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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the East Constituency and Wexford Councillor John Dwyer has called for urgent action to sort out the crisis at Wexford General Hospital which resulted in 30 patients being left on trolleys over the bank holiday weekend.

Councillor Dwyer said:

"The situation in Wexford General Hospital was intolerable at the weekend for patients and staff with 30 patients being left on trolleys. This is not a once off incident and will become an even more common occurance as the hospital does not have the bed capacity to cater for the population growth in County Wexford.

"The only way to address this ongoing problem is to provide additional acute beds to meet with the increased demands. It is not good enough for the government to say that the funding is not available. It is time that they lived up to their responsibilities to the people of Wexford and provide a proper public health service."ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the North West Pearse Doherty speaking at an Easter Commemoration in North Belfast this afternoon called on the Irish Government to cancel plans to hold the proposed citizenship referendum on June 11th. He was speaking following this morning's intervention by the Head of the Human Rights Commission in the south, Dr. Maurice Manning.

Mr. Doherty said:

"It is clear that there is widespread opposition to government attempts to rush through their proposed citizenship referendum without time for proper consultation and debate. It is also clear that the Government have not thought through the consequences of their proposals either in terms of the Good Friday Agreement or the human rights of those born in this country.

This is a complex and sensitive issue and should not be used for short term electoral gain. Sinn Féin opposes this proposed referendum and we oppose the matter being rushed through without proper debate.

"The government should cancel their proposed referendum and instead bring forward a positive policy on immigration, something which is long overdue."ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald has described Minister for Justice Michael McDowell's weekend attacks on republicans commemorating the 1916 Rising as 'juvenile' and said it was like something from a school playground. Speaking after the conclusion of over 100 events that took place right across the island, Ms McDonald described the Minster as having a 'fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of republicanism'.

Ms McDonald said:

"Michael McDowell's comments merely serve to expose his fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of republicanism.

"The basic tenets of republicanism, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity have been ceaselessly undermined by this Government. Where is the commitment to Fraternity to be seen in a Government introducing a citizenship referendum to allow it to deport people while putting in place restrictions on the movements of workers from the EU accession states? Where is the commitment to Equality in a Government that has seen substantial increases in relative poverty and inequality over the lifetime of the Coalition? Where is the commitment to Liberty when Irish independence is continually diminished in the EU and the Government is happy to see Shannon Airport turned into a US military base?

"Michael McDowell attacks republicans for remembering the men and women of 1916 in more than 100 different commemorations across the island over the last three days but has no interest in doing so himself. Unlike Michael McDowell we claim no monopoly on republicanism, but we believe that actions speak louder than rhetorical soundbites uttered more for the benefit of the media than for political debate.

"The Minister for Justice has repeatedly undermined republicanism in Ireland, he is rewriting the Good Friday Agreement with his proposed referendum and putting the Peace Process at risk for narrow party political gain in the forthcoming elections." ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for Dublin South East Daithí Doolan said that there was amazement in the area this morning that Dublin City Council had publicly announced details of their plans to begin to sell off Council flats from this summer without properly notifying residents.

Mr. Doolan was speaking following the announcement by Dublin City Council that from this summer Council flats will be offered for sale to tenants. The first homes on the market will be Weaver Court in the Liberties.

Mr. Doolan said:

"I welcome the fact that tenants of Council flats are to be allowed to buy their homes but there are huge concerns that this scheme has not been thought out properly. There has been almost no consultation with residents. There have been no assurances that this will not involve the wholesale sell off of Council housing to the private sector. And this scheme is being introduced in the absence of a real housing programme to house those already on the waiting list and those who are homeless.

"Given that the Council is not building sufficient houses and they are now proposing to sell off current stock, how on earth are they going to house people in this City in the future.

"It is time that the Council got real on this issue and dealt with peoples concerns."ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative and Lenadoon resident Cllr. Paul Butler has spoken of his shock and anger at the murder of a West Belfast teenager over the weekend. The 16 year old from Lenadoon was found dumped in a forest on the outskirts of Poleglass.

Cllr. Butler said:

" People in Lenadoon and indeed throughout West Belfast are both shocked and extremely angry at this horrific incident. This young girls family are well known within this community and I am sure that we will now do all in our power to rally around them at this time.

" The family are obviously devastated by this murder and they are going through an absolute nightmare. This young girl went out as thousands of other young people went out to enjoy the Easter break. It is unbelievable that she did not return home.

" I would wish to publicly extend my sympathy and the sympathy of my party to the family at this most difficult of times." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has said that concerns being expressed by the SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone about people with disabilities being refused access to the Electoral Register are 'hypocritical given the fact that the legislation being used to discriminate against them came at the behest of the SDLP'.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The legislation under which the registration process is conducted was introduced two years ago at the behest of the SDLP and the unionists. The result has been for 211,000 people to lose their vote. It directly discriminates against people with disabilities, low incomes, literacy problems and those seeking to vote for the first time.

"Sinn Féin has been campaigning for a change in the legislation for sometime. The SDLP are on public record as supporting the new regulations including those which Patsy McGlone now claims are discriminatory. People have a right to know what the SDLP position is. Do they believe as Mr McGlone claims that the legislation is discriminatory or do they support it, which has been the position over the past two years. The SDLP need to clarify their position.

"If they now believe the legislation to be flawed then they should join with Sinn Féin in demanding that the British government amend the Act and remove the discriminatory elements from the legislation and help restore public confidence in the Electoral process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly group leader Conor Murphy has accused the British government of operating quite shocking double standards in their approach to the Finucane case and their approach to the workings of the IMC.

Mr Murphy said:

"The British government are steadfastly refusing to hold an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. They base this position on the fact that a man is currently awaiting trial for the murder and that any outside inquiry would jeopardise his chance of a fair trial. This is an unacceptable position and it is Sinn Féin's position that an independent, international inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane should proceed without further delay.

"Yet when it comes to the workings of the IMC the British government have demanded that they produce a report into the incident involving Bobby Tohill and make it public despite that fact that four men are awaiting trial relating to that matter.

"The double standards in operation are very obvious for all to see. The British government cannot have it both ways. They either believe that an outside inquiry into an incident jeopardises a trial or they don't." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly speaking at the Easter Commemoration this afternoon said: "London and Dublin must inject momentum into the process. This requires actions, not words. The two governments now need to convince Republicans and Nationalists that they are serious about the peace process and political process. They can do this by honouring their respective commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, the joint declaration and in the discussions with us last October.

