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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty today said that his party wanted to hear from the two governments what their plan was to see the political institutions put back in place early in the new year.

Mr Doherty said:

"In recent days the two governments have indicated that they wish to see an intensive effort made early in the new year to put the political institutions back in place. Sinn Féin have been calling for such an effort for sometime.

"We now need to hear from the two governments exactly what they have planned and the route they are now going to take. It is now five months on from the historic decision by the IRA to end the armed campaign. It is three months on from the IRA dealing decisively and conclusively with the issue of arms.

"We need to see political progress made in the time ahead. The two governments cannot continue to allow the rejectionist position of the DUP to dictate policy. The Good Friday Agreement is not an optional position. It is an international treaty endorsed overwhelmingly by the people of Ireland.

"Sinn Féin are ready and willing to play our part in ensuring that the Agreement is delivered and the institutions put back n place. But the two governments have a massive responsibility to drive this process forward and that must be the focus of their efforts in the time ahead." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking to a meeting of republican women in Belfast today said "One of Sinn Féin's biggest priorities in the next two years is getting more women into the party and getting more women elected throughout Ireland." Mr. Adams said "As part of a broad ranging strategy to set up Sinn Féin cumann in communities across Ireland we will be hosting forum in all 32 counties where we will be asking women to join Sinn Féin and help us to build an Ireland of equals.

Mr. Adams said:

"There has been an enormous change in the role of women in Irish society over the last twenty years and in the pattern of women's employment but nowhere can women claim to have all the same opportunities as men. The principle of equality has been established but the practice hasn't. And a large reason for this is the absence of women from decision making roles at local and national level.

"The absence of women from senior positions in Government and indeed in the social partners means that issues, which disproportionately affect women are all but invisible. For me the role of women in decision-making is fundamental to the transformation of society as a whole. It is not possible to have properly functioning political institutions if half of the population is largely absent. If we want different ideas and values, if we want political priorities changed women must be visible in leadership positions.

The question is how do you change all of this. I believe that it has to be addressed at a number of different levels ú increasing the representation of women in all areas of life but particularly in leadership roles and policy making, fundamentally changing political priorities and tackling head on prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination.

Sinn Féin has to start by getting its own house in order. Our commitment has to be to equality and social inclusion. We have to continue to change our party, we have to reach out to those with whom we have so much in common and we have to bring about the type of far reaching change which is urgently needed.

Within our party structures we have pursued affirmative action and gender targets. On our Ard Chomhairle, 50% of those members elected at the Ard Fheis must be women and a minimum of one third of regional representatives to the body must be women. We have also adopted a target of a minimum of 30% women election candidates. This approach has not been without its difficulties and opponents. There was a wide-ranging debate on this issue with some comrades arguing that they were little more than tokenism and would actually set back the equality agenda within the party. I believe that affirmative action combined with a strategy and policies to increase the participation and involvement of women throughout the party will make a huge difference and in time will change the culture of the party. And it is this type of change that we are committed to delivering.

And while we have a lot more work to do I believe that this approach is working. Issues that were invisible are now hotly debated and in the 2005 Local Government elections in the Six Counties 30% of Sinn Fein Councillors elected are women.

Sinn Féin is also looking at timescales to achieve full equality of outcomes to maximise women's participation in political systems across the country. We are also in the process of bringing forward proposals on gender-proofing for both party policy and public policy.

"One of Sinn Féin's biggest priorities in the next two years is getting more women into the party and getting more women elected throughout Ireland. As part of a broad ranging strategy to set up Sinn Féin cumann in communities across Ireland we will be hosting forum in all 32 counties where we will be asking women to join Sinn Féin and help us to build an Ireland of equals."

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Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane has today said that the contribution made by Republican women over this last century was one of "bravery, endurance and an inspiration to those in struggle around the world."

Ms Ruane made her comments as she gave details of an event to honour the contribution of women from across Ireland to the freedom struggle since 1798, in this Sinn Féin's centenary year. The launch of "Mná na hÉireann - Unfinished Revolution Volume 1" will take place this coming Monday 12th December at An Chúlturlann, Falls Road Belfast at 12 noon by both Party President Gerry Adams and Céad Bliain Chairperson Caitríona Ruane MLA.

Speaking today Ms Ruane said:

"The launch of a commemorative set of cards celebrating and outlining the role played by Irish Republican women involved in all aspects of the struggle. This is our own small way of celebrating the contribution of women from across Ireland and throughout all generations. In many respects, the role played by women has largely been written out of history, and the launch of these cards is an attempt to redress this.

"Women have played various roles over these past number of years - soldiers, mothers, political and trade union activists. Women like Maud Gonne, Constance Markievicz, Mother Jones, Maire Drumm and Mairead Farrell have all made important contributions to the freedom struggle.

"While this is volume 1, we anticipate future volumes highlighting the role of republican women of our history. I want to take this opportunity to invite the general public to Monday's launch in Belfast to celebrate the bravery, endurance and the self-reliance of women who became an inspiration to people in struggle across the world." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP described today's rallies "as a massive show of strength for Irish Ferries workers". Mr. Adams said "Everybody knows that if Irish Ferries get their way it will have huge implications for every worker in this country. Today is about shouting stop and demanding that workers rights are protected". Mr. Adams joined party colleagues Mary Lou McDonald MEP, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and Sean Crowe TD at today‚s rally in Dublin. Sinn Féin elected representatives and activists also took part in rallies which are taking place in Belfast, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Rosslare Harbour, Athlone, Sligo and Waterford.

