Speaking before tonight's meeting of Belfast City Council in which the SDLP are tabling a motion on the killing of Robert McCartney demanding that people bring information to the PSNI Sinn Féin Councillor Joe O'Donnell said that his party would seek to amend the motion in order to ensure that it reflected the reality that many within the community who wish to help the family in their quest for justice simply will not come forward with information to the PSNI.
Cllr. O'Donnell said:
"Sinn Féin supports the McCartney family in their quest for truth and justice. I have repudiated this brutal killing in the strongest terms possible. And furthermore no one has any right, as has been claimed, to prevent anyone from helping the McCartney family.
"I would also wish to commend the communities in the Short Strand and Markets who have supported the McCartney family and repeat my call again for anyone with any information which can assist the family in their quest for justice and truth to bring it forward.
"As someone who lives within the republican community and have first hand experience of policing I recognise the reality that there are many within our community who for good reason do not trust the PSNI and simply will not bring forward information to them. This reality cannot be ignored by people if they are serious about delivering justice for the McCartney family.
"Indeed the PSNI themselves recognised this reality when they began the re-investigation into the loyalist killing of Sean Brown in Bellaghy. The PSNI poster itself encourages people to use a named firm of solicitors or the Pat Finucane Centre to bring forward information as an alternative to dealing directly with the PSNI. This is exactly the sort of pragmatic and realistic approach which is necessary to deliver justice in this case also.
"The motion as it stands is excluding any information which people in this category have from the search for truth and justice and therefore if this motion is passed, rather than assisting the family, would in my view set the search for justice back. If this is not the intention of the proposer then I believe that the amendment as put by Sinn Fein should be accepted." ENDS
Sinn Féin leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, has expressed his disappointment that the Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, has decided not to accept an amendment from Sinn Féin to his Private Members Motion on the murder of Robert McCartney. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Sinn Féin supports the thrust of the Fine Gael motion but the final paragraph restricts the means by which information may be brought forward to help bring the killers to justice. The reality is that there are many within the nationalist community who for good reason do not trust the PSNI and simply will not bring forward information to them. This reality cannot be ignored if we are serious about delivering justice for the McCartney family.
"Indeed the PSNI themselves have recognised this reality when they began the re-investigation into the loyalist killing of Sean Brown in Bellaghy, Co. Derry. The PSNI issued an appeal which encouraged people to use a named firm of solicitors or the Pat Finucane Centre to bring forward information as an alternative to dealing directly with the PSNI. This is the sort of pragmatic and realistic approach which is necessary to deliver justice in this case also.
"The motion as it stands is excluding from the search for truth and justice any information which people in this category may have and therefore, if passed, rather than assisting the family, could, in my view, set the search for justice back. For this reason Sinn Féin asked Fine Gael to accept our amendment. Their refusal is very regrettable." ENDS
NOTE TO EDITOR: Sinn Féin amendment to FG Private Members Business 1/3/05
After "police", to insert the following: or, for those who do not support or trust the PSNI, to bring forward any information they may have to the family, a solicitor or any other authoritative or reputable person or body. ENDS
Responding to comments made by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde today regarding the position of Sinn Féin in relation to the killing of Robert McCartney, South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey this afternoon said:
"The Sinn Féin position regarding this killing is very clear. We have repudiated it in the strongest possible terms.
"In relation to those who have information or evidence relating to the killing they should bring it forward through an avenue of their choice.
"Some people may well chose the PSNI as that avenue while others will choose to bring forward any information they may have to the family, a solicitor or some other authoritiy or reputable person or body.
"The PSNI themselves have recognised this reality when they produced a poster relating to the re-investigation of the killing of Sean Brown in Bellaghy calling on potential witnesses to adopt this approach." ENDS
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has revealed that the party have written to the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy challenging him on his decision to impose sanctions on the Sinn Féin electorate in the wake of the latest report from the IMC.
