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Belfast Sinn Fein Cllr. Michael Browne commenting on todays bomb alerts across the city said:

"The people who were behind these alerts are opposed to the Peace Process and opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and these actions were clearly designed to cause maximum disruption to ordinary people.

"These republican micro groups have little or no support and operate without neither a mandate or indeed a strategy to achieve political change or a united Ireland. These attacks are wrong and they should stop."

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Sinn Féin Chief Whip Cllr. Sue Ramsey has announced that in the first two days of the new party web site there were over 350,000 hits from 70 separate counties worldwide.

Cllr. Ramsey said:

"In the first two days of operation the new Sinn Féin web site received a staggering 350,000 hits from 70 countries worldwide. This has surpassed any predictions made in advance of the new site becoming operational.

"After enduring years of state censorship and hostile media coverage it seems that thousands of people are now utilising this opportunity to access up to date information on the Sinn Féin message and the republican project of Irish Unity." ENDS

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Responding to comments made today by British Prime Minister Tony Blair where he claimed he wanted to see the political institutions back up and running, Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew said:

"The cause of the current difficulties in the process is the decision of Mr Blair to suspend the political institutions and cancel the Assembly elections at the behest of negative unionism.

"If he is serious about wanting to see a resolution to the current difficulties in the process then there is now a real need for him to come forward with a definitive date, without qualifications or conditions, for the Assembly elections to proceed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP this morning led a party delegation to meet with the Human Rights Commission. The delegation included Human Rights spokesperson Bairbre de Brún and Belfast Councillor Chrissie McAuley. Speaking after the meeting Mr McGuinness said:

"The establishment of the Human Rights Commission was a key component of the Good Friday Agreement which Sinn Féin strongly argued for and supported. We are therefore deeply dissatisfied at the approach of the Human Rights Commission, particularly in relation to its approach on fair employment provisions which could have highly damaging implications for equality as well as the Chief Commissioner?s highly inappropriate behaviour in the Holy Cross case.

Fair employment is a cornerstone of building a new society. If you cannot even measure what?s wrong in respect of fair employment how can you possibly hope to tackle it? Ordinary people will not accept having the clock turned back to the days before monitoring of fair employment was introduced. Nor will they accept a society in which the rights of little children depend on the area in which they live or the religion of their family.

The Chief Commissioner?s response to the Holy Cross case has undermined gravely public confidence that rights will be promoted regardless of political background. The resignation of one quarter of the Commission's membership is a further cause of deep concern. A Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights recently identified serious problems with the Commission.

And actions, which threaten fair employment monitoring, 50:50 recruitment as recommended by Patten or voting safeguards in the Assembly will further undermine public confidence.

The Chief Commissioner has failed to provide satisfactory answers to the concerns expressed about the way the Commission has developed under his stewardship. We have sought a meeting with both governments to discuss these concerns and the way ahead. We need to look at a restructuring that will include the composition and appointments, the powers and resources of the Commission. The Human Rights Commission is broken. It needs fixed.

We approach this issue on the basis of wanting the best possible Human Rights Commission in place to drive forward the human rights aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

In our view there is a need for the British government to put in place the measures required to guarantee the integrity, independence and effectiveness of the Commission. We will vigorously pursue this matter with both governments in the time ahead." Ends

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Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy has hit out at the individuals responsible for an extortion attempt on two South Down businessmen.

Mr Murphy said:

"Yesterday people masquerading as republicans demanded £3000 from two South Down businessmen. They were warned not to approach Sinn Féin or the PSNI about this matter and were given an address to drop the money off at. The men were told that if local republicans got involved their business premises would be destroyed and they would end up paying £20,000.

"Thankfully these businessmen did not pay this money and have decided to go public to alert others to this activity. These people are not republicans. They are criminal elements masquerading as republicans.

"If any other businessmen have been approached in this manner they should not hesitate to contact Sinn Féin and should not pay these individuals any money." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy has criticised the British Home Office Minister Beverly Hughes for her refusal to meet with a cross party delegation to discuss the ongoing internment of asylum seekers in Maghaberry.

Mr Murphy said:

"Earlier this month I took part in a cross party delegation which visited some of those asylum seekers being interned in Maghaberry. After the visit we wrote to the British Home Office Minister with responsibility for this matter, Beverly Hughes seeking a meeting. Ms Hughes has now refused to meet the delegation.

