Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA speaking during a meeting of the party's Ard Chomhairle in Dublin today has called on the UUP to come clean on their strategy to stop the Assembly elections going ahead on May 1st. He said that it was entirely unhelpful, at a time when all attention should be focused on ending the deadlock and re-instating the political institutions, that there were those working behind the scenes determined to undermine democracy and prevent elections taking place. Mr. McLaughlin said:
"It is now three months since the power sharing government was brought down by the British government and with every day that passes the deepening political vacuum is having a dangerously corrosive effect right across society. With all momentum being sucked out of the process it is imperative that the political institutions are re-established urgently. We need a clear commitment from the British government that the Assembly elections planned for the 1st of May will go ahead on time and as planned. It would be very welcome to hear David Trimble today supporting this call in the interests of the democratic process."
In relation to the Electoral Office fiasco and disenfranchisement of almost 200,000 people across the north Mr. McLaughlin said:
"Every day more and more people are coming forward who are not currently eligible to vote, due to the deeply flawed process of registration which has taken place. It is incredible that it was Sinn Féin and not the Electoral Office who informed the public that up to 200,000 people had been disenfranchised in this process. Time is moving on and with less than eight weeks to turn this situation around the Electoral Office need to urgently put in place a strategy to rectify the situation. They need to let those who have registered know that their vote is secure and set in place a publicity and information campaign encouraging those who have still to register to do so now."ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris is this afternoon joining Anti-War protesters at Shannon in opposition to the governments decision to allow the US military to use the airport as a base. He has called for an immediate end to the use of Irish airports, airspace, or seaports for war preparation by foreign powers. The Kerry North Deputy will be joined by Sinn Féin activists from across the island.
Speaking from Shannon this afternoon Deputy Ferris said:
"The large crowds gathered here today reflect the concern right across Ireland at the government's decision to allow US warplanes to use Irish airports and airspace on their way to the Gulf. The majority of Irish people do not support the drive to war against the Iraqi people. We do not support the use of Shannon airport as part of US war preparation.
"I came here today to stand in solidarity with the protesters who have been taking part in the 'Peace Camp'. The courageous and selfless actions of these people stands in stark contrast to the lies and actions of the Irish government.
"It is time that the government listened to the people and stop allowing Irish airports, airspace, or seaports to be used for war preparation by foreign powers."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at today's meeting of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in Dublin titled 'Political issues in and affecting Northern Ireland - views of Unionists and Protestants - said: "We need to look at ways in which the unionist people can find their place in a new Ireland. All of this requires a willingness on our part to explore and to be open to new concepts." Mr. Adams said:
Sinn Féin has been engaging in dialogue with members of the Protestant and Unionist community particularly in the Six Counties for many years now. This engagement took on an added intensity and gained added importance with the public emergence of the embryonic peace process in 1993; in a few short weeks it will be ten years since John Hume and I issued our first public statement in April of that year.
The engagement takes place at a number of different levels: with the Churches and business people; with mainstream political parties and individuals from these parties; with loyalist representatives and people from the community and voluntary sector. Many of these exchanges are ongoing and remain an important part of our work.
We have sought through this dialogue to get to the root of the deep-seated misunderstanding and mistrust that separates nationalists and unionists and which contributes to the divisions on this island; and to pursue this as an essential element of the desired and required process of reconciliation.
We also came face to face with the human legacy of pain and hurt suffered by unionists over the last thirty years of the conflict. I have acknowledged this in the past and I do so again here today. Much hurt was inflicted on all sides and by all sides in the conflict.
I would describe the engagement with unionists and Protestants as a journey of discovery and understanding for all involved.
It has not been an easy process. It is also not possible to come to a political understanding of the complexities involved without taking into account the influence of British policy and the British connection.
Sinn Féin has brought an Irish Republican perspective and analysis to all of this. In our dialogue we sought to develop a comprehensive appreciation of the complexity of the people who live on this island.
