Responding to comments this afternoon by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde on the continuing use of plastic bullets, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice issues Gerry Kelly said:
" The continuing use of plastic bullets has been raised by Sinn Féin in each and every phase of the political negotiations including the one we are currently involved in. This is a key issue in the delivery of an acceptable policing service. This is work we are still currently engaged in.
" The Sinn Féin position on these lethal devices is clear and consistent. The use of plastic bullets should be ended immediately. That is the motivation behind raising the continuing purchase and use of plastic bullets by the PSNI with the British government.
" In contrast the SDLP oppose plastic bullets in public, yet in the privacy of the policing board rubber stamp the purchase of tens of thousands of these killer devices. It is hardly a coincidence that at a time when Sinn Féin has put the issue of plastic bullets and other such key issues at the heart of the political agenda that the SDLP suddenly decide to pass public comment." ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation today travelled to Downing Street for discussions with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and senior officials. The Sinn Féin delegation was led by party President Gerry Adams and included Martin McGuinness, Mitchel McLaughlin, Joe Reilly, Caitriona Ruane, Michelle Gildernew, Gerry Kelly and Mitchel McLaughlin.
Speaking after the meeting Mr Adams said that as far as he was concerned Sinn Féin 'had made its final representations on the governments text'.
Mr Adams said:
" As far as we are concerned we have made our final representations on the governments' text. We look to both governments to make sure that it is in line with their own criteria, that is, that it upholds the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement.
" The two governments are absolutely clear about Sinn Féin's view of their draft outline for a comprehensive agreement. Our party made our initial response when we received the document from the Taoiseach on 17th November. We gave this in writing to the two governments the next day. The criteria for our judgement on this document was also made clear. That is, that it needs to be bedded in the Good Friday Agreement and capable of delivering the Agreement.
" We also look to DUP leader, Ian Paisley, to face up to his responsibilities to join in the collective challenge of peace making.
" His refusal to talk to us makes this very difficult. His recent provocative remarks compound this. They also provide a rationale for his refusal thus far to embrace the power sharing, all-Ireland and equality fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement.
" Ian Paisley set out concerns about the issue of IRA weapons. Sinn Féin believes that this matter can be dealt with to the satisfaction of all reasonable people in the context of a comprehensive agreement. This can only be done under the tutelage of the IICD.
" A deal is still possible. An accommodation, a partnership of equals, cannot be built through a process of humiliation. Our focus is on achieving a deal. But it is only possible in the terms of the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS
Editors Note: On his return to Ireland this evening Mr Adams will address Sinn Féin activists in Navan, Co. Meath when he will deal in more detail with the current situation regarding the negotiations.
The meeting will take place in the Newgrange Hotel in Navan at 8pm and the media are welcome to attend.
Speaking after a debate in the European Parliament on World AIDS Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has called on EU leaders to do more to assist the developing world combat the ever growing pandemic.
Ms de Brún said:
"Today there are 40 million people across the globe living with HIV/AIDS. Of this number almost 50% are women and 90% from developing countries. Within the developed world the number of people living with HIV has doubled since 1995.
"This is an issue of global significance, which requires united global action.
"There is a need for more research and development of therapeutic and preventative treatments. There is also need for greater promotion of sexual health and safe sex practices.
"Political leaders need to recognise the relationship between poverty, discrimination and HIV/AIDS, and the centrality of implementing the Millenium Development Goals to breaking the cycle of underdevelopment, poverty and disease.
"Pharmaceutical companies also have a responsibility and governments must look at ways to reduce prices to enable developing countries to afford the antiviral drugs which are widely available in the industrialised world.
"In light of all of this I am delighted to support the all party European Parliamentary resolution on HIV/AIDS today.
