Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has said that an announcement by the British Army GOC in Ireland pretending that he is taking demilitarisation moves 'insults the intelligence of every citizen'.
Mr Maskey said:
"In short today's announcement from the British GOC on troop levels contains the following pieces of rationalisation. He is announcing that two regiments one currently based in Colchester and the other currently based in Inverness will no longer be under his command. No mention of the 15,000 troops actually stationed here. He also announces that due to wider Navy cuts that three vessels who have been patrolling the Irish Sea since 1998, 4years after the IRA cessation will be withdrawn.
"Only the British government could possibly believe that anybody will buy an announcement that two regiments based and living in England and Scotland changing their command structures is demilitarisation. It is not and this announcement insults the intelligence of every citizen here still living under military occupation.
"The NIO are attempting to make a virtue out of the necessity which is wider defence cuts. This is not the process of demilitarisation which the British agreed to on Good Friday and which people across this island demanded through referenda. The fact that the British government have almost twice as many troops actually stationed in Ireland ten years after the IRA cessation than they have in the middle of a war zone in Iraq says all that needs to be said about the British approach to its demilitarisation commitments." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has said that the departure of Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy from the Cabinet and the Taoiseach's reshuffle in September "will only be a game of musicial chairs unless Government policy changes".
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Many will welcome the departure of Charlie McCreevy from Finance. But it must be remembered that his budgets were Government budgets and in seven years not a single Government TD or Senator voted against any of his measures.
"The policies Minister McCreevy has implemented over the past seven years have widened the gap between the wealthy and the deprived in our society. This is truly a tragedy because the FF/PD governments since 1997 have had two enormous advantages enjoyed by no previous government in the history of this State. Firstly, they have been in office at a time of exceptional prosperity, resulting in huge budget surpluses year after year. Secondly, with a secure position in the Dáil, they have been able to plan ahead for a full term in office. Those advantages were scandalously squandered by the Government and especially by the Minister for Finance.
"The ESRI stated three years ago in July 2001 that the 'high rate of relative income poverty is a serious structural problem that needs to be tackled while the resources are available'. That confirmed the flawed approach of Minister McCreevy. The latest United Nations Human Development Report on Ireland published last week shows that the pattern persists. The richest 10% of people in Ireland are nearly 10 times wealthier than the poorest 10% - the worst wealth/poverty gap in any Western country apart from the USA. While we have entered the 'top 10' of the world's quality of life league, we have the lowest life expectancy of the 10 and among the lowest spending on health and education.
"The departure of Charlie McCreevy from the Cabinet and the Taoiseach's autumn reshuffle will only be a game of musical chairs unless Government policy changes." ENDS
Responding to reports that 28 members of the RIR were withdrawn from duty as part of the investigation into the missing dossier from Castlereagh, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly has demanded that the British come clean on this rapidly developing collusion scandal.
Mr Kelly said:
"This morning when I met Ian Pearson he refused to answer questions on the involvement or not of the RIR in the missing dossier. It has now emerged that 28 RIR members have been withdrawn from duty as a result of the inquiry. My understanding is that this particular RIR unit were involved in both Castereagh and in manning observation posts in nationalist areas including Divis Tower.
"Given the history of the RIR involvement in collusion with loyalist death squads people will now be in little doubt about the whereabouts of the missing dossier. Is Ian Pearson seriously saying that he was not aware of this when questioned by me this morning.
"The behaviour of the British government has been a disgrace. They have sought to cover-up what is rapidly becoming a major collusion scandal. It is now time for them to come clean. It is also time for them to start informing those people whose details are missing presumed in the hands of loyalists.
"This event has all of the ingredients of a collusion scandal. Missing documents, the involvement of the RIR and a high level attempt at cover-up by the British system." ENDS
Editors Note: Mr Kelly will be raising this emerging scandal with the Irish Government in a meeting with Brian Cowen tomorrow afternoon in Dublin
Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Daithí Doolan, speaking after the publication of a report by the National Drug Treatment Centre highlighting the fact that there has been a doubling in the use of cocaine in Ireland over the past two years, said "Despite all the evidence of a growing cocaine crisis the Government is still in denial and is failing to respond quickly enough. If more is not done cocaine will have gained a foothold in the country."
