Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin TD to "take on the privileged position of consultants" in light of the Brennan report which highlights their powerful role within the health services. Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed out that the Government had failed to reach the target set out in the National Health Strategy for the conclusion of an agreement on a revised contract for hospital consultants.
He said there was "a stark contrast between the position of the hospital consultants and the unjust way the Government has treated the public health doctors currently in dispute".
Commenting on the report of the Brennan Commission, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"This study has once again identified the privileged position occupied by those consultants who manipulate the public health services to facilitate their private practice.
"In the National Health Strategy (Action 89) the Government promises that 'greater equity for public patients will be sought on a revised contract for hospital consultants'. This was to be achieved by agreement of a revised contract for hospital consultants by the end of 2002. The Government has missed this target. In January I tabled a Dáil question to the Minister for Health and Children asking when an agreement will be reached on a revised contract for hospital consultants. The Minister was unable to indicate when negotiations will conclude or even whether an agreement will be reached.
"Through their professional bodies the consultants have a veto on the deployment of their services throughout the health system. Too often their decisions are based on their sense of the career needs of their profession rather than on the healthcare needs of service users. This must change or else reform of the system will prove impossible.
"This report comes at the height of the public health doctors dispute. There is a stark contrast between the position of the hospital consultants and the unjust way the Government has treated the public health doctors who work solely in the public sector. With talks due to begin this Friday I urge the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin to ensure that public health doctors get a fair deal." ENDS
Concluding the debate on Sinn Féin's Private Members motion before the Dáil tonight Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said that the 'dictatorial' power to cancel elections in the Six County and to suspend the institutions must be taken away from the British Government. He went on to say:
"The Irish Government and this Dáil must give leadership. We must stand united in opposition to the decision of the British government to cancel democratic elections in Ireland. The Irish Government must act not as a subordinate party in an unequal relationship - the way the British Government too often has treated it - but as a co-equal partner in an international Agreement, and it must vindicate the rights of all Irish citizens."
Full text to follow:
Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le gach Teachta a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht ar rún Sinn Féin. B'fhiú an díospóireacht é agus tá súil agam go bhfuil tuiscint níos fearr againn uile mar thoradh air.
Cuirim fáilte ar leith anocht roimh Teachtaí Sinn Féin ó na Sé Chontae atá linn sa Dáil. In áiléar na gcuairteoirí tá an Teachta Gerry Adams ó Bhéal Feirste Thiar, an Teachta Michelle Gildernew ó Fear Manach agus Tír Eoghain Theas, an Teachta Pat Doherty ó Tír Eoghain Thiar agus an Teachta Martin McGuiness as Lár-Uladh. Cuirim fáilte chomh maith lenár dTeachtaí ón Tionól atá linn san áiléar poiblí.
I regret that Sinn Féin MPs Gerry Adams, Michelle Gildernew and Martin McGuinness who are with us here tonight in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery cannot join in this debate. The same applies to the 18 MPs of all parties in the Six Counties. I welcome them and I believe the day is fast approaching when they will be speaking here. I acknowledge the Government's agreement in its amendment to our motion that the issue of Northern representation in the Oireachtas should be taken forward by agreement in the Dáil and Seanad. That should happen before the end of this session and I ask the Government to adopt the motion in our name to amend Standing Orders to allow for speaking rights for Six-County MPs here.
I welcome also the Sinn Féin Assembly members who are present in the Public Gallery. Tomorrow is a very significant day for them and indeed for all democrats in Ireland.
Thursday the 29th of May 2003 should have been polling day in the Assembly election in the Six Counties. But not for the first time the British government intervened and violated the democratic rights of the Irish people. There is cross-party agreement in this Oireachtas, as reflected in our debate last night and tonight, that this decision was wrong. The election should be rescheduled for the end of June. The Government amendment expresses the view that the election should take place, regardless of any other considerations, no later than the Autumn. Either way, the overwhelming opinion throughout this island is that the British government has intervened in an unacceptable and a unilateral way and that those elections must take place as soon as practically possible.
When he addressed the issue of the election in his speech last night the Minister for Foreign Affairs Deputy Brian Cowen stated that if the Irish Government had been legally required under the Good Friday Agreement to sign for elections to be cancelled, it would not have done so. "We can only do what is within our power," he stated. That was a very revealing statement. It shows the Irish Government being placed in a totally unacceptable situation by the British Government. The logical political conclusion is that the power to unilaterally cancel Assembly elections and to collapse the institutions should be taken away from the British government once and for all. That is something Sinn Féin has repeatedly called for. I hope the Irish Government has learnt the lesson of the four suspensions of the institutions and the two cancellations of the Assembly election by the British government. I urge the Irish Government to push for the removal of these dictatorial powers from Westminster.
The Irish Government and this Dáil must give leadership. We must stand united in opposition to the decision of the British government to cancel democratic elections in Ireland. The Irish Government must act not as a subordinate party in an unequal relationship - the way the British Government too often has treated it - but as a co-equal partner in an international Agreement, and it must vindicate the rights of all Irish citizens.
There is much common ground in the Sinn Féin motion and the amendments tabled by the Government, Fine Gael and Labour. Support for the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process is reaffirmed. The essential role of the All-Ireland Ministerial Council and the All-Ireland bodies is affirmed. Very importantly there is a growing recognition of the role of systematic collusion between British state forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the conflict and the need for truth and justice. That systematic collusion has never been confined to the Six Counties and there is evidence of the hand of British state forces in all the attacks by loyalists in the 26 Counties since the early 1970s. The purpose was clear. It was not to target republicans but to intimidate the Irish people in general and the Irish government in particular and to deter them from fulfilling their proper role in vindicating the rights of nationalists throughout the island.
The vote tonight will be on the Government amendment. I have welcomed the predominantly positive tone and content of that amendment, reflecting as it does the issues raised in the Sinn Féin motion. However the Sinn Féin TDs cannot accept the Government amendment. In drafting our motion we sought to present a common ground approach realising full well the importance of a united House on this issue. Regrettably, while the Government amendment recalls the progress made in recent talks it also recalls what it says was "the disappointing failure to achieve the required clarity on the completion of the transition from paramilitarism to exclusively peaceful means". This is a claim that the Government drafters of their amendment know full well that we neither accept nor can agree to. The question arises "Clarity required by whom?" I believe there was sufficient clarity and that the initiative on the part of the IRA was unprecedented. The IRA leadership made it clear in its statement that it is determined that its activities will be consistent with its resolve to see the complete and final closure of the conflict. As the President of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams made clear, the IRA leadership is determined that there will be no activities which will undermine in any way the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
We in Sinn Féin have fulfilled all our obligations under the Agreement. We will not accept special strictures on our party over and above those of other parties as set out in that Agreement. The people we are proud to represent have never accepted the status of second-class citizens and they never will. Our central role in the peace process, our place in the Assembly, in this Dáil, in the Executive and in the All-Ireland Ministerial Council is based on our electoral mandate. Nothing more and nothing less.
