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Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has dissented from the report of the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs on the Lisbon (EU economic) Strategy published today because it focuses almost exclusively on competitiveness and fails to address social inclusion, the third plank of the strategy.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The positive and progressive social inclusion aspects of the Lisbon Agenda are being eclipsed by corporate concerns and the privatisation agenda. I am disappointed that the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs report follows that trend, and for this reason I cannot in good conscience attach my name to this document.

"The reality is that in an enlarged EU, 68 million people will still face poverty and social exlcusion. To me, the fact that 55 million people in the present EU-15 are still poor decades later is a scathing indictment of EU economic policy to date. To ignore the parts of the Lisbon Agenda aimed at tackling poverty and inequality is to ignore this economic failure of the EU. It is also to ignore the unacceptable fact that despite Ireland's new wealth, we still have the highest rate of poverty in the EU-25, with levels of social spending well below the EU average. This Committee report will unfortunately reinforce the notion that profit should continue to take precedence over the welfare of people. I can't accept it.

"I support the European Anti Poverty Network's call on the Oireachtas Committee not to stop here, but to undertake a follow up report that deals specifically with the social inclusion plank of the Lisbon Agenda and its implications for policy in Ireland. I would also reiterate my own call for the Committee to include a proper process of broad consultation on the Lisbon Agenda with civil society interests such as the trade unions and anti-poverty sector. No credible report on the Lisbon Agenda can be complete without these two elements." ENDS

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Speaking today at a public lecture in St Mary‚s University College on the Falls Road, Sinn Féin EU candidate Bairbre de Brún said that "another Europe is possible but it is dependent on us all playing our part." The lecture was part of a series of events in colleges and universities organised by Ógra Shinn Féin.

At the lecture Ms de Brún said:

"This years EU election promises to be the most interesting contest since the first EU election here in 1979. In previous elections the campaign was dominated by the two personalities of John Hume and Ian Paisley.

"This year's election is very different, not only in terms of the candidates standing, but in that for the first time we may have an election which is actually fought out in terms of what the EU means to people here today.

"Sinn Féin wants an EU of equals. A globally responsible EU. An economically and socially just EU. We want to be part of an EU with institutions that promote national, collective and individual human rights. A Union that works towards full employment, housing, health and education for all its citizens. We want to build a Europe that leads the way in the cancellation of debt in the developing world, that is nuclear free, that protects the environment and that welcomes and trades fairly with other regions.

"Unfortunately this vision is far from the current reality. Instead we have an EU where more than 55 million people still face poverty and social exclusion. An EU where 13 of 15 member states continue to commit human rights abuses at home, as confirmed by Amnesty International.

"But this Europe is not inevitable. It only reflects the political agenda of the most powerful in the EU.

"We believe that another Europe is possible but it is dependent on us all playing our part. As a society we need a deeper engagement, constructive and critical, with the EU, so that it can be used in the interests of ordinary people rather than solely the interests of the most powerful in our society. Sinn Féin wants to play our part in partnership with others throughout our society.‚"ENDS

Speaking today at a public lecture in St Mary‚s University College on the Falls Road, Sinn Féin EU candidate Bairbre de Brún said that "another Europe is possible but it is dependent on us all playing our part." The lecture was part of a series of events in colleges and universities organised by Ógra Shinn Féin.

At the lecture Ms de Brún said:

"This years EU election promises to be the most interesting contest since the first EU election here in 1979. In previous elections the campaign was dominated by the two personalities of John Hume and Ian Paisley.

"This year's election is very different, not only in terms of the candidates standing, but in that for the first time we may have an election which is actually fought out in terms of what the EU means to people here today.

"Sinn Féin wants an EU of equals. A globally responsible EU. An economically and socially just EU. We want to be part of an EU with institutions that promote national, collective and individual human rights. A Union that works towards full employment, housing, health and education for all its citizens. We want to build a Europe that leads the way in the cancellation of debt in the developing world, that is nuclear free, that protects the environment and that welcomes and trades fairly with other regions.

"Unfortunately this vision is far from the current reality. Instead we have an EU where more than 55 million people still face poverty and social exclusion. An EU where 13 of 15 member states continue to commit human rights abuses at home, as confirmed by Amnesty International.

"But this Europe is not inevitable. It only reflects the political agenda of the most powerful in the EU.

"We believe that another Europe is possible but it is dependent on us all playing our part. As a society we need a deeper engagement, constructive and critical, with the EU, so that it can be used in the interests of ordinary people rather than solely the interests of the most powerful in our society. Sinn Féin wants to play our part in partnership with others throughout our society.‚"ENDS

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Following the discovery of a pipe bomb at the home of a nationalist family in the Whitewell area of Belfast, Sinn Féin councilor Danny Lavery has 'demanded that unionist councilors take action to bring these attacks to an end'. The pipe bomb, which was filled with shot gun pellets was left outside the home early Thursday morning and was discovered by the homeowner on his way to work. No one was injured in the attack.

Cllr Lavery said:

'This was a very serious attack which could have resulted in serious injury or loss of life.This family is lucky to have escaped unharmed. They were attacked for no other reason than they are nationalists.

'At a time when unionists are attacking Sinn Féin over spurious allegations of IRA violence they appear to have little to say about serious attacks by unionist paramilitaries against nationalist families.

'I am demanding that unionist politicians do more to bring such attacks to an end. Sinn Féin is working hard at the interfaces across north Belfast to ensure that we have a calm and peaceful summer. To succeed we need our unionist counterparts to do the same.' ENDS

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Speaking during the Citizenship Referendum debate Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan slammed the process by which the proposed referendum was brought forward saying the Government claims were "false" and "nonsensical". He said the "real motivation" is to deflect attention away from the coalition's abysmal record in Government on health, housing and education." Deputy Morgan went on to say "what this state needs is a fundamental and comprehensive immigration policy reform and the introduction of a positive immigration policy underpinned by respect for human rights."

Full text of comments by Deputy Morgan to Referendum debate follow:

I will address my comments to a number of particular points including the process by which the proposed referendum was brought forward and the false claims from the government that the decision to hold the referendum on June 11 was made in the public interest including claims that it is in interest of convenience and will save taxpayers money.

