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Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member and EU Candidate for Dublin Marylou McDonald has accused the Minister for Justice of being paranoid for introducing further self-serving draconian measures dealing with the Gardai and their access to the media.

Ms McDonald said: "This is the latest in a long line of draconian measures that Michael McDowell and this governments have introduced as they have become increasingly paranoid about the media. And once again they have picked the wrong target and the wrong issue.

"But lets face it the Gardai have not exactly covered themselves in glory on this issue. For too long elements of the Gardai have been allowed to interfere in the political process for their own self interest. As republicans we know only too well that their unfettered access to the media through un-sourced briefings has very often been used to try and halt the growth of Sinn Féin and indeed to interfere with the natural out workings of the Good Friday Agreement.

"Michael McDowell needs to be stopped. He needs to stop introducing totally unwarranted draconian measures and to stop acting in self interest. He needs to set about the real task of reforming the Gardai and bringing about a fully accountable policing service with an independent Garda Ombudsman who can initiate independent investigations."

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Sinn Féin Dublin EU Candidate Marylou McDonald has slammed the government's complacency in relation to growing inequality in Irish society. She has described as disgraceful the fact that the government policy has resulted in one third of the population, the most marginalised in society, now living on less than 10% of the wealth created in the economy. She said periodic bleatings of concern are not enough and added 'we need to redistribute resources in a positive way, to invest in those parts of society suffering economic marginalisation and social exclusion, to redress inequality.'

Ms McDonald said:

"In the last week, three reports issued from the Department of Finance, FAS and the Department of Social Welfare all show that not only is the economy clearly in recession but that there is the real possibility that things could get worse. Economic growth is forecast to slow to 1.5% for the year, which when you account for inflation means that the economy is actually shrinking. Exports are falling, unemployment growing and total employment will only grow by 11,000 this year. Tax revenue is falling and the Finance department belatedly recognise that there is a €500 million gap between tax revenue and spending.

"But one of the most startling facts came from the Department of Social Welfare 'Statistical Report on Social Welfare Service' which highlighted that 938,999 people were in receipt of weekly social welfare payments at the end of 2002. In total when you include children and other dependents there were 1.5 million beneficiaries of social welfare in the 26 Counties or one in three of the population. However when you look at government spending in 2002, it accounted for just over €9.52 billion spending, that is 9% of the economic wealth created in the economy during the same year.

"It is unacceptable that government policy has resulted in one third of the population, the least well off, the most marginalised in society living on less than 10% of the wealth created in the economy over the same time period.

"Periodic bleatings of concern are not enough we need to redistribute resources in a positive way, to invest in those parts of society suffering economic marginalisation and social exclusion, and to redress inequality."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking at the Parnell Summer School said: "When Tony Blair or Bertie Ahern claim that the reason for the crisis is a 'loss of trust' between the parties - it's a cop out. Trust was never the basis for the Agreement. We all hoped that trust and mutual respect would develop organically as we worked and deployed the historic Accord." He said "Tony Blair now stood at a crossroads. He can prevent a dangerous political vacuum by announcing a definite autumn date for Assembly elections. Or he can continue to de-stabilise the situation by denying the peaceful and democratic right to vote. The choice is his." Mr. McLaughlin called for a cross-party consensus to manage the process through to a political settlement"

Mr. McLaughlin said:

"Since the suspension of the political institutions and the subsequent cancellation of elections we have heard much talk about the 'loss of trust' between the parties to the Agreement. But the fact of the matter is that there never was a basis of trust between the parties to the Agreement. Political opponents and political enemies who never trusted each other eventually hammered out an Agreement. In fact - the Agreement was negotiated without the Ulster Unionist Party ever once speaking directly to Sinn Féin.

"When Tony Blair or Bertie Ahern claim that the reason for the crisis is a 'loss of trust' between the parties - it's a cop out. When David Trimble says that republicans betrayed the trust of Ulster Unionists - it's a cop out and he knows it. When other political figures attempt to score political points by pointing to alleged republican activities as the reason for the 'lack of trust' - it's a cop out.

"Trust was never the basis for the Agreement. The Agreement was based on a 'confidence' of the parties that they each had achieved the best agreement possible in the circumstances for their respective constituencies. We all hoped that trust and mutual respect would develop organically as we worked and deployed the historic Accord - Conflict Resolution to be followed by Reconciliation.

