Responding to a speech given by the head of the Human Rights Commission today at the UN in Geneva, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the issue Caitriona Ruane said that Brice Dickson 'appeared to be immune to the widespread criticism of his performance and the demand for him to be replaced'.
Ms Ruane said:
"There is a litany of major problems surrounding the Human Rights Commission, its lack of independence, unbalanced representation and questionable approach to issues such as the Bill of Rights to date. As constituted the Commission does not command public confidence. Brice Dickson is well aware of this.
"Sinn Féin along with other groups interested in the creation of a rights based society have called for Brice Dickson to resign from his position as a first stage in public confidence in the body being restored.
" Given Professor Dickson's performance at the UN this afternoon it seems that he is completely immune to the very serious concerns which have been raised about his performance as Chief Commissioner.
" The Human Rights Commission is broken and needs fixed. Sinn Féin will continue to raise this issue with the two governments in the time ahead as part of our efforts to see the demands of the Good Friday Agreement regarding the Human Rights Commission delivered." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe TD has been attending the teachers' conferences over the past number of days. One of the main issues arising out of discussions with teachers and union members has been the problem of school discipline. Deputy Crowe has expressed his concern about the serious level of abuse and even violence directed at teachers and considers the problem to be a direct reflection of similar problems within communities at large.
Sinn Féin TD has learnt of incidents where teachers have had pellet guns fired at them and even an incident where a pregnant teacher had stones thrown at her car as she was leaving the school premises. "We need greater community participation in the running of schools," he said. "It is only through this broader community participation can we address the discipline issue from both inside and outside schools."
Another difficulty addressed by Deputy Crowe is the culture of silence amongst teachers on this issue. He said, "No teacher wants to expose negative feedback regarding their own school. But unfortunately such a code of silence is unhelpful. We need a more open approach to the whole problem of school discipline and I welcome the Minister's readiness to get into discussions with the unions of the issue." ENDS
The leader of Sinn Féin on Monaghan County Council Councillor Brian McKenna has said that Mícheál Martin has been exposed as a hypocrite following his decision to intervene in the future of A & E services at the General Hospital in Ennis, Co. Clare.
Cllr. Brian McKenna, who represents the people of North Monaghan on the County Council, said that Mr. Martin's intervention would be good news for County Clare but it means that Fianna Fáil has serious questions to answer to the people of Monaghan.
In a statement Cllr. McKenna said:
"Minister Martin has gone against the recommendations of the notorious Hanly report in relation to the provision of services at a hospital in Clare. Why, it must be asked, can the same not be done in Monaghan's case?
"Time and time again Mr. Martin and Fianna Fáil representatives have told the people of Monaghan that a Minister could not intervene in the affairs of a hospital due to the Health Act of 1970. The actions of Mícheál Martin in relation to Ennis have proved that these statements were false and that this Minister, like so many Fianna Fáil health ministers before him, is a hypocrite.
"It is time for this hypocrisy to end and for the Minister to intervene to ensure that full maternity and A & E services return to Monaghan General Hospital immediately and that, as a first requirement the hospital be placed back 'On Call'."ENDS
Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Daithí Doolan, expressed disappointment today at the decision by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions to cancel their annual May Day march and rally.
Mr. Doolan said
"While I fully respect the DCTUs decision taken last night, I feel it is a very sad day for trade unions. For many years the trade unions here in Dublin were the voice of working people now they appear to be making themselves redundant. The reason given for the decision to cancel was that there might be violence at the May Day rally organised by 'Another Europe Is possible'. This simply not good enough and totally untrue. Despite media hype there is no evidence of any organisations preparing for anything other than a good family, celebration on May Day.
The trade union movement in this city has a long and proud tradition of standing up for worker‚s rights and taking to the streets to voice their opinions. It is important that this activity is not simply reduced to the pages of history because of rumour and media hype.
The May Day activities organised by Another Europe Is Possible offered a great opportunity to trade unions to reengage with people they claim to represent. Instead they choose to further distance themselves from where people are at. Having spoken to delegates from last night‚s meeting and expressed my disappointment, I understand it was a slim margin by which the motion to host a march was defeated."
Mr. Doolan concluded by calling on the Council of Trade Unions to reevaluate their decision and show the leadership necessary. "It is time for all trade unions to come back onto the streets where they belong and to support the May Day celebrations." ENDS
Sinn Féin's EU candidate for the South constituency David Cullinane, has today said that "more resources are needed to help school children with special needs."Mr Cullinane's comments came after today's announcement by Minister Dempsey to employ 350 new teachers across the state to cater for children with special needs. The proposal was unveiled as the Irish National Teachers‚ Organisation (INTO) met at their annual conference in Tralee, Co Kerry.
Speaking today, Mr Cullinane said:
"Today's announcement by Minister Dempsey is a much needed boost to the education sector. However, it is very clear that more resources are needed to help school children with special needs. The INTO has estimated that 1000 teachers are required to meet the shortfall, so we are still a considerable distance off ensuring that children with special needs are catered for.
"More than six thousand pupils whose needs have been identified for over a year are not getting any extra support in school. There are thousands of others whose needs have not yet been formally assessed due to a shortage of psychologists and other services. The National Education Psychological Service (NEPS) is chronically under funded and incapable of carrying out its mandates. Huge sections of the state, particularly in the west and north are not covered at all.
"There is also an urgent need for administration posts in schools. 75% of school Principals are also full-time teachers and the burdens of education, in particular dealing with special needs education are enormous. As my colleague Deputy Sean Crowe made clear in the debate on the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003, Principals do not have the administrative resources to serve those children with special needs as it stands, let alone after the Bill becomes law and the administrative workload massively increases.
"Whilst these teaching appointments are a welcome first step, it is long overdue, minimalist and fails to tackle the administration problem that is severely hampering the ability of Principals to deal with special education needs."ENDS
Sinn Féin EU candidate for the East Constituency and Wexford Councillor John Dwyer has called for urgent action to sort out the crisis at Wexford General Hospital which resulted in 30 patients being left on trolleys over the bank holiday weekend.
