The Irish Republican Media has an exclusive interview with Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness from today's campaign launch on its website, www.irishrepublicanmedia.com.
Mr. McGuinness discusses Sinn Féin's Assembly election campaign and why he is confident that Sinn Féin will make big gains on 26 November.
Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Paul Butler has said that the decision of the British Conservative Party to abandon the position of NI spokesperson in their Shadow Cabinet was 'a recognition of the reality of post Good Friday Agreement politics'.
Cllr. Butler said:
" Today's decision by the British Conservative Party to abandon the position of NI spokesperson in their Shadow cabinet is a recognition of the reality of post Good Friday Agreement politics. It shows the journey the Tories have been forced to travel since their former leader Thatcher declared the Six Counties 'as British as Finchley'.
" Increasingly British politicians are coming to the realisation that they should become persuaders for Irish Unity. The main parties should now move to this position as a matter of policy." ENDS
Sinn Féin will hold a press conference in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street, tomorrow Tuesday November 11th at 10.30am to outline details of the party's Private Members' motion to the Dáil that evening which seeks to have the right to housing enshrined in the Constitution.
Speaking in advance of the Press Conference, Sinn Fein's spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD said:
"Sinn Fein is confident that an overwhelming majority of the people of this State would support the enshrinement of the right to housing in the 1937 Constitution. The current government has consistently failed to address the housing crisis which has become progressively worse during its six year reign. It has become obvious that the absence of a constitutional protection for the right to housing has played a significant role in allowing the government to get away with not acting in the interests of the homeless and others affected by the housing crisis. We hope the Government will accept the Bill and that a referendum on the issue will be brought before the people at an early date".
Also attending the press conference will be Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, Marylou McDonald -Sinn Féin EU candidate for Dublin - and Mary Nelis MLA - Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson in the Six Counties. ENDS
At the launch of the party's election campaign, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness was joined by party colleagues Caitríona Ruane, Kathy Stanton, Alex Maskey and Pat Doherty.
Mr. McGuinness said:
"The story of this election will be the return of Sinn Féin to the Assembly as the largest nationalist party.
"The pro-Agreement electorate recognises that Sinn Féin are the most effective negotiators.
"For that reason people want to see a Sinn Féin First or Deputy First Minister. I believe that will happen.
"We have delivered significant change. Republicans have taken risks for this process and we are asking people to endorse this.
"Sinn Féin is on the verge of an historic advance which will be seen across the north in Belfast, North and South Antrim, East Derry, Upper Bann, Lagan Valley and South Down, as well as republican heartlands West of the Bann and in Newry & Armagh.
"In this election we are asking people to join with us in defending the Good Friday Agreement against those who wish to destroy it. There will be no renegotiation. Sinn Féin will ensure that the Agreement is implemented in full. I am appealing for people to come out and vote in this election. We cannot take anything for granted.
"A vote for Sinn Féin in this election is a vote for change. It is a vote for peace. And it is a vote for the implementation of your agreement."ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris and Fermanagh South Tyrone Candidate Councillor Gerry McHugh have strongly attacked the EU Commission for having succumbed to US pressure to allow the sale of genetically modified food. Deputy Ferris and Cllr. McHugh were speaking following a decision by a Commission group to postpone a vote on the sale of genetically modified sweetcorn until December. The product in question is a variety known as 'Bt 11' manufactured by the Swiss corporation Syngenta.
Deputy Ferris said:
"This attempt by the Commission to approve the sale of GM foods must be regarded with suspicion. It would appear clear that they are trying to get approval for this product before more stringent regulations come into force. The Commission is caving in to pressure from the United States, which has a massive interest in opening up European markets for GM, but is opposed by the vast majority of European farmers and consumers. The fact that the decision was postponed, however, would indicate that there is still opposition among the 15. We will be asking Minister Joe Walsh to explain what way the Irish representative voted, and will be calling on him to ensure that when this issue comes back for decision on December 12, that Ireland oppes the move".ENDS
Speaking at the launch of Society of St. Vincent de Paul research on poverty in Belfast today, for which she has written the forward, former Sinn Féin Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, West Belfast Assembly candidate Bairbre de Brún said:
"St. Vincent de Paul plays a substantial role in our society, providing those most of need with the support, assistance and guidance to make it through the difficult periods of their lives. The results of this research and the recommendations arising from it need to be taken seriously by all of us in society and in public service interested in building a better society.