Any change to the Constitution of the State is of fundamental importance to all its citizens and should only be taken after full consultation and proper consideration. The necessity for such a change and the implications of such a change must be clearly outlined.

There was no consultation either with political parties, the social partners or interested parties on the proposal before the house today. The Government contrary to its initial claims did not make any attempt to consult with the parties either in this State or in the North.

The Programme for Government committed to initiating an all-party discussion on the issue of constitutional or other measures which may be necessary in relation to children born to non-nationals. This has not happened. We have all been merely informed in a contemptuously casual manner, as if we were disinterested observers, that a referendum with fundamental implications for citizenship will be held on June 11th.

If a constitutional change were necessary there is a process in place, accepted by all parties in this House, by which such a proposal is brought forward.

That is, that the matter would be examined by the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution. This Committee has just completed its examination of the issue of property rights and is in a perfect position to begin an examination of this issue. Indeed the matter was raised at the Committee and its members expressed a willingness to take this issue as their next task.

As it has done with other issues such as abortion and property rights the Committee can take submissions from interested parties such as the Human Rights Commission, the Equality Authority, and the National Consultative Council on Racism and Interculturalism, hold hearings and produce proposals regarding the necessity or lack of necessity for constitutional change.

In the case of the abortion debate the Government presented a green paper which was then considered by the Committee which carried out, in the words of then chairperson of the Committee Deputy Lenihan a "political assessment of certain questions which arise from it in the context of the submissions received and the hearings conducted". We need an explanation as to why the same is not being done with proposal before the house today. The Minister's claim that it cannot be done before parties have already taken positions on the proposal is nonsensical.

This referendum will completely eliminate the basis of Irish citizenship as has existed since the foundation of the state, in favour of a strict bloodline criteria. It is not a straightforward issue as has been claimed by the Minister. In addition to the legal, constitutional, and rights complexities, it is an issue that gets to the heart of how we, as a nation, define the basis of citizenship, and by extension how we want the Irish nation to grow and develop.

It is crucial that this issue gets proper public consideration and debate.

Given the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution is currently tasked with examining fundamental rights it is perfectly placed to now move to examine this far reaching proposal. Even at this late stage I would ask an Taoiseach to now refer this matter to the Constitution Committee.

The claims from the Government that the decision to hold the referendum on June 11th was made in the interest of convenience and to save tax payers money is blatantly untrue.

Has this Government learnt nothing from the Nice Treaty fiasco when they foisted a referendum on the people of the State without properly informing voters on the issues involved and in the absence of consultation. On such a fundamental issue, this is a pathetic argument and fails the recognise that the ultimate costs of making a huge mess of our citizenship laws.

The real motivation behind the timing is to deflect attention away from the coalition's abysmal record in Government on health, housing and education. The whole basis of this referendum being held at this time is to facilitate the government parties exploiting the race issue for their own electoral gains.

Mark my words we will have FF & PD candidates exploiting ignorance, bigotry and racism by seeking to deflect the blame for the crisis in our health service and the lack of social and affordable housing away from the incompetent government and onto non nationals.

What this state needs is a fundamental and comprehensive immigration policy reform and the introduction of a positive immigration policy underpinned by respect for human rights. Sinn Fein supports the recommendations of the Immigrant Council of Ireland's report on Labour migration into Ireland and calls on the Government to implement these recommendations including An integrated and representative approach to immigration policy, the immediate introduction of an anti-racism and anti-discrimination agenda, migrant worker rights must be equivalent to those of host society members and family reunifications as a legal right.

While failing to bring forward a proper, human-rights compliant immigration law and policy this Government is happy enough to stand by as migrant workers in this State are exploited. They have rejected repeated calls from those concerned for the welfare of migrant workers for employment permits to be issued to the migrant worker rather than the employer.

As Deputy O Caoláin stated if the Government refuses to listen to the wide range of opinion demanding that it call off this referendum then Sinn Féin will campaign vigorously for a 'No' vote.

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has said it was a disgrace that the British government were forcing the Finucane family through the courts once again because of their continuing failure to hold an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.

Mr Kelly said:

" The Finucane family are once again today being forced to go back to the courts in order to ensure that the British government end their campaign of concealment and carry out an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. This is a disgraceful situation.

" The British government are desperate to conceal the involvement of their own system, former ministers and senior PSNI personnel in a campaign of state sponsored murder. That is the rational for the stalling. The issue of impacting on the trial of Ken Barrett is clearly a red herring. The events this week with the publication of the IMC Report prove that.

" The British government need to end the stalling and end the concealment. They need to come clean about the campaign of state sanctioned murder which resulted in the death of Pat Finucane and hundreds of others." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has announced that he will be meeting the British Prime Minister Tony Blair tomorrow.

Mr. Adams said:

" Just before Easter I wrote to the British Prime Minister outlining our view of what is needed to get the process working again. At that time I asked for a private meeting to discuss these matters and to press them on the outstanding matter of an inquiry into Pat Finucane‚s killing and the issue of Collusion.

" Following press speculation about the content of the so-called IMC report I spoke to Downing Street stressing the urgency of that meeting. So our engagement has been given an added dimension.

" I have to say that I totally and absolutely reject and greatly resent the effort by the two governments to penalise and discriminate against our party. There are some who think that there is a case of going with the flow on these matters. It is not. It is a matter of political principle. And for that reason I have been publicly very very critical of the Irish government.

" I should also say that it is my clear understanding that the cancellation of the Lancaster House talks for next week was an the request of the Irish government. Can I also say that the SDLPs defence of the IMC is disgraceful. As are that party leaderships assurances to Mr. Blair that Tuesday‚s publication of the report had the potential to be a good day for the peace process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly Group Leader Conor Murphy has hit back at Tony Blair's comments which attempt to reduce the difficulties in the peace process to one item. Mr Murphy said 'As Tony Blair is well aware there are many problems to be addressed in the peace process not least restoring the political institutions, a proper policing service, demilitarisation, equality and human rights.

Mr Murphy said:

"Tony Blair's comments are disingenuous and insulting, coming as they do from the leader of a government which has refused to deal with the issue of collusion, has failed to fulfil its promises on demilitarisation, policing and equality, among other things, and has set up a Commission which has produced a report based on gossip and innuendo - aimed entirely at undermining republican progress and contributions to the Peace Process. Mr Blair's concept of 'clean' politics is unusual, to put it mildly.

