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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has urged the DUP to enter into direct face-to-face talks with Sinn Fein over the 12th July parades in West and North Belfast.

Mr Kelly said:

"Sinn Féin welcome the public pronouncements of the DUP that they want to ensure a peaceful summer. Sinn Féin has led public calls for some years and worked with others on the ground to achieve last years relative calm.

"I am calling on the DUP public representatives to sit down with Sinn Féin public representatives to talk about building on last years achievements and especially on the subject of the small number of contentious Loyal Order parades.

"The DUP are currently sitting on the North and West Parades Forum with 3 Loyalist paramilitary groups. Lets show political leadership by meeting on the parades issue.

"I would also urge the DUP to use their influence with the Orange Order to encourage them to enter into dialogue with nationalist residents groups." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillors Eoin O'Broin and Margaret McClenaghan today met with the Parades Commission and urged them 'to block the proposed 12th of July parades along the contentious section of the Crumlin at the Ardoyne shops'.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr O'Broin said:

"The 12th parade is the largest and most contentious parade along the Crumlin Road. It has been the scene of serious trouble in previous years.

"Sinn Féin has long argued that the only way to resolve this long standing dispuite is for the loyal intitutions to engage in serious dialogue with nationalist residents.

"Unfortunately the local orders continue to refuse all offers of dialogue. Nationalist residents must not be treated as second class citizens.

"It is encumbent on the Parades Commission to send a clear signal to the loyal institutions that untill such dialogue begins no parades can be permited along the contentious section of the route. There should be no rewards for intransigence." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, has called on the European Commission to reflect the lack of support for the introduction of Genetically Modified food by refusing to authorise the import into the EU of a GM maize NK 630. Deputy Ferris was speaking following the failure of EU Environment Ministers to give their approval on Tuesday.

Deputy Ferris said: "The Commission must act in a manner that reflects the views of the majority of EU citizens. When a similar decision was taken at committee and ministerial level regarding Bt-11, the Commission basically over-rode that by giving its approval. As things stand, no member state has made an open and democratic decision to ratify GM, and yet the embargoes and moratoriums are set to continue to fall by default at Commission level.

"This represents a disgraceful failure to reflect popular feeling on the issue, no where more so than in Ireland where Fianna Fáil have reversed their previous opposition without any explanation or any open decision either within their own party or in the Oireachtas. Sinn Féin will continue to expose this caving in to the interests of the GM corporations, and to campaign to have the entire island declared GM free." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has expressed concern at today's report from Ombudsman Tom Frawley into the number of complaints about people being struck off GP registers.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Access to primary health care services and the relationship with your local GP are fundamentally important to a person's health and wellbeing. This report raises a number of serious issues.

"Sinn Fein will be meeting Ombudsman Tom Frawley to discuss this report and to seek his views about whether the new GMS contracts for our General Practitioners will provide the protections required.

"We will also be raising these issues with the Department of Health." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Culture Spokesperson, East Derry MLA Francie Brolly has criticised the delay in getting the resources from the proposed £12 million fund for Irish language television and radio programming into use.

Mr Brolly said:

"The commitment to put in place resources for Irish language programming was made in 1998. Now it appears that it will be 2005 at the earliest before this money hits the ground.

"The delay is a result of foot dragging and wilful incompetence. IT is unacceptable.

"A greater urgency is required to ensure that the target of providing the target of 90 hours per week of Irish language programming to an audience of 25,000 minimum is met." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has expressed outrage at the audit report into the installation of gas-fired central heating into Housing Executive Homes in Belfast that found fundamental flaws in the management of the installation, the tendering process and most seriously that there were immediate dangers.

Mr McCann said:

"This situation is totally untenable. Where were the checks and balances to ensure that the heating system was safe when it was installed? Where were the checks and balances to ensure that the tendering process delivered value for money?

"For a considerable period after these systems were introduced we had local Ministers and local MLA's yet still there were no action taken about safety or the tendering process.