"In particular Sinn Féin supports the call on the new Commission to ensure that funding continues to plug the 'decency gap' left by the US withdrawal of UNFPA funding, not only in the developing world but also in Eastern Europe and Central Asia;
"We welcomes the Commission's statement of 23 November 2004 on the presentation in April 2005 of an action plan to fight AIDS and looks forward to concrete actions;
"All world political leaders and governments have a responsibility to address this growing crisis. The EU in particular must show leadership. I hope the unanimity of opinion which this resolution represents will lead to significant and radical action by EY member states and the European commission in the months ahead." ENDS
Inniu d'ardaigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh ceist ghéarrchéim an nuachtán laethúil LÁ sa Dáil. Lorg sé go bheadh an Dáil curtah ar athló chun deileál leis an ábhar práinneach sin. Lorg sé tacaíocht dá rún:
"Go n-impíonn an Teach seo ar Foras na Gaeilge agus INTERREG aistharraingt a dhéanamh ar a gcinní a ghlacadar de bhárr feachtas polaitiúil ó dílseoirí sna Sé Chontae iarratais ón nuachtán laethúil Gaeilge LÁ a chuir ar leathaobh, toisc go bhfuil an nuachtán anois i mbaoill; go bhfuil beirt tar éis a phoist a chailliúnt; go bhfuil gearradh siar ar foilseachán an nuachtán ó cúig lá sa seachtain go dtí 4 lá; agus go bhfuil cinneadh Foras na Gaeilge agus INTERREG ag teacht salach ar Comhaontú Aoine Chéasta agus baineas leis."
Ina dhiaidh dúirt sé go raibh sé scannallach go raibh Foras na Gaeilge ach go h-áirithe tar éis géilleadh do bhrú polaitiúl agus do agenda dílseoirí frith-Ghaelach. "Níl uatha sin ach damáiste a dhéanamh do tógraí agus do thodhchaí an Ghaeilge, toisc go bhfuil said cúlaigeanta agus go bhfuil éad ortha chomh bríomhar is atá pobal na Gaeilge agus go bhfuil céimeanna mór chun tosaigh glactha ar an bóthar fada chun athréimiú an teanga. Tá sé tábhachtach nach gcuidíonn an rialtas nó an stat chóras anseo leo san obair diúltach sin."
"Impíonn ar Ghael na hÉireann tacaíocht a thabhairt do LÁ san ama seo."
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann Cllr John O'Dowd MLA has said that the capitation formulae used to allocate funding to the health boards is 'becoming a rationing book for scarce resources rather than a mechanism for enhancing health care'.
The current budget proposals places a future Executive in the untenable position of imposing health cuts without effective revenue raising powers. Direct Rule Ministers have clearly failed to obtain the resources necessary to support our society and the political delivery of a peace dividend.
Sinn Féin has submitted its formal response to the British Government consultation on the manner in which its distributes funding to the four Health boards across the Six Counties.
Cllr John O'Dowd MLA said today:
"There is major concern in many quarters that the health service in the North is not receiving the necessary resources needed to provide an effective and adequate service for all. We are mindful that the health service has been drained of resources over the past twenty years. This has led to the Capitation Formula becoming a rationing book for scarce resources rather than a mechanism for enhancing health care. There is clearly a need for additional resources for health to tackle the legacy of under investment and to develop high quality, effective and accessible services.
"The report of the Capitation Review Group should have reflected the need for greater investment in order to develop a quality service. Currently, it is estimated that the Health Service in the Six Counties would need to receive at least an additional £250 million during the period 2005 - 2008 in order to receive the same uplift which the British Government is giving the health service in England.
"Objectives set out in Investing for Health are being ignored and the Department appears to be attempting to move away from the Investing for Health Programme. It is essential that a cross-Departmental approach be taken to resourcing a programme of major and long-term health change. There are clearly unfinished policy commitments still due to be delivered since the suspension of the Assembly and there must be a rapid progress to resolve outstanding issues from Developing Better Services and the future of NHS structures.
"In particular, those issues relate to the overdue modernisation and resourcing to our healthcare systems which fundamentally fail to meet needs and promote outcomes at even average European health status levels."
Note to Editors
Key conclusions contained in the Sinn Féin document have identified the following:
· There is a need for the Capitation Formulae to reflect the development of greater all-Ireland co-operation and working.
· There is a need for greater investment in the Health Services in order for the Capitation Formulae to be effective and not away of rationing an unrealistic budget.
· There is a need to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest between Review Group membership and roles within Health Boards. Further to this is the need to include service users and Trade Unions on the group.