Mr. Adams said:

"Today's rallies were a massive show of strength for Irish Ferries workers. Everyone knows that if Irish Ferries get their way it will have huge implications for every worker in the country. Today is about shouting stop and demanding that all workers rights are protected. Today‚s rallies are a demand for a debate around the core values of how our society should be organised.

"Sinn Féin is committed to the protection of workers rights. We are opposed to the direction of the present government and the tactics of employers such as those in Irish Ferries.

"The Irish Ferries situation is only the latest example of the ill-treatment of workers in this country and across Europe. Increasingly, workers are viewed as simply another commodity to be used and abused at the whim of their employers. Some companies view the chipping away of workers rights as an acceptable practice in the search for profits. It is time that they realised that this is not the 19th century and there is no returning to the days of the mass exploitation.

"The contribution of workers across Ireland has been crucial in the economic growth of recent years. The protection of workers rights must go hand in hand with it continued success." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources, Martin Ferris TD, has asked the Progressive Democrats to explain why they are so hostile to the Centre for Public Inquiry. Deputy Ferris was speaking in response to the controversy surrounding Minister for Justice Michael McDowell’s accusations against Centre Director Frank Connolly.


Deputy  Ferris  said:  “This  week  we had the extraordinary spectacle of a Minister  using  Dáil privilege to make serious allegations against a named individual.  That  was  only  the  latest  in  a campaign spearheaded by PD elected  representatives and certain journalists, designed to undermine the
credibility of the Centre for Public Inquiry.

“The question that must be posed is: What exactly are the PDs afraid of? Is it  that  the  CPI  has already published two reports revealing some of the
scandalous  decisions  made  in  relation  to  the  Corrib project and Trim
Castle? Is it specifically because the CPI report on Corrib highlighted the
role of PD founder Des O’Malley in giving away our oil and gas? Perhaps too
the  squeaky  clean PDs have other skeletons in their closest including the
origin  of  the  large  amounts  of money that were donated to the party on
their foundation in the 1980s. It is understandable, in that context, why a
professional independent body of inquiry should be disliked.”ENDS

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Séan Crowe TD has been selected as Sinn Féin's candidate to contest the Dublin South West constituency at the general election. Deputy Crowe was selected unopposed at a selection convention which took place in Tallaght last night. The meeting was chaired by Cllr. Tony Smithers who represents the Ballyfermot local election area and it was also addressed by guest speaker Mary Lou McDonald MEP.


Addressing the convention following his selection, Mr. Crowe said: “I am honored to have been selected here tonight to contest the next election on behalf of Sinn Féin in Dublin South West.


“I am very much aware of the challenge which this party will face if we are to retain this seat at the next election. However, I am confident that the people of Dublin South West will respond to the hard work which Sinn Féin have been involved in the constituency over many years and not just since the last election.


Deputy Crowe also spoke about his motivation and reason for accepting the nomination, “While the establishment parties are happy to simply continue on with the current system of government I and Sinn Féin are committed to brining about real change in our society. In Dublin South West many people are forced to live in poverty, deprived of opportunity in education and personal development, this deprivation is happening at a time when growth and prosperity in the economy is higher than ever in the 26 counties. I have, and will continue, to challenge the government on the issue in the remainder of the current Dail, and if elected, after the next general election also. The people of Dublin South West deserve, and I will demand, their right to share in the prosperity of the nation. I see this as my major priority as an elected rep for this area.


Deputy Crowe also spoke on the prospects of the party being returned to the Dáil in Dublin South West, “Because we are working hard for the people of Dublin South West I see absolutely no evidence of people withdrawing their support for the party. On the contrary I believe, and the discussions I have with the people in the area would support this position, is that support for the party and its policies is actually growing. And this growth is not simply restricted to working class areas, the policies of this party and the message that a ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" >New Ireland can be created, a fair Ireland based on equality of opportunity for all citizens, is finding an ever increasing resonance with all of the constituents of Dublin South West.


Séan also paid tribute all those who have committed their time, energy and enthusiasm to the party over many years. “The growth and development of this party in Dublin South West is a direct result of all those who give their time so willingly to create the vision of a New Ireland. I am also aware of all those who worked so hard for the party over the years and have since passed on and so have not been present to see the huge strides which this party has made. The position we find ourselves in Dublin South West is as a result of all of these collective efforts. I also want to ask all of those present to continue this effort and commitment to the party, the road ahead will be hard and it will present great challenges to us as republicans, but it is effort and work which we should be very willing to do because we are happy in the knowledge that what we are trying to do is right for the people of Ireland. As Bobby Sands wrote ‘Everybody has their part to play”, I am asking all of you to rise to the challenge and play your part also.” Ends.

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD has called on the Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan to be more proactive in safeguarding the future of the Irish sugar beet industry. Deputy Ferris was challenging the Minister over the manner in which the Irish Government had agreed to EU measures that will inflict damage on the sector, the failure to use the state share in Greencore, and it’s stance on grant aid for sugar beet as an energy crop.