Role of Unionism

Obviously some within Unionism recognise that changes are occurring in every aspect of life - social, economic, political, electoral and demographic. But the Unionist community have not as of yet, produced a leadership, which will come to terms with the inevitable constitutional implications. If it was otherwise then the Unionist community through its political leaderships would have the 'confidence' to embrace the Agreement in all its elements, go back into the Institutions and allow the process to develop unhindered. Therefore we may need to be patient until such a leadership emerges within Unionism.

Irish and British governments must back democracy

Tony Blair can prevent a dangerous political vacuum in the North that will inevitably be filled by those ill disposed to the entire Peace Process. He can do that by declaring his commitment to the democratic process by announcing without further delay a definite autumn date for Assembly elections. Or he can continue to de-stabilise the situation by denying the peaceful and democratic right to vote.

The failure to fully develop and sustain the Executive and the cancelling of the Assembly Elections is a damaging blow to the Good Friday Agreement. The denial of the right to vote in fresh elections has sent shockwaves through popular opinion here, in Britain and internationally. What we are dealing with here is not a blip but the possible melt down of the political conditions that led to the Good Friday Agreement.

We have all made mistakes, individually and collectively. Whilst it is true that clear majorities exist in both states on this island to support the Agreement, it is equally true that powerful anti-Agreement forces exist and in some instances are being aided and abetted by elements of the securocratic system.

At a time when those, including the Sinn Féin leadership, have been arguing that politics can and will deliver change, change has been prevented. At a time when we needed an effective visible and dynamic alternative to conflict we have been presented with a political vacuum, the abdication of political leadership and the initiative handed to those on all sides, who want to return to the failures of the past.

Republicans committed to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

Of course there are issues on the Republican side which must be addressed and allow me reiterate once again that Sinn Féin's public position on the question of arms is also our private position. The Sinn Féin leadership are totally committed to doing everything in our power to maintain the peace process and to removing the guns forever from the politics of our country. Decommissioning was addressed comprehensively in the negotiations leading up to Good Friday and is addressed directly in the Agreement itself. The section on decommissioning makes clear that addressing this issue is dependant on two key elements;

· a collective responsibility on all participants to work in good faith with the International Commission; and

· the implementation of the overall agreement.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement all of the participants have a responsibility to deal with the decommissioning issue. This includes the two governments.

Moving forward - what we can learn from Parnell

Parnell's recognition of political synergy, his awareness of the interrelatedness of constitutionalism and popular direct action, is what is required now. We have had Parnell's example. We have also in more modern times witnessed the benefits of the Nationalist Consensus in the early stages of the Peace Process. We all of us have our pasts, like it or not, but we also have our futures. We can work together on this project to achieve a democratic peace in Ireland. Of course we will have our differences, we will retain our own beliefs and principles, but we should agree that the success of this process will be for the betterment of our people as a whole. Why not a cross-party consensus to manage the process through to a political settlement? Why not an approach to the last great debate of the conflict resolution process, the constitutional future of the island of Ireland and its people? Why not a negotiation process based on mutual respect and openness to any of the possible constitutional options rather than pre-determined outcomes that reflect a legacy of violence and failure and injustice?"

Full Text - Reflections on the Peace Process

From the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998 the peace process has limped from one crisis to another.

This period of time could have been used to fulfil the huge expectations generated by the all-Ireland referenda in May 1998. It could have been a period during which the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement took hold, when Irish nationalists, unionists and the British stepped towards each other in an effort to put behind us the enmity resulting from centuries of conflict.

It could have been a time when former enemies gave space to each other to learn new ways of thinking of speaking, of trying to understand one another. It could have been a time of certainty and decisive, forward looking leadership to demonstrate that we had opened a new chapter in Irish-British history - one of compromise, tolerance and genuine reconciliation.

Instead the past five years will be remembered as a time of recrimination, of bitterness, of the blame game.

Since the suspension of the political institutions and the subsequent cancellation of elections we have heard much talk about the 'loss of trust' between the parties to the Agreement. There have been accusations bandied back and forth about who is responsible for this 'loss of trust'. Regularly we hear politicians, Church spokespersons, political analysts and anyone that wishes to voice an opinion tell us that we must 'rebuild trust'. But the fact of the matter is that there never was a basis of trust between the parties to the Agreement. Political opponents and political enemies who never trusted each other eventually hammered out an Agreement. In fact -- the Agreement was negotiated without the Ulster Unionist Party ever once speaking directly to Sinn Féin. So, no handshakes between equal and willing participants to a partnership deal. That is the measure of trust or the lack of trust that existed when the Agreement was achieved.