· That the recommendations of the Capitation Review are temporary pending the outworking of the ongoing Review of Public Administration.
· There is a need for an additional fund to redress inequalities in Health
· There is a need for the Capitation Formulae to incorporate fully Targeting Social Need by placing a greater emphasis on social disadvantage.
· There is a need for Boards to apply the amended Capitation Formulae at local levels.
· Sinn Féin believes that a process to identify inequalities of access to services and health outcomes should be an integral component of the Capitation Review.
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly, responded to remarks today made by the former Special Branch commander Bill Lowry who recently spoke at a DUP function about the possible restoration of power-sharing:
Mr Kelly said:
"This man helped mastermind the politically-motivated raid on Sinn Fein‚s administrative offices at Stormont. The Stormont raid and the Special Branch plot which preceded it was a clear attempt to wreck power-sharing and smear Sinn Fein.
" After this latest outburst, no-one can be under any illusions about the anti-nationalist, anti Agreement political agenda of individuals like Bill Lowry.
" The RUC cartel of political detectives behind the Stormont raid have no future in an accountable policing service. Nor can they evade responsibility for the policy of collusion prosecuted by Special Branch together with unionist paramilitaries and which has lead to the killings of many nationalists.
" For our part, Sinn Fein remains focussed upon achieving the new beginning to policing which others, including those within Special Branch, have sought to resist."
Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan said it was fear of the voters which forced the Government to abandon the previous policies of Charlie McCreevy.
Deputy Morgan said, My first instinctive response to this Budget is to say WELL DONE. Not well done to the FF/PD collation.
"I'm saying well done to those voters who scared the living daylights out of this Government last summer and sending the message that they, the people, will no longer accept the wanton, right-wing gallop that is widening the gap between rich and the 20% of people living in poverty.
"But let us be clear about this. There are some good measures in this Budget; but there are also failures.
"When former Finance Minister McCreevy introduced his first Budget in 1997 he said he would be judged not on one Budget but on all of them over the following years. That judgement has been delivered by the Government itself. This Budget is a very belated admission that Budgets since 1997 have failed to address gross inequality, they failed to eliminate poverty and they failed to protect the disadvantaged and people with special needs. If some of these are being addressed now we welcome that ˆ but it could and should have been from day one back in 1997."
Speech by Sinn Féin's Arthur Morgan on Budget 2005
My first instinctive response to this Budget is to say WELL DONE. No, I'm definitely NOT saying well done to the FF/PD collation.
I'm saying well done to those voters who scared the living daylights out of this Government last summer and sending the message that they, the people , will no longer accept the wanton, right-wing gallop that is widening the gap between rich and the 20% of people living in poverty.
Keep voting Sinn Féin; it's working.
But let us be clear about this. There are some good measures in this Budget; but there are also failures. Indeed, if we look at one of the major announcements in last year's Budget, the Relocation (or Decentralisation) issue, only last week, Phil Flynn pronounced that only 3,500 people will now be relocated, instead of the 10,300 announced last year, we see how budget announcements are not always what they seem. People will remember that the announcement made last year was to be delivered by 2007. It has now gone to 2008. The Minister said today that this is well on track. Well on track? Who is he fooling? Himself, I assure you, because if he considers this catastrophe well on track, everyone EXCEPT the FF/PD government will see it for what it is - a mess.
The budget should focus primarily on improving the lot of the disadvantaged and the low paid while seeking to make the wealthy pay their fair share.
When former Finance Minister McCreevy introduced his first Budget in 1997 he said he would be judged not on one Budget but on all of them over the following years. That judgement has been delivered by the Government itself. This Budget is a very belated admission that Budgets since 1997 have failed to address gross inequality, they failed to eliminate poverty and they failed to protect the disadvantaged and people with special needs. If some of these are being addressed now we welcome that ˆ but it could and should have been from day one back in 1997.
Contrary to what the Minister for Finance stated during the course of the speech the Government was indifferent to the plight of the disadvantaged until the reality of electoral repercussions of their neglect of the most needy sections of society started to bite and the prospect of massive seat losses began to loom.