Cllr Doolan said:
"Despite all the evidence of a growing cocaine crisis the Government is still in denial and is failing to respond quickly enough. If more is not done cocaine will have gained a foothold in the country. The government is carrying our a mid term review of their drugs strategy and they need to deal with this problem
"What is urgently required is a properly thought out strategy backed by adequate resources to deal with cocaine and crack cocaine addiction, with an emphasis on community based pilot projects. But the Government is stalling, obviously having learned nothing from the heroin epidemic that devastated parts of this city in the past.
"Funding for the Drugs Taskforces is woefully inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem and they are still waiting for support to provide specific programmes for cocaine users. And to make matters worse, in recent months community groups have had to lay off essential workers because of lack of funding or funding being frozen for vital programmes.
"The crazy situation is that we have the expertise and the experience to deal with this problem but what we lack is government support. The government needs to wake up and deal with this problem. They need to ensure that no community or service is left without adequate support or resources in the battle against drug addiction."ENDS
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has voiced concerns that the handling of the rates review by British direct rule ministers will result in a new stealth tax with the objective of increasing the overall rates burden. He also said that Sinn Féin had serious concerns about the protection for people on low incomes, and senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Mr Molloy said:
"My greatest concern is that this is not an attempt to deliver a fairer system of raising local revenue through a fairer rates system but that it is a way to force people living in the Six Counties to carry a far greater rates burden. Sinn Féin also has serious concerns about the protection for people on low incomes, and senior citizens and people with disabilities.
"The bottom line is that this is a regressive tax. It is not based on the ability to pay and will disproportionately hit people on lower incomes.
"It is time that political leaders stood up to the British Exchequer and demanded a peace dividend to address the vast legacy of under funding that is undermining all of our key services. The British government has failed for decades to put the money into our public services, our hospitals, railways and infrastructure. They are now looking for us to foot the bill for that failure.
"Sinn Fein has already raised these issues during the review and again in September we will be taking the argument that the British government must deliver a substantial peace dividend, must review the budget allocation and must look at far greater economic sovereignty into those talks.
"Unfortunately previous SDLP finance ministers have led us down this cul-de-sac by allowing the British Exchequer off the hook. In the water tax we have the Durkan tax ands in the local rates we have the Farren tax. The Barnett formula that calculates our block grant gives us a poor deal. Yet, because successive SDLP finance ministers refused to challenge Barnett and instead settled for the dubious benefits of borrowing under the Reform and
Reinvestment Initiative that has to be financed by raising more money through the rates and through the imposition of the water tax the British Exchequer was allowed to avoid its obligations." ENDS
Sinn Féin health spokesperson, John O'Dowd MLA, has called upon the North's health minister Angela Smith to personally intervene in order to speed up the decision-making process in relation to a proposal from the North Western Health Board in the 26 Counties for the development of a joint Oral and Maxillo-Facial Service between the NWHB, the Western Health and Social Services Board and Altnagelvin Hospital Trust in the North.
Mr O'Dowd said, "The North Western Health Board's proposal, which advocates a partnership between the above three agencies, would ensure the foundation for an expanded, sustainable and viable inter-regional OFM service in the medium to long-term.
"It is my understanding that the proposal has been already presented to the Department of Health and Children in Dublin, and they have endorsed the proposal as an excellent model of cross-border health service provision.
"I also understand that concerns have been expressed, that in the event of this proposal not receiving the required financial and other support from DHSSPS in the North and from the North Western Health Board in the 26 Counties, the OFM service throughout entire region could be jeopardized.
"I recently wrote to Angela Smith urging her to intervene in this case in order to accelerate the decision-making process concerning the proposal. I have also indicated my willingness to meet with her, or with senior Departmental officials, to discuss this matter further if it would assist in accelerating the process." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly led a party delegation including Kathy Stanton MLA and Cllr. Margaret McClenaghan to meet with the British Security Minister Ian Pearson. The meeting discussed the missing security dossier from Castlereagh which is said to contain the details of up to 400 people.
Mr Kelly said:
"It has been speculated that the dossier removed from Castlereagh contains the details of up to 400 people. It is feared that this document is now in the hands of loyalists. To date nobody has been informed that their details are missing.
"At this mornings meeting I put a number of questions to Ian Pearson about this very serious matter.