"This is a fairly typical response by a British Minister to a Human Rights issue. Since we visited Maghaberry children and pregnant women have been added to the list of internees. The British government should be ashamed of this policy. Instead they are trying to bury the issue, in typical New Labour style, in the hope that they can avoid bad PR.

"Sinn Féin will continue to highlight this issue and will continue to campaign to have those currently interned in Maghaberry released." ENDS

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The Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin should establish a full public inquiry into how dozens of unnecessary caesarean hysterectomies were carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, according to Sinn Féin Health spokeperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD.

He was commenting on the news that Dr. Michael Neary has been struck off by the Medical Council following their investigation into his practice at Our Lady of Lourdes. Deputy Ó Caoláin said: .

"The women victims of this scandal, some of them teenagers at the time of their operations, have been through dreadful experiences. Without their knowledge or consent, they had their wombs removed unnecessarily and were prevented from having more children. I have heard their stories first hand. What I was told ranks amongst the most horrific examples of medical malpractice that I know of. These women are victims of a form of medical butchery.

"It is disgraceful that the secret inquiry by the Medical Council into the conduct of a consultant at the centre of this issue has taken so long to complete.

"I met the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin on this issue on two occasions, including with members of Patient Focus, and I repeat now the call made then. There must be a full public inquiry and there must be a scheme of compensation for the women. We must know how such practices were allowed to continue for so long in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

"On my proposal the North Eastern Health Board recommended an appropriate process of compensation, and requested the Minister for Health and Children to establish a full public inquiry into the delivery of Maternity Services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. This should now be announced by the Minister without delay." ENDS

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Speaking at a press conference in Dublin Sinn Féin Kerry North TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh and Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald called for an urgent debate on GM food and crops and issued a call to keep Ireland 'GM free'.

Mary Lou McDonald said:

"Consumers in this country have the right to have their say on whether they or not their children want to eat food that has been tampered with. It is unethical for genes of animals to be placed in the genes of plants, we are told that this is for the benefit of countries which cannot produce enough food to feed their own people, and that it will reduce the amount of damage to crops, and reduce the amounts of pesticides used.

"Genes are the right of everyone, no one has the right to own or to patent genes, but this is exactly what is happening. It is incredible that these people who use the argument that GM will help to feed the world, are the very same people who placed a TERMINATOR GENE in their seeds so that farmers cannot use seeds that are harvested to plant next years crops.

"Very few countries do not produce enough food. Per capita food production has outstripped population growth by 15% since 1970. India has over 300 million undernourished people and yet can produce a grain surplus of 60 million tons. The same food surpluses exist throughout Asia so it is a lie to claim that GM is needed to boost production.

"We must also reject the argument that those who oppose GM are preventing the feeding of the starving millions. A study by Aaron de Grassi of Sussex University proved that GM crops address none of the issues of hunger and poverty. They are not cost effective. They are not sustainable. And while crop output may increase, once the overall costs of inputs are taken into account they are seen to be less economic than traditional methods.

"People who today are starving are starving because they cannot access food or cannot afford it. Food has more to do with land reform, food distribution and the ability to access cheap credit, and the assistance to source food locally. Farmers in poor and underdeveloped countries cannot afford to buy seed each year, but this is exactly what the terminator gene is intended to do.

"Further to this debate the GM industry hailed the introduction of 'Golden Rice' as the savour of malnourished children, by the introduction of beta-carotene that converts into Vitamin A. What use is Beta-carotene when the body requires sufficient body protein and fat to produce vitamin A.

"We will not allow ourselves be pushed down the road of accepting GM by either the EU or US. The US government is closely aligned to the Genetic Industry, the US minister of agriculture Ann Vanneman used to be head of Agracetus, a subsidiary of GM food corporation Monasanto, which is the largest of the GM companies.

"What is the record of our MEP‚s in voting on this issue, I publicly call on them to state their voting history on this issue.

"We are calling on all NGO‚s, together with interested parties and individuals to support us in this call for an immediate public consultation on the banning Genetically Modified Food or crops on this island. We must hear our public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free." ENDS

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Speaking at a press conference in Dublin Sinn Féin Kerry North TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh and Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald called for an urgent debate on GM food and crops and issued a call to keep Ireland 'GM free'.

Northern Agriculture Spokesperson Gerry McHugh added:

"Once again we see the European Legislators are coming at this with a 'one policy fits all' approach.