Deputy Ferris asked Minister Coughlan if she agreed with the judgment of her colleague Minister of State Browne, '- that the decision of the EU to drastically cut the support price for beet by 36% was the best possible deal'?  Or would she agree with others that the decision has sounded the death knell of a sector that has been successful here for over 70 years, and that the EU decision flies in the face of the commitment to preserve the European model of farming, based on the family farm. Would she further agree that the sugar beet sector is being offered as a sacrificial lamb in a trade deal that appears only to have bad implications for Irish farmers?

"In a recent reply to a written question of mine, the Minister stated that her Special Share in Greencore does not allow her to be involved in the business decisions of the company. Would she not agree, however, that the importance of Greencore, and concerns over the company’s plans for its facilities at Carlow and Mallow, places an obligation on her to become actively involved in decisions regarding the future of the company, and the thousands of jobs and producers dependent on it.

"I note that Minister Cowen yesterday announced significant increases in the level of excise relief for the production of biofuels. This is intended to boost the production of biofuels. He also stated that this measure would require approval by the EU as a state aid. Would the Minister agree that this state should also request that the range of energy crops covered by production grants also be extended. And specifically that it ought to include the production of sugar beet as an energy crop. And would she agree that this would provide an alternative that would preserve the sugar beet sector as well as the facilities and jobs at Carlow and Mallow."  ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise and Trade, Arthur Morgan TD have made a joint call to the people of Ireland to mobilise tomorrow in support of workers at the Irish Ferries company.

Speaking today Party President Gerry Adams said: "Tomorrow's rally is about sending out a message to government and big business that the exploitation of workers will not be tolerated. The Irish Ferries situation is but the latest example of the ill-treatment of workers in this state and across Europe.

"Increasingly, workers are viewed as simply another commodity to be used and abused at the whim of their employers. Some companies view the chipping away of their rights as an acceptable practice as long as it leads to increases in already bloated profits.

"We need to be sending a clear message to government that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated. The wringing of hands and a statement saying that the issue is beyond their control is not good enough. It is vital that we stand together to protect the rights of all workers.

"On behalf of the Sinn Féin leadership I am calling upon the people of Ireland to come out in support of tomorrow‚s rallies in Dublin and across the country. The people of Ireland rightly gave their support to the Rossport Five against the multinationals, now it is time we faced down this latest threat to the rights and conditions of our workers, whether they are Irish or foreign nationals." ENDS

Note to Editor: Rallies will be held in Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Rosslare Harbour, Athlone, Sligo and Waterford. Demonstrations will be held at 1.30pm in each of these locations.

The Belfast and District Trades Union Council (B&DTUC) have arranged a solidarity demo in Belfast for 1.00pm on Friday 9th December outside the UTV offices, Havelock House, Ormeau Road, Belfast.

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Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy today said that the decision to drop the charges laid against a young Newry man as part of the Special Branch investigation into the Northern Bank robbery is the start of the unravelling of the entire sham inquiry.

Mr Murphy said:

" The fact of the matter is that the PSNI have been unable to produce one shred of evidence linking republicans to the Northern Bank robbery. They have went on several fishing expeditions raiding homes and arresting and interrogating individuals.

" They have in true Special Branch mode used sections of the media to smear people characters and link them to this robbery without any evidence being produced. Already after only a few weeks this sham of an investigation is unravelling in front of our eyes.

" Given the development in the this case and the collapse of their spy ring fantasy today has proven to be a bad day for the political detectives, the RUC old guard who are clearly still alive and well within the ranks of the PSNI." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Regional Development Spokesperson, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has said 'It is only through a functioning Assembly with accountable local ministers that the best interests of people here will be put ahead of the interests of Whitehall mandarins'. He accused the DUP of letting the British government off the hook by refusing to engage to get the political institutions back up and running.

Mr McCartney said:

"In their proposals announced today, the British government have recognised that their plans would have meant that those least able to afford water charges would be hit hardest. They now need to listen to the other concerns and arguments against water charging being put forward by communities across the north, politicians and NGOs.

"The fact is that people have already paid for water services through their rates. This money should have been invested in our water services and not squandered by successive British administrations. It is unacceptable that the British government are now asking people to pay for the NIO's failures.

"Whatever about the detail announced today the reality is that locally accountable ministers should be finding a way forward to secure the investment required to bring our water and sewerage infrastructure up to international standards.

"Opposition to water charges and the privatisation agenda is widespread. It is only through a functioning Assembly with accountable local ministers that the best interests of people here will be put ahead of the interests of Whitehall mandarins.

"If people are opposed to water charges then they should understand that it is the DUP that are letting the British government away with it by refusing to engage and get the institutions up and running." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said that PSNI Special Branch
operation alleging a spy ring in Stormont exposed as a sham in a Belfast
court this morning damaged the lives of ordinary people through the collapse
of the political institutions.

Mr McGuinness said:

" There never was a Sinn Féin spy ring operating from Stormont. This was a
carefully constructed lie created by the Special Branch in order to cause
maximum political impact. Its effect politically has been to collapse the
institutions and personally it has damaged the lives of the four people
originally charged and their families. This operation is as blatant an
example of political policing as you are likely to find.