But I can tell you that blaming Republicans won't move us forward and neither will trying to criminalise us. Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike which marks the high cost of following a futile policy of criminalisation. It also shows how much Republicans are prepared to endure and how far they will go to protect the integrity of our struggle."

Mr Kelly commenting on the Cory report and the implications for policing said:

"In the context of Cory and the structure and practice of collusion continuing those who have taken the decision to endorse and support the current policing arrangements in the Six Counties have made a monumental error and they need to explain it to everyone else. They have inherited the Special Branch and their agents en bloc from the RUC to the P.S.N.I. They have inherited the plastic bullets. They have inherited the repressive legislation. They have inherited the Human Rights Abusers. They have inherited the military fortresses. They are powerless and perhaps reluctant to do anything about it. Sinn Féin will accept nothing short of the new beginning promised in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. We will not accept second-class policing."

Full text of speech

A Chairde agus a chomradaithe,

Is onóir mór domhsa bheith anseo i nDoire, ag labhairt libh ar an lá stairiúl seo.

Agus is fior lá stairiúl é de thairbhe go bhfuil muid cruinnithe anseo ag cuimhniú ar na fir agus na mná a chuaigh amach ar Domhnach na Cásca i mBaile Atha Cliath agus lás said tine ar fud an domhain Ocht bliana is ochtó ó shin.

Tá muid ag cuimhniú fosta ar fir agus mná óga ár linne atá ina luí thart orainn anseo, sa reilg uaigneach seo.

I am very honoured to be speaking here today of those who died for Irish freedom in 1916 and in every generation since.

Easter week 1916 was one of the greatest historical events of the last century. It started the bush fire of decolonisation, which was to engulf what was then the British Empire. It inspired generations of Irish Republicans and peoples throughout the world who rose up against the tyranny of colonial rule, imperialism and oppression. It is a fire still burning in the heart of every republican.

So let me be clear, our comrades who gave their lives and those of us who survived to take up their mantle were and are about bringing about British withdrawal and achieving a free independent and united Ireland.

While remembering fallen comrades lets also remember POW‚s still incarcerated. There are still political prisoners in jail who should have been released. We should hear less excuses and see more action they should be released immediately. There are people on the run who would have been released had they been in jail we should hear less excuses and see more action.

I want to pay tribute to the volunteers and leadership of the IRA of today because they have shown outstanding valour and vision on and off the battlefield. They have played a central role in this phase of the struggle and I commend their initiatives, patience, discipline and tenacity.

Indeed individual and collective courage have been the mainstay of this long struggle. It was the courage shown by the leadership of the IRA in calling a cessation of military operations in 1994 which was the catalyst for not only the overall peace process but for the ongoing development of the republican strategy which has brought us so far.

Sinn Féin has been working tirelessly to make the peace process work, only to be hampered at almost every turn by rejectionist unionists and the British government. Last year, after an intensive round of negotiations, Republicans agreed a deal with the Unionists and the two governments in October. As always Republicans upheld their part of the bargain but the unionists reneged, followed by the British and Irish governments.

Both governments entered into commitments, covering a wide range of issues from prisoners, through policing, demilitarisation, northern representation in Southern institutions, equality, human rights matters and more. There was to be immediate and substantial movement.

The governments have not moved an inch since October.

London and Dublin must inject momentum into the process. This requires actions, not words. The two governments now need to convince Republicans and Nationalists that they are serious about the peace process and political process. They can do this by honouring their respective commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, the joint declaration and in the discussions with us last October.

But I can tell you that blaming Republicans won‚t move us forward and neither will trying to criminalise us. Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike which marks the high cost of following a futile policy of criminalisation. It also shows how much Republicans are prepared to endure and how far they will go to protect the integrity of our struggle.

As you are all aware the last four months have seen a renewed attack on our party and on republicanism itself. We have listened to government politicians line up to attack Sinn Féin. We have listened to allegation after allegation, selective briefings to the media and the worst type of nod and wink politics. When asked to back up their claims and produce evidence, we have got no answers.

We are Irish republicans. We are proud to be Irish Republicans. We won't be criminalized by the Irish Government, and Michael McDowell or anyone else.

It is lost on nobody that these attacks have increased in volume and ferocity as we get closer to the Local Government and EU elections. It is lost on nobody that it is happening at a time when the peace process is in difficulty.

For decades republicans have been highlighting the issue of collusion. Collusion was dismissed by our opponents, as simply republican propaganda.

It was not. It was a British government policy of state sanctioned killing. Unionist death squads were armed, trained and directed at the wider nationalist community and at republicans in particular. The people and structures which ran this campaign from Downing Street through FRU, MI5 and the Special Branch remain in place. They must be removed. The policy must be ended.

Cory is only the tip of the iceberg. Many more dirty secrets still lie in Downing Street and in PSNI headquarters in Knock.

I also wish to pay tribute to the families of those murdered through the collusion policy. They refused to accept the lies and the cover-up and have campaigned, some for up to 20 years and more, for the truth. They deserve our praise and our support in the time ahead especially in the face of further British resistance to and concealment of the truth.

In the context of Cory and the structure and practice of collusion continuing those who have taken the decision to endorse and support the current policing arrangements in the Six Counties have made a monumental error and they need to explain it to everyone else. They have inherited the Special Branch and their agents en bloc from the RUC to the P.S.N.I. They have inherited the plastic bullets. They have inherited the repressive legislation. They have inherited the Human Rights Abusers. They have inherited the military fortresses. They are powerless and perhaps reluctant to do anything about it. Sinn Féin will accept nothing short of the new beginning promised in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. We will not accept second-class policing.

The DUP support base has risen. They are the leading voice of Unionism. Like them or not we respect their mandate. But we are not naïve. The demands that the DUP are making of Sinn Féin are totally unacceptable. The demands for surrender and disbandment of the IRA will not resolve the difficulties and no one in the British

or Irish governments should pretend that it will.

The DUP and UUP need to know that although they can refuse to work the institutions they will have no veto over issues such as human rights, equality, policing, demilitarisation and rights and entitlements.

Mr Blair has set a June timeframe. Republicans will do our best to make that work, but only the actions of the governments can determine how successful we will be collectively in the weeks ahead. If the political will exists the problems can be resolved. We remain in contact with the 2 governments and the other parties, we seek a dialogue with the DUP. Republicans have the strength and commitment to resolve these issues. However, I am not sure if the governments and the Unionists have it. We have no illusions about the task facing us but we are wedded totally to building justice and equality in Ireland.