"There has only been a superficial debate in the north yet it appears that Tony Blair already has his mind made up on GM. In his last cabinet re-shuffle he exiled Michael Meacher, a vocal critic of GM, to the back benches. An 11 July report said there was little economic benefit from GM then last week another report by scientists stating that the scientific advice was that there are apparently few risks associated with eating GM food.

"It is clear that the British government is going to adopt GM food and crops, they do not support the European model of farming, while Tony Blair is only interested in appeasing big business interests.

"The risk of Hybrid Cross contamination to indigenous varieties of crops is extremely high. This will result in the loss of genetic diversity, and will also have serious, possibly fatal consequences for the organic farming sector.

"Sinn Féin will be arguing with the North‚s Minister of agriculture, that Genetically Modified Food and Crops must not be planted or allowed for sale in the North. When devolved government returns to the North, we will peruse this with a local Minister, and through as many of the relevant committees as possible.

"Sinn Féin will also be seeking a meeting with the Minister of agriculture to express our concerns and the need for a simultaneous public consultation with the South. I know my colleague the former health Minister Bairbre de Brún shares all of my concerns on this issue, because of the huge risks associated with human health.

"Farmers have a lot to loose if Genetically Modified Food is grown in Ireland, they have no to control over the Hybrid nature of these plants. There is so little knowledge about the possible impact from cross contamination and the entry of new genes into the Irish. Crop gene pool Local farmers will also be at the mercy of consumers if this technology goes wrong, they will be the ones who will suffer huge losses not the large corporations like Monsanto.

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"We must hear the public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free"

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin Sinn Féin Kerry North TD Martin Ferris, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh and Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald called for an urgent debate on GM food and crops and issued a call to keep Ireland 'GM free'.

Deputy Ferris, who will meet with the three farm organisations over the summer, to get their opinion on Genetic Engineering said:

"Since legislation on the regulation of genetically modified food and feed was passed at the start of July by the European Parliament, along with further passing of co-existence guidelines which wish to prohibit national or regional governments in banning the use of Genetically Modified Organisms, the European Union has rolled over to the threats of the US and the profit hungry GM companies.

"The legislation allows for the sale of GM food products once it is labelled for GM content above 0.9%. The way will now also be open to grow GM crops although there may be some scope to allow member states to prevent the growing of such crops in specific zones. It is vital that a full public debate takes place in this country and that all of the issues surrounding GM are aired.

"In a written reply to a parliamentary question by me on Tuesday 17 June Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh stated that he does not have any proposals to initiate a formal public consultation. This is a typical of a Minister who is out of touch with public opinion, and an arrogant denial of the right of Irish People to have their say in whether they want to consume Genetically Modified Food.

"Irish farmers are also being denied the opportunity to voice their opinion. This debate must take place on an Island wide basis; this island cannot allow one part to opt for Genetically Modified Crops or Food, while the other part abstains. Cross contamination of hybrid plants and crops could contaminate the whole island.

"We need to look at the future of the Irish agriculture industry and the potential of selling and marketing Irish food as safe and environmentally friendly. WE also need a real assessment of the economics of GM crops, particularly for a small country that exports 80% of what we produce. We must hear our public's opinion and we must keep Ireland GM Free.

"We must expose the myth that GM increases agricultural productivity. Research from the United States proves that the main GM crop, Roundup Ready soya has up to 11% lower yield than non-GM soya. A Soil Association report, Seeds of Doubt concluded that GM crops have led to lower yields, greater dependency on herbicides and pesticides, a loss of markets and lower productivity for farmers in the US.

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Commenting on the publication of the latest Permanent TSB house price index which has shown that house prices in the State have increased by an average of 6.9% in the first six months of this year, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan T.D. blamed government inaction for the continuing rise.

Deputy Morgan said

"Government inaction in the face of ever increasing house prices is highly irresponsible. Houses are becoming more and more unaffordable. Minister of State Noel Ahern must explain why at a time of economic slowdown, house price increases are greater than for the same period last year.

"The ongoing housing crisis will have enumerable consequences for Irish society in the years ahead. The government has not shown any initiative to control the spiralling cost of houses. Measures must be taken to control land prices which are the greatest contributor to the price of houses. A national housing agency must be established as a matter of urgency. We need to see a strategy from the government outlining how they intend to tackle this crisis" ENDS

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Responding to the news that the PSNI are to re-investigate the murder of Cllr. Patsy Kelly in July 1974, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has said:

"Patsy Kelly's family and local people are convinced that members of the UDR murdered him and dumped his body. There has been years of cover-up and obstruction by the RUC. In effect the RUC assisted Patsy Kelly's killers to escape justice. Many of those officers remain in place and the PSNI are refusing to confirm that these individuals will not be involved in any re-investigation. Given this fact there is little hope that the PSNI will investigate this case properly.

