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Sinn Féin County Councillor Toiréasa Ní Fhearaíosa has welcomed the support on Kerry County Council for her motion calling for Presidential voting rights for Six Counties residents. This follows the passing of a motion by Newry and Mourne District Council, last year, asking Councils throughout the island to support the extension of the franchise.

Speaking today Cllr. Ní Fhearaíosa said:

"Following our successful Assembly election Sinn Féin will continue to push for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. This will include getting An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to fulfil his commitments regarding all

Ireland representation. I am delighted with the support this motion received on Kerry County Council and it shows the growing support Sinn Féin is getting right across the political spectrum for our All-Ireland agenda.

"After the Good Friday Agreement, Mr. Ahern instructed the All Party Committee on the Oireachtas and the Constitution to consider how the people of the Six Counties might play a "more active part in national political life.

The Committee recognised in their recommendations that the most obvious, immediately inclusive area, would be in extending voting rights in Presidential Elections to all Irish Citizens living on the island of Ireland, in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Good Friday Agreement as contained in the amended Article 2 of the 1937 Constitution.

"It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born on the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. By passing this motion today, Kerry County Council has supported this most basic right. Now Sinn Féin is urging the government to fulfil its promise and support this right also." ENDS

Motion passed: That this City Council urges the Taoiseach and the Irish Government to recognise the exclusion of Irish Citizens resident in the six counties from exercising their right to participate in Presidential Elections and calls on the government to bring forward the necessary legislation to allow them to vote in elections for the Office of President of Ireland

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Sinn Féin Assembly Group leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy will head Sinn Féin's Review team in the upcoming discussions. Commenting on the meeting today in London between the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Mr Murphy said that the review agenda must ensure the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Murphy said:

"People voted in overwhelming numbers for the Good Friday Agreement five years ago. It is an important landmark on the road to resolving the age-old conflict here in Ireland. However, if the next five years are like the last five years then there is no doubt that we face stalemate, stagnation and eventual breakdown. No political process can be sustained that way.

"The Agreement is not just about delivering sustainable institutions. It is about making things better for all of our communities.

"This places a heavy responsibility on us all, but particularly on the two governments and Mr Blair and Mr Ahern, to provide political leadership. With political will and the proper approach and strategies we can move this process forward.

"Sinn Féin have made it clear that this is a review of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. It is not a substitute for working political institutions and it is not a renegotiation of the Agreement. The format and agenda of the review must be used as an opportunity to give a renewed impetus to the full implementation of the Agreement." ENDS

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North Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Kathy Stanton has hit out after two suspicious devices were left outside Catholic schools in the area over night.

Ms Stanton said:

"This morning suspicious devices were found outside Holy Cross Primary School and St. Gabriels Secondary School. It is my firm belief that the UDA were behind these incidents and that they are the latest instalment in what has been a long campaign against Catholics in this area.

"Nationalists in areas like North Belfast are sick and tired of the phoney debate over the status of the UDA cessation. The reality is that the UDA is not on cessation and has not been on cessation for some time. They have remained engaged in a violent campaign against Catholics despite repeated announcements of cessations and initiatives.

"The British government has tolerated the UDA campaign for years. Its agencies control and operate agents within the leadership of this organisation, yet the violence and disruption is allowed to continue." ENDS

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Commenting on the Police Ombudsman Investigation into the murder of Sean Brown Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness said that the report was 'a damning indictment of collusion and cover-up'. He went on to question the current role of former RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan as a Policing Inspector given the content of today's report.

Mr McGuinness said:

"I have always held the belief that the murder of Sean Brown ten days after the 1997 Westminster election was a direct response by the unionist paramilitaries to the DUP MP Willie McCrea losing his seat.

"Today's report by the Police Ombudsman is a damning indictment of the policy of collusion and cover up. Files missing from a number of barracks, no effort to apprehend the killers, the family treated with contempt and the former RUC and PSNI Chief Ronnie Flanagan ignoring a request from the Coroner John Leckey for an outside investigation.

"It is my belief that serious questions remain over the current position of Ronnie Flanagan as a policing inspector given the detail contained in this report and other similar probes. There is also now an onus on the current PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde to state publicly if the individuals involved in the original investigation are still members of his force and to explain how files went missing from barracks where only his officers had access to them.

"I would like to pay tribute to Sean Brown's family who have refused to accept the lies and the half truths. They demanded to know the truth and they have pursued this matter relentlessly over the past six years.

"It is my hope that this Report can act as a catalyst to allow the family of Sean Brown to finally discover the truth around his murder." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Cllr Joe Reilly has said that the decision of An Post not to pay the 3% National Wage Agreement and to renege on other pay agreements is wrong, unfair and unjust to the local postal workers.