Since last Easter Sinn Féin has consolidated its position as the largest Nationalist party in the North. We are currently engaged in an intensive campaign North and South in preparation for the European and local government elections in June. We want to bring about real and lasting change. We are the only party standing in all five EU constituencies in Ireland and we will be standing more than 200 candidates in the local government elections.

We will do well ˆ the other main political parties in the South are afraid that ordinary people, fed up with the corruption, and mismanagement of government, will turn their backs on their failed politics and come to Sinn Féin.

The recent attacks on Sinn Féin are not just about the upcoming elections. They are deeper, it is the Establishment for the first time, extremely worried that Sinn Féin is moving towards government in both parts of Ireland.

Sinn Féin believes in people. Sinn Fein believes in empowering people, in working in partnership with local communities to tackle problems and map out new policies.

Transforming society on this island means bringing about real social and economic change for all in Irish society. The last ten years have been a time of unprecedented economic growth in the South. But the unprecedented growth was not used to the benefit of all. Not only did the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats coalition fail to tackle the structural inequalities, which warp our economy and damage our society, they actually worsened those inequalities and widened the gap between rich and poor. Sinn Féin wants to change all of this. Sinn Féin is building the radical alternative and pointing the way forward to an all-Ireland democracy, an Ireland of equals.

I believe that the story of this election will be the growth of the Sinn Féin vote and the increased number of seats that we will win. Our task in the weeks and months ahead is to reap the harvest we have sown ˆ to ensure that the support won by the hard work of the past five years is mobilised on polling day. It is our task to ensure that we continue to work to bring about the goals of Irish unity and independence. Our specific goal in the 6 Counties is to make history with Bairbre de Brún.

One of the most encouraging aspects of this phase of our struggle has been the numbers of young people attracted to our party. A new generation of activists are taking their place in the struggle and we must ensure that place is secured. We are the only Nationalist party, which is experiencing such growth, and it is a sign that young people see this party as a vehicle for change for a new generation. They should also be in the vanguard of that change and of our political project.

Sinn Féin is a republican party. We are the only All-Ireland party. Our goal is to see a United Ireland, which delivers real social and economic change. We are the only party with a strategy and policies for achieving Irish unity and independence.

The unrealistic demands made on Republicans is code for preserving the failed status quo. It is code for arresting dynamic, code for old style Unionist rule. We will have none of it. There will be no return to the bad old days.

Change is always difficult. When taken in the context of a conflict, change can be traumatic. And this can be made even more difficult when there are those, both within sections of unionism and with the British political and military establishment who still want to hold on to the old ways. That is where the serious threat to the peace process comes from at this time.

Our goal as Irish republicans is an Irish ud on that strength. The stronger we are the closer our goal of a free independent, and united Ireland will come. We are proud of our past, strong in our struggle today and confident in our future. Together we will achieve Irish unity and independence. We will live in the Irish Republic for which so many have sacrificed so much.

Bígí Cinnte go dtiocfaidh ar lá

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Speaking at Easter ceremonies in Ballinasloe and Galway City on Easter Sunday, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Irish Government must be a proponent of Irish Unity and must challenge the British government in its breaches of the Good Friday Agreement. He was also critical of the role of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Serious questions must be asked of the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen for allowing PD Minister McDowell to take such a leading role in determining Irish Government policy in the peace process. When his electoral play-acting is over the serious work of the peace process will have to continue.

"Sinn Féin will not be distracted by any of this. We are committed to the Good Friday Agreement and to its full implementation. We recognise what has been achieved so far and what has yet to be achieved. We take our responsibility very seriously and we stand on our record of achievement. We have delivered and we continue to deliver.

"Sinn Féin does not seek a slap on the back for our role in bringing about a new direction for republicanism, including the IRA cessations since 1994. That was not our role alone. What we do seek is a continued commitment from the Irish Government to the process of change, which made that new direction possible.

"For its part the British Government has failed to deliver on demilitarisation, equality and human rights, policing, the repeal of repressive legislation, collusion and the Irish language. This is the government, which insulted the survivors and the bereaved of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings with its dismissive response to the investigation of Judge Barron. A weak-kneed approach to the British Government from the Irish Government is not acceptable. If a partnership is required to deliver the Good Friday Agreement it must be a real partnership, a partnership of equals. It is time to remind the Taoiseach that his primary role is as a leader of Irish nationalism and a proponent of Irish Unity as mandated by the Irish Constitution.

"The British Government's repeated suspension of the institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement is a violation of an international treaty. The Taoiseach must remind the British Prime Minister that people in the 26 Counties voted for the Agreement and for significant constitutional change on the basis that the Agreement would be implemented in all its aspects and, in particular, that all-Ireland institutions would be established as working institutions. The Irish Government has been silent too long in the British Government's violation of the Agreement."ENDS

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Sinn Féin West Belfast Assembly member Bairbre de Brún speaking at Belfast Easter parade, Milltown Cemetery said: "Republicans understand only too well the challenges which arise from the peace process and from the agenda for change contained in the Good Friday Agreement. This process presents great challenges for all but also great opportunities.

That is why republicans continue to negotiate with the two governments. That is why republicans have on occasions taken initiatives to save this process and advance our agenda of change. Republicans have again and again faced up to the challenge of peace building and national reconciliation. Others must do the same."

Addressing the issue of collusion Ms de Brún said "The Finucane family have called for the campaign for a full international judicial inquiry to continue and we support them in that demand. What hope can there be for truth when the state responsible for the policy of collusion is also responsible for setting the terms of reference, structure and membership of any inquiry?

Sinn Féin will also closely scrutinise those inquiries that are established.

The refusal of the Chief Constable Hugh Orde to provide essential information to inquests in Tyrone, the refusal of the British government to co-operate with the Barron report into the Dublin-Monaghan bombs, the Bloody Sunday example of a British system subverting an enquiry, and the long fingering of the Finucane case, are all indicative of the effort being made by those within the British state who are determined to prevent the facts from emerging.

Nor should we forget that the apparatus of collusion still exists and that collusion remains part of British state policy in Ireland. If the British government cannot accept that collusion has happened and does happen, how can we be confident that it will end?"