Seven years of McCreevyite economics have deepened the inequalities in Irish society. Instead of using unprecedented resources to redistribute wealth and close the poverty gap this Government has worsened social and economic inequality in every Budget since 1997. The Living in Ireland Survey of 2001 estimated levels of poverty in this State. By its reckoning over 700,000 people have incomes so inadequate that they are deemed to be living in poverty. Of these over 250,000 are children. All the front-line agencies agree that, while there have been some improvements, this level of disadvantage and inequality persists in 2004.
Capital funding increases are to be welcomed but one should not forget that we are playing catch up. The failure of the Government to allocate adequate funding to social housing, childcare and the development of public transport infrastructure have had a very negative on economic competitiveness in the state and will have the severe repercussions for the economy of the state if these policies continue to be pursued. Sinn Féin has called for the Government to address the State's social provision and infrastructure deficits and has specifically called for measures in relation to childcare, housing and health. Government inaction on housing, and the provision of affordable childcare has the inevitable effect of driving up wage demands; workers who are forced to pay extortionate prices for houses and childcare and need wage increases to pay for those necessities. The current government is pursuing a policy of wage restraints in exchange for tax cuts, while the root causes of wage demands such as the lack of affordability of necessities such as housing and childcare are being ignored. In the case of social spending, well managed short- to medium-term investment will often yield medium- to long-term savings, as other direct and indirect costs are reduced. Investing in health, education, transport, infrastructure, housing is planning for the future. The underlying problem is that the state is not raising enough taxation to pay for the public services which need to be delivered. Public funding has fallen from 39.1% of GDP in 1990 to 30.1% in 2004. The tax model in place in this state not adequate to provide European norms of public service. This state has a very low level of public sector provision which is heavily over subsidised by high vat which hits the poorest sections of society heaviest.. It is policy of government to rely heavily on high indirect taxes as the major source of revenue, with almost half of all taxes being raised from spending taxes. VAT is high at 21 per cent compared to 17.5 per cent in Britain. The reality is that our high rates of VAT are paying for the low corporation tax.
The use of the term "giveaway budget" in reference to any budget which gives even a little to the less well off in our society is very misleading and is accompanied by the suggestion that the less well off should be grateful for whatever small increases in welfare etc they receive.
One budget could not be expected to undo the damage done duding McCreevy's seven years at the helm of the Department of Finance but it should have been used as a starting point for reforming the tax system to create an equitable and fair system where the wealthy and business pay their fair share of tax and where the tax system is used as a tool to create an equitable society.
Budget day is all about presentation. We must ask ourselves if the average citizen is really much better off when you consider the rate of increases in the numerous stealth taxes which people are forced to pay - such as waste charges, tolls etc. These are being introduced on a weekly or a daily basis. Stealth taxes are inequitable and have
Sinn Féin does welcome the fact that the Minister has increased tax credits. This was necessary to address to plight of the low paid and is a belated attempt by the government to live up to their promise to take those on the minimum wage out of the tax net. Increasing credits benefits all taxpayers, but it gives the highest proportional benefit to the less well-off. The widening of the lower tax band is welcome. It is right that those on the average industrial wage should pay tax only at the standard rate. The numbers of people being pulled into the higher 42 per cent rate has been increasing. In 2002 26.7 per cent of taxpayers had part of their income taxed at 42 per cent, with the rest liable only at the standard 20 per cent rate. By last year, the percentage caught by the higher rate had risen to 32.6 per cent.
There are many others out there, struggling on wages that are just above the minimum wage who will continue to pay income tax. That is not acceptable. Sinn Féin would have preferred to see a heavier emphasis put on these people rather than splitting the benefits of tax changes by increasing tax credits and expanding the tax bands. We need to ensure that those most disadvantaged are the ones to make the most benefits out of this budget.
The Minister has stated that he closed down taxloopholes. He certainly has not. Sinn Féin has been calling for review of relief's for years but the Government have refused to do it. Let there be no confusion we are not taking about tax reliefs for ordinary citizens such as mortages relief. We are talking about tax relief's that have massively befitted speculators etc
I welcome the fact that an evaluation of all relief‚s and incentives is to be undertaken and that follow up measures will be included in next years budget. However we should not have to wait until next years budget for such measures to be introduced. Also there are clearly a number of unjustifiable tax loopholes which should have been closed in budget. I am thinking of those related to the horse racing industry in particular which one would have expected to end with the departure of Charlie McCreevy.