"He confirmed that a document was missing. It was the only thing he confirmed
"I believe that we are sitting on a potential scandal. I believe that the British are trying to suppress this story. It has only emerged through leaks. I think that a cover-up could well be under way and that if the truth emerges we could potentially be looking at a collusion scandal of Brian Nelson proportions." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEPs Bairbre de Brún (north of Ireland) and Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin) made their historic first address to the European Parliament this morning. Both MEPs contributed to the debate on the Irish Presidency and set out Sinn Fein's vision for the future direction of the EU. Speaking today, both MEPs said:
"Our election to the European Parliament represents another huge step for Sinn Fein. We have representatives elected to political institutions throughout Ireland - the Dáil, Six County Assembly, and local councils. We are proud to represent our voters in the European Parliament and pledge to use this forum to advance the Irish Peace Process and set out our vision for a social Europe built upon equality and the protection of the fundamental rights of its citizens.
Ms de Brun said in her speech:
"Sinn Fein stands for change in Ireland and across the EU and we look forward to working with others who want to see a Europe of equals and a globally responsible EU.
"In Ireland we are engaged in a peace process to which the European Union, the United States and others have contributed greatly. I welcome the Council's call for the Commission to examine the possibility of extending funds for PEACE II and the International Fund for Ireland. I would ask the Dutch Presidency and my colleagues here to focus on the Irish peace process."
In her speech, Ms McDonald said:
"I would like to acknowledge the work of the Irish Presidency, which had much to contend with in the last six months and to wish the new Dutch Presidency well.
"Sinn Féin believes that the enlarged EU must adopt a new set of priorities. We oppose attempts to turn the EU into a superstate or a military and economic superpower. We support EU reform which gives power back to the people, the elimination of poverty, support for public services, revitalised rural economies, reform and strengthening of the United Nations. ENDS.
Full text of both speeches
Inaugural address to the European Parliament by Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin
Mary Lou McDonald
A Uachtaráin, a Uachtaráin in oifig, a Thaoisigh,
Tá mé mórálach as a bheith anseo inniu mar chuid de chéad-fhoireann Shinn Féin i bParlaimint na hEorpa. (Mr President,Mr President-in Office, Taoiseach I am proud to be here today as part of the first Sinn Féin team in the European Parliament.)
As Irish republicans, following in the tradition of Bobby Sands MP, we are committed to the politics of equality, justice and freedom. We bring Sinn Féin's agenda for change, for Irish unity and independence to this forum.
I would like to acknowledge the work of the Irish Presidency, which had much to contend with in the last six months and to wish the new Dutch Presidency well.
Sinn Féin believes that the enlarged EU must adopt a new set of priorities. We oppose attempts to turn the EU into a superstate or a military and economic superpower. We support EU reform which gives power back to the people, the elimination of poverty, support for public services, revitalised rural economies, reform and strengthening of the United Nations.
This, we believe is the new direction for Europe. This is the EU that we will work towards.
Óráid bhunaithe Mary Lou McDonald, Feisire Eorpach Shinn Féin Bhaile Átha Cliath, do Pharlaimint na hEorpa
A Uachtaráin, a Fheisirí, a Thaoisigh,
Tá mé mórálach as a bheith anseo inniu mar chuid de chéad-fhoireann Shinn Féin i bParlaimint na hEorpa.
Ionann is cúig bliana is fiche ó shin, arsa Bobby Sands, poblachtánach Éireannach, ar chéad lá a stailce ocrais, "Tá mé i mo sheasamh ar thairseach dhomhain chreathaí eile." Inniu, seasann Sinn Féin ar thairseach dhomhain úir agus muidne ag feidhmiú ar son na hÉireann ina hiomlán, thuaidh agus theas, don chéad uair, i Parlaimint na hEorpa. Táimid ag súil go mór le clár athraithe Shinn Féin a thógáil chuig an fhóram seo agus le clár leanúnach athaontú agus neamhspleáchas na hÉireann a chur ar aghaidh.
Ba mhaith liom saothar Uachtarántacht na hÉireann a aithint agus í faoi bhrúanna le sé mhí anuas agus ba mhaith liom ádh a bhronnadh ar
Uachtarántacht na hÍsiltíre.
