West Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Michael Ferguson has accused Jane Kennedy of putting her allegiance to the British military in front of her responsibilities as Education Minister.
Cllr. Ferguson said:
"On Friday the British army disrupted an 11 plus examination at a West Belfast Primary School by hovering over the building. Requests by the school principal to the British military to end the activity were ignored.
"As a result of the deeply flawed system of Direct Rule imposed by the British government the Minister responsible for the education of our young people Jane Kennedy is also responsible for security matters.
"Up until now she has failed to make any comment or take any action after the disgraceful disruption of the 11 plus examination. It seems that Jane Kennedy will, like countless British Ministers before her, put the narrow interests of the British military in Ireland in front of any concerns for the people who actually live here. In this instance 11 year old children.
"Her failure to respond to this very serious matter is an indictment of not just herself, but of the system of direct rule imposed upon us." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP in the course of a keynote address at the annual Edentubber Commemoration in County Louth on Sunday afternoon will say that republicans have good cause to be disappointed and good cause to be angry about the events of 21st October but "we must not allow this to cloud our political judgement. We are committed to this process and we do not intend to walk away from it. Nor do we intend to allow others to deny or escape from their obligations with respect to this process." He went on to say "There cannot and will not be any re-negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no new agreement. But there obviously is a need to make sure the unfinished business of the Agreement is completed."
Mr. Adams said:
"I want to comment briefly on events of 21st October and the discussions which led up to these events. It is just over a year since the British Government collapsed the political institutions.
"It's decision to do so, and the cancellation of the May elections, caused enormous frustration and anger among all of us who have vested so much in building the peace process, in constructing the Good Friday Agreement and in pursuit of the full implementation of the Agreement. The approach of both governments in this period and indeed before has tested the patience of republicans to the limit.
"We have good cause to be disappointed and good cause to be angry. But we must not allow this to cloud our political judgement. We are committed to this process and we do not intend to walk away from it. Nor do we intend to allow others to deny or escape from their obligations with respect to this process.
"In the run up to the summer months the Sinn Féin leadership initiated an intensive dialogue with Ulster Unionists. Our objective was to try and ensure that people living on the interfaces had as peaceful a summer as possible. And although some areas continued to face difficulties, in the main our dialogue succeeded.
"We also sought to ensure that the election, which we were demanding, would take place in a climate most conducive to bringing about restored political institutions on a stable basis.
"This intense dialogue between the UUP and Sinn Féin has been a hugely important development in itself. Notwithstanding the present difficulties and whatever the explanation from the UUP about their failure to deliver on what they had agreed to, this must be protected. The task facing us has undoubtedly been made much more difficult by the position adopted by the UUP. But dialogue, a genuine dialogue with them is key to future political progress. So, we will return to this in the wake of the election.
"For the record let me state again. The culmination of our discussions with the UUP was an agreement on a choreographed sequence of statements and events to give public expression to that agreement. This included statements and actions from Sinn Féin, the IRA, the UUP and British and Irish governments.
"Sinn Féin delivered our part of this sequence as agreed.
"The IRA delivered their part of the sequence as agreed.
"It was then that the UUP walked away.
"Only they can explain why. They have yet to adequately or satisfactorily do so. And whatever their reason or explanation it was certainly not because republicans did not deliver.
"David Trimble knew what the IRA had undertaken to do. And David Trimble knew that neither he nor, for that matter, Sinn Féin or either government, could dictate how the IICD, an independent body, would report this. So, it beggars belief, and it is totally unacceptable, that the entire peace process should be put on hold because the UUP were not satisfied with the IICD description of the IRA initiative.
"But of course, the UUP are not the only ones who have yet to deliver on their commitments. Both governments were also part of the agreed choreographed sequence which was to begin on 21 October.
"So, there is a particular onus on Dublin and London to honour the commitments which they made as part of the overall agreement. This requires them to address and resolve a number of issues including the implementation of a programme of demilitarisation, a resolution of the issue of OTRs, and the need for northern nationalist representation in the Dáil, among other matters. We will also return to all of this after the election.
"Let me make it clear. There cannot and will not be any renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no new agreement. But there obviously is a need to make sure the unfinished business of the Agreement is completed. An increased Sinn Féin vote is one way to ensure that. No one here should be surprised that the two governments have not fully implemented their commitments.