Councillor Dwyer said:
"The situation in Wexford General Hospital was intolerable at the weekend for patients and staff with 30 patients being left on trolleys. This is not a once off incident and will become an even more common occurance as the hospital does not have the bed capacity to cater for the population growth in County Wexford.
"The only way to address this ongoing problem is to provide additional acute beds to meet with the increased demands. It is not good enough for the government to say that the funding is not available. It is time that they lived up to their responsibilities to the people of Wexford and provide a proper public health service."ENDS
Sinn Féin EU candidate for the North West Pearse Doherty speaking at an Easter Commemoration in North Belfast this afternoon called on the Irish Government to cancel plans to hold the proposed citizenship referendum on June 11th. He was speaking following this morning's intervention by the Head of the Human Rights Commission in the south, Dr. Maurice Manning.
Mr. Doherty said:
"It is clear that there is widespread opposition to government attempts to rush through their proposed citizenship referendum without time for proper consultation and debate. It is also clear that the Government have not thought through the consequences of their proposals either in terms of the Good Friday Agreement or the human rights of those born in this country.
This is a complex and sensitive issue and should not be used for short term electoral gain. Sinn Féin opposes this proposed referendum and we oppose the matter being rushed through without proper debate.
"The government should cancel their proposed referendum and instead bring forward a positive policy on immigration, something which is long overdue."ENDS
Sinn Féin's Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald has described Minister for Justice Michael McDowell's weekend attacks on republicans commemorating the 1916 Rising as 'juvenile' and said it was like something from a school playground. Speaking after the conclusion of over 100 events that took place right across the island, Ms McDonald described the Minster as having a 'fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of republicanism'.
Ms McDonald said:
"Michael McDowell's comments merely serve to expose his fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of republicanism.
"The basic tenets of republicanism, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity have been ceaselessly undermined by this Government. Where is the commitment to Fraternity to be seen in a Government introducing a citizenship referendum to allow it to deport people while putting in place restrictions on the movements of workers from the EU accession states? Where is the commitment to Equality in a Government that has seen substantial increases in relative poverty and inequality over the lifetime of the Coalition? Where is the commitment to Liberty when Irish independence is continually diminished in the EU and the Government is happy to see Shannon Airport turned into a US military base?
"Michael McDowell attacks republicans for remembering the men and women of 1916 in more than 100 different commemorations across the island over the last three days but has no interest in doing so himself. Unlike Michael McDowell we claim no monopoly on republicanism, but we believe that actions speak louder than rhetorical soundbites uttered more for the benefit of the media than for political debate.
"The Minister for Justice has repeatedly undermined republicanism in Ireland, he is rewriting the Good Friday Agreement with his proposed referendum and putting the Peace Process at risk for narrow party political gain in the forthcoming elections." ENDS
Sinn Féin representative for Dublin South East Daithí Doolan said that there was amazement in the area this morning that Dublin City Council had publicly announced details of their plans to begin to sell off Council flats from this summer without properly notifying residents.
Mr. Doolan was speaking following the announcement by Dublin City Council that from this summer Council flats will be offered for sale to tenants. The first homes on the market will be Weaver Court in the Liberties.
Mr. Doolan said:
"I welcome the fact that tenants of Council flats are to be allowed to buy their homes but there are huge concerns that this scheme has not been thought out properly. There has been almost no consultation with residents. There have been no assurances that this will not involve the wholesale sell off of Council housing to the private sector. And this scheme is being introduced in the absence of a real housing programme to house those already on the waiting list and those who are homeless.
"Given that the Council is not building sufficient houses and they are now proposing to sell off current stock, how on earth are they going to house people in this City in the future.
"It is time that the Council got real on this issue and dealt with peoples concerns."ENDS
Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative and Lenadoon resident Cllr. Paul Butler has spoken of his shock and anger at the murder of a West Belfast teenager over the weekend. The 16 year old from Lenadoon was found dumped in a forest on the outskirts of Poleglass.
Cllr. Butler said:
" People in Lenadoon and indeed throughout West Belfast are both shocked and extremely angry at this horrific incident. This young girls family are well known within this community and I am sure that we will now do all in our power to rally around them at this time.
" The family are obviously devastated by this murder and they are going through an absolute nightmare. This young girl went out as thousands of other young people went out to enjoy the Easter break. It is unbelievable that she did not return home.
" I would wish to publicly extend my sympathy and the sympathy of my party to the family at this most difficult of times." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has said that concerns being expressed by the SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone about people with disabilities being refused access to the Electoral Register are 'hypocritical given the fact that the legislation being used to discriminate against them came at the behest of the SDLP'.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The legislation under which the registration process is conducted was introduced two years ago at the behest of the SDLP and the unionists. The result has been for 211,000 people to lose their vote. It directly discriminates against people with disabilities, low incomes, literacy problems and those seeking to vote for the first time.
"Sinn Féin has been campaigning for a change in the legislation for sometime. The SDLP are on public record as supporting the new regulations including those which Patsy McGlone now claims are discriminatory. People have a right to know what the SDLP position is. Do they believe as Mr McGlone claims that the legislation is discriminatory or do they support it, which has been the position over the past two years. The SDLP need to clarify their position.
"If they now believe the legislation to be flawed then they should join with Sinn Féin in demanding that the British government amend the Act and remove the discriminatory elements from the legislation and help restore public confidence in the Electoral process." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly group leader Conor Murphy has accused the British government of operating quite shocking double standards in their approach to the Finucane case and their approach to the workings of the IMC.
Mr Murphy said:
"The British government are steadfastly refusing to hold an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. They base this position on the fact that a man is currently awaiting trial for the murder and that any outside inquiry would jeopardise his chance of a fair trial. This is an unacceptable position and it is Sinn Féin's position that an independent, international inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane should proceed without further delay.
"Yet when it comes to the workings of the IMC the British government have demanded that they produce a report into the incident involving Bobby Tohill and make it public despite that fact that four men are awaiting trial relating to that matter.