"If firms were sharing lucrative contracts and "collusive tendering" practices were operating in tandem with serious safety failures it would indicate a widespread management failure within the Housing Executive and the Department of Social Development.

"My greatest concern is that we had a confidential Health and Safety Executive report from 2001 that almost 30 installations breached safety regulations with 4 being immediately dangerous yet it is only now that this has come into the public domain. The entire management of this project appears to have been a fiasco from day one." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has said that the British government must demonstrate their commitment to meet the commitment to Human Rights criteria set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Adams said:

"This latest resignation from the Human Rights Commission is just the latest in a long series of events that further underline the failure of the British government in particular to properly establish the Human Rights Commission, and establish the ethos that meets the criteria set out in the Good Friday Agreement, as well as the needs of people here.

"The current Human Rights Commission has been discredited due to its approach on Human Rights and Equality issues. It is therefore a matter of deep concern to discover that the British government has adopted a course of action that is likely to sustain this unacceptable situation.

"A range of Human Rights organisations and NGOs have called for reassurances from the British government on the appointments process, for clarification of its intentions on providing additional powers and for the need for a balanced and representative Commission. These are matters which Sinn Féin have consistently raised with the British government as essential prerequisites to the establishment of an entirely new Human Rights Commission that fully complies with the Good Friday Agreement.

"The British government must provide the necessary assurances that these legitimate concerns will be acted upon. The British government must demonstrate its commitment to Human Rights by acting on these concerns" ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said that pressure to introduce a workplace smoking ban is now impossible to ignore and called on NIO direct rule Minster Angela Smith to enter into discussion with local politicians, practitioners from the Health field and representatives of the business and hospitality trade to begin to work out the details for how such a smoking ban can be put in place.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"The pressure to introduce a workplace smoking ban is now impossible to ignore.

"The GAA has shown positive leadership in embracing the need to introduce a smoking ban and the BMA have spelt out clearly that that it wants to see a smoking ban introduced.

"The British government needs to come clean on its attitude towards the smoking ban. NIO direct rule Health Minister Angela Smith has the ability to publish a consultation document on this now. She should do so without delay.

"I would also urge Angela Smith to enter into discussion with local politicians, practitioners from the Health field and representatives of the business and hospitality trade to begin to work out the details for how such a smoking ban can be put in place and about the terms of reference to this urgently required legislation." ENDS

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Dublin Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan has questioned how second-hand house prices in Dublin have been allowed to rise by 8% in the first six months of this year, and has demanded that the Government "get up of its backside and start dealing with the housing crisis" in the capital city.

Mr Doolan said:

"Two reports are out today which will provide startling reading for anyone trying to purchase a home in Dublin at the moment. One, from Douglas Newman Good reveals that second-hand house prices rose by 8% in the first six months of this year. The other, from the Central Bank, shows us to be €80 billion in debt from mortgage lending.

"This crisis has been growing for years, and the government has completely and utterly failed to deal with it. Since July 2003, mortgage borrowing has risen by €1 billion a month. The average price of a second-hand home in Dublin is now €367,000. Who can afford that? How has this been allowed to happen?

"This government needs to get of its backside and starts dealing with the housing crisis in the capital city. For a start the first-time buyers' grant should be re-introduced. Then the government should tackle land speculators and rip-off property developers -- it shouldn't have to look to far too find them. Local authorities must receive increased and sustained funding to provide housing with a target of supplying suitable accommodation within two years for 70 per cent of applicants on the waiting lists. Compulsory Purchase Orders should be used, with the City Council receiving a cheque to avail of them. And it must also enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution.

"The Government is wringing its hands trying to figure out why it got battered in the recent elections. Well, this is just one of the reasons. For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to promote realistic and achievable solutions to the crisis."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA has said reports that the British government is to amend the requirement for annual electoral registration reflect necessary changes but are still not good enough.