Mr McLaughlin said:
" Last week in the British House of Commons Paul Murphy a man with no votes or no mandate in Ireland chose to impose sanctions on democratically elected Irish politicians. He invited Sinn Féin to make representations to him regarding this matter.
" Sinn Féin have now written to Mr Murphy challenging him to produce a shred of evidence backing the claim that Sinn Féin have been in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. We have also taken this opportunity to make it very clear to Mr Murphy the reality that the IMC operates entirely outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and should have no role whatsoever in the political process.
" The actions of the British government in imposing sanctions against Irish political representatives is a denial of the democratic rights of the electorate and at a time when our collective focus should be on putting the political process back on track only serves to deepen the crisis further." ENDS
Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has expressed concerns at the response of British Secretary of State Paul Murphy to the needs of victims and his seeming rejection of an independent truth process.
Mr McGuigan said:
"What Paul Murphy has said today in relation to a victim's commissioner, a victim's forum and a truth process is both contradictory and divisive.
"On the one hand Paul Murphy is recognising the need to deal with the difficulties faced by victims of the conflict while at the same time rejecting the need to create a independent process and framework to allow people to fully deal with the past and the issues of healing and truth.
"The British government needs to publicly recognise that it is a key protagonist and acknowledge its role in creating and maintaining the conflict.
"Many will believe that the real motive behind Paul Murphy's decision to put a truth process on the long finger is a desire to try and hide the role of the British state in the murder of citizens here both directly and through its policy of collusion.
"Paul Murphy acknowledges that many do not trust the role of the British government in all of this. The logical next step would be for the process to be entirely independent of the British government.
"For any process to genuinely deal with the needs of victims and survivors it must also deal with the issues of truth, justice, healing and the need to understand the why there was such a terrible and devastating conflict on this island." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today welcomed the announcement of almost £1 million in subsidies for those in the fishing industry in the Six Counties. Ms de Brún said that while the subsidies were welcome there "will continue to be hardship after these subsidies have ended".
Ms de Brún made her comments after Direct Rule Fisheries Minister Ian Pearson announced almost £1 million in subsidies, compensation for ships tied up in harbours as part of cod conservation measures.
Speaking today Ms de Brún said:
"The announcement of almost £1 million in subsidies for fishermen and women in the 6 Counties must be welcomed, as a short term measure to alleviate the hardship faced by those who work in the industry. However, while short term, transitional subsidies are welcome, there will continue to be hardship after these subsidies have ended. The fishing industry requires long term investment and support if it is to remain sustainable into the future.
"The Irish fishing industry has been under considerable pressure for a number of years and there is concern that this is the last year of transitional aid. As the high levels of restrictions placed upon the fishing industry here look set to continue, some form of help for local fishermen needs to continue also.
"I welcome the fact that DARD has initiated a review of the impact of successive years‚ seasonal cod spawning closures in the Irish Sea. We hope there will be a clear assessment of the impact of the tie-up scheme on local fishermen. We are also reiterating our call for the statutory representation of fishing organisations in the management of stocks. A long term plan is required to ensure the fishing industry does not continue to lurch from crisis to crisis." ENDS
Speaking to the Sinn Féin Group in Navan this morning Sinn Féin candidate for the Meath by-election Councillor Joe Reilly said "the electoral pact between Fine Gael and Labour means a vote for Labour in this by-election is in reality a vote for Fine Gael. The only winnable alternative in Meath is Sinn Féin, so if your thinking Labour vote Sinn Féin." Cllr Joe Reilly said:
"Given the ongoing decline in the Labour Party vote in this constituency, they are clearly not contesting to win the seat. And given the electoral pact announced last week, the reality is that a vote for Labour in this by-election is a vote for Fine Gael.
There are many, many differences between the two parties so the question is what are the people of Meath being asked to support.
"Labour oppose the M3 Motorway being routed through heritage sites, Fine Gael supports it. While Labour supports a European Army, they still claim to support Irish neutrality, while Fine Gael are openly against it. Labour opposed the break up of Aer Rianta. Fine Gael supported it.