"One in four adults and one in three children in Irish society, North and South, suffer poverty. It destroys lives, reduces the human capacity to create and achieve and blights communities for generations. The better off you are, the healthier you are; the longer you can expect to live; and the less likely you are to spend the later years of your life suffering from chronic disease or disability.
"The Executive's Investing for Health strategy, for which I had the priveledge of being lead Minister, recognises that poorer families have less money to spend on the key physical determinants that effect health - such as good food and comfortable housing. They live and work in more difficult conditions. They lead more stressful lives.
"We need to do more to eradicate poverty and to break the cycle of ill health, low achievement, high unemployment and debt that affect the most vulnerable in our society." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will formally launch the party's Assembly Election campaign at 11am tomorrow, Monday 10th, in the Culturlann, Falls Road, Belfast.
Mr. Adams will be joined at the press conference by other members of the party's leadership.
West Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Michael Ferguson has accused Jane Kennedy of putting her allegiance to the British military in front of her responsibilities as Education Minister.
Cllr. Ferguson said:
"On Friday the British army disrupted an 11 plus examination at a West Belfast Primary School by hovering over the building. Requests by the school principal to the British military to end the activity were ignored.
"As a result of the deeply flawed system of Direct Rule imposed by the British government the Minister responsible for the education of our young people Jane Kennedy is also responsible for security matters.
"Up until now she has failed to make any comment or take any action after the disgraceful disruption of the 11 plus examination. It seems that Jane Kennedy will, like countless British Ministers before her, put the narrow interests of the British military in Ireland in front of any concerns for the people who actually live here. In this instance 11 year old children.
"Her failure to respond to this very serious matter is an indictment of not just herself, but of the system of direct rule imposed upon us." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP in the course of a keynote address at the annual Edentubber Commemoration in County Louth on Sunday afternoon will say that republicans have good cause to be disappointed and good cause to be angry about the events of 21st October but "we must not allow this to cloud our political judgement. We are committed to this process and we do not intend to walk away from it. Nor do we intend to allow others to deny or escape from their obligations with respect to this process." He went on to say "There cannot and will not be any re-negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no new agreement. But there obviously is a need to make sure the unfinished business of the Agreement is completed."
Mr. Adams said:
"I want to comment briefly on events of 21st October and the discussions which led up to these events. It is just over a year since the British Government collapsed the political institutions.
"It's decision to do so, and the cancellation of the May elections, caused enormous frustration and anger among all of us who have vested so much in building the peace process, in constructing the Good Friday Agreement and in pursuit of the full implementation of the Agreement. The approach of both governments in this period and indeed before has tested the patience of republicans to the limit.
"We have good cause to be disappointed and good cause to be angry. But we must not allow this to cloud our political judgement. We are committed to this process and we do not intend to walk away from it. Nor do we intend to allow others to deny or escape from their obligations with respect to this process.
"In the run up to the summer months the Sinn Féin leadership initiated an intensive dialogue with Ulster Unionists. Our objective was to try and ensure that people living on the interfaces had as peaceful a summer as possible. And although some areas continued to face difficulties, in the main our dialogue succeeded.
"We also sought to ensure that the election, which we were demanding, would take place in a climate most conducive to bringing about restored political institutions on a stable basis.
"This intense dialogue between the UUP and Sinn Féin has been a hugely important development in itself. Notwithstanding the present difficulties and whatever the explanation from the UUP about their failure to deliver on what they had agreed to, this must be protected. The task facing us has undoubtedly been made much more difficult by the position adopted by the UUP. But dialogue, a genuine dialogue with them is key to future political progress. So, we will return to this in the wake of the election.
"For the record let me state again. The culmination of our discussions with the UUP was an agreement on a choreographed sequence of statements and events to give public expression to that agreement. This included statements and actions from Sinn Féin, the IRA, the UUP and British and Irish governments.
