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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

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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

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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

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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

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Deputy Mayor of Belfast Cllr Joe O'Donnell this morning attended an event in the City Hospital aimed at raising funds for McMillan Cancer Relief.

Speaking afterwards Cllr O'Donnell said:

"I was delighted to be invited to attend an event such as this aimed at raising funds for the relief of cancer. Cancer is a disease that affects a growing number of families in this country and results in the deaths of many.

" On behalf of the people of Belfast I would like to thank all those who give their time to McMillan Cancer Relief and help to alleviate some of the pain and suffering which cancer causes." ENDS

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Responding to the announcement by the British Minister John Spellar today that he intends to reinstate the Electoral Register carry forward and committing the British government to the abolition of the annual canvas Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

" This was a key issue which Sinn Féin have been raising publicly for some time and directly within the current negotiations. This is the context in which the British government have now moved to address the very obvious problem with the current electoral legislation.

" The announcement this morning by John Spellar to reinstate the electoral register carry forward will in the short term help alleviate some of the problems and is of course welcome. This measure needs to be put in place in advance of the planned May elections. But we have consistently said that the primary legislation itself needs amended and the parliamentary time for this to happen needs to be found as a matter of urgency.

" The current electoral legislation was introduced in particular at the behest of the SDLP and the unionists. It has resulted in tens of thousands of people being disenfranchised and the annual shredding of the electoral register. One of the most important aspects of today's announcement is the acceptance by the British government that the current arrangements are fundamentally flawed, undemocratic and need to be changed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew, for the second time in two weeks, has again raised the lifting of the Beef Ban with British Prime Minster Tony Blair at a meeting in Downing Street yesterday.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Sinn Fein put the case for the lifting of the Beef Ban to the British Prime Minster in Downing Street. I believe that we put forward irresistible arguments that received a positive hearing.

"The British government and indeed local ministers should have progressed this issue with greater urgency because it has and continues to do great harm to the industry. Progress in gaining regional status would have a huge impact benefits, yet there will continue to be difficulties if the British government continues to exclude our OTM beef.

"This demands a clear plan of action with a clear timeframe and mechanisms to advance the case at EU level to remove the Beef Ban.

"The EU has lifted the embargo on Portugal and all restrictions on the export of cows, beef and all related animal products as a result of their response to the BSE crisis.

"The European Food Safety Authority are generally content with the protocols on traceability and the testing of animals which are in place here. They are also content that the risk associated with beef from the North is about the same from other European countries.

"The European Food & Veterinary Office (FVO) report gives the north of Ireland a clean bill of health. Both The Food Safety Authority and the European FSA are content with our testing and monitoring.

"There is no reason for further delay in beginning the process of lifting the Beef Ban. We believe that we have put a compelling case to the British Prime Minster Tony Blair." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson MLA Michael Ferguson said that he supports NUS/USI Dublin Protests against any attempt by the Irish Government to introduce a University Fee Systems. Following the recommendations of the OECD on funding for Higher Education in the 26 Counties it seems that the Government of the 26 Counties is scheduled to follow the lead of the Labour Government in England and impose student fees.

Commenting on the Dublin protests organised by NUS/USI at which the NUT and other Trade Unions will attend Michael Ferguson said,

"It is crucial that in the North we secure working Institutions at the Assembly and stop the British Government from imposing what they couldn't impose on their own Party in Scotland and which many of their MPs in England now regret voting for and that is Student Fee Top Ups.

"I have met today with the NUS/USI convener and offered him my total support against a similar move by the Coalition Government in the 26 Counties and have arranged for him to meet with our TD Sean Crowe who will oppose any Oireactas Motion to introduce Fees."ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, has called on the Irish Government to vote against a proposal to allow a Genetically Modified animal food product to be sold within the EU. The Council of Ministers is due to vote on this on December 20. The product in question is a genetically modified oilseed rape feed (GT73) manufactured by Monsanto.

Deputy Ferris said: "I am again calling on the Irish Government to reverse its stance on GM. In a series of crucial votes over the past year, Irish Ministers

and officials have voted to allow the sale of GM products. That is despite the fact that opinion polls have shown massive opposition to GM and despite the fact that there has been no debate and no vote on this issue within the Oireachtas. The issue of GM animal food is particularly important as if it is admitted to this country it will mean the effective end of any attempt to maintain uncontaminated animals or conventional crops.

"Apart from that there is absolutely no economic argument in favour of GM animal feed in this country as the vast majority of livestock are fed on grass and the country is well capable of supplying additional feed from domestic conventional crops. This is the latest in a series of choreographed moves designed to open up the EU to the US GM corporations and it must be strongly opposed by everyone concerned with Irish agriculture including the Minister." ENDS

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Meath Sinn Féin will hold a selection convention to choose their candidate for the forthcoming by election on Wednesday December 1st in the Newgrange Hotel, Navan at 8 o clock.

