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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today joined the anti-racism rally at Belfast City Hall. Speaking from the event Mr Adams said that all of those in political leadership had 'a duty to stand up against the racists and the bigots who were bring terror to the ethnic minority communities in the city'.

Mr Adams said:

"On countless occasions in the past I have joined rallies in this city to demand Human Rights and Civil Rights. Today's event is no different. The Ethnic Minority Community in this city are part of our fabric and they must be defended and protected. Their rights as citizens must be upheld and they must be allowed to live their lives in peace without the threat of racist attack or abuse.

"All of us in political leadership in this city have a duty and an obligation to stand up against the racists and the bigots who have been engaged in an organised campaign of intimidation against ethnic minority communities in this city.

" Today's rally must not be the end, it must be the start of us confronting and tackling racism and sectarianism fron whatever quarter. I commend the organisers of today's march and pledge the support of Sinn Féin representatives and activists to tackle the issue of racism in the time ahead." ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Bairbre de Brún has accused the PSNI of failing to carry out a forensic investigation after a device was left attached to a gate a the Lamh Dhearg GAA club in Hannastown over the weekend.

Ms de Brún said:

" After the PSNI departed from the Lamh Dhearg pitch yesterday club officials were shocked that component parts of the bomb were left behind. This is crucial forensic evidence and would presumably be crucial to any serious effort to find those responsible for what amounted to a murder attempt on the children using the pitch.

" It is ironic that in the very week the Police Ombudsman released a damning report into the RUC investigation into the murder of Sean Brown abducted from Bellaghy GAA club, the PSNI apply similar standards to an attempted murder investigation at the Lamh Dhearg club.

" Club officials have photographed the scene and the discarded evidence and are going to present this to the Police Ombudsman and ask her to carry out an investigation into the PSNI response to the bomb alert and their forensic investigation into it." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly this afternoon responded to the meeting between the UPRG and the Irish government. Speaking at a protest held by nationalist residents in the Ligionel area, who have suffered as a result of attacks by unionist paramilitaries and the UDA in particular, Mr Kelly said that 'the Irish government needed to make it clear to the UPRG that the UDA campaign against catholics had to end'.

"There are two core issues here. The first is the ongoing UDA campaign which is felt particularly in areas like this and the second is the response to it by the British state.

"There is a tolerance by the British government of the UDA campaign. Remember the organisation was only banned in 1992 and the response by the British State to its latest wave of violence has been predictably muted.

"Sinn Féin have a clear position that dialogue is the mechanism to solve political problems. That is what happened on interfaces in Belfast over the summer months and it is what contributed to a relatively quiet summer. The Irish government need to use today's meeting with the UPRG to tell them that the ongoing UDA campaign against catholics has to end." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokespersons on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD and Councillor Gerry McHugh, have welcomed this morning's meeting between Minister for Agriculture Joe Walsh and Britain's direct rule Minister with responsibility for Agriculture Ian Pearson. The two discussed CAP reform and animal health and disease prevention.

Deputy Ferris and Cllr. McHugh said: "Sinn Féin very much welcomes the fact that the two Ministers have taken this initiative. We particularly welcome the commitment to establish a joint working group on the implementation of aspects of the CAP reform. This is something that we have called for since the reform package was agreed last June. We would also recommend that this be expanded to ensure that the overall package is implemented in close co-operation in the best interests of farmers throughout the island.

"In regards to animal health and disease prevention, we would hope to see an identical contingency plan to meet any future crisis. We would also like to see moves towards a joint marketing strategy in regards to the sale of Irish food produce.

"However, while any move towards such co-operation is valuable, it also highlights the urgency for having elected representatives from both parts of the island engaged in this work, through the institutions to which they have been elected". ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief negotiator, Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness MLA, Bairbre de Brún MLA, Equality and Human Rights Spokespersons, South Down MLA Caítriona Ruane (6 County) and Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD (26 County) launched the party's discussion document on an All Ireland Charter of Rights.

Speaking at the Stormont launch Mr McGuinness said:

"In just over a week the review of the Good Friday Agreement, involving all of the parties and the two governments will begin here, in Stormont. Sinn Féin will be focusing on a range of issues including, policing, demilitarisation, equality and the issue of human rights.

"Five years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed and overwhelming endorsed by the people of this island we have not seen the progress that it promised.