When Tony Blair or Bertie Ahern claim that the reason for the crisis is a 'loss of trust' between the parties -- it's a cop out. When David Trimble says that republicans betrayed the trust of Ulster Unionists -- it's a cop out and he knows it. When other political figures attempt to score political points by pointing to alleged republican activities as the reason for the 'lack of trust' -- it's a cop out. Could someone tell when the Unionist's were prepared to trust republicans? Or for that matter the British Government, the Irish government, or the SDLP? Or indeed its own leadership or each other? Trust was never the basis for the Agreement.

The Agreement was based on a 'confidence' of the parties that they each had achieved the best agreement possible in the circumstances for their respective constituencies. We all hoped that trust and mutual respect would develop organically as we worked and deployed the historic Accord. Conflict Resolution to be followed by Reconciliation.

But unfortunately the Good Friday Agreement cannot reconcile mutually exclusive constitutional aspirations. The nationalist and particularly the republican constituency have a confidence that the Agreement -- fully and faithfully implemented will provide the vehicle that will enable us to achieve our political goals through exclusively peaceful and democratic methods. That is why we are committed to pursuing its implementation in all its aspects.

On the other hand, the Unionist political leadership's 'confidence' in their ability to maintain and strengthen the status quo through the Agreement is diminishing. If they were, for instance, 'confident' when they accepted the Agreement that it would copper fasten the Union, why are they now attempting to frustrate its implementation? Is it because they recognise that in a society where everyone is treated equally the raison d'être of partition -- dominance by one section of the population over the other -- will be gone forever?

Obviously some within Unionism recognise that changes are occurring in every aspect of life -- social, economic, political, electoral and demographic. But the Unionist community have not as of yet, produced a leadership, which will come to terms with the inevitable constitutional implications. If it was otherwise then the Unionist community through its political leaderships would have the 'confidence' to embrace the Agreement in all its elements, go back into the Institutions and allow the process to develop unhindered. Therefore we may need to be patient until such a leadership emerges within Unionism.

But in the meantime, what of the two Governments and in particular the British? In terms of Iraq, the 'hand of history' was never more firmly on Tony Blair's shoulder or is it on his neck? But Tony Blair can prevent a dangerous political vacuum in the North that will inevitably be filled by those ill disposed to the entire Peace Process. He can do that by declaring his commitment to the democratic process by announcing without further delay a definite autumn date for Assembly elections. Or he can continue to de-stabilise the situation by denying the peaceful and democratic right to vote.

The failure to fully develop and sustain the Executive and the cancelling of the Assembly Elections is a damaging blow to the Good Friday Agreement.

The denial of the right to vote in fresh elections has sent shockwaves through popular opinion here, in Britain and internationally. It stands democracy on its head and causes uncertainty about the future. At a time when politics must be seen to work, to deliver change, we have a political vacuum.

What we are dealing with here is not a blip but the possible melt down of the political conditions that led to the Good Friday Agreement.

We have all made mistakes, individually and collectively. Whilst it is true that clear majorities exist in both states on this island to support the Agreement, it is equally true that powerful anti-Agreement forces exist and in some instances are being aided and abetted by elements of the securocratic system.

At a time when those, including the Sinn Féin leadership, have been arguing that politics can and will deliver change, change has been prevented. At a time when we needed an effective visible and dynamic alternative to conflict we have been presented with a political vacuum, the abdication of political leadership and the initiative handed to those on all sides, who want to return to the failures of the past.

The Good Friday Agreement was signed up to by the British government. It is therefore British government policy. The British government have a responsibility to implement the Agreement as negotiated.

It would be preferable if unionism was not divided but instead generally embraced the spirit and the letter of the Agreement. But the Good Friday Agreement was voted for by a majority of the electorate in the two states on this island. It cannot be subjected to a unionist veto. It has to be implemented. That is the democratic imperative.

At every stage in the peace process, particularly before, during and after periods of negotiation, there are conflicting and confusing signals from some of the participants and from the media. Most of this is unhelpful, though not always malign or malicious. But when seeking to get across a particular view of events no party can match the British government in resources and influence.

In fairness after the most recent round of negotiations the Irish government has, by and large, been measured in its pronouncements and media briefings. The British government on the other hand has been blowing up a storm of media spin, of which the so-called 'Steak-knife' affair is a particular example.

This has been totally unhelpful. Of course, if the British government spin-doctoring had the effect of settling the unionists then Sinn Féin could take the pain and given the messing, prevarication, delay (and deceit) of the last number of years that would be a small price to pay. But it is my belief that media campaigns will not resolve the unionist divisions.