Full text of speech

A chairde

Is onóir dom bheith linne anseo inniu chun na fir agus na mná a fuair bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann a chomóradh. Tá mé thar a bheith sásta gur i mBéal Feirste atá mé ag labhairt, ceantar inar sheas muintir na háite an fhód le linn na coimhlinte is cuma cé chomh deacair agus a bhí cúrsaí agus ceantar ina bhfuil éacht mhór déanta ag an pobal mar atá fás na Gaelscoileanna, na tacsaithe dubha, agus féilte mar Féile an Phobail.

We meet today on the 88th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, an uprising which saw men and women from urban and rural areas challenge the might of the British Empire and bring about unprecedented and profound change in an Ireland where people were told that no change could or should be expected.

The 1916 Rising came about as a result of many different threads in Irish society of that time:

* the cultural revival led by people who rejected the notion that Irish was backward or second best

* the self sufficiency of those who believed that Irish commerce and industry was the equal of those anywhere

* the fighting tradition of those who wished to bring about political independence; and

* the labour and women's strands who believed that prosperity in Ireland was not enough if that prosperity was not shared among all its people

Ireland in 1916 and in the period leading up to it was a hotbed of politics, a place where people saw the possibility of a different type of society and went about organising to make it happen.

Many of those at the forefront of the great national movements were very young, very idealistic and like those who have led the movement for change in more recent years, were motivated not by hatred or in the hope of personal gain, but by the fact that they saw great wrongs around them and wanted to put them right. They were very ordinary men and women who, in extraordinary times, did extraordinary things.

Tá cuimhne orainn mar sin de chan amháin orthu siúd a fuair bás i 1916 ach ar na fir agus na mná a rinne an íobairt céanna i ngach ghlún ó shin go dtí an lá atá inniu ann.

So today we remember not only those who gave their lives in 1916 but those who made that sacrifice in every generation since then. Many people today will have a special memory of an uncle or an aunt, a parent, brother or sister or indeed a neighbour or friend who has died in the most recent period of this long and painful conflict. In every decade since 1916, republicans have made that sacrifice for liberty, justice and equality.

I want to acknowledge the positive and constructive role played by the Leadership and Volunteers of Óglaigh na hÉireann in creating and sustaining the conditions for the peace process.

This August marks the tenth anniversary of the 1994 cessation. It was this initiative which more than any other made the peace process possible.

Indeed there would be no peace process but for the courageous decisions, and imaginative initiatives taken by the IRA.

I want to mention at this point an event taking place this summer, which I would like republicans to support. The Le Chéile Annual National Testimonial Dinner will pay tribute to 5 individuals for their lifelong contribution to the republican struggle. This important event will take place in Dublin this June.

I am particularly proud to be speaking in Belfast today, a city that has seen not only valiant resistance to injustice and oppression but real leadership which has made this city over the years a hotbed of politics to match and surpass the Ireland of 1916, and an example to people across the island and internationally.

The resilient and imaginative people of this city not only survived through long and hard years of conflict, occupation and discrimination, but went on to found its own taxi service, to grow the vibrant Irish medium sector of education, to campaign successfully for the transformation of appalling housing conditions, and to provide some of the leading figures in the political, education, culture and business sectors to name but a few.

So I pay tribute here today to this my adopted city.

On the political front, despite the constructive efforts of republicans the last year has been a difficult one for the peace process. Opportunities for progress were squandered by the two governments, and particularly by the British government.

Ag an am seo anuraidh bhí poblachtánaithe páirteach in iarracht deireadh a chur leis an éigeandáil sa phróiséas. Níor éirigh leis an iarracht sin de thairbhe nach raibh David Trimble ar lorg réiteach. Thacaigh Rialtas Shasana le seasamh s‚aige chomh maith.

Last Easter republicans were involved in a serious effort to end the crisis. It came to nought because David Trimble didn't want an agreement, and because the British government backed his stance.

In the intervening year, most importantly in October, republicans again made a serious effort to reach agreement with the governments and the unionists. And once again David Trimble walked away from an agreement.

Republicans understand only too well the challenges which arise from the peace process and from the agenda for change contained in the Good Friday Agreement. This process presents great challenges for all but also great opportunities.

That is why republicans continue to negotiate with the two governments. That is why republicans have on occasions taken initiatives to save this process and advance our agenda of change. Republicans have again and again faced up to the challenge of peace building and national reconciliation. Others must do the same.

I want to take this opportunity to commend Belfast republicans whose diligence ensured that last summer was the quietest ever. People far beyond our communities recognise the effort involved and salute you for it.

In the long term a process cannot be sustained on the goodwill and actions of one party. For a process to flourish it requires all of the parties including the two governments to honour obligations made and fulfil bargains entered into.

Last October, David Trimble and his party reneged at the last minute.

The Irish and British governments entered into commitments, covering a wide range of issues from prisoners, through policing, demilitarisation, northern representation in southern institutions, equality, human rights matters and more.

We were to see immediate and substantial progress on all of these. We saw none.

The governments have not moved an inch since October, other than to try and blame republicans again for the crisis. This is not acceptable

The current position of the DUP is also unacceptable. They are in effect playing catch up with the rest of us. But we are not prepared simply to sit and wait for them to make up lost ground. The process has to move forward. It cannot stand still waiting for negative unionism to grasp reality.

Our commitment to this process cannot be questioned. It comes from our desire to see conflict ended and a new future built for everyone on this island. But we cannot do this alone. The British government must fulfil its commitments and the Irish government has a duty and an obligation as co-guarantors of the Agreement to stand up for the rights of Irish citizens living in the north.

In particular, the Irish government must ensure that all political prisoners are released and this includes those still held in Castlerea.

The last twelve months has also seen an intensification of campaigning on the issue of collusion. Families of those killed by the state or with the state‚s knowledge. Acquiescence or aid have taken the campaign across Ireland and to London and America demanding truth and justice. Collusion was planned, organised and politically cleared at the highest levels within the British system.

I would like to pay tribute to the families of those murdered through the collusion policy. They refused to accept the lies and the cover-up and have campaigned, some for up to 20 years and more, for the truth. They deserve our praise and our support in the time ahead.

The Finucane family have called for the campaign for a full international judicial inquiry to continue and we support them in that demand. What hope can there be for truth when the state responsible for the policy of collusion is also responsible for setting the terms of reference, structure and membership of any inquiry?

Sinn Féin will also closely scrutinise those inquiries that are established.