"The Kelly family are convinced that the only mechanism to establish the truth is through an independent inquiry separate from the PSNI. There is a real fear that this latest move is nothing more than a further stalling exercise and has indeed been done without consultation with the Kelly family." ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has contrasted the speed in which the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr. Kelly was established and the treatment of the Finucane family.

Mr Kelly said:

"In the immediate aftermath of the death of arms expert Dr. David Kelly, Tony Blair moved to establish a judicial inquiry. Contrast this with the treatment of the family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane. Fourteen years after his murder through collusion the Finucane family are still battling to see an independent judicial inquiry established.

"This is a question of political will and double standards. The failure to establish an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane is a symptom of the British establishments attitude to Ireland. It seems that this British government is intent on attempting to cover up the legacy of it predecessors policy of state sanctioned murder." ENDS

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South Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Alex Maskey has accused the political leadership of unionism of 'again running away from the issue of loyalist attacks on Catholics'.

Cllr. Maskey said:

"In recent weeks we have witnessed a new wave of attacks against catholics across the north. In Antrim, Lisburn, Dunmurry, Magherafelt and elsewhere catholics have been attacked and in some cases forced from their homes.

"In response to this we have heard no commentary from David Trimble, Reg Empey, Jeffery Donaldson or any other senior unionist politician. The silence from the Direct Rule Ministers is equally deafening.

" It seems that there is a acceptance of a certain level of violence being directed against the catholic population. This has to end. The unionist political leadership has a role in preventing attacks on the catholic community. Their silence must end as a first step towards tackling this issue." ENDS

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Pearse Doherty Fundraising The Vol. Philip McFadden Sinn Féin Cumann Killybegs hosted a very successful fund raising venture on Thursday the 24th of July in the Bayview Hotel Killybegs in aid of Neil Boyle of Aranmore who was seriously injured in a tragic car accident a year ago.

The fundraising function was an initiative by the newly formed Sinn Féin cumann in Killybegs and raised Eleven thousand Euro for the Neil Boyle Fund.

Local Sinn Féin representative Pearse Doherty said:

"We are totally overwhelmed by the support we received from the community, and the generosity of those who provided sponsorship for the raffle on the night which on its own raised over fifteen hundred Euro for this worthy cause."

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Sinn Féin Assembly Group leader, Newry Armagh representative Conor Murphy commenting on the publication of party finances by the Electoral Commission has said that a significant proportion of the salaries of all elected representatives goes towards funding party growth.

Mr Murphy said:

"Across Ireland paid Sinn Féin elected representatives donate a considerable proportion of their salaries to fund party growth.

"Within the Assembly every Sinn Féin MLA is paid exactly the same salary, regardless of whether or not they are a Minister or hold any other position that attracts additional salary. Our MLA's return at least 40% of their salary to fund party growth. This has generated over £300,000 in the north to deliver top quality constituency services, to fund party growth and build the agenda for Irish reunification.

"This commitment to the development of Sinn Féin from elected representatives is unique in Irish politics and is a demonstration of the commitment of all our representatives." ENDS

Note to editors

There is also some confusion around the money spent by Sinn Féin on election campaigns. The figure of money spent centrally is considerably lower than other political parties in the north as a result of how Sinn Féin is organised. Local areas fund the majority of election expenses.

The maximum donation of wages in the south that can be donated back to the party by TD's is 6,000 Euro.

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Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams yesterday held a one-hour meting with US Senator Ted Kennedy in his Boston office.

Speaking following the discussions Mr Adams welcomed Mr Kennedy's forthright support for the holding of elections in the 6 counties.

Mr Adams said:

"I briefed Senator Kennedy on the current crisis in the political process and on our recent discussions with the British and Irish governments and the other parties.

"We agreed that the legitimacy of the electoral process and of the political process has been severely undermined by the cancellation of the elections. The democratic and political imperative now is for the British government to set an unqualified, without precondition, date certain for elections. This is essential if we are to reinvigorate the process.

"Unionism can not forever be allowed to exercise a veto over the necessary social, economic and political change." ENDS

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Newry/Armagh Sinn Féin Spokesperson, Conor Murphy has called on people to support the demand from victims families that the truth is told about collusion.