The Minister for Finance and the Revenue Commissioners are still not able to tell us the cost of a whole range of tax giveaways for which this Government is responsible - tax giveaways for holiday home developments, hotels, multi-storey car parks, sports injury clinics etc etc. - which benefit wealthy speculators.
We will probably never know how much has been lost through these scams.
Why has the Minister not introduced measures to ensure that there is a base line of taxation, which would ensure that where justifiable tax incentives exist, they cannot be exploited by the wealthy for tax avoidance purposes.
There should be an increase in Capital Gains tax on speculative owners of multiple dwellings. The Government has for far too long promoted investment in property at the expense of ordinary workers trying to secure housing.
Sinn Féin called for an increase in Child Benefit to €150 per month for the first and second child and €185.50 for third and subsequent children. Child Benefit is recognised as the single most effective social welfare measure for addressing the needs of children.
Increases in child benefit are welcome but not adequate if this remains the Government's stated preferred method of assisting families with childcare costs. Sinn Féin called for a childcare supplement to be paid as top up for child benefit for under 5's? This budget will do little to address the difficulties faced by parents to secure affordable childcare.
The provisions in this budget in relation to funding for social housing are disgraceful. It is inexplicable. There are now 60,000 households on local authority waiting list to whom to this budget will mean very little. These people are primarily low income families who have no hope of ever being able to buy their own home and to whom the changes in relation to stamp duty will mean nothing.
Sinn Féin has called for adequate funding to be made available to increase the increase the total social housing rental in the State by 30% ensuring that appropriate accommodation is built for the differing sizes of families and that the needs of single people are adequately catered for. We have also called for a target to be set for the elimination of waiting lists by local authorities, with an immediate target of 70 per cent of applicant units to be provided with suitable accommodation within two years of their being on the list.
The Governments attitude on social housing was flagged up in recent days by the attempt by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and local Government to put the entire blame on the Local Authorities for the poor delivery in relation to the construction of new social housing units is not good enough. The most incompetent Junior Minister that this state has seen in a long time - Noel Ahern has been attempting to tell us for the last number of years that there is not problem with the number of social housing units being constructed. He has persistently quoted the overall figures for the construction of housing units in order to hide the low level of construction of social housing. Though some local authorities clearly wish to get out of the provision of social housing altogether I do not believe the Government is taking on board the severe difficulties faced by cash strapped local authorities who attempt to secure land for the construction of housing
If the Minister is really committed to this issue he will reintroduce the original part V provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000 which were repealed by his predecessor.
In relation to the tax relief for those in rented accommodation though tenants will welcome in the absence of rent control this amounts to the government subsidising rack renting landlords, the vast majority of whom have failed to register which the Private Residential Tenancies Board.
Commenting on the publication this morning of the latest electoral register Sinn Féin National Director of Elections Pat Doherty MP said the significant drop in the numbers on the latest register once again demonstrates the deep flaws in the current system.
Mr Doherty said:
" Since May 2002 when the new legislation came into effect over 200,000 people have been disenfranchised. This legislation was introduced by the British government with the full support and encouragement of the SDLP.
" Sinn Féin predicted that we would see a annual shredding of the Electoral Register and the figures year on year since 2002 prove this to have been the case. The register published this morning once again shows a further significant drop in the numbers of people registered this time of over 21,500 since February 2004. It has already been estimated that over 211,000 people are currently disenfranchised in addition to this latest group. That represents at least 17% of the total electorate.
" Yesterdays announcement by John Spellar that he intends to reinstate the carry forward provision will help in a small way to alleviate this problem, but it is vital that this provision is introduced well in advance of the May elections. However given the recognition by the British government yesterday that the current system is deeply flawed there needs even more fundamental legislative change.
" Yesterday's announcement from the British government came after a long running Sinn Féin campaign and the introduction by our negotiating team of the issue into the political talks.