The refusal of the Chief Constable Hugh Orde to provide essential information to inquests in Tyrone, the refusal of the British government to co-operate with the Barron report into the Dublin-Monaghan bombs, the Bloody Sunday example of a British system subverting an enquiry, and the long fingering of the Finucane case, are all indicative of the effort being made by those within the British state who are determined to prevent the facts from emerging.

Nor should we forget that the apparatus of collusion still exists and that collusion remains part of British state policy in Ireland. If the British government cannot accept that collusion has happened and does happen, how can we be confident that it will end?

In spite of the difficulties facing us, we continue to grow and to progress. Sinn Féin is the fastest growing party in Ireland. As we organise in an ever increasing number of areas throughout the island, more and more people are hearing an exciting political message, of social justice at home and abroad, of equality and human rights, of pride in our heritage and openness to the value and contribution of other cultures, and of the promise of fundamental change in our society. They hear a message that says Irish independence can happen and will happen, and they want to be part of bringing that about.

I ask those of you who hear that message today to work with us, and those already part of this great project to make room for those coming new to it, because the task is enormous and we need all the help we can get.

Sinn Féin faces major challenges in the days and weeks ahead. Our negotiators are still fully engaged in talks with the two governments and the other parties as we work to get the peace process back on track. We are also presenting a real alternative in politics north and south. We are committed to social and economic freedom for the people of Ireland. We are just as determined to achieve an Ireland where poverty and inequality are eliminated as we are to achieve an end to partition.

None of this can be achieved without greater political strength for Sinn Féin. In the local government and EU elections in June Sinn Féin will be presenting its largest ever number of candidates. We are the only party standing in all five EU constituencies on the island and we will be standing more than 200 candidates in the Local Government elections in the South. We are determined that these elections will build on the tremendous success of last November's Assembly elections when we confirmed our position as the largest nationalist party.

Tá sé de rún daingean againn foireann uile-Éireannach de feisirí na hEorpa a thoghadh i mí Meitheamh. Daonlathas, neodracht agus comhionnanas a bheidh mar bhunchloch obair feisirí s‚againn.

We are determined that we will return an all Ireland team of Sinn Féin members of the European Parliament, where democracy, neutrality and equality will be central to our agenda.

Political and electoral strength are not an end in themselves. The amount of change that can be achieved in any period of history depends on the strength of those seeking maximum change. Sinn Féin is the only party with a strategy and policies for achieving Irish unity and independence. We are the only party that people can vote for, whether they live in Derry, Kerry, Wexford or Antrim. We are the only party bringing a distinctly republican and socialist analysis into the heart of Irish politics. This puts a huge responsibility on republicans to set out our plans, our proposals for building Irish unity and the type of Ireland that we want to create.

I also want to commend to you the Rights for All Charter, which sets out fundamental political, democratic and human rights, which Sinn Féin believes should form the basis of our society. Our priority is to create an inclusive society where the rights of all are protected. This document is designed to stimulate debate on what sort of society people want for Ireland. It is vital that people use the document and take the debate into the wider community.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Sinn Féin and the following year is the 25th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes. We are in the midst of an era that, that like 1916 and 1981, can see an equally profound and unparalleled level of change. However this can only be achieved if more people become active in the republican struggle. In the words of Bobby Sands everyone has a part to play and I urge those here who are not yet actively involved to join Sinn Fein and to play your part and help us achieve the dream which motivated the women and men of 1916, that of an independent, democratic socialist, Irish republic, free from sod to sky and cherishing all the children of the nation equally.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking at this year's Dublin Easter Commemoration said "Let me make it clear that the Sinn Fein leadership is prepared to enter once again into new intense negotiations. We are prepared once again to do our best to make this process work. We have no illusions about this. We are wedded totally to building justice and peace on this island.

Mr. Blair has set June as a timeframe. We will do our best to make that work but only the actions of the governments can determine how successful we will collectively be in the weeks ahead." Mr. Adams said "whatever the spin of the moment by the governments the reality is that the greatest challenge at this time is to the Taoiseach Mr. Ahern and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. And we have told them that."

Mr. Adams acknowledged the positive and constructive role of the Volunteers of the IRA in creating and sustaining the chat the process moves forward.

For months now Sinn Fein has argued that the two governments need to take the lead in putting together a structure of talks, which deals with the seriousness of the situation. So, I welcome Mr. Blair's remarks and I expect that there will be a concentrated effort to resolve the outstanding issues in the next few weeks.

I believe that if the political will exists even the serious and vexed issues facing all of us at this time can be resolved. To that end Sinn Féin has remained in contact with the two governments and the other parties.

I know that Irish republicans have that strength of will to resolve these issues. I am not confident that the two governments have it. I am certainly not confident that the leaders of political unionism have it.

So, let me spell out what we believe is required from the two governments and the unionists if there is to be progress after Easter.

And none of this is rocket science. So, let's get real.

Does anyone in the two governments really believe that blaming republicans for the current crisis is creating the proper atmosphere for serious negotiations? If the governments are serious about this peace process then they need to convince republicans and nationalists. This requires actions not words. It requires movement not rhetoric.

London and Dublin must accept that they have to inject new momentum into the process. They do this by honouring their respective commitments in the Good Friday Agreement, in the Joint Declaration and in the discussions with us last October.

Let us be clear, both governments entered into commitments, covering a wide range of issues from prisoners, through policing, demilitarisation, northern representation in southern institutions, equality, human rights matters and more. There was to be immediate and substantial progress on all of these. There was none.

Instead we have the continued suspension of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, a totally unacceptable situation.

The governments have not moved an inch since October, other than to try and blame republicans again for the crisis. This is also unacceptable. It is also untrue.

At this stage I want to especially acknowledge the positive and constructive role of the Volunteers of the IRA in creating and sustaining the conditions of the peace process. The August marks the 10th anniversary of the 1994 cessation. It was this initiative more than any other which made the peace process possible. The fact is that there would be no peace process but for the courageous decisions and imaginative initiatives taken by the IRA.

The DUP

I want to now deal with the state of play within unionism. Sinn Féin respects the mandate of the DUP. The DUP must respect the Sinn Fein mandate. However, the current position of the DUP, its opposition to the Agreement and the demands it is making of Sinn Féin, are totally unacceptable.

Sinn Fein is strong enough and big enough and confident enough in our own politics to talk to anyone. In fact we have a duty to do so. So do the DUP. But like John Major at the start of this process the DUP is demanding that the IRA publicly surrender before the DUP will even sit down and talk to Sinn Féin.