"Mr Blair goes on to say that we must face up to the fact that everything is agreed in the Six Counties and just one thing is needed to put everything into place. Who is he kidding?

"Allegations and accusations of paramilitary activity are not the reason the peace process is stalled. Inertia on behalf of the two governments, their failure to implement their side of the agreement, the refusal of the unionist community to accept republicans democratic mandate ˇ - these are just some of the reasons the peace process has stalled.

"Republicans have fulfilled their obligations in the Peace Process. Mr Blair's Government has not. While he refuses to set up an inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder, while he refuses to co-operate in other areas of collusion investigation, such as the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, while he continues to put on hold his side of the Good Friday Agreement - it can never be claimed that there is only one area lacking in the Peace Process. ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment Arthur Morgan T.D. gave a cautious welcome to the announcement today by BNFL that it is introducing a new waste treatment process to reduce Tc99 discharges from Sellafield.

Deputy Morgan said:

"As I outlined in my address to a recent roundtable conference on Sellafield in London, which focused on the new developments in relation to reducing TC99 discharges, we will require some convincing as to the veracity of the claims regarding the effectiveness of the TPP process. While the TPP process appears to remove some 90% of technesium 99, Irish people will remain very skeptical for some time to come. Such skepticism is totally justified given the history and record of BNFL to date.

"Given very high levels of TC99 (which has a half life of 214,000 years) being discharged from the facility at Sellafield, Sinn Féin would welcome any reduction of discharges. However, I want to make absolutely clear that Sinn Féin will settle for nothing less than a closure of this environmental monstrosity." ENDS

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. I believe that for the first time in history the potential exists to utterly change the unionist, paramilitary and sectarian character of policing in the North. We clearly have not yet reached that point but nevertheless significant advances have been made incrementally since the negotiations of 1998. I acknowledge that progress, but, serious and central issues remain to be resolved if the new beginning is to be achieved. These include;

The continuing partisan political control of policing;

The continuing existence of the structures which implemented the policy of collusion between various British Government agencies and loyalist paramilitary organisations;

The need for a public independent international inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane;

The need to remove from the PSNI former members of the RUC, including the Special Branch, who were involved in state killings of citizens and responsiact. It sent shock waves through the political process, with wild but unfounded allegations of an IRA spy-ring, and led to the suspension of the political institutions. At other particularly sensitive times we have seen statements, briefing and leaks about republicans which have armed opponents of the peace process and which have proven, when challenged, to have been unfounded.

The enthusiasm with which the police service pursues and identifies republicans is in stark contrast to the approach to loyalist attacks. There have been literally hundreds of gun and bomb attacks carried out by loyalists in the last few years with few arrests and even less publicity. The PSNI, for example, have still not said who they believe was responsible for the brutal sectarian murder of James McMahon last November despite knowing the identities of the UDA members involved. None of these people have been questioned, arrested or charged.

So we have not yet achieved a new beginning.

In fact, as a result of the investigation into collusion, by senior British police officer, John Stevens, cases were prepared against 20 police officers and British soldiers alleged to have colluded in the murder of nationalists. As part of the investigation team Hugh Orde knows the identities of these people. Some of them may now hold senior positions in the PSNI and the British Army. 14 months later, none of these 20 has been brought before the courts. What message does this send to the victims of collusion, their families and their communities? How do we respond to the families of those killed when they point out that, having investigated these crimes, Hugh Orde is now prepared to accept the presence of the perpetrators in his organisation?"ENDS

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A petition to upgrade Wexford General Hospital and to protect the hospital from Government intentions to centralise acute hospital services under the Hanly Report was delivered to Leinster House on Wednesday by Wexford Sinn Féin elected representatives and local election candidates.

Some 10,000 signatures were gathered throughout County Wexford over the past two months, since the launch of the petition in February. Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD accepted the petition for presentation to the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin TD. Wexford Sinn Fein spokesperson and EU candidate in the East constituency, John Dwyer stated:

"The delivery of this petition to the Minister for Health, following unprecedented bed shortages at Wexford General Hospital in recent times and particularly over the Easter weekend, sends a very timely message to this Government that the people of Wexford are not prepared to tolerate the continuing neglect of our Hospital.

"The reality is that the ongoing failure to invest in Wexford General Hospital, effectively means that our hospital is already being downgraded, as it can no longer keep up with the demands of population growth in Wexford and is now in a severe crisis situation.

"Only last week the Minister gave commitments to maintain A&E services at both Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals. This was clearly as a result of the tremendous local pressure put on the Minister by the people of Nenagh and Ennis. Proper healthcare should not be dependent on local people having to exert pressure on the Minister. However this petition, signed by people from every corner of

County Wexford, will let the Minister know, in no uncertain terms, that the people of Wexford will not tolerate any further downgrading of our Hospital and demand that this government invest urgently in our Hospital to deal properly with the growing crisis that presently exists."ENDS

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Cllr. Joe Reilly speaking after the Irish Nurses Organisation briefing meeting for elected representatives on inadequate staff numbers in St. Joseph's Home Trim in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan on Tue, 20th April said:

Sinn Fein fully supports the INO campaign in their demand for adequate level of staffing in St. Joseph‚s Home, Trim. Due to under funding by both the Department of Health and Children and the North Eastern Health Board the nursing staff are unable to provides a full range services to its elderly patients.

It in disgraceful, unacceptable and dangerous that there is only I nurse to 40 patents after 6pm, seven days of the week.

Nurses and assistants are unable, due to staff shortages, to provide a holistic service to the elderly patients compelling the staff to:

To place patients in pre-maturely

Neglect their socialization needs, which can, in turn maximize exposure to depression,

The NEHB continually denies these patients:

Comprehensive physiotherapy

Comprehensive dietician service

Comprehensive occupational therapy

There are 201 state beds in Meath. There are 440 private sector beds that receive tax incentives from government. The privatization of the of older persons needs must cease.

With only places for 184 patients in St. Josephs there is a crying need for a similar home in Navan

The NEHB have not developed one additional Care for the Elderly bed in Meath despite the increasing population of Meath.