"Why would they when the SDLP is always prepared to settle for less? That is why this election is so crucial. The immediate task for all republicans is to increase the Sinn Féin mandate. We need to strengthen our hand."ENDS
Sinn Fein Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone Assembly candidate Cllr Gerry McHugh has questioned the political leadership of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Cllr McHugh said:
"Everyone in the agricultural industry knows all too well that DARD work at a snail pace. They have NO direction and NO ambition. But whose fault is this? We have had five years of political dithering, NO hard decisions, just photo calls and empty promises.
"Last week the former permanent secretary of DARD Bill Hodges pointed out that dithering in the private sector would lead to bankruptcy. Both the former permanent secretary and the Minister should wake up and smell the roses, farmers are almost bankrupt. Last December I discovered that farmers owed over £500 million to banks alone. £88 per week is the average farm income. Yet DARD is not bankrupt with administration costs of over £4000 per farm. No adequate politician would allow this to continue.
"DARD got a £50 million uplift in the last budget. Farmers have not been prepared for the changes that are around the corner on CAP reform. There will be an enormous shift towards the protection of the environment; we have to ensure that the threshold is not set too high on cross compliance. A new expanded Europe to 25 members, and the likely renegotiation next year of the failed World Trade talks, which will put great pressure on our export refunds are all issues that must be addressed now.
"One of the most crucial decisions to made in the near future is the model to be used in calculating the decoupled payment. This must reflect the fairest distribution of money to all farmers.
"We have the best food in the world; it must be sold as such and on an all-Ireland basis. The beef export ban must be lifted immediately, this is an yet another example of DARD's total lack of will or interest in agriculture and farm incomes.
"DARD have become an agency that polices the agricultural industry, not a department to assist and nurture new economic activity. No politician should have allowed that to happen. Why has Brucellosis and Tuberculoses not been eradicated? Why after being promised by the North South Ministerial Council that we would have an all-island animal health strategy by December 2002 has this not been put in place? Why was the whole of the Rural Development Programme allowed to drift with little or no affect on farm families? Why have its delivery mechanisms not been made more accessible? It is time that there was political leadership on these vital questions because time for our rural communities and farming industry is running out."ENDS
Sinn Féin South Belfast Representative Alex Maskey has hit out at those responsible for three separate robberies on the elderly in Belfast last night.
Mr. Maskey said:
"Last night in South Belfast robbers attacked elderly people in both Malone and Beechlands. A similar robbery also took place in the North of the city. Unfortunately it seems that these sorts of vicious attacks on the elderly are on the increase.
"The community needs to stand up to those responsible for these attacks. We must look out for our elderly neighbours and friends and ensure that they are not living in the sort of fear that many currently are.
"Yesterday I attended the launch of the Age Sector manifesto in Belfast and for many of those present the dominant issue was one of safety in the home. We must create a society where the elderly are cherished and not attacked in the disgraceful manner we have witnessed in recent months." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and former Health Minister Bairbre de Brún are in South Down this morning canvassing with the party's candidates - Eamon McConvey, Willie Clarke and Caitriona Ruane.
They will be available to speak to the media during a walkabout in Market Place Downpatrick at 11am.
Mr. Adams will address the annual Edentubber commemoration tomorrow (Sunday 9th) in Co. Louth. The parade will leave Ravensdale at 2.30pm.
North Antrim Sinn Féin representative Philip McGuigan has said that reports from the Electoral Commission indicating that 180,000 are not registered and another 36,000 people are without proper ID, is further evidence of the complete mess made of the entire process by the Electoral Office and raises serious questions for the SDLP, UUP and DUP who supported the legislation to allow this disenfranchising exercise to take place.
Cllr. McGuigan said:
"Reports suggest that the Electoral Commission believe that up to 180,000 people are missing from the current register and another 36,000 who are on the register will be unable to vote because of the new ID regulations. It has been Sinn Féin‚s view that the Electoral Office made a complete mess of the registration process and many of these mistakes are being repeated again.
"To the credit of Sinn Féin activists across the north many of those removed from the register last year have managed to reclaim their vote through rolling registration. But this does not take away from the fact that the registration process is deeply flawed and needs changed radically.
"This exercise in disenfranchisement poses many questions for the SDLP, UUP and DUP. They ushered the legislation behind this through the British House of Commons without any regard for its consequences. They put their own narrow political agendas in front of the ordinary citizen and we can all now see the result.
"These parties need to explain their position to those 180,000 people who will now be denied their democratic rights and entitlements as a direct result of their position."ENDS
Sinn Féin will hold a press conference in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street onTuesday next (November 11th) at 10.30am to outline details of the party's Private Members motion to the Dáil next week which seeks to have the right to housing enshrined in the Constitution.