Can anyone imagine the IRA dashing off to obey the DUP diktat? Does Mr. Paisley imagine that P O'Neill was just waiting for this demand from him? Surely wiser counsel will know that a sensible approach is about dealing with these issues collectively.

So the DUPs current public position will not resolve the difficulties in the process and no one in the British or Irish governments should pretend that it will, not if Mr. Blair is serious when he warns that this process cannot stand still. When he says if it fails to move forward it will move backwards.

The unionists, but especially the DUP, have to know that although they can refuse to work the institutions, they will have no veto over the many other matters of human rights and equality, policing and demilitarisation, of rights and entitlements.

Clearly, therefore the restoration of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement has to be the priority at this time. That also is the logic of Mr. Blair's stated position.

Republicans have demonstrated time out of number our willingness to find agreements. Our commitment and our hard work on behalf of this process is unequalled by any other participant. It comes from our desire to see an end to conflict and a new future for everyone on this island.

We are involved in an unprecedented and historic enterprise, to resolve conflict, to achieve reconciliation among all the people of this island and deliver a lasting peace. Sinn Féin is not giving up on this process. We have set out a peaceful direction for everyone to follow, and everyone, has a contribution to make in ensuring that the people of this island continue to move forward to a better future.

So whatever the spin of the moment by the governments the reality is that the greatest challenge at this time is to the Taoiseach Mr. Ahern and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. And we have told them that.

Let me make it clear that the Sinn Fein leadership is prepared to enter once again into new intense negotiations. We are prepared once again to do our best to make this process work. We have no illusions about this. We are wedded totally to building justice and peace on this island.

Mr. Blair has set June as a timeframe. We will do our best to make that work but only the actions of the governments can determine how successful we will collectively be in the weeks ahead.

June elections

Whatever the outcome of any negotiations about the peace process Irish republicans face other challenges in the coming months.

In June, as the only all-Ireland party, we will be fighting to win seats in the European Parliament. And we can do it. Last November Sinn Féin became the largest nationalist party in the north and the largest pro-Agreement party. I believe we can build on that success. I have canvassed widely north and south and the response has been very good.

If everyone here today, and at commemorations across this island, rallies round our all-Ireland team of EU candidates we can make significant gains in June and send MEPs to Strasbourg and Brussels who will defend Irish national interests while seeking support for Irish unity and Sinn Fein's peace strategy.

What does this mean for the city of Dublin?

If you do the work it means that Mary Lou McDonald will become the first Sinn Fein MEP for the capital.

Sinn Féin is also standing over 200 candidates in the local government elections, the largest number of candidates we have put forward in decades. I am in no doubt that we are set to make significant gains and that the face of local government politics is about to change - and change for the better. And we have seen the conservative parties reaction to this. They would rather create a smokescreen than debate the issues.

There is also the upcoming bogus and racist referendum on citizenship. This is a complex and sensitive issue, which the government is cynically exploiting without regard to the negative consequences for Irish society and the Good Friday Agreement. The government's decision has virtually guaranteed that race will become an election issue. It is also in stark contradiction of the 1916 Proclamations commitment to "cherish all the children of the nation equally." The truth is that the government is afraid to lose this referendum as they did with the first referendum on the Nice Treaty.

So, my friends we have lots of work to do it in the time ahead.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Sinn Fein. In 2005 we will celebrate this with a yearlong series of events. Here in Dublin, where the party first met and where the republic was declared Sinn Fein is on the march. I can think of no better way to approach the centenary of our party than with the largest number of Sinn Fein representatives here in the capital.

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Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Howth, at the first of more than 100 commemorations which will take place throughout Ireland over the next three days, called on people to come out this weekend and advance the peace process and support the campaign for Irish Unity and Independence. Ms McDonald said 'the difficulties in the peace process remain centre stage and Sinn Féin is determined to go into the proposed intensive talks to do business. The big question is are the two governments and other parties just as eagar to make progress at this time."

Ms McDonald said:

"Over the next three days, more than 100 commemorations will take place across all 32 Counties as republicans come together to honour Ireland's patriot dead and to set out our priorities for the time ahead.

"The difficulties in the peace process remain centre stage and there will be high expectations surrounding the proposed intensive talks due to take place at the end of the month. Sinn Féin will go into these talks to do business. We will go into the talks to get the political institutions back up and running, to get what was agreed last October and in the Agreement itself implemented on policing, equality, human rights, Irish language and a whole range of other issues.

"Republicans have demonstrated time and time again our willingness to take risks and reach agreement. Six years on from the Good Friday Agreement, our commitment and our hard work on behalf of this process is unequalled by any other participant. It comes from our desire to see an end to conflict and a new future for everyone on this island.

" But in the long term a process cannot be sustained on the goodwill and actions of one party. For a process to work it requires the engagement of all the participants and it requires the two Governments to live up to their word and not repeatedly walk away from deals. Sinn Féin is going into the talks to do business, the question is are the two Governments and the other parties just as eagar to make progress at this time."ENDS

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Sinn Féin will be holding more than 100 Easter commemorations throughout the country this Sunday and Monday. Please see below for a list of the main commemorations - dates, locations and speakers.

Sunday 11 April Easter Commemorations

Belfast - Assemble 1.00pm Beechmont Avenue. Main Speaker: Bairbre de Brun MLA

Cork City - Assemble 2.30pm National Monument. Main Speaker: Mitchel Mclaughlin MLA

Crossmaglen, Armagh - Assemble 10.30am Rangers Hall. Main Speaker: Arthur Morgan TD

Derry City - Assemble 2.30pm Bogside Inn. Main Speaker: Gerry Kelly MLA

Donegal - Assemble 3.00pm Johnson's Corner, Drumboe. Main Speaker: Pearse Doherty, North-West EU candidate

Dublin - Assemble 1.30pm Garden of Remembrance. Main Speaker: Gerry Adams MP/MLA

Dundalk - Assemble 12.00pm Memorial statue. Main Speaker: John Dwyer East EU candidate

Fermanagh - Assemble 2.30pm St. Aidan's High School, Derrylin. Main Speaker: Michelle Gildernew MP/MLA

Galway city - Assemble 3.00pm Liam Mellow's Statue,Eyre Square. Main Speaker: Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Kerry - Assemble 3.00pm Denny Street, Tralee. Main Speaker: David Cullinane, South EU candidate

Mayo - Assemble 10.00am Dookinella Church, Achill. Main Speaker: Caitríona Ruane MLA