"The double standards in operation are very obvious for all to see. The British government cannot have it both ways. They either believe that an outside inquiry into an incident jeopardises a trial or they don't." ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly speaking at the Easter Commemoration this afternoon said: "London and Dublin must inject momentum into the process. This requires actions, not words. The two governments now need to convince Republicans and Nationalists that they are serious about the peace process and political process. They can do this by honouring their respective commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, the joint declaration and in the discussions with us last October.
But I can tell you that blaming Republicans won't move us forward and neither will trying to criminalise us. Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike which marks the high cost of following a futile policy of criminalisation. It also shows how much Republicans are prepared to endure and how far they will go to protect the integrity of our struggle."
Mr Kelly commenting on the Cory report and the implications for policing said:
"In the context of Cory and the structure and practice of collusion continuing those who have taken the decision to endorse and support the current policing arrangements in the Six Counties have made a monumental error and they need to explain it to everyone else. They have inherited the Special Branch and their agents en bloc from the RUC to the P.S.N.I. They have inherited the plastic bullets. They have inherited the repressive legislation. They have inherited the Human Rights Abusers. They have inherited the military fortresses. They are powerless and perhaps reluctant to do anything about it. Sinn Féin will accept nothing short of the new beginning promised in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. We will not accept second-class policing."
Full text of speech
A Chairde agus a chomradaithe,
Is onóir mór domhsa bheith anseo i nDoire, ag labhairt libh ar an lá stairiúl seo.
Agus is fior lá stairiúl é de thairbhe go bhfuil muid cruinnithe anseo ag cuimhniú ar na fir agus na mná a chuaigh amach ar Domhnach na Cásca i mBaile Atha Cliath agus lás said tine ar fud an domhain Ocht bliana is ochtó ó shin.
Tá muid ag cuimhniú fosta ar fir agus mná óga ár linne atá ina luí thart orainn anseo, sa reilg uaigneach seo.
I am very honoured to be speaking here today of those who died for Irish freedom in 1916 and in every generation since.
Easter week 1916 was one of the greatest historical events of the last century. It started the bush fire of decolonisation, which was to engulf what was then the British Empire. It inspired generations of Irish Republicans and peoples throughout the world who rose up against the tyranny of colonial rule, imperialism and oppression. It is a fire still burning in the heart of every republican.
So let me be clear, our comrades who gave their lives and those of us who survived to take up their mantle were and are about bringing about British withdrawal and achieving a free independent and united Ireland.
While remembering fallen comrades lets also remember POW‚s still incarcerated. There are still political prisoners in jail who should have been released. We should hear less excuses and see more action they should be released immediately. There are people on the run who would have been released had they been in jail we should hear less excuses and see more action.
I want to pay tribute to the volunteers and leadership of the IRA of today because they have shown outstanding valour and vision on and off the battlefield. They have played a central role in this phase of the struggle and I commend their initiatives, patience, discipline and tenacity.
Indeed individual and collective courage have been the mainstay of this long struggle. It was the courage shown by the leadership of the IRA in calling a cessation of military operations in 1994 which was the catalyst for not only the overall peace process but for the ongoing development of the republican strategy which has brought us so far.
Sinn Féin has been working tirelessly to make the peace process work, only to be hampered at almost every turn by rejectionist unionists and the British government. Last year, after an intensive round of negotiations, Republicans agreed a deal with the Unionists and the two governments in October. As always Republicans upheld their part of the bargain but the unionists reneged, followed by the British and Irish governments.
Both governments entered into commitments, covering a wide range of issues from prisoners, through policing, demilitarisation, northern representation in Southern institutions, equality, human rights matters and more. There was to be immediate and substantial movement.
The governments have not moved an inch since October.
London and Dublin must inject momentum into the process. This requires actions, not words. The two governments now need to convince Republicans and Nationalists that they are serious about the peace process and political process. They can do this by honouring their respective commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, the joint declaration and in the discussions with us last October.
But I can tell you that blaming Republicans won‚t move us forward and neither will trying to criminalise us. Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike which marks the high cost of following a futile policy of criminalisation. It also shows how much Republicans are prepared to endure and how far they will go to protect the integrity of our struggle.
As you are all aware the last four months have seen a renewed attack on our party and on republicanism itself. We have listened to government politicians line up to attack Sinn Féin. We have listened to allegation after allegation, selective briefings to the media and the worst type of nod and wink politics. When asked to back up their claims and produce evidence, we have got no answers.
We are Irish republicans. We are proud to be Irish Republicans. We won't be criminalized by the Irish Government, and Michael McDowell or anyone else.
It is lost on nobody that these attacks have increased in volume and ferocity as we get closer to the Local Government and EU elections. It is lost on nobody that it is happening at a time when the peace process is in difficulty.
For decades republicans have been highlighting the issue of collusion. Collusion was dismissed by our opponents, as simply republican propaganda.
It was not. It was a British government policy of state sanctioned killing. Unionist death squads were armed, trained and directed at the wider nationalist community and at republicans in particular. The people and structures which ran this campaign from Downing Street through FRU, MI5 and the Special Branch remain in place. They must be removed. The policy must be ended.
Cory is only the tip of the iceberg. Many more dirty secrets still lie in Downing Street and in PSNI headquarters in Knock.
I also wish to pay tribute to the families of those murdered through the collusion policy. They refused to accept the lies and the cover-up and have campaigned, some for up to 20 years and more, for the truth. They deserve our praise and our support in the time ahead especially in the face of further British resistance to and concealment of the truth.
In the context of Cory and the structure and practice of collusion continuing those who have taken the decision to endorse and support the current policing arrangements in the Six Counties have made a monumental error and they need to explain it to everyone else. They have inherited the Special Branch and their agents en bloc from the RUC to the P.S.N.I. They have inherited the plastic bullets. They have inherited the repressive legislation. They have inherited the Human Rights Abusers. They have inherited the military fortresses. They are powerless and perhaps reluctant to do anything about it. Sinn Féin will accept nothing short of the new beginning promised in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. We will not accept second-class policing.