I believe the current very serious impasse in the process will be overcome. That can only be done on the basis of equality. The peace process and the Good Friday Agreement represent the way forward for all our people. Let us embrace that future and go forward together.
Sinn Féin Assembly members, MPs and TDs have called on people to come out tomorrow, Thursday May 29th, to protest the cancellation of the elections and demand the right to vote. Events have been organised in over 30 towns and cities across the island including: Dublin, Belfast, Derry, Cork, Letterkenny, Galway, Wexford, Kildare, Athlone, Sligo, Limerick, Tralee, Waterford, Omagh, Enniskillen, Lurgan, and Strabane. Events will also take place in the United States and Britain. Speaking in Dublin this afternoon Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:
"Tomorrow, 29th May, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Six Counties should be going to the polls to elect 108 Assembly members and a new cross party Executive. Instead the British government have cancelled the elections, shut down the political institutions and created a dangerous political vacuum.
"The cancelling of the elections is wrong and was taken against the wishes of people across the island of Ireland. It is imperative that the British government reverse this decision and set a date for the Assembly elections. I am calling on people to come out tomorrow and demand the right to vote."ENDS
10am All Assembly election candidates and elected representatives will hand in a letter of protest to local electoral offices in Ballymoney, Banbridge, Belfast, Derry, Omagh and Glengormely.
11.30am Sinn Féin Press Conference, Belfast.
12-2pm City centre protests in Belfast, Omagh, Enniskillen, Lurgan and Derry
5-6.30pm White line pickets in Belfast, Toomebridge, the Ballygawley roundabout, Strabane, Cloghue, the Kinnego roundabout in Lurgan and the Craigavon bridge in Derry
8-9.30am Leafleting of DART stations across the city
11.00am Auction of democracy outside Leinster House
2-4pm Pickets at Stephens Green, GPO O'Connell Street and other venues across the city
5-6pm White line pickets along major city centre routes
8pm Rally outside the British Embassy, with musicians and street theatre
Galway Protests in Loughrea, Tuam and Ballinasloe, Street theatre and mock elections in Galway City
Mayo Protests in Westport, Ballina, Castlebar and Charlestown
Donegal Rally in Letterkenny at 8pm
Sligo Protest outside GPO at 5pm
N1/N2/N3 Navan, Drogheda and Dundalk - Dublin
N4 Longford, Edgeworthstown, Mullingar, Kinnegad - Dublin
N6 Athlone at 10am, Moate 12 noon, Kilbeggan 1pm, Kinnegad, Dublin
N7/N9 New Ross, Kilkenny City, Carlow, Naas and onto Dublin
N11 Wexford, Enniscorthy, Gorey, Wicklow, Bray - Dublin
Cork Protests in Cork City, Mallow, Middleton, Clonakilty
Waterford Protests in Waterford City
Kerry Protests in Tralee
Speaking during the second day of the Private Members debate on northern representation in Leinster House and the cancellation of the elections in the Six Counties Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe said: "Sinn Féin understands that we need to reach out to the Unionist community, and we are doing so quietly on a daily basis. Alex Maskey in 12 months of office has confronted the prejudices that existed about him and has begun to build what he called a City of Equals in his acceptance speech."
He went on to say that he wanted "to see change being brought about by exclusively democratic and peaceful means. And we want to see the conflict over and done with." "That is what the motion before us a Ceann Comhairle is trying to do. It is about the primacy of politics. And that does involve removing all of the guns out of the equation", he said.
"Unionism and its leaders need to understand that equality is not a concession; it is the right of everyone. Justice is not a concession, it is a right. A Police Service acceptable to all communities is certainly not a concession; it is desirable and necessary for everyone." ENDS
FULL TEXT FOLLOWS:
David Trimble is on record as saying that the Northern state was a cold house for Nationalists since its foundation. The working class people living on the Shankill, Sandy Row or the Waterside know only too well that it wasn't much warmer for them. All the Parties and Deputies in this house espouse the notion of an Ireland based on equality, justice and peace
The Good Friday Agreement attempted to put that concept in to legislative form. I don't believe that the historic comprises contained in that document, would have been possible without all those groups and individuals seeing beyond their own concerns and accepting the new potential that agreement opened up.
It is true; we have more in common than divides us.
The peace process was kick started by dialogue, complemented by the historic cessations and overwhelmingly embraced by the Irish people, North and South. It gave a sense of hope to people not only in Ireland but also throughout the world.
From day one it has been bedevilled by crisis after crisis but the process of dialogue has, and continues to - despite all the difficulties, move us forward and away from conflict.
Republicans on this island have had to make painful and difficult decisions in order to support that process. We acknowledge that we have inflicted great hurt on many from the Unionist tradition and continue to articulate and more importantly demonstrate our understanding of that reality.
All of us are emerging, slowly maybe, painfully certainly, but we are emerging out of a 30-year conflict that has affected and lessened each one of us. Yes we all want to see a just society and the fault lines of sectarianism removed forever.
We have gone from the days of unionists disinfecting Council seats, from refusing to sit in the same room as us, to negotiating face to face, to even sharing power.
I want to see change being brought about by exclusively democratic and peaceful means. And we want to see the conflict over and done with. That is what the motion before us a Ceann Comhairle is trying to do. It is about the primacy of politics. And that does involve removing all of the guns out of the equation
But there are still fault lines in the process. The Good Friday Agreement is not and has not been implemented fully by all sides. The potential for conflict is still with us. The cancellation of the democratic process because of the possible outcome does not augur well for the future.
Sinn Féin understands that we need to reach out to the Unionist community, and we are doing so quietly on a daily basis. Alex Maskey in 12 months of office has confronted the prejudices that existed about him and has begun to build what he called a City of Equals in his acceptance speech.
As Mayor of Belfast he handled in an inclusive manner the Remembrance Sunday commemorations and demonstrated vividly the lengths that republicans are prepared to go to show that, parity of esteem, equality and inclusiveness are not merely words, but have to be acted on.
Unionism and its leaders need to understand that equality is not a concession; it is the right of everyone. Justice is not a concession, it is a right. A Police Service acceptable to all communities is certainly not a concession; it is desirable and necessary for everyone.