"These are just some of the many contradictions between the two parties. This pact is another embarrassing step in the attempt to form a coalition of the confused after the next general election.
"Yet in a way, Labour's candidate in Meath perfectly sums up these contradictions. He ran as an Independent in June, voted for a Fianna Fáil Chair of the Council in July, joined the Labour party in the Autumn and now he is asking his supporters to transfer to a right-wing, anti-union, anti-neutrality party.
"The reality is that Sinn Féin have been representing the people of Meath for ten years now and the only winnable alternative in this election is Sinn Féin, so if your thinking Labour vote Sinn Féin." ENDS
Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Equality, Human Rights and Women Caitriona Ruane MLA speaking after debating the a range of issues with Ulster Unionist Assembly Member Dermott Nesbitt this weekend has said that unionist attempts undermine and blunt the tools that are essential to combat discrimination and inequality are wrong.
Ms Ruane said:
"I wish to thank Community Dialogue and particularly Kay Nellis for facilitating Saturday's debate and chairing the meeting in such an impartial and professional way. This was a very welcome engagement with one of the political leaders of Unionism who for a number of years has attempted to perpetuate the myth that in the six counties discrimination has been eradicated.
"Unionist leaders like Mr Nesbitt tell us that the Good Friday Agreement is a one-way street of concessions to Nationalists. Have they ever asked why it seems that way? Maybe they should examine our history and remember what it was like pre-1968 and the Civil Rights Campaign.
"Today, Castlereagh, Ballymena and Lisburn Councils demonstrate that given access to majority positions Unionists will still exclude others from positions of power. They will not share anything willingly. When asked about the systematic discrimination of nationalists that characteristics Lisburn City Council Dermott fudged the issue. He turned down the opportunity to criticise his party colleagues who refuse to share any of the top Council positions with Sinn Fein, the SDLP or the Alliance Party.
"Catholic males are still nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their Protestant counterparts. Protestants still occupy an inordinate number of senior positions in the Civil Service and all other state agencies. It is depressing therefore, that Dermot Nesbitt, a former Junior Minister in OFM/DFM with responsibility for equality, is arguing that we live in a society free from discrimination.
"His attempts to blunt the tools that are a key to ensuring a fair and just society and his determination to undermine key equality legislation that is essential to combat discrimination and inequality wherever it manifests itself is clearly wrong. In doing so he damages the tools that can assist us all in challenging discrimination and inequality.
"What a pity that Dermot does not argue as strongly on the need to empower working class Protestant areas in terms of jobs, incomes and education. It is my view that structural and indeed institutional discrimination against Catholics, ethnic minorities, the gay and lesbian community, travellers are part and parcel of living and working in the north of Ireland. Statistics show that discrimination and disadvantage are current realities and require urgent solutions.
"As we enter the new millennium many Unionists argue, without a hint of irony, that the injustice and the inequality which sparked the Civil Rights Movement were not really problems in the first place, but a figment of the Catholic imagination that was mired in victim hood; encouraged by a republican conspiracy designed to undermine the state by fuelling nationalist anger.
"It is this argument, which supports the view that public finances should not be wasted on Equality. This is the agenda, and the philosophy that is a recurring theme behind the public debate which Dermot Nesbitt, former Junior Minister with responsibility for equality, has immersed himself in.
"Yet the reality is that Nationalists fare badly across every indicator of deprivation.
"Here in Downpatrick areas such as the Flying Horse and New Model Farm estates are characterised by high unemployment and social deprivation that compare to anywhere in the north of Ireland. Six miles up the road at Ballyhornan people are living on the site of an old RAF military base that was recently described as a shantytown not dissimilar to Soweto.
"What they have in common is that they are predominantly nationalist areas, which have suffered as a result of neglect from Government and statutory agencies yet they are far from the exception.
"This is no accident. It is symptomatic of the nature of a statelet that was deliberately gerrymandered in order to maintain the status quo." ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation including Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew, head of Sinn Féin's national Agriculture and Rural Regeneration Department, Mayor of Fermanagh Councillor Gerry McHugh will join 6 County MEP Bairbre de Brún for a programme of meetings in Brussels.