" Sinn Féin said very clearly at the time that eventually this case would
fall apart. There was no evidence to sustain it. However that was not the
motivation of those responsible for carrying out this operation. Their
motivation was to collapse the political institutions and stall further
progress on policing change including of course the transfer of power to
locally elected and accountable politicians.

" The effect of this operation was to stop the work of the Executive in its
tracks. At the time as Minister of Education I was involved in important
work including the autism centre planned for Middletown and the review of
post primary education.

" At a policing level very serious questions now need to be addressed by the
British government and the PSNI. At a political level those who eagerly used
this operation to walk away from the political institutions need to reflect
long and hard on their position." ENDS



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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP said that the not guilty verdicts in the case against three people charged in relation to what was dubbed 'Stormontgate' prove conclusively what Sinn Féin have been saying all along
about the case.

Mr Adams said:

"This operation was a blatant example of political policing aimed at collapsing the political institutions.

"Faceless securocrats subverted the democratic wishes of the electorate north and south who voted for the Good Friday Agreement.

"The collapse of this case should now focus attention onto the Special Branch and those responsible for planning, carrying out and authorising this entire operation.

"Their activities have continued unabated since then to the detriment of the conflict resolution process, including of course the arrest last week of respect Sinn Fein Assembly member Francie Brolly in a Special Branch smear
operation." ENDS



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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has
today questioned whether the Government has fully prepared for the
introduction of Irish as a full working language of the European Union in
January 2007.

Ms McDonald made her comments after a meeting was arranged in the European
Parliament between Irish MEPs and European officials where it emerged that
EU officials recommended the deferment of full implementation of the
language due to a lack of Irish interpreters.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"The meeting sought to explore the practicalities of introducing the
language as a full working language of the European Union. I was shocked
to learn that European officials were recommending the deferment of full
implementation of the language due to a lack of Irish interpreters.
European officials also made it clear that it was the responsibility of
the Irish Government to ensure that people were trained up as interpreters
for Irish language translation in the EU Parliament.

"I want to ask the government directly if they are confident that enough
translators are available to ensure the full implementation of the
language on January 1st 2007. The Government must now state publicly
whether or not it can meet the challenge of facilitating the training of
sufficient numbers of interpreters to meet that date in just over one
year's time. I will be seeking to raise this issue with the government in
the time ahead

"For more than 30 years, Irish language campaigners had been lobbying the
Government to seek full EU working status for the language. It is
unacceptable that this may now be delayed even further because of
Government failure to prepare for the introduction of the language in
2007." ENDS




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Ógra Shinn Féin activists have occupied part of the IBEC offices on Baggot St. in solidarity with Irish Ferries workers still in control of vessels docked at Holyhead. Brian Keane of Ógra Shinn Féin called on young people to take to the streets tomorrow.

Mr Keane said: "We are doing this to show solidarity with Irish Ferries workers ahead of the march tomorrow but we are also doing it to focus on the dangers for young working class people that exist in the race to the bottom and the displacement of Irish jobs.

"We are calling for young people to get out of their workplaces, schools and colleges tomorrow and take to the streets in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Athlone, Waterford, Rosslare and Tralee to fight for their future and for their jobs. It was the young people of Ireland who led the campaign against the war on Iraq and it is they who must seize the day to take a stand against the exploitation of Irish and foreign workers and demand equal treatment for all workers.

"Ógra Shinn Féin will be taking part in the march on Friday alongside our comrades in Sinn Féin and the labour movement and we call on all young people to stand up for yourselves and your class." CRÍOCH

 

 

 

 

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Sinn Féin Social Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has expressed his disappointment at the failure of the Finance Minister Brian Cowen to at least double the Fuel Allowance in today’s budget as he had previously called for.

Deputy Crowe said, “The €5 increase in the Fuel Allowance announced by the Finance Minister Brian Cowen today will not be enough to adequately deal with the problem of fuel poverty. It is extremely disappointing that the Minister did not recognise the need to at least double the allowance as I and anti-poverty groups had called for.

“Some 1,500 to 2,000 people die in winter months due to poor housing and cold weather. The Minister has not gone far enough to deal with this particular problem even though he had the resources to do so. His failure to recognise this basic need is a sign of how far removed the Minister is from the reality families suffering fuel poverty.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Arthur Morgan T.D this evening slated the Government for failing to deliver on social housing in today’s budget.

Deputy Morgan said, “The 48,000 families currently on social housing waiting lists will be dumbfounded by the fact that the Government has failed to make provision for their urgent needs in the budget.  This budget amounts to a slap in the face for families waiting for social housing.  Expenditure on local authority and social housing programmes will increase by a mere 5%. This figure does not even keep pace with the annual increase in the costs of building houses or purchasing land. 

“What hope can people waiting on social housing have for the future?  For 12 months Sinn Féin has been asking the Minister for Environment and Local Government if the Government will accept the NESC recommendation for an increase of 73,000 permanent social housing units between 2005 and 2012.  Yet there is no target for the elimination of housing waiting lists nor is there any commitment to deliver the number of social housing units which are needed.  Housing is a basic human requirement and it is hard to comprehend how this Government can so blatantly ignore the plight of so many people who are in desperate need of housing.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin spokesperson for International Affairs and Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD raised the issue of the complete absence of criteria to ensure safeguards against Irish complicity in human rights abuses and breaches of Irish neutrality covering the applications from foreign soldiers for training in the Curragh.