Mr Mc Laughlin said:

"The proposal to amend the requirement to register for electoral purposes every year are necessary but are still not good enough.. Sinn Fein has campaigned rigorously against this restrictive legislation ever since it was introduced at the behest of the other parties but particularly the SDLP and UUP.

"We have challenged the British government about the detrimental effect that yearly registration was having on the capability of individuals to register to vote. The result was the removal of over 211,000 eligible voters from the electoral register and the incremental shrinkage of the electorate on subsequent registers.

"While the detail has yet to be released this announcement is an admission by the British government of the undemocratic nature of its legislation.

"In a series of meetings in the past week I met with Direct Rule Minister John Spellar, the Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission on this very issue. Although this measure is to be welcomed there are still serious restrictions remaining and Sinn Féin will continue to highlight them until they too are removed.

"We also need to see the issue of photo ID properly addressed and in particular the detrimental impact that this legislation has had on young people and people from disadvantaged communities losing their democratic right to vote. The British government also need to address the issue of the Electoral Courts which are also acting as a further barrier to registration." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has warned that the drug war between rival unionist paramilitary factions in the Craigavon area is spiralling out of control and that lives will be lost unless unionist politicians and civic leaders intervene.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"In the past month there have been a number of incidents related to the escalating drug war between rival unionist paramilitary factions in the Craigavon area. Innocent families are being caught up in this violence. I would urge unionist politicians and civic and church leaders to intervene before lives are lost." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, attempted to have the Dáil adjourned to discuss the effect which rising fuel and energy costs are having on the incomes of farmers and fishermen. Deputy Ferris' motion referred to the manner in which such costs were outstripping the prices being received for produce and thus helping to depress income levels.

Deputy Ferris said:

"Statistics from the CSO show that while the prices paid to farmers and fishermen have declined, motor fuels have risen by 50% since 1995 and overall energy costs by 43%. This is having an extremely detrimental effect on farming and fishing incomes and points to the need for the Government to take action in this area. It appears that while farmers and fishermen are subject to constant pressure on the prices which they receive for their produce, that certain retail sectors can impose increases way out of line with those in other sectors of the economy. It is vital that the Government address this as a priority in order to address at least one aspect of the problem of declining incomes". ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has tabled amendments to the Equality Bill 2004 to widen the range of categories of people protected against discrimination by the state's equality legislation. Speaking in advance of the Dail debate on 01 July Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The effect of these amendments will be to ensure that people in this state can no longer be discriminated against on the basis of their socio-economic status, political opinion, trade union membership or because they have a criminal record. These proposals are in keeping with Equality Authority recommendations that the Minister for Inequality has so far refused to adopt.

"We will also be seeking to amend the definition of 'marital status' to give equal recognition to the rights of unmarried heterosexual or same sex couples.

"In contrast with the Minister I am firmly of the belief that inequality is harmful, deprives society of the full potential contributions of those who face discrimination, and that its eradication will free up significant social resources to the benefit of both the individuals and society as a whole."

"If adopted these amendments could have a real, positive impact particularly on the daily experience of working class people in this state, and represent a major step forward for increasing social inclusion."

Sinn Féin has tabled twenty amendments to the Equality Bill 2004, which give expression to concerns raised by the Equality Authority, the Human Rights Commission, and the Equality Coalition representing more than 60 groups. ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West, Seán Crowe has called on the Rail Procurement Agency, to ensure that the initial period of free travel granted to users of the Sandyford line, which is aimed at encouraging people to use the service, be also introduced on the Tallaght line when it becomes operational in August. Deputy Crowe made his comments after it emerged that the operators of LUAS had not yet decided if the free trial period would be extended to Tallaght.

Deputy Crowe said, "While welcoming the fact that LUAS has finally arrived, from Sandyford at least, I would call on the Rail Procurement Agency and the operators of LUAS to provide an initial period of free travel on the Tallaght line when it becomes operational in August as they have done on the Sandyford line this week. In an effort to get people using the service a period of free travel will encourage people and enable them to become familiar and comfortable with it."