I believe that one example of this is to be found in the actions of Belfast's Mayor Alex Maskey. In his time as Mayor Alex Maskey has made a good faith attempt to be a Mayor for all the people of Belfast.
I know there is deep concern among unionists about the future and in particular about a threat to their identity. I want to assure them that republicans are committed to a future based on democratic principles and to creating a pluralist society on this island.
I know from my own personal experience as a citizen denied by successive British and Unionist governments the right to express my cultural identity how much this type of discrimination fanned the flames of conflict.
Let me make it quite clear it is not our intention to put unionists into the political space that nationalists and republicans have long sought to escape from. There is of course much that is wrong and much injustice remains to be eradicated. But I am convinced if the leaders of unionism, nationalism and republicanism work together then the causes of conflict will be resolved peacefully. However difficult, I am committed to intensifying the required dialogue. The Good Friday agreement emphasises respect for cultural diversity. It creates a political framework in which there can be peaceful co-existence with Britain and on this island. The cornerstone of such diversity is equality. Political, social, economic and cultural equality; equality of opportunity; equality of treatment and parity of esteem. These remain both objectives and ingredients of peace.
Peace will emerge through dialogue, through negotiations. No one should be afraid of peace. No one should be afraid of dialogue.
Talking especially to those who have different political views can be a liberating process. It can also be an empowering process.
Irish republicans believe that Irish unity, on the basis of equality, offers the best future for all the people of this island. Therefore there is a responsibility on republicans to spell out to unionists what sort of united Ireland we seek. We need to look at ways in which the unionist people can find their place in a new Ireland. All of this requires a willingness on our part to explore and to be open to new concepts.
Republicans are also happy to engage with unionism on their vision for the future. We're open to listening to unionism about what they believe the union offers citizens. The opening up of a public debate around these key issues can only be a positive step forward.
In negotiations we all try to change each other's perspectives. In doing so there is the prospect and very often the reality that the negotiations will change everybody.
Possibilities not seen before begin to emerge. New ways of seeing an old problem begin to take shape.
New solutions have their seeds in such dialogue and engagement. This is how the future is shaped. This is how republicans want to shape the future with unionists.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality, and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for the Minister for Justice to scrap the Government's present European Convention on Human Rights Bill and introduce a new bill incorporating the Convention directly into domestic law.
Speaking following the resumption of the Oireachtas Joint Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights Committee consultation process on the Bill, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"Legislative incorporation would make the Convention superior to ordinary laws but still subject to the Irish Constitution, and this is the approach Sinn Féin favours. It is crucially important that we get this legislation right ? for the sake of all Irish people, but particularly those who are discriminated against. Under the Bill currently in front of the Dáil Irish people would still have to travel all the way to Strasbourg to avail of an effective remedy under the Convention. This is neither fair nor right. I am also concerned that the current Bill would undermine the effectiveness of the new Human Rights Commission.
"I appeal to the Minister for Justice to heed the criticism that has been leveled by human rights groups and legal experts against the legislation as drafted, to scrap the bill in its present form, and table a new bill that directly incorporates the ECHR directly into Irish law. We cannot afford to accept anything less." ENDS
"In our Pre-Budget submission last November we in Sinn Féin highlighted this waste of €12 million and called for the immediate introduction of electronic patient records and/or unique person identifier numbers. This would reduce inaccuracies in the Health Board/GMS databases and avoid such huge waste of resources. This element of the National Health Strategy should be brought forward as a matter of urgency. Any attempt to delay it because of budgetary restrictions would be totally counter-productive, costing the system dearly in the long run."ENDS
Sinn Féin TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan, Seán Crowe and Aengus Ó Snodaigh have called on Environment Minister Martin Cullen to end his bully boy tactics and remove his threat to give Dublin City Council the chop and replace it with unelected and unaccountable government appointed Commissioners.
Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
"The very survival of Dublin City Council hangs in the balance tonight as Environment Minister Martin Cullen has signaled that he intends to abolish the Council if Councillors don't give into his threats and impose increased service charges on the people of Dublin.
"It is scandalous that any democratically elected local authority can be threatened in this manner. It completely undermines the constitutionally recognised position of Local Government and sends the wrong message to an already disillusioned electorate. The power to abolish local councils should be done away with immediately.
"I am calling on Minister Cullen to remove this threat and allow Dublin City Councillors - who were elected by the people to run this city - to get on with their jobs."ENDS
Commenting on the leaked review of health service structures Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said the proposals if adopted could lead to greater centralisation of the health service, making it les accountable to the needs of patients and communities. Deputy Ó Caolain said:
"While we must await the publication of the full report to comment in detail, the proposed changes could lead to greater centralization which would be bad for patients and for the provision of services in an equitable manner. There is general agreement that there are too many health boards and too much bureaucracy in the administration of the health services. But it is also true that there is a lack of democratic accountability and these proposals would make the services even less accountable to the citizen and the community.
The Prospectus proposals would:
* Result in far greater levels of centralization
* Reduce local control over health and personal social services
* Maintain the current status quo in terms of who controls our health services and our hospitals.
"Local health boards represent the only countervailing power there is to the power of medical consultants. Medical consultants run the services as well as the hospitals. There is frequently a clash between the needs of medical providers and the needs of local communities, as the closure of the maternity services in Monaghan and Dundalk showed so clearly.
"As has been revealed in the North-East region, there was a concerted consultant plan to close the maternity units in Monaghan and Dundalk. Small units, like small hospitals, whose services are so vital to the needs of their communities, do not serve consultant interests. Denise Livingstone's birth took place at the side of the road because consultant obstetricians withdrew their labour from the maternity unit in Monaghan Hospital. She was a casualty of centralisation and consultant power.
"Reducing the number of elected representatives on health boards and replacing them with Consumer Panels would undermine local democracy in health and personal social services. Locally elected representatives build up significant expertise in these areas. Consumer panels have been tried in England and dismissed as toothless: they are simply an exercise in spin, pseudo-democracy, giving a veneer of consultation to decisions taken at a higher level.
"The North Eastern Health Board has taken more doctors to court in the last ten years than any other health board in the country. One such case concerned bed-blocking, one of the root causes of long waiting lists. Bed-blocking is a well-known and widespread practice, whereby a consultant maintains a private patient in bed, for no medical reason other than to hold on to the bed, until his next private patient can be organised to take it over. While this results in a streamlined private practice for the consultant, it leads to waiting lists as beds are needlessly tied up. It also results in huge wastage of scarce resources for the health board, i.e., the taxpayer.
"Significant representation of voluntary health groups and patient organisations, which unlike "consumers" have built up a range of expertise over the years, would be a far better alternative to toothless Consumer Panels.
"Health boards administer a vast range of health and personal social services, including care of the elderly, medical cards, home helps, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language services, disability services, and mental health services. W need to know how these services will be affected by the proposals." ENDS
Sinn Féin group leader on Dublin City Council, Councillor Christy Burke, has called on the people of Dublin to come out in suppport of democracy and defend their right to proper representation. He is seeking public support for an anti bin tax protest in advance of what might be the last meeting of Dublin Council. Environment Minister Martin Cullen plans to give the Council the chop if Councillors don't impose increased service charges on the people of Dublin.
Councillor Burke said:
"It is outrageous that Dublin City Council, the largest local authority in the state, can be threatened with the chop for simply not making decisions that the government wants them to make. The government have some cheek to look on democratically elected councillors as puppets to obey their dictats or on local government as a conveyer belt for their policies.
"We as Councillors are elected to represent the interests of our constituents. Our constituents are opposed to increased service charges, therefore our actions must reflect this.