I will be asking my Sinn Fein collogues in the Dail to raise the following issues with Minister Martin:

Will he provide sufficient funding to provide the adequate staff in St. Joseph‚s Home for the Elderly?

Is he aware that the NEHB are depriving the people in St. Joseph's Trim of basic medical rights?

Why has the NEHB not created one extra Care for the Elderly bed in Meath to meet the needs of an increasing population?

Why the agreement to set up a National Commission to Review Staffing Levels four years ago has not materialized and does he intend to intend to put it in place?

I will also be placing a motion before Navan Town Council asking for support for the staff and patients of St. Josephs, Trim.

Cllr. Joe Reilly speaking after the Irish Nurses Organisation briefing meeting for elected representatives on inadequate staff numbers in St. Joseph's Home Trim in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan on Tue, 20th April said:

Sinn Fein fully supports the INO campaign in their demand for adequate level of staffing in St. Joseph‚s Home, Trim. Due to under funding by both the Department of Health and Children and the North Eastern Health Board the nursing staff are unable to provides a full range services to its elderly patients.

It in disgraceful, unacceptable and dangerous that there is only I nurse to 40 patents after 6pm, seven days of the week.

Nurses and assistants are unable, due to staff shortages, to provide a holistic service to the elderly patients compelling the staff to:

To place patients in pre-maturely

Neglect their socialization needs, which can, in turn maximize exposure to depression,

The NEHB continually denies these patients:

Comprehensive physiotherapy

Comprehensive dietician service

Comprehensive occupational therapy

There are 201 state beds in Meath. There are 440 private sector beds that receive tax incentives from government. The privatization of the of older persons needs must cease.

With only places for 184 patients in St. Josephs there is a crying need for a similar home in Navan

The NEHB have not developed one additional Care for the Elderly bed in Meath despite the increasing population of Meath.

I will be asking my Sinn Fein collogues in the Dail to raise the following issues with Minister Martin:

Will he provide sufficient funding to provide the adequate staff in St. Joseph‚s Home for the Elderly?

Is he aware that the NEHB are depriving the people in St. Joseph's Trim of basic medical rights?

Why has the NEHB not created one extra Care for the Elderly bed in Meath to meet the needs of an increasing population?

Why the agreement to set up a National Commission to Review Staffing Levels four years ago has not materialized and does he intend to intend to put it in place?

I will also be placing a motion before Navan Town Council asking for support for the staff and patients of St. Josephs, Trim.

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The petition to upgrade Wexford General Hospital and to protect the hospital from government intentions to centralise acute hospital services under the Hanly Report will be delivered to Leinster House today, Wednesday at 2:00 p.m, by Wexford Sinn Féin elected representatives and local election candidates.

The final tally of signatures is expected to exceed 10,000 gathered countywide over the past two months, since the launch of the petition in February.

Wexford Sinn Féin Press Officer David Forde said:

"The delivery of this petition to the Minister for Health, following unprecedented bed shortages at Wexford General Hospital in recent times and particularly over the Easter weekend, sends a very timely message to this Government that the people of Wexford are not prepared to tolerate the continuing neglect of our Hospital.

"The reality is that the ongoing failure to invest in Wexford General Hospital, effectively means that our hospital is already being downgraded, as it can no longer keep up with the demands of population growth in Wexford and is now in a severe crisis situation.

"Only last week the Minister gave commitments to maintain A&E services at both Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals. This was clearly as a result of the tremendous local pressure put on the Minister by the people of Nenagh and Ennis. Proper healthcare should not be dependent on local people having to exert pressure on the Minister. However this petition, signed by people from every corner of county Wexford, will let the Minister know, in no uncertain terms, that the people of Wexford will not tolerate any further downgrading of our Hospital and demand that this government invest urgently in our Hospital to deal properly with the growing crisis that presently exists." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights spokesperson, South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane has welcomed the launch of a new NISRA Equality research and information website and said that it must lead to more effective scrutiny of the levels of discrimination within our society.

Ms Ruane said:

"The bringing together of informational and research in relation to equality within this single site is a useful step forward in helping to have proper scrutiny of the impact of policy and decision making on different groups within our society.

"Great inequality and discrimination across the many fracture lines in our society still exist within the Six Counties.

"The serious problem of discrimination against Catholics remains a problem not least within areas such as the senior levels of the civil service. But there are also serious barriers faced by people on the grounds of racial origin, sexual orientation, gender, disability, socio-economic background and age.

"It is vital that discrimination, in all its forms is effectively tackled.

"Within the Good Friday Agreement there are explicit commitments to eradicate the differential that exists between the Catholic and Protestant communities here. There has not been the progress demanded. Catholic men are still twice as likely to be unemployed as their Protestant counterparts. The failure, six years on from the Good Friday Agreement, to tackle this key issue is a disgrace and is totally unacceptable.

"Such facts highlight the reality that we a still living with the legacy of policies that discriminated, particularly against Catholics and areas West of the Bann in the past and that in some cases are still very much active today." ENDS

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Speaking during the Citizenship Referendum debate in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Dáil leader, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said "this dangerous, divisive and reactionary referendum" should not go ahead. He said if the Government refuses to listen to the wide range of opinion that is concerned about the referendum then "Sinn Féin will campaign vigorously for a 'No' vote." He accused the Government of "stirring the pot of ignorance, fear and bigotry."

Deputy Ó Caoláin went on to say "while all the political parties in Ireland and the Irish people were kept in the dark this Government entered secret

consultations with the British government. The result of those consultations was the scrap of paper issued on Monday 19 April as a Joint Declaration by the British and Irish Governments." He said it was nothing more than a "politicalfig-leaf" which did not take into account of the "full legal and constitutional implications for the Good Friday Agreement."

Full text of script follows

On behalf of Sinn Féin, as the only all-Ireland party and one that is deeply concerned about the effect of this referendum on both sides of the border, I appeal to the Government, even at this late stage, not to go ahead with this dangerous, divisive and reactionary referendum on 11 June.

I appeal to them not to make this profound change in the Constitution and in the Good Friday Agreement which the people voted for by an overwhelming majority in 1998.

If the Government refuses to listen to the wide range of opinion throughout the country and in the Oireachtas calling on it to relent then Sinn Féin will campaign vigorously for a 'No' vote.

