Responding to today's shocking figures for the rate of drop-outs from second level schools, especially in Dublin, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe said:
"It is disturbing but not surprising that the dropout rates are so high. What is truly shocking has been the Government s response to it. In September 2002 in one of his first acts as Minister for Education, Noel Dempsey cut 6 million from the School Retention Initiative, specifically designed to reduce the school dropout rate. Is it at all surprising then that Dublin has the second lowest participation rate in Third Level of any county in the state and is well behind other EU capitals in access to Third Level, when the Government does not feel obliged to invest in second level.
"What these figures also highlight is that inequality in the 26 Counties starts at a very early stage and that it has been fuelled by the policies of successive Governments. The fact that the high dropout rates are almost exclusively confined to areas of disadvantage shows that this Government, which has been in power over a period of unprecedented economic boom has not cherished all the children of the nation equally. Instead of investing in all our children s education they have squandered the money left, right and centre, have rewarded their multi-millionaire sponsors with handsome tax breaks and to add insult to injury are funding handsomely the private and elitist schools of the rich and powerful which will further inequity in society." ENDS
Sinn Féin are organising a 35th Anniversary return march from Dungannon to Coalisland to mark the pivotal 1968 Civil Rights March. Announcing details of the march Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin said:
"35 years ago men, women and children marched from Coalisland to Dungannon demanding the right to vote. The march was blocked from entering Dungannon Square by the RUC.
"From that night on people took to the streets in an attempt to secure their basic civil rights.
"Across the North of Ireland - in Derry's Bogside, in Bombay Street in Belfast, in Newry, Armagh and Burntollet people were batoned and beaten and shot in their efforts to achieve the right to vote. Despite vicious opposition, the right to vote was clearly won.
"In 2003 the British government unilaterally cancelled the election to the Assembly because once again they feared the people's choice.
"The British government caved into Unionist demands. The Orange Card was played. The PSNI carried out their phoney raid on Stormont while Loyalists continue to pipe bomb and murder Nationalists."ENDS
Responding to the latest cost of housing survey by Permanent TSB/ESRI in the 26 Counties Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan TD said:
"While this months figures may only show a marginal increase of just over 1 percent the reality is that average house prices are up by over €30,000 since this time last year which is a year-on-year an increase of over 15%.
"This is completely unacceptable and shows despite all the talk, the reports and the promises that this government has presided over a situation where people if they are lucky enough to be able to buy their home are stretching themselves and their families to breaking point.
"The International Monetary Fund recently said that house prices in Ireland could be overvalued by up to 50%. If this is true then the finger of blame rests not just with the Government's inept performance at managing the housing crisis but also at the lending institutions who have been responsible for fuelling the spiraling cost of houses." ENDS
Sinn Féin's TDs have issued a joint letter to the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell calling for an immediate reversal of the decision to deport thousands of non-national families with Irish citizen children.
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said:
"With the deadline to argue their case before the Department of Justice already past, many of these 11,000 families face imminent deportation, despite the children's Irish citizenship and their right to the care and company of their parents, as guaranteed by the 1937 Constitution and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.
"The Department of Justice is wrong to treat last January's Supreme Court decision as a mandate to deport these people. In effect, the Government's policy creates a two-tier citizenship based on race or ethnic origin. This is also wrong.
"In many cases there is a risk that these Irish children may be expelled to countries where they will not qualify for citizenship - thus rendering them stateless - or where they and their families will face the same dangers that caused their parents to seek asylum in the first place. This constitutes a gross violation of the State's responsibility to protect its citizens, and to cherish all the children of the nation equally.
"As fellow Irish citizens and as republicans we cannot stand idly by and allow this to happen unchallenged. Therefore, on an urgent basis, the Sinn Féin TDs have asked the Minister, in the name of human decency and in view of Ireland's international, equality and human rights obligations, to reverse the decision immediately, and to provide explicit protection for the rights of these childrenin legislation." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking following a meeting of the party's regional leadership in Dublin this morning said that 'there is a clear sense from across the country that republicans are becoming increasingly frustrated at the approach being taken by the British government.' He said that the the setting of the date for the Assembly elections is the first step required to end the political vacuum.