The DUP support base has risen. They are the leading voice of Unionism. Like them or not we respect their mandate. But we are not naïve. The demands that the DUP are making of Sinn Féin are totally unacceptable. The demands for surrender and disbandment of the IRA will not resolve the difficulties and no one in the British
or Irish governments should pretend that it will.
The DUP and UUP need to know that although they can refuse to work the institutions they will have no veto over issues such as human rights, equality, policing, demilitarisation and rights and entitlements.
Mr Blair has set a June timeframe. Republicans will do our best to make that work, but only the actions of the governments can determine how successful we will be collectively in the weeks ahead. If the political will exists the problems can be resolved. We remain in contact with the 2 governments and the other parties, we seek a dialogue with the DUP. Republicans have the strength and commitment to resolve these issues. However, I am not sure if the governments and the Unionists have it. We have no illusions about the task facing us but we are wedded totally to building justice and equality in Ireland.
Since last Easter Sinn Féin has consolidated its position as the largest Nationalist party in the North. We are currently engaged in an intensive campaign North and South in preparation for the European and local government elections in June. We want to bring about real and lasting change. We are the only party standing in all five EU constituencies in Ireland and we will be standing more than 200 candidates in the local government elections.
We will do well ˆ the other main political parties in the South are afraid that ordinary people, fed up with the corruption, and mismanagement of government, will turn their backs on their failed politics and come to Sinn Féin.
The recent attacks on Sinn Féin are not just about the upcoming elections. They are deeper, it is the Establishment for the first time, extremely worried that Sinn Féin is moving towards government in both parts of Ireland.
Sinn Féin believes in people. Sinn Fein believes in empowering people, in working in partnership with local communities to tackle problems and map out new policies.
Transforming society on this island means bringing about real social and economic change for all in Irish society. The last ten years have been a time of unprecedented economic growth in the South. But the unprecedented growth was not used to the benefit of all. Not only did the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats coalition fail to tackle the structural inequalities, which warp our economy and damage our society, they actually worsened those inequalities and widened the gap between rich and poor. Sinn Féin wants to change all of this. Sinn Féin is building the radical alternative and pointing the way forward to an all-Ireland democracy, an Ireland of equals.
I believe that the story of this election will be the growth of the Sinn Féin vote and the increased number of seats that we will win. Our task in the weeks and months ahead is to reap the harvest we have sown ˆ to ensure that the support won by the hard work of the past five years is mobilised on polling day. It is our task to ensure that we continue to work to bring about the goals of Irish unity and independence. Our specific goal in the 6 Counties is to make history with Bairbre de Brún.
One of the most encouraging aspects of this phase of our struggle has been the numbers of young people attracted to our party. A new generation of activists are taking their place in the struggle and we must ensure that place is secured. We are the only Nationalist party, which is experiencing such growth, and it is a sign that young people see this party as a vehicle for change for a new generation. They should also be in the vanguard of that change and of our political project.
Sinn Féin is a republican party. We are the only All-Ireland party. Our goal is to see a United Ireland, which delivers real social and economic change. We are the only party with a strategy and policies for achieving Irish unity and independence.
The unrealistic demands made on Republicans is code for preserving the failed status quo. It is code for arresting dynamic, code for old style Unionist rule. We will have none of it. There will be no return to the bad old days.
Change is always difficult. When taken in the context of a conflict, change can be traumatic. And this can be made even more difficult when there are those, both within sections of unionism and with the British political and military establishment who still want to hold on to the old ways. That is where the serious threat to the peace process comes from at this time.
Our goal as Irish republicans is an Irish ud on that strength. The stronger we are the closer our goal of a free independent, and united Ireland will come. We are proud of our past, strong in our struggle today and confident in our future. Together we will achieve Irish unity and independence. We will live in the Irish Republic for which so many have sacrificed so much.
Bígí Cinnte go dtiocfaidh ar lá
Speaking at Easter ceremonies in Ballinasloe and Galway City on Easter Sunday, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Irish Government must be a proponent of Irish Unity and must challenge the British government in its breaches of the Good Friday Agreement. He was also critical of the role of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Serious questions must be asked of the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen for allowing PD Minister McDowell to take such a leading role in determining Irish Government policy in the peace process. When his electoral play-acting is over the serious work of the peace process will have to continue.
"Sinn Féin will not be distracted by any of this. We are committed to the Good Friday Agreement and to its full implementation. We recognise what has been achieved so far and what has yet to be achieved. We take our responsibility very seriously and we stand on our record of achievement. We have delivered and we continue to deliver.
"Sinn Féin does not seek a slap on the back for our role in bringing about a new direction for republicanism, including the IRA cessations since 1994. That was not our role alone. What we do seek is a continued commitment from the Irish Government to the process of change, which made that new direction possible.
"For its part the British Government has failed to deliver on demilitarisation, equality and human rights, policing, the repeal of repressive legislation, collusion and the Irish language. This is the government, which insulted the survivors and the bereaved of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings with its dismissive response to the investigation of Judge Barron. A weak-kneed approach to the British Government from the Irish Government is not acceptable. If a partnership is required to deliver the Good Friday Agreement it must be a real partnership, a partnership of equals. It is time to remind the Taoiseach that his primary role is as a leader of Irish nationalism and a proponent of Irish Unity as mandated by the Irish Constitution.
"The British Government's repeated suspension of the institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement is a violation of an international treaty. The Taoiseach must remind the British Prime Minister that people in the 26 Counties voted for the Agreement and for significant constitutional change on the basis that the Agreement would be implemented in all its aspects and, in particular, that all-Ireland institutions would be established as working institutions. The Irish Government has been silent too long in the British Government's violation of the Agreement."ENDS
Sinn Féin West Belfast Assembly member Bairbre de Brún speaking at Belfast Easter parade, Milltown Cemetery said: "Republicans understand only too well the challenges which arise from the peace process and from the agenda for change contained in the Good Friday Agreement. This process presents great challenges for all but also great opportunities.