In promoting this rushed referendum the Government is stirring the pot of ignorance, fear and bigotry which produces outright racism. In holding the referendum in conjunction with local and EU elections Government members may hope to benefit their parties electorally. But they will only do so at the expense of civil rights, community relations and the Good Friday Agreement. This is the work of an irresponsible Government.

The Government had no statistical basis for its claim of a crisis number of births and a widespread abuse of citizenship law. It has yet to produce the evidence. And even if it is accepted that there is such a problem it is wrong to assert that it can only be rectified by a referendum which will fundamentally alter our citizenship laws and our Constitutiuon.

I charge this Government with deliberate deception of this Oireachtas and of the Irish people.

On 17 February last I asked the Taoiseach on the floor of the Dáil if it was intended to hold a referendum or referenda in 2004 to change the Constitution. I want to remind the Dáil exactly what the Taoiseach said:

"The Government has no proposals at present to hold a referendum to change the Constitution. The position continues to be held under review in light of developments, including: the outcome of the examination by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution of property rights issues; the outcome of the study being conducted by a sub-committee on procedures and privileges on reform of the Seanad; and the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference on the draft constitutional treaty which commenced in Rome on 4 October."

The Taoiseach's answer could not have been clearer. No proposals to hold a referendum. No mention of citizenship. No mention of the Good Friday Agreement. The Taoiseach also told the Dáil:

"The complexities involved in holding a referendum require that careful consideration be given to the frequency with which referenda can realistically be held and the significance of the issues in question." Yet here is the Taoiseach today asking the Oireachtas and the people to endorse a complex referendum proposal with profound consequences for citizenship rights and the Good Friday Agreement and without referral to the All-Party Committee on the Constitution, no prior consultation with the political parties North or South, no engagement with civil society, no research, no evidence, no white paper, no green paper and no real debate.

Did the Taoiseach tell the truth to the Dáil on 17 February?

We now know that on 14 January the Franchise Section of the Department of the Environment and Local Government, on instructions from Minister Cullen, wrote to the Department of Finance informing them that 300 further electronic voting machines had been ordered because:

"There are strong indications that there may be a further ballot paper at the June polls. This would increase time of voters at voting machines."

What did Minister Cullen know that we did not know on 14 January? Did the Taoiseach know it? Even if this letter had not come to light under the Freedom of Information Act, thanks to Irish Citizens for Trustworthy E-voting, there would still be a huge question for the Taoiseach to answer.

And it is this.

Does he expect us to believe that on 17 February - only nine weeks ago - he was not aware that this constitutional amendment and its associated complex legislation were in preparation and that, at the very least, there was a possibility that they would be put to a referendum this year? If he knew thatthen he misled the Dáil on 17 February.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning speaking to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce in the Burlington Hotel proposed the the establishment of a special forum for Dublin - comprising of Dublins 48 TDs, the elected representatives of the four councils, the Chamber of Commerce, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, housing, local community and other groups from civic society - to sit down together to discuss, debate and ultimately plan a sustainable and fair future for all the people in this city. He said this forum could develop an integrated approach and to oversee the implementation of measures to make Dublin a better place."

Talking about the peace process Mr. Adams said "Sinn Fein is involved in this peace process by choice. We do not expect to be rewarded for doing what is the right thing. For doing what I consider to be our duty. But if penalising Sinn Fein is the value which the Taoiseach places on our contribution to the process then I am gravely disappointed. I cannot see how the move away from the Good Friday Agreement by the Irish government for short-term electoral purposes can be tolerated.

I am seeking urgent and separate discussions with the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. "ENDS

Full text of speech - A Better Future - Gerry Adams MP

Can I begin my remarks this morning by saying that I am a politician not a businessman so I look at the economy, not just in terms of the creation of wealth but how that wealth can be used for the benefit of everyone. I welcome the opportunity to speak to you about Sinn Féin's political platform and to increase our engagement with you to make this a better country.

Let me begin by talking about Sinn Féin or more importantly about Irish republicanism.

Equality, Empowerment and Inclusivity

Sinn Féin is a republican party. We are the only all-Ireland party. Through the Assembly, the Dáil and the all-Ireland bodies, Sinn Féin has successfully promoted economic development in an all-Ireland context. Our goal is to see a united Ireland, which delivers real social and economic change.

The core value of republicanism is equality; it is about peoples rights and entitlements, including economic rights.

It is about empowering citizens; about creating conditions where people can use their talents and energy. It is about community and inclusivity.

So, for example, in my own constituency of West Belfast I am a very strong advocate of integrated strategies which have local businesses, the private sector, the community and voluntary sector, government departments and other agencies working together to bring about shared goals and objectives.

This is a strategy that is now just beginning to pay dividends and which is closely linked to the ongoing peace process. In many ways the 1990s were the starting point for all of this - the IRA cessations, the all Ireland developments, the political institutions in the Six Counties. We were taking back control over our own futures.

Of course the 1990s were also a time of enormous economic growth in this state. During this time, more and more businesses emerged, more jobs were created and life improved for many people - although there are many questions about quality of life issues and the widening gap between rich and poor.

There is a fundamental issue of how we use the wealth we now enjoy. Is it for the benefit of everyone or for an elite?

The peace process played a critical role at a critical time in enhancing the opportunities for economic uplift. It changed how people looked at Ireland, it changed politics and it opened up many opportunities not least for the border regions and in terms of the Dublin Belfast economic corridor. But this progress cannot be taken for granted.

Process in Crisis

For eighteen months the political institutions have been suspended and the difficulties caused by the ongoing political vacuum are there for everyone to see. Recent events, including the penalising of Sinn Féin by the two governments, is an absolute disgrace. I am referring of course to yesterdays report by the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission.

You may not have the opportunity to read this report but in essence this puppet Commission accepts that Sinn Fein is not in a position to determine the policies or operational strategies of the IRA, and then goes on to punish Sinn Fein over allegations from British security agencies that the IRA had engaged in some activities.

There is no way that this approach will advance the search for a lasting peace. It makes no sense. Sinn Fein is involved in this peace process by choice. We do not expect to be rewarded for doing what is the right thing. For doing what I consider to be our duty. But if penalising Sinn Fein is the value which the Taoiseach places on our contribution to the process then I am gravely disappointed. I cannot see how the move away from the Good Friday Agreement by the Irish government for short-term electoral purposes can be tolerated.