"Instead of full implementation of the Agreement in all its aspects, we have seen delay, foot dragging and inaction is many areas where the British government has direct responsibility. These difficulties are rooted in the British government's tactical approach to the Agreement.

"Since the Agreement we have had Weston Park and the negotiations leading to the publication of the Joint Declaration by the two governments as well as the discussion leading up to the unprecedented moves by republicans of October 21st when the two governments and unionism again failed to deliver. We have not seen the British government embrace political, economic, social, and cultural rights. They can't even bring themselves to publish the Cory report.

"If we are to see progress when the review starts next week then the British government must challenge and reconsider its own approach to the Agreement.

"Sinn Féin believe that we can come to the review in a positive frame of mind but that requires that everyone accept that many aspects of the Agreement have not been implemented. It demands in particular that the two governments and especially the British government accept their responsibility in honouring commitments on delivering the human rights and equality commitments that it has made."

Sinn Féin's Charter for 'Rights for All' discussion document covers:

  • Equal rights for all;
  • Democracy - making it representative, accountable and responsive to people's needs;
  • Actively opposing discrimination;
  • Children's rights;
  • People with disabilities reaching their potential;
  • Public Services, housing, health care and education;
  • The right to work - employment and trade union rights;
  • Natural resources and the environment;
  • Justice, the judiciary, policing and public safety;
  • Ireland's role, rights and responsibilities internationally.

Caítriona Ruane added:

"This demands action to challenge systematic and institutionalised discrimination against any section of people living on the island of Ireland. Governments have a duty to ensure that all people have equality of opportunity and equality of access and a duty to take proactive steps and affirmative actions to ensure social and economic equality.

"The British government in particular, but indeed both governments have failed to implement key actions contained within the Good Friday Agreement to deliver equality and eradicate the legacy and active discrimination in the 6 counties; they have also failed to deliver to those marginalized and excluded throughout the parts of this island that they have jurisdiction over."

Bairbre de Brún added:

"A charter of rights must guarantee, promote and protects the 'Rights for All'. Sinn Féin is also aware that we have a responsibility to build an inclusive society, which addresses the political allegiances of unionists and guarantees their rights and entitlements so that they can have a sense of security and a stake within an Ireland of Equals."

Aengus O Snodaigh concluded:

"The people of Ireland have a right to government that is democratically elected and composed of the elected representatives chosen through the universal right to vote. It also demands that all elected representatives are entitled to and accorded fair, full and effective participation in governance.

"Sinn Féin also believe that every citizen at the age of 16 is entitled to vote in all elections and to stand as a candidate for public office.

"The founding principle of the Republic proclaimed in 1916 is to cherish all of the children of the nation equally and to share in a peaceful future embodied in a united and democratic state, underpinned by indivisible common values of human dignity, equality and justice. That remains Sinn Féin's goal today." ENDS

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Introduction

The creation of an Irish freedom charter -- a charter for justice and peace in Ireland, a charter that brings together the demands for political and social and economic freedom -- was first raised by Gerry Adams during the peace process.

For Sinn Féin, political freedom is nothing if it does not embrace political, economic, social, cultural and human rights. Parity of esteem, equality of treatment and full human rights must be guaranteed for all.

Gerry Adams was looking to the ANC's Freedom Charter when he proposed one for Ireland. Just as the ANC's Freedom Charter actively involved the people of South Africa in formulating their own vision of an alternative society, we hope that this document can stimulate debate and develop firm proposals on what sort of society people want for Ireland.

These include:-

• Equal rights for all;

• Democracy -- making it representative, accountable and responsive to people's needs;

• Actively opposing discrimination;

• Children's rights;

• People with disabilities reaching their potential;

• Public services, housing, health care and education;

• The right to work - employment and trade union rights;

• Natural resources and the environment;

• Justice, the judiciary, policing and public safety;

• Ireland's role, rights and responsibilities internationally.

We also have a responsibility to build an inclusive society which addresses the political allegiances of unionists and guarantees their rights and entitlements so that they have a sense of security and a stake in the new Ireland.

This document is not a tablet of stone. It is a framework of principles that we believe should be enshrined as rights in a progressive society. There may be others. There may be useful clarifications or changes needed. But we hope that readers will see this document as a vehicle for debate, as a vehicle for change.

Sinn Féin will be proactively engaging with all sections of society -- from community and trade union groups to voluntary organisations and all shades of political opinion throughout the island of Ireland.

We want to hear your views -- whether as individuals or members of representative organisations. We want to encourage discussion. We want to stimulate ideas. We want a Charter for Rights for All.