That is why republicans continue to negotiate with the two governments. That is why republicans have on occasions taken initiatives to save this process and advance our agenda of change. Republicans have again and again faced up to the challenge of peace building and national reconciliation. Others must do the same."
Addressing the issue of collusion Ms de Brún said "The Finucane family have called for the campaign for a full international judicial inquiry to continue and we support them in that demand. What hope can there be for truth when the state responsible for the policy of collusion is also responsible for setting the terms of reference, structure and membership of any inquiry?
Sinn Féin will also closely scrutinise those inquiries that are established.
The refusal of the Chief Constable Hugh Orde to provide essential information to inquests in Tyrone, the refusal of the British government to co-operate with the Barron report into the Dublin-Monaghan bombs, the Bloody Sunday example of a British system subverting an enquiry, and the long fingering of the Finucane case, are all indicative of the effort being made by those within the British state who are determined to prevent the facts from emerging.
Nor should we forget that the apparatus of collusion still exists and that collusion remains part of British state policy in Ireland. If the British government cannot accept that collusion has happened and does happen, how can we be confident that it will end?"
Full text of speech
Is onóir dom bheith linne anseo inniu chun na fir agus na mná a fuair bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann a chomóradh. Tá mé thar a bheith sásta gur i mBéal Feirste atá mé ag labhairt, ceantar inar sheas muintir na háite an fhód le linn na coimhlinte is cuma cé chomh deacair agus a bhí cúrsaí agus ceantar ina bhfuil éacht mhór déanta ag an pobal mar atá fás na Gaelscoileanna, na tacsaithe dubha, agus féilte mar Féile an Phobail.
We meet today on the 88th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, an uprising which saw men and women from urban and rural areas challenge the might of the British Empire and bring about unprecedented and profound change in an Ireland where people were told that no change could or should be expected.
The 1916 Rising came about as a result of many different threads in Irish society of that time:
* the cultural revival led by people who rejected the notion that Irish was backward or second best
* the self sufficiency of those who believed that Irish commerce and industry was the equal of those anywhere
* the fighting tradition of those who wished to bring about political independence; and
* the labour and women's strands who believed that prosperity in Ireland was not enough if that prosperity was not shared among all its people
Ireland in 1916 and in the period leading up to it was a hotbed of politics, a place where people saw the possibility of a different type of society and went about organising to make it happen.
Many of those at the forefront of the great national movements were very young, very idealistic and like those who have led the movement for change in more recent years, were motivated not by hatred or in the hope of personal gain, but by the fact that they saw great wrongs around them and wanted to put them right. They were very ordinary men and women who, in extraordinary times, did extraordinary things.
Tá cuimhne orainn mar sin de chan amháin orthu siúd a fuair bás i 1916 ach ar na fir agus na mná a rinne an íobairt céanna i ngach ghlún ó shin go dtí an lá atá inniu ann.
So today we remember not only those who gave their lives in 1916 but those who made that sacrifice in every generation since then. Many people today will have a special memory of an uncle or an aunt, a parent, brother or sister or indeed a neighbour or friend who has died in the most recent period of this long and painful conflict. In every decade since 1916, republicans have made that sacrifice for liberty, justice and equality.
I want to acknowledge the positive and constructive role played by the Leadership and Volunteers of Óglaigh na hÉireann in creating and sustaining the conditions for the peace process.
This August marks the tenth anniversary of the 1994 cessation. It was this initiative which more than any other made the peace process possible.
Indeed there would be no peace process but for the courageous decisions, and imaginative initiatives taken by the IRA.
I want to mention at this point an event taking place this summer, which I would like republicans to support. The Le Chéile Annual National Testimonial Dinner will pay tribute to 5 individuals for their lifelong contribution to the republican struggle. This important event will take place in Dublin this June.
I am particularly proud to be speaking in Belfast today, a city that has seen not only valiant resistance to injustice and oppression but real leadership which has made this city over the years a hotbed of politics to match and surpass the Ireland of 1916, and an example to people across the island and internationally.
The resilient and imaginative people of this city not only survived through long and hard years of conflict, occupation and discrimination, but went on to found its own taxi service, to grow the vibrant Irish medium sector of education, to campaign successfully for the transformation of appalling housing conditions, and to provide some of the leading figures in the political, education, culture and business sectors to name but a few.
So I pay tribute here today to this my adopted city.
On the political front, despite the constructive efforts of republicans the last year has been a difficult one for the peace process. Opportunities for progress were squandered by the two governments, and particularly by the British government.
Ag an am seo anuraidh bhí poblachtánaithe páirteach in iarracht deireadh a chur leis an éigeandáil sa phróiséas. Níor éirigh leis an iarracht sin de thairbhe nach raibh David Trimble ar lorg réiteach. Thacaigh Rialtas Shasana le seasamh s‚aige chomh maith.
Last Easter republicans were involved in a serious effort to end the crisis. It came to nought because David Trimble didn't want an agreement, and because the British government backed his stance.
In the intervening year, most importantly in October, republicans again made a serious effort to reach agreement with the governments and the unionists. And once again David Trimble walked away from an agreement.
Republicans understand only too well the challenges which arise from the peace process and from the agenda for change contained in the Good Friday Agreement. This process presents great challenges for all but also great opportunities.
That is why republicans continue to negotiate with the two governments. That is why republicans have on occasions taken initiatives to save this process and advance our agenda of change. Republicans have again and again faced up to the challenge of peace building and national reconciliation. Others must do the same.
I want to take this opportunity to commend Belfast republicans whose diligence ensured that last summer was the quietest ever. People far beyond our communities recognise the effort involved and salute you for it.
In the long term a process cannot be sustained on the goodwill and actions of one party. For a process to flourish it requires all of the parties including the two governments to honour obligations made and fulfil bargains entered into.
Last October, David Trimble and his party reneged at the last minute.