Creideann Sinn Féin go gcaithfidh an tAontas méadaithe Eorpach bailiúchán úr de thosaíochtaí a tharraingt chuige laistigh de theorainneacha an Aontais féin agus sa domhan lasmuigh. Táimid in éadan na n-iarrachtaí atá ar siúl faoi láthair ollstát nó ollchumhacht eacnamaíochta nó mhíliteach a dhéanamh den Aontas. In áit é sin a dhéanamh, tacaíonn muid le hathchóiriú an Aontais Eorpaigh, leis an chumhacht a thabhairt ar ais don phobal, le cealú na bochtaineachta, le tacaíocht a thabhairt do na seirbhísí poiblí, le
treoracha chomhionannais níos láidre, le h-athbheochaint gheilleagar na tuaithe agus le h-athchóiriú agus neartú na Náisiúin Aontaithe leis an cheartas agus leis an tsíocháin a chur ar aghaidh ar fud an domhain.
Ní Eoraip dho-shaonta í Eoraip an lae inniu. Is féidir í a athrú agus ba chóir í a athrú.
Inaugural address to the European Parliament by Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties Bairbre de Brún
A Uachtaráin, a Uachtaráin in oifig, a Thaoisigh,
Seasann Sinn Féin ar son an athraithe in Éirinn agus ar fud an Aontais Eorpaigh. Táimid ag dúil le bheith ag obair leo siúd ar mhaith leo Eoraip chothrom a fheiceáil, Eoraip dhomhanda fhreagrach (Mr President, Mr President-in-office,Taoiseach. Sinn Fein stands for change in Ireland and across the EU and we look forward to working with others who want to see a Europe of equals and a globally responsible EU. )
I look forward to building support for the Irish Peace Process and Irish unity and independence. It makes sense for all of Ireland to be treated as one whether in employment, agriculture or human rights and equality
In Ireland we are engaged in a peace process to which the European Union, the United States and others have contributed greatly. I welcome the Council's call for the Commission to examine extending funds for PEACE II and the International Fund for Ireland.
Despite much progress, the peace process in Ireland faces great difficulties with the democratic institutions suspended. Just last week people in my home city of Belfast were penned into their communities while a sectarian unionist parade was forced through.
Iarraim ar Uachtarántacht na hIsiltíre agus ar mo chomhghleacaithe anseo díriú ar phróiseas síochána na hÉireann (I would ask the Dutch Presidency and my colleagues here to focus on the Irish peace process. )
Óráid bhunaithe Bairbre de Brún, Feisire Eorpach Shinn Féin sna Sé Chontae, do Pharlaimint na hEorpa
A Uachtaráin, a Fheisirí, a Thaoisigh,
Tá áthas mór orm a bheith anseo inniu in éineacht le mó chomhleacaí, Mary Lou McDonald.
Seasann Sinn Féin ar son an athraithe in Éirinn agus ar fud an Aontais Eorpaigh agus táimid ag tnúth le bheith ag obair leo siúd laistigh agus lasmuigh den Pharlaimint a theastaíonn uathu Eoraip chothrom a fheiceáil, Eoraip dhomhanda fhreagrach a bhfuil an ceartas eacnamaíochta agus an ceartas sóisialta mar bhunchloch aici. Ar an dóigh sin, caithfidh muid deimhin a dhéanamh de go gcuirfear spriocanna Chuspóir Fhorbartha na Mílaoise i gcrích, spriocanna a bhaineann le dul-i-ngleic leis an bhochtaineacht dhomhanda.
Ina theannta sin, táimid ag súil le tacaíocht a thógáil do Phróiseas na Síochána in Éirinn agus d'athaontú agus neamhspleáchas na hÉireann. Is ciallmhar an rud é a bheith ag plé le cúrsaí na hÉireann ar bhonn uile Éireannach, is cuma an leis an fhostaíocht nó an talmhaíocht, le cearta daonna nó leis an chomhionannas an fhadhb.
In Éirinn, chomh maith, tá Próiseas Síochána ar siúl a chuidigh an tAontas Eorpach, na Stáit Aontaithe agus grúpaí eile sa phobal idirnáisiúnta go mór leis. Fáiltím roimh achainí na Comhairle go scrúdódh an Coimisiún ceist leathnú na gcistí do Síocháin II, do Chiste Idirnáisiúnta d'Éirinn agus do na Cistí Struchtúra.
Ainneoin an dul chun cinn a rinneadh le blianta beaga anuas, is mór ar fad iad na deacrachtaí atá ann go fóill. Is mór iad na fadhbanna atá os comhair Phróiseas na Síochána faoi láthair agus na hinstitiúidí daonlathacha curtha ar ceal. An tseachtain seo chaite i mBéal Feirste, mo chathair féin, cuachtadh náisiúnaithe istigh ina bpobail féin a fhad is a brúdh paráid Aontachtach sheicteach tríd.
