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Speaking in advance of a meeting tomorrow in Stormont of the newly elected Sinn Féin MLAs, Assembly Group leader Conor Murphy MLA has urged the British government to move speedily to lift the suspension of the political institutions.

Mr. Murphy said:

"On Wednesday almost half a million people voted for pro Agreement parties. The majority of the MLAs elected to the Assembly are for the Agreement and for the re-establishment of the political institutions. The British government must heed the voice of the people and lift the suspension of the political institutions.

"We met yesterday with the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy and we will meet with the Irish government this week. Both governments have much outstanding work to do. We are demanding that they implement in full their commitments on Human Rights, Equality, Policing, Justice and Demilitarisation.

"Sinn Féin will not be resting on our laurels. Our increased Assembly team will meet tomorrow in Stormont and we will continue with the work done over the past number of years in delivering on our agenda of change."ENDS

Editors Note: Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will make a key note address to the Sinn Féin MLAs at 1pm in our members room in Stormont.

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Sinn Féin Councillor Matt Carthy, speaking from the National Youth Council conference in Limerick this afternoon, has welcomed the overwhelming support Ógra Shinn Féin received for their application to join the organisation. Councillor Carthy was accompanied by Ógra members Councillor Toireasa Ferris, Ciaran Doherty and Eamon Clancy.

Councillor Carthy said:

"I am delighted that Ógra Shinn Féin have been accepted as members of the National Youth Council and that we received such support. It is an important advance for us and will allow us to expand our involvement in youth affairs across the island.

"Sinn Fein is the second largest party youth wing in Ireland. It is an active youth organisation which plays a crucial role within Sinn Féin also, as was seen by our involvement in this week's Assembly election. It is unafraid to take to the streets of Belfast to demand a new beginning to policing, to the streets of Dublin to demand a fair deal on insurance for young drivers or to the streets of Drogheda to demand the closure of Sellafield.

"We will take this approach into the National Youth Council and we look forward to working with its member organisations in the future."ENDS

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For those who were unable to follow the election results as they came in over the last two days, more than 20 video clips - from the campaign trail, the count centres and interviews with party leaders and successful candidates - are available for you to view at www.irishrepublicanmedia.com

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP is meeting with party leaders in Belfast this morning, after the party's successful election campaign which saw 24 Sinn Féin MLAs returned.

Mr. Adams will be available to talk to the media at 12 noon at the party's offices on the Falls Road.

Later on today he will be meeting British Secretary of State Paul Murphy.

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Sinn Féin MLAs returned

West Belfast

Gerry Adams

Bairbre de Brun

Fra McCann

Michael Ferguson

North Belfast

Gerry Kelly

Kathy Stanton

South Belfast

Alex Maskey

North Antrim

Philip McGuigan

Mid Ulster

Martin McGuinness

Francie Molloy

Geraldine Dougan

Newry Armagh

Conor Murphy

Davy Hyland

Pat O'Rawe

South Down

Caitriona Ruane

Willie Clarke

West Tyrone

Pat Doherty

Barry McElduff

Foyle

Mitchel McLaughlin

Mary Nelis

Upper Bann

John O'Dowd

East Derry

Francie Brolly

Fermanagh/South Tyrone

Michelle Gildernew

Thomas O'Reilly

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD today described the results of the Assembly elections as a "massive advance for Sinn Féin as an all-Ireland party". He said:

"I congratulate our entire party organisation in all the constituencies in the Six Counties who made this historic advance possible. This has been a remarkable election for Sinn Féin by any standards. Our voters were motivated and mobilised to deliver the maximum number of seats for Sinn Féin. This is a ringing endorsement of our peace strategy and our demand for an Ireland of Equals.

"This election represents a massive advance for Sinn Féin as an all-Ireland party. Our entire organisation throughout the country participated and the involvement of party activists from the 26 Counties, including TDs and councillors, was a crucial factor in ensuring that we maximised our vote. We are determined to ensure that this electoral success is replicated in the EU and local government elections next year". ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Paul Butler has criticised the Electoral Office and the PSNI after a crowd of loyalists were allowed to enter the count in Dromore last night.

Mr Butler said:

"Last night a gang of loyalists were permitted to enter the Lagan Valley count in Dromore. I was threatened and abused by the crowd before they left the building. Afterwards they gathered outside the count centre and Sinn Féin election workers were once again threatened.

"I have already raised the matter with the Electoral Commission and I will be contacting the Police Ombudsman in the coming days to complain about the conduct of the PSNI last night.

"I have to say attempts by our party to discuss this with the Chief Electoral Officer Denis Stanley were not productive. He proved to be less than co-operative which has been a common thread of his approach to this election.