The Irish and British governments entered into commitments, covering a wide range of issues from prisoners, through policing, demilitarisation, northern representation in southern institutions, equality, human rights matters and more.
We were to see immediate and substantial progress on all of these. We saw none.
The governments have not moved an inch since October, other than to try and blame republicans again for the crisis. This is not acceptable
The current position of the DUP is also unacceptable. They are in effect playing catch up with the rest of us. But we are not prepared simply to sit and wait for them to make up lost ground. The process has to move forward. It cannot stand still waiting for negative unionism to grasp reality.
Our commitment to this process cannot be questioned. It comes from our desire to see conflict ended and a new future built for everyone on this island. But we cannot do this alone. The British government must fulfil its commitments and the Irish government has a duty and an obligation as co-guarantors of the Agreement to stand up for the rights of Irish citizens living in the north.
In particular, the Irish government must ensure that all political prisoners are released and this includes those still held in Castlerea.
The last twelve months has also seen an intensification of campaigning on the issue of collusion. Families of those killed by the state or with the state‚s knowledge. Acquiescence or aid have taken the campaign across Ireland and to London and America demanding truth and justice. Collusion was planned, organised and politically cleared at the highest levels within the British system.
I would like to pay tribute to the families of those murdered through the collusion policy. They refused to accept the lies and the cover-up and have campaigned, some for up to 20 years and more, for the truth. They deserve our praise and our support in the time ahead.
The Finucane family have called for the campaign for a full international judicial inquiry to continue and we support them in that demand. What hope can there be for truth when the state responsible for the policy of collusion is also responsible for setting the terms of reference, structure and membership of any inquiry?
Sinn Féin will also closely scrutinise those inquiries that are established.
The refusal of the Chief Constable Hugh Orde to provide essential information to inquests in Tyrone, the refusal of the British government to co-operate with the Barron report into the Dublin-Monaghan bombs, the Bloody Sunday example of a British system subverting an enquiry, and the long fingering of the Finucane case, are all indicative of the effort being made by those within the British state who are determined to prevent the facts from emerging.
Nor should we forget that the apparatus of collusion still exists and that collusion remains part of British state policy in Ireland. If the British government cannot accept that collusion has happened and does happen, how can we be confident that it will end?
In spite of the difficulties facing us, we continue to grow and to progress. Sinn Féin is the fastest growing party in Ireland. As we organise in an ever increasing number of areas throughout the island, more and more people are hearing an exciting political message, of social justice at home and abroad, of equality and human rights, of pride in our heritage and openness to the value and contribution of other cultures, and of the promise of fundamental change in our society. They hear a message that says Irish independence can happen and will happen, and they want to be part of bringing that about.
I ask those of you who hear that message today to work with us, and those already part of this great project to make room for those coming new to it, because the task is enormous and we need all the help we can get.
Sinn Féin faces major challenges in the days and weeks ahead. Our negotiators are still fully engaged in talks with the two governments and the other parties as we work to get the peace process back on track. We are also presenting a real alternative in politics north and south. We are committed to social and economic freedom for the people of Ireland. We are just as determined to achieve an Ireland where poverty and inequality are eliminated as we are to achieve an end to partition.
None of this can be achieved without greater political strength for Sinn Féin. In the local government and EU elections in June Sinn Féin will be presenting its largest ever number of candidates. We are the only party standing in all five EU constituencies on the island and we will be standing more than 200 candidates in the Local Government elections in the South. We are determined that these elections will build on the tremendous success of last November's Assembly elections when we confirmed our position as the largest nationalist party.
Tá sé de rún daingean againn foireann uile-Éireannach de feisirí na hEorpa a thoghadh i mí Meitheamh. Daonlathas, neodracht agus comhionnanas a bheidh mar bhunchloch obair feisirí s‚againn.
We are determined that we will return an all Ireland team of Sinn Féin members of the European Parliament, where democracy, neutrality and equality will be central to our agenda.
Political and electoral strength are not an end in themselves. The amount of change that can be achieved in any period of history depends on the strength of those seeking maximum change. Sinn Féin is the only party with a strategy and policies for achieving Irish unity and independence. We are the only party that people can vote for, whether they live in Derry, Kerry, Wexford or Antrim. We are the only party bringing a distinctly republican and socialist analysis into the heart of Irish politics. This puts a huge responsibility on republicans to set out our plans, our proposals for building Irish unity and the type of Ireland that we want to create.
I also want to commend to you the Rights for All Charter, which sets out fundamental political, democratic and human rights, which Sinn Féin believes should form the basis of our society. Our priority is to create an inclusive society where the rights of all are protected. This document is designed to stimulate debate on what sort of society people want for Ireland. It is vital that people use the document and take the debate into the wider community.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Sinn Féin and the following year is the 25th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes. We are in the midst of an era that, that like 1916 and 1981, can see an equally profound and unparalleled level of change. However this can only be achieved if more people become active in the republican struggle. In the words of Bobby Sands everyone has a part to play and I urge those here who are not yet actively involved to join Sinn Fein and to play your part and help us achieve the dream which motivated the women and men of 1916, that of an independent, democratic socialist, Irish republic, free from sod to sky and cherishing all the children of the nation equally.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking at this year's Dublin Easter Commemoration said "Let me make it clear that the Sinn Fein leadership is prepared to enter once again into new intense negotiations. We are prepared once again to do our best to make this process work. We have no illusions about this. We are wedded totally to building justice and peace on this island.
Mr. Blair has set June as a timeframe. We will do our best to make that work but only the actions of the governments can determine how successful we will collectively be in the weeks ahead." Mr. Adams said "whatever the spin of the moment by the governments the reality is that the greatest challenge at this time is to the Taoiseach Mr. Ahern and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. And we have told them that."
Mr. Adams acknowledged the positive and constructive role of the Volunteers of the IRA in creating and sustaining the chat the process moves forward.
For months now Sinn Fein has argued that the two governments need to take the lead in putting together a structure of talks, which deals with the seriousness of the situation. So, I welcome Mr. Blair's remarks and I expect that there will be a concentrated effort to resolve the outstanding issues in the next few weeks.