Iarraim ar Uachtarántacht na hIsiltíre agus ar mo chomhleacaithe anseo sa Pharlaimint díriú ar phróiseas síochána na hÉireann agus cuidiú linn na deacrachtaí sin a shárú.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. has called on Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Martin Cullen T.D to address the serious concerns that have been raised regarding the appointment of a former project manager with the incineration company Indaver Ireland as a director with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Deputy Morgan said, "It is critically important that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Martin Cullen T.D address the serious concerns that have been raised regarding the appointment of a former project manager with the incineration company Indaver Ireland as a director with the Environmental Protection Agency. This move will undermine public confidence in the EPA which at this crucial stage is still in the process of assessing license applications by Indaver for incinerators at Carranstown, Co. Meath and Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork.
"Communities battling to prevent incinerators being imposed on them are stunned and angry at the decisions which at its most benign shows very poor judgment by Minister Cullen and at its worst represents an attempt by the Minister and the Cabinet to institutionalise incineration.
"I would ask the Minister to reconsider this appointment, which has the potential to destroy public confidence in the EPA. Protocols must be put in place to ensure that advocates for a particular interest cannot be appointed to bodies such as the EPA, which have crucial decision-making and regulatory powers.
"It is clear that Martin Cullen has used the opportunity of the Dáil recess to allow this announcement to be made in order to avoid questions from the opposition regarding the appropriateness of the appointment. The Minister should make himself available to the Committee on the Environment and Local Government to address the justifiable concerns which have been raised in relation to the issue." ENDS
Sinn Fein MEPs Bairbre de Brun (6 Counties) and Mary Lou McDonald, met with a delegation of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) yesterday evening (20.07.04), led by the President John Dillon. The meeting was held at Sinn Fein offices in the European Parliament, Strasbourg.
Speaking this morning, the Sinn Fein MEPs said:
"We were pleased to meet with the IFA delegation and President John Dillon on our first day in the EU Parliament. Sinn Fein is committed to working in the coming years ahead, to revitalise Irish agriculture and rural communities on an all Ireland basis.
"We reiterated our commitment to the agricultural sector in Ireland, and we will prioritise rural regeneration in the coming months ahead. at both a national and EU level". ENDS
Sinn Fein MEPs Bairbre de Brun (6 counties) and Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin) attended the inaugural session of the EU Parliament this morning, to vote in the election for the President of the EU Parliament. Both Ms de Brun and Ms McDonald described their attendance at the inaugural session of the EU Parliament as a 'significant occasion for Sinn Fein, and an opportunity to bring our vision for positive change in Ireland and throughout Europe to this political institution'.
Speaking after the voting at this mornings session, both MEPs said:
"We are both pleased to be here at the inaugural session of the European Parliament. This is a significant occasion for Sinn Fein, and an opportunity to bring our vision for positive change in Ireland and throughout Europe to this political institution.
"Yesterday morning we made a positive contribution to the first session of the EU Parliament when we voted for the GUE/NGL group leader Francis Wurtz for the position of President of the EU Parliament.
"Josep Borrell, the nominee from the Socialist grouping was elected on the first count . We wish Mr Borrell success as the new EU Parliament President. Sinn Fein MEPs are commited to working across groupings and building alliances with those who share our vision for an alternative EU built upon equality, social justice and the protection of workers rights.
"We are committed to bringing about real social and political change within the EU Parliament and will work right across the political spectrum in the coming weeks and months ahead to achieve these objectives. ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice Gerry Kelly will meet with the British Security Minister Ian Pearson tomorrow morning in Stormont Castle. Mr Kelly will be demanding answers from Mr Pearson on the security breach at Castlereagh and the speculation that a dossier containing the details of upwards of 400 people is missing.
Speaking today in advance of the meeting Mr Kelly said:
"Many people I have spoken to are deeply concerned with what is happening concerning a security breach in Castlereagh. Mr Pearson has confirmed to me that a document is missing and that an investigation is under way.
"Media reports have indicated that the details of as many as 400 people are in this document and that it is in the possession of unionist paramilitaries. Yet despite this nobody has been informed that their details are missing. This is an unacceptable situation.