"This sort of interference in the electoral process is completely unacceptable and Sinn Féin will not be letting this matter rest."ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams, Gerry Kelly and Martin McGuinness have been elected MLAs for West Belfast, North Belfast and Mid-Ulster. Conor Murphy elected for Newry Armagh and Mitchel McLaughlin in Foyle, Pat Doherty in West Tyrone, Francie Molloy in Mid-Ulster and Francie Brolly in East Derry.

1st Preference votes:

DUP - 177,944, Sinn Féin - 162,758, UUP - 156,932, SDLP - 117,547

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Chuir  Aengus O'Snodaigh TD fáilte sa Dáil roimh an Bille Craolacháin (Ciste) 2003 tráthnóna inné ag rá:

"Tá an Bille seo go maith mar tá saibhreas mór sa tír seo fána dtig clár a dhéanamh agus ar cheart dúinn a chraoladh, idir ábhar náisiúnta agus áitiúil, stair seanchais na hÉireann nó traidisiúin áitiúla.  Léirigh na cuimhneacháin a bhí againn faoin nGorta, faoi 1798, faoi Robert Emmet i mbliana nó nuair a bhí adhlacadh den deichniúir Mountjoy ann, go bhfuil cíocras ag muintir na hÉireann dá stair, dá gcultúr agus dá dtimpeallacht.

"Tuigim go bhfuil sé i gceist deontais a chur ar fáil le cláir a dhéanamh ar ár stair, an oidhreacht, na healaíona agus, go speisialta, cláir ar ár gcultúr. Cuirim fáilte roimh an fócas sin.

Glacfaidh mé an dheis atá agam aitheantas a thabhairt dóibh siúd in RTÉ a rinne sár-obair thar na blianta ag déanamh clár nó ag coimisniú a leithéid.  Sin in ainneoin an mheoin frith-Ghaelach agus frith-Éireannach uaireanta a bhí i réim in RTÉ sna 1970í agus 1980í.  Ní gá dúinn ach smaoineamh ar na cláir maithe a rinneadh - "Amuigh Faoin Aer",  "Reeling in the Years", agus an seachtain seo

"Hidden History" le feiceáil go bhfuil cláir den cheád scoth ann.

"Aontaím leis an tAire (Dermot Ahern) go bhfuil sé tábhachtach ár gcultúr a chaomhnú ach tá sé níos tábhachtaí fós é a chothú mar tá cultúr beo againn atá ag athrú de shíor agus is gá dúinn sin a chur trasna sna cláir a dhéanfar. Fáiltím roimh an bhéim sa mBille ar chraolacháin aitiúil agus chomhphobal. Beidh na saibhris seo in ann beocht, samhlaíocht agus cur le chéile pobail áitiúla na hÉireann a léiriú ar an teilifís agus beidh an t-aitheantas cuí á fháil ag an dream seo.

"Tá aitheantas chomh maith sa mBille ar an gá le cláir a choigilt agus a stóráil go mbeidh fáill ag na gliúnta amach anseo iad a fheiceáil.  Tá margadh do chláir mar seo, ní gá ach féachaint ar TG4 ag taispeáint seanchlár spóirt.  Tig linn úsáid a bhaint as na cláir nuachta a rinne Gael Linn sna 1940s nó cláir eile a rinne RTÉ má tá siad coigilte i gceart, cláir ar nós "Hall's Pictorial Weekly",

"Féach" nó "Seven Days" agus a lán eile atá caillte le déanaí. Ní gá bheith ag féachaint ar "Strumpet City"  le taispeáint gur féidir na seanchláracha a thabhairt ar ais, go bhfuil siad fós bríomhar agus go bhfuil daoine sásta féachaint orthu.  Ní gá suim mhór airgid a chaitheamh á n-athdhéanamh.

"Ach tá buairt orm faoi alt amháin mar tá an tAire ag cur a ladair isteach i ngnó ar chóir a bheith fágtha faoin Choimisiún Craolacháin, mar ba chóir go mbeadh próiseas neamhspleách ann agus go dtiocfadh an Coimisiún ar ais chuig an Aire seachas é a bheith ag cur a ladair isteach ag an tráth sin. Tá mé ag impí ar an Aire agus an Rialtas cur leis an airgead sa chiste seo chomh luath agus is féidir, mar tá sé tábhachtach, agus beidh gá le níos mó airgid sa sórt domhain ina bhfuil muid faoi láthair."  DEIREADH

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Counting of Assembly election votes began at 9am this morning in eight count centres across the north. Follow the results as they come in and watch interviews with Sinn Féin candidates at www.irishrepublicanmedia.com

An exclusive interview with Gerry Adams is now available online.

