said, “Only on the basis of real and meaningful engagement can we make progress on peace, and reconciliation and resolve our differences.” Speaking on the Sinn Féin Private Members Motion on Irish Unity this morning he said, “Unionists have absolutely nothing to fear and everything to gain from a united Ireland.”
Deputy Crowe said, “I believe it is imperative that we are open in the debate here and in the wider engagement with all those people that live on, and share space on this island. Only on the basis of real and meaningful engagement can we make progress on peace, and reconciliation and resolve our differences.
“Sinn Fein wants to see all those who say they believe in Irish unity begin the important work to persuade the unionist community of the advantages of reunification. I say this knowing that there is much work ahead of us and I say this respecting the right of those from the unionist community to maintain their British identity.
“When Sinn Fein speaks of Irish unity we mean more than the removal of partition; we mean also, the unity of the people of Ireland. We seek a process of national reconciliation an end to sectarianism, a unity of purpose.
“When we say to Unionists that yes we unashamedly advocate a United Ireland we do so not to antagonize them but because it makes economic and social sense. And not just for Republicans but for all the people of Ireland,North and South East and West, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, Muslim and Jew, Agnostic and Atheist.
“Unionism should not underestimate the political clout they will have in a united Ireland. They will go from being a tiny minority to something like 20% of the population.
“Surely a united Ireland would represent a real opportunity for unionists to exert real control over their destiny. Those from a Unionist background will be significant players in any New Ireland which is in stark contrast to their current position. They will have the ability to implement coherent social and economic policies on the basis of Ireland as a whole rather than have them decided in Westminster where their interests must be negotiated with Britain.
“Unionists have absolutely nothing to fear and everything to gain from a united Ireland. It is inevitable and we ask you to join us as partners in building a New Ireland. Sinn Fein believes that the practical planning for a united Ireland should begin now.” ENDS
Full text of speech follows:
Standing here today I am convinced that we are closer than we have ever been to Irish re-unification. I have absolutely no doubts about this. As an active Irish republican I am of course more interested in what type of United Ireland will emerge. Will it be an inclusive Ireland where the natural resources and enormous wealth of the country will be used for the benefit of people regardless of their class or creed or where they reside.
Of course there are those who argue that we as advocates of Irish unity should remain silent about our political objective.
They claim that even to state such an objective is unhelpful and would increase tensions as efforts are made to restore the institutions established under the Good Friday agreement.
I don’t agree with this position.
I believe it is imperative that we are open in the debate here and in the wider engagement with all those people that live on, and share space on this island. Only on the basis of real and meaningful engagement can we make progress on peace, and reconciliation and resolve our differences.
Sinn Fein wants to see all those who say they believe in Irish unity begin the important work to persuade the unionist community of the advantages of reunification. I say this knowing that there is much work ahead of us and I say this respecting the right of those from the unionist community to maintain their British identity.
It is obvious that there is a huge gulf of distrust and mis-understanding on all sides.
More than a decade into the peace process with all the initiatives taken by republicans and the policy changes that republicans have made, unionists remain sceptical about our sincerity.
How much of this has to do with the failure of the leaders of unionism over the last ten years is of course a matter for debate.
There is no doubt that many unionist leaders are either opposed to change or are reluctant to embrace it. They certainly do not encourage dialogue between communities.
There is also no doubt that many of the people we engage with are much more open minded about the need for change and dialogue than their political leaders.
This proves for me the potential there is for change once real dialogue takes place.
I want to say that while we are committed to developing dialogue. I am also struck by the fact that there is unfortunately a blind spot among all shades of unionism about their role in the conflict.
They seem not to realise the impact on northern catholics and nationalists of the years between 1920 and 1969 when a protestant and unionist state was imposed on us and those who lived through those years, never mind the role of unionism right up to this very day.
Obviously in our journey towards real equality in the north, those within unionism who had previously enjoyed and prospered during the years of discrimination and injustice will feel threatened.
In some cases this sense of alienation has been exacerbated the collapse of the traditional unionist industries such as shipbuilding. But none of this can be an excuse for further stalling the process of change or delaying the basic rights and entitlements demanded by the Good Friday Agreement.
In my opinion these are just some of the difficult realities that we have to deal with. But no matter how difficult are the obstacles to dialogue they are they need to be tackled; they need to be overcome.
Republicans know that the task is not easy; indeed it is formidable. We are trying to unravel centuries of conflict; centuries of living separately on a very small island.
We republicans know it is going to take time and political change before we arrive at a satisfactory point where we can say we have really begun the journey of genuine national reconciliation.
I want to say from this chamber, to the unionist community in particular, and ask for your endorsement, that Sinn Fein is committed to building the peace, promoting national reconciliation, developing our own party's consciousness and structures which will enable us to genuinely reach out to unionists and the broader protestant community.