Speaking ahead of the 2-day visit Michelle Gildernew said:
"There are many key developments, particularly at EU level, that impact on the long term future of Irish agriculture and fishing.
"Sinn Féin is determined to secure the best outcome for our fishing and farming communities. This demands sustained engagement with officials in Europe.
"This visit is the next stage in a programme of work that encompasses working with rural communities that depend on farming, fishing and the new EU framework for rural regeneration and working with the British and Irish governments to develop a strong All Ireland approach to all of these issues and in particular to the way in which EU regulations are implemented.
"Our priorities are to make progress on the lifting of the Beef Ban in the Six Counties; on addressing and reassessing the impact of quotas on Irish fishing; and on the impact of the nitrates/water framework and rural development regulations.
"We will use these engagements with EU officials to stimulate a wider debate within Ireland about how we can secure the best deal for the future of our rural communities." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP willl travel to London tomorrow, Tuesday 1st of March for a series of engagements.
He will hold a Press Conference in Room, A, 1 Parliament Square, Westminster W1.
Brendan McFarlane, the leader of the H-Block prisoners during the hunger strikes of 1981, has rejected any suggestion that a deal was rejected before the death of Joe McDonnell Brendan McFarlane responding to claims made by former prisoner, Richard O Rawe, in today's Sunday Times, said,
"All of us, particularly the families of the men who died, carry the tragedy and trauma of the hunger strikes with us every day of our lives. It was an emotional and deeply distressing time for those of us who were in the H-Blocks and close to the hunger strikers. However, as the Officer Commanding in the prison at the time, I can say categorically that there was no outside intervention to prevent a deal. The only outside intervention was to try to prevent the hunger strike. Once the strike was underway, the only people in a position to agree a deal or call off the hunger strike were the prisoners, and particularly the hunger strikers themselves.
"The political responsibility for the hunger strike, and the deaths that resulted from it, both inside and outside the prison, lies with Margaret Thatcher, who reneged on the deal which ended the first hunger strike. This bad faith and duplicity lead directly to the deaths of our friends and comrades in 1981".
Raymond McCartney, a former hunger striker and now Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle also commented on the claims,
"Richard's recollection of events is not accurate or credible. The hunger strike was a response to Thatcher's criminalisation campaign, now being revived by Michael McDowell. The move to hunger strike resulted from the prisoners' decision to escalate the protest after 5 years of beating, starvation and deprivation. The leadership of the IRA and of Sinn Fein tried to persuade us not to embark on this course of action. At all times we, the prisoners, took the decisions." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking in South Armagh this afternoon at a commemoration for IRA Volunteers Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley said 'Robert McCartney's murder has shocked hundreds of thousands of republicans throughout Ireland and we are united in our call for anyone with information about the killing to come forward.' Mr. Adams also sent his wishes of support to the rally, which is taking place in the Short Strand this afternoon and which is being attended by Sinn Féin leaders in the city.
Mr. Adams said:
"Robert McCartney‚s murder has shocked hundreds of thousands of republicans throughout Ireland and we are united in our call for anyone with information about the killing to come forward. I want to send my support to the rally, which is taking place in the Short Strand this afternoon and which is being attended by Sinn Féin leaders in the city. Sinn Féin fully supports the family of Robert McCartney in their demand for justice and truth. I have met the family and I remain in contact with them.
"Sinn Féin does not underestimate the seriousness of the current situation. The process is in grave difficulties and just as all of us in political leadership must share responsibility for this crisis, we must also share the responsibility to create the conditions to put the process back on track. The republican people of Belfast do not need Irish government ministers to lecture us on our patriotic duties nor should they or others in the political establishment in Dublin demonise the good people of the Markets and Short Strand.