I believe that if the political will exists even the serious and vexed issues facing all of us at this time can be resolved. To that end Sinn Féin has remained in contact with the two governments and the other parties.
I know that Irish republicans have that strength of will to resolve these issues. I am not confident that the two governments have it. I am certainly not confident that the leaders of political unionism have it.
So, let me spell out what we believe is required from the two governments and the unionists if there is to be progress after Easter.
And none of this is rocket science. So, let's get real.
Does anyone in the two governments really believe that blaming republicans for the current crisis is creating the proper atmosphere for serious negotiations? If the governments are serious about this peace process then they need to convince republicans and nationalists. This requires actions not words. It requires movement not rhetoric.
London and Dublin must accept that they have to inject new momentum into the process. They do this by honouring their respective commitments in the Good Friday Agreement, in the Joint Declaration and in the discussions with us last October.
Let us be clear, both governments entered into commitments, covering a wide range of issues from prisoners, through policing, demilitarisation, northern representation in southern institutions, equality, human rights matters and more. There was to be immediate and substantial progress on all of these. There was none.
Instead we have the continued suspension of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, a totally unacceptable situation.
The governments have not moved an inch since October, other than to try and blame republicans again for the crisis. This is also unacceptable. It is also untrue.
At this stage I want to especially acknowledge the positive and constructive role of the Volunteers of the IRA in creating and sustaining the conditions of the peace process. The August marks the 10th anniversary of the 1994 cessation. It was this initiative more than any other which made the peace process possible. The fact is that there would be no peace process but for the courageous decisions and imaginative initiatives taken by the IRA.
I want to now deal with the state of play within unionism. Sinn Féin respects the mandate of the DUP. The DUP must respect the Sinn Fein mandate. However, the current position of the DUP, its opposition to the Agreement and the demands it is making of Sinn Féin, are totally unacceptable.
Sinn Fein is strong enough and big enough and confident enough in our own politics to talk to anyone. In fact we have a duty to do so. So do the DUP. But like John Major at the start of this process the DUP is demanding that the IRA publicly surrender before the DUP will even sit down and talk to Sinn Féin.
Can anyone imagine the IRA dashing off to obey the DUP diktat? Does Mr. Paisley imagine that P O'Neill was just waiting for this demand from him? Surely wiser counsel will know that a sensible approach is about dealing with these issues collectively.
So the DUPs current public position will not resolve the difficulties in the process and no one in the British or Irish governments should pretend that it will, not if Mr. Blair is serious when he warns that this process cannot stand still. When he says if it fails to move forward it will move backwards.
The unionists, but especially the DUP, have to know that although they can refuse to work the institutions, they will have no veto over the many other matters of human rights and equality, policing and demilitarisation, of rights and entitlements.
Clearly, therefore the restoration of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement has to be the priority at this time. That also is the logic of Mr. Blair's stated position.
Republicans have demonstrated time out of number our willingness to find agreements. Our commitment and our hard work on behalf of this process is unequalled by any other participant. It comes from our desire to see an end to conflict and a new future for everyone on this island.
We are involved in an unprecedented and historic enterprise, to resolve conflict, to achieve reconciliation among all the people of this island and deliver a lasting peace. Sinn Féin is not giving up on this process. We have set out a peaceful direction for everyone to follow, and everyone, has a contribution to make in ensuring that the people of this island continue to move forward to a better future.
So whatever the spin of the moment by the governments the reality is that the greatest challenge at this time is to the Taoiseach Mr. Ahern and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. And we have told them that.
Let me make it clear that the Sinn Fein leadership is prepared to enter once again into new intense negotiations. We are prepared once again to do our best to make this process work. We have no illusions about this. We are wedded totally to building justice and peace on this island.
Mr. Blair has set June as a timeframe. We will do our best to make that work but only the actions of the governments can determine how successful we will collectively be in the weeks ahead.
Whatever the outcome of any negotiations about the peace process Irish republicans face other challenges in the coming months.
In June, as the only all-Ireland party, we will be fighting to win seats in the European Parliament. And we can do it. Last November Sinn Féin became the largest nationalist party in the north and the largest pro-Agreement party. I believe we can build on that success. I have canvassed widely north and south and the response has been very good.
If everyone here today, and at commemorations across this island, rallies round our all-Ireland team of EU candidates we can make significant gains in June and send MEPs to Strasbourg and Brussels who will defend Irish national interests while seeking support for Irish unity and Sinn Fein's peace strategy.
What does this mean for the city of Dublin?
If you do the work it means that Mary Lou McDonald will become the first Sinn Fein MEP for the capital.
Sinn Féin is also standing over 200 candidates in the local government elections, the largest number of candidates we have put forward in decades. I am in no doubt that we are set to make significant gains and that the face of local government politics is about to change - and change for the better. And we have seen the conservative parties reaction to this. They would rather create a smokescreen than debate the issues.
There is also the upcoming bogus and racist referendum on citizenship. This is a complex and sensitive issue, which the government is cynically exploiting without regard to the negative consequences for Irish society and the Good Friday Agreement. The government's decision has virtually guaranteed that race will become an election issue. It is also in stark contradiction of the 1916 Proclamations commitment to "cherish all the children of the nation equally." The truth is that the government is afraid to lose this referendum as they did with the first referendum on the Nice Treaty.
So, my friends we have lots of work to do it in the time ahead.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Sinn Fein. In 2005 we will celebrate this with a yearlong series of events. Here in Dublin, where the party first met and where the republic was declared Sinn Fein is on the march. I can think of no better way to approach the centenary of our party than with the largest number of Sinn Fein representatives here in the capital.
Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Howth, at the first of more than 100 commemorations which will take place throughout Ireland over the next three days, called on people to come out this weekend and advance the peace process and support the campaign for Irish Unity and Independence. Ms McDonald said 'the difficulties in the peace process remain centre stage and Sinn Féin is determined to go into the proposed intensive talks to do business. The big question is are the two governments and other parties just as eagar to make progress at this time."