I am seeking urgent and separate discussions with the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister.

Republicans want this process to work. We have invested hugely in it and taken enormous risks. Our commitment is to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented but the only way these difficulties will be resolved is if the governments re-engage properly with the peace process in a way which respects the rights of everyone involved and in the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The peace process is too important and all of us, including the business community if and when you get the chance, need to make it clear that the only way forward has to be on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement.

There can be no tolerance for criminality or other activity and let's be clear about this such allegations are a smokescreen for a serious effort to prevent the growth of the Sinn Fein party.

You don't have to support Sinn Fein to support the peace process. The process is bigger than any political party or any politician.

Business - Planning for the Future

As business people in Dublin, you have had your own experiences of the last ten years of what the peace process has meant and the impact of economic growth. And you do need to find a way to voice your views on this issue.

There have been many positives. There are approximately 40,000 businesses in Dublin and you know that over 90% of service-based companies are dependent on the households of the city and the larger exporting businesses for their livelihood. 96% of these businesses employ less than 50 people.

However the most important and overlooked statistic is that these businesses and their workers productivity have been the engine of employment creation and growth in the city for decades before the Celtic Tiger boom and are still here, with nearly 600,000 people at work in the city today.

How much investment does central government make into those 600,000 jobs?

IDA, Enterprise Ireland and other agencies have client companies that employ only 297,000 people. It seems that when it comes to economic development, there is a two-tier structure in action, one in which the business community in Dublin is clearly in second place.

Yes we have enterprise boards and other agencies, but this is piecemeal compared to what should, and could be done to develop business in the city.

  • Sinn Fein wants to see one agency dealing with all the indigenous businesses in Ireland.
  • We want to see the same level of investment and aid made available to local businesses as is available to multi nationals.
  • Clearly Dublin needs to be served by and properly represented on such an agency.

You know that this government promotes itself as the friend of business. You also know what it is capable, or not capable of.

Take for example the issue of transport in Dublin. The city‚s transport infrastructure is creaking under a misguided car based strategy, formulated more that twenty years ago.

It doesn't help that we have two conflicting strategies as the councils struggle to manage daily car traffic while playing catch up with public transport provision.

There are, thankfully, more buses than ever before on our streets - yet there are not enough bus lanes and corridors to make bus travel effective, there are only 13 functioning corridors. At the same time much of the focus and considerable scarce funds are being sunk into an over-budget and over-time LUAS.

The people who are suffering most in all of this are ordinary households who need to travel to work, to school, to the shops every day and the businesses who have suffered loss of revenue because of the gridlock or endless building work outside their premises.

Let me ask you this morning, what consultation was there with the business community over the roll out of LUAS, and not just about the traffic chaos caused, but the loss to business generally and particularly along the routes?

Has central government consulted with you about the plans to privatise Dublin Bus?

Will you really be better off in ten years time if an unaccountable transnational transport company is running Dublin Bus?

What discussion was there with you, the representatives of Dublin retail and commercial business, over the closure of the DART at weekends for perhaps more than a year?

If you the representatives of the most powerful interest groups in the city are being excluded from consultation and decision-making what do you think is the experience of those on the very margins of society, who are caught up in a day to day struggle for housing and health services?

The Chamber‚s vision describes Dublin‚s potential as being "a great world city, a leading centre for new economy industries, an exciting tourism destination, a seamless transport system, a great place to live, a fun city, a place we are proud of".

Are you really being allowed to exercise your rights and responsibilities in making an input into building the future of Dublin so that it realises this potential?

Sinn Fein's vision for local government

I know for many of you that local government, its funding and effectiveness, is of paramount importance. This is especially so where the businesses you represent fund nearly 25% of the current local authority budget and where increases in commercial rates in the past decade have been double the cumulative inflation rate over the same period. This is clearly wrong and unjust.

What it also does though is point up the injustice and ineffectiveness of local government throughout the island.

Sinn Fein wants a system where there is more democracy, more participation, more involvement of all those in society and most importantly where more powers and funding are wrested from central government towards the local communities.

Currently less than 10% of spending is controlled by local authorities, compared to an EU average of 40% with the figure rising to 75% in states like Denmark.

We want powers and funding taken from Leinster House and returned to the regions. This is what real decentralization means. We want to start a real debate on funding local government in the context of wholesale reform of what is the most unjust tax regime in Europe.

Sinn Fein believes that there should be comprehensive reform of local government funding as part of such an over haul. This needs to involve business people, trade unions, community and other groups as well as the government and its agencies.

All of this requires all of us working together.

I am often asked if Sinn Fein would increase business taxes when we are in government?

We believe that every one should pay taxes and that this should be on a fair basis. The government makes a big issue of tax cuts but at the same time businesses, particularly small businesses are being crucified by insurance costs and service charges.

Sinn Fein opposed the cutting of corporation tax to 12.5 % especially when minimum wage workers were in the tax net. So we are not in principle opposed to higher taxes though we have no plans to increase them.

Instead we want the comprehensive reform and overhaul I have outlined above. We also believe that tax cuts should be incentive driven. That would mean making low corporation tax linked, for example, to good environmental practices or providing childcare facilities or investing in worker training and education or developing new products.

We believe that there should be long term clarity on business taxes. This is crucial.

That makes good sense for business. It also makes for a better economy.

A Special Forum for Dublin

I said at the beginning that Sinn Fein doesn't have all the answers to all these issues. But we have a willingness to learn, to engage and to be inclusive.

I have been coming to Dublin for over 40 years, since the first time Down won an All Ireland back about 1961. At that time this city was a smaller more intimate collection of wee small villages. I have been here in the terrible years of recession. I worked with local communities in the late 1970s particularly against the drugs scourge, when I came out of Long Kesh.

I have always had a great fondness and familiarity with Dublin, not least because I can do normal things here like going to the pictures, or theatre or concerts or shopping that I don‚t do so easily in my own city. So I delighted in how this city, not least because of the efforts of business people, pulled itself out off recession and into prosperity.

Of course, I am ultra conscious that this is a tale of two cities. Of poverty alongside wealth. Of a housing crisis. A real problem of law and order or the lack of it. I know many whose quality of life is reduced by stress, encouraged by gridlock and the madness of city life. I too have spent hours in traffic jams.