Mr. McLaughlin said:
"This morning Sinn Féin's regional leadership met in Dublin to evaluate the current crisis in the peace process and to begin preparations for an Autumn campaign in defence of democracy and the right to vote. There is a clear sense from across the country that republicans are becoming increasingly frustrated at the approach being taken by the British government. The setting of the date for the Assembly elections is the first step required to end the political vacuum and rebuild the process and not something to be granted or withheld as a bargaining chip.
"The Good Friday Agreement was based on the primacy of politics and was meant to be a clear demonstration that the days of unionist supremacy were over. It was meant to be the begining of a future based on equality and respect.
"Instead what we have seen over the last four years is the British government trying to implement the Agreement through a unionist prism. And when even that wasn‚t acceptable to unionism the British government pulled the plug entirely - brought down the institutions and cancelled the elections.
"It is clear that British direct rule is deeply unpopular and more that that it is clear that the ongoing political vacuum is causing untold difficulties with people becoming more and more disillusioned with the process with every day that passes. Our responsibility as political leaders is to rebuild the political process. Sinn Féin is willing to play our part. The question is whether the British government is willing to play theirs."ENDS
Commenting on the sale of the Abbeville Estate at Kinsealy, Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O'Toole has called on Fingal County Council not to re-zone the land for housing and to ensure that it remains part of the green belt and an amenity for local people.
Cllr. O'Toole lives in the neighbouring Darndale housing estate and represents the Artane ward on Dublin City Council, which borders the Kinsealy lands. He said:
"The Abbeville estate should not become either a so-called 'exclusive' housing estate, with prices far beyond the reach of ordinary working people, or a golf club for the elite. For too long it has been a millionaire's playground. It should now become an amenity for the communities who bore the brunt of economic recession while the owner of Kinsealy enriched himself at our expense.
"The proposal for up to 4,000 houses on this site would be a disaster for this part of North Dublin. Already there is a massive housing development planned for the 'North Fringe' with up to 8,000 homes stretching from the Malahide Road to Baldoyle."ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone representative Cllr Gerry McHugh has expressed concern at the involvement of the Department of Agriculture and Regional Development in considering a new GM crop - maize seed variety Chardon LL, for approval to the List of Plant Varieties prior to completion of a consultation process on GM crops and food.
Cllr McHugh said:
"It is outrageous that DARD are involved in proposals to add a new GM maize seed, Chardon LL, to the Plant Varieties List ahead of a consultation on GM crops and foods.
"At present there are no GM crops in the north of Ireland and Sinn Féin believe that we need to initiate an Ireland wide consultation before we go down the route of introducing GM crops or food into Ireland. Sinn Féin believe that the marketing potential of a GM free Ireland has not been investigated.
"There is only a voluntary agreement with the GM industry not to commercialise GM varieties until farm scale studies have been evaluated but this is only a voluntary agreement and there are still question marks over the use of farm scale tests and the danger of releasing new genetic mutations into the natural gene pool.
"I am also concerned that there is some confusion about which department assumes responsibility for GM foods. Although Ian Pearson has confirmed that the Department of Environment has primary responsibility for this issue DARD also has an obvious responsibility." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has said that the suspension of the political institutions and the cancellation of the Assembly elections has 'allowed politics to be reduced to little more than squabbles between different wings of rejectionist unionism'.
Mr. Doherty said:
" The suspension of the political institutions and the cancellation of the Assembly elections by the British government has allowed politics to be reduced to little more than squabbles between the different wings of rejectionist unionism.
" Five years on from the Good Friday Agreement this is unacceptable. People did not vote for a unionist side show dominating politics here. Amongst other things they voted for all-Ireland political institutions and they voted for equality and human rights. So far these have not been delivered.
" The approach of the British government has allowed confidence to drain from the political process. This confidence needs to be rebuilt. This can only be done through setting an early date for the Assembly elections, re-establishing the political institutions and implementing the outstanding aspects of the Agreement." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin EU Candidate Marylou McDonald has welcomed Environment Minister Martin Cullen's announcement that tally figures will be available in next years Local Government and European Union elections. She said however that "there are still concerns that the current electronic voting system is seriously flawed and requires significant changes to make it safe. These concerns need to be addressed urgently."