"I will also be pressing Mr Pearson on the identity of the regiment that the British soldier arrested over this breach comes from. I want to know if he is a member of the RIR, a regiment with a long history of collusion with unionist paramilitaries.
"The secrecy with which the British have approached this issue and their total lack of transparency even to the point of endangering lives, will raise the obvious concerns that a cover-up is now under way." ENDS
Commenting on today's Supreme Court judgement in relation to medical malpratice by Michael Neary at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD said:
"The outcome of today's case is regrettable for Rosemary Cunningham and for all the female victims of the gross malpractice that took place in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital over many years. It must be remembered that these women have had recourse to the courts primarily because of the years of delay in investigating this matter on the part of the Medical Council before it eventually struck off Michael Neary. The Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin should, in the light of this judgement, widen the scope of the inquiry by Judge Maureen Harding Clark and ensure the compellability of witnesses." ENDS
Upper Bann Sinn Féin Representatives John O'Dowd and Dr. Dara O'Hagan today met with the Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan to discuss the overturning of a Parades Commission determination by the PSNI in Lurgan on July 13th.
Speaking after the meeting Mr O'Dowd said:
"Since the disgraceful events in Lurgan on July 13th when the PSNI forced a Loyal Order parade through an area of the town prohibited by the Parades Commission the local PSNI Commander has attempted to claim that his actions were due to a parked car. None of this bears up to any impartial scrutiny of the facts.
"The entire PSNI operation which involved flooding the nationalist end of the town with the riot squad while allowing thousands of loyalists, including the local LVF, to congregate in the town centre was designed to facilitate a parade into the nationalist part of the town in direct defiance of the Parades Commission. No other explanation for the style of the PSNI operation is believable.
"The PSNI member in charge of the operation Alan McCrum is part of the old RUC rump who remain in senior positions within the PSNI. For people like Alan McCrum there will only ever be one winner in a contest between the human rights of the nationalist community or the demands of any of the Loyal Orders.
"Nationalists and republicans in Lurgan will be watching closely the outcome of the investigation launched today as a result of our complaint. The actions of the PSNI in Lurgan on July 13th have caused serious damage to efforts being made by a variety of political and community leaders in the town to improve and develop community relations and Alan McCrum's pathetic and unbelievable defence of his actions in today's Irish News only adds to these difficulties." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly along with party colleagues Kathy Stanton MLA and Cllr. Danny Lavery today met with the Police Ombudsman to discuss the PSNI policing of last weeks Ardoyne Parade. The delegation asked the Ombudsman to investigate the entire PSNI operation and in particular the decision to force a UDA mob through the area. Mr Kelly also asked for an assault on him by the PSNI resulting in a broken wrist to also be investigated.
Speaking after the meeting Mr Kelly said:
"Last weekend in Ardoyne the PSNI overturned a Parades Commission determination and forced a UDA mob through three nationalist areas in North Belfast. Obviously Paul Murphy has to bear the responsibility for this. But the fact remains that he was being advised by the securocrats within the NIO and their influence could clearly be seen in the brutal tactics adopted by the PSNI against the nationalist community.
"The PSNI operation hemmed in the nationalist community in Ardoyne. Its purpose was to force an anti-Catholic parade along with leading unionist paramilitaries through a number of catholic areas. This is not acceptable policing.
"We have asked the Ombudsman to mount a full investigation into the PSNI conduct in North Belfast and the procedures followed and individuals involved in making the decision to breach the Parades Commission determination." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on All Ireland Integration, West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff has dismissed comments from former Irish Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald that Irish reunification in economically unviable as typical outdated thinking that fails to stand up to scrutiny.
Mr McElduff said:
"Sinn Féin have consistently argued that the Six County State is a failed political and economic entity. Garret Fitzgerald's analysis is typical of the outdated partitionist thinking of many Southern politicians.
"Claims that there is no desire for reunification do not stand up to scrutiny. Recent elections across the island have shown there is an appetite for reunification and over 342,000 people now support Sinn Féin's vision for Irish Unity. Irish reunification has the potential to create a real momentum and release the undoubted potential of people right across this island.
"Increasing numbers of people also now advocate for a single island economy because they recognise its potential. Reunification would require substantial investment across the Ireland to re-establish the transport and communications infrastructure but also in terms of connecting economies and the creative and knowledge based centres across the island.