Monaghan Town - Assemble 2.45 O'Hanlon memorial, Clones Road. Main Speaker: Pat O'Rawe

Sligo - Assemble 3.00pm City Hall. Main Speaker: Sean McManus, Mayor of Sligo

Tipperary - Assemble 3.00pm Banbasa, Nenagh. Main Speaker: Ella O'Dwyer, Ard Comhairle member

Tyrone - Assemble 3.30pm Memorial Garden, Carrickmore. Main Speaker: Martin McGuinness MP

Waterford City - Assemble 2.45pm The Glen. Main Speaker: Martin Ferris TD

Monday 12 April Easter Commemorations

Derry- Assemble 2.30pm The Diamond, Swatragh. Main Speaker: Martina

Anderson, Ard Comhairle member

Downpatrick - Assemble 6.00pm SF Office. Main Speaker: Bairbre de Brun MLA

Dublin - Assemble 2.30pm Baker's Corner, Dun Laoighaire. Main Speaker: Mary

Lou McDonald, Dublin EU candidate

Galway - Assemble 1.00pm Teach Piarsigh, Connemara. Main Speaker: Pearse

Doherty, North West EU candidate

N.Belfast - Assemble 11.30am Marsden Gardens, Newington. Main Speaker:

Francie Brolly MLA

Tyrone- Assemble 2.30pm Diamond Corner, Ardboe. Main Speaker: Geraldine

Duggan MLA

Wexford - Assemble 2.15pm Templeshannon Quay. Main Speaker: John Dwyer, East

EU candidate

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Responding to media speculation that the two governments are to hold intensive discussions with the parties in a bid to resolve the current crisis in the peace process, Sinn Féin Assembly member Bairbre de Brún said

"Sinn Féin has been making the point for some time that the Review process could not resolve the wider crisis within the peace process. This required a separate approach.

"We have been very clear that the two governments need to take urgent action if the peace process is to be put back on track and the political institutions re-established.

" Sinn Féin will approach any attempt to resolve this crisis in a positive fashion. Clearly, the most effective way of resolving difficulties is through a process of dialogue based upon equality and respect for political mandates." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South EU candidate David Cullinane has today said that the 'Lisbon Strategy is more concerned with profit than people'. The Lisbon Strategy has agreed a 10 year plan for the EU "to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world." However, Mr Cullinane has argued that there has not been sufficient emphasis on the social aspects of the strategy.

Speaking today, Mr Cullinane said:

"Sinn Féin believes that the Lisbon Strategy is more concerned with profit than people. When we hear about the Lisbon Strategy, we hear about sustainable growth, competitiveness and knowledge based economies. However, we need to ensure that social inclusion, the eradication of poverty and strategies for combating homelessness are also discussed. Thus far, the Irish Government, through the EU Presidency have been more interested in talking about competitiveness, at the expense of social issues.

"It must be remembered that there are 55 million people living in poverty throughout the EU. Closer to home, whilst the so-called 'Celtic Tiger' has provided wealth to some, many others continue to live in an interminable cycle of poverty. In my own South EU Constituency, rural communities are under attack. A lack of amenable transport, the withdrawal of vital public services including post offices and banking facilities, and a struggling agricultural sector has combined to threaten the very way of life of local communities.

"I believe that the EU Presidency must prioritise commitments to eradicate poverty and homelessness within the EU. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for the protection of local communities. ENDS

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Responding to reports today that almost half of all those living in Dublin and a third of all those living outside Dublin will not be able to afford a home in two year's time, Dublin EU election candidate Mary Lou McDonald said "Everybody knows land speculators and developers are ripping off the people of this state, and that this government either doesn't have the guts, or isn't interested in standing up to them."

The reports are based on a study by Trinity College professor PJ Drudy, which points out that while salaries are rising on average 3% a year, the price of new homes are rising by 11-19% annually. There are currently over 48,000 families or almost 140,000 people on the 26-County housing waiting list - which doesn't include Travellors, people with disabilities, or refugees.

Ms McDonald said:

"In his study, Professor Drudy points out that in many other European countries, the right to housing is enshrined in the constitution. Sinn Féin has been campaigning for this to happen for some time now, and submitted a document to the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution dealing with the issue of private property and the right to housing, just last year.

"The study's findings will come as no surprise to anybody who's currently struggling to get on the property ladder. The average price of a house in Dublin is €300,000, and only slightly less around the rest of the country. Everybody knows land speculators and developers are ripping off the people of this state, and that this government either doesn't have the guts, or isn't interested in standing up to them. In fact Noel Ahern tried to defend his government's housing policy today. He should sit down with some of the young people I've met who are despairing because they know they have been priced out of ever owning their own home.

"This state needs a housing strategy and a housing agency to co-ordinate all aspects of housing provision. The right to housing has to be enshrined in the constitution. There has to be investment in affordable and social housing. Capital Gains Tax on speculative owners of multiple dwellings, needs to be increased and a statutory ceiling must be introduced on the price of land zoned for housing, to stop speculation and reduce soaring house prices. These are just some of Sinn Féin's proposal's, which will help to solve the massive housing crisis in this state." ENDS

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The SDLP's Alasdair McDonnell's platform piece in the Irish News of March 26th, under the headline "Only the paramilitary criminal fears police" was dismissive of whole sections of our community. The unfortunate fact is there is a fear and mistrust of this police force, which is deep-seated both in the past and the present. Members of the RUC and PSNI have been involved in a campaign against nationalists and Catholics for generations. More importantly members of that force still run unionist paramilitary agents who have been involved in every conceivable crime including the killing of citizens. Since the setting up of the PSNI this partisan political agenda has continued. For example, in the Abernethy case the forensic scientist involved stated under oath that systematic attempts were made to interfere with evidence.

In the recent investigation into Sean Brown's murder members of the PSNI acted to conceal two critical pieces of evidence from the Ombudsman's office. Also, for more than a decade the RUC has refused to give information in their possession critical to the inquests of 10 Tyrone people including Roseanne Mallon even though the Coroner demanded the evidence be produced. The latest refusal to comply was by the present Chief Constable of the PSNI, who sent documentation that was censored. The Coroner ruled all the information should be made available to him.

This is the tip of the iceberg.

Judge Cory's report has been published. At least some of it has been published. A large part of the section on the Special Branch has been censored by the very people Judge Cory was tasked with investigating or held back from the public gaze by other devices. Despite this, from what has been published of the Cory Report the public now know that what Sinn Fein and others have been saying all along is true.