Democratic Rights for All

1. The people of Ireland have the right to national self-determination.

2. The Government of Ireland shall be democratically elected, composed of the elected representatives chosen by the sovereign people through universal suffrage

3. Every Irish citizen at the age of 16 shall be entitled to vote in all elections and to stand as candidate for public office.

4. All necessary measures will be taken to ensure the right of all sections of society, particularly women and also minorities, to fair, full and equal participation in public life. This must include participation in decision-making processes and access to power.

5. Elected representatives shall be entitled to and accorded fair, full and effective participation in the governance of Ireland.

6. The people have the right to a truly responsive democracy and to expect a government to expedite action to redress legitimate grievances. All people, regardless of socio-economic status, will have the right to access and influence decision makers. They also have the right to be involved in shaping the decisions that affect them.

7. The people have the right to good governance. Policy decisions must be made on the basis of public-good criteria, taking full account of all associated direct and indirect social and economic costs, and not dominated by private profit motive.

8. Government shall be responsible and accountable to the people for the proactive implementation of their rights.

9. Government shall be accountable to the people and be based on openness, transparency and effective freedom of information legislation.

10. Political institutions will be accountable to and representative of the people.

11. All public policies shall be equality proofed, poverty proofed and human rights proofed and based on international best practice.

Rights for All

"The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all it citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government which have divided a minority from the majority in the past."

-- Proclamation of the Republic, 1916

"We declare that the nation's sovereignty extends not only to all the men and women of the nation, but to all its material possessions, the nation's soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the nation and... we affirm that all right to private property must be subordinate to the public right and welfare."

-- Democratic Programme of the First Dáil, 1919

• The founding principle of the Republic proclaimed in 1916 is to cherish all the children of the nation equally and to share a peaceful future embodied in a united and democratic state, underpinned by indivisible common values of human dignity, equality and justice, is our goal. The ultimate guarantors are the people of Ireland.

• We commit ourselves to the fullest promotion and protection of rights through a process that aims to advance national reconciliation, underpin political democracy, promote and develop economic democracy, and provide for the comprehensive, systematic, effective and entrenched protection of all rights outlined here.

• For many citizens the political institutions on this island are exclusionary, inaccessible and unaccountable.

• Sinn Féin believes that this Charter will contribute to a wider endeavour to harmonise and enshrine the rights of all people on the island of Ireland and affirm as individual and universal the values of human dignity, equality, justice and freedom.

• We pledge ourselves to work until the principles of democratic governance and human rights that are set out here gain maximum expression.

Equal Rights for All

1. Nothing shall justify the domination of one section of the people by another or the domination of one person by another (e.g. harassment and bullying).

2. Everyone living in Ireland is equal before the law and has the right to the protection and benefit of the law without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic origin, nationality, colour, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, social or economic status, marital or family status, residence, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, trade union membership, or status as a victim.

3. The right outlined above does not preclude any law, programme or activity that has as its objective the improvement of conditions of individuals or groups (including those listed above).

4. Everyone belonging to a national, ethnic, religious or linguistic community (including the deaf community) shall have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion and to use their own language, all of which are part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland.

5. All public services shall be made available in both Irish and English and, where appropriate, in other minority languages.

6. The state will recognise the unique status of Irish, and the specific rights of Irish speakers. No citizen will be placed at a disadvantage as a result of having Irish as their first language or as their language of choice.

7. Everyone has the right to be nomadic or sedentary and the right to change from one mode of living to another.

Human Rights and Protection for All

1. Everyone has the right to life.

2. Every person has the right to be protected from all forms of physical, emotional or mental abuse, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, injury or abuse. This includes sectarian, homophobic and racial abuse, neglect, bullying, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual exploitation or abuse. The state will protect against sectarian, racist or homophobic abuse and harassment, as well as sexual and domestic violence.

3. Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right:-

a) Not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause;

b) Not to be detained without trial;

c) To be free from all forms of violence from both public and private sources;

d) Not to be tortured; and

e) Not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.

4. Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right:-

a) To make decisions concerning reproduction;

b) To security in and control over their body; and

c) Not to be subjected to medical or scientific intervention without their informed consent.

5. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. There shall be freedom of the press and other media.

6. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.