"Sinn Féin delivered our part of this sequence as agreed.
"The IRA delivered their part of the sequence as agreed.
"It was then that the UUP walked away.
"Only they can explain why. They have yet to adequately or satisfactorily do so. And whatever their reason or explanation it was certainly not because republicans did not deliver.
"David Trimble knew what the IRA had undertaken to do. And David Trimble knew that neither he nor, for that matter, Sinn Féin or either government, could dictate how the IICD, an independent body, would report this. So, it beggars belief, and it is totally unacceptable, that the entire peace process should be put on hold because the UUP were not satisfied with the IICD description of the IRA initiative.
"But of course, the UUP are not the only ones who have yet to deliver on their commitments. Both governments were also part of the agreed choreographed sequence which was to begin on 21 October.
"So, there is a particular onus on Dublin and London to honour the commitments which they made as part of the overall agreement. This requires them to address and resolve a number of issues including the implementation of a programme of demilitarisation, a resolution of the issue of OTRs, and the need for northern nationalist representation in the Dáil, among other matters. We will also return to all of this after the election.
"Let me make it clear. There cannot and will not be any renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no new agreement. But there obviously is a need to make sure the unfinished business of the Agreement is completed. An increased Sinn Féin vote is one way to ensure that. No one here should be surprised that the two governments have not fully implemented their commitments.
"Why would they when the SDLP is always prepared to settle for less? That is why this election is so crucial. The immediate task for all republicans is to increase the Sinn Féin mandate. We need to strengthen our hand."ENDS
Sinn Fein Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone Assembly candidate Cllr Gerry McHugh has questioned the political leadership of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Cllr McHugh said:
"Everyone in the agricultural industry knows all too well that DARD work at a snail pace. They have NO direction and NO ambition. But whose fault is this? We have had five years of political dithering, NO hard decisions, just photo calls and empty promises.
"Last week the former permanent secretary of DARD Bill Hodges pointed out that dithering in the private sector would lead to bankruptcy. Both the former permanent secretary and the Minister should wake up and smell the roses, farmers are almost bankrupt. Last December I discovered that farmers owed over £500 million to banks alone. £88 per week is the average farm income. Yet DARD is not bankrupt with administration costs of over £4000 per farm. No adequate politician would allow this to continue.
"DARD got a £50 million uplift in the last budget. Farmers have not been prepared for the changes that are around the corner on CAP reform. There will be an enormous shift towards the protection of the environment; we have to ensure that the threshold is not set too high on cross compliance. A new expanded Europe to 25 members, and the likely renegotiation next year of the failed World Trade talks, which will put great pressure on our export refunds are all issues that must be addressed now.
"One of the most crucial decisions to made in the near future is the model to be used in calculating the decoupled payment. This must reflect the fairest distribution of money to all farmers.
"We have the best food in the world; it must be sold as such and on an all-Ireland basis. The beef export ban must be lifted immediately, this is an yet another example of DARD's total lack of will or interest in agriculture and farm incomes.
"DARD have become an agency that polices the agricultural industry, not a department to assist and nurture new economic activity. No politician should have allowed that to happen. Why has Brucellosis and Tuberculoses not been eradicated? Why after being promised by the North South Ministerial Council that we would have an all-island animal health strategy by December 2002 has this not been put in place? Why was the whole of the Rural Development Programme allowed to drift with little or no affect on farm families? Why have its delivery mechanisms not been made more accessible? It is time that there was political leadership on these vital questions because time for our rural communities and farming industry is running out."ENDS
Sinn Féin South Belfast Representative Alex Maskey has hit out at those responsible for three separate robberies on the elderly in Belfast last night.
Mr. Maskey said:
"Last night in South Belfast robbers attacked elderly people in both Malone and Beechlands. A similar robbery also took place in the North of the city. Unfortunately it seems that these sorts of vicious attacks on the elderly are on the increase.
"The community needs to stand up to those responsible for these attacks. We must look out for our elderly neighbours and friends and ensure that they are not living in the sort of fear that many currently are.