" Sinn Féin will be compiling a detailed breakdown of the register published today and this will provide part of a submission we intend to make to the Minister in the coming period. This will propose specific legislative changes and demonstrate other electoral models which have been demonstrated to work effectively in other countries.
" Sinn Féin will continue to work with the British government and the local electoral authorities to try and see introduced a system which guarantees the right of citizens to vote and undoes the massive damage to the confidence of the electorate which has resulted in the debacle of the past two years." ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation led by the party President Gerry Adams MP and including, Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP, Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin, Michelle Gildernew MP, Conor Murphy MLA, Cllr Joe Reilly, and Caitriona Ruane MLA will today travel to Downing Street for talks with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The delegation will arrive at Downing Street for the meeting scheduled to begin at 1.30pm and will be available to speak to the media.
Later this evening Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will make an address to a party election convention in Meath. The convention will take place at 8pm in the Newgrange Hotel in Navan.
Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has today slammed the fact only 5000 out of an estimated 150,000 landlords have registered with the Residential Tenancies Board despite the deadline coming in to effect tomorrow, December 1st. The Dublin South West TD described the Ministers suggestion that there had been a positive response from Landlords as "ridiculous".
Deputy Crowe was reacting to a written response from the Minister responsible Noel Ahern. He said, "It is ridiculous to suggest, as the Minister has in his response to me, that the registration of 5000 out of a possible 150,000 landlords is a positive response to new legislation that demands that all landlords are registered.
"It is clear from these figures that landlords aren't taking the Residential Tenancies Board seriously nor their responsibilities to their tenants. This is an unacceptable situation and one which should be challenged by ensuring the Board has the resources and wherewithal to vigorously pursue rogue landlords. We can't have a situation where residents and tenants are denied their rights because of the failure of some landlords to comply with the law.
"I think the Ministers response to me shows not only how out of touch he is on this particular issue but I think it is also indicative of his response to the general housing crisis. He is either willfully unaware of what is going on or he doesn't have a clue." ENDS
Sinn Féin's Environment spokesperson for Dublin City Council, Councillor Daithí Doolan speaking from City Hall today called on Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government Dick Roche, ''to immediately ammend the 2003 Protection of the Environment Act and allow local authorities a free vote on their budgets. As it stands local authorities, including here in Dublin City Council, debate and adopt their budgets under duress and threat.
It is totally unacceptable that last night's Dublin City Council budget was voted on under threat of City Council being dissolved by the Minister. The people of Dublin must now live with a 70% increase in their bin charge because Labour & Fine Gael capitulated to these threats and imposed the massive hike on the tax payers of this city.''
Cllr. Doolan said, ''It is now on record that Sinn Féin is the only party with a 100% record of opposing the bin charges both outside and inside City Hall.
We remain committed to overturning bin charges.''
Cllr Doolan concluded by calling, ''on all those who support local government reform to support Sinn Féin in demanding the scrapping of this anti democratic legislation.'' ENDS
Speaking after his meeting with the Taoiseach at Government Buildings in Dublin today Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP described it as a "good discussion" but expressed his concern that the "timeframe was stretching".
Mr. Adams said, "We had a good discussion with the Taoiseach. We focused on demilitarisation. We brought him up to date. Clearly there are issues that remain to be sorted. We expressed our concern that the timeframe was stretching.
"We have been quite patient in all of this. It is our belief that a deal could have been done by now if the political will had existed. However, our priority at the moment is about getting all of the bits in place and getting the full and faithful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. We need to get the DUP over the line in terms of a sustainable deal."
Responding to comments made earlier by Ian Paisley, Mr. Adams dismissed them as "intemperate and highly insulting." He said such remarks "do not help the job of making a deal any easier."
Mr. Adams said, "There has been a lot of anger expressed by not just Republicans but indeed the broader nationalist community in relation to the comments. Republicans are not better than anybody else but neither are we any worse. Republicans are decent people. For years we have had the politics of political humiliation. Attempts were made to humiliate our people in prisons, in interrogation centres, in our streets and in our homes. It was a policy that utterly failed.