The removal of the weapons of war, the intrusive watchtowers, and the armed patrols is not a concession to republicans but a necessity if we are to move to a peaceful society.
Sinn Féin is ready to move forward, we are ready to bridge the gap but we also need to know from Unionism and the British that they are prepared to work with us towards that new Ireland.
As most speakers have agreed with the substance of this motion it is disappointing that parties in this house could not feel comfortable supporting the Sinn Féin motion.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking today in Belfast has said that 'there is a collective responsibility on the two governments and all political parties along with community, church and civic leaders to work together to ensure a peaceful summer'.
Mr Adams said:
"Sinn Féin's consistent position has been to ensure that the summer months are peaceful, particularly in interface areas. For example last year at a meeting in Hillsborough of the Implementation Group we proposed that the two governments and all the parties agree a common approach to tackling the issue of interface violence and sectarianism. Unfortunately this approach was not fully embraced and people living in interface areas had to endure a summer of violence.
"There is a deep concern within the community that the present political vacuum could be filled with the type of violence which caused so much devastation last summer.
"Our focus is to avoid this. Sinn Féin, locally and nationally, have engaged in a wide range of initiatives and attempts to ensure that we do not see a repeat of last years violence. We are holding meetings at both political and community levels. We are encouraging and backing attempts by local communities to resolve interface tensions.
" All sections of society have a responsibility for these matters.
" There is a collective responsibility on the two governments and all political parties along with community, church and civic leaders to work together to ensure a peaceful summer.
" I welcome the meeting yesterday between the UUP and Loyalist leaders.
" We recognise that there are many within the Unionist and Nationalist community who have, and are, working hard to ensure that we have a peaceful summer period. This is vital work, which needs to continue.
" We also recognise that there are those who are intent on cynically manipulating the tensions during this period for their own political ends. This must not be allowed to happen." ENDS
For immediate release - 27 May 2003 (CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY)
Speaking during the opening of the debate on Sinn Féin's Private Members motion on the cancellation of the Assembly elections in the Six Counties Sinn Fein TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:
"Elections that were to have taken in two days time in Ireland have been unilaterally cancelled by the British. Approximately one million Irish voters will be disenfranchised by this most undemocratic decision.
"Other countries that have cancelled elections are: Lesotho - 1970; Chile - 1973; Algeria - 1992; Sri Lanka - 1998; Nepal - 2002; Georgia - 2003.
"All parties in this House have expressed concern over this move on 7th May, and most expressed their disappointment with it.
"I believe that it is possible for the House to reach a consensus on this issue that Sinn Féin has selected as the subject of our motion at this critical time.
"The Irish peace process has transformed the situation in Ireland.
"Only a very short time ago a vicious circle of injustice, inequality and conflict afflicted us in the north of Ireland. All of this was the legacy of the undemocratic partition of Ireland.
"The British government has no right to cancel elections in Ireland, which derive directly from the Good Friday Agreement and the endorsement of that Agreement by the overwhelming majority of the Irish people.
"The Irish government opposed this. Indeed every political party in Ireland opposed it. Only UUP leader David Trimble and the British government supported this undemocratic action.
"The cancellation of elections is a subversion of democracy.
"In any normal democratic society, a crisis in the political institutions would lead directly to elections to establish a fresh mandate for the political parties. That is the way of democracy. That is the way of politics.
"The cancellation of elections has created a dangerous political vacuum which those opposed to the peace process will seek to fill.
"The British and Irish governments accepted this logic in their recently published Joint Declaration when they said, " the best way of ensuring that peace remains permanent is by demonstrating that politics work." How does canceling democratic elections demonstrate, in any way, that politics work?
"And the damage is compounded by the failure to implement the agreement in full.
"The key to making politics work is democracy. That means that people have the right to vote. It means elections. Approximately one million Irish citizens have been disenfranchised. We are now left with a very dangerous political vacuum - one that has been filled all too quickly in the past by unionist paramilitaries.
"What needs to happen now is that an election date needs to be set. The institutions need to be re-established and the Agreement implemented in full. Meetings in the absence of this will go nowhere. Issues of human rights and equality and a proper police service cannot be conditional. They are basic democratic rights and the governments must move on these immediately.
"Sinn Féin is fully committed to the peace process.
"Everybody in this chamber needs to get involved in the effort to re-build the process. What is required is the political will and the determination to proceed without further delay." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris to Sinn Féin Private Members debate on Cancellation of Elections in the Six Counties called on members of the Oireachtas to state in unequivocal terms, on an all-party basis, our opposition to the anti-democratic actions of the British Government in unilaterally cancelling the May 29th elections.' Mr. Ferris said:
This morning in Belfast Sinn Féin launched a document "Who sanctioned Britain's Death Squads? - Time for the truth". A copy of it will be distributed to all members of the House over the next two days. I would ask Deputies to read it carefully.
While not directly related to the issue we are debating here today - the contents of this document will give people an understanding as to why so many northern nationalists and republicans are alienated from and mistrustful of the Six County state and those who run it - and also why they are becoming increasingly angry and disillusioned with the so-called 'democratic process'.
I don't need to rehearse the arguments here today but it must be remembered that the nationalist/republican population of the Six Counties never asked to be part of that Statelet. They never asked to be abandoned by successive Irish governments. They never asked to be treated as second-class citizens in their own country. It was something foisted upon them without even the slightest reference to their consent - and then they were left to struggle on their own in the situation in which they found themselves.
In that situation they were at best ignored and disenfranchised by the British state in terms of social and economic opportunities and resources and at worst considered a threat to Unionist dominance that could and should be dispensed with. The recent limited Steven's report, which is strongly referenced to in the document launched this morning, estimates conservatively that since the 1980s up to 80 citizens have been set up for targeting by the British State. Twenty-nine of those were shot dead or blown-up.
Bearing this in mind there is nobody here that could argue that the nationalist/republican population of the Six Counties hasn't absolute justification for distrusting the intentions of not only the British Government and the Unionists but of the 26 County Establishment as well. However, they did through the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement try to understand and reach a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.
And so following over a decade of an intensive peace process, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the establishment of the Assembly, the election of a cross-party Executive what do we have. The Good Friday Agreement still waiting to be fully implemented. The Assembly suspended. And democratic elections cancelled. The British Government at the behest of the Unionists did all of this.
Republicans have lived up to all of our responsibilities under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Indeed we have gone way beyond our responsibilities in the interests of making the Agreement work, while others have been actively engaged in trying to wreck it. We have stretched ourselves to breaking point to ensure that the Agreement doesn't unravel.