Attending the press conference will be Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, Arthur Morgan TD, the party's spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Marylou McDonald, Sinn Féin EU candidate for Dublin and Mary Nelis MLA, Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson in the Six Counties.
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking as children prepare to sit the 11+ transfer test has said that Jane Kennedy's failure to commit to 2004 as the final exam date is creating uncertainty and confusion.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The uncertainty created by Jane Kennedy's handling of the 11+ has been bad for parents and children and led to uncertainty in the different education sectors. By refusing to confirm that children in 2004 will be the last to sit the 11+ Jane Kennedy has created the space to allow those who support academic rejection of children at 11 the space to peddle their myths and lies.
"The most common myth peddled those who support academic rejection at 11 is that academic selection provides a ladder to success for working class and disadvantaged children. But the truth is that the removal of academic selection will not deprive bright, disadvantaged pupils of the opportunity of a first-rate education. Only 8% of pupils in grammar schools come from low-income families.
"Transfer test results show that the children from privileged backgrounds are 4 times more likely to achieve a grade A in the 11+ than the most disadvantaged of our children. Hardly making a good case for academic selection.
"The worst results in the 11+ are in state schools with high levels of free school meals in working class Protestant areas - in the Shankill less than 2% of pupils achieved a grammar school place. That is a damning statistic. The system is not helping the working class and it is certainly not helping children from working class Protestant families. Those who support academic rejection from unionist parties must ask themselves why they support a system that fails children most in need from within their own community." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and South Belfast Representative Alex Maskey this morning launched the party's Assembly election website on the Ormeau Road in Belfast. Mr. Adams said that the site would be an important way of encouraging young people, many of whom were turned off by the cancellation of the election last May, to come out and vote. It will also be a valuable tool in getting our message to the voter uncensored."
Mr. Adams said:
"Since its launch during the summer, the Sinn Féin website has been going from strength to strength. In three months there have been more than three milliion hits on the site and hundreds of people from right across the country have joined Sinn Féin on-line.
"The election site will be critical to our election campaign and will be an important tool in reaching people across society but in particular young people and voters who are following the campaign from abroad.
"The site contains extensive information on all aspects of our election campaign including candidate profiles, constituency information, campaign literature, party political broadcast and policy information. The election newsroom is updated several times daily. People can also join the party or help local election teams during the campaign.
"During the course of the campaign we will also have exclusive behind-the-scenes video clips which will be carried on the Irish Republican Media news service.
"We will also have extensive coverage when we go to the polls on November 26th and from the count centres across the north on November 27th. This will include regular updates from senior party figures, candidates and party activists at the count centres."ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as "a blast of hot air" the spin being put on Finance Minister McCreevy's address to the Construction Industry Federation where he 'warned' over the spiralling cost of infrastructure projects. Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Minister had no intention of challenging the industry which had so many "friends of Fianna Fáil" within it. He said the Government's "scandalous mismanagement" was shown by the Minister's pet project at Punchestown. Ó Caoláin said:
"The Minister was attempting to talk tough when he addressed the Construction Industry Federation. He took them to task for the massive cost over-runs in infrastructure projects. But the question is what is Minister McCreevy going to do about it? Does he really think they are going to respond positively to an appeal to 'take more positive steps to improve productivity and to get price levels down further'?
"Incredibly, the Minister actually asked advice on housing from this gathering of developers and speculators, many of them no doubt, big donors to the Fianna Fáil party. It is about time the Minister listened to the advice of Members of the Dáil about the housing crisis. He and his colleagues have certainly listened to the developers, not least when they emasculated Section 5 of the Planning Act 2000, with its requirement of 20% social and affordable housing in all developments.
"There is astonishment and anger among the public about the scandalous Punchestown Racecourse project in the Minister's own constituency which was fully funded by the Government at double the original projected cost. The Comptroller and Auditor General found conditions governing the State's financial support had not been referred to the Department of Agriculture and Food's legal advisers to ensure they were properly constructed and legally sound. The Minister ran away from the issue in the Dáil.
"It is a scandal that a centre that will cater to a sporting sector which is swimming in wealth has such a commitment from the Government and the Minister personally while other sporting and voluntary organisations are competing for a limited fund under the Sports Capital Programme and are being ignored." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and South Belfast representative Alex Maskey will officially launch the all new Sinn Féin Election website tomorrow, Friday 7th November 2003, at 12.30pm in the XTP centre on the Ormeau Road in South Belfast.