The Cory Report shows that there is clear and strong evidence that British military intelligence, MI5 and Special Branch were involved in collusion with unionist paramilitaries. Hundreds of nationalists and Catholics died as a result. The report shows that:

  • Special Branch and MI5 officers from the joint security service knew as far back as 1981 of a plot to kill Pat Finucane and did nothing about it. They acted likewise in 1985 in respect of a second plot
  • seven weeks before Pat Finucane was murdered MI5 became aware of the plot to kill him but did nothing to prevent it
  • Special Branch, both in 1981 and five days before his killing in 1989, had information on these plots but did nothing
  • Special Branch, despite being informed by William Stobie about the murder weapon 3 days after Pat Finucane was killed, did nothing to trace it
  • documentary evidence indicates that Special Branch did not take steps to prevent UDA attacks or to warn those who would be victims. This had fatal consequences
  • Special Branch frustrated the RUC investigation into Pat Finucane's death by withholding information about Nelson, FRU and Stobie.
  • a senior government official, in November 1990, asked for information to be supplied to him which could be used with the Attorney General to persuade him that FRU agent and UDA intelligence officer Brian Nelson should not be prosecuted
  • that the British defence secretary wrote to the Attorney General in the terms provided in the information brief on Nelson asking him not to prosecute Nelson
  • the British Attorney General allowed bogus testimony favourable to Brian Nelson to go unchallenged at this trial
  • military intelligence, senior British government officials and the British defence secretary were all implicated in attempting to keep a lid on collusion by seeking to halt the prosecution of FRU agent and UDA Intelligence officer Brian Nelson
  • multiple impediments were placed in the path of inquiries into these matters by FRU and the RUC

Despite, or perhaps because of, these findings the British government has refused to act on Judge Cory's recommendations even though Tony Blair gave a public undertaking to do so.

The excuse is the "sub-judice" rule which the same British government is ignoring in another case presently going through court by pushing the International Monitoring Commission to publicly report on this case in the next week or so!

Alasdair McDonnell's colleagues in the SDLP have spent the days since the Cory Report was published avoiding attacks on the Special Branch involved and attacking republicans! While most nationalists were appalled at the Special Branch activities the SDLP diverted attention onto republicans.

The Cory Report is as much an indictment of the SDLP as it is of British policy. Instead of acting as a catalyst for change within the policing system and on the policing board, the SDLP has become part of the system. It has failed to hold to account those human rights abusers who moved from the RUC directly into the PSNI. It has failed to advocate or demand the expulsion of human rights abusers from the PSNI. It has failed to challenge the structures, individuals and continuing culture of collusion.

Many of those who ran and carried through this strategy of administrative collusion and state-sponsored killing still serve British interests in the Special Branch, in MI5 and within the political and bureaucratic structures which established and protect those involved.

The SDLP made a fundamental mistake three years ago of signing up to these policing arrangements. By its policy the SDLP is failing all of those who supported the demand within the Good Friday Agreement for a new beginning to policing.

When Alasdair McDonnell writes in the Irish News under the headline "Only the paramilitary criminal fears the police" he unintentionally highlights the reality, thus far, that Special Branch, MI5, British military intelligence and senior British government officials -- all of whom were involved in collusion or attempting to cover it up -- have nothing to fear from the police. And isn't that the problem?

I have continually said that those nationalists in places like north Belfast who have suffered from bad policing over the years want proper policing most. However, they are not naive. Sinn Fein is striving to achieve a politically neutral, civic policing service, which will be representative of all sections of the community. The SDLP jumped too soon and accepted too little. We will not.

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Sinn Féin North Belfast councillor Carál Ní Chuilín has accused Loyalist paramilitaries of stoking up tensions ahead of the marching season after the latest in a series of suspect devices planted by Loyalists in North Belfast caused traffic chaos in the Carlisle Circus area.

Cllr Ní Chuilín said:

"The UDA is responsible for the vast majority of Loyalist activity in the North Belfast. Despite fine words indicating that the organisation is on ceasefire the evidence on the ground in North Belfast would indicate that the organisation is still very active.

"We have had a series of devices left throughout North Belfast since the start of the year and we have had ongoing attacks and intimidation.

"This latest round of traffic chaos only serves to stoke up tensions ahead of the marching season.

"Unionist politicians and civic and church leaders need use their influence as a matter of urgency to tackle this problem.

"Loyalists seem intent on creating chaos and a continuing with a widespread campaign of intimidation throughout North Belfast. This is unacceptable." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Michael Ferguson has said that the wider West Belfast community is in a state of total shock after an elderly man died after being attacked with a bottle by a gang of drinkers outside his Fort Street home.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Firstly I would wish to extend my sympathy to this mans family and friends. His death in this manner id nothing sort of disgraceful.

"It appears that this elderly man went outside his home to challenge a group of hoods who were drinking close to his house. One of the gang then hit the man with a bottle and left him dying in the entry beside his home.

"Those responsible for this attack are beyond contempt. These sorts of groups offer nothing to this community except distress and criminality. Across West Belfast local communities have been organising themselves to confront and counteract the anti-social elements which are engaging in behaviour like this. Sinn Féin will continue to encourage and work with communities intent on challenging individuals involved in this sort of activity and ridding this communities of anti-social elements once and for all." ENDS

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West Tyrone Sinn Féin Assembly member Barry Elduff has again challenged the BBC to state publicly their policy regarding their staff wearing Easter Lilies. Mr McElduff's challenge comes after the BBC refused to comment on demands he made for the wearing of the Easter Lily to be brought into line with the wearing of the poppy.

Mr McElduff said:

"For much of the week since I made my public demand for either equality or neutrality to be the principle guiding the wearing of symbols at the BBC the organisation refused to comment on the issue. They then stated that they had no policy regarding the wearing of the Easter Lily.

"This is in sharp contrast to their policy on the poppy. Presenters are forced to wear the poppy symbol in the lead up to remembrance events in November. Taken alone this position is unacceptable. The BBC is a public body. Either they afford the Easter Lily the same respect as the poppy or they adopt a position of neutrality.

"The current situation of adopting a hierarchy of victims is unacceptable. The Republican war dead have to be afforded the same respect as the British war dead. This is a black and white issue. The BBC can no longer be allowed to sit back and discriminate against the republican community in this fashion. They must state publicly their policy regarding the wearing of the Easter Lily and the rational behind it." ENDS

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