Cllr Reilly said:

"I have been informed that An Post has informed over 35 Navan postal workers, in writing, that they are pleading "inability to pay" the national wage agreement of 3% increase due this month. They also stated their intent to renege on an agreement that was intended to compensate workers for a reduction in weekly income due to the closure of the Letter Forwarding Office (LFO) in Navan in the coming weeks.

"The decision by An Post to break agreements entered into is a disgrace. It was not An Post staff that has reduced this once fine company to the sorry mess it is today. It was management. They have run the company into the ground and they did in the full knowledge of government. The managements lack of vision, of direction and foresight was clearly in evidence when company representatives met with Navan Town Council some months ago. It was clearly evident that they knew little of Navan or its needs. They had no development plans, no new investment plans, nothing, to meet the requirments of a changing Navan. It therefore comes as no surprise to me that the company appears unwilling to meet its responsibilities to its employees.

"If the company it to overcome it present difficulties it is an imperative that it has the confidence of its workforce and the workforce are entitled to believe that the company keeps agreements it freely entered into.

"I therefore call on the company to pay the wage increase of 3%, and to stick to the agreement of compensating workers for their loss of income, when the LFO closes"ENDS

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Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA flies to Washington tomorrow to meet senior US Government officials.

The visit comes at a crucial point in the peace process and shortly before the review of the Good Friday Agreement is scheduled to start.

The Sinn Fein leader will also be speaking to senior US political figures and will make a courtesy call on former US President Jimmy Carter in Atlanta. President Carter has a unique and distinguished record of work on human rights and conflict resolution matters.

Mr. Adams commenting today said:

"This visit will provide me with an opportunity to brief the US government and senior political figures on the situation in the north following November‚s Assembly elections.

"The United States has proved an invaluable ally in developing and sustaining the peace process. It is crucial that we continue to engage with it seeking its support and advice. Richard Haass was a key player in the past and contributed significantly to the efforts to resolve difficulties in the process.

"I am also pleased to have the opportunity to meet former US President Jimmy Carter. He has been a vocal and effective voice of reason arguing for human rights and justice and conflict resolution processes." ENDS

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Ag an gcruinniú míosúil den Chomhairle Bhaile Thrá Lí, bhi rún ag Cllr. Risteárd Ó Fuaráin ag iarraidh ar An Post aitheantas ceart a thabhairt don Ghaeilge. At the monthly meeting of Tralee Town Council, Cllr. Risteárd O Fuarain tabled a motion calling an An Post to afford equal status to the Irish language.

In tabling the motion, Cllr. Ó Fuaráin said;

"The Official Languages Act 2003 places certain obligations on bodies to give equal status to the Irish language. However, An Post have failed to do this. I would like to make particular reference to Part 5 of the Act which states that public bodies must use both Irish and English forms of place names.

"The new signage erected by An Post has the placename in English only. This is totally unacceptable. This comes on the back of the practice by An Post to publish correspondence which is devoid of any Irish and even has 'Post Office' as it's heading with no trace of 'An Post'. 'An Post' must halt this unacceptable trend immediately and correct the mistakes that they have made. Those with a respect for the Irish language will accept nothing less".

The motion was passed unanimously. DEIREADH/ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has launched a stinging attack on the record of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and he challenged him over his record of acts of completion.

Mr. Doherty said:

"Mr. Blair has again raised the issue of 'Acts of Completion' by Republicans. He made no mention of unionist paramilitaries, at a time when they are creating havoc on the streets of Belfast and threatening more violence if they do not get their way in Maghaberry.

"There was no mention from Mr. Blair of the promised demilitarisation by British Crown Forces in Ireland.

"But perhaps more significant was no mention or sign that the Cory Report into the killings of citizens by the various British Agencies is to be published or acted upon.

"What about your acts of completion Mr. Blair?"ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Mid-Ulster Martin McGuinness has repeated his party's support for the family of murdered Bellaghy GAA member Sean Browne. Mr. McGuinness's comments come on the eve of what is expected to be a damning report from the Police Ombudsman into the RUC investigation into the killing.

Mr. McGuinness said:

"The Browne family have been campaigning for a number of years in their search for answers surrounding the murder of Sean Browne at Bellaghy GAA club in 1997. There has been a widely held belief locally that the circumstances of the killing were not investigated properly.

"Sean Browne was killed within a month of DUP MP Willie McCrea who had shared platforms with the LVF leadership losing his Westminster seat. Many people felt at the time that this murder in the same constituency was the LVF response to that election.