It is a contention of many commentators that every election in the North (European, Westminster, Assembly and Local Government) is at a basic level about the 'Constitutional' issue. An analysis of election results of the past 30 years demonstrates that electors increasingly are voting for those parties who proclaim either for the pro-union or pro United Ireland options. This study also reveals a consistent 'squeezing' of the so-called 'Other' or 'Independent' candidates. If it valid to suggest that this underlying influence can distort electoral outcomes then equally it can impact on other aspects of the political process. Eg. The Peace Process itself, sectarian interface violence and efforts at developing political dialogue, etc.

I would contend that Unionist insecurity on the 'Constitutional' issue explains amongst other political matters, the discriminatory policies of the old Unionist Stormont Government, the current resistance to Equality and the constant factional disputes and leadership challenges which now characterise Irish Unionism.

Of course there are issues on the Republican side which must be addressed and allow me reiterate once again that Sinn Féin's public position on the question of arms is also our private position. The Sinn Féin leadership are totally committed to doing everything in our power to maintain the peace process and to removing the guns forever from the politics of our country. Decommissioning was addressed comprehensively in the negotiations leading up to Good Friday and is addressed directly in the Agreement itself. The section on decommissioning makes clear that addressing this issue is dependant on two key elements;

· a collective responsibility on all participants to work in good faith with the International Commission; and

· the implementation of the overall agreement.

· .

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement all of the participants have a responsibility to deal with the decommissioning issue. This includes the two governments. The British government in particular has been a hugely negative factor in the development of the conditions of conflict in Ireland. I believe that Mr Blair has a sense of responsibility and has given more time than any other British Prime Minister to the quest for peace between our two islands and among the people of this island.

He knows that Sinn Féin's position has been consistent and that we want to play a full and advanced role in this quest. But he knows also, as does the Taoiseach that we have made it clear that through the good faith implementation of this Agreement that we can achieve an end to the 'armed force' dimension of Irish Republicanism.

Paradoxically, the unresolved nature of our colonial past in Ireland should give us hope. Despite the achievements and the glosses of the past century, we still live in an unmade country. And because of that fact, we, as a people, still have the possibility to remake the country. This opportunity to change history is not available to many people and we should not throw away our chance.

Politics need not necessarily follow the line of least resistance, but can, and should, be vibrant, challenging, with a sense of purpose. The people of Ireland have, at certain significant moments in our history, developed a purposeful politics that for one reason and another we have let slip away.

Once again, at the start of a new century, we have the possibility of remaking the country. We have all in varying degrees been engaged in a Peace Project for many years now, and because the Process is ongoing, unfinished, fluid and developing, it is everyone's project. We can all be involved in it; we can all breathe life and colour into it, we can all agree to shape it for the betterment of the people of Ireland. We are not presenting the people with a fait accompli, a secret deal done in back rooms. We are saying, come and join us in this process, help us to radically alter the political landscape of our country. Get rid of the venality, cynicism and corruption in this state, the growing poverty and despair, and in the North, recognise the Unionist dependence upon a Britishness that may no longer actually exist, but is none the less of vital importance to the confidence of the Unionist community.

Ironically, one of the great attempts to seize the moment was attempted by Parnell, a man who earned the wrath of all involved in the Irish struggle for independence, and while it might be possible to argue that political leaders who make the truly remarkable revolutionary choices will be condemned to an eternity of misunderstanding and hostility, it need not always be the case.

The only purpose of a colonial power is to make the colony profitable, stable and governable, and so the Victorians went to work in Ireland, testing this, trying that, modifying, tinkering, seeking new forms of control that were cost effective and sustainable. Admittedly, some of the experiments were relatively benign -- the introduction of a countrywide postal network, years before they established one in Britain -- while others were violently coercive -- mass deportations, evictions, curfews, martial law.

And during this period we saw the flowering of Charles Parnell's particular vision. He realised that the oppressed could mirror the oppressor that the Irish could experiment too, that we could develop dual strategies towards Britain, and that a potent combination of constitutionalism and Fenian insurrectionary action could achieve what neither could achieve on its own.

Parnell's constitutionalist tactics in Westminster were not of the passive variety. With his filibustering and his imaginative use of a relatively small number of seats he could reduce that great parliament to immobilised frustration. He could bring its workings to a halt. And while he paralysed Westminster, the Land League and the rump of the Irish Republican Brotherhood could combat the ravages of the landlords and the military, unifying the people of Ireland in a popular mass movement for independence. Despite repeated attempts by the British to link Parnell to 'organised crime', it was the issue of adultery that brought him low in an Ireland of small-minded clergy and bitter, jealous politicians, including many who would have considered themselves Republican, all whipped up by a British tabloid-style campaign of character assassination.