7. Everyone has the right to assemble, freely associate and to demonstrate.

8. These rights to freedom of expression, beliefs and assembly are limited only insofar as their exercise does not infringe on any of the rights stated in this Charter, including the rights of others not to be intimidated, bullied or discriminated against.

9. Everyone will have freedom of movement.

10. Everyone has the right to respect for his or her privacy, to be secure against universal or unreasonable surveillance (including electronic) and search or seizure, whether of the person, property, communication or otherwise.

11. The judicial system will be a fair, effective, impartial and accountable system, basing itself on the rights outlined in this Charter (and the Bill of Rights) which will command the support and confidence of all parts of the community.

12. Everyone shall have the right of access to quality legal representation.

13. Everyone shall have the right to trial by their peers.

14. All emergency legislation will be repealed.

15. The judicial process will be predicated on rehabilitation and integration into society. No one detained will lose the right to be treated in a humane manner with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

16. The public service, including the police, will be open to all and shall be representative of the community and accountable to the community.

17. Policing on the island will conform to the highest standards of human rights, accountability, impartiality, transparency and effectiveness. Any use of force deemed necessary will be based on the principle and practice of minimum force.

All Children Cherished Equally

1. Every child has the right to be protected from all forms of physical, emotional or mental violence, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, injury or abuse (including sectarian and racial abuse), neglect, bullying, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual exploitation or abuse.

2. All children born on the island are citizens, and as such have the right to remain in Ireland, in the care and company of their parent(s), regardless of the national origin of the parent(s).

3. Children have the right to be heard, to be consulted in all matters affecting them and to access information about their person.

4. The child's best interest will be the paramount consideration in every matter concerning the child.

5. The state will provide adequate support and assistance to parents and other primary carers to enable all children, insofar as is possible, to grow up and thrive in a stable and safe environment where the child is valued and encouraged to attain their full potential.

6. All children will have access to childcare and crèche facilities of a high standard.

7. Education is a right. All children will have access to free education.

People with Disabilities Reaching their Full Potential

1. Every person living with a disability has the right to have their whole person recognised, their capabilities valued and developed to full potential, and their dignity respected.

2. All people with disabilities have the right to make choices about their lives and to be consulted, heard and resourced in all matters affecting them.

3. Disabled persons shall be protected against all exploitation, all regulations and all treatment of a discriminatory, abusive or degrading nature

4. People with disabilities have the right to a poverty-free life facilitated by direct payments to offset the cost of disability, and to equal access and equal participation in education, employment, and training.

5. People with disabilities have the right to access appropriate, co-ordinated services. The state has the duty to provide such services as well as proper individual needs assessments.

Social and Economic Rights for All

1. There will be no systematic or institutional discrimination against any section of the people of Ireland or those living on the island of Ireland.

2. Government shall have a duty to ensure that all individuals are afforded equality of opportunity and equality of access.

3. Government shall have a duty to take proactive and affirmative actions to ensure social and economic equality.

4. Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

5. Everyone has the right to contribute to the economic and social life of Irish society and to reach their full potential.

6. Healthcare services will be free to all. There will be equality of access to health promotion and treatment and prevention of ill health.

7. Everyone shall have equal and free access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and to information and education relating to sexual and reproductive matters at all levels, free of coercion, discrimination or violence.

8. All people have the right to free and secular education and access to life-long learning opportunities.

9. Everyone has the right to a fair contract of employment with remuneration above the statutory minimum wage.

10. Everyone has the right to work in safe conditions that are not harmful to health and well-being.

11. Workers have the right to form and join trade unions, negotiate contracts of employment, the right to picket and to withhold their labour.

12. Those people who work in the home and/or as primary carers have the right to proper recognition of their economic contribution to both individual households and the national economy.

13. Everyone has the right to housing. The state will have the duty to provide adequate and appropriate accommodation for everyone.

14. The state has an obligation to protect and nurture our national resources from waste and despoliation for the benefit of this and future generations, and to ensure an environment that is not harmful to the health and well-being of the people.

15. Everyone -- regardless of income or region of residence -- has an equal right to access basic essential public services. Such basic essential services include (but are not limited to) adequate domestic energy supply, water supply, sewage and waste disposal and public transport services.

16. The state has a duty to develop, provide, and manage such essential public services in ways that are equitable, economically and environmentally sustainable, and based on international best practice.

17. The operation of market competition will not be allowed to develop in such a way as to result in the concentration of the ownership or control of essential goods, including property, in the hands of a few individuals or corporations to the common detriment.