The convention will be chaired by newly elected Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald and party president Gerry Adams will give the campaign launch speech.

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Sinn Féin Group Leader on Dublin City Council, Cllr Christy Burke has described himself disappointed at the passing of the Estimates last night by a combined Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour alliance, but pleased at the unanimous vote against from the ten Sinn Féin councillors.

Cllr Burke said: "The margin of 32 votes to 15 was an overwhelming one in the end and I am delighted that our councillors once again stood firm in the face of mounting pressure to oppose these Charges.

"The Bin Tax is set to be increased by 75% this year. When it was first imposed we made it clear that we could expect it to rise again and again and we have been vindicated in this stand. No doubt it will be increased next year, and on and on until the Council privatises the service.

"We stood by our convictions and on the mandate to oppose the Bin Charges we received in June and I am extremely proud of that."

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy who heads the party's anti-water charges campaign has told British direct rule Minster John Speller to abandon plans to imposes water taxes .

Mr Molloy said:

"The British government has failed to make the case for its water tax plans.

"They have also failed to take on board the issues raised by political parties, by the consumer council, trade unions, and campaign groups such as Help the Aged. We have been paying for our water through rates. The combined rates increases and water taxes will place huge burdens on people living here. No one believes that this is not just an attempt by the British Treasury to force through its privatisation Agenda.

"Enough is enough.

"The terms of the consultation put forward by John Speller would be laughable if this was not such a serious issue with the potential to throw thousands of people into greater financial hardship - not least the most vulnerable in our society.

"Whatever way the department dress these plans up the reality is that they will have a very very adverse impact on the poorest people in our society and the working poor in particular.

"I have some words of advice for the hapless Mr Speller - abandon your water tax plans.

"I know that the direct rule minister has refused to listen to the views expressed locally. Clearly what he is attempting to do in launching this pre-emptive and bogus assessment is stifle opposition that is growing more confident with every day that it can kill his water tax plan.

"It is up to the British government to compensate for the decades of under investment in our infrastructure. It is totally unacceptable that the British government is attempting to penalise people here for its mistakes." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice issues Gerry Kelly said that the issue of the inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane was once again raised this morning by Sinn Féin with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and would be raised tomorrow in talks with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin.

Mr Kelly said:

" Sinn Féin have supported the Finucane family in their campaign for a public independent judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. The British government gave a commitment to set up such an inquiry if recommended to do so by Judge Cory.

" The Finucane family have always made it clear that they would only engage with an inquiry if it had the capacity and the powers to get to the truth. The Finucane family have expressed deep concerns that the terms of reference published by the British government relating to the proposed inquiry into Pat Finucanes killing will not reach the truth.

" Successive British government's have been involved in covering up the circumstances surrounding this and other killings. It is long since past the time for this culture of cover-up to end. It is simply not acceptable for British Ministers to be able to suppress vital evidence from a proposed inquiry.

" Sinn Féin will continue to support the Finucanes and indeed other families seeking the truth. We raised the Finucane case today with the British Prime Minister in London and we will again raise the matter in talks tomorrow with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will lead a party delegation to meet the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at Government Buildings today, Tuesday 30th. Also on the delegation are Martin McGuinness MP, Michelle Gildernew MP, Caitriona Ruane MLA, Cllr Joe Reilly and Gerry Kelly MLA.

The meeting will take place at 12.15pm.

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A peace process - any peace process - is enormously difficult. But with determination and a preparedness to take risks and make compromises, a peace process can succeed. South Africa is the most obvious example. But peace processes can also fail. Witness the tragedy unfolding each day in the Middle East.

The IRA cessations are now more than 10 years old. The Good Friday agreement is almost seven years old. There have been enormous changes in the island of Ireland. Progress, yes, but the peace process is not bedded down, organic and dynamically moving forward. This is principally because of political unionism's resistance to the fundamental constitutional, political and social changes promised by the agreement. Also, elements of the British system, fearful of the erosion of their power and influence, have sought to undermine efforts for progress.

The current negotiations started at the beginning of the year. In June, I set the goal for Sinn Féin (and for any successful outcome) as "a comprehensive and holistic package, which deals with all of the outstanding matters in a way that is definitive and conclusive". A tall order - especially given the refusal by Ian Paisley to talk to Sinn Féin, and his party's oft-stated opposition to the Good Friday agreement.

Sinn Féin's approach has been twofold. We are trying to get the Democratic Unionist party on board. We are also seeking to ensure that any propositions from the British and Irish governments, and any agreement emerging from these discussions,are rooted in the Good Friday agreement. The governments' propositions have to be about delivery of the agreement. The integrity of the power-sharing institutions, the human rights and equality agenda, and the all-Ireland architecture of the agreement have to be safeguarded. This is essential if any deal is to be sustainable.