We have reached out to Unionism. We have sought to accommodate them where we could. We have made, to what is to many of our supporters, painful and profound compromises to reassure Unionists of our bona fides. But to many nationalists and republicans it seems that this is all one-way traffic. There is no evidence from either the British Government or the Unionists that they are really interested in bringing about the changes that are necessary to ensure that the Agreement not only survives but also flourishes.
The recent actions of the British Government have compounded the sense of anger and frustration that exists within nationalist and republican communities not only the Six Counties but throughout the island of Ireland. It is extremely ironic that for years and years Sinn Féin was being constantly lectured at by not only parties in here but by the British Government about putting our arguments to the test and standing in elections and getting a mandate from the people.
Of course these arguments were being promoted in the misguided belief that Republicans had not got widespread or popular support. The steady rise of Sinn Féin both north and south has exposed that as nothing more than wishful thinking.
Now the rules, according to Britannia, are to be rewritten to suit this new reality. Elections can be cancelled. Institutions suspended. Democracy denied.
It is not good enough to declare that you are opposed to the activities of the British Government. It is not good enough to say that it is wrong. There has to be a vocal and physical manifestation of that opposition. The British Government cannot be permitted to continue to just walk over the democratic rights and entitlements of Irish people, living north or south.
But to force the British Government to live up to its responsibilities the Irish Government must fulfil its own responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement. They must repeal their draconian and repressive legislation that has been introduced during the course of the conflict. They must also release all qualifying prisoners still detained years after they were supposed to be released.
For our part in this House we have this evening and tomorrow evening in the course of this debate an opportunity to put some of the wrongs that this State was responsible for right. We can state in unequivocal terms, on an all-party basis, our opposition to the anti-democratic actions of the British Government in unilaterally cancelling the May 29th elections. We can demand that Tony Blair re-enfranchise the people of the Six Counties by re-scheduling the elections for the earliest possible date in June. And we can ensure that those people in the Six Counties who aspire to representation in an Irish elected forum rather than Westminster can speak and take part in debates in this House. I would urge deputies of all parties to support the motion before us today.
The Policing Board cannot investigate these matters. It has no powers to investigate either MI5 the British Army or incidents involving the RUC prior to 1999.
The Ombudsman's powers to investigate such matters are yet to be tested but the point is somewhat moot, given that it is already clear is that the Ombudsman does not have the financial resources to conduct such inquiries. She also has no power whatsoever to investigate the British Army or MI5.
The position of the Finucane, Nelson and Hamill families is clear and unambiguous. They are demanding independent judicial inquiries into the deaths of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill.. Sinn Féin unequivocally endorses that position.
We believe the eviden
For 30 years, the British government, through its agencies - MI5, British Military Intelligence and RUC/PSNI Special Branch - has been involved in the murder of citizens in Ireland. Together, they directed the activities of various unionist paramilitary death squads. This was much more than simply passing on information. This was about the deliberate and orchestrated targeting and assassination of hundreds of citizens.
MI5 was and remains in charge. It is their job to monitor the activities of Military Intelligence and PSNI Special Branch. MI5 is obliged to report on all of these matters to Whitehall and to Downing Street. In the period covered by this dossier, MI5 reported directly to Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, respectively, in their capacity as British Prime Minister.
The report of the Stevens' Inquiry, handed over to the PSNI on April 17th, 2003, the third such report in 14 years, was not publishece of collusion between British government agencies and loyalist paramilitaries demands this. Three separate police inquiries have failed to get to the root of the matter. Immunity from prosecution granted by the British government to some of those involved has presented an obstacle to the truth that has been insurmountable to date. There is no confidence in the nationalist community in Ireland that any British government agency will get to the bottom of what is involved here.
This is, in part, a legacy of the British government's "Widgery Inquiry" into the killing of 13 civilians by the British Army on Bloody Sunday 1972, an inquiry that has been totally discredited as a whitewash.
This has been reinforced by the British government's refusal to co-operate with its own inquiry into Bloody Sunday -- the Saville Inquiry. The obstructive conduct of the British Minister of Defence in impeding the inquiry is such as to prevent it fully investigating d. Instead a 19-page document titled 'Stevens' Enquiry: Overview and Recommendations' was issued. This highlighted:
John Stevens also highlighted the pattern of obstruction he faced and said it was cultural in its nature and widespread in parts of the British Army and RUC. He said that he was confronted by a wall of silence, crucial evidence was destroyed, information was leaked to loyalist paramilitaries before the planned arrest of senior loyalists and British agent Nelson, his incident room was destroyed by fire and he was lied to about the existence of particular documents. He also reported that the RUC routinely failed to conduct adequate investigations and prevented proper investigations.
RUC Specthe role of the British Army on that day.
The 14 years it has taken to produce Stevens 3, a limited enquiry which still remains far from complete because of official obstruction underlines this.
Successive British governments have sanctioned murder. They have employed agents. They have given them a license to kill and the freedom to act with impunity.
British agents help arm unionist paramilitaries with hundreds of weapons and grenades requisitioned from South Africa.
No member of the British Army's covert Force Research Unit (FRU), or of the RUC Special Branch, has been charged with any offence relating to attacks on 80 people that can be traced to files held by British agent Brian Nelson, including the killings of 29 people.
Intelligence agencies have not been subjected to any process of reform. They have not been made subject to a public debate about accountability ued with a human rights ethos. The PSNI as currently constituted is unaccountable and unacceptable. There must be full local democratic accountability.
The British Military Intelligence personnel involved in these matters are still in place and have had their activities endorsed by the British government. Some 70 honours and awards have been made to the British Army unit involved in colluding with loyalists in the killing of Irish citizens - the Force Research Unit (FRU).
The public had been led to believe that the Force Research Unit had been disbanded but it has actually just been renamed the Joint Services Group (JSG). The policies and practices that led to the death of Pat Finucane and 28 other people as a result of FRU agent Brian Nelson's files are still in place today.
British Intelligence agencies and their agents are still fighting their war. They continue to undermine the peace process by mounting propaganda operations, creating an avalan
While giving a cautious welcome to the news that there is to be increased investment in improving access to Third Level education Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe has called the Government's claims to be interested in disadvantaged areas "deeply hypocritical and dishonest".
The Dublin South-West TD said: "Sinn Féin is giving this belatedly announced investment in access to third level education a caution welcome. However, following the inter-departmental rows within the Government of the last couple of weeks, we believe the case is now clear for an equitable tax system which would as Minister Dempsey was saying last week make the rich pay their fair share.
"Working class communities who gain from investment in access to third level education should not be attacked at the same time by ongoing cuts in Community Employment schemes. These schemes in many instances provided much needed relief in terms of providing personnel and resources to primary schools in areas of disadvantage throughout the State.