"I would suggest that we all need to be temperate in our language. We all need to start treating people as we would have them treat us. We need a little more humility rather than humiliation. We are not about the politics of humiliation we're about the politics of liberation." ENDS
Note to Editor Sinn Féin delegation included Gerry Adams MP, Martin McGuinness MP, Michelle Gildernew MP, Catriona Ruane MLA and Cllr. Joe Reilly.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness and Árd Comhairle member Joe Reilly met the Taoiseach today in Government Buildings in Dublin. The meeting followed a meeting between the delegation and Tony Blair in Downing Street yesterday. Also at that meeting was Huge Orde. Councillor Reilly said "the focus of Sinn Féin remains on getting the DUP on board and on ensuring that the two governments do not agree to anything that will undermine the Good Friday Agreement."
Speaking from Dublin this morning Councillor Reilly said:
"Yesterday we met the Chief Constable of the PSNI in London on the issue of demilitarisation. This is one of the many outstanding issues of the Good Friday Agreement and is a crucial one for republicans. You only have to drive a few miles up the road to see the hideous spy posts that are imposed on Republican communities in the Six Counties. It is incredible that the British Army currently have 12,000 troops in the north, that is more than they have in Iraq. What does that tell you, ten years into the peace process, about British government commitments to demilitarisation.
"Sinn Féin is campaigning for an accelerated programme of demilitarisation and that it should take place in the shortest timeframe possible. Furthermore the programme must be meaningful and significant.
"Today we will meet the Taoiseach in Government Buildings in our ongoing efforts to reach a comprehensive political deal. We have always believed that a deal was inevitable if we keep pushing it and we are going to keep pushing it.
"We have two objectives in these talks. One is to get the DUP to agree in clear terms to power-sharing, to working the agreement and treating people on the basis of equality. We are stretching and challenging our supporters in a bid to secure a deal. Other parties need to do this in their own constituencies too. It is a collective responsibility.
"Our second objective is to make sure that any package that emerges is founded in the agreement and its implementation. Our focus is on ensuring that the two governments do not agree to anything that will undermine the Good Friday Agreement.
"Finally I would like to comment on Ian Paisley‚s latest comments about humiliating the IRA. These comments are intemperate and highly insulting and do not make the job of making a deal any easier." ENDS
Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Cllr Alex Maskey has voiced concerns after the publication of the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) and Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan.
Cllr Maskey said:
"The truth about these plans is that they are 2 years late, cost somewhere in the region of £3 million to produce and are already out of date.
"The estimates for new housing do not reflect current levels of need, particularly in nationalist areas.
"Sinn Féin is determined that these draft plans are substantially improved and are assessed in terms of the Equality Agenda before they come into full operation, although there are considerable concerns that the draft plans will now be used to guide planning applications." ENDS
Sinn Féin Economy spokesperson, national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has called on the NIO direct rule economy minister Barry Gardiner to extend the consultation on the so-called 'economic vision' amid concerns that it is flawed and offers nothing new.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"This is a lightweight paper that contains nothing new. No new ideas just more of the same.
"If anything there are widespread concerns that if DETI proceed with this paper that it will tie any future Assembly and Executive into an economic straightjacket for the foreseeable future. This is unacceptable.
"The other major concern is that this is a so-called economic vision' being driven by the demands of the British Treasury and not the demands of the local economy or local businesses.
"We want to see an economic vision that places equality at its centre, that offers a coherent strategy to address problems around falling R&D expenditure, sustainability for small and medium enterprises, investment in infrastructure, high energy costs, spiralling insurance premiums, support for indigenous businesses, the targeting of resources towards TSN areas and developing the all-Ireland economy.
"I would urge the NIO to extend the consultation on this document, particularly in light of the ongoing discussions around the potential for a significant Peace Dividend." ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has criticised direct rule farm Minster Ian Pearson for comments calling on farmers 'to improve efficiency' after the release of the latest farm income information showed that incomes had not improved over the last 12 months.
Ms Gildernew said:
"It is clear that farmers' incomes are dependent on many forces outside of their control - particularly costs and returns. However it is a disgrace that the only response that the British direct rule Agriculture Minster can come up with is to call on farmers to improve efficiency. Is he suggesting that farmers eat one less meal a day!