"Sinn Féin is totally and absolutely committed to bringing the peace process to a successful conclusion. We are also committed to bringing about Irish unity and independence and to representing all those who vote for us. And while we will not shirk in our responsibilities we will not allow politicians, especially those who are glorying in the current difficulties, to criminalise those who support us or more importantly to set the political agenda.
"Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin spoke for republicans the length and breadth of this island when he said in the Dáil last week that 'Sinn Féin is a party that rejects criminality of any kind and no republican worthy of the name can be involved in criminality. There is no room in Sinn Féin for other than a clear and unambiguous commitment to democratic politics and the pursuit of our goals by legal and peaceful means.'
"It is a truism that those who want the greatest change have to take the greatest risks. We have demonstrated our capacity for doing this time and time again. Inevitably that will mean more hard choices, more hard decisions for Irish republicans as we push ahead with our political project and as we seek to achieve a united Ireland.
"We are up for the challenge today. We are determined to see all the guns taken out of Irish politics and to be part of the collective effort that will create the conditions where the IRA ceases to exist. We are determined that the issues of policing, demilitarisation, human rights and equality are dealt with.
"But republicans cannot make peace on our own. We cannot implement the Good Friday Agreement on our own. We cannot establish a working, viable power sharing government on our own. We cannot resolve the outstanding issues of equality and justice on our own. These require the British and Irish governments and the Unionists to play their part and to face up to the challenge of making peace."ENDS
Sinn Féin representatives Councillor Joe Reilly, Arthur Morgan TD and Newry and Mourne Councillor Pat McGinn were in East Meath today to oppose the proposed incinerator at Carronstown. They were joined by party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin. Party members from all three counties will attend the EPA hearings on the incinerator in the Boyne Valley Hotel on Monday 7th March.
Councillor Reilly said:
"Sinn Féin representatives from Meath, Louth and Armagh came together in East Meath today to voice our opposition to the proposed incinerator at Carronstown. This is an issue that affects people, not just in Meath, but people across the entire North East.
"Sinn Féin believes that there is no justification for incineration. It produces toxins which are detrimental to the health of communities in which the incinerators are situated and flies in the face of any real environmental waste management strategy. Incineration creates a major disincentive for the reduction and recycling of waste as incinerators need to be fed large volumes of waste to remain viable. We need proper commitment and investment from the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government to a waste management policy based on reduction, reuse and recycle guided by the ultimate goal of zero waste.
"Sinn Féin has lodged a formal appeal with the Environmental Protection Agency against the granting of a Waste Licence to Indaver Ireland to operate an incinerator at Carronstown in Meath. On March 7th Sinn Féin representatives from Meath, Louth and Armagh will attend the EPA hearings in the Boyne Valley Hotel and set out in detail our objections to incineration."ENDS
Following our investigation the IRA leadership, along with the leadership of the Belfast Command, initiated disciplinary proceedings through Court Martial. This was in accordance with IRA Standing Orders. These proceedings were directed only against IRA volunteers.
The outcome of the Courts Martial include the dismissal of three volunteers, two of whom were high ranking Volunteers.
One of these Volunteers had already gone to a solicitor immediately after the incident to make a statement of his actions on that night.
The other two were advised in the strongest terms possible to come forward and to take responsibility for their actions, as the McCartney family have asked.
In our statement of February 15th, we made it absolutely clear that no one should hinder or impede the McCartney family in their search for truth and justice and that anyone who could help them in that search should do so.
A dispute broke out between a senior republican and a group of people that included Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine.
After an initial heated verbal exchange between the senior republican and Robert McCartney. At that point another man and the senior republican were involved in a further heated exchange. Blows were exchanged and a major melee erupted in the bar.
Neither that man nor the senior republican had weapons of any description in their possession though both were struck with bottles thrown by others. Robert McCartney played no part in the melee.
Both Brendan Devine and the senior republican received serious stab wounds inside the bar.
A crowd spilled out onto the street. Verbal abuse and threats were being shouted by many of those present.
Some of those at the scene, including some republicans, tried to calm the situation.
The senior republican's wounds were tended by people at the scene and he was quickly taken to hospital.