The Minister of State Tom Kitt, who was substituting for no-show Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, acknowledged that all applications for training from foreign militaries that have been received have been accepted.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Responses to quite valid parliamentary questions from myself show that the countries of origin of these soldiers include Israel, Russia and many NATO countries.

"In the case of both Israel and Russia UN resolutions have been either completely ignored or only partially complied with by these states and their military forces. Arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions remain the hallmark of the conflict in Chechnya and Russian federal forces were responsible for about 450 abductions last year. It would appear that there are no safeguards in place to ensure against either complicity in human rights abuses or against breaches of Irish neutrality.

"Any part that is being played in these atrocities by this state is too big a part and instead of lending these countries legitimacy or meeting their needs, we should instead be boycotting the militaries in particular of these countries and especially until the Israeli abuses of the Palestinian people cease.

"Will the Minister of State offer a guarantee to the effect that no country whose military are involved in breaching international law will receive training in the Curragh camp or anywhere else in this jurisdiction in the future?"

Minister Kitt promised to urge Willie O'Dea to take on board the human rights concerns raised by Sinn Féin. Speaking afterwards Deputy Ó Snodaigh welcomed this commitment. ENDS

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Speaking on the Budget in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said, "With this Budget Fianna Fáil is attempting to erase the memory of all those budgets from Champagne Charlie McCreevy who rewarded the very wealthy and allowed the gap between rich and poor in Irish society to widen.

"The Government is now attempting to be seen to address inequality. If that effort results in some positive and long overdue measures then that is welcome. All credit to those who have campaigned long and hard for social justice and economic equality. We in Sinn Féin count ourselves among that number.

"For Sinn Féin the real test is not rhetoric but the putting into effect of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It means "cherishing all the children of the nation equally" in practice.

"But over almost a decade in office the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition has failed that test.

"Despite the unprecedented prosperity in the Irish economy, it is one of the most inequitable in the developed world.

"This level of poverty is inexcusable given the affluent Irish economy of the 21st century. Record budget surpluses have been achieved year after year, yet the opportunity to move towards an Ireland of Equals has been squandered. Very belatedly some positive measures are being undertaken in this Budget but this should have begun in 1997 when this Coalition took office.

"There is sufficient wealth in our society to ensure that, at the very least, no child should want for any of the basics of life and all should be able to look forward to a full and rewarding future. The lack of vision, the incompetence and the conservatism of successive governments in this State have robbed generations of children of their birthright.

"Reversing all of this will mean a change in policy, a shift in emphasis towards social need and equality. As we in Sinn Féin have repeatedly pointed out, such a change will include moving away from this outdated model of annual budgeting and the 'Budget Day' ritual and towards multi-annual budgeting based on medium to long-term planning.

On Childcare Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Early Childhood Supplement of €1000 per child per year is a disappointment. It will do little for those who cannot afford the very high cost of childcare places for their children. Similarly the increase in Child Benefit should have been greater.

"Maternity Leave increases are welcome but it is a disgrace that nothing has been done on paternity leave.

"The Minister has announced a National Childcare Investment Programme up to 2010, promising 65,000 additional places. We must await the detail of this plan but, as I have stated, the Government has an awful lot of catching up to do. I hope that this plan will not go the way of the National Health Strategy which was unveiled in 2001 in the run-up to the 2002 General Election. That strategy is now in tatters like the promise of a world-class health service that accompanied it."

On Health the Cavan/Monaghan TD said:

"If there is one fatal flaw in this Government's political strategy it is located in the biggest spending Government department and it is in the hands of the Progressive Democrats -- Health.

"There is total incoherence on the part of this Government on this key area of social provision. Minister Cowen carried that contradiction into the Budget when he extended the tax breaks for the developers of private hospitals. The tax foregone in this way should instead be spent on the provision of the primary care centres were promised but which were shelved by the Tánaiste last year. But there is nothing in this Budget to provide for those essential primary care centres which must be part of the solution to the crisis in our Accident and Emergency departments.

"There is nothing in this Budget to provide for the 3,000 additional acute hospital beds that are needed to address the crisis in our health system. "The Government could and should have extended the medical card to all those under 18. This would have cost €223 million -- a very affordable sum in the context of this Budget, but one which would have been of very real benefit to many families with children. I deplore the failure of the Government once again to introduce this measure.

"There is nothing in this Budget for the 325 people who today are languishing in our Accident and Emergency units on trolleys and chairs. And A&E is only the tip of the iceberg in the health service crisis."

On Tax he said:

"I welcome the removal of a range of property-based tax reliefs. But the Government deserves no credit for this. We didn't know what most of those reliefs cost. We do know that speculators made a massive amount of money out of them. This Government and the speculators who benefited from their tax breaks are like fraudsters who know the game is up and who now have to move on to another scam. And that scam is assuredly the tax breaks for the private health industry."