"Yesterdays announcement was supposed to be about improving access to education However, the claim of this Government to be acting out of concern for the disadvantaged is deeply hypocritical and dishonest when the money is coming from the Tánaiste's Department as a result of her stringent cutbacks to the very programmes that directly benefit that sector.
"In the face of a very successful campaign mounted by USI and the CFE in winning over public opinion the Government has decided to try and buy its way out this problem by robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is but another con-trick being pulled on the Irish electorate." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning vowed to continue to reach out to unionism, not only to move beyond the current crisis but also as part of a genuine process of national reconciliation. The Sinn Féin leader said that a lasting peace is a collective responsibility, which we all share and that republicans will continue to lead by word and deed.
Mr. Adams said:
Despite the difficulties we all currently face due to the collapse of the institutions, the cancellation of the elections and the failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement, I strongly believe that republicans and nationalists need to approach northern Protestants in the language of invitation. This should be reflected in the words and political concepts we use daily.
Sinn Féin's engagement with the unionist community is a sincere effort to listen to and understand unionist concerns. I am aware of the gulf of mistrust that exists between republicans and unionists. I know that thirty years of conflict makes it difficult for Unionists to hear what I have to say but I would ask them to listen to and accept my words as my personal attempt to address their concerns.
I would also ask that Unionists, in the same spirit, to recognise and address republican and nationalist concerns about unionist intentions. Today more than ever, I am convinced that the only way forward is through dialogue, reconciliation and accommodation. These values continue to underpin my engagement with the unionist community. These are the values, which are the foundation of change in our society.
Sinn Féin recognises and accepts the difficulties caused for pro-Agreement unionists and others by allegations of IRA activities in the recent past. These allegations have added to the difficulties within unionism. I also know that rejectionists have exploited these difficulties in an attempt to subvert the peace process and to undermine the process of political change. Republicans must rise above that narrow agenda. We must recognise that unionists do have real concerns and republicans must genuinely address these concerns.
I also believe that the IRA recognises and accepts those difficulties. In its April 13 statement the IRA directly addressed the unionist community, expressing its willingness to listen and learn in an effort to understand unionists perceptions. The IRA said that they want to enhance the climate at all levels of society so that unionists and loyalists, nationalists and republicans, free from threats to their rights and safety, can engage together in community, political and other areas of cooperation and work. The IRA also made clear that it poses no threat to the unionist people or to the peace process.
I believe that these comments are a sincere effort by the IRA to address unionist concerns. That is how it should be. Republicans at all levels must reach out to unionists as part of a process of national reconciliation.
Irish republicans do not want anyone to go into the space that nationalists and republicans in the north are vacating. We want to close that space down. We do not want anyone to be treated the way we were treated. But the truth must be faced if we are to leave the past behind. Unionism presided over a system of institutionalised sectarianism for over 50 years. The refusal to face that fact and accept that there must be change disturbs nationalists. The constant stalling of the Good Friday Agreement, particularly in the areas of equality and justice undermines the peace process and the process of reconciliation.
I say this, not by way of recrimination but in the context of looking f orward and ensuring that as we move closer to our goals that we do not repeat a similar injustice. We know that the social disadvantage and deprivation, which exists in republican and nationalist communities across this island also exists in loyalist and unionist communities in the north.
The Protestant working class in many ways have been politically abandoned and in some cases left to the mercy of sectarian gangs, which are now engaged in wholesale criminality.
The people of the Shankill and other unionist working class areas deserve a better future than this. Sinn Féin wants to see the standard of living of all sections of the community raised through meaningful employment, and the provision of social amenities, places of recreation and better housing.
There is a particular problem at interfaces, which has made life intolerable for those living in these areas. Sinn Féin has been involved in attempts to deal with this issue over recent years and we will return to this with specific proposals in the coming days.
In the immediate short-term steps must be taken by all sides to ensure that the marching season is peaceful. Everyone has the right to live free from sectarian harassment and every effort must be made to prevent a reoccurrence of the disturbances which makes life insufferable, particularly for communities on interface areas.
But a prolonged and consistent policy, which will remove social grievances and reduce alienation in loyalist and unionist working class areas, is essential. We have been arguing for this consistently, including in the recent negotiations with both governments.
Sinn Féin has also argued publicly and in the political negotiations that there must be safeguards and protection for the identity and culture of Unionists in the context of a United Ireland. They have a right to ownership in a new Ireland and that new Ireland must reflect this.
Nationalists and unionists, republicans and loyalists have to come to terms with and recognise each other's integrity. We recognise that for many people who live in the north of Ireland their sense of Britishness, however that is defined, is as important to them as being Irish is to us.
Sinn Féin is wedded to the peace process. We want to share the future with unionists on a democratic and equal basis. We are committed to partnership, to an agreement that binds us to a common purpose of a fair and equal society, free from violence, intimidation and in which the rights of all are respected.
Republicans are committed to working with unionists to secure for everyone the political structures and democratic processes that allow us to achieve the kind of society that truly serves the needs of all our people.
We are committed to a peaceful future, where unionists and nationalists alike benefit from a new political system. But for this to happen we need to work together. Our collective task, in fact our collective obligation, is to make the process of change peaceful and constructive for all. It is this imperative that will guide our engagement with unionism in the time ahead."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP this morning met An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen in Dublin to discuss ongoing revelations of collusion and the need for full disclosure from the British government. During the meeting they also discussed the need for the Irish government to move speedily on their commitment to northern representation in the Oireachtas and the crisis in the peace process.
Speaking following the meeting Mr. Adams said
"This morning the Taoiseach and I spoke at length about the ongoing revelations of collusion. I presented him with a dossier (Who sanctioned Britain's death squads -- Time for the Truth) detailing the involvement of the British government through its agencies -- MI5, British Military Intelligence and RUC/Special Branch -- in the murder of its citizens. It is clear that all of these agencies are continuing to operate and that they are intent on destabilising the entire peace process. The lid needs to be lifted on this issue and there needs to be full disclosure. The people of Ireland deserve to know the truth and the people of Britain have a right to know what was done in their name.
"In the last four weeks we have seen a spotlight put on Britain's war in Ireland with the publication of only a limited summary of the Stevens report, the revelations regarding the bugging of Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness, the briefings by British Intelligence of unsubstantiated allegations in respect of an alleged British agent in the IRA codenamed 'Stakeknife' and the report that the UVF had a spy network which colluded with the military and police personnel to kill. All of this, at a time when the British government moved unilaterally to stop the Assembly elections.