"The family of Sean Browne deserve answers. It is my hope that tomorrow's report from the Police Ombudsman will be a step along that road."ENDS

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Ógra Shinn Féin today launched their campaign to see voting rights in this year‚s Presidential election extended to Irish citizens in the Six Counties. They are also asking people to support their campaign by signing their online petition at www.apresidentforall.com. Speaking at the launch which took place at their National Congress in Dublin Ógra Shinn Féin spokesperson Eamon Conway said:

"Today at our National Congress more than 100 young people from across Ireland met to agree Ógra Shinn Féin‚s priorities for the coming year. One of our main campaigns will be to see voting rights for the 2004 Presidential election extended to Irish Citizens in the Six Counties.

"At present, we have a President who was born in Belfast; but the very people who grew up with her and still live in Belfast, could not vote for her. This must not be allowed to happen again.

"It is almost five years since the people of Ireland voted for the Good Friday Agreement, five years since the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that he would look at how people in the North could participate in national political life. But five years on the government has done nothing to bring this about. With the Presidential election due to take place this Autumn, the Government have an opportunity to do the right thing and we are going to work to make it happen.

"Over the next six months we will be bringing this campaign to every county in Ireland. We will be distributing thousands of leaflets and posters and asking people to sign out on-line petition, to lobby elected representatives, including the Taoiseach and to attend our public rallies.

"We are confidant that this campaign will be successful and that we will have the first election since 1918 where all Irish citizens on the island will be eligible to vote." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly today attended the launch of Ógra Shinn Féin's campaign to secure voting rights for Irish citizens in the Six Counties in this year's Presidential election campaign. Mr. Kelly said "the Irish government had stalled long enough. It is long past time that they bring forward the necessary legislation to allow Irish citizens in the Six Counties to vote in the 2004 Presidential election."

Mr. Kelly said:

"One of the most significant consequences of partition has been the effective disenfranchisement of the nationalist population living in the Six Counties.

"People in the Six Counties cannot vote for the President of Ireland; indeed, the current President, Mary McAleese, could not vote for herself. People in the Six Counties cannot vote on any proposed change in the constitution, which includes them. And they have not been afforded representation in the Dail, which frequently holds debates and takes decisions, which directly impact on their lives. Furthermore tens of thousands of people in the Six Counties elect their parliamentary representatives as Irish legislators and they are currently denied access to a parliamentary forum.

"For many years now Sinn Féin has been lobbying intensively for Northern participation in the political life of the nation. We raised the matter during the Good Friday Agreement discussions and following the signing of the Agreement the Taoiseach instructed the All-Party Committee on the Constitution to look into the various issues involved.

"It took the Committee from 1998 to 2002 to report on the issue and even their cautious recommendations recognised that the most obvious first step would be to extend voting rights in Presidential elections to all Irish citizens living on the island of Ireland. And several years on there has been no action from the Irish government.

"People from all over Ireland voted for the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish constitution was changed on the understanding that the Agreement would be implemented and change happen. The Irish government has failed to act on this issue for long enough. It is long past time that they bring forward the necessary legislation to allow Irish citizens in the Six Counties to vote in the 2004 Presidential election. It is an important part of the peace process and a natural outworking of the Good Friday Agreement.

"I want to commend Ógra Shinn Féin for launching this campaign and it will be getting the full backing of the party. And we will continue to campaign and negotiate until we secure:

* The right to vote in Presidential elections for citizens in the Six Counties

* Right of attendance at the Dáil for the 18 Westminster MPs elected in the Six Counties.

* Reform of the Seanad to include election by a national list system with people in the Six Counties having the right to vote." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has said that Ian Pearson is wrong to reject criticism of the Barnett formula that is used to calculate our Budget allocation from the British Treasury and question whether his judgement is based on what the British Treasury want or what people here need.

Cllr Molloy, former chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, said:

"Ian Pearson is wrong to reject criticism of the Barnett formula, especially when the man who devised the formula has himself rejected it as a fair basis for allocating our Budget because it is only a head count that takes no account of the levels of need that exists here, our age profile or the rural nature of the Six Counties.

"Our elderly population is increasing at a faster rate than in Britain, we have a younger population and our birth rate is higher. This means that we have significantly higher health and social care costs. We also have greater relative deprivation and associated higher levels of illness and early death. We also have a much lower proportion of people in employment compared to England and a much higher level of benefit dependency.

"For Ian Pearson to refuse to publish the Needs and Effectiveness evaluations that were carried out for the locally accountable Executive as flawed is a disgrace. These studies were initiated as part of a campaign initiated by Sinn Féin Ministers in the Executive who also secured the Programme for Government commitment to challenge the Barnett formula.