"We are calling on the people of Dublin to attend the protest tonight at 6.15pm outside City Hall to show their opposition to the increased charges, support for democracy in their city and to show Minister Cullen that they won't stand for their Council getting the chop." ENDS
Speaking at a press conference in Belfast today along with colleagues Dara O'Hagan MLA and Pat Doherty MP, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP said that the onus was on the electoral office to sort out the gigantic mess that has resulted in over 187,000 people being missing from the register.
Mr Adams said:
"The Electoral Register issued in December 2002 shows that 130,000 people across the North who were on the Electoral Register of June 2002 are not on this register.
"In addition to this the 2001 census figures released in December 2002 show that another 57,683 people across the North eligible to be included on the register do not appear. This brings the total to 187,683 people eligible to be on the register who do not appear.
"This is a seriously flawed registration process and a mess of gigantic proportions. It will affect supporters of all the political parties but particularly those who come from a disadvantaged background.
The Electoral Office and Electoral Commission has for example presided over a situation where:
* In various constituencies citizens have complained that they completed registration forms returned them to the various electoral offices and have not appeared on the register.
* Yesterday the Electoral Office admitted that they had over 13,000 completed forms unprocessed in December when the register was published.
* Supplementary forms for photographic identification which require the exact same information as those for voter registration.
* A revised voter registration form aimed at correcting the shortfall in registration omits the section dealing with photographic identification has been issued.
The hurdles and obstacles put in the way of people seeking to register to vote is unacceptable.
I am therefore calling on the electoral office to:
* Inform all of those people who are registered to vote.
* Canvass the 130,000 people absent from the June 2001 register.
* Launch immediately an effective publicity campaign encouraging the people to register
* Establish Help clinics in local areas to advise how to fill in forms
* Encourage young first time voters to register through issuing forms to 6th formers at school
"The government must take their head out of the sand and respond to the Irish public's very real concerns on this.
"For months now Sinn Féin has been calling for a debate in the Dáil on this issue of crucial national and international importance. But the government - in its typical arrogance - has refused. Their Nice campaign guarantee that they would defend Irish neutrality was clearly just another in a series of broken promises. We therefore also continue to call for neutrality to be enshrined in the Constitution and in legislation.
"Sinn Féin fully supports the anti-war movement, the peace camp at Shannon Airport, and the national anti-war mobilisation on February 15. We look forward to playing our part, together with the other progressive peoples of the US and Europe - and, indeed the world over - on this most important issue." ENDS
Sinn Féin TDs, Dáil advisers and members of the Ard Comhairle held a day long meeting in Dublin today to plan the party's programme for the upcoming Dáil term and begin preparation for next years local government elections. Speaking following the meeting Dáil group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:
"Despite the huge crisis in health, housing and across rural Ireland the government are in a politically strong position and have as yet not been met by concerted opposition.
"The next six months must see more effective co-operation among the opposition parties to put the government on the rack.
"Over the last number of years Sinn Féin has experienced rapid growth right across the country, but particularly in the 26 counties.
"The election of 5 Sinn Féin TDs and the fundamental realignment of the opposition within Leinster House has already impacted on the body politic. This morning we examined the role of the opposition and its failure to effectively challenge the government. We need to use the strengths within the opposition to make the government accountable and challenge the political direction of this right wing coalition.
"Over the next six months Sinn Féin will be campaigning in the Dáil and in communities across the island. We will be challenging the government on the crisis in the health service, growing numbers on the housing list, the decline of rural Ireland and strengthening the Peace Process. We will also be continuing with our work of building Sinn Féin and preparing for Irish Unity." ENDS
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has said that there is no-one in government in charge as the State experiences yet another crisis in hospital Accident and Emergency departments. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The response of the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin to the latest crisis in A and E is deplorable. As patients are treated in ambulances in the car parks of Dublin hospitals, and as people wait for hours overnight for treatment in A and E departments, all the Minister can do is repeat figures for the amount of money spent on the health services. It is glaringly obvious to all that the resourcing of the services is both insufficient and ill-deployed and is not having the desired effect where it matters most - at the front line where people need treatment.