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Speaking after the polls closed in the Assembly Elections Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams thanked all our election workers who worked hard over many weeks on our election campaign and those who 'braved the elements today to vote for Sinn Féin.'

Mr. Adams said "I am very encouraged by the turnout and happy that Sinn Féin's increased vote will see the party emerge as the largest nationalist party in the Assembly."

However the Sinn Féin President that he was seriously concerned at aspects of the conduct of the election and would be raising these matters with the electoral office and the British Government.

Mr Adams said:

"We have received a steady stream of reports throughout the day concerning the overall conduct of the electoral process. We have received numerous complaints of ID problems, and registration problems, as well as other difficulties.

"After this election it is our intention to raise these matters with the Electoral Office and the British Government."ENDS

Note: Examples of difficulties faced by the electorate

La Salle Polling Station in West Belfast didn't open until 7.20am.

In Suffolk Primary School, Mizen Gardens, off Blacks Road, was missing from the polling centre register and people were prevented from voting even though they had polling cards for that school. The Electoral Office only confirmed the error at 4.30pm and the sent up a register.

British Army patrol and checkpoint outside the polling station in Kilcoo in South Down

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams canvassing in Belfast encouraging people to vote for Sinn Féin. This is one of many video clips that are available from the Irish Republican Media news service.

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Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, today made public the party's submission on Garda reform that was submitted to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform earlier this month. Entitled "Policing for the People - Building safe communities, Rebuilding public confidence" the publication of this submission comes just days before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights meet to discuss a review of the Criminal Justice System.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"As the Minister for Justice himself has conceded, reform is now necessary given that the Garda Siochána has remained largely unreformed since its establishment. In the current climate of public lack of trust and confidence in the work of the Gardai - indeed including the Minister's own wife - we welcome the opportunity to redefine our policing system in the hope of bringing about a service which will be accountable and will have community confidence, support and co-operation.

"We would like to see this achieved through community policing partnerships at Garda district level based on the Patten priniciples, which are recognised internationally as representing best practice. The Patten principles include having human rights at the core of policing and we in Sinn Féin believe that the Minister's draft legislation should be revised to include this human rights ethos.

"We believe there should be a comprehensive reorganisation and review of all Garda structures, including the disbandment of the Special Branch, whose record of abuse against suspects are a matter of public record. The Government's proposal to put an additional 2,000 Gardai on the streets should be viewed in the context of existing resources and personnel. There is no point employing 2000 more Gardai when we don't, in the case of the Gardai Special Branch, know what existing personnel are doing or what resources are being diverted from day-to-day policing as a result of their activities. The spectacle of hundreds of Special Branch detectives sitting outside public meetings or Easter commemorations, spying on citizens the length and breadth of this state while growing fat on overtime pay, is something which I as a Irish republican am very familiar with. It amounts to nothing more than petty political harassment that is costing the taxpayers of this state dearly and should be ended.

"We also want to see a fully independent Garda Ombudsman, that will work with the Six-county Police Ombudsman to ensure all-Ireland accountability, put in place to provide an effective complaints mechanism and, again, to restore public confidence. This, we feel, should not just be a name, as the Minister has suggested, but a structure and the only acceptable structure to deal with complaints and public concerns in relation to Garda activity or inactivity.

"It is vital that these measures are put in place so that the Gardai can confidently and effectively work as a police service for and of the people." ENDS

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Commenting on the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report on the Waiting List Initiative, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it showed the management of the waiting lists was still deeply flawed and reflected lack of real reform in the health services. He pointed out that the North East region showed a 16% increase in the reported number of patients waiting longer than the target maximum waiting times.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "This report is an indictment of the Government's failure to reform the health services. It shows that waiting lists and waiting times are not properly measured. It also highlights the contrast in waiting times between public and private patients. It recommends that waiting time for public patients in public hospitals should be benchmarked against waiting time for private patients in those hospitals. I would go further and urge a single waiting list for all patients, with priority based on need and not on ability to pay.

"The Government's deeply flawed management of the waiting lists is exposed in the eastern region where long waiting times are concentrated in four Dublin hospitals. In the North East region, which I represent, there was a 16% increase in reported numbers of patients waiting longer than 12 months (adults) and six months (children) between 1998 and 2002. This is a disgrace and comes in the wake of the loss of vital acute hospital services in Monaghan and Dundalk hospitals." ENDS

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In our first live video clip of the day, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness gives his polling day message to the electorate. Mr McGuinness also predicts how the election will go and speaks about the response he has received from people who will be out voting today. To view the interview go to www.irishrepublicanmedia.com

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Sinn Féin Director of Elections Danny Power has said that he has been receiving a large number of complaints from across the six counties about the volume of people being disenfranchised and at the general manner in which the election is being conducted.