When Sinn Fein speaks of Irish unity we mean more than the removal of partition; we mean also, the unity of the people of Ireland. We seek a process of national reconciliation an end to sectarianism, a unity of purpose.
When we say to Unionists that yes we unashamedly advocate a United Ireland we do so not to antagonize them but because it makes economic and social sense. And not just for Republicans but for all the people of Ireland,North and South East and West, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, Muslim and Jew, Agnostic and Atheist.
We have consistently urged an Island wide approach in key policy areas including the economy, health, education, employment, agriculture culture, arts and tourism but it must be allowed to develop in a real and meaningful way
Unionism should not underestimate the political clout they will have in a united Ireland. They will go from being a tiny minority to someonism. Equality for all and inclusivity were the hallmark of his term in office.
No one was excluded from his office and City Hall was truly open to everyone. Alex strove to represent all the people of Belfast, not just Republicans, as his laying of a wreath at the Cenotaph testifies too.
Civic leaders throughout this island have a role to play also. Indeed previous Mayors of this city, from the various parties in Leinster House, have in the past with varying degrees of success, made real and conscious efforts to reach out to civic leaders from the unionist persuasion in the North. This work should be commended by all here today.
In conclusion let me just say this. Unionists have absolutely nothing to fear and everything to gain from a united Ireland. It is inevitable and we ask you to join us as partners in building a New Ireland.
Sinn Fein believes that the practical planning for a united Ireland should begin now.
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has said that the ongoing PSNI operation against republicans in the Dungannon area will further undermine the confidence of the nationalist community in the ability of the PSNI to deliver impartial and accountable policing.
Ms Gildernew said:
" The PSNI operation against republicans which began yesterday n South Down and continued overnight in Dungannon is without doubt driven by the political policing agenda of the RUC old guard in the Special Branch. Yesterday's Special Branch briefing of the usual selected sources in the media and the unprecedented naming of those arrested by certain media outlets points all of us in that direction.
" I have no doubt that these briefings will continue today and attempts will be made to smear those arrested through the media. The operation in Tyrone overnight has been heavy handed, unwarranted and completely without justification.
" These are not the actions of an accountable and acceptable policing service. The operation in Tyrone will further undermine the confidence of the nationalist community in the ability of the PSNI to deliver impartial, accountable policing and of course raises very serious questions for the SDLP who we assume endorse this type of operation." ENDS
An Irish Times report this morning quotes US State Department sources saying that the US Administration is planning to place a restriction on Gerry Adams visa and ban him from speaking at fundraising events in the United States. Sinn Féin's Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness has described such a move as "wholly negative" and said it will "be used by anti-agreement unionists, including the DUP, to undermine the progress that has been made this year and damage the hopes for progress in the months ahead. It is important that this matter is resolved as speedily as possible".
Mr. McGuinness said:
"These fundraising events allow supporters of Irish unity to contribute to Sinn Féin's political programme to achieve this through peaceful and democratic activity. Such support is entirely legitimate and indeed necessary in demonstrating that politics works.
"The US has played a pivotal role in the creation and evolution of the peace process. An even handed approach has been the hallmark of success in this. All parties have been treated equally. However any heavy handed attempt by the State Department to try and dictate Sinn Féin policy on policing is misguided and will do nothing to help in the resolution of this key issue.
"Sinn Féin knows what we have to do on policing, our position is very clear. The British Government also knows what it has to do on policing. It has given a series of commitments on this. The upcoming period will provide ample opportunities to establish whether these commitments have been honoured. President Bush's special envoy Mitchell Reiss knows this and he and the State Department have been fully briefed on our party's position.
"If Gerry Adams has restrictions imposed on his visa this means you would have the ludicrous and unsustainable situation where he is allowed to travel to the US, but he would be banned from attending the fundraising event which will go ahead in any event.
"If Gerry Adams is banned from addressing US citizens at fundraising events next week he will not travel to the United States. Of course he and others in the Sinn Féin leadership will continue to engage with US opinion and he will travel there as part of that engagement in the time ahead.
"The adoption of this position by the US Administration would cause huge anger among supporters of the peace process in Irish America especially and is out of step with, for example the British governments approach. There is no ban on Gerry Adams attending fundraising events in Britain.
"Inevitably, such a wholly negative approach by the US would have serious political repercussions and would be used by anti-agreement unionists, including the DUP, to undermine the progress that has been made this year and damage the hopes for progress in the months ahead. It is important that this matter is resolved as speedily as possible."ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has said that she is committed to assisting the family of Pat Finucane "both at home and at a European level in order to establish an independent international inquiry into the solicitor's death".
Ms de Brún made her comments after she met with members of the murdered solicitor's family in Belfast today.