Ms. McDonald said:
"Electronic voting was introduced at the general election in three constituencies and it is the intention of the Government that all constituencies will have electronic voting for the next Local elections and for every election thereafter. It is incredible therefore that there has been little or no debate around the issue of electronic voting despite the major effect it will have on elections and the potential dangers that it throws up.
"Sinn Féin is not against electronic voting but we believe that the form introduced here may be flawed and we are calling for a number of changes to be introduced to ensure that the system works as it should.
"We are not alone in voicing our concerns. The Computer Science Department in Maynooth recently published a study called Electronic Voting: A Safety Critical System, highlighting concerns around the system (NEDAP/Powervote) employed by the government and how it meets the needs of democracy.
"Furthermore in March 2002 the Department of Environment asked a company called Zerflow to carry out a security assessment. They pointed out serious flaws in the system. The Minister said that the Zerflow concerns were 'considered' but no changes made in the system.
"The PR-STV system used in 26 county elections is a complicated process, especially when dealing with eliminations, surpluses and transfers. Developing computer programmes that correctly fulfil legal requirements under electoral law is a very difficult task. One of the means often employed to ensure a high degree of safety is to use a method called Formal Design which proves each part of the code. Such a system is employed in many systems where safety is critical eg: power stations, transport systems, hospitals etc. But it seems that it was not used here. And the fact that the source code is not available to the public for inspection means that its actions cannot be verified.
"It is important that there is full public confidence in the system of electronic voting which is being used. Sinn Féin is recommending that :-
1. Formal methods of development to ensure safety should be used
2. Citizens should have access to how the rules governing elections are being implemented and all source codes and design must be publicly available for inspection
3. A paper copy of the vote, verified by the voter, should be held for the purpose of independent recount.
4. There needs to be a change to the 1992 Electoral Act to allow counting of all votes when distributing a surplus, insteading of counting only the last sub parcel
5. There should be a provision which allows people to exercise their franchise without endorsing the candidates, through a 'none of the above' or spoiling option.
"Electronic voting using a kiosk type system is achievable but there are serious questions about how the current system was produced, how the count is recorded and the ability to independently recheck. These are serious concerns which should be addressed urgently."ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment, Arthur Morgan T.D. today criticised comments by the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Martin Cullen T.D. in which he expressed his opposition to the forthcoming ban on smoking in all workplaces. Sinn Féin wholeheartedly supports the introduction of this ban.
Deputy Morgan said: "Minister Cullen's comments show that he does not seem to understand the reasons for the introduction of the ban on work place smoking. Martin Cullen as Minister for the Environment should have a better understanding than many of his cabinet colleagues of the impact of environmental factors on health, in this case the impact of the workplace environment on workers in bars and the hospitality sector. The Minister ought to understand that this is about workers rights and it would be deeply disappointing if the uninformed views of some Fianna Fáil deputies in any way prevented the full implementation of this ban, which is one of the few positive initiatives from the coalition government." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children's Issues, West Belfast representative Cllr Sue Ramsey has called for all strands of policy that affect children and young people to be brought together.
Speaking to young people in Poleglass at an event to mark International Day for Youth Cllr Ramsey said:
"Children and young people are our future. They have been deeply affected by the conflict. Policy decisions across all departments have implications for our children and young people.
"In the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement Sinn Féin called for a Children's Department. Unfortunately other parties to those negotiations, including the SDLP resisted such a progressive approach to driving forward progress on policy that affects children and young people.
"We need to see a comprehensive strategy put in place that cuts across all departments and brings a central focus on the needs of young people and children and also allows for all policy affecting children to brought together.
"There has been progress in a number of areas, particularly with the appointment of a Children's Commission. But there are still key issues around child protection on an All Ireland and European basis and resources to support young people especially from disadvantaged backgrounds." ENDS
For Immediate Release: 12th August 2003
Sinn Féin Chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin has expressed concern at the potential of parts of the Civil Contingencies Bill to undermine basic and fundamental civil and human rights. This legislation 'updates and extends the provisions of existing emergency powers legislation (principally the Emergency Powers Act 1920 and the Emergency Powers Act (Northern Ireland) 1926)'.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"Part 2 of this draft bill, which would come into effect in the 6 Counties, has the potential for draconian consequences for fundamental civil and human rights. It gives a British Secretary of State almost limitless powers; including the power to issue orders 'of any kind that could be made by Act of Parliament', the power to destroy property, to prohibit movement and to prohibit the assembly of people.