"I understand from my colleague Sinn Féin councillors in Dublin that some 30 people were left waiting for treatment overnight until this morning in the Mater Hospital A and E department. The Minister should order the Health Board to take over beds in the adjacent Mater Private Hospital to relieve the current crisis.
"The Dáil should be recalled to address the worsening situation in our health services. All TDs were elected last May with a mandate to urgently address the crisis in health yet the Dáil does not return until 29 January and there is no-one in Government on top of the situation. The Taoiseach is in Mexico and the other most senior Dublin-based Minister, the Tánaiste Mary Harney, has remained silent.
"The Minister for Health must also answer to the Dáil on the recently highlighted changes in medical training rules for A and E units which could lead to closure or severe reduction of services in hospitals outside Dublin, thus putting more intolerable pressure on the system. Having highlighted and campaigned against the effective withdrawal of A and E services at Monaghan General Hospital over the six months since July 2nd 2002, I am concerned that once again unaccountable influences are dictating the configuration of services within our hospitals throughout the State.
"This latest crisis once more demonstrates the need to completely restructure our grossly unequal, two-tier, public-private health service." ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillors Christy Burke and Nicky Kehoe have called on the Minister for Health Micheal Martin to open up the Mater Private to public patients to help alleviate the immediate backlog of people awaiting treatment.
They also called for long term patients in the Mater Public to be facilitated in respite care where appropriate, as a stop gap measure, to free up beds to shorten the disgraceful waiting lists.
Councillor Burke said:
"The situation at the Mater Hospital last night, where three of the city's eleven ambulances were in the yard treating patients, was unbelieveable. This is just another example of the third-world nature of the Irish public health service. A service that continually fails the needs of the Irish public.
Councillor Kehoe added:
"Sinn Féin is calling on the Minister for Health to open up the private clinic in the Mater to public patients as an emergency measure to help alleviate the spiraling crisis in the Mater Public.
"We are also calling for long-term patients in the Mater Public, where appropriate, to be facilitated in respite care, as a stop gap measure, to free up much needed beds to shorten the disgraceful waiting lists.
"These proposals must be seen as an emergency response to an out of control situation and not as a long term solution. The public health service needs a complete overhaul." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Community Affairs Seán Crowe TD has called on workers to give "careful consideration" to the new partnership proposals and to see if they tackle inequality and promote social inclusion. He also questioned why basic rights like union recognition, compliance with labour legislation and the issue of statutory redundancy were on the negotiating table at all.
Deputy Crowe said:
"Workers voting on the new partnership proposals will have to give them very careful consideration particularly in the context of how it affects them and the wider context of tackling inequality and promoting social inclusion. It seems that this is not a real agreement about social partnership. It is only a wage contract and a weak one at that.
"Employer recognition of unions, compliance with labour legislation and fulfilling of statutory redundancy rights are all basic workplace rights. Why were they on the negotiating table in the first place?
"The minimum wage increase is too small. Why was there no immediate proposal to take low paid workers completely out of the tax net?
"The housing proposals are very weak and a much more solid response based on the analysis of the three Bacon reports as well as the NESF report on social and affordable housing and last year's NESC report prepared specially for the partnership talks are needed. We need targets for reducing waiting lists, homelessness and traveller accommodation. A real partnership agreement would have also dealt with the issues of healthcare, the dire state of primary schools, childcare and tax reform.
"The wage increase elements are barely leaving workers in a stand still position and might not even cover inflation and the cost of the new barrage of stealth taxes introduced by Charlie McCreevy in last December's budget.
"The deferral of full payment of benchmarking until 2005 will severely water down their real value to workers and is a lot to ask public servants, who were promised action on low wages some years ago.