18. The state shall provide universal public services for all requiring those services, based on best international practice, and shall fund these services through direct progressive taxation. The taxation system shall be based on the principles of fairness and transparency.

Peace and Reconciliation

1. The state shall provide the necessary resources to address the legacy of the conflict in Ireland.

2. A just peace, reconciliation and community relations based on mutual respect and co-operation between our communities and with the state's institutions shall be secured by upholding the equal rights, opportunities and status of all.

Ireland in the World

1. Ireland shall be an independent sovereign state which respects the rights of sovereignty of all nations in keeping with (and subject to the constraints of) international law.

2. Ireland affirms its commitment to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice. Ireland commits itself to work towards greater global political and economic equality, including trade relations of mutual advantage between the nation states in the world.

3. Ireland asserts its adherence to the principle of the peaceful settlement of international disputes through international arbitration or judicial determination.

4. Remembering the experience of emigration, any person who seeks sanctuary from persecution or who hopes to build a better life and make a constructive contribution here will be welcomed to our shores.

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Former Education Minster Martin McGuinness MP MLA has welcomed the announcement that his decsion to abolish the 11 + is to stand but expressed disappointment at the 2008 target date. Mr McGuinness also paid tribute to the Costello working group.

Mr McGuinness said:

"I very much welcome this report from the Costello working group. I am pleased that this highly experienced working party has recommended that the 11+ should be abolished and that this recommendation has been accepted.

"Equality must be at the heart of education. The reality is that academic selection for some means academic rejection for the majority of our children. It is a system, which is fundamentally unfair.

"A system, which designates any 11-year-old child, a failure is fundamentally flawed and must be replaced. That is why as education Minister I took the decision to end the 11 +. I am delighted that this decision will now be acted on.I believe all children must be given the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances.

"I am a little disappointed that it will take until 2008 to definitively end the 11+ but that is balanced by the sensible suggestion that all of this could happen much quicker if more parents choose not to put their child forward for the exam in the mean time and grammar schools move away from selection as a method for enrolling pupils.

"We now need to see the new arrangements put in place which will deliver both a modern education system and equality of opportunity for all our children."

Editors Note: Mr McGuinness will meet with Jane Kennedy at 3pm this afternoon at Castle Buildings to discuss the outcome of the Costello Report

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP will launch a major consultation document 'Rights for All' at 11am tomorrow, Monday 26th January, in the Long Gallery in Stormont.

Accompanying Mr. McGuinness will be Bairbre de Brún MLA, Caitríona Ruane MLA and Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD.

Rights for All is a discussion document and is a framework of principles that Sinn Féin believes should be enshrined as rights in a progressive society. Sinn Féin will be pro-actively engaging with all sections of society - from community and trade union groups to voluntary organisations and all shades of political opinion throughout the island of Ireland.

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Bairbre de Brún has blamed unionist paramilitaries for attaching a device to the gates of Lamh Dhearg GAA club in Hannastown. The device was discovered as underage teams were about to start their weekly training session.

Ms de Brún said:

"Underage teams train at the Lamh Dhearg pitch each Sunday. Around 1pm a device was discovered by some of the children attending training attached to the gate at the side of the pitch.

"I have no doubt that unionist paramilitaries are behind this incident. There has been a history of attacks on this club over many years.

"It is only through good fortune that this device was discovered and people in West Belfast are angry at this attack on our young people.

"Those responsible deliberately decided to target a sports facility which they knew was used by children.

"Many nationalists and republicans are of the firm view that the British government has a tolerence for an acceptable level of unionist violence and todays incident taken with a series of recent attacks, and the British response to them, would certainly reinforce this belief.." ENDS

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Sinn Féín Prisons spokesperson Gerry Kelly has said that he concerned that ordinary prisoners in Maghaberry are being punished simply because they happen to share the same block as the loyalist inmates who damaged the accommodation last week.

Mr Kelly said;

" Families of prisoners serving sentences in the Bann House wing in Maghaberry have contacted my office concerned that the men who are not part of any protest have been on a lockdown regime for over a week now. That means that they are confined to their cells 23 hours each day. These men are housed on a separate landing from the loyalist prisoners.

" The justification being given for the lockdown regime by the prison authorities is that the loyalist inmates who damaged the jail are also housed in the same block.

" This is communal punishment and it should cease. Prisoners do have rights and these rights must be respected." ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Michael Ferguson has demanded that Andersonstown Barracks be closed permanently and the land returned to the local community. Mr Ferguson was speaking after the announcement that the base would now close at night.