"In terms of human rights this means that the provision of the 1998 Human Rights Act to use the courts to have emergency regulations suspended or struck down on human rights grounds is voided. A court can only declare the regulation incompatible with a claimants‚ Convention rights.
"The definition given to an emergency in the bill is extremely wide-ranging. Most worrying in terms of the 6 counties is the inclusion of situations that present a threat to political or administrative stability.
"While there is a requirement to consult with the First and Deputy First Ministers before emergency powers are used by a British Secretary of State, this can be over-ridden if the matter is deemed to be too urgent to waste time on consultation.
"As this would be reserved British legislation there is no requirement to subject it to equality impact assessment.
"This legislation is another example of the British Government‚s use of the hysteria that it has fuelled about an 'axis of evil' to push through repressive legislation which will affect us all. Given the history of abuse of emergency powers in the 6 counties over the last 80 years, Sinn Féin demands that this legislation does not come into effect in Ireland and that existing special powers legislation is revoked." ENDS
The Chairperson of the Lissadell Action Group, Mayor Sean MacManus has expressed extreme disappointment at the failure of the Government to purchase Lissadell House and Estate. Speaking to The Sligo Champion Alderman MacManus said:
"I am deeply disappointed that this historic property, so closely associated with a heroine of 1916, Constance Markievicz, is to remain in private ownership. The failure of the government to purchase Lissadell is truly regretful and is a clear snub to the wishes of the Irish people. The reality is that this property was offered for sale to the Government at Easter, so they had ample time to assess the estate and move to purchase.
"Instead we have witnessed a process of prevarication over the last four months, which must lead to questions as to the Government‚s interest in this unique historical and cultural property. When they introduced the astronomical figure of €30 million as possible total expenditure it became clear that they had no real interest in buying Lissadell. We in the Lissadell Action Group have always expressed the view that the prime requirement was to purchase the estate and that improvements, if required, could be carried out over a period of years. It is an undisputed fact that the asking price for the house, 400-acre estate and contents was approx. €4.5 million. This is the real figure, not €30 million.
"Sligo County Council have clearly indicated their willingness to become involved, as have other statutory bodies, grants could have been obtained towards running and remedial costs if needed. Despite these facts, the government refused to act and allowed this opportunity to put in place a major tourist attraction for Sligo to slip by. If this property were located in the eastern region there would have been a different government reaction - Farmleigh House has to date cost the taxpayer €100 million.
"The government's failure to secure Lissadell is indicative of their ongoing failure to deliver to this region. The anger generated by this decision will not be placated by pious platitudes and mutterings about financial constraints. ENDS
Sinn Féin education Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone representative Cllr Gerry McHugh has challenged direct rule Education Minster Jane Kennedy to come clean on the end date for the 11+ transfer test after fresh concerns that delays will affect the decision to end the 11+ by 2005.
Cllr McHugh said:
"Jane Kennedy must come clean and tell us if there has been a decision to overturn the decision of Martin McGuinness to end the 11+ transfer test by 2005.
"The equivocation of Jane Kennedy has thrown doubt her ability to deliver an alternative by 2005. This uncertainty is not good for young people ritually forced to sit the 11+ and it is not good for the development of the primary and post primary education sectors.
"It looks as if the working group set up by Jane Kennedy is going nowhere fast and that the timetable for developing the alternative will not be meet.
"While being deeply concerned that Jane Kennedy is attempting a U-turn this also sets a dangerous precedent in terms of direct rule ministers overturning plans and decisions made and developed by locally elected representatives. In that way this situation is not dissimilar to the mess that Des Browne made of the acute hospitals review." ENDS
Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has warned the British government not to become further fixated by the goings on within unionism and the UUP in particular.Her call comes after it emerged that the disciplinary action against Jeffery Donaldson and other rejectionist MPs will drag on for weeks if not months.
Ms Gildernew said:
"Nationalists and republicans are sick of the entire peace process and the implementation of the Agreement in particular becoming tied to the goings on within unionism.
"People voted across this island for a package of changes, a package which promised equality and a level playing field for nationalists for the first time since partition. They did not vote for the amount of change which the UUC or other wings of unionism feel they can accept.