N o one should doubt the size of the task being undertaken by the Sinn Féin leadership. I have no doubt that, if we are successful, we are going to challenge our activists and supporters.

There are three big elements in our approach. There is the challenge for Sinn Féin of actually being in government with the DUP - a party with a certain sectarian record and a declared opposition to equality. As we seek to bed down the Good Friday agreement and move towards Irish unity and independence, it will be a battle a day to persuade unionism of the merits. Republican patience with how unionism deals with the political institutions, and with key issues such as equality and human rights, will be tested.

Unionists have expressed concerns about the IRA's intentions. Within reason, the Sinn Féin leadership must try, if we can, to remove those fears without undermining our electoral rights or our mandate. That is another huge challenge.

And then there is the vexed issue of policing. The police force and judicial system were designed to oppress nationalists and republicans. And they did this ruthlessly for decades. If the British government and the DUP deliver on outstanding matters, including the transfer of powers on policing and justice in a short timeframe, republicans will have to face up to whether we change our attitude to the Northern Ireland police service.

The fact that our ongoing dialogue with the governments has been so intense is an indication that there are still serious matters to be resolved. Among these is the DUP's refusal thus far to declare its willingness to share power with Sinn Féin, to accept Sinn Féin's democratic mandate and to respect the rights and entitlements of our electorate.

There is a duty on the leadership of political unionism to face up to its responsibilities. At the beginning of the year, when Sinn Féin urged the two governments to move the process forward, we also told them that if the DUP refused to engage properly, then the two governments must move ahead without them. The process of change cannot be frozen if unionism refuses to come to terms with the new political realities. Political unionism cannot be allowed to veto the fundamental rights of citizens or other changes necessary for a peaceful society.

The governments will have to promote a new, imaginative and dynamic alternative in which both will share power in the north. The Good Friday agreement and the basic rights and entitlements of citizens that it enshrines must be defended and actively promoted by London and Dublin.

All these matters can be resolved if the governments are genuinely committed to the Good Friday agreement. In other words, with political will a comprehensive agreement is possible. In every negotiation there is a time when you have to call it. For Ian Paisley, that time is now.

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Speaking following a meeting of Sinn Féin's group on Dublin City Council today, group leader Christy Burke confirmed that Sinn Féin's ten Councillors will be voting against the Book of Estimates tonight if it includes a 75% increase in Bin Charge rates.

Speaking this afternoon he said:

"Sinn Féin's ten Councillors will be voting against the Book of Estimates tonight if it includes a 75% increase in Bin Charge rates. We will also be requesting that the City Manager pursues the Government to chase the €22million arrears that is owed on rates for Government Buildings."ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA will lead a Party delegation to meet with the Regulators of the Mobile Phone Industry North and South in Belfast tomorrow. Arthur Morgan TD, Co Louth, Councillor Pat Trainor, Co Cavan, Donegal County Councillor, Pearse Doherty and West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty will accompany Mr Mc Laughlin on the Delegation.

Speaking in Belfast today Mr Mc Laughlin said:

"Sinn Féin intends to put very forcefully the case for one mobile phone rate for all users on the island. Our delegation will be meeting with both Regulators which will give us the opportunity to challenge the application of different tariffs north and south. Mobile phone signals do not recognise borders and the imposition of unwarranted international roaming charges on an island population that is smaller than that of most European capital cities amounts to nothing short of immoral profiteering.

"Living in close proximity to the border often results in involuntary 'roaming' charges being imposed because of a competing stronger signal from the opposite side of the border. Short of turning the phone off when travelling this results in the customer having no option but to pay. That is unless the mobile phone service providers cease exploiting their customers on either side of the border.

"While I welcome the introduction by O2 (Ireland) of an all-Ireland rate for its 26 County customers I do not think that it is acceptable that in order to avail of this that customers should have to pay an extra fee of •7.50 per month. Neither do I see any reason why O2 in the North and all of the other providers cannot similarly introduce an all-Ireland unitary tariff.

"The same major providers of mobile phone services operate on both sides of the border and if they fail to voluntarily do so then there is no rational reason why regulators North and South cannot co-operate in imposing a formula for a single competitive tariff for the 32 Counties.

„Irish people per capita provide more profit to the companies than any of our European counterparts; in fact we are one of the highest in the world. Therefore I am calling on all mobile phone service providers to stop exploiting Irish customers and provide, without delay, a real all-Ireland rate for mobile phone users." ENDS

Attention Editors and Newsdesks

The meeting will take place at Landmark House, Gasworks Site, Ormeau Road at 12.30 pm. The Sinn Féin Delegation will be available to speak to the Media at 1.30 pm following the meeting.