On Housing he said:

"The Minister spoke of a significant package of social and affordable housing. But we heard nothing to provide for the 73,000 new social housing units required by 2012 and as recommended by the National Economic and Social Council. For a decade this Government has totally abandoned housing policy to the market and the losers have been those people in the 48,000 households on the local authority waiting lists."

On Disability he said:

Like Health, this Budget has been a major disappointment for peope, with disabilities. For years we have sought a Cost of Disability Payment which recognises the additional costs and burdens borne by people with disabilities. I deplore the Government's failure once again to deliver it.

On Transport Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Minister used the Budget to re-announce the Transport 21 package which was itself a recycled package. But like so much else in this Government's record that package does not measure up to scrutiny. Public transport provision is still totally inadequate and is virtually non-existent in many part of the country such as the Border region."

Concluding he said:

"This is undoubtedly a pre-election budget. The Minister has his plans set out to win the General Election for Fianna Fáil in 2007 or perhaps next year. He and the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and their colleagues are hoping that the people have very short memories, that they will forget the waste and the inequality of the McCreevy years, the waste and the inequality that they are desperately trying to cover up now. But people are not so foolish. After nearly a decade of rule by this Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government the people know that this Coalition has squandered theopportunities of the economic boom."ENDS

Full text of speech by Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD

Like the student who wasted his college years this Government is now trying to cram in the run-up to the big final exam -- the next General Election. With this Budget Fianna Fáil is attempting to erase the memory of all those budgets from Champagne Charlie McCreevy who rewarded the very wealthy and allowed the gap between rich and poor in Irish society to widen.

This year was the 20th birthday of the Progressive Democrats, a party that has had an influence on economic policy in this State way beyond its electoral strength. It seems that Minister Cowen's predecessor Charlie McCreevy was even more influential in the genesis of that party than we previously thought. And he certainly formed a powerful axis with them when he was in Government. But after the Taoiseach discovered he was a socialist last year, Minister McCreevy's days in Finance were numbered and today he languishes in Brussels, albeit on a very hefty salary.

The Government is now attempting to be seen to address inequality. If that effort results in some positive and long overdue measures then that is welcome. All credit to those who have campaigned long and hard for social justice and economic equality. We in Sinn Féin count ourselves among that number.

The attempt by the Government to catch up, to make up for lost time and for wasted money is due in no small measure to the growing political strength of Sinn Féin. In the wake of Sinn Féin electoral advances in the 2004 local government and EU Parliament elections, the Taoiseach discovered he was a socialist.

In 2005 Fianna Fáil has rediscovered that its sub-title is 'the Republican Party'. Even the Progressive Democrats now want to be called republicans. And the State commemoration of the 1916 Rising is to be revived.

In the closing months of the current Dáil, as a General Election approaches either in 2006 or early 2007, we believe this pattern will continue. This Budget is part of the picture.

For Sinn Féin the real test is not rhetoric but the putting into effect of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It means "cherishing all the children of the nation equally" in practice.

But over almost a decade in office the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition has failed that test.

Published in 2005, the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions shows that one in seven children in the 26 Counties - almost 150,000 - are living in consistent poverty. They suffer economic hardship on a weekly basis that excludes them from the quality of life and the opportunities for their future enjoyed by a majority of children.

A further significant minority of 242,000 children - some 23.9% of young people in the State - are at risk of poverty. They live in households which have less than 60% of the State-wide median income.

The National Anti-Poverty Strategy set the year 2007 as the target date for consistent child poverty to be reduced to below 2% and eliminated altogether if possible. Clearly, with some 14% of children in consistent poverty, the target is far from being reached in 2007. The truth is that this target should have been reached ahead of time in an economy which has seen growth almost unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

Despite the unprecedented prosperity in the Irish economy, it is one of the most inequitable in the developed world. In the United Nations Human Development Index for 2005 this State comes third last in a league of 18 OECD countries in terms of poverty. Only the United States and Italy, among the developed countries, have worse levels of poverty and inequality. It should be noted that the so-called 'United Kingdom' is fourth from the bottom in this league and that included in its figures are the Six Counties where child poverty levels are worse than in the 26 Counties, adding to the total of avoidable hardship for children in Ireland.

This level of poverty is inexcusable given the affluent Irish economy of the 21st century. Record budget surpluses have been achieved year after year, yet the opportunity to move towards an Ireland of Equals has been squandered. Very belatedly some positive measures are being undertaken in this Budget but this should have begun in 1997 when this Coalition took office.

There is sufficient wealth in our society to ensure that, at the very least, no child should want for any of the basics of life and all should be able to look forward to a full and rewarding future. The lack of vision, the incompetence and the conservatism of successive governments in this State have robbed generations of children of their birthright.

Reversing all of this will mean a change in policy, a shift in emphasis towards social need and equality. As we in Sinn Féin have repeatedly pointed out, such a change will include moving away from this outdated model of annual budgeting and the 'Budget Day' ritual and towards multi-annual budgeting based on medium to long-term planning. It will require participatory democracy with the people and the Oireachtas having a real say in policy and in spending plans, Department by Department,Minister by Minister.