So I want to end by proposing that a special forum be convened to look at all these issues.

I propose that Dublins 48 TDs, the elected representatives of the four councils, the Chamber of Commerce, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, housing, local community and other groups from civic society sit down together to discuss, debate and ultimately plan a sustainable and fair future for all the people in this city.

We could all commit to bring together such a forum to develop an integrated approach and to oversee the implementation of measures to make the Chamber of Commerce's vision of Dublin a reality.

No successful business could prosper by being run in the disjointed way that Dublin is run. Let's change that.

Finally I want to say that I believe that we share some common ground, especially in the recognition that we all have a responsibility to do what we can together to meet the many economic and social needs we face.

Let's take this step and make the next decade one that can deliver a better Dublin for all.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

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The home of West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Fra McCann was attacked last night for the second time in recent weeks with ball bearings. This attack follows on from a similar attack on the home of Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Butler last weekend.

Mr McCann said:

" Last night at around 10.30pm ball bearings were fired at the living room window of my home. The window had only recently been replaced after a similar attack a number of weeks ago. This attack is the latest in a long line of such incidents at the homes of Republicans throughout West Belfast.

" Whoever is carrying out these attacks has accurate and up to date information regarding the addresses of Sinn Féin elected representatives. One obvious source of such information is the PSNI Special Branch.

" I note that the IMC in their Report yesterday made no reference whatsoever to the wave of attacks on the homes of Sinn Féin elected representatives. Given the suspicions around the involvement of the PSNI in supplying information to the attackers this is not surprising.

" Those behind these attacks and those supplying them with the information on the addresses of republicans need to know that these sorts of attacks will not stop Sinn Féin representing our communities. We have suffered in the past campaigns of murder organised by the British state against this party and we remained resolute in providing effective leadership within our constituencies. This will remain our position." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy has accused the SDLP MP Seamus Mallon of 'supporting the British government in discriminating against the majority of nationalists in the six counties who now vote for Sinn Féin'. Mr Murphy's comments come after Mr. Mallon voiced support for the IMC and their Report.

Mr Murphy said:

" The fact is that the IMC is the mouthpiece of the securocrats who have time and again sought to damage this process. It is the latest tool in their anti-Agreement and anti-peace process arsenal. The body is not independent and it has no credibility within the broad nationalist and republican community which is angered by the content of the IMC Report.

" Seamus Mallon in the British House of Commons yesterday and again on the media this morning effectively became little more than a cheerleader for the IMC and securocrat individuals like John Grieve a former head of the Special Branch in London. He should know better.

" Sinn Féin will not support any section of the electorate being discriminated against by the British government or anyone else. Unfortunately for what can only be very narrow party political interests Seamus Mallon is prepared to support the British government discriminating against the majority of the nationalist community in the six counties who now vote for Sinn Féin." ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the South Constituency David Cullinane, has today expressed deep concerns about the results of a survey in a Sunday newspaper (18.04.04) which revealed that the cost of childminding in this state, was the highest in the EU. Mr Cullinane commented that "childcare costs are crippling parent".

Speaking today, Mr Cullinane said:

"I am deeply concerned about the findings of the weekend report. On average, Irish parents are spending 20% of their weekly and monthly incomes on child minding costs. The average cost of childminding in other EU member states is around 8% of their weekly wage. There is an obvious and fundamental inequality between childminding costs in this state and throughout the EU.

"These costs are placing a huge financial strain upon many families throughout the state, especially when these statistics are placed within the context of the spiralling cost of living, especially in the property market.

"Sinn Féin is calling for Government funded childcare facilities and the establishment of a central unit to co-ordinate government strategy and funding for childcare. What is needed is quality affordable and accessible childcare." ENDS

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Dublin must stand up and defend Agreement

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP said:

"My remarks today will deal with this afternoon's report from the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission. I will also outline the Sinn Féin view of the Irish Government's stewardship of the Good Friday Agreement process at this time.

The IMC was established by the British and Irish Governments last year, at the demand of David Trimble. It is clearly in contravention of the Good Friday Agreement and we said so at the time.

We were under no illusions. The role of the IMC was to facilitate the exclusion of our party, to soft peddle on unionist violence and to entirely ignore the behaviour of the British government - the party most in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Commission is not independent. That much is obvious from its remit, its membership and the fact it bases its decisions on reports from the PSNI, the British Army and the securocrats who continue to dictate the British government's attitude and action on the peace process. The pretence of it making recommendations to the two Governments is an undemocratic political farce.

The Commissions report is a proxy report by the securocrats which recommends sanctions against Sinn Féin - despite the clear fact that we are not in any way in breach of the Agreement, nor did they suggest we were.

It reduced the ongoing unionist paramilitary campaign almost to a postscript and exonerated the two governments entirely.

And where did the Commission get their information? From the same people who so outrageously raided our offices in Stormont in a blaze of publicity, and the same people who tried to collapse the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement, by getting Sinn Féin expelled from the talks in early 1998.

With the British government waging war in Iraq these elements are obviously in the ascendancy within their system. These are the agencies indicted in the Barron report, in the censored Cory report and in every investigation into collusion in recent times.

The duplicity and double standards in the report are outrageous.

For example, the British government recently sought to excuse its refusal to allow a fully independent judicial inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane, on the basis that a person is facing trial.

There are four people facing trial over the Tohill affair. Yet this matter is investigated at the request of the two governments and is a substantive part of this report and the reason for its publication at this time.

And it has to be noted that the speed with which this report has been issued - a matter of three months since the Commission first met and despite ongoing legal considerations - stands in stark contrast to the shabby treatment which the British and Irish governments have meted out to the family of Pat Finucane, who have waited fifteen years for justice. They continue to wait.

In addition, while accepting that Sinn Fein is not in a position to actually determine the policies or operational strategies of the IRA, the Commission recommends financial penalties against Sinn Fein.

This is a nonsense position. It is a politically contrived conclusion which has no basis in fact.

The Commission recommendations are clearly discriminatory, subvert the democratic and electoral rights and mandate of Sinn Fein and of our electorate.