"I would call on workers to take their time and not to rush into an agreement that will not deliver on equality and social inclusion." ENDS
Cruinniú idir Uachtarán Shinn Féin Gearóid Mac Ádhaimh agus an t-Aire Éamonn Ó Cuiv I mBaile Átha Cliath.
Bhuail Uachtarán Shinn Féin, Gerry Adams leis an t-Aire Éamonn Ó Cuiv I dTeach Laighean inniu. Is I gcomhthéacs go bhfuil an t-Aire Ó Cuiv ag taisteal go Béal Feirste ar an Déardaoin seo chugainn agus ós rud é go mbeidh Gerry Adams anonn I Londain gur tapú ar an deis.
D'árdaíodh ceisteanna éagsúla I gcaitheamh na cruinnithe. I measc siúd labhair Gearóid Mac Ádhaimh leis an t-Aire fa choinne na ciorraithe a fógraíodh le deirneas sa Bhille Airgeadais. Duirt an t-Uasal Mac Ádhamh gurb cúis imní é do lucht tacaíochta Shinn Féin agus gníomhaí agus gluaiseacht na Gaeilge go gcuirfí bac forbairte ar chuid mhaith de na tograí atá á thógáil ag pobal na Gaeilge, ar Phlean Straitéiseach Foras na Gaeilge, ar TG4 agus ar Phlean Forbartha na Gaeltachta.
Sna sé chontae, a dúirt sé, don chéad uair ó bunaíodh an stát chonnacthas dúinn go mb'fhéidir go mbeadh muid in ann tógáil níos leithne a dhéanamh ar thionscnaimh le cur chun cinn a dhéanamh ar Ghaeilge a leathnú mar theanga phobail I dtaobh grúpaí pobail, cúrsaí oideachais agus neart ábhair eile atá ag bláthú an t-am ar fad. Don chéad uair in stair na tire bhí aitheantas éigint tugtha don Ghaeilge mar thoradh ar socrú Aoine an Chéasta. Ach anois tá imní ar an bpobal go bhfuil na cosa á ghearradh muna dtagann an dá rialtas aniar aduaidh ar an scéil.
Pléadh ábhair a bhaineann leis an t-athbhreithniú atá tosaithe ag an t-Aire Ó Cuiv I leith teorannacha na Gaeltachta agus an stádas dhá theangach atá á lorg ag cathar na Gaillimhe. D'árdaigh Lucilita Bhreatnach, Oifigeach Chultúir Shinn Féin freisin gur cóir breathnú ar áiteacha ar nós ceantar Thamhlachta (I mBaile Átha Cliath) agus Iarthar Bhéal Feirste ina measc le aitheantas a thabhairt don phobal Gaeilge atá ag fás sna réimsí éagsúla laethiúil agus gur cóir freisin stádas ar leibhéal áirithe a thabhairt sna cásanna seo freisin taobh amuigh den lár Ghaeltacht.
D'fháiltí ionadaithe Shinn Féin le fógra na maidine go bhfuil leas phríomh fheidhmeannach faoi dheireadh á fhostú ag Foras an Gaeilge I mBéal Feirste. Tugadh le fios dúinn go bhfuil sé mar sprioc ag an Rannóg go mb'fhéidir na heochair phostanna eile san Fhoras a fhógrú taobh istigh de cúpla seachtaine.
Dúradh linn freisin gur cosúil go mbeidh na leasuithe ar an mBille Teanga ullamh taobh istigh de choícíse rud atá muid go léir ag súil leis.
Responding to reports that Shannon airport is benefiting financially from the build up to the war, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"It is disgraceful that potential financial gains to a war in Iraq are being used as a justification for the use of Shannon airport by US warplanes. The use of Shannon is wrong, is against our position of neutrality and should end immediately. It is imperative that a situation is not allowed to develop whereby the economic viability of the airport becomes dependent on such sources of finance."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and Dáil Group Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD will meet Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte at the party's Falls Road office tomorrow afternoon, Monday 13th January. Speaking prior to the meeting Deputy Ó Caoláín said:
"We welcome the opportunity to meet with Pat Rabbitte on this his first visit to Belfast as party leader. Among the items for discussion will be the urgent need for all pro-Agreement parties on the island to work together to bring an end to the current political crisis and save the Good Friday Agreement.