But Parnell's recognition of political synergy, his awareness of the interrelatedness of constitutionalism and popular direct action, is what is required now. We have had Parnell's example. We have also in more modern times witnessed the benefits of the Nationalist Consensus in the early stages of the Peace Process. We all of us have our pasts, like it or not, but we also have our futures. We can work together on this project to achieve a democratic peace in Ireland. Of course we will have our differences, we will retain our own beliefs and principles, but we should agree that the success of this process will be for the betterment of our people as a whole. Why not a cross-party consensus to manage the process through to a political settlement? Why not an approach to the last great debate of the conflict resolution process, the constitutional future of the island of Ireland and its people? Why not a negotiation process based on mutual respect and openness to any of the possible constitutional options rather than pre-determined outcomes that reflect a legacy of violence and failure and injustice?

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Lagan Valley Sinn Fein Representative Councillor Paul Butler has said that fresh graffiti which has appeared both outside Lisburn Council Offices and in Dunmurry is 'a pathetic and crude attempt to intimidate him'.

Cllr. Butler said:

" Earlier this month the UDA threw a flammable device at my home. They have in the past sent a live bullet to me in the post and in recent weeks sectarian and offensive graffiti threatening me has appeared in Dunmurry.

" Yesterday fresh graffiti appeared in Dunmurry and also outside the Lisburn Council offices. Council staff removed this particular slogan shortly after it appeared.

" All of this is part of a fairly pathetic and crude attempt to intimidate me from continuing to speak out against these sectarian thugs and drug dealers. Neither myself or my Sinn Fein colleagues on Lisburn Council will allow unionist paramilitaries to intimidate us from representing our electorate.

" We will not be silenced by these sorts of tactics and we will continue our campaign to expose the sectarianism both inside Lisburn Council and on the streets of Dunmurry, Lisburn and elsewhere." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Upper Bann Cllr. John O'Dowd has said a statement from the BNP ordering its members not to associate with the White Nationalist Party because they are racist is 'bizarre to say the least'. Cllr. O'Dowd said:

"I have to say I was a bit shocked to hear the BNP ordering its members to stay away from the White Nationalist Party on grounds that it is racist. The reality is that the BNP is a racist party. It is trying to clean up its image at present and couch its racism in softer language but they fool nobody.

"The White Nationalist Party and the BNP are peas from the same pod and commentary from the BNP to the contrary simply does not wash. I suspect that this statement from the BNP is motivated more by inter racist rivalry than anything else." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has accused the Banks of operating an "old boys network" to maximise their "grossly bloated profits" against the interests of their customers. The Sinn Féin Deputy was responding to the report from the Director of Consumer Affairs.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: „Operating what can only be described as an old boy network the main banks have conspired to maximise their grossly bloated profits against the interests of bank customers.

"Before the summer break I successfully called on the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service to invite the main banks to appear before the Committee to answer concerns that myself and other political representatives along with consumer groups had. At the time AIB had recorded the highest ever profit for an Irish company which were in excess of €1,300 million. The main banks, including AIB and BOI had also refused to pass on a European Central Bankinterest rate cut while at the same time increasing banking fees, with credit card rates rising to an average of 16%. That is 7% higher than the European average.

"The answers given by a number of the banking representatives confirmed my belief, as I stated at the time. that the Irish people both as individual consumers and as a society and an economy are being grossly exploited by the banks and other financial institutions.

"It is time for the Minister for Finance to tackle the banks head-on to end their excessive profiteering at the expense of customers who are increasingly suffering from reduced services and increased fees."ENDS

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North Belfast Sinn Fein representative Kathy Stanton has said that nationalists and republicans are 'sick and tired of the double standards which operate at the heart of the judiciary in the six counties'. The North Belfast Sinn Fein representatives remarks come after loyalist Gary McKenzie, who faces gun charges, was today granted bail of £250.

Ms Stanton said:

" Nationalists and republicans are sick and tired at the sectarian double standards which operate at the heart of the judiciary in the north.

In recent times we have seen the judiciary in the six counties release on bail a leading loyalist caught with a firearm in the middle of an internecine loyalist turf war and a man was convicted of assembling intelligence information on a Sinn Fein councillor received a suspended sentence. Last month an RIR member accused of stealing firearms and ammunition was granted bail and Jim Fulton was given a judges blessing to attend the Twelfth parades.

" This runs in stark contrast to the recent case involving North Belfast man John O'Hagan who has been held in custody awaiting trial on documents charges for almost 18 months with no prospect yet of a trial or bail.