In the meantime Brendan Devine, Robert McCartney and another man ended up in Market Street. It is the view of our investigation that these men were leaving the scene.
They were followed into Market Street where Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine were attacked and stabbed.
Both men were stabbed by the same man. Robert McCartney died a short time later in hospital.
No materials under the control of or belonging to the IRA were produced or used at any time during this savage attack.
A member of the bar staff was threatened by an individual who then took the CCTV tape away and destroyed it.
Those at the scene are responsible for the clean-up or destruction of evidence at the scene.
There should be no misunderstanding of our position in that regard. Any intimidation or threats in the name of the IRA or otherwise to any person who wishes to help the McCartney family will not be tolerated.
The internal disciplinary steps taken by the IRA are a matter for the IRA. They are not intended to be, nor should they be, seen as a substitute for the requests of the McCartney family.
IRA volunteers fully understand that they are bound by rules and regulations and a Code of Conduct. There will be no tolerance of anyone who steps outside of these rules, regulations or code. Anyone who brings the IRA into disrepute will be held accountable.
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin, Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald and TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Aengus Ó Snodaigh are joining the party's Meath by-election candidate Councillor Joe Reilly on the campaign trail this weekend.
12 noon - 2pm
Councillor Joe Reilly and party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin are in Laytown highlighting the lack of public transport in the area to get people to and from the local train station.
3pm - 5pm
Councillor Joe Reilly and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald will be canvassing in Trim and then in the South Meath area including Summerhill, Enfield and Longwood.
Councillor Joe Reilly will be canvassing in the Dunshaughlin area
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin will be canvassing in Kells, Oldcastle and Athboy. Aengus Ó Snodaigh will be canvassing in Dunshaughlin. Mitchel McLaughlin will be in East Meath.
Speaking after a debate in the European Parliament on the World Social Forum, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún said that 'the EU must learn from the example of the World Social Forum and play its part in providing global solutions on issues such as poverty, disease and the need to protect the environment'. The debate was on a cross party resolution welcoming the work of the WSF. Ms de Brun attended the Forum this last month in Porte Alegre, Brazil.
Ms de Brún said:
"The Fifth World Social Forum brought together more than 155 000 people, from 135 countries, to discuss global challenges such as poverty, disease, war, sustainable development and democracy. One of the most striking aspects was the number of young people engaged in debate at a time when other political activities face a high level of apathy.
"Many of these issues need a global response and this debate in the European Parliament is a recognition that the EU has a responsibility in this regard. Many have also recognised that politicians cannot find solutions alone but must work with NGOs, social partners and the social movements.
"The World Social Forum provides a unique open space at global and regional levels for dialogue, networking and action to create a fair and just world and against war. I had some very constructive political engagements with political representatives and NGOs from across the world during the World Social Forum.
"The EU must do more to aid and engage with the solutions being offered by the participants in the Social Forum. The European Commission should bring forward an ambitious and far-reaching European Union position in preparation for the UN Summit later this year. The EU must play a key role in making a success of the UN Summit in terms of stepping up efforts to promote global development and preparing the ground for UN reform conducive to a strengthened, more accountable, more democratic and more effective United Nations;
"The Commission must also develop concrete proposals on how the European Union can best pursue the implementation of the so-called New York Declaration on Action against Hunger and Poverty, which has the support of all the member states of the European Union. Member States should also move to implement the Tobin Tax (a new tax on financial transactions) in order to fund measures against hunger and poverty managed by the United Nations.
"We all have a responsibility to resolve the over-indebtedness of the developing world in a more forceful and ambitious way, and engagement with the World Social Forum will give us a good insight for future European Parliament initiatives. Our objective must be the full cancellation of debt, and the removal of structural barriers that hamper progress in developing countries." ENDS
Sinn Féin South Down Assembly Member Caitríona Ruane will engage in a public debate organised by Community Dialogue with Ulster Unionist MLA Dermot Nesbitt on the equality issue. Ms Ruane challenged Mr Nesbitt to a debate after objecting to his recent comments in which he claimed Catholics living in the north of Ireland do not face discrimination.