This will be followed by a walkabout and canvas of the area.
Belfast - A City of Equals
This morning Sinn Féin launched its Belfast Election Campaign in the Waterfront Hall. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP was accompanied by the party's eight other Belfast candidates and the party's Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness.
Speaking at the Waterfront Hall, Mr Adams said:
" Much has changed in Belfast over the past 20 years, since Alex Maskey became the first Sinn Féin Councillor in this city. Since then Sinn Féin has become the largest political party in Belfast and our track record is there for everyone to see. We delivered in our communities, in City Hall, in the Assembly and in the peace process.
" Sinn Féin is facing into this Assembly election confident of making gains in the city. We have set ourselves a target of taking eight Belfast seats in the new Assembly. That means taking an extra seat in North Belfast, South Belfast and West Belfast and retaining our position as the lead nationalist party in East Belfast. This will not be an easy challenge, but it is an achievable one." ENDS
Editors Note: Sinn Féin Team in Belfast.
Gerry Adams, Sue Ramsey, Bairbre de Brún, Michael Ferguson, Fra McCann - West Belfast
Gerry Kelly, Kathy Stanton - North Belfast
Alex Maskey - South Belfast
Joe O'Donnell - East Belfast
South Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Alex Maskey has welcomed the decision of the BBC to modify its position relating to election coverage in the light of a Sinn Féin court challenge.
Cllr. Maskey said:
"Yesterday Sinn Féin launched High Court proceedings in Belfast challenging the manner in which the BBC were covering the Assembly election campaign. It was clear that the guidelines they were using discriminated against the republican electorate.
"Yesterday the judge told the BBC to give their position mature reflection overnight. This morning they returned to the court and agreed to modify their position regarding election coverage.
"In light of this the case against the BBC would not proceed any further. However we will continue to monitor election coverage closely during the campaign and we will not hesitate to challenge overt discrimination again." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Economy Dr. Dara O'Hagan has said that the announcement of the closure of the Shop Electric stores is 'a devastating blow to the workforce'.
Dr. O'Hagan said:
" Last week when the administrators arrived unannounced at Shop Electric stores across the north people feared the worst for the company. However this does not make the announcement today any easier to accept for those people who have lost their jobs in the run up to Christmas.
" This is a devastating blow to the workforce and it is my belief that Veridian who recently sold their share in the company do have a duty of care over many of these employees who have worked for this firm for many years." ENDS
Sinn Féin South Belfast Assembly candidate, former Belfast mayor Alex Maskey speaking as part of a multi-party platform at the launch of the Simon Community document on 'Addressing Homelessness' has said that housing is a basic and inalienable right.
Cllr Maskey said:
"There can be no acceptable level of homelessness. The latest figures tell us that the number of homeless cases here has risen by 16%. It is an indictment on the failure of the homelessness strategy to tackle the problem.
"Since the collapse of the institutions and the re-introduction of direct rule organisations dealing with the issue of homelessness have reported a lack of political will to make progress on this issue. It is vital that we get the institutions back up and running as soon as possible so that we have local ministers making decisions that they are accountable for and so that there is direct access for people affected by homelessness and those working with them.
"Targets to tackle homelessness have not been met. We need improved resources and legislation and more support for the organisations that are working flat out to deal with rising homelessness. His means money for temporary accommodation, transitional housing and hostel accommodation - including hostels for young people with on-site access to specific support services." ENDS
Speaking to the National Youth Council of Ireland today Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education, Seán Crowe TD, called for "additional resources to support the important work carried out by youth organisations. "He said "it is time we got away from the attitude of doing the minimum to get by."
Deputy Crowe said: „The campaign to allocate additional resources to support the important work being carried out by youth organisations around the country is one that Sinn Féin fully supports. It is time we got away from the attitude of doing the minimum to get by.
"Young people do have something to offer society, if only society is prepared to give them a platform. We need to empower them to make decisions and prepare them for the tough choices they will face in their lives. We need to build their skills and their capacities. We need to make sure our young people are full citizens, with the rights and responsibilities of that role.
"Sinn Féin is proposing, in our alternative Budget priorities to be published this month, a range of measures aimed at young people, at tackling poverty and inequality in accessing education. Among them is the proposal to increase the funding for youth work by €5 million.