"Is Ian Pearson now going to live up to those Programme for government commitments and challenge the unfair Barnett formula? Is he going to recognise the priorities already identified by putting more resources particularly into the provision of health services.

"Despite his assertion that he will not publish the Needs and Effectiveness Evaluations because they are flawed, there is obviously a communication breakdown between Ian Pearson and his direct rule colleague running the Health department because the Health study has been available on the Health website since December 2nd.

"Ian Pearson refusal to publish these studies and refusal to challenge the Barnett formula that means we are worse off and have less money for our services is a matter of deep concern. Is Ian Pearson's judgement based on what is best for his political masters in Downing Street and the British Treasury or is it based on what is best for people who live here all year round."ENDS

Note to Editors

1. By 2010 the population aged 65 and over here is expected to increase by 15% compared to 8% in England and 7% in Scotland. Growth in the most needy population aged 85 and over is even greater, by 2025 this group is expected have increased by 72% here compared to 47% in England.

2. 30% of our population is 20 or under compared with 25% in England. The birth rate is still 11% higher than England, although the gap is narrowing.

3. The Standardised mortality Ratio for persons under 75, as a measure of early death, is 7% higher here than in England.

4. In deprivation terms we have a far lower proportion of people in employment - 66% here compared to 76% in England. The level of income support benefit recipients is 68% higher here than in England and the proportion of lone parent families is 38% higher here than in England.

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Speaking today before meeting the International Monitoring Commission Sinn Féin MLA Bairbre de Brún said that the delegation would be making it 'very clear to the Commission that the remit they operate under is outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement'

Ms de Brún said:

"This afternoon we will meet with the International Monitoring Commission. We will be making it very clear to them that their remit is outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The legislation gives the power of exclusion to the British Secretary of State. Such powers contradict the democratic norms and the rights of the electorate.

"The IMC reports will be based upon information supplied by securocrats. and it is our firm belief that they are a smokescreen to validate arbitrary acts of exclusion by the British Secretary of State." ENDS

Editors Note: A Sinn Féin Delegation consisting of Bairbre de Brún, Conor Murphy and Alex Maskey will meet with the IMC today at 5pm at the IMC offices, Adelaide Street, Belfast

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Speaking in advance of the planned closure of the Curragh Place of Detention on Monday as part of the Minister for Justice's prison restructuring plans, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD called for the scrapping of the Minister's plans as they "do not tackle the real sources of overspending on the prison service and bear no relation to the need for comprehensive reform." Sinn Féin are calling on the Minister to embark on systematic, comprehensive, evidence-based reforms and restructuring following a transparent review process.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"There are a number of unanswered questions about the Minister's plans, not least of which is whether they will ultimately cost less than present configurations.

"For example, the Minister has made a commitment that no prison officer jobs will be lost as a result of the restructuring. But he has also indicated that Shelton Abbey and Loughan House will be reopened under new management. If they are not going to be run by prison officers, this will mean paying for additional staff. He has decided to outsource the prison escort service against the recommendation of his own expert group who were unconvinced that private contracting would cost less. Indeed, the Minister admitted to me that comparative costing for this service had not been done. In addition, his closure plans do not affect the two most expensive prisons to run - much less those actually recommended for closure by the Prison Inspectorate. If the Minister cannot conclusively demonstrate that his overall package will save the taxpayer money, then his plans make no sense. At minimum, he must publish a full comparative costing of his plans and present arrangements to let the public judge for themselves.

"In the long run, the Minister's plans may even cost us more. For example, in contrast to his guarantees on prison officer jobs, he has said he will make no guarantees for the jobs of those who work in rehabilitative services in these institutions. Employment and training workshops in some prisons are already closing and prison educators being laid off due to budgetary cutbacks imposed by the Minister. Despite the critical role rehabilitation, education and training services for prisoners play in reducing repeat-offending, and thus medium to long-term costs, the Minister has refused to ringfence any overtime savings for redeployment to these services. But if repeat-offending is not reduced, prisoner numbers will stay stable or increase and the service will cost more.

"It is true that we are spending too much on Prison Officer overtime, but we are also spending far too much on imprisonment generally. Overtime is a factor, but it is not the only factor. The two real sources of the prison budget overspending are over-incarceration and high prisoner-staff ratios.

"There is no question that the prison service needs to be restructured, and its high costs tackled. In fact, it needs a comprehensive review and reform with a view to modernisation and to bring it in-line with best international practice. This is what Sinn Féin is calling for. However the Minister's plans to restructure the service are not based on evidence or expert review and recommendation and bear no relation to the need for comprehensive reform. They should be scrapped." ENDS

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Ógra Shinn Féin's National Congress will take place tomorrow, Saturday 17th, in the Teachers Club, 36 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. At the congress they will launch their campaign seeking voting rights for Irish citizens in the Six Counties in the upcoming Presidential Elections.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly will launch the campaign at 1.15pm at the Teachers Club.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, North Down MLA Caitríiona Ruane has called on the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy to "immediately clarify which human rights considerations are being used by the British government to prevent the publication of Judge Cory's reports."

Ms Ruane continued:

"The British Secretary of State claimed yesterday in the British parliament that one of the reasons for not publishing the Cory report was because of human rights considerations. Presumably he was referring to the continued cover up around those who perpetrated the killing of people as a result of collusion.

"The Secretary of State should be aware that those who colluded and killed have breached the right to life, the most fundamental of all rights and that no amount of excuses from him will justify the decision not to publish this report. His comments are merely an excuse and will be seen as such by the families of those killed and by the wider international community." ENDS

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Sinn Fein National party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking in Waterford today where he was joined by Munster EU candidate David Cullinanethis morning said:

"The British Prime Minister‚s comments on Thursday appear to confirm the fears expressed by Gerry Adams that the British government is intent on breaking its commitments in the Joint Declaration and the Good Friday Agreement.

The reality is that on October 21st last year the British government was party to an agreed sequence of events that would have seen a functioning Executive quickly established.

Sinn Fein, the British and Irish governments and the Ulster unionists had, after negotiations, agreed and exchanged in advance what were to be our respective public positions.

Only Sinn Féin and the IRA upheld their parts of the agreed sequence.

The positions agreed by others were then put on hold by the decision of Mr. Trimble.

The UUP walked away from that agreement. Because of that the British are now asking more of republicans. This is blatant bad faith.

It is quite evident that the British government has once again shifted the goal posts, and to the applause of rejectionist unionism.

All of this seriously erodes what little confidence and trust there is in the process. It makes resolving the current difficulties much more problematic.

"Mr. Blair seeks to disingenuously place the onus for progress solely on unionists and republicans. However, hard he tries he cannot absolve himself or his government from the current mess.

It is British government strategy and its tactical approach to the implementation of the Agreement, which has encouraged rejectionist unionism. Whatever responsibilities rest with Sinn Fein and the unionists the primary responsibility at this time rests on the two governments but particularly the British government.

It is intolerable that the British government has failed to fulfill their obligations. Progress is dependent on this. Confidence and trust is dependent on this." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has endorsed the campaign being launched on Saturday by Ógra Shinn Féin demanding voting rights in the Irish Presidential election for Irish citizens living in the Six Counties.

Mr Doherty said:

" Sinn Féin has being campaigning for many years for participation for Irish citizens in the six counties in the political life of the Irish nation. This includes access and voting rights for northern political representatives in the Óireachtas, passport rights and voting rights in Presidential elections.

"I wish to endorse the nation wide campaign being launched in Dublin tomorrow by Ógra Shinn Féin demanding the right of Irish citizens in the Six Counties to vote in the next Presidential election.

"The natural outworking of the Good Friday Agreement is the creation of an island wide approach to politics. This is the way forward and part of this is the extension of voting rights and democratic participation to Irish citizens in the North." ENDS

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ial part of the "regeneration jig-saw" for the North West Economy."ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin is on a two day tour of Munster where he will speak at engagements in both Cork and Waterford. Mr McLaughlin will be joined on the tour by Munster EU Candidate David Cullinane. Speaking today from Cork Mr McLaughlin said that 'the rise of Sinn Féin in recent times had created major challenges for the existing political establishment in the 26 Counties'.

Mr McLaughlin said:

" In recent years with the ending of censorship there has been a massive resurgence in republicanism throughout the island but particularly in the 26 counties. Sinn Féin are now the third largest political party on this island.

" The rise in support for Sinn Féin and for republican demands has created obvious difficulties for the existing political establishment in the 26 counties. As a result some within this establishment have placed narrow party political interest before the national interest or the demands of the peace process. That was and is entirely the wrong approach.

" Sinn Féin will, as the recent Assembly elections showed, continue to grow, develop and increase our electoral mandate. We face into two elections within the next number of months. We are the only party contesting all of the EU constituencies on the island and in addition to this we will be fielding candidates in the local elections across the 26 Counties.

" It is my belief that we are up to this challenge and that we will again make significant gains in the June polls." ENDS

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