Mr Ferguson said:

" The fact is that Anderstown Military Base is a blight on this area and provides no service for the local community. Its function is to spy on and intimidate the local population. The vast majority of people in West Belfast are demanding that this eyesore is removed from our community and the land used for regeneration purposes.

" Closing the base at night will be of little consequence as nobody living in this area visits it any way, night or day. It is my belief that the failure to close this base permanently is yet further evidence of the British government reneging on its commitments to demilitarise its war machine in our country.

" The decision will also clearly cause deep embarrassment for the SDLP whose local representative Alex Attwood announced last year the he has secured a commitment to close the base through his membership of the Policing Board. Clearly working from within flawed policing structures doesn't work and doesn't deliver." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe TD for Dublin South West has called on South Dublin County Council to immediately withdraw its bin tags after he claimed that the colour coded system "stigmatises individuals and families on low incomes".

He went on to point out that it merely served to highlight again one of the many injustices of the Bin Charges.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "I am at a loss as to why these different blue and yellow stickers are even necessary. What difference does it make to the bin collector if the person has a waiver or not? Why should pensioners, social welfare recipients and people on low incomes be identified as different?

This tagging system is an unnecessary and backward decision by the Council that stigmatises individuals and families on low incomes. I am calling on the Council to immediately end this social labelling which is insensitive to say the least.

"Of course this is just another example of the casual unfairness of the Bin Charges, an unjust tax which forces ordinary people to subsidise the pollution of industry and big business. Instead of a 'polluter pays' principle, we have a 'polluter profits' scheme." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew MLA has said that the news that 350 jobs are threatened at Nortel Networks serves to highlight the failures of the economic strategies currently in place.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Throughout the 6 counties there is mounting daily evidence that we need new thinking about how we support and develop our local economy.

"We are losing not just IT jobs; we have seen huge job losses right across the manufacturing sector. Particularly in a textile industry that is teetering on the edge of destruction and West of the Bann where the situation is compounded by a low manufacturing base and poor investment in infrastructure support to economic development.

"It is not good enough that INI and economic planners in DETI appear to have put all of their eggs into the Œknowledge-based economy‚ basket. It is a strategy that is clearly failing.

"There needs to be a fundamental re-evaluation of the dependency on the IT sector and an imaginative approach to developing economic activity within other sectors. I am also concerned that Ian Pearson appears to be pinning his hopes on call centre jobs or contact centre jobs as he has euphemistically calls them. Many of these are low paid part-time jobs.

"What is required is a new approach to industrial investment not the marketing of the 6 counties as a low-wage economy where companies come and go with no long term commitments despite very high levels of grant aid. All future grant aid and similar financial support must be dependant on the full delivery of promised jobs with strong claw back clauses. While estimates of potential jobs created sound impressive far fewer jobs are delivered. People need full time jobs and not empty promises.

"Despite years of highlighting the damage caused to the local economy by high electricity costs resulting from the bad privatisation deal worked out by previous direct rule Ministers, the unsustainable burden of high insurance premiums, the cost of decades of under investment in our infrastructure we have Ian Pearson refusing to listen to concerns about the way he is handling the industrial de-rating and vacant property rating issues." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Tyrone Barry McElduff will address the annual Bloody Sunday March in London on Sunday. Speaking today before departing Mr McElduff said that 'those within the British establishment who covered up the murders on Bloody Sunday are the very same people who developed the British collusion policy and who are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the truth about it coming out now'.

Mr McElduff said:

" After the massacre on the streets of Derry on 30th January 1972 the British cover-up operation flew into top gear. Widgery was brought in and the truth was suppressed. The British state was determined to prevent the facts from emerging. That is why we now have a Saville Tribunal. However it seems from the British side that the lessons of Widgery have not been learned. The MoD is still trying to prevent the truth coming out. It is still suppressing vital evidence and it is being supported by the current British government in all of this.

" Those within the British establishment who covered up the murders on Bloody Sunday are the very same people who developed the British collusion policy and who are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the truth about it coming out now. They are the people who sanctioned the murder of Pat Finucane and countless others. They are the people who armed the unionist death squads and provided them with intelligence. They are the people who propped up the six county state with a mixture of terror, repression and political exclusion.