Speaking today Ms de Brún said:
"Both I and my colleague Mary Lou McDonald met with the Finucane family earlier this year to discuss their ongoing quest for justice following Pat Finucane's murder in February 1989. We have kept in touch with the Finucane family in the interim and have been very concerned at the attempts by the British government to block any hope of a proper independent inquiry into his murder.
"Sinn Féin has raised this issue with the British Government on a number of occasions. However, today‚s meeting is a recognition in many ways that the British government is not going to act responsibly towards the Finucane family in the absence of international pressure.
"We discussed practical ways in which the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane can be kept in the European spotlight and pressure kept on the British Government to deliver on its commitment of a public inquiry. The Finucane family are rightly frustrated at the British Government's attempts to block an independent inquiry as part of the state cover up in the aftermath of his murder.
"Sinn Féin is committed to assisting the family of Pat Finucane both at home and at a European level. Today's meeting focussed on practical steps we can take to provide support in the time ahead." ENDS
Speaking during this evening Private Members Business motion on Irish Reunification put forward by Sinn Féin’s five TD, the Party’s leader in Leinster House, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said, “Irish unity must be more than an aspiration and an objective, however sincerely held. We must work together towards Irish unity.”
“The immediate task before all of us is the re-instatement of the structures established under the Good Friday Agreement. That is the responsibility first and foremost of the British and Irish governments. On the part of the DUP there can be no more possible excuses for non-engagement with Sinn Féin. The excuse of IRA weapons is no longer tenable; indeed the hollowness of that excuse as used so often in the past has been exposed since the IRA’s announcement and its putting of weapons beyond use.”
Criticising those who have sought to play down or ignore the legitimate political demand for Irish reunification for fear of offending Unionists Deputy Ó Caoláin said, “Whittling down the Agreement, failing to implement it or abandoning the legitimate political objective of Irish unity will not encourage dialogue. On the contrary, it will reinforce intransigence.”
Arguing that Irish reunification would benefit all people on the island of Ireland he said, “Throughout the peace process we have consistently urged an island-wide approach in key policy areas including the economy, health, education, employment, agriculture and tourism. We have given practical expression to this through the work of our Ministers in the Executive and the all-Ireland Ministerial Council. In the Assembly and in the Dáil, Sinn Féin representatives have continuously pressed the need to sustain and develop the all-island approach enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.
“By planning for Irish unity, and by demonstrating that unification can lead to a better society for all the people of this island, nationalists will go far towards persuading many unionists that they can have a secure future in a new, united Ireland.”
He concluded by saying, “The type of society we will have in a united Ireland is already being shaped. We must ensure that it is not a 'cold house' for any section of our community.” ENDS
Full contribution of Sinn Féin Dáil leader, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD to Private Members Business motion on Irish reunification
2 Samhain 2005
Molaim an rún seo ar son Teachtaí Shinn Féin. Is annamh a bhí deis ag an Dáil aontú na hÉireann a phlé. Ní chuimhin liom díospóireacht ar an gceist seo ónar toghadh mé i 1997. Cé gur phléamar próiséas na síochána go minic ní raibh deis chun díriú ar an ghá chun obair i dtreo aontú na hÉireann. Mar sin cuireann sé áthas orainn, mar Teachtaí Shinn Féin, an rún seo a chur os comhair na Dála agus chun iarraidh ar gach Teachta tacú leis. Ach ní rún amháin atá anseo. Seo fógra chomh maith go bhfuilimíd chun dul ar aghaidh go dtí an cuspóir sin i gcuideachta gach duine sa tír a bhfuil an cuspóir daonlathach aige nó aici.
It is an honour to present this motion on behalf of the Sinn Féin deputies. It is a motion that encapsulates the central aim of our party – but more importantly, I believe, the sincerely held objective of the vast majority of the people of Ireland. The democratic objective of the reunification of Ireland is reflected - to one degree or another - in all political parties represented here in the Oireachtas. All the principal political parties state that Irish unity is one of their aims. But it must be more than an aspiration and an objective, however sincerely held. If we are serious and sincere we must work together towards Irish unity. This motion is an invitation to do just that.
We have debated the peace process many times but we have not taken the opportunity to address the issue of Irish unity itself. Our motion presents such an opportunity.
This debate comes in the wake of the momentous decision of the IRA to end its armed campaign and to put its weapons beyond use. I don’t believe any of us yet appreciates the enormity of this development. It will take time for it to be seen in its proper historical context. It marked a crossroads not only in the peace process but in the development of politics on this island. It confirmed what the peace process had established - that Irish republicans are totally committed to the peaceful and democratic way forward to our objective of Irish unity and national sovereignty.