Mr Murphy said;

"Since the creation of the six county statelet here in the north of Ireland a campaign of state-sponsored murder and collusion with Unionist paramilitaries has existed at the highest levels of the British military and political establishment. During the last 30 years of conflict Unionist paramilitaries have been supplied with information and their actions directed and controlled by Special Branch and British Intelligence Services.

"From the mid-eighties onwards British Intelligence Agencies effectively controlled all Loyalist paramilitary activity through the use of agents and informers. This included the murders of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and many other Nationalists and Republicans.

"An RUC Chief Superintendent who investigated the bombing of Donnelly's Bar, Silverbridge in south Armagh in 1975 told the Pat Finucane Centre that he believed this was carried out by Loyalists from the Portadown area and included 1 RUC Reservist and 2 members of the UDR. He also claimed that members of the RUC and UDR were involved in other attacks such as the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, Kay's Tavern in Dundalk, the murder of 2 GAA supporters at Tullyallen and the Reavey brothers. Further investigation revealed the possibility that this same group were involved in many more attacks on Nationalists and Republicans in this area.

"In a sworn affidavit an RUC Sergeant John Weir alleged that a farmhouse owned by an RUC reservist was used as a base to mount bomb attacks in Newry/Armagh and cross-border areas resulting in the murder of at least 87 people and hundreds injured. The group responsible for these attacks was comprised of members of UVF in Portadown, the 8th and 11th Battallions of the UDR and members of the RUC Special Patrol Group and British Intelligence Agencies.

"No member of the Special Branch or British military Intelligence has ever been charged and convicted for these crimes. The members of the RUC Special Branch transferred en-bloc and remain today in control of the PSNI.

"Sinn Féin has organised a march and rally to Belfast City Hall at 3.00pm on 10th August. We urge people to support the demand from the families of the victims of collusion that the truth be told." ENDS

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The event, attended by over 300 people, raises funds for the Irish American Partnership. This organization provides financial support to community and educational projects in Ireland.

Mr. Adams said:

At this time there is little sign that unionism is contemplating a more positive approach to the Agreement, or that those who would advocate such an approach are in a position to deliver.

If this is the case does this mean the process is over?

That is essentially a question the unionists and the British government have to answer.

The British government has pandered to unionism. There can be no doubt about that. But the cancellation of the elections was motivated also by London‚s agenda. There can be no confidence that the political process will survive unless Mr. Blair commits to a date certain for the election as soon as possible, and without any preconditions or qualifications.

This is a matter of political principle.

It is the democratic imperative.

It is also the right tactical and strategic thing for Mr. Blair to do.

An election is also required to set a new context and to reinvigorate the process.

The two governments also need to make it clear that for unionism the Good Friday Agreement is as good as it gets.

There can be no renegotiation. The price unionism has to pay for a return to devolved structures, a northern Assembly, is that these are in an all-Ireland context with all-Ireland institutions and interlocking and interdependent political structures.

But if unionism refuses to play a partnership role with the rest of us then pottering along with direct rule is not an option.

If there cannot be political institutions of the kind envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement at this time then the two governments need to proceed along an all-Ireland path to implement all other elements of the Agreement, and within a democratic mechanism in which London and Dublin are both held accountable by the rest of us.

Such an arrangement needs to be put in place until the unionists are prepared to engage properly and on the basis of equality.

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has expressed his bitter disappointment at the refusal of the Minister for Justice to agree to a meeting with the father of murdered teenager Kevin Reilly to address his serious concerns with the Garda investigation.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "The case has gone on for over ten years at this stage. Successive Justice Ministers have come and gone and refused to take the issue seriously. Over a dozen elected representatives from all parties, including Councillors, Senators, TDs and MEPs signed our letter asking for the Minister to institute a review of the Garda investigation.

"Instead, we get a reply that is nothing more than a bland restatement of policy of the type that has been issued again and again by the Department. There is nothing in his response he has not already said, often word for word, in answer to other letters or to parliamentary questions. He is clearly not listening.

"The Minister states that he has asked the Gardai if they are satisfied with the case, they say they are and as far as he is concerned, case closed. Mr Reilly certainly is not and has identified enough discrepancies that as well as instituting a review of the investigation, we believe the Minister should at least agree to a meeting with Mr Reilly to hear his side of the story. Perhaps if a member of the PDs could have been found to sign the letter we sould have received a better response." ENDS

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