"The British government must end its fixation with the internal dynamics of the UUP and instead focus on delivering upon its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement. That means setting a date for the cancelled Assembly election and it means re-establishing the political institutions which anchor this process." ENDS
Commenting on an attack last night on the newly built home of a Catholic family in Desertmartin, South Derry, local Sinn Féin Councillor Sean Kerr said:
" This Catholic family were preparing to move into their newly built home in the Desertmartin area. This despite the fact that loyalists have already attacked the home five times during its construction.
" There is clearly a very active group of unionist paramilitaries operating in the South Derry area at this time. There have been attempts to intimidate Catholics from areas in Magherafelt and now we have this sectarian attack in Desertmartin.
" I would call on the political leadership of unionism in this area to make it clear to the paramilitaries operating from within their community that sectarian attacks on Catholics must stop. This family must be allowed to move into their home without fear of further threat or attack." ENDS
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster representative Cllr Francie Molloy has criticised the latest announcement that over £280 million has been redistributed from the original budget decisions.
Former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, Cllr Molloy said:
"While the announcement of money being redistributed within the block grant provides a short term injection of money to meet urgent needs in areas such as health and education the reality is that such a high level of budget redistribution is bad financial management and undermines long term planning.
"This weak financial management is a legacy of two previous SDLP Finance Ministers who were obsessed with the New Labour approach to budget management. Sean Farren and Mark Durkan enjoyed making announcements about 'new' money being redistributed in the belief that it 'looked good' but the reality is that it was never 'new' money.
"Moving such large sums around between departments highlights a weakness in budgetary planning. Departments need to know exactly what resources are available to allow for programme development and staff planning. It also disguises the fact that the block grant allocated through the Barnett formula is insufficient to meet our pressing needs." ENDS
Chairman of Save Lisadell Action Committee and Mayor of Sligo, Alderman Sean MacManus has expressed 'grave concerns‚ at reports that the private sale of the historic Lisadell House and Estate may be concluded within the next day'.
Calling on Minister Cullen to intervene to secure the house for the people of Ireland, Mayor MacManus said:
"The case for state ownership of Lisadell House is overwhelming. This has been made clear to both Minister Cullen and the Taoiseach by myself on behalf of the Save Lisadell Action Committee. Sligo County Council has also indicated their willingness to become involved in the future running of this potentially major tourist attraction. I now call on the Government to take immediate action in line with the wishes of the people of Ireland."ENDS
Speaking after Conor Murphy and himself met with British Direct Rule Minister John Spellar this afternoon, South Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Cllr Alex Maskey said:
"At this afternoons meeting we raised a range of key issues with the Minister which require the urgent attention of the British Government, including aspects of the Good Friday Agreement which remain outstanding.
"We deliberately raised with Mr Spellar the case of the killers of Peter McBride who remain part of the British Army, as a result of a decision which he participated in, and we raised the issue of British State involvement in the murder of citizens in the six counties.
"Another area of concern we discussed with Mr Spellar was the crisis of confidence which exists around the Human Rights Commission at this time and the increase in racially motivated attacks across the north.
"We will continue engaging with both governments and the other parties in the time ahead and press strongly our belief that we need to see the British Government setting a firm date for the cancelled Assembly elections." ENDS
The five Sinn Féin TDs have strongly criticised the current military saturation of parts of South Armagh which is causing serious concern and anger among local residents. The five have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen to request that he insist that the British authorities bring an end to the unwanted and unwarranted intrusion. They have also passed on details of specific incidents to the Anglo-Irish section of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Speaking on behalf of the five TDs Martin Ferris said:
"While much has been made of the relative peace of the loyalist marching season, the people of South Armagh are currently living under virtual siege.
"This is making it increasingly impossible for communities to get on with their daily lives as local businesses, sporting events and religious ceremonies have been deliberately disrupted by the activities of unwelcome and unnecessary British troops. Furthermore, none of this can be in any way justified by any alleged 'security situation'.
"We have written to Minister Cowen to request that the Irish Government demands that the British authorities put a stop to this, and to insist that they abide by their commitment to implement the agreed, albeit limited, demilitarisation of this part of Armagh". ENDS