" But if anything is to be learned from Bloody Sunday it is that the families of those killed through British State repression and violence will not be bought off by phoney inquires or British lies. The same is true of the families of those murdered through the British collusion policy. Next month 100 relatives of those murdered by the British directly or through their surrogate unionist murder gangs will travel to London. They will travel to the places were the policy was developed and enacted. To the places where the killings of their loved ones were sanctioned.

" The British government and Tony Blair in particular must realise that the truth about collusion like the truth about Bloody Sunday will come out. It will come out because the families of those killed will not rest until they see justice delivered." ENDS

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Speaking during a presentation on the Irish EU presidency by Director General of the Institute of European Affairs Alan Dukes, Sinn Féin spokesperson on European Affairs Bairbre de Brún called for the 'Irish government to leave a legacy of social justice after its term of office in the EU presidency'. Ms de Brún's comments were made during a presentation by the former Fine Gael leader at Queens University.

Ms de Brún said;

'The EU Presidency provides the Irish government with the opportunity to make a major impact on policies across a range of areas and sectors in Europe. It can choose to set in place measures to promote social justice and the eradication of poverty not just in Europe but around the globe.

'I want to take today's opportunity to emphasise the need to rise to this challenge, both for the Irish government and all those who are involved in the debate surrounding how the Presidency should be developed.

'It is vital that the EU Presidency is used to push a positive social justice agenda and to promote initiatives in the socio-economic, political and human rights fields.

'It is also important that the Presidency is used to combat the negative impact of the economic constraints placed on Ireland, north and south and indeed other states by EU rulings, especially in relation to the future development of infrastructure.

'Adequate attention needs to be given in the coming months to the full implementation of the CAP reform proposals agreed in Luxembourg last June.

Issues such as the need for specific gender and disability directives also need to be given greater priority, as well as the harmonisation of workers rights and trade union recognition. The recognition of the Irish language as an official working language of the European Union also needs addressed.

'Today's seminar is a welcome opportunity to heighten public awareness of the importance of the EU Presidency for the island of Ireland as a whole and hopefully will lead to a greater understanding and debate around many of these issues in the run up to this years European elections.' ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Paul Butler has accused the British government of tolerating an 'acceptable level of UDA violence'. Mr Butler's remarks come after yesterday's meeting between the British Minister Jane Kennedy and representatives of the UPRG.

Mr Butler said:

" In recent weeks and months the UDA has been involved in a violent campaign including attacks on the homes of Sinn Féin members, prison staff, and ordinary Catholics. Last week they brought the city of Belfast to a stand still with a series of well-planned and co-ordinated bomb alerts.

" The British government response has been virtually nil. The fact is that since the UDA was formed the British government has tolerated and in many cases encouraged its activities. They did not ban the organisation until 1992 despite its involvement in a murder campaign against Catholics over a 20 year period.

" In the late 1980's through their agent Brian Nelson they rearmed the UDA and handed it thousands of intelligence files. They created a well armed murder machine and unleashed it on the nationalist and catholic population. British agents still remain at the very top of the UDA and UFF.

" Maybe this is the reason behind Britain's softly softly approach to the activities of the UDA. Certainly it is very obvious that the British government have a tolerance of what they view as an acceptable level of loyalist violence and activity. ENDS

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Following a meeting with the Justice Oversight Commissioner, Lord Clyde, Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson on Policing and Justice, Gerry Kelly, has stated that a issues regarding the implementation of justice reforms still need addressed. Speaking after today's launch of the Oversight Commissioners first report Mr Kelly said:

"Sinn Féin held a forty five minute meeting yesterday with Lord Clyde in order to discuss the report by the Criminal Justice Oversight Commissioner. During this meeting a number of concerns were raised.

"The Oversight Commissioners appointment is for three years only. The DPP has stated it will take longer than that to implement the changes to the DPP's department as laid out in the Justice Bill.

"The issue of Symbols and Emblems within court premises was also raised, with particular emphasis on the High Court in Belfast. The existing display of emblems is in clear conflict with the legal requirements to have a neutral environment in courthouses.

"We also raised the case of John Boyle which is currently going though a Judicial Review. John Boyle was convicted wrongly and served a long sentence on the basis of the RUC falsifying documents. While the DPP accepts that falsification of evidence took place he has refused to prosecute those involved and has also refused to give reasons why.