"Sinn Féin are not alone in voicing concerns about the fixing of farm gate prices and the impact of the multiples on returns. It is also clear that more can be done to reduce costs faced by farmers.
"The department needs to cut out the red tape - rid itself of inefficiency and begin to deliver a service and the representation that the future of the farming industry deserves.
"It is also clear that being tied into a policy framework that has the requirements of London and the British industry at its heart has served us very poorly. We need to see urgent steps to deliver an all-Ireland agricultural policy framework and all-Ireland bodies that can deliver on food safety and animal health as well as accepting the value of developing the all-Ireland branding image for our produce." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew speaking in advance of World Aids Day on Wednesday said:
"There are an estimated 39.4 million people living with HIV globally, up from an estimated 36.6 million in 2002, fuelled mainly by unprotected sex and intravenous drug use."
"We would be foolish to believe this epidemic does not touch the lives of people in Ireland."
"There has been a massive rise in the number of HIV positive cases occurring across Ireland with referrals to the six counties' only HIV support centre surging. There are currently something like 434 confirmed HIV cases in the north of Ireland and the RVH is reporting the highest increase in new cases since records began in the 1980's.
"Sexually Translated Infections (STIs) are also on the increase and I would urge people who are sexually active to take precautions for the sake of themselves and their partners and indeed the children who might be born with STIs.
"It is not only HIV infection that is on the increase however, STIs in general are becoming more prevalent and some of these can cause infertility if left untreated. Sexual health is not something that should be taken for granted in ourselves or others." ENDS
Deputy Mayor of Belfast Cllr Joe O'Donnell today called for the Deputy Mayor of Belfast Sinn Féin Cllr. Joe O'Donnell has called for the exemption of Queens University Belfast and the University of Ulster from the payment of rates. This followed the recent claim from the Vice Chancellor of QUB George Bain that universities in the North of Ireland are significantly under funded compared to those in Britain.
Cllr O'Donnell said:
"Having met with the Vice Chancellor of QUB I feel that both Queens and UU should be exempt from the payment of rates. This would be in line with the British Govt's. policy towards other universities
" QUB alone loses £3 million per annum in rates which currently go to Belfast City Council. However, as part of the exemption process the British Govt. should reimburse the council to that amount to ensure that one resource does not suffer at the expense of another.
"QUB currently require funding for a number of projects including the redevelopment of their PE centre and a scholarship programme for economically disadvantaged students - they would obviously be greatly aided if the had an extra injection of £3 million.
" It has also come to my attention that Campbell College in East Belfast has gained an exemption from the payment of rates on the grounds of being an educational establishment. This is a good thing. I can think of no more worthy educational establishments than the universities which service the six counties." ENDS
On Thursday the 25th of November a representative group of farmers from various parts of West Cork met with Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou Mc Donald and Sinn Féin Cllr Anne O Leary to impress on them their huge concerns for the future of farming in the Disadvantaged Areas.
The main areas addressed were the National Reserve, Modulation, the upcoming review in 2006 of the Area Based payments, the weanling issue, REPS, lack of Indexation and Walkways payments. The farmers felt that these are matters that need to be raised at a European level as a matter of urgency.
Ms. MacDonald said: "I was delighted to be asked by my party colleague Councillor Anne O'Leary to meet with farmers from West Cork. They left me with a clear impression that there are many issues that need to be taken up on their behalf at European level and I fully intend to do so. While Sinn Féin supports the introduction the Single Farm Payment as a potential security for farmers, it is now clear that many areas were left unresolved and that there are
significant groups who may lose out. Those problems need to be addressed both at national and EU level and myself and our representatives in Leinster House will continue to ensure that this is the case."ENDS
Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has welcomed the new £6 million Andor Technology factory at the Springfield Business in West Belfast.
The Sinn Féin party president said:
"This is a welcome announcement and represents a good investment not just for Andor but also for the people of West Belfast.
"It is good to see an indigenous business grow to become a world leader.
"This demonstrates again that West Belfast is a good choice for investment." ENDS