"Yesterday I attended the launch of the Age Sector manifesto in Belfast and for many of those present the dominant issue was one of safety in the home. We must create a society where the elderly are cherished and not attacked in the disgraceful manner we have witnessed in recent months." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and former Health Minister Bairbre de Brún are in South Down this morning canvassing with the party's candidates - Eamon McConvey, Willie Clarke and Caitriona Ruane.
They will be available to speak to the media during a walkabout in Market Place Downpatrick at 11am.
Mr. Adams will address the annual Edentubber commemoration tomorrow (Sunday 9th) in Co. Louth. The parade will leave Ravensdale at 2.30pm.
North Antrim Sinn Féin representative Philip McGuigan has said that reports from the Electoral Commission indicating that 180,000 are not registered and another 36,000 people are without proper ID, is further evidence of the complete mess made of the entire process by the Electoral Office and raises serious questions for the SDLP, UUP and DUP who supported the legislation to allow this disenfranchising exercise to take place.
Cllr. McGuigan said:
"Reports suggest that the Electoral Commission believe that up to 180,000 people are missing from the current register and another 36,000 who are on the register will be unable to vote because of the new ID regulations. It has been Sinn Féin‚s view that the Electoral Office made a complete mess of the registration process and many of these mistakes are being repeated again.
"To the credit of Sinn Féin activists across the north many of those removed from the register last year have managed to reclaim their vote through rolling registration. But this does not take away from the fact that the registration process is deeply flawed and needs changed radically.
"This exercise in disenfranchisement poses many questions for the SDLP, UUP and DUP. They ushered the legislation behind this through the British House of Commons without any regard for its consequences. They put their own narrow political agendas in front of the ordinary citizen and we can all now see the result.
"These parties need to explain their position to those 180,000 people who will now be denied their democratic rights and entitlements as a direct result of their position."ENDS
Sinn Féin will hold a press conference in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street onTuesday next (November 11th) at 10.30am to outline details of the party's Private Members motion to the Dáil next week which seeks to have the right to housing enshrined in the Constitution.
Attending the press conference will be Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, Arthur Morgan TD, the party's spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Marylou McDonald, Sinn Féin EU candidate for Dublin and Mary Nelis MLA, Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson in the Six Counties.
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking as children prepare to sit the 11+ transfer test has said that Jane Kennedy's failure to commit to 2004 as the final exam date is creating uncertainty and confusion.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The uncertainty created by Jane Kennedy's handling of the 11+ has been bad for parents and children and led to uncertainty in the different education sectors. By refusing to confirm that children in 2004 will be the last to sit the 11+ Jane Kennedy has created the space to allow those who support academic rejection of children at 11 the space to peddle their myths and lies.
"The most common myth peddled those who support academic rejection at 11 is that academic selection provides a ladder to success for working class and disadvantaged children. But the truth is that the removal of academic selection will not deprive bright, disadvantaged pupils of the opportunity of a first-rate education. Only 8% of pupils in grammar schools come from low-income families.
"Transfer test results show that the children from privileged backgrounds are 4 times more likely to achieve a grade A in the 11+ than the most disadvantaged of our children. Hardly making a good case for academic selection.
"The worst results in the 11+ are in state schools with high levels of free school meals in working class Protestant areas - in the Shankill less than 2% of pupils achieved a grammar school place. That is a damning statistic. The system is not helping the working class and it is certainly not helping children from working class Protestant families. Those who support academic rejection from unionist parties must ask themselves why they support a system that fails children most in need from within their own community." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and South Belfast Representative Alex Maskey this morning launched the party's Assembly election website on the Ormeau Road in Belfast. Mr. Adams said that the site would be an important way of encouraging young people, many of whom were turned off by the cancellation of the election last May, to come out and vote. It will also be a valuable tool in getting our message to the voter uncensored."
Mr. Adams said:
"Since its launch during the summer, the Sinn Féin website has been going from strength to strength. In three months there have been more than three milliion hits on the site and hundreds of people from right across the country have joined Sinn Féin on-line.
"The election site will be critical to our election campaign and will be an important tool in reaching people across society but in particular young people and voters who are following the campaign from abroad.