"Cases such as these undermine public confidence in the ability of the DPP to be truly independent and therefore raises questions about the British Governments will to achieve a new and accountable justice system." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Minister for Justice to activate the Section 8 (b) provision of the Human Rights Commission Act to obtain an opinion from the Commission on the Joint Investigation Teams Bill that reached second stage in the Dáil today. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Sinn Féin are not opposed in principle to inter-jurisdictional police cooperation on investigation of serious crimes with a cross-border dimension, where such cooperation is authorised on a case-by-case basis, limited to the necessary, and where there are appropriate safeguards and accountability mechanisms in place. Contrary to the unfounded and unproven allegations of this Minister, I confirm that Sinn Féin strongly support effective action against cross-border organised crime including trafficking in human beings and drugs, especially where such action strikes the correct balance between the need and right of individuals and communities to be safe from predation with the civil rights of individuals.

"However, this proposed legislation goes well beyond the existing INTERPOL and EUROPOL mechanisms for police cooperation and information-sharing by allowing for members of foreign police forces and possibly intelligence agencies to operate in this state. In addition, this Bill must be considered in its proper context, as another in the series of draconian so-called EU Anti-Terrorism Roadmap measures that this Government has signed up to and Sinn Féin, together with the human rights sector, has criticised. As such it has far-reaching consequences for both the sovereignty and human rights of the Irish people and so deserves careful consideration.

"Our concerns about the PSNI are well-established, but there is also evidence of human rights abuses by police forces from other EU states as documented by Amnesty International. Given this fact - but also in principle - the operation of other forces in this jurisdiction must not proceed in the absence of a properly established, best-practice complaints investigation mechanism in the form of a fully independent Ombudsman's Office on the Patten model, and a properly-established best practice civilian oversight mechanism in the form of an independent civilian Policing Board, as proposed by Sinn Féin.

"Fundamentally, this legislation must not proceed in the absence of adequate safeguards, and in particular until such time as the Irish Human Rights Commission is convinced of the adequacy of both the Bill's provisions and the state's mechanisms for police accountability. It is not acceptable that the Minister did not approach the Human Rights Commission to furnish its opinion on this Bill in accordance with Section 8 (b) of the Human Rights Act. His duty to the public interest obliges him to seek the Commission's opinion, and to guarantee that Committee Stage of this Bill will not proceed until such time as this opinion is available to the Dáil."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh also urged the Minister to raise the issue of human rights violations by police forces across the EU and to highlight the recommendations of the Amnesty International Human Rights Begin at Home Campaign at the Justice and Home Affairs informal meeting in Dublin Castle today and tomorrow. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Women's Issues and Poverty, north Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton, speaking after a party delegation including former Health Minster Bairbre de Brún and Cllr Sue Ramsey met with representatives from Women's Aid, has welcomed their new building as a vital project that will benefit women and support them building a new life.

Ms Stanton said:

"Last year 198 women and 230 children stayed at the Women's Aid refuge, many of whom were ethnic minorities. Sinn Féin is fully supportive of this project because we all know how much t will benefit women and their children who face serious risk of violence. A new building will give women in this position extra security and enable them to make the crucial step in leaving a violent home.

"This resource meets the emergency accommodation needs of women and children forced to flee their homes because of domestic violence. It will provide women with the opportunity, free from accommodation worries, to plan for a safer and happier future for them and their children."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann commenting on the latest Housing Bulletin has said that the statistics paint a bleak picture in terms of increasing prices making it more difficult for first time buyers to get on the property ladder but more seriously point up to the urgent need to re-evaluate the social hosing policy especially with nearly 4,500 household presenting as homeless in a three month period.

Fra McCann said:

"The latest figures show that the cost of new houses is sky rocketing with increases of between 7% and 10% in the asking price for new houses, flats and maisonettes. The 25% increase in mortgage repossessions should also send out a very serious signal that there is increasing instability in the housing markets.

"Nearly 4,500 household presented themselves as homeless in the three month period from July to September last year. The fact that for the same period that 96.8 % of all new builds were commissioned by the private sector points to even greater pressures within the social housing sector.

"Homelessness, the lack of new builds in the social sector and the lack of affordable housing are problems that will not go away. Behind every statistic there is a real human story where people are being forced to live in sub-standard accommodation or in crowded conditions.

"There needs to be an urgent re-evaluation of social housing policy and NIO Ministers need to act urgently to address the situation particularly in regard to families presenting as homeless. Commonly such families presenting as homeless are as a result of family breakdown or dispute. So the short-sighted housing policies in place are compounding already difficult situations." ENDS

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