Deputy Crowe went on to say "The introduction of LUAS to the transport infrastructure of Dublin is a welcome if somewhat late development. However, while it is welcome it has already been overtaken by the development of this part of Dublin. Massive growth has taken place beyond the Square in Tallaght, where the LUAS line now terminates. The whole City West business campus as well as the thousands of residential homes that have sprung up in the area in recent years is in desperate need of increased quality public transport. The extension of the LUAS to this part of the County must be looked at as a priority." ENDS

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Commenting on the decision of the PSNI to suspend the requirement for its members to disclose their membership of secret societies, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly said that the decision was 'the result of elements within the PSNI who are committed to thwarting policing change and the achievement of an acceptable policing service'.

Mr Kelly said:

" With the transfer en masse of the RUC into the PSNI it was inevitable that the old rump of the RUC, many of whom are human rights abusers, would work from within the PSNI to thwart the achievement of a new policing service. The recent court case challenging the requirement to disclose membership of secret societies was part of that agenda.

" It can also be seen through the continuing failure to provide vital documentation to a number of inquests, the refusal to wear identification badges and the resistance to inquiries into collusion emanating from the PSNI.

" There can be no doubt that there are those in senior positions within the PSNI who hark back to the days of the RUC. They are an active blockage to the achievement of an acceptable and accountable policing service and must be challenged if the demand of the Good Friday Agreement is to be met." ENDS

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Speaking today at a press conference in his City Hall parlour, Deputy Mayor of Belfast Cllr. Joe O'Donnell outlined his plans for this years annual Somme Commemoration events. Cllr. O'Donnell was joined by the former Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey.

Cllr. O'Donnell said:

" As Deputy Mayor of Belfast I would like to outline how I will be participating in the City Council's ceremony to mark tomorrow‚s anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

" The Mayor Tom Eakin will conduct the proceedings at the cenotaph and will lay a wreath.

" I will attend the special meeting of the Council in the Chamber at 11am where a minute‚s silence will be held for those from the 36th Ulster Division who lost their lives.

" I believe this level of direct participation to mark the Somme anniversary is appropriate for me as Deputy Mayor of Belfast.

" I believe it is building on the initiatives taken by Alex Maskey during his term as Mayor to reach out to the unionist and protestant people of Belfast.

" It clearly shows that republicans are committed to engaging with the unionist and protestant people and that we are prepared to meet them on common ground no matter how difficult it is for us as republicans to do so.

" This is what making peace is all about.

" I decided to participate in the Council meeting because I am keen to show the continued commitment that republicans in this city have to building bridges into the unionist and protestant community.

" I also believe as part of this ongoing commitment by republicans with civic responsibility to mark occasions like the Somme, Councils need to establish all-inclusive ceremonies where everyone can participate.

" Tomorrow's ceremonies will appeal to only one section of the people of this city, those from a unionist and protestant background.

" I know the P&R are currently discussing a civic ceremony organised by the Council to mark the Somme and other similar occasions.

" I believe this is the way forward and I look forward to the day when all the Councillors and all the people of Belfast will feel welcome at Belfast's cenotaph." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Newry Armagh MLA Davy Hyland will lead a delegation to meet British NIO Education Minister Barry Gardiner at 2.30pm tomorrow, Thursday 1st July.

Sinn Féin will be raising concerns about the ongoing dispute over teachers' pay including UPS2 pay scales, the delay in purchasing the site for the All Ireland Centre of Excellence for Children with Autism in Middletown, County Armagh, progress on the Costello report on the 11+ and the difficulties facing rural primary school principles.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Mr Hyland said:

"While I appreciate that Barry Gardiner is new to his job it is vital that he get to grips with some of the central outstanding issues facing the department.

"The foot dragging by previous direct rule ministers, particularly in relation to the ending of the unfair and damaging 11+, the setting up of the All Ireland Centre of Excellence for Children with Autism in Middletown and teachers pay, must be addressed urgently.