"The response of the British government has been to continue business as usual ie wall of silence, obstruction of inquiries, failure to make full disclosure, refusal to investigate, destruction of evidence and ultimately failure to prosecute.
"The Taoiseach is on record voicing his concern at the activities of these agencies and at the fact that he has been unable thus far to get clarity from the British government.
"It is time that the British government took responsibility for the activities of its agencies over the last thirty years. It is time that they stopped obstructing the work of the Saville Tribunal and the Barron Inquiry. It is time for the truth."
In relation to the peace process Mr. Adams said:
"The cancellation of the elections by the British government has made things even more difficult for everyone on the island, particularly the Irish government. We need to work this mess out. We need to get the British government to undo the damage that they have done and the first step in all of this is the setting of an election date."ENDS
Commenting on the news that the birthplace of Countess Constance Markiewicz, Lissadell House, is to be sold, Arthur Morgan T.D. Sinn Féin spokesperson on Heritage called on the Government to preserve Lissadell as a monument to the heroine of the 1916 Rising.
Deputy Morgan said
"The State preserves Avondale House in Co. Wicklow as a memorial to Charles Stewart Parnell and Carhan House in Co. Kerry as a memorial to Daniel O'Connell. Lissadell House, which played an important role in Irish political and literary history, should be preserved as a memorial to Countess Markiewicz.
"Everywhere there are memorials to the men of Irish history, whether you walk down O'Connell Street or through the corridors of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Women's role has been written out of Irish history: to preserve Lissadell House as a monument to Countess Markiewicz is the very least that this state can do to remember one of the most important female figures in Irish History and as the first woman cabinet minister in Europe, an important figure in European history.
"Sinn Féin believes that it is time for the state to examine the options for re-appropriating hereditary estates which are a legacy of our colonial past and have no place in a modern Ireland." ENDS
"The Government and opposition parties in Leinster House must send a very clear message that the days of a British Government reinforcing the Unionist veto must end. The parties in Leinster House as representatives of the vast majority of Irish people who backed the Good Friday Agreement must defend that Agreement. We must demand in a unified voice in front of the International community, as the Agreement is an international one, that Britain adheres to both the letter and spirit of that Agreement. They must be left in no doubt that their support for David Trimble at the expense of democratic rights of people living in the Six Counties is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
"A second and equally important aspect of our Private Members motion is the whole issue of speaking rights for the representatives of people in the S any longer. Only very minor procedural matters need to be addressed.
"I will finish by outlining the four main demands in our motion. They are:
1. Demanding that the British Government fully restores the political institutions established under the Agreement
2. That it sets a date for Assembly elections to be held before end of June
3. We are also urging the Irish Government to provide representation in the Dáil for people from the Six Counties
4. And to promote all-Ireland policies and strategies across the full range of Governmental responsibilities
Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan has pledged that Sinn Féin will oppose any proposed re-introduction of fees or the creation of a loan system on the floor of Leinster House and "on the streets of the towns and cities of Ireland."
Speaking at a press conference organised by the Union of Students of Ireland in Dublin today the Louth Deputy said: "Sinn Féin believes in the right to free education as a core principle. I do not accept the argument that this will facilitate access to education. There is no evidence that the money raised from this will actually go to improve access to education. The massive increases in Registration Fees last year went straight into Charlie McCreevy's back pocket.
"The reintroduction of fees is the thin end of the wedge. Just like they have consistently increased Registration Fees, they will continue to lower the income barrier if fees are returned
"If the Government are serious about redistributing wealth in society, if they are serious about making the rich pay their fair share, the way to do it is through taxation.
"Sinn Féin proposed in our pre-budget submission a super tax rate on individuals earning over €100,000 of 50%, an increase in Capital Gains Tax to 40%, increases in Corporation Tax and Employers PRSI. This is the way to raise money for free education and a host of other services, if only the Government had the courage to do so.
"If the Minister is serious about addressing the issue of access, why has he not implemented the recommendations of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education which are now almost two years old? There is nothing in there about fees or a loan system to improve access. According to today's papers he now wishes to ask the OECD to conduct a review of third level when he has this report sitting on his desk.
"Should the Minister attempt to bring in Fees or a loan system, Sinn Féin will oppose it not merely on the floor of Leinster House but on the streets of the towns and cities of Ireland." CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator, Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness speaking ahead of tomorrow's meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said:
"Tomorrow Gerry Adams and I will meet the Taoiseach to discuss the issue of collusion between British Intelligence and unionist paramilitaries. For decades Sinn Féin pointed out that British Intelligence was manipulating, controlling and directing loyalist death squads as the deniable arm of the British war machine Ireland. These assertions were dismissed and ignored.
"Recent revelations prove our case beyond any doubt. It took a long 13 years to produce the Stevens Report. This is a damning indictment of the role of British Intelligence and the Special Branch in their war against Irish republicans and nationalists-
"The Stevens Investigation produced a report which ran to thousands of pages. Only 19 pages of this have been made public. Yet this is an issue of the deepest public concern.
"The Irish government, acting on behalf of and in the interests of Irish citizens should have full access to this report in its entirety.
"But the Stevens Investigation was itself very limited.
"The Irish government should also demand full disclosure on the activities of British Intelligence over the past three decades, particularly in light of events such as the Dublin/Monaghan bombs and the killings of Seamus Ludlow in Co. Louth and of Councillor Eddie Fullerton in Buncrana.
"The British government at the highest political level sanctioned the activities of British Intelligence. The Irish government must challenge the British government on this. The Irish government must challenge and demand an end to the continued activities of these agencies in Ireland. The Irish government on behalf of Irish citizens, north and south must demand that the files of these agencies are now opened to full scrutiny." ENDS
Chuir Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, urlabhraí Sinn Féin ar Chúrsaí Ghaeilge agus Gaeltachta, fáilte roimh Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla agus an Bille ag teacht isteach sa Dáil den chéad uair. Ach dúirt an Teachta Ó Snodaigh go raibh fadhbanna bunúsacha leis an mBille agus d'iarr sé ar an Rialtas glacadh le leasuithe. Dúirt sé:
"Failtíonn Sinn Féin roimh Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2002. Is céim tabhachtach é seo i dtreo cuspóir lárnach de chuid Sinn Féin i dtaca leis an teanga de, sé sin 'an Ghaeilge a chur ar ais i mbéal an phobail'.
"Tá céimeanna eile le dhul leis an chuspóir seo a bhaint amach agus beidh Sinn Féin ag brú ar aghaidh le plean cuimsitheach don teanga ach aithnímid gurb é seo an chéad uair do chearta teanga pobal na hÉireann a bheith aitheanta sa dóigh seo.