" At the core of the criminal justice system in the six counties are the Diplock judges. These are the men who rubber stamped the Special Branch activity in the torture centres. The men who refused to back Sinn Fein Councillors in their demands for security measures on their homes, and who continue to operate with a blatant anti-Catholic securocrat agenda. Nationalists will never have confidence in the Criminal Justice System as long as this ethos is allowed to operate." ENDS

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Lisburn Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Butler has described reports that the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) is to carry out a preliminary survey of Long Kesh as ' a step in the right direction in bringing some legal protection of the buildings that make up Long Kesh'.

Cllr. Butler said:

"Long Kesh is on a standing with Robben Island, Auschwitz and the Berlin Wall and we cannot afford to lose that history.

"Long Kesh is the most famous and infamous building of the conflict. Everybody in ireland knows of it as do many people around the world.

"The importance that Long Kesh has had in the history of the conflict should form part of the survey that EHS are to carry out on the buildings of the former prison.

"Long Kesh remains the ideal place to give future generations an understanding of the historical significance of the jail."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has hit back at criticism of the North South Bodies from DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Whatever the DUP believe the reality is that we have an All Ireland framework that is here to stay. It is in the Good Friday Agreement and it is given form through the All Ireland Implementation Bodies and the North South Ministerial Council.

"The DUP are blind to the potential of the All Ireland Agenda. This political short sightedness does not put the people living in Ireland first; it puts the blinkered political agenda of the DUP first.

"The All Ireland Implementation Bodies benefit people across Ireland and Sinn Féin want to see work programmes in the agreed areas of co-operation consolidated and expanded.

"In areas such as education and health can we open the doors of opportunity and the sharing of skill and expertise. We have also seen projects such as the Autism Centre being set up in the border region and the cancer research partnership between the north and south of Ireland and the USA that pool resources and expertise.

"In animal health and agriculture evidence is mounting that an All Ireland policy approach is vital to the long term viability of farming across the Ireland. On environmental issues it is clear that pollution and meeting the demands of waste management, including issues such as the building of incinerators, require a stronger All Ireland approach and Sinn Féin has called for the establishment of an All Ireland Environmental Protection Agency.

"It is illogical that a small island nation of slightly over 5 million people should have two political structures, two economies, two transport systems, two Education, Agriculture, Health, tourism systems. This duplication requires two bureaucracies that if challenged could I believe generate significant new money fore expenditure on front line services, investment and staff." ENDS

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Responding to comments made in today's Irish News by SDLP Deputy Leader Brid Rogers, Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy said that 'recent election results would indicate that it is not Sinn Féin who need to wake up and listen'.

Mr Murphy said:

"In the last Westminster election Sinn Féin overtook the SDLP as the largest nationalist party. The people of West Tyrone rejected Brid Rogers' analysis and she has since indicated that she will be retiring from electoral politics.

"This happened because Sinn Féin listens to the people we represent. It happened because we are unashamed in demanding equality, justice, human rights and a united Ireland. It happened because we opposed the SDLP's post nationalist political platform.

"Attacks from whatever quarter on Sinn Féin, be they from rejectionist unionism or post nationalist parties, will not deflect us from our task of moving the peace process forward and delivering for the thousands of people across this island who want to see the Agreement implemented and the peace process secured." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin Chairperson Daithi Doolan has described as outrageous Dublin City Council threats to residents on waste collection. He said the gloves are clearly off in the campaign against the Waste Service Charges. Dublin City Council have issued letters to residents stating that the Council are making arrangements to not collect the domestic waste of those who have refused to pay the controversial charges.

Sinn Féin Spokesperson Daithí Doolan claimed these threats were nothing short of outrageous. Speaking last night at a meeting with residents of Ringsend, many of who received the threatening letter, Doolan called on all political parties to join together and fight this new course of action.

"We cannot allow Dublin City Council and Minister Martin Cullen to get away with these threats. These residents are involved in a campaign to overturn this bin tax and they still have yet to even go to court.

We are in the bizarre situation that Dublin City Council are both judge and jury and have simply decided to refuse to carry out their duty in the collection of the city's waste. City Council cite the recent Protection of the Environment Bill 2003 as means to justify their current desperate actions."

Residents in Ringsend were furious on hearing the news that the biggest local authority in the country is now willing to gamble with health and safety in order to break the campaign against the bin tax.

Doolan also called on Dublin City Council to reverse this decision and to move away from their policy of threatening behaviour.