Childcare

In November 2004 Sinn Féin in the Dáil tabled a motion calling for the development of a comprehensive and accessible childcare infrastructure and a wide range of measures to assist parents, whether caring for children full-time in the home or working outside the home and using childcare services. 50 TDs supported the motion in the Dáil division.

Prior to Budget 2005 Sinn Féin published our proposals as our Budget Priorities document Putting Children First. In doing so we consulted widely within the childcare sector. Our Budget 2006 Priorities updated and reiterated those proposals.

The Dáil debate on the Sinn Féin motion heard Government commitments to develop childcare in the State but the subsequent Budget 2005 was a major disappointment and further fuelled the national debate and the demand for action. It was widely recognized that the biggest omission from Minister Cowen's first Budget was Early Childhood Care and Education.

Budget 2005 was followed by a national debate on the need for this society to care better for our children. The debate recognized the intense pressure placed on parents and children and family life in an economy with high demand for labour from employers. But the nature of work itself has also been addressed in the debate and the demand has been raised, as never before, that the work of people caring for children in the home must be fully recognized and supported. The same applies to other carers in the home also.

The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) published a landmark report on Early Childhood Care and Education in September 2005. In 2000 the National Childcare Strategy had stated that childcare provision was "uncoordinated, variable in quality and in short supply". That this is still the case in 2005 was confirmed by the NESF report which pointed to "the very inadequate implementation of policy on childcare in Ireland and the markedly insufficient financial investment in the education and care ofour younger citizens".

The NESF Report set the benchmark which this Government must reach. The measures announced by the Minister fall short of that benchmark. These measures represent some progress but cannot make up for almost a decade of neglect in the whole area of Early Childhood Care and Education by this Government.

The Early Childhood Supplement of €1000 per child per year is a disappointment. It will do little for those who cannot afford the very high cost of childcare places for their children. Similarly the increase in Child Benefit should have been greater. There was no movement on Child Dependant Allowance which has been frozen for years and could and should have been increased.

Maternity Leave increases are welcome but it is a disgrace that nothing has been done on paternity leave.

The Minister has announced a National Childcare Investment Programme up to 2010, promising 65,000 additional places. We must await the detail of this plan but, as I have stated, the Government has an awful lot of catching up to do. I hope that this plan will not go the way of the National Health Strategy which was unveiled in 2001 in the run-up to the 2002 General Election. That strategy is now in tatters like the promise of a world-class health service that accompanied it.

Health

If there is one fatal flaw in this Government's political strategy it is located in the biggest spending Government department and it is in the hands of the Progressive Democrats -- Health. The Government may hope that the measures announced today will take the heat out of childcare as an election issue. They won't. Not enough has been done. But even more significantly the fundamentally flawed approach to our health services by this Government will come back to haunt it as surely as that approach has caused misery to so many people and prevented the development of what should be the best health service in Europe. Look at the contradictions at the heart of this Government. Before the last General Election Fianna Fáil said they wanted to 'the end of the two-tier health system'. The Tánaiste denies there is a two-tier system. She goes further. Exactly a year ago she stated: 'I believe in a minimalist role for the State in all our lives, including health care."

In June this year, she stated:

"The fact that more and more people are getting private health care is a good thing. It's a sign of increasing disposable income."

There is total incoherence on the part of this Government on this key area of social provision. Minister Cowen carried that contradiction into the Budget when he extended the tax breaks for the developers of private hospitals. The tax foregone in this way should instead be spent on the provision of the primary care centres were promised but which were shelved by the Tánaiste last year. But there is nothing in this Budget to provide for those essential primary care centres which must be part of the solution to the crisis in our Accident and Emergency departments. Those centres are also essential for general public health as primary care is the most effective level of healthcare.

But instead the Tánaiste prefers to provide tax breaks for the private health system and to open private clinics like that in Sandyford which will be unaffordable and inaccessible to people with medical cards and others on low incomes.

There is nothing in this Budget to provide for the 3,000 additional acute hospital beds that are needed to address the crisis in our health system. The Government could and should have extended the medical card to all those under 18. This would have cost €223 million -- a very affordable sum in the context of this Budget, but one which would have been of very real benefit to many families with children. I deplore the failure of the Government once again to introduce this measure.

There is nothing in this Budget for the 325 people who today are languishing in our Accident and Emergency units on trolleys and chairs. And A&E is only the tip of the iceberg in the health service crisis.

Health is the big omission from this Budget. It will reinforce the two-tier system. It will not provide the extra nurses and doctors and hospital beds needed.

Tax

I welcome the removal of a range of property-based tax reliefs. But the Government deserves no credit for this. We didn't know what most of those reliefs cost. We do know that speculators made a massive amount of money out of them. This Government and the speculators who benefited from their tax breaks are like fraudsters who know the game is up and who now have to move on to another scam. And that scam is assuredly the tax breaks for the private health industry. That industry is being driven not by the health needs of the people but by the profit motive of speculators and shareholders The Minister promised to keep those on the minimum wage out of the tax net and to keep those on the average industrial wage out of the higher tax band. He promised that in Budget 2005 but in the past year many in those categories were allowed to slip back into the tax net or into the higher tax band. He must guarantee that that will not happen again in 2006.

