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
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP today called on people to come out on May 29th and demand the right to vote. He was speaking at a press conference to announce details of an island wide day of action, in over 30 cities and towns, to protest the cancellation of the May elections and to call for the elections to go ahead in June.
Mr. McGuinness said:
"Next Thursday, 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. It is undemocratic. It is disenfranchising the people of the Six Counties. And it was taken against the wishes of those representing the majority of the electorate in the north and the Irish government.
"The British government cancelled the elections because they believed the outcome did not suit their gameplan.That is unacceptable.
"I want to urge people to come out on May 29th and peacefully demand your right to vote by joining protests in your local area.
"It is time for people to reclaim our democratic rights. It is time for people to reclaim the peace process." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD and Gerry McHugh MLA have put forward the party's proposals for a radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. This follows the party's recent visit to Brussels where they discussed the Fischler reform proposals with leading Agriculture Commission officials. It also comes as the negotiations on the proposals reach a critical juncture and as a new report from FAPRI -- Ireland predicts that reform will have a beneficial effect compared to maintaining the current system.
Sinn Féin has long been critical of the CAP which has presided over the departure of tens of thousands of farmers from the land over the past 30 years. The party has advocated radical change at a time when the main farming organisations as well as the Dublin Government, Fine Gael, Labour, SDLP, UUP and DUP have set their faces against any reform without presenting any alternative proposals to address the serious crisis in farm incomes and debt.
Of the main farming organisations only the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has engaged in the debate around the reforms and presented their own alternatives. That has had its effect within the IFA and the ICMSA with the IFA having just in the past week performed a complete volte face on de-coupling. It will be interesting to note what stance the Dublin Government now adopts having buried its head in the sand since the proposals were initially published in July 2002. Martin Ferris has tabled a question to Minister for Agriculture Joe Walsh on this and will be comparing his response to earlier ones in which he appeared almost aloof from what is without doubt the most serious issue facing Irish farmers at the present time.
While Sinn Féin is not uncritical of aspects of the proposals the party believes that in substance they do present an opportunity to at least arrest the current decline in farm incomes and numbers. Sinn Féin does not believe that they are the final solution -- which is something that will require a more radical approach by an Irish Government on an all island basis -- but they do represent an alternative to the current mess especially if amended to better suit the interests of small to medium farmers.
Among the amendments which Sinn Féin propose are;
Commenting on the Sinn Féin proposals, Martin Ferris and Gerry McHugh said that it was to be hoped that these would be the type of proposals put in the interests of Irish farmers by Irish Department of Agriculture officials in the ongoing negotiations.
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe has described the suggestion that the Government plans to do away with free fees for certain families as tantamount to "turning the clock back on education" and called on the Government to seriously address the need to redistribute the abundance of wealth in Irish society.
The Dublin South-West TD said: "If the Government is serious about helping people from disadvantaged areas get into University, surely there are better ways to do it. Sinn Féin has called for the abundance of wealth in Irish society to be redistributed. In our pre-budget submission we called for a super tax rate of 50% for individuals earning over €100,000, along with increases in Capital Gains Tax and Corporation Tax to really redistribute the massive wealth in Irish society. This is the root and branch way we need to go about tackling this problem.
"I understand the intention of the Taoiseach is to only tax families on very large incomes but the proposals are imperfect at best. Simply because a family income might be large does not indicate a potential student can access this support. A young person from a very well off background who is estranged from his or her family is as likely to need financial support as young people from working class backgrounds.
"There is no evidence that the money raised from this decision would lead to investment in Education. A large amount of the money raised from the massive increases in Registration Fees earlier this year disappeared into Charlie McCreevy's pockets where he offset it against massive Corporation tax cuts.
This proposal is not about creating a more equal society or improving access to Third Level education or helping students from low income families, it's about turning the clock back on Irish education" ENDS
Speaking at a press briefing in Belfast today Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness urged the British and Irish governments to use their engagement tomorrow to set a June date for a new Assembly election. Mr McGuinness said:
"Can I first say that we have scheduled a meeting, at our request, with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahem for this Saturday. This meeting will focus primarily on the issue of British state sanctioned killing of citizens in the north over a long period.