"Dublin City Council do not have to be employ these tactics. These people are ordinary people protesting against an unjust tax. It is a legitimate protest and they do not deserve to be bullied or threatened. Again and again Dublin City Council have moved the goalposts and made the situation confrontational. This decision must be reversed now."ENDS

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Speaking following a meeting with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe expressed his support for the organisation's campaign for a vetting system that can best protect our children.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "It has long been a disgrace in this country that there is no mechanism for employers to vet potential employees who would be working with children. While the overwhelming majority of the men and women working with children in this State are of the highest calibre and the greatest dedication, parents and employers have a right to be cautious.

"This state has one of the least effective vetting procedures in Europe. There is no way for an organisation to check whether the employee they are about to entrust children to might have a previous conviction for child abuse. It is to address this frightening anomaly that the ISPCC's campaign has been launched. It is vital that the employee representative organisations and other stakeholders take this issue seriously and a procedure put in place that protects people's civil liberties, while also protecting our children." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Craigavon Councillor John O'Dowd has pledged to continue Sinn Féin's campaign against racism despite receiving hate mail from a white racist group calling itself the November 9th Society - Britain's Nazi Party operating in the Lurgan/Craigavon area.

Cllr O'Dowd said:

"This sort of racist propaganda will not deter Sinn Féin from leading the campaign against racism.

"Sinn Féin locally and nationally have supported the rights of ethnic groups and in Craigavon we have led the campaign to expose those racists who are campaigning against a mosque being built locally.

"The fact that this group of racists feel the need to target a Sinn Féin elected representative in a way shows that the Sinn Féin anti-racism campaign is hitting home. But it is vital that elected representatives, political activists, community and church leaders continue to work within communities and give positive leadership and challenge the twin evils of sectarianism and racism." ENDS

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In response to the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs to actively campaign for a strengthening of the UN mandate in Iraq, and more broadly for a concerted international effort to strengthen and reform the organisation. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Following the worst attack on a UN civilian mission in its history which injured more than a hundred people, and killed more than a dozen including UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello, this is a day of mourning for all of us who care deeply about the United Nations and its unique and important positive role in world affairs. I fully agree with Minister Cowen that this inexcusable attack is an assault on the entire international community. I extend my condolences to all survivors, families of the wounded and dead, and UN personnel.

"I now call on the Taoiseach and the Minister to ensure that these deaths are not in vain. For too long the UN has been underfunded and undermined and thus rendered vulnerable and unable to work effectively in many situations. The UN's unnecessarily limited mandate in Iraq is a prime example of this. Let this tragedy now spur this Government to campaign actively for an expansion of the UN mandate in Iraq ? a mandate that should have been exclusive from Day One. Let Ireland also use its upcoming Presidency of the EU to spearhead a campaign to restore proper respect and adequate capacity to the UN through a programme of proper resourcing and comprehensive reform.

"The UN needs Ireland's backing now more than ever before. Let this Government spare no effort to restore the international body to its rightful place at the centre of world affairs." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Trade and Enterprise Arthur Morgan TD has said that if the government gives in to the demands of huge international retailers and increases the permitted size of retail units it would "rip the social and economic heart out of towns and villages the length and breadth of this state".

Deputy Morgan was responding to reports that the Government was considering changing the rules to benefit retailers trying to build huge out-of-town superstores.

He said:

"There is no justification for even contemplating changing the current rules that guide the size retail units. This is not about competition and protecting consumer rights. This is about a weak government being bullied by international retailers with their threats to refuse to set up in Ireland. If these retailers can't operate under the current guidelines then that is their problem not ours. Small and localised indigenous companies who are operating

successfully under the current guidelines must not be penalised or punished by the government capitulating to the insatiable demands of profit and power hungry corporate giants seeking total global dominance in a particular market or for a particular product.

"If the Government gives in to these demand and agrees to increase the size of retail units then they will be responsible for ripping the social and economic heart out of towns and villages the length and breadth of this state.

"The reality is that these retailers are not looking to add competition to the Irish market they are looking to wipe out the indigenous retailer. Not alone will this a have a detrimental effect on the workforces of these companies but it will ultimately lead to less choices for consumers as they are forced through necessity to shop at the big out-of-town centres." ENDS

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Speaking after meeting the Steele Review Panel looking into safety at Maghaberry, Sinn Féin Representative Raymond McCartney said:

"The setting up of this Review is a tacit admission that the safety of prisoners is the issue. This makes it clear-cut. What is required is segregation. It is now a question of when and how segregation will be applied across the board.

"It is a question of commonsense. It is a question of safety.