The immediate task before all of us is the re-instatement of the structures established under the Good Friday Agreement. That is the responsibility first and foremost of the British and Irish governments. On the part of the DUP there can be no more possible excuses for non-engagement with Sinn Féin. The excuse of IRA weapons is no longer tenable; indeed the hollowness of that excuse as used so often in the past has been exposed since the IRA’s announcement and its putting of weapons beyond use. Those who seek to minimise the significance of developments this past summer, and the potential for progress which they offer, are doing a grave disservice to their constituents. However, I believe the DUP will enter negotiations with Sinn Féin. One thing is certain. Whittling down the Agreement, failing to implement it or abandoning the legitimate political objective of Irish unity will not encourage dialogue. On the contrary, it will reinforce intransigence.
Sinn Féin has tabled this motion, and we are urging the Irish Government to publish a Green Paper on Irish Unity, because we believe that the practical planning for a United Ireland should begin now.
Throughout the peace process we have consistently urged an island-wide approach in key policy areas including the economy, health, education, employment, agriculture and tourism. We have given practical expression to this through the work of our Ministers in the Executive and the all-Ireland Ministerial Council. In the Assembly and in the Dáil, Sinn Féin representatives have continuously pressed the need to sustain and develop the all-island approach enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.
By planning for Irish unity, and by demonstrating that unification can lead to a better society for all the people of this island, nationalists will go far towards persuading many unionists that they can have a secure future in a new, united Ireland.
We should be strengthening and building upon the all-Ireland aspects of the Agreement. The Irish Government should be initiating and sustaining a planned programme of all-Ireland social and economic development which aims to remove the obstacles created by partition, strengthen the links between the people in all parts of the island and integrate the economy and society. Such work should proceed at all levels and the Irish Government should not be dependent upon the active co-operation of any British administration, although such co-operation is not only desirable but an obligation of the British government under the Agreement.
Central to the Good Friday Agreement is an equality agenda which seeks to address many of these injustices. It cannot be stressed enough that equality applies to everyone. It will benefit all sections of the community. The attempt to portray the equality agenda as meaning privilege for nationalists is the latest manifestation of the sectarian scare tactic designed to prevent unionists making common cause at any level with their nationalist neighbours.
Unionists need to embrace the equality agenda. There is no other way forward for their community. Refusal to do so can slow down but cannot halt the process of change. Participation now in the process of change is the best guarantee that their interests will be represented most effectively. Many in the unionist community already privately admit that Irish unity is inevitable. Recognition that this process of change is leading to Irish Unity will be a very painful but ultimately liberating development for unionists.
Nationalists throughout Ireland also need to come to terms with the reality that the achievement of their aim of Irish reunification will mean profound change. The whole political landscape will be transformed. New political alignments will evolve. New island-wide economics will develop. There will be new demands on the economy to meet the needs of a reunited island and people. There will be many challenges but also many opportunities.
Every Deputy and Senator has received a copy of Sinn Fein’s discussion document ‘A Green Paper on Irish Unity’. In summary it sets out the following programme:
· There is a national responsibility on the Irish Government to formulate and implement a strategy to achieve the democratic objectives of national self-determination, Irish reunification, political independence and national reconciliation
· It must involve a negotiation with the British Government.
· It must be underpinned by a meaningful and substantial peace dividend from both governments.
· Such a strategy needs to have an international dimension whichincludes seeking specific forms of support from popular and political opinion in Britain; the Irish diaspora and the international community.
· The Taoiseach should commission a Green Paper on Irish unity to be completed within one year.
· Participation by people resident in the Six Counties in the democratic life of the nation should be facilitated and include Northern representation in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Citizens in the Six Counties should have voting rights in presidential Elections and for a reformed Seanad elected on a national list system.
· The Irish Government, in consultation with the social partners, the community and NGO sector, the business and agricultural sectors, the trade unions, must begin the process of co-ordinating economic planning on an all-Ireland basis.
I look forward to a serious debate on these proposals. I call on the Taoiseach to proceed with his invitation to the 18 MPs in the Six Counties to participate in a Committee of the whole Dáil, beginning in early 2006 and to be held at least twice a year. The knee-jerk and partitionist reactions to this reasonable and modest proposal from the leaders of Fine Gael and Labour surely raise profound questions for the members of these two parties, one of which subtitles itself ‘the United Ireland Party’ and the other which claims the mantle of James Connolly. And I would ask Fianna Fáil deputies and party members if they will allow this proposal to be vetoed by Minister McDowell who has called for Irish Republican MPs, elected on the basis of non-participation in Westminster, to take their seats there and to swear an oath of allegiance to the English queen.
I believe these nay-sayers have misrepresented the Irish people. We are mandated by them to work together for the benefit of this country - and that includes working together towards national reunification.
The type of society we will have in a united Ireland is already being shaped. We must ensure that it is not a 'cold house' for any section of our community. What Martin Luther King said about the world in 1967 applies equally to Ireland - and the world - in this new century:
"We have inherited a large house, a great 'world house' in which we have to live together - black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu - a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace."