Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP commenting this evening on media reports regarding the involvement of churchmen in any future acts by the IRA of putting arms beyond use said:
"Every negotiation, particularly as it comes to a crucial point is rife with rumour and speculation. This one is no different, though the reporting of speculation as fact is irresponsible journalism.
"None of the issues involved in the current effort to find a breakthrough have been agreed or closed on."ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Transport has called on the Government to make "positive use" of the departure from Aer Lingus of its Chief Executive Willie Walsh and two other executives today. Deputy Crowe said the Government should "use the opportunity to affirm that Aer Lingus will remain a State company and an essential strategic national asset".
The Dublin South West TD said, "The Departure of Aer Lingus Chief Executive, Willie Walsh and the two other executives who joined him in the failed management buy-out of the airline will be greeted by many in the airlines workforce with relief. Willie Walsh's unyielding drive to shed jobs and outsource traditional services within the highly profitable airline in his attempt to out do Ryanair has gone along way to turning the company in to another low-cost carrier instead of a national airline.
"The Government should make positive use of the opportunity of the departure of these executives who wanted to engage in nothing more than a scandalous and selfish management privatisation buy-out. They should affirm that Aer Lingus will remain a State company, will not be privatised, and will be retained as an essential strategic national asset." ENDS
Dún Laoghaire Sinn Féin representative, Michael Nolan, has called on Dublin Bus to withdraw its threat to end bus services in the Ballybrack and Loughlinstown areas because of anti-social behaviour in the area. Dublin Bus made the threat, through a letter (see below) handed to schoolchildren in the area, following repeated problems of anti-social behaviour against the company's buses and drivers. Mr. Nolan said he "fully accepted that Dublin Bus and its staff had faced problems of abuse, intimidation and general loutish behaviour in the area" but he went on to say that "the whole community should not be made to suffer because of the actions of a few."
Mr Nolan said, "Local residents are only too well aware of the problems being perpetrated by a few delinquent individuals in the area. Dublin Bus is not alone in facing those problems. There is an ongoing problem with car theft, motorbike theft, house break-ins, vandalism, drug dealing, intimidation and on a number of occasions vicious assaults. Most people in the area can readily identify the small number of individuals involved. The Gardai know who they are. The local authorities know who they are.
"What there has been is a failure on behalf of the statutory agencies to deal with this problem. This in turn has led to a growing frustration amongst the general population, especially in the Loughlinstown area.
"But for Dublin Bus to now threaten to withdraw its services from the area is unacceptable and will only heap misery upon misery. The people of Loughlinstown and Ballybrack cannot be penalised and punished because of the actions of a few mindless and moronic thugs. I can sympathise with Dublin Bus and obviously their staff safety is a priority but I would ask that they withdraw the threat, especially the threat to end the complimentary services they provide for community groups, and to sit down with the community to see what can be done about the overall problem of anti-social behaviour in the area."
Speaking to Journalists in London today Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA said:
"It has been acknowledged by both governments that at the Leeds Castle talks and in our efforts since that Republicans are serious about achieving agreement. Both governments have stated on a number of occasions that the offer on the table from Republicans meets the requirements for a resolution to the arms issue.
"It has been accepted by the British and Irish governments that it is the "unrealistic demands" of the DUP that is creating the obstacle to re-establishing the political institutions.
"Therefore given that the two governments have identified where the problem lies it is incumbent on them to make public what they believe those "unrealistic demands" are and how they intend to move the process on if the DUP persists in these demands.
"Over the past number of weeks Sinn Féin has put forward our ideas on the direction in which the governments should proceed.
"Rather than accept a refusal by the DUP to buy into the Agreement, the two governments should recognise an opportunity to demonstrate to unionist and other sceptics not only that power sharing is the essential option but it is indispensable to the delivery of a stable political and economic future on this island.
"Republicans and nationalists must also have a sense of ownership of this process and unilateral British Direct Rule cannot deliver that requirement. The Irish government therefore must assert its position as a co-equal partner with the British government in whatever decisions are taken to move the process forward if agreement between the parties isn't possible. It is only through such joint government action that rejectionists will hear the wake-up call.
"I believe that it is now time for the governments to accept that the DUP is not psychologically ready to share power with the pro-Agreement parties. In the absence of an agreed Executive, An Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister must signal their willingness to deliver the full potential of the Agreement to the people through a power sharing arrangement between the two governments. Then in the event of continued refusal by the DUP to engage in the political process the Assembly should be dissolved and the parties should return to the electorate for a new mandate"
MECHANISMS FOR TWO GOVERNMENT POWER SHARING
"There are a number of different mechanisms that could create the basis from which both Governments could implement an agreed governmental power sharing agenda in keeping with the spirit of the GFA.
"Probably the easiest and best mechanism would be for both Governments to commit to produce a Power Sharing Programme for Government in the absence of one party refusing to participate in a power-sharing Executive.
"The Power Sharing Arrangement should focus on the following elements:
(a) Human Rights and Equality
(b) Review of the Human Rights and Equality Commissions
(c) Establishment of an all-Ireland Joint Parliamentary Forum consisting of MP‚s MLA‚s and TD‚s that would oversee the Power Sharing arrangement.
(d) A review of the Areas of Cooperation, the role of Implementation bodies and expansion of their number and remit to all areas of mutual benefit.
(e) The establishment of a Joint Committee of the two Human Rights Commissions, North and South
(f) The establishment of an all-Ireland Charter of Human Rights (as per the GFA)
(g) Reconciliation and Truth Recovery Programme
(h) Programme of Demilitarisation
(i) Implementation of all areas of Common Chapter. Identifying Timetables and Frameworks
"The two Governments acting in a Power Sharing capacity must employ their respective powers, as laid down in the GFA, to promote in all possible ways, democratic government and an end to discrimination in all its manifestations. It is the responsibility of both governments as custodians of the Agreement to jointly advance the best interests of all the people of the island and by so doing to foster the people‚s desire for democratic government throughout the Island of Ireland. If the process of developing democratic government cannot be advanced at this time through the elected Assembly, then the two governments must move forward together in demonstrating the beneficial nature of power-sharing. Together they must pro-actively develop the institutions upon which the GFA built the hopes of the people of Ireland for the creation of democratic, human rights based government." ENDS
Commenting on the announcement today by the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy on the detail of the inquiries into the deaths of Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice issues Gerry Kelly said:
" The commitment to establish these three inquiries in line with Judge Cory's recommendations was given after the Weston Park talks. There was also a clear public commitment given at that time to establish an independent inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. We have seen the British government stalling on this commitment to date. The British government needs to deliver on these inquiries. We must also see the terms of reference into an inquiry into Pat Finucane's death published immediately.
" We will obviously take some time to consider in detail the remit and terms of reference being afforded to the inquiries announced today. The announcement that Michael Morland will be chairing the Rosemary Nelson inquiry will not inspire confidence given his involvement acting for the Crown in internment without trial cases in 1973. Mr Morland was also involved in 1976 with the Gardiner commission which removed special category status for prisoners and introduced the criminalisation policy.
" These families have campaigned for many years for the establishment of independent inquires into the deaths of their loved ones. It is important that the inquiries announced today meet the demands of the families and achieve the confidence of the community. That will ultimately be the test against which they are examined." ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse Doherty has slammed the Government's decision not to give small rural postmasters a supplementary income. Councillor Doherty was responding to a report by the Irish Postmasters Union warning that up to 700 small rural post offices will close in the next five years if the Government do not support them.
Speaking in Donegal today he said:
This Government has continually failed to live up to its social obligations to support An Post. The reality is that 300 rural post offices have already closed in the last three years and a further 700 are now at risk in the next five years. The loss of post offices will have a devastating affect on rural communities and can lead to the loss of other services and further depopulation.
It is the responsibility of the Government to provide adequate postal services to people in isolated rural areas just as it is in urban areas. The Minister for Communications, Mr. Noel Dempsey, has turned his back on people in rural areas.
Half of the current postmasters and postmistresses earn less than the minimum wage with many earning as little as €8,000 per year. This is simply not sustainable and the Minister needs to provide a supplementary income to give them the minimum wage at the very least if these people are to stay in the service. I call on the Minister to reverse his decision and provide this much needed income in order to keep post offices open and to provide this basic service to people in isolated rural areas." ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle and former political prisoner Raymond McCartney is today attending a conference involving former Republican and Loyalist prisoners, which is taking place in Dublin Castle. The conference will discuss the difficulties faced by former political prisoners and promote the need for dialogue.
Speaking as conference opened Mr. McCartney said:
"Today's conference is a welcome development and is necessary given the ongoing discrimination being experienced by many former political prisoners across the island as they strive to build a life for themselves and their families.
"We are still dealing with the legacy of criminalisation with the result that former prisoners and their families are being denied basic rights or find their rights seriously impeded.
" These include in areas such as employment, adoption, insurance, education and training. Restoration of full citizenship rights, ensuring that ex political prisoners have the same rights as all other citizens is essential and needs to happen immediately. This is a key element in any process of conflict resolution.
" The Republican ex-prisoner community play a central role in the political, social and cultural fabric of our communities. We have also played a positive role in the developments within the peace process over the past ten years. This work will continue in the time ahead and today's conference will of course enhance all of that." ENDS
Speaking at the launch of a campaign by Help the Aged at Stormont today, Sinn Féin health spokesperson John O' Dowd MLA, said:
"The levels of winter deaths and illnesses amongst the elderly need to be urgently addressed. Almost 1,500 elderly people will die this winter across the Six Counties. That is a very frightening and totally unacceptable statistic.
"Fuel poverty and poorly insulated homes are major contributors to winter deaths in the Six Counties where there are too many older people living in a situation of fuel poverty.
"It is my belief believe that the government's strategy for tackling the underlying causes of excess winter deaths is failing to reach those most in need, and that government schemes to tackle fuel poverty are in urgent need of reform.
"This belief is backed up by an NOP World survey of people over 65 years on low income which shows that two out of three have not heard of these schemes aimed at them to tackle fuel poverty and excess winter deaths." ENDS
Speaking after he had met with senior health service managers today, Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Cllr John O' Dowd MLA, has expressed his concern that the proposed draft priorities and budget for 2005 - 2008 published by the British government will lead to a deterioration in the level of health service provision available in the North.
Cllr O‚Dowd said,
"Earlier today I met with representatives of the Confederation of Health and Social Services, the body which includes representatives of all health boards and trusts across the Six Counties. Those representatives expressed their fears that the current draft budget proposals will not in fact lead to an improvement of provision but, due to new government policies and directives, to a situation where there will actually be a service deficit which could amount to many millions of pounds.
"In that scenario, services such as domiciliary care for the elderly, care in the community provision, mental health provision and others could be seriously curtailed. In such a situation, this will lead to increased demand on the acute sector with even higher waiting lists.
"The British Government in its own draft budget proposals admits that the health service in the North is under tremendous pressure, and that the standard of health and well being of the population is not as good as it should be. Mortality rates are higher, there are higher levels of people suffering from heart and respiratory disease, and the survival rate from cancer is particularly poor in comparison to other European countries.
"That being the case, then what is needed is a major injection of additional funding to make up the gap which currently exists between present levels of investment and actual requirements and need. The supposed peace dividend that was promised to the people of the North should be translated into positive and far-reaching investment in health services immediately." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that EU strategy towards climate change requires "a much more focussed approach if we are to effectively tackle global warming".
Ms McDonald was speaking prior to a debate on a resolution to ratify the EU strategy for Climate Change. The strategy is due to be presented to a conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina in December 2004.
Speaking from Strasbourg Ms McDonald said:
"Climate Change is one of the most important issues facing humanity at present. The earth is getting warmer every year, a recent report by the European Environment Agency indicated that Europe is warming faster than the rest of the globe. It has been estimated that 7 billion tonnes of carbon is released into the atmosphere every year.
"Whilst the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by 126 countries is to be welcomed, regrettably others have not followed suit. If we are to successfully wrestle with the issue of climate change, then a much greater effort is required by individual countries and industry.
"A much more focussed approached is required to effectively tackle global warming. At home, the government stands accused of neglecting their responsibilities, having failed to implement EU environment legislation on time. A survey looking at environmental law in 2003 found that throughout the old 15 member states, there were 88 separate occasions when EU environment legislation was not implemented in national law within the specified timeframe. Ireland was amongst the worst offenders.
"Progress in this area requires greater pressure being placed on those who have yet to actively commit to addressing climate change. Environmental threats transcend borders and Sinn Féin is committed to playing its part in bringing forward and supporting policies which effectively combat climate change." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún today quizzed European Commissioner designate for Civil Liberties, Justice and Homes Affairs, Franco Frattini, on the need to protect workers rights across the EU. The exchange took place during Frattini's hearing in front of the Legal Affairs committee at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Speaking after the hearing Ms de Brún said:
"There is a growing harmonisation of the internal market within the EU. This has not been accompanied by an upward harmonisation of laws governing workers' rights and social protections. There is clearly a contradiction between a growing internal market and a very weak harmonisation of labour, commercial, private and contract law by member states.
"The European Parliament is currently dealing with a new directive on services and the internal market. One aspect of this is known as the country of origin principle. If enacted as EU law this could have detrimental impact on social protection and worker' legal rights, and see a lowering of legal protections across the EU.
"I asked the proposed commissioner for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs how he intends to deal with this potential clash and the negative impact it could have on employees across the EU member states.
"Clearly there is an imbalance between the deepening harmonisation of competition and market regulations within the EU on the one hand, and the slow pace of adequate protection for workers on the other. This is an issue of significant importance and must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. " ENDS
Note to Editor:
The country of origin principle would allow companies to operate within the labour relations framework of the member state where their head office is located, irrespective of the consequences for workers located within other member states. There are fears that companies could then move head office to the member states with the lowest level of worker's protection while continuing to operate in other member states.
Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams this morning attended a ceremony to mark the National Trust taking possession of the Divis and Black Mountain areas.
Mr Adams said:
?This is a good day for all the people of Belfast. Sinn Féin has supported the National Trust to raise the funds to secure this valuable site.
" We done so because the Belfast Hills is the heritage off all the people of Belfast and will be our gift to future generations. It is up to all of us to conserve the hills, to create an accessible piece of countryside, to enhance the site as a reserve against the urban sprawl of Belfast.
" Sinn Féin supports the purchase of Divis and surrounding lands as a step in saving the Belfast Hills. We now need to end the quarrying at the Black Mountain. We need the Department of the Environment to work with all the land owners to designate the Hills as a regional park.
" I congratulate the National Trust on their work to date and look forward to working with them in future to ensure that the potential of this site is realised. I would hope that we are now another step closer to the opening up of all the Belfast Hills from Colin Mountain to Carnmoney Hill for the people of Belfast." ENDS
Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor of Belfast Cllr. Joe O'Donnell has announced that he will not seek a nomination for next years local government elections.
Cllr. O'Donnell said:
" After careful consideration and discussing the matter with my family and friends I have decided not to seek a nomination in next year‚s local government election.
" I was very proud for the people of the Short Strand when they succeeded in electing me as the first ever Sinn Fein Councillor for the area.
" I was equally delighted when my colleagues in the City Hall nominated me and I was elected as Belfast‚s Deputy Mayor. It has been a personal and political privilege for me to serve in this role.
" I have been an active republican for over thirty years and I will continue to fulfil leadership responsibilities in the party structures in the city. I also intend to continue to remain central to the regeneration of the Short Strand as a community and political activist.
" With the help of the people of the Short Strand we have built a solid base of support for Sinn Fein. I will remain committed to consolidating the political strength of our party in East Belfast.
" I am satisfied this base of support will join me in ensuring my successor becomes the next Sinn Fein Councillor in Pottinger next May." ENDS
Commenting after the Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor of Belfast Cllr. Joe O'Donnell announced that he is not seeking re-election to Belfast City Hall, Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:
" Joe O'Donnell has played a crucial leadership role in the development of Sinn Féin in Belfast for many years. His election as the first Sinn Féin councillor in East Belfast came about after years of hard work and effort.
" Joe after talking with his family and close friends has decided not to seek election for another term in City Hall in the May elections. I respect Joe's decision and wish to place on the record our thanks to him for his efforts over many years as a Sinn Féin representative, councillor and more recently as Deputy Mayor.
" I also look forward to continuing to work with Joe in further developing Sinn Féin in East Belfast and across the city. Joe's experience and knowledge will be invaluable in the coming years and I am glad that he will continue to play a leadership role in the party in Belfast." ENDS
Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has described last nights bomb attack on a home outside Maghera as 'a deplorable attack on a mother and her children'.
Mr McGuinness said:
" Last night at around 11.30pm a bomb was left outside the home of a mother and her young family. It was fortunate that nobody in the house was injured in the blast. This was a deplorable attack.
" Having spoken with local people this morning there is a belief that this incident may be in some way linked to one of the loyalist paramilitary gangs which operate in that particular area. I am satisfied that there is no republican involvement in this incident whatsoever." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly Group leader Conor Murphy today said that any proposals coming from the two governments aimed at breaking the current impasse in the process 'had to be grounded in the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement'.
Mr Murphy said:
" The reason we have not achieved a comprehensive deal is the DUPs continued opposition to the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement. In particular they have targeted its all-Ireland and the power sharing core.
" If there is going to be a deal then that deal can only be based on the framework provided by the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no other way.
" Therefore any proposals which the two governments bring forward to try and end the current impasse must be grounded solidly in the fundamentals of the Agreement.
" If the DUP continue to stall and continue to oppose the will of the overwhelming majority of people of the island then it is important that the two governments advance speedily the process of change." ENDS
Dublin Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan, has said that the City Manager, Mr. John Fitzgerald, must take the views of the residents into account when deciding to sell off almost 16,500 council flats. Councillor Doolan was speaking in advance of a conference to discuss the controversial proposals which will be held in the city today.
Speaking in Dublin today he said:
"I welcome the announcement today of a conference to be held to discuss proposals to sell off local authority flats in the city. For too long council policy has been debated through the media. The first time my colleagues and I heard of these proposals was on the front page of a national newspaper. This will be our first opportunity to discuss the council's policy on the future of public housing in Dublin.
Any shift in housing policy will have grave consequences for local authority housing therefore the City Manager must take the views of the residents into account before making a decision to sell off 16,500 council flats. The sale of the flats must not go ahead before there is full consultation with local residents, tenant and housing Associations and Public Representatives. Only after such consultation can a fair decision be made.
Local authorities have a direct responsibility to house those living in their areas, therefore Sinn Féin will be demanding that any money raised from the sale of local authority flats be kept in the local authority, ring-fenced and matched by Government funding to provide housing to replace every unit that is sold." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at the publication of the party‚s priorities for Budget 2005 said "in terms of Budget 2005, Sinn Féin is today focusing on the needs of children. It is a scandal that in the Ireland of 2004 we still talking about child poverty. In many communities, North and South, it is an acute problem. In this document we set out basic rights and entitlements - the right to a decent income, the right to proper healthcare, the right of access to education and to childcare."
Mr. Adams said:
"The Equality agenda is the cornerstone of Sinn Féin policies. Following our success in the local and European election campaigns earlier this year the equality agenda is becoming the primary focus of a growing section of our people.
"In response there has been the usual ill-informed and deliberately misleading comments and scaremongering tactics from various Ministers and backbenchers in an attempt to frighten people away from supporting Sinn Féin and our agenda for equality. These tactics failed before the election and they will fail now.
"People are not stupid. They can see and feel, on a daily basis, the inequalities that are so pervasive in Irish society today. And they want them reversed.
"However, despite Government posturing in relation to Sinn Féin, we have also had the spectacle, since the elections, of both Fianna Fáil and the PDs clamouring to present themselves as a more Œcaring and sharing‚ kind of Government. Why is that? Well, it‚s their contradictory response to our recent election successes.
"But, let me say, if they modify some of their policies or bring in progressive measures, then we welcome that as positive political progress.
"In pursuing the equality agenda there is an obvious starting point. Everybody needs and deserves a good, quality start in life. If every child was guaranteed as a right, as was envisaged in the 1916 Proclamation, access to quality food, shelter, education and healthcare and to an equal stake in society then many of the problems that afflict marginalised communities would vanish.
"That is why, in terms of Budget 2005, Sinn Féin is today focusing on the needs of children. It is a scandal that in the Ireland of 2004 we still talking about child poverty. In many communities, North and South, it is an acute problem.
"In this document we set out basic rights and entitlements - the right to a decent income, the right to proper healthcare, the right of access to education and to childcare." ENDS
North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA, Philip McGuigan, has said that the recent comments made by Ballymena DUP Councillor Roy Gillespie regarding the setting up of an Irish language primary school is another example of the party's blatantly sectarian attitude.
Mr McGuigan said:
"The setting up of Bunscoileanna and Naoiscoileanna in Ballymena is long overdue and would be a development that most people would gladly welcome.
"Cllr Gillespie's comments about the school being divisive have no foundation in reality but are a continuation of the DUP's policy of opposing equality. Most people will find Mr Gillespie's comments on creating division ironic given his party's appalling record on creating and maintaining division within Ballymena Council area.
"Bunscoileanna and Naoiscoileanna are non-denominational and have a proud record in offering school children an excellent education through the medium of Irish.
"Parents in Ballymena should be able to avail of that choice should they want to see their children benefit from all of the advantages of bilingualism.
"Ballymena is widely recognised as a core area for the development of an Irish-Medium pre-school and primary school. This being the case there is no reason why Ballymena Council should oppose this move. Roy Gillespie's opposition to both the GAA and the Irish Language Sector are based on an anti-Irish agenda. It is this that must be opposed and not Irish Medium Education." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEPs Bairbre de Brún (6 Counties) and Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin) have today issued a joint statement calling for the Iraqi Red Cross and Iraqi Red Crescent to be allowed "unrestricted access to the civilians of Fallujah to provide medical and food aid and for the assault on Fallujah to end immediately".
The Sinn Féin MEPs were speaking after a week of intense fighting in the Iraqi city and amidst reports that relief services have been prohibited entry to the city.
Speaking from Strasburg, both MEPs said:
"We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis in Fallujah. The city has been relentlessly bombed for the past week and the civilians left in the city are suffering. People have been hemmed into their homes with many left without basic amenities such as fresh running water. I am calling for the assault on Fallajuh to end immediately and for the relevant relief services to be allowed unrestricted access to the civilians of Fallujah for provision and distribution of medical and food aid.
"A recent survey conducted by John Hopkins University and published in the Lancet conservatively estimates a death toll in excess of 100,000, since the US and British invasion of Iraq last March. The Iraqi people are suffering immensely as a result of the continuing occupation." ENDS