"Gabhann Sinn Féin moladh leis na daoine agus na heagraíochtaí a bhí ag feachtasaíocht thar na blianta chun an Bille seo a thabhairt i bhfeidhm. Tá laigí sa Bhille agus tacaíonn Sinn Féin leis na leasuithe ar an mBille atá molta ó Chonradh an Gaeilge, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge agus Fóram na Gaeltachta. Beidh Sinn Féin ag cur leasuithe chun cinn le linn na díospóireachta i dTeach Laighean agus sa Choiste.
"Táimid ag súil go luath leis an lá go mbeidh bille dá leithéad ar fáil sna 6 Chontae agus cearta teanga á spreagadh is á feidhmniú go huile-Éireannach.
"Iarraimid ar an Taoiseach brú ar Rialtas na Breataine na cearta, a bheas sa bhille seo, a chur i bhfeidhm ó Thuaidh chomh maith."
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Irish Language and Gaeltacht Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, welcomed the Official Languages Bill as it came into the Dáil for debate for the first time today (Thursday). But Deputy Ó Snodaigh said there were fundamental problems with the Bill and he urged the Government to accept amendments. He said:
"Sinn Féin welcomes the Official Languages Bill. This is an important step towards one of the central objectives of Sinn Féin, and that is to put the Irish language back in the speech of the people.
"There are many other important steps necessary to achieve this objective and Sinn Féin will be pressing for a development plan for the language but we recognise that this is the first time the language rights of the Irish people have been recognised in this way.
"Sinn Fein commends those people and organisations who have been campaigning for many years for such legislation. There are weaknesses in the Bill and Sinn Féin supports the amendments proposed by Conradh na Gaeilge, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and Fóram na Gaeltachta. Sinn Féin will be putting forward amendments during the passage of the Bill through the Dáil.
"We look forward to the early introduction of a similar Bill in the Six Counties and the vindication of language rights on an all-Ireland basis.
"We urge the Taoiseach to press the British Government to implement in the Six Counties the language rights contained in this Bill." ENDS
Commenting upon the adoption by the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee of a consultation report on CAP reform, the Sinn Féin Spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD and Gerry McHugh MLA have rejected its proposal for partial de-coupling. The Committee has called for direct payments to be maintained in all areas other than arable crops and beef, and that in the latter that payments only be partly decoupled. The Committee made its decision on the basis that full decoupling would lead to farmers abandoning production and to desertification and regional disparities.
Deputy Ferris and Mr McHugh said;
"We do not accept that farmers will abandon production if decoupling is introduced. Indeed, given the requirement to comply with a range of environmental and other measures, that would be impossible as farmers will only be entitled to payments if they comply and compliance will require maintaining the land. As has been explained by a number of people involved in the sector, partial decoupling would be a disaster. We regard decoupling as a means to guarantee a certain level of income and allow farmers to move away from subsidy-based production.
"We do, however, see merit in some of the other proposals approved by the Committee. These include the raising of the threshold above which payments will begin to be reduced, although we would favour a higher level than €7,500. We also agree that all of the money obtained through the reduction is invested in the rural development measures, and that all of the modulated funding be allocated through the member states where it originates. However, we believe that this aspect of the reform proposals will only work if tied to decoupling.
"There are other aspects of the proposals which we hope to see modified including the conditions governing the entitlements of young farmers. We will be following the progress of the negotiations with interest in the hope that Minister Walsh and the Department of Agriculture will be making proposals along the lines we advocate in the interests of the majority of Irish farmers, north and south".ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP writing in the Irish Echo said that 't he key to making politics work is democracy. That means that people have the right to vote. It means elections.'
The Irish peace process has transformed the situation in Ireland.
Only a very short time ago a vicious circle of injustice, inequality and conflict afflicted us in the north of Ireland. All of this was the legacy of the undemocratic partition of Ireland. We seemed trapped in a conflict that many believed to be intractable. In a relatively short period of time the political landscape has been transformed and we have provided the hope, if not yet the certainty, that the injustices and failures of the past will never be repeated.
All of this has flowed from the peace process and the consequent political negotiations. For 25 years armed groups - on all sides, dictated the agenda in the north of Ireland and between Britain and Ireland. But the peace process has changed all of that. For the first time in a quarter of a century political leaders are in the driving seat.
The Irish/American community and their political representatives have played a full and highly valued role in the development of the Irish peace process.
But the involvement and interest goes way beyond the Irish/American community. The historic agreement reached between Britain and the representatives of all of the Iris people on Good Friday 1998 would not have happened without the energetic involvement of President Clinton. The current administration under President Bush is also fully engaged in the efforts to defend and advance the peace process in Ireland and I welcome and commend those efforts.
Unfortunately our peace process is again in deep crisis:
• First, the British government unilaterally suspended the democratic institutions agreed and established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and endorsed by the Irish people 5 years ago this month.
• Second, the British government has publicly accepted that, five years on, it has failed to fully implement its commitments under the terms of the Agreement.
• Third, the British government have now cancelled elections in the north of Ireland scheduled for May of this years and there is no guarantee when these elections will take place
• Fourth, the British government has ignored the Irish government's status as joint and co-equal partner in the Agreement. Irish government opposition to unilateral British decisions has been ignored.
The British government has no right to cancel elections in Ireland, which derive directly from the Good Friday Agreement and the endorsement of that Agreement by the overwhelming majority of the Irish people.
The Irish government opposed this. Indeed every political party in Ireland opposed it. Only UUP leader David Tumble and the British government supported this undemocratic action.
The cancellation of elections is a subversion of democracy.
In any normal democratic society, a crisis in the political institutions would lead directly to elections to establish a fresh mandate for the political parties. That is the way of democracy. That is the way of politics.
But the cancellation of elections has created a dangerous political vacuum which those opposed to the peace process will seek to fill.
The process of conflict resolution in Ireland as else where is premised on the creation of a viable political, democratic and peaceful alternative to war. In short it is about making politics work.
The British and Irish governments accepted this logic in their recently published Joint Declaration when they said,
" The best way of ensuring that peace remains permanent is by demonstrating that politics work."
How does canceling democratic elections demonstrate, in any way, that politics work?
And the damage is compounded because the failure to implement the agreement in full, the suspension of the political institutions and the cancellation of the elections all result from the opposition of the Ulster Unionist Party to a new political reality based on equality and inclusivity.
No party should have a veto over change.
The elections unilaterally cancelled by the British government must be rescheduled without delay.
The political institutions unilaterally suspended by the British government need to be put back in place urgently.
There can be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement must be implemented in full.
The commitment contained in the recent joint statement from the two governments should not be conditional. They are about the rights and entitlements of citizens and they should be delivered now.
We must see an end to political and paramilitary policing.
Our society must be demilitarized, on all sides.
There must be an end to discrimination, inequality and sectarianism.
Human rights must become a reality for all our people.
There is a particular onus on the British government to deliver on these obligations.
Of course, the Ulster Unionist Party and their allies in the British system have attempted to blame Irish republicans, and in particular the IRA, for the present hiatus. This is nonsense. The willingness of the IRA to contribute to the peace process was spelt out in a statement given to the two governments on April 13. The Irish government, and incredibly, the British government also, recognised the many positive aspects of the IRA statement, the obvious progress and, crucially, the clear desire of the IRA to make the peace process work.
This represented a phenomenal opportunity, which would not have been imaginable only a few years ago. That opportunity should have been built upon. In any other conflict situation an acknowledgement by one side of the peaceful intent of the other would have been seized and built upon. But not so in Ireland.
Instead we had a word game, which continued for weeks and ended ultimately with the rejection by the Ulster Unionists and the British government of the most recent, and unprecedented IRA initiative.
There was no lack of clarity in the IRA positions. Their commitment to the peace process and their willingness to contribute to its success was explicit and unambiguous.
The word game was, in fact, a cover for the rejection of the IRA initiative by an Ulster Unionist Party now dominated by anti-peace process elements and whose agenda is to halt the process of democracy and change.
But despite the present and on-going difficulties that we face, I can say without any fear of contradiction that where we are now is a far better place than where we were 10 years ago. There is a heavy onus on those in political leadership to build on this progress and to avoid the complacency or short-sightedness that wrecked hopes of peace elsewhere in the world. That is my commitment and that of Sinn Fein.
The key to making politics work is democracy. That means that people have the right to vote. It means elections.
Sinn Féin is totally wedded to the peace process. We want an end to conflict in our country. I firmly believe that, if there is political will and common sense and a determination to leave the failures of the past behind us, we can collectively achieve a new, better and peaceful future for all of the people of Ireland.
Speaking in Leinster House last night in a debate on disadvantaged communities, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social and Community Affairs highlighted many of the Government's broken promises in the area of care for the elderly, healthcare and homelessness. Deputy Crowe pointed out that the Government promised an extra 200,000 medical cards, but have already taken 30,000 medical cards off holders. He argued that for people living in disadvantaged communities, life has not improved under this Government which is continuing its all-out assault on the working class.
The Dublin South-West TD said: "I have listened carefully to the debate and the arguments that have been going back and forth. While the Government maintains there have been improvements, the question is whether these have been sufficient given the expectation of the public or whether services have declined for disadvantaged communities and people who live in poverty. Ireland experienced a boom period and a great deal of money was available. There was an opportunity then to harness economic prosperity, eliminate structural inequality and share the wealth, particularly among the less well off.
"The Government made a choice which resulted in money following money and the gap between rich and poor widened under this Administration and its predecessor. There are more millionaires in Ireland but there are more people sleeping rough on the streets. Is that an improvement? It has never been easier to get into debt. There is more credit available but more poor people forced to take advantage of that. Is that an improvement? There are 50,000 people on housing waiting lists. Is it easier to buy a house? Have house prices reduced? People are making profits from housing developments but they are not from poor background and the Government continues to reward them.
"I was at the launch of a report by Simon recently. The Government states the number of homeless persons is reducing but those who work in this area say there are more people sleeping on the streets and the anecdotal evidence is that more people are living on the streets.
"Child care was mentioned. It was believed that the economic boom presented an opportunity for people to break out of the poverty cycle. However, the cost of child care places increased and it is also much more difficult to get a place because no extra places are coming on stream. A total of 90,000 children live in consistent poverty while 250,000 live in relative poverty.
"I refer to the elderly. Almost 38% of pensioners live in the poorest 20% of households. Is that an improvement? One quarter of the social services budget is spent on pensions compared to 50% in other European countries, according to EUROSTAT. The Minister of State dealt with the health service. I do not know what world he is living in when he mentions improvements in the service. Every day constituents tell Members about what is happening in accident and emergency departments and elsewhere in hospitals. The Mater Hospital announced 180 job losses recently. It is more and more difficult for poor people to get into hospitals. There has been a 22% increase in cost of monthly drug payments and a 26% increase in casualty fees. The Government promised 200,000 medical cards but, instead, 30,000 people have lost theirs.
"Unemployment has increased. A total of 2,194 jobs have been lost in Dublin over the past two months, including 200 in my constituency yesterday. The trend is worsening but the Government is not waking up to it. CE schemes have been cut back with the loss of 5,000 places and that will have a significant impact on disadvantaged communities where they had more than just a training role.
What will replace them?
"It is more difficult to make it to third level if one is from a disadvantaged area. More school buildings need to be refurbished and so on in these areas. Many of them do not have fully qualified teachers. With regard to transport, it is not easier to get a bus in Dublin or around the country these days and it is more difficult to get to places of employment as a result. ESB charges have increased. Policing also impacts negatively on marginalised communities. Things have not improved." ENDS
Following revelations yesterday at the Inquest into the killing of three men by the SAS at Coagh in 1991, Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MP, Martin Mc Guinness has called on the British government, its Intelligence Services and the PSNI to stop interfering in the Inquest process.
Mr Mc Guinness said:
"Throughout the conflict British government agencies and the RUC frustrated the rights of families to have proper Inquests carried out into the deaths of loved ones killed by British State forces including the RUC. It was never acceptable but in the present circumstances where we are involved in a conflict resolution process it is imperative that the British government cease the practice of refusing to co-operate with Inquest procedures and public Inquiries. Yesterday at the Inquests into the killing of three men by the SAS in Coagh in 1991 it was revealed that interview notes and other vital evidence may have been destroyed by the RUC on the spurious grounds that it may have been contaminated by asbestos.
This is not the first occasion that inquiries and inquests have been obstructed by British government agencies destroying vital evidence that it was known was essential to an investigation. It has been a pattern throughout the Bloody Sunday Inquiry where weapons were destroyed, the British MOD issued Public Interest Immunity Certificates to prevent full disclosure and anonymous and unverifiable evidence from military witnesses is accepted as fact. The British MOD also instructed former and serving members not to co-operate with the Barron Tribunal investigating the Dublin/Monaghan bombing. Families are entitled to unhindered and open investigations into the deaths of their loved ones at the hands of British State forces and interference and obstruction by these forces with the obvious approval of the British government must cease." ENDS