Housing

The Minister spoke of a significant package of social and affordable housing. But we heard nothing to provide for the 73,000 new social housing units required by 2012 and as recommended by the National Economic and Social Council. For a decade this Government has totally abandoned housing policy to the market and the losers have been those people in the 48,000 households on the local authority waiting lists. This Budget also fails to address the spiralling cost of house prices which place homes beyond the reach of people even on incomes above the average industrial wage.

Disability

Like Health, this Budget has been a major disappointment for peope, with disabilities. For years we have sought a Cost of Disability Payment which recognises the additional costs and burdens borne by people with disabilities. The rate of unemployment among disabled people is disgracefully high. And many of these are people who are kept out of employment not by their disability itself but by the fact that they lose many State benefits when they go to work. That's why a Cost of Disability Payment is essential and I deplore the Government's failure once again to deliver it.

Transport

The Minister used the Budget to re-announce the Transport 21 package which was itself a recycled package. But like so much else in this Government's record that package does not measure up to scrutiny. Public transport provision is still totally inadequate and is virtually non-existent in many part of the country such as the Border region.

Conclusion

This is undoubtedly a pre-election budget. The Minister has his plans set out to win the General Election for Fianna Fáil in 2007 or perhaps next year. He and the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and their colleagues are hoping that the people have very short memories, that they will forget the waste and the inequality of the McCreevy years, the waste and the inequality that they are desperately trying to cover up now. But people are not so foolish. After nearly a decade of rule by this Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government the people know that this Coalition has squandered the opportunities of the economic boom. They have squandered the chances to build real equality and to develop our public services to the best European standard and beyond. We have every right to expect the best but this Government has disappointed us again and again. Nowhere is that more stark than in our health services for which this Government has nothing to offer in this Budget.

I predict that that Health will be the rock on which this Government and the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition will founder.

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Brussels this afternoon said "A spotlight must be shone on Britain's role in Ireland, and the EU member states, Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers need to be questioning the British Government on its involvement in the murder of Irish citizens, particularly whilst it currently holds the Presidency of the European Union."

Today Sinn Féin hosted a delegation of campaigners to the European Parliament whose loved ones were murdered as a result of British state violence and collusion with unionist paramilitaries.

Speaking after hosting a press conference for the families Ms McDonald said that the families were well received at the Parliament and met with a number of MEPs representing six of the seven European groupings.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Today's visit to the European Parliament by the relatives of those murdered as a result of the British state violence and collusion was very significant.

"This is their second visit to the Parliament in the space of one year and is a clear indication of their determination to break down the wall of silence with regard to British government involvement in the murder of Irish citizens.

"The families met with representatives of six of the seven European groupings in the EU Parliament and expressed their hope for support from Europe. The fact that a diverse range of groups met with the families is a testament to the families' persistence and determination to find the truth of what happened to their loved ones.

"Europe has a part to play in assisting the families in their quest for justice. For years the British Government denied the very existence of the policy of collusion against Irish people. There is now a particular onus on the British Government to state the truth.

"In the coming weeks Sinn Féin will continue to work with the families to try and secure a cross party fact finding delegation from the European Parliament.

"A spotlight must be shone on Britain's role in Ireland, and the EU member states, Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers need to be questioning the British Government on its involvement in the murder of Irish citizens, particularly whilst it currently holds the Presidency of the European Union." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today welcomed a British EU Presidency recommendation that the PEACE programme should receive €200 million in funding for the period 2007 -2013. This decision arose directly from meetings held by Sinn Féin with the EU Commission in October and separate discussions in recent weeks with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said that the proposal was "recognition of the need for a PEACE III programme, for which we have long campaign".

The recommendation came as the British Presidency presented EU leaders with its overall proposed financial perspectives for the period 2007-2013.

Ms de Brún said:

"The British Presidency proposals for a PEACE III programme covering the period 2007 to 2013 are very welcome. The proposals represent a first indication that the British Government is prepared to advocate €200 million in spending on EU PEACE projects.

"Sinn Féin have been lobbying for a PEACE III programme for several years. This work intensified following our entry to the European Parliament last year, with a round of meetings at the European Parliament and Commission. I and party President Gerry Adams met with the EU Commissioner for Regional Development, Danuta Hubner in October and I also met with her earlier this year to personally make the case for continued funding for PEACE and IFI funding. The matter has also been raised formally by Sinn Féin delegations with Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.

"Work still remains to be done to ensure a further round of PEACE funding is secured and it is imperative that the EU Council of Ministers ratify this proposal when they meet to finalise the Financial Perspectives later in the month.

"The proposal also makes clear that a future PEACE III fund 'will be implemented in full respect of additionality of structural fund interventions' (Point 52 of British Presidency document). This means that a future PEACE III fund must compliment and be additional to existing levels of government expenditure rather than replace it. Sinn Féin will be following proposals closely to ensure that this happens.

"I want to take this opportunity to praise the work of community group‚s right across the country for ensuring that this issue was highlighted and fought for. My hope is that future PEACE and IFI funding will enable them to continue to deliver first class peace and reconciliation work in their local communities.

"Sinn Féin believes that a future PEACE III projects must be targeted towards tackling discrimination and disadvantage and the promotion of peace and national reconciliation. My hope is that such funding will provide a further opportunity to cement the peace process and peace building." ENDS

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