"It is illogical that a small island nation of slightly over 5 million people should have two political structures, two economies, two transport systems, two education, agriculture, health, tourism etc systems. This duplication requires two bureaucracies that if challenged could generate significant new money for expenditure on front line services and infrastructure. There are real savings that can be made by removing duplication, in pooling resources and in developing economies of scale.
"The British government has failed to invest in the 6 counties for decades and 10 years on from the first IRA cessation we have still not seen a genuine peace dividend. Addressing the legacy of under investment and a genuine peace dividend has the potential to enable rapid economic development particularly in border communities, where it is impossible to ignore the negative social and economic impact of the border, and through investment in infrastructure. Garret Fitzgerald is adopting a 'head in the sand' approach if he cannot see this.
"There should also be a sense of urgency in developing an all Ireland approach within a rapidly changing Europe, particularly in protecting Ireland's interests in EU negotiations. Agriculture is a prime example of a sector where Ireland's collective EU contribution warrants a single policy and its effective articulation in Brussels. Unleashing the potential of working together on this small island will enhance the future of our farming and fishing communities and help provide a better future for rural Ireland." ENDS
Events of the last few weeks have brought into sharp focus two of the key issues that need to be addressed if there is to be political progress. These are the issues of policing and of contentious parades.
The decision of the PSNI to force a UDA parade through Ardoyne and its overturning of a Parades Commission determination in Lurgan illustrates the
unionist instinct of that organisation, its political agenda and the continuing absence of democratic accountability.
The issue of contentious parades and the wider issue of policing continues to throw into stark focus the very real difficulties which will have to be
resolved if there is to be a comprehensive resolution of all issues in September. There are 3000 loyal order parades each year. Problems arise where the Loyal Orders insist on parading through nationalist communities against the wishes of the local people.
The continued insistence on such parades and the refusal of the parading organisations to have direct dialogue with nationalist residents is an indication of the resistance within that section of unionism to the concepts of equality, dialogue and respect.
Recent events on the Springfield Road and Crumlin Road demonstrate this. In both cases the Parades Commission issued determinations, which did not meet
the wishes of the Orange Order. In response it issued threats of disruption and joined with the UUP and DUP and UDA and UVF to pressurise the Commission into reversing their decision.
On the Springfield Road the Parades Commission buckled under the combined pressure of unionism. The Commission rewarded intransigence, threat and intimidation. This was a slap in the face to nationalist residents.
The Orange Order tried the same tactics with the Crumlin Road march past Ardoyne and Mountainview. Unionists blockaded the small nationalist community of Ligoniel for 5 days, causing significant disruption and fear. The Orange Order issued statements, which could only be interpreted as veiled threats if they didn't get their way. Unionist politicians lobbied the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy.
And in the end a sordid deal was done by the NIO, to facilitate an anti catholic march by flag waving UDA supporters past nationalist homes on the Crumlin Road. This act was repeated the following day in Lurgan where the PSNI flagrantly disregarded the determination of the Parades Commission.
The lessons from all of this are clear. The British system in Ireland, represented primarily by the NIO, retains its instinctive affinity with and support for unionism. This results in the denial of the rights of nationalists. This is at the heart of the difficulties.
The approach of nationalist communities has been open and reasonable. Where local communities object to parades they have not been intransigent or inflexible. Rather they have stated their opposition and then offered dialogue to discuss and explore the possibility of resolving all the issues in a way that is mutually acceptable.
In the run up to the Springfield Road march a North and West Belfast Unionist/Loyalist Parades Forum was established involving unionist politicians, unionist paramilitaries and some members of the loyal orders. Coming so late in the day and in the absence of direct dialogue between the parade organisers and local residents this was widely perceived as a cosmetic exercise designed to convince the Parades Commission to overturn their initial decision on the Springfield Road.
Following the debacle in Ardoyne on July 12th, the Forum announced that it was willing to talk to nationalist residents but not before September. A number of very simple questions spring to mind:
It is time for maturity from the Loyal Orders. They need to realise that the only possibility of a long-term solution is direct dialogue with nationalist residents. Unionist politicians should show political leadership on this issue. The willingness of the Loyal Orders, and, indeed, unionist politicians, to sit with unionist paramilitaries on the Parades Forum makes a mockery of their refusal to engage in dialogue with nationalists.