"The site contains extensive information on all aspects of our election campaign including candidate profiles, constituency information, campaign literature, party political broadcast and policy information. The election newsroom is updated several times daily. People can also join the party or help local election teams during the campaign.
"During the course of the campaign we will also have exclusive behind-the-scenes video clips which will be carried on the Irish Republican Media news service.
"We will also have extensive coverage when we go to the polls on November 26th and from the count centres across the north on November 27th. This will include regular updates from senior party figures, candidates and party activists at the count centres."ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as "a blast of hot air" the spin being put on Finance Minister McCreevy's address to the Construction Industry Federation where he 'warned' over the spiralling cost of infrastructure projects. Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Minister had no intention of challenging the industry which had so many "friends of Fianna Fáil" within it. He said the Government's "scandalous mismanagement" was shown by the Minister's pet project at Punchestown. Ó Caoláin said:
"The Minister was attempting to talk tough when he addressed the Construction Industry Federation. He took them to task for the massive cost over-runs in infrastructure projects. But the question is what is Minister McCreevy going to do about it? Does he really think they are going to respond positively to an appeal to 'take more positive steps to improve productivity and to get price levels down further'?
"Incredibly, the Minister actually asked advice on housing from this gathering of developers and speculators, many of them no doubt, big donors to the Fianna Fáil party. It is about time the Minister listened to the advice of Members of the Dáil about the housing crisis. He and his colleagues have certainly listened to the developers, not least when they emasculated Section 5 of the Planning Act 2000, with its requirement of 20% social and affordable housing in all developments.
"There is astonishment and anger among the public about the scandalous Punchestown Racecourse project in the Minister's own constituency which was fully funded by the Government at double the original projected cost. The Comptroller and Auditor General found conditions governing the State's financial support had not been referred to the Department of Agriculture and Food's legal advisers to ensure they were properly constructed and legally sound. The Minister ran away from the issue in the Dáil.
"It is a scandal that a centre that will cater to a sporting sector which is swimming in wealth has such a commitment from the Government and the Minister personally while other sporting and voluntary organisations are competing for a limited fund under the Sports Capital Programme and are being ignored." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and South Belfast representative Alex Maskey will officially launch the all new Sinn Féin Election website tomorrow, Friday 7th November 2003, at 12.30pm in the XTP centre on the Ormeau Road in South Belfast.
This will be followed by a walkabout and canvas of the area.
Belfast - A City of Equals
This morning Sinn Féin launched its Belfast Election Campaign in the Waterfront Hall. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP was accompanied by the party's eight other Belfast candidates and the party's Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness.
Speaking at the Waterfront Hall, Mr Adams said:
" Much has changed in Belfast over the past 20 years, since Alex Maskey became the first Sinn Féin Councillor in this city. Since then Sinn Féin has become the largest political party in Belfast and our track record is there for everyone to see. We delivered in our communities, in City Hall, in the Assembly and in the peace process.
" Sinn Féin is facing into this Assembly election confident of making gains in the city. We have set ourselves a target of taking eight Belfast seats in the new Assembly. That means taking an extra seat in North Belfast, South Belfast and West Belfast and retaining our position as the lead nationalist party in East Belfast. This will not be an easy challenge, but it is an achievable one." ENDS
Editors Note: Sinn Féin Team in Belfast.
Gerry Adams, Sue Ramsey, Bairbre de Brún, Michael Ferguson, Fra McCann - West Belfast
Gerry Kelly, Kathy Stanton - North Belfast
Alex Maskey - South Belfast
Joe O'Donnell - East Belfast
South Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Alex Maskey has welcomed the decision of the BBC to modify its position relating to election coverage in the light of a Sinn Féin court challenge.
Cllr. Maskey said:
"Yesterday Sinn Féin launched High Court proceedings in Belfast challenging the manner in which the BBC were covering the Assembly election campaign. It was clear that the guidelines they were using discriminated against the republican electorate.
"Yesterday the judge told the BBC to give their position mature reflection overnight. This morning they returned to the court and agreed to modify their position regarding election coverage.
"In light of this the case against the BBC would not proceed any further. However we will continue to monitor election coverage closely during the campaign and we will not hesitate to challenge overt discrimination again." ENDS