Speaking ahead of the debate Ms Ruane said:
"Part of the current Unionist agenda is to propagate the claim that the Protestant community is subject to increased levels of discrimination while at the same time perpetuating the myth that nationalists suffer little or no prejudices.
"While I accept that many Protestants live with disadvantage and poverty any objective analysis of the facts show that the Catholic community are disproportionately at risk in terms of housing, unemployment and ill health.
"Attempts to distort this reality only make it more difficult to target poverty, social need and discrimination in urban and rural areas on the basis of objective need.
"It is a position that is designed to undermine and discredit the equality agenda in an attempt to prevent real and lasting change. I welcome therefore, the chance to debate this issue publicly with Mr Nesbitt which will give us both the opportunity to get to heart of the debate about equality, discrimination and disadvantage." ENDS
Note to editors
Caitríona Ruane MLA will debate equality issues with UUP MLA Dermott Nesbitt on Saturday 26th February starting at 10am in the St Patrick's Centre in Downpatrick under the auspices of the Community Dialogue.
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Newry Armagh MLA Davy Hyland has said that direct rule minister Barry Gardiner should go back to school to learn some basic arithmetic after his inadequate response to the statement from the 5 education library boards outlining the reality of their financial situation.
Mr Hyland said:
"Everyone involved in education has been telling Barry Gardiner for some time now that our education library boards are facing a financial; crisis that will impact directly on frontline services. The huge deficits they are facing will hit school meals, school maintenance, school transport, the safety of children going to and from school, undermine the statementing process for children with specific educational needs and be to the detriment of the education of our young people.
"This is clearly unacceptable and rather than constantly try and shift the blame and demand unrealisable so-called efficiency savings Barry Gardiner should come clean and admit that he has failed to secure adequate resources for our education system. He has failed our children and young people. In truth this is only part of the wider failure of the British government to resources public services across the north of Ireland.
"Gardiner claims that there are paper increases of 9% overall and 6% for the boards but once inflationary and wage pressures are taken into account the reality is that there is little money left to maintain or develop provision. And this is the key point we should not just be concerned about maintaining services our priority should be to constantly improve them.
"It is vital that the Education sector gets the funding required to improve and enhance the opportunities for all children across the six counties. It is clear that the Department is supporting a decrease, in absolute real terms, in the Education budget.
"Barry Gardiner should go back to school to learn some basic arithmetic because he has clearly failed to do his sums on this. I appreciate that Barry Gardiner is only doing this job on a part time basis but that is no excuse for selling out the future of our young people." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said: Today Sinn Féin is extending an invitation to all those who share our heartfelt desire to achieve a United Ireland. We claim no monopoly on that demand - neither among the Irish people nor among Irish political parties. We want to commence a national and international process of planning for national reunification. So many of us share the goal of ending Partition and building Irish Unity and Independence - so it is long past time for us to begin to plan for that reunification in a systematic way.
This document sets out some of the practical steps that we need to take.
First and foremost the Irish Government needs to transform the aspiration for Irish unity into a real goal and to work strategically towards that goal.
As leader of the Sinn Féin TDs in the Dáil I want to very briefly set out what we see as the responsibility of the Irish Government to take a lead in this project.
I emphasise that this project is not just about the achievement of Irish Unity at some time in the future. It is about making a real difference to people‚s lives in the here and now. We need to see the integration of the island economy and the full co-ordination of public services like health and education and transport ˆ maximizing the benefits for everyone who shares this island.
In conclusion, I want to invite the ordinary members and supporters of Fianna Fáil in particular to engage in this debate and to begin very seriously to assess how the stated aim of their party can be achieved. I invite them to borrow freely from our ideas. Sinn Féin has no copyright on the road map to Irish unity. I extend that invitation to the members of other political parties too. But most importantly this is an opportunity for people the length and breadth of this island to play their part in the great project of reuniting our country and our people.