Ms McDonald said:
"Over the next three days, more than 100 commemorations will take place across all 32 Counties as republicans come together to honour Ireland's patriot dead and to set out our priorities for the time ahead.
"The difficulties in the peace process remain centre stage and there will be high expectations surrounding the proposed intensive talks due to take place at the end of the month. Sinn Féin will go into these talks to do business. We will go into the talks to get the political institutions back up and running, to get what was agreed last October and in the Agreement itself implemented on policing, equality, human rights, Irish language and a whole range of other issues.
"Republicans have demonstrated time and time again our willingness to take risks and reach agreement. Six years on from the Good Friday Agreement, our commitment and our hard work on behalf of this process is unequalled by any other participant. It comes from our desire to see an end to conflict and a new future for everyone on this island.
" But in the long term a process cannot be sustained on the goodwill and actions of one party. For a process to work it requires the engagement of all the participants and it requires the two Governments to live up to their word and not repeatedly walk away from deals. Sinn Féin is going into the talks to do business, the question is are the two Governments and the other parties just as eagar to make progress at this time."ENDS
Sinn Féin will be holding more than 100 Easter commemorations throughout the country this Sunday and Monday. Please see below for a list of the main commemorations - dates, locations and speakers.
Sunday 11 April Easter Commemorations
Belfast - Assemble 1.00pm Beechmont Avenue. Main Speaker: Bairbre de Brun MLA
Cork City - Assemble 2.30pm National Monument. Main Speaker: Mitchel Mclaughlin MLA
Crossmaglen, Armagh - Assemble 10.30am Rangers Hall. Main Speaker: Arthur Morgan TD
Derry City - Assemble 2.30pm Bogside Inn. Main Speaker: Gerry Kelly MLA
Donegal - Assemble 3.00pm Johnson's Corner, Drumboe. Main Speaker: Pearse Doherty, North-West EU candidate
Dublin - Assemble 1.30pm Garden of Remembrance. Main Speaker: Gerry Adams MP/MLA
Dundalk - Assemble 12.00pm Memorial statue. Main Speaker: John Dwyer East EU candidate
Fermanagh - Assemble 2.30pm St. Aidan's High School, Derrylin. Main Speaker: Michelle Gildernew MP/MLA
Galway city - Assemble 3.00pm Liam Mellow's Statue,Eyre Square. Main Speaker: Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD
Kerry - Assemble 3.00pm Denny Street, Tralee. Main Speaker: David Cullinane, South EU candidate
Mayo - Assemble 10.00am Dookinella Church, Achill. Main Speaker: Caitríona Ruane MLA
Monaghan Town - Assemble 2.45 O'Hanlon memorial, Clones Road. Main Speaker: Pat O'Rawe
Sligo - Assemble 3.00pm City Hall. Main Speaker: Sean McManus, Mayor of Sligo
Tipperary - Assemble 3.00pm Banbasa, Nenagh. Main Speaker: Ella O'Dwyer, Ard Comhairle member
Tyrone - Assemble 3.30pm Memorial Garden, Carrickmore. Main Speaker: Martin McGuinness MP
Waterford City - Assemble 2.45pm The Glen. Main Speaker: Martin Ferris TD
Monday 12 April Easter Commemorations
Derry- Assemble 2.30pm The Diamond, Swatragh. Main Speaker: Martina
Anderson, Ard Comhairle member
Downpatrick - Assemble 6.00pm SF Office. Main Speaker: Bairbre de Brun MLA
Dublin - Assemble 2.30pm Baker's Corner, Dun Laoighaire. Main Speaker: Mary
Lou McDonald, Dublin EU candidate
Galway - Assemble 1.00pm Teach Piarsigh, Connemara. Main Speaker: Pearse
Doherty, North West EU candidate
N.Belfast - Assemble 11.30am Marsden Gardens, Newington. Main Speaker:
Francie Brolly MLA
Tyrone- Assemble 2.30pm Diamond Corner, Ardboe. Main Speaker: Geraldine
Wexford - Assemble 2.15pm Templeshannon Quay. Main Speaker: John Dwyer, East
Responding to media speculation that the two governments are to hold intensive discussions with the parties in a bid to resolve the current crisis in the peace process, Sinn Féin Assembly member Bairbre de Brún said
"Sinn Féin has been making the point for some time that the Review process could not resolve the wider crisis within the peace process. This required a separate approach.
"We have been very clear that the two governments need to take urgent action if the peace process is to be put back on track and the political institutions re-established.
" Sinn Féin will approach any attempt to resolve this crisis in a positive fashion. Clearly, the most effective way of resolving difficulties is through a process of dialogue based upon equality and respect for political mandates." ENDS
Sinn Féin South EU candidate David Cullinane has today said that the 'Lisbon Strategy is more concerned with profit than people'. The Lisbon Strategy has agreed a 10 year plan for the EU "to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world." However, Mr Cullinane has argued that there has not been sufficient emphasis on the social aspects of the strategy.
Speaking today, Mr Cullinane said:
"Sinn Féin believes that the Lisbon Strategy is more concerned with profit than people. When we hear about the Lisbon Strategy, we hear about sustainable growth, competitiveness and knowledge based economies. However, we need to ensure that social inclusion, the eradication of poverty and strategies for combating homelessness are also discussed. Thus far, the Irish Government, through the EU Presidency have been more interested in talking about competitiveness, at the expense of social issues.
"It must be remembered that there are 55 million people living in poverty throughout the EU. Closer to home, whilst the so-called 'Celtic Tiger' has provided wealth to some, many others continue to live in an interminable cycle of poverty. In my own South EU Constituency, rural communities are under attack. A lack of amenable transport, the withdrawal of vital public services including post offices and banking facilities, and a struggling agricultural sector has combined to threaten the very way of life of local communities.
"I believe that the EU Presidency must prioritise commitments to eradicate poverty and homelessness within the EU. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for the protection of local communities. ENDS