The two governments have announced that intensive talks are scheduled for September to address and resolve outstanding issues. It is now obvious that the issues of policing and the behaviour of the NIO must be high on that agenda of those discussions.
The actions of the PSNI over recent days have been a disgrace and have undermined entirely any argument that a new beginning to policing has been achieved. The lack of accountability and the impotence of the Policing Board have been dramatically exposed. The SDLP's policy on policing is in tatters as their local representatives face the reality that bad policing, sectarian policing hasn't gone away.
Nationalists want to see the parades issue resolved. Nationalists want to see the issue of policing resolved. This can only happen through open and honest dialogue which addresses these difficult issues.
Speaking at the Patrick MacGill summer School, in Glenties, Co. Donegal, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has sharply criticised the proposal from the Minister for Education and Science Noel Dempsey for state examinations in primary schools. He said it bore all the hallmarks of a Minister "whose brainwaves inevitably go wrong".
Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The Minister for Education and Science Noel Dempsey's proposal for compulsory State testing of 7 and 11 year old children in our primary schools is a very retrograde step which would seriously damage the positive ethos of the primary system. State exams in national schools would infect them with the pressurised exam-oriented ethos of the post-primary sector.
"Where did this proposal come from? It was announced during the Dáil recess. There was no Government white paper, no green paper, no promised legislation, no consultation. This proposal bears all the hallmarks of a brainwave from a Minister prone to brainwaves that inevitably go wrong. He was, after all, the originator of the fundamentally flawed electronic voting system. The proposal for exams at primary level should be dumped without further ado."
Deputy Ó Caoláin, speaking on the theme 'TDs - messengers or legislators', said a factor which works against effective law making is the lack of cohesion and piecemeal approach of Government. Each Minister acts independently in his or her own domain.
He said, "Since I was first elected in 1997 I have seen the begrudging approach of two Fianna Fáil/PD administrations to opposition participation in law making. Constructive opposition amendments are rarely adopted. More and more legislation is pushed through with the aid of the guillotine. Promised legislation is repeatedly delayed while reactionary legislation - such as the citizenship referendum - is sprung upon us. In order to facilitate the bureaucratic changes in the health services which the Government wants to implement, a whole range of health-related bills have been postponed, some of them without a promised publication date. All of this makes the job of opposition much more difficult but also more vital in holding the government to account."
Deputy Ó Caoláin strongly refuted recent criticism of his party's performance in the Dáil from some Labour Party spokespeople:
"Some have questioned our diligence in the Dáil. Regrettably that charge has come from the Labour Party, and in the context of a debate focusing on the role of TDs I want to absolutely refute that. Each of our five TDs has a policy portfolio covering the areas of responsibility of three or four Ministers. The
record shows their diligence in Committees and in the Dáil chamber on all legislation, questioning ministers and putting forward our distinctive and
radical policies. Agree with them or disagree with them on policy matters, I challenge anyone to question the hard work and the effectiveness of the Sinn
Féin representatives in the Oireachtas."
The Sinn Féin Dáil leader said that it was "ironic" that the most significant change in Dáil procedure in recent years was when "the Labour Party did a deal
with the Government to allow the Taoiseach to absent himself from the Dail for most of Wednesday and all of Thursday." ENDS
Responding to the latest report from the widely discredited IMC, Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey said that 'nationalists and republicans knew only to well the effects of Britains war machine in Ireland as they experience it on a daily basis'.
Mr Maskey said:
"The IMC already shown itself to be a willing tool of both the PSNI Special Branch and other securocrats within the British system. It operates outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and has no credibility within the nationalist and republican community.
"The fact that the British government have 8,500 troops in Iraq in the middle of a war and they currently have just under 15,000 stationed in the six counties ten years into a peace process says much about British intent towards Ireland. The fact that republican heart lands are still saturated with spy posts and war apparatus almost ten years on from the IRA cessation is an indictment of the British failure to honour their commitments to demilitarise.
"Rather than wasting time engaging in a cosmetic exercise with the IMC trying to convince people that they are demilitarising it would be more appropriate for the British government to begin honouring its commitments and dismantling its war machine in Ireland." ENDS
Editors Note: Mr Maskey will attend a picket organised by those campaigning to expose British involvement in state sanctioned murder and the IMC ignoring ongoing collusion outside the Hilton Hotel at 3pm.