Sinn Féin will not accept this partisan report. We will not accept this attack on our party. We will not accept this attack on our electoral mandate.

We will challenge it by every means at our disposal and at every door we go to in the upcoming election campaign. We will also put responsibility for the current crisis precisely where it belongs - with the two governments.

The Commission, after all, is the child of the two governments. It is only doing what it was set up to do. Its report is a sham.

But the thinking behind the establishment of the Commission is symptomatic of the flawed attitude of the two governments for some time now.

Sinn Fein has developed, argued for and promoted a strategy, which will see an end to armed groups. It was that strategy which led to the peace process in the first place and to the Good Friday Agreement, which is a product of that process.

There is a logic behind our strategy which is essentially about upholding the rights and entitlements of citizens, building a sustainable process of change and making politics work.

In private both governments tell us that they support and see the logic of that position. Though not all Irish government Ministers would subscribe to that strategy.

Sinn Fein is also against criminality of any sort. And we deeply resent any attempt to besmirch republicans with that label.

However it is obvious that has been a major rethink in the position of the governments and particularly the Irish government. The Government's current position is wrong. It is short-term, party political and totally contrary to the politics of peace making. The Government must return to the Good Friday Agreement.

It is a historic fact that for a long time successive Irish governments were willing to blindly follow a British government led agenda.

The development over the last decade of inclusive, conflict resolution type processes saw a potential for the emergence of a new inter-governmental relationship. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement both governments are called on to act as co-equal partners on all the issues dealt with by the Agreement.

The Agreement is arguably one of the most important Treaties in recent Irish history. Without question the peace process is the most important development of our times.

But the great difficulty was always going to be in implementing the Agreement, not least because of the powerful forces of reaction who are against the changes which peace requires and which the Good Friday Agreement supports.

An option for the British government is always to do as little as possible. It also has to be said that the challenges facing the governments are not to be underestimated.

It takes a singular focus and relentless tenacity and resilience to retain the approach the process demands. And of course governments have their own interests. And those who are in government have their interests also.

In my view these narrower interests are taking precedence over the need to defend and implement the Agreement.

The governments did not envisage the Good Friday Agreement becoming the instrument for the real change which it has the potential to be.

They envisaged an alliance between the UUP and SDLP with a fairly anaemic programme of reform which those parties would accept.

And they did not foresee the growth of Sinn Fein.

As we now know the electorate decided differently. But the governments have not accepted their democratically expressed wishes. On the contrary they are using the IMC to actively subvert democratic wishes and entitlements.

So, in July 2001 the Irish government moved prematurely on the issue of policing and broke the nationalist consensus which then existed. In October 2002 the British government stepped outside the Agreement and the Irish government acquiesced as the Assembly and the Executive were collapsed. In May 2003 the Irish government acquiesced to the cancellation of the elections. Last October they failed to honour an agreement which they made and which we and others kept in good faith.

Since the Assembly elections last November the Irish government has led the charge in a reckless way, driven by the upcoming elections, in a vicious propaganda offensive on the democratic rights of that section of the electorate who vote for Sinn Fein.

The Assembly election results undoubtedly sparked this. The aim is to influence the outcome of the local government and European elections in June.

The Irish government has also moved to bring about a referendum on Irish citizenship which is a breach of the Agreement and they did so without consultation with any of the parties to the Agreement.

The haste with which they have moved on this matter is in stark contrast to their failure to legislate for the rights of citizens with disabilities or to bring in the rights of northerners to be represented in southern institutions.

Little wonder that Ian Paisley increasingly quotes Irish government Ministers.

I consider the government's position on the issue of Citizenship to be racist. What is required is a full debate and an open and fair immigration policy. I welcome the SDLP's interest in this issue. They should join with us in campaigning against the government's amendment.

So, for all of these reasons there is justifiable concern about the current state of the process.

This was heightened last night by the sudden cancellation of the talks due to take place next week.

I am seeking urgent and separate discussions with the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister on all these matters. I have conveyed these concerns to their most senior officials.

I have always been reluctant to publicly criticise the Irish government but I have a duty to uphold the rights of our electorate and the integrity of the process which is so crucial for the future of all the people of this island.

I make my remarks more in disappointment than in anger. Sinn Fein is well able to defend ourselves but the process is more important than that and no matter about our differences on other issues I have no wish to be at odds with the government over the peace process. It is above party politics.

I look forward to working on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement with the Taoiseach. This means that the Irish government need to step up to the mark. It needs to stop allowing the British government to set the agenda in the peace process. It needs to stop setting the Good Friday Agreement and the rights and entitlements of nationalists and republicans aside at the whim of unionists - whether it is David Trimble or Ian Paisley.

Republicans want this process to work. We have invested hugely in it and taken enormous risks. Our commitment is to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented but we cannot be the only ones to take risks. The only way these difficulties will be resolved is if the governments re-engage properly with the peace process in a way which respects the rights of everyone involved and in the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

As far as Sinn Féin is concerned that is a point of political principle." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on EU affairs Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the decision to hold a referendum on the EU constitution, but expressed concerns at the timeframe.

Ms de Brún said:

'If the EU has a constitution for the first time ever, this will play a huge role in the shaping of Ireland over the coming decades. The current draft constitution in our view will only serve to speed up the development of the EU as an economic and military superpower. Such a superpower will undermine national sovereignty and increase the democratic deficit, which already exists within the EU.

'There is clearly a need to simplify and consolidate existing EU treaties. While the draft constitution is being presented as such an exercise it is clearly much more than this. This process is being used to undermine national sovereignty and increase the power of EU institutions. For example, the current draft constitution makes fundamental changes in the structures of the EU, gives those structures more powers and gives the EU a single legal personality for the first time.

'The effect of these changes will see a shift in the balance of power yet further away from national parliaments and in doing so will take the single biggest step so far in the creation of an EU superstate.

'Such a fundamental legal and constitutional change in the relationship between member states and the EU must be decided by referendum. Sinn Féin have consistently said that a referendum is required in order that people have their say. To introduce such a fundamental change without a popular mandate would be undemocratic.

'While nationalists in the north would naturally prefer to cast their vote in a referendum called by the Irish government, the fact is that in the past we have had no say at all. I welcome the fact that those living here will be able to cast their vote on this important issue. ENDS

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