"For some time now we have been lectured by representatives of the Government that the money for investment in this or that is not there. The truth is, and deep down we all know it, that the money is there, what is lacking is the political will to get it.
"Last year for example, the decision by the Government to cut Corporation Tax is estimated to have cost us €350 million, roughly the same amount the Government spent on capital investment in primary and secondary schools.
"If we are not prepared to redistribute the wealth in our society to facilitate the access of young people, and others, to play the fullest role possible in our nation, then we are merely making do and pushing the problems into the background." ENDS
Speaking after Sinn Féin's challenge against the BBC censoring Sinn Féin from its election coverage last night was adjourned until tomorrow morning, party representative Alex Maskey said:
" Sinn Féin will not stand by and watch the rights and entitlements of the republican electorate being abused by the BBC or anyone else. Last night Sinn Féin were deliberately excluded from election coverage on that channel. That is the basis of our High Court action today.
" We are happy at the manner in which this case has proceeded and we believe that the BBC should listen to the judge's remarks this evening when he told them to go home and give their position some 'mature reflection' overnight.
" We will be back here in the morning when it would be our hope that this matter will be satisfactorily resolved." ENDS
In the course of the debate in the Dáil today on the Containment of Nuclear Weapons Bill Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD called for much tougher penalties for anybody convicted of the "unauthorised production, use, acquisition, transfer or processing of material that could be used to make nuclear weapons." Deputy Ó Snodaigh was very critical of the fact that at present penalties only allowed for a four year jail sentence and/or a €5000 fine saying they were not credible deterrents. He was also highly critical of the Government's support for the export of dual-use goods and technology, which are being used in weapons production around the globe.
Proposing amendments to the Bill which would bring about 10 year sentences the Dublin South Central TD said:
"We need to establish credible deterrents and credible sanctions in this state for the offences of unauthorized production, use, acquisition, transfer or processing of material that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
"Four year sentences and €5000 fines are not a credible deterrents for the offence of obstructing nuclear weapons inspections or for contributing to the spread of weapons of mass destruction. he said.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh contrasted the severity of the sanction used in other circumstances. He said:
"it is arguable that it is considerably more serious to lie to nuclear weapons inspectors than it is to give false information to Gardaí, which carries a penalty for 5 years, or even to perjure oneself which, as remarked by Justice Carney in the Keane case, can result in a life sentence.
"Contributing to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - cannot reasonably be construed as anything but a grave offence. This is a crime against humanity which deserves the strongest possible deterrent and the harshest available sanction"he said. ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will launch the party's campaign to secure additional seats in Belfast, tomorrow morning, Thursday 5th, in the Waterfront Hall (Bar 2) at 12 noon.
Mr Adams will be accompanied by the Sinn Féin election team for Belfast.
Sinn Fein County Councillor Gerry Murray has condemned the ongoing cuts in FAS Community Employment Schemes. In a strongly worded statement Councillor Murray described comments by Deputy John Carty in relation to the cuts as hypocritical and of little consolation to people who had lost their jobs. The reality is that many worthy community development projects are now at a standstill and Deputy Carty and his party must accept full responsibility.
Councillor Murray said.
"No amount of spin doctoring by Deputy Carthy and his Fianna Fail colleagues will diminish the fact that this is an attack on the people and organisations who are at the coalface of community development in this Country. Not only have we seen a series of significant cuts in recent times, but communities who have applied for new FAS schemes have little prospect of having their schemes sanctioned in the lifetime of this Government".
"In the last twenty years FAS has played a crucial role in Community development and has provided vital social, cultural, and economic infrastructure at little or no cost to the exchequer. Why Deputy Carthy and his party should attack community development projects on this scale is beyond me."
"FAS schemes in tandem with other community enterprise initiatives have the potential to create self financing communities, and should be regarded as the first step on the road to creating Public Community Partnerships. One of the main objectives of Sinn Fein is to empower communities by ensuring that they have the resources and skills to become self sustaining and independent. I have no doubt that Deputy Carthy and his Fianna Fail colleagues are truly frightened by such a concept and the current cuts seem to be part of a strategy to ensure that communities will remain exclusively dependent on the very limited resources that central Government makes available to them.
"The current cuts will only further frustrate the efforts of those who are involved in the voluntary sector and will make the timeframe for the delivery of much needed social projects longer and protracted. In some cases such projects will have to be completely abandoned due the current cuts. In such an negative atmosphere is it any wonder that people are less prepared to give of their time to the community and voluntary sector when this Government constantly undermines their hard work" ENDS