"Sinn Féin has consistently opposed the actions of these micro groups who have little or no support or strategy. However, it is clear that forced integration does not work. There is no logic in trying to force politically hostile prisoners to live together in prison.

"The NIO already operate a policy of segregation in Maghaberry for individuals from within the differing factions of Loyalism. This was a decision taken on the grounds of safety and without any necessity for a review. ENDS

Speaking after meeting the Steele Review Panel looking into safety at Maghaberry, Sinn Féin Representative Raymond McCartney said:

"The setting up of this Review is a tacit admission that the safety of prisoners is the issue. This makes it clear-cut. What is required is segregation. It is now a question of when and how segregation will be applied across the board.

"It is a question of commonsense. It is a question of safety.

"Sinn Féin has consistently opposed the actions of these micro groups who have little or no support or strategy. However, it is clear that forced integration does not work. There is no logic in trying to force politically hostile prisoners to live together in prison.

"The NIO already operate a policy of segregation in Maghaberry for individuals from within the differing factions of Loyalism. This was a decision taken on the grounds of safety and without any necessity for a review. ENDS

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Speaking after an event held in Belfast's Linenhall Library today in support of Children's rights Sinn Féins MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew said:

"It is crucial that events such as this contribute in raising public awareness about the key issue of children's rights. I congratulate the organisers of this event. Society must be compelled to recognise that the child's best interests are paramount.

"The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child contains only the minimum rights protections, this makes it important that for any Bill of Rights to incorporate the UN Convention it must also include separately formulated rights that raise the bar for the level of protection. This is particularly necessary in a society that has experienced a conflict, which affected so many children.

"The litmus test of any Bill of Rights that deals with Children and Young people's rights will be whether those rights will be given affect by accessible enforcement mechanisms that can make a real difference in the lives of our children and young people.

"As the organisers of today's event have already indicated, a Bill of Rights alone cannot ensure the right of children to play a constructive role in society. The state must also commit itself and its resources to ensuring that children and young people can secure their rights within a stable and peaceful political environment." ENDS

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Commenting on reports that the UUP Executive has received the necessary number of signatures from the 'No' camp to trigger a meeting of the UUC, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP said:

"The pandering policy of the British government to every whim of rejectionist unionism is having the effect of crippling the entire peace process. This pandering to unionism is what has driven the decision of the British government to suspend the political institutions and cancel the Assembly elections.

"The approach of the British government to managing the peace process has given succour to those within rejectionist unionism who wish to see the Agreement fail. This has led to the implementation of the Agreement becoming dependent on the whim of the repeatedly recalled UUC.

"The British government need to remember that the Good Friday Agreement is an international treaty, overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of this island. It is not the property of the grey suits within the UUC who seem to have been given power over its implementation.

"If progress is to be achieved the British government need to end this policy and place the implementation of the Agreement before the internal demands of the UUP." ENDS

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Speaking on the day the Major Charles Ingram left the British Army after being dismissed for cheating on a game show, Sinn Féin Representative for North Belfast Kathy Staunton said:

"Charles Ingram leaves the British Army today after being dismissed for cheating on a game show. Also today in the same army the convicted murders of Peter McBride will lift weapons and go about their duties as normal.

"When these two cases are contrasted it shows the hypocrisy and double standards which operate at the core of the British Military Establishment. They deem cheating on a game show a sackable offence yet gunning down an unarmed Irish teenager his own country yards from his front door does not merit such action." ENDS

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Newry Armagh Sinn Féin representative Conor Murphy has accused British securocrats of continuing their covert activities and has questioned why members of a British Army foot patrol photographed his home on Monday evening.

Former MLA Conor Murphy said:

"On Monday evening several British Army foot patrols accompanied by members of the PSNI were seen on the main road passing my home in Camlough. One particular patrol stopped and took a series of photographs of my house. This is a very worrying development for my family and myself.

"For many years British Army and Special Branch files have been a primary source of information for unionist paramilitaries. On many occasions I have highlighted the long history of collusion, which has resulted in the deaths of nationalists and republicans. This latest development is nothing less than state intimidation and an attempt to silence Sinn Féin and myself from demanding the truth about collusion.

"I have also written to British direct rule Minister Jane Kennedy asking her to explain why the British Army are photographing the homes of elected representatives. I have also questioned who has access to this information and where is it stored. We need answers as to why the British Army continue to gather and collate information on elected representatives. This is clear evidence that the securocrats within the British administration continue their covert activities. I have also raised this matter with Brian Cowen and the Irish Foreign Affairs Department in Dublin." ENDS

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