Mr Power said:

"From early this morning complaints have been coming into our election headquarters from constituencies across the six counties. These have related to polling stations not opening on time, voter codes being written onto ballot papers and elderly people not being allowed assistance from close relatives to vote.

"More worrying however has been the steady stream of complaints from people who have applied for voter ID and have not received their cards. This is having the effect of wholesale disenfranchisement especially when taken with the massive numbers of people whom the electoral office have already excluded from the register.

"After this election all aspects of the current legislation will have to be examined and amended. The performance of the Electoral Office also needs to be investigated. Confidence in its ability to carry out its most basic functions is rapidly draining." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP cast his vote at 10am this morning at the polling station in St Teresa's Primary School on the Glen Road in West Belfast this morning.

Speaking afterwards Mr Adams urged everyone to get out and vote and to vote as early as possible to avoid delays.

Mr Adams said:

"It is vital that people come out today and use their vote. This is a crucial election for the peace process. A vote for Sinn Féin today will strengthen the hand of our negotiators in advancing the process of change, in the transformation of our society and the achievement of an Ireland of Equals.

"I want to appeal to all voters in this election to vote for Sinn Féin and to transfer to Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin has been and continues to be the dynamic for change. We deliver. A vote for Sinn Féin will deliver maximum change. A vote for Sinn Féin is the most effective response to the opponents of change.

"I also want to urge people to get out as early as possible to ensure that they get their vote. There are concerns that the new voting arrangements will not only disenfranchise thousands but that those who can vote will be delayed at the polling stations as electoral office workers process their vote.

"If people require assistance getting to the polling stations then they should contact their local Sinn Féin office to arrange transport." ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Candidate Michael Ferguson has claimed that many people in the constituency have not received their polling cards.

Cllr. Ferguson said:

" As the canvass operation draws to a close it is very obvious that many people in this constituency who are registered have not yet received their polling cards. This is causing widespread confusion. People not receiving cards believe that they are not entitled to a vote. People do not realise that you can claim a vote without the polling card.

" Given the complete mess which the Electoral Office have made of compiling the register it is not surprising that this sort of confusion is happening. There can be no excuse for the failure to distribute voting cards.

" There seems to be one mistake after another emanating from the Electoral Office and there is now a serious lack of public confidence in its ability to fulfil its primary function." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh today slammed the Government for cuts to programmes aimed at countering violence against women. He made his comments in the Dáil today on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and on the first day of 16 Days of Action Against Violence Against Women.

Deputy O'Snodaigh said, "It is a disgrace that for the second year running, this government sees fit to again cut the already low spending on essential programmes dedicated to preventing violence against women.

"It is also an insult to the women of this nation, when we know that nearly half of all Irish women experience some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime, when nearly one fifth of Irish women have been abused by a current or former partner, and a quarter of all violent crimes involve a man assaulting his wife or partner. These are very grave statistics and the organisations that help abused or violated women desperately need to maintain their already low levels of funding. It will be a further kick to them to find that the funding for their programmes has been cut yet again."

Deputy O'Snodaigh also referred to the cuts in social welfare payments in this issue saying: "Now the government's mean cuts in rent supplement payments for those dependent on social welfare will have the effect of forcing even more women to remain in violent relationships for economic reasons.

"The government should look at these issues that affect very vulnerable women every day in this country". ENDS

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Speaking during Leaders Questions in Leinster House today the Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin called on the Taoiseach to raise as a matter of urgency with the British Prime Minister the ongoing series of sectarian attacks against Catholics in the Six Counties which last week resulted in the death of a young man in Lisburn.

Deputy Ó Caoláin asked if the Taoiseach agreed "that the ongoing series of sectarian attacks against Catholics, especially in communities where they are in a minority, is a cause of huge concern?"

He said, "The latest casualty was a 21-year old man, James McMahon, who was beaten to death by a loyalist gang in Lisburn, last Thursday, 20 November. This follows another brutal attack in Belfast the week before when a man was maimed with a machete. Does the Taoiseach share my concern at how little attention, both media and political, these continuing attacks have received, especially in this jurisdiction? Does he share the concern that now as in the past British intelligence and the RUC Special Branch have heavily infiltrated loyalist groups and they must also be called to account for the continuing prevalence of sectarian attacks. Has the Taoiseach raised this matter with the British Prime Minister and will he do so when he meets him this week?

Deputy Ó Caoláin went on to point out that there were in the period July to October at least 160 sectarian attacks, including over 50 pipe bomb and petrol bomb attacks, a stabbing, the beating of a pregnant woman who lost her child and several attempted abductions. "We have also seen many attacks on the homes and schools of Catholics," he said. ENDS

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