" Tomorrow we will meet with Richard Haas and Brian Cowen and Paul Murphy will also meet tomorrow. These meetings are important and must focus on the current slate of the political process.
" We are currently in a political vacuum and this process is in deep crisis. The root cause of this is the British government suspension of the political institutions and their subsequent cancellation of the Assembly elections.
" What we want to hear tomorrow is the two governments setting a June election date. There is no rational for any other outcome to their discussions." ENDS
The Good Friday Agreement was 5 years old on April 10. Five years on, the British government has failed to implement key sections of the Good Friday Agreement. They have suspended the institutions on four separate occasions. They have now cancelled an election in Ireland, which derives directly from an Agreement endorsed by the majority of people in Ireland. This has come after months of intensive talks, leading up to the Joint Declaration and unprecedented initiatives from Irish republicans.
From the beginning the peace process has been stalled, blocked and frustrated by unionism's resistance to change and by those elements of the British political and military establishment who cling to the old notion of empire.
Since John Major's refusal to hold the promised inclusive talks in 1994 to the cancelling of elections by Tony Blair, the pattern has been sadly consistent. The rights and entitlements of Irish citizens are subject to British political interests and a unionist veto.
From the earliest days of no talks, talks about talks, talks where the unionists would not speak directly to Sinn Féin, to the events of the last few weeks, unionists have had to be dragged begrudgingly every inch of the way. They have used every tactic, from the disruption of the all-Ireland Ministerial Council to Trimble's multiple threats to walk out of the Executive, so as to slow down or halt the democratic process.
And ever-present behind the scenes are the securocrats, the nameless, faceless men who ran the north of Ireland, politically and militarily, for 30 years, who killed citizens, who controlled death squads, who spied on their own government, who would be the envy of any totalitarian state.
Some of what they were involved in is well known. Our assertions of systematic collusion, dismissed for so long, have been vindicated by the initial summary of the Stevens Report. Not just State tolerated sectarian murder, but state initiated, armed and directed sectarian murder. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Is it over? The turning on and off of loyalist violence to suit the British military agenda is an indication that they haven't gone away you know. Is their war over? Is the war of the unionist paramilitaries over? They continue to attack nationalist communities and isolated catholic families.
Overall unionist reaction to the revelations of the Stevens Report is a glaring example of double-think. As has been pointed in several newspapers, unionists, either dismissed it, justified it or ignored it. Their attitude to unionist violence is the same.
In spite of all this, Sinn Féin has held firm to the Good Friday Agreement. We have refused to be provoked, as David Trimble obviously hoped by his succession of offensive, puerile remarks. We are not going to walk out or going to be put out. Sinn Féin is there as of right. We were not 'allowed' into government. We were not 'persuaded' into politics. Our aim, for the last twenty years or more has been to replace conflict with a democratic political process. But there must be democracy for a political process to work. And democracy demands equality. And this is at the heart of the present impasse just as it was at the heart of the conflict itself.
For almost four months now Sinn Féin has been involved in a very intensive round of talks with both the British and Irish governments and various political parties in an attempt to resolve the current impasse in the peace process. Throughout all of these negotiations we worked exhaustively to achieve a plan for the full implementation of the Agreement and to counter any attempt to have this implementation thwarted by unionist obstruction. Over the last two weeks we have seen republicans make unprecedented statements to bring this about.
The unprecedented statement by the IRA provided a clear basis to move forward for those who wished to do so. In his statements last Sunday and again on Wednesday, Gerry Adams made absolutely clear the commitment of Irish republicans to this peace process and to ensuring that the Good Friday Agreement is implemented, something acknowledged time and time again by the two governments.
Sinn Féin has now gone to the limit of its responsibility under the Agreement and far beyond in order to break the impasse. Any objective reading of the Good Friday Agreement will show that we have long fulfilled all our obligations as a political party. There is anger among many republicans that, yet again, it is Sinn Féin that makes the extra effort and the difficult choices while the Ulster Unionist leadership continues to say 'No' and is indulged in its obstructionism by the two governments.
It is important that the legitimate concerns of the unionist community are addressed but what has happened this week is that unionism have been allowed to exercise a veto over the election, institutions, the Agreement and the peace process.
The reality is that, despite their assertions to the contrary, neither the Irish or British governments have any difficulty with the clarity of the IRA statement. They are simply trying to ensure that David Trimble and the Unionist Party do not have to bear the political burden of their responsibility for the current impasse. It is totally unacceptable for the Irish government to continue with such a charade. The Irish government must act on behalf of the Irish people and demand the implementation of the Agreement and an end to unionist obstructionism.
The publication of the Joint Declaration is welcome. But it is not an act of completion. It is conditional and qualified. It is a commitment to a process towards completion. It is accompanied by sanctions, dictated by the unionists, aimed at Sinn Féin and outside of the terms of the Agreement.
The volume of the Joint Declaration is a testimony to the tenacity of the Sinn Féin negotiating team in trying to get the Good Friday Agreement implemented. Its size also demonstrates the large gap, which the two governments need to close to achieve implementation - 5 years on.
However now that the two governments have published their plan they must proceed and implement it and all other elements of the Agreement. Policing, human rights, justice and equality should not be conditional and qualified. Commitments mean nothing if they are not implemented. All commitments given should now be implemented in full. That is our focus.
Ironically, the first page of the Joint Declaration states: "The best way of ensuring that peace remains permanent is by demonstrating that politics work." This week the British government has damaged this project by preventing an Irish election. They have no right to do so. They did this against the wishes of the Taoiseach and all the political parties accept the UUP.
People are rightly angry but that anger must be channelled constructively in protecting and advancing the Irish peace process. The Irish government has a particular duty to defend the rights and entitlements of Irish people. These rights are not optional. They cannot be subject to a unionist veto.
Sinn Féin Chairperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin has called on the British government to publish the full contents of the Stevens Report.
Mr Mc Laughlin speaking in Derry today said:
"We have had a week of British Intelligence agency leaks and spin. It is time for the British government to come clean on the activities of its agents' murky activities here over the past thirty years. Tony Blair needs to get control of his government's Secret Services and end their dirty war in Ireland. He must also put a stop to attacks on the Peace Process by these agencies leaking and spinning unverifiable allegations. A start would be the publication of the full contents of the Stevens report. The limited publication of just 15 pages showed conclusively that British Intelligence agencies were recruiting, training and equipping unionist paramilitaries for a murder campaign against the republican/nationalist population resulting in dozens of deaths, most of which were non-combatants.
"If 15 pages of a 3000 page report revealed such an incriminating indictment of British government culpability in the murder of citizens what is in the rest of the report that would be so damning that it can not be published.
"The full publication of Stevens will give us a proper assessment and help us prevent the activities of these faceless securocrats that are intent on undermining the peace process through selective leaking of unverifiable allegations. "ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, speaking following the publication of today's MRBI poll in the Irish Times, said ten years of government mis-information has created confusion on the issue of neutrality. He called for a full debate on the issue and for neutrality to be enshrined in the Constitution.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"It is little wonder that there is confusion in the public mind regarding neutrality. Over the last ten years successive Irish governments have steadily eroded neutrality by stealth. While publicly insisting that they are deeply attached to neutrality, this government, throughout its two terms of office, has been drawing us further and further away from an independent foreign policy into support for military alliances.
1997 Joined NATOs Partnership for Peace without the promised referendum
1998 Signed Amsterdam Treaty
1999 Described the bombing of Kosovo as warranted
2001 Supported the Nice Treaty, which sets up a common foreign policy committee
2002 Allowed US military to use Irish airports on their way to the Gulf
2003 Entered the coalition of the willing without a UN second resolution or support of the Dáil
"It is time for the government to come clean on what its actual position on neutrality is and to clearly set out their foreign policy position.
"Sinn Féin is calling for a full public debate on neutrality. We want to see it enshrined in the Irish Constitution and the Government made accountable to the Dáil in relation to facilitating or participating in any war or other armed conflict." ENDS