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Speaking at a press conference in Dublin today Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor, Daithi Doolan announced alternative revenue raising initiatives for local government to replace bin charges. Cllr. Doolan also called for the Government to lift its threat to shut down the Council if a budget is not passed.

Cllr. Doolan said:

"Sinn Fein has proposed a number of revenue raising initiatives for local government as alternatives to what amounts to a deeply unpopular form of double taxation. As you will know massive increases in bin charges have been proposed by City Management in the Council estimates for 2005.

"We are demanding that Government lifts its threat to shut down our City Council if the proposed budget, including the increased bin charges, is not passed. The Council must be allowed to run the city and that what is needed are greater autonomy and resources, not more diktats from central government.

"Every year we are faced with this farcical crisis in local democracy with government threats to close down local government if the city's budget, with bin charges, is not passed.

"Sinn Fein opposes bin charges and our ten City Councillors have consistently opposed bin charges from the outset. We are now opposing the adoption of the current budget which includes huge increases in charges.

"The City Council has completely failed to tackle the waste management crisis that Dublin faces. Bin charges have nothing to do with a waste management strategy. It is just a device to raise money through double taxation on ordinary people.

"A senior Dublin City Council official has admitted to me that even if the money could be got from other sources that these bin charges would remain. This means that it is now an ideological issue with these people. They are ideologically driven and will brook no opposition to the charges.

"Sinn Fein has realistic proposals which obviate the necessity for imposing unpopular and unjust solutions such as bin charges. We publish these today to demonstrate our constructive opposition and our sincere engagement with this issue. The proposals include the imposition of a Bed Tax on hotels in the city that would require legislation at a state wide level and rates on government buildings.

"Finally I would ask that all councillors and concerned citizens stick together in defending local democracy. The question is whether this city should be run by the democratically elected representatives of the people or unelected and ideologically driven bureaucrats?" ENDS

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Sinn Fein TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said that Sinn Fein will look to remove the rates exemption from buildings, land, waterways or harbours occupied by the State.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Sinn Féin will be making the case for local government reform at the next election. Our proposals will include a review of the list of properties that are exempt from rates as contained in the Valuation Act of 2001. There are currently 19 different classes of property exempt from rates and while many of the exemptions are ones that we would be extremely supportive of, much as we have long argued for a review and costing of tax breaks, we will demand a similar exercise be conducted on rate exemptions.

"More specifically we will look to remove the exemption for buildings, land, waterways or harbours occupied by the State, currently exempt from rates under Section 15 of the Valuation Act. It must also be understood that we would oppose any attempt to claw back the money paid by the State on rates through the local authority funding.

"The proposal referred to by my colleague regarding the imposition of a Bed Tax would also require legislation at a state wide level. It would be our proposal that the power to create, impose and set such a tax be left in the hands of the elected representatives of the relevant local authorities. Thus, local authorities who do not wish to use this power, may choose not to do so.

"We will also be seeking to overturn sections of the Waste Management Act of 2003 that took the power to impose and set the rate for the provision of waste services out of the hands of the elected representatives of the people and passed it to unaccountable State appointed bureaucrats.

"It is time for the government to widen the fundraising powers of local authorities as part of empowering and democratising local government." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Dessie Ellis speaking today said the imposition of massive increases in Bin Charges would disproportionately affect ordinary people in working-class areas across Dublin City.

Councillor Ellis said:

"According to a Combat Poverty Agency report published in November 2003 'Waste collection charges, based purely on the polluter pays principle are inevitably regressive and impose a greater burden on low-income households, especially those with children and other dependents.'

"City Management continually points to the waiver scheme to say that those who can't pay the charges won't have to pay. But there are much wider implications to bin charges. The much vaunted Waiver Scheme is dependent on the whim of each local authority. There are no statewide guidelines for such waivers. So we could have vast disparities across Dublin City and County leading to further inequality and real hardship for ordinary working people.

"If we look at relative poverty about 19 per cent of that group are living in 'employed' households. That's up from just 6 per cent in 1998. So it has more than trebled. These are the people who are going to be hit by increased bin charges.

"Between 1997 and 2003 waste collection charges across the state grew by 223% over six years. This was in excess of the rate of inflation. This is an intolerable rate of increase and City Management has created a finance raising device that seems to grow exponentially.

"Those in low-income households may have little left over following 'back to school' shopping, Christmas shopping or other times of high expenditure and therefore are unable to purchase a bag or tag. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) have recently identified refuse collection charges as a primary concern for its clients. Why is City management intent on crucifying the people of Dublin through double taxation?" ENDS

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