"I am also concerned that there is little recognition of the pressures facing rural primary schools and the workloads of their principles." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has stated that the Minister for Finance should resign in light of the "incredible mismanagement of the National Development Plan" revealed by the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report on the massive over-spend on national roads.

Deputy Ó Caolain said:

"On the day the Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy expressed his determination to stay in office and persist with his policies this Government's management of the National Development Plan, for which the Finance Minister is responsible, has been exposed as a fiasco. The Comptroller and Auditor General has revealed that the cost of the roads programme under the National Development Plan has spiralled from a projected investment of €5.6 billion in 1999 to an estimated cost of €16.4 billion now, with projects way behind schedule. It was also revealed that this massive rip-off of the taxpayer has been facilitated by a systematic failure on the part of the National Roads Authority to properly cost and monitor projects.

"The C&AG has highlighted that while the NDP is the source of funding for the roads programme, there is no clear specification of the set of projects which it is planned to fund from that national programme. This is a clear indictment of the Government.

"The delivery of the National Development Plan is described by the government as the 'blueprint for Ireland's continuing economic progress' and the Minister for Finance has overall responsibility for its delivery. This is the Minister who preaches prudent economic management and who today expressed his determination to continue in office. Yet he has presided over a situation where the taxpayer is being systematically ripped off by consultants, suppliers and contractors for massive road projects. The Minister's position is untenable and he should go." ENDS

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Sinn Fein spokesperson on all Ireland development, West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff has welcomed this weeks announcement on the availability of over 5 million Euro through a Cross-Border Funding Measure directed at supporting Renewable Energy which are cross-border. The announcement was made at a conference held at Slieve Russell Hotel, Ballyconnell, Cavan.

Speaking after the conference Mr McElduff said:

"Sinn Féin encourages applicants from all target sectors: public bodies, community groups, trade unions, individuals and private businesses. What is essential is that we seize this opportunity by getting in contact with other groups with a similar interest to develop sustainable projects to promote green energy forms.

"Sinn Fein believes that this is a very real opportunity that the framing community in particular should look at seriously, particularly at the setting up community based cross-border co-operative organisations.

"We are particularly happy that this is part of an EU Community Initiative which is primarily aimed at encouraging development of green energy by community groups either side of the border. This fund is hugely significant as it provides for 50% support towards the private sector and 75% towards community groups. With other funds available community groups and voluntary sector applicants should be confident of getting 100% funding towards capital costs - confirmed by Action Renewables who are helping the two Departments administer this fund. Sinn Fein welcomes their involvement, as this will add significant value to the measure.

"Applicants should get in contact with Action Renewables or visit their website for contact details and submit an application form to either DETI or DCMNR as soon as possible.

"This measure is open on a rolling application basis. There will be no deadline and over £5m remains in the fund. It is important that this doesn't go back to Europe. We need to develop our hugely underdeveloped Green Energy sector - particularly in rural areas with biomass - this is a massive opportunity. Let's not waste it." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP led a party delegation today to meet with the Parades Commission. The meeting was at Sinn Féin's request and came in the wake of last week's disgraceful decision to force an Orange parade through the Springfield Road community. The delegation consisted of Alex Maskey MLA, Cllr. Tom Hartley, Gerry Kelly MLA and Kathy Stanton MLA.

Mr Adams said:

"Our view is that the Parades Commission collapsed last week in the face of threats by unionist politicians and unionist paramilitaries.

"It was an act of moral cowardice which has left a deep sense of hurt among the Springfield Road residents who worked very hard to find a resolution. The reality is that those who didn't try to find a resolution were rewarded.

"This was a reprehensible decision which will have ramifications in the future. The decision by the Parades Commission has cheapened the process of dialogue as a means of resolving difficult issues.

"The Commission gave us an explanation which we didn't accept. They said they would reflect on the points we put to them but I have to say that our delegation was far from impressed by this." ENDS

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