"We will also be seeking Labour Party support on the issue of northern representation in the Oireachtas and the need to develop the all-Ireland approach enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.
"With the transformation in make up of the opposition in Leinster House following the last election we will be seeking to discuss possible areas of co-operation in order to put the demand for equality in health, housing and education centre stage."ENDS
Sinn Féin Human Rights and Equality Spokesperson. West Belfast MLA Bairbre de Brún has described the need for the two governments to fully implement the Human Rights and Equality elements of the Good Friday Agreement as a fundamental part of the current talks process.
Ms de Brún said:
"Equality and Human Rights must be at the heart of any successful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Resolving the failure to implement these areas of the Agreement is a central component of restoring the momentum of the Agreement and overcoming the present impasse.
"Sinn Fein has put Equality and Human Rights high on the talks agenda. We want to see substantive movement in the coming weeks on social and economic equality, the rights of vulnerable communities, language rights, victims and the process for taking forward a Bill of Rights. These will be discussed in the coming days as we face possibly the most crucial period in our history.
"Sinn Fein have raised these issues in detail, and we now need to see what progress can be made in implementing these key areas of the Agreement that to date have witnessed little progress. We will carry this forward in our discussions this week.
"We need to see timetabled monitored measures to eliminate the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities and we need to see economic development targeted towards areas of greatest need. We also need to see the protection and vindication of human rights and particularly the rights of vulnerable communities. The Human Rights Commission needs sufficient powers and funding to enable it to effectively carry out its remit and we all need to work on the process for taking forward on a Bill of Rights.
"The clearest way to see progress on these and other measures needed is for the two governments and all the local political parties to reaffirm the commitments made in the Good Friday Agreement and to work together to ensure the lull implementation of the rights and equality agenda. This is the task facing us now." ENDS
Sinn Fein TD and Environment spokesperson Arthur Morgan has criticised coalition Environment Minister Martin Cullen for his "short sighted comments about Government failures to act on the Kyoto Protocol on climate change". Deputy Morgan said:
"Minister Cullen's claim that there is 'no get out of jail card' after his and previous governments spent years ignoring international commitments on green houses gases is pathetic. He seems to have forgotten that it is the job of government to govern and it was Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats who spent years ignoring their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"We need real commitment to an environmentally sustainable future for Ireland, not the piecemeal approach currently being adopted. Yes we need to investigate the best way to introduce energy taxes, but with this government there is always the fear that it will be the weakest and least well off who end up being penalised not those who are actually creating the greatest amount of emissions.
"There is a need for a comprehensive approach to this problem. For example if minister Cullen has suddenly had a conversion to environmental principles will he commit himself to adopting a zero waste strategy for waste management and will he call on Finance minister McCreevy to rescind the decision in the budget to withdraw Tax relief for wind energy producers or raise the targets for generating electricity from renewable resources.
"We need a fulltime environment minister with real vision and commitment not a short-term short-sightedness." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA speaking following a day long meeting of the party's Ard Comhairle in Dundalk - the first of the new year - said there was deep concern expressed at todays meeting at the lack of urgency being placed by the two governments on the resolution of the current political crisis.
During the day long meeting Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness updated the Ard Comhairle on yesterdays meeting with Tony Blair at Downing Street and ongoing contact with the Irish Government. There was also a detailed discussion on the ongoing talks and the democratic imperative that the Assembly Elections go ahead in May. Mr McLaughlin said:
"Today republicans gathered in Dundalk from right across the country. There was deep concern expressed that given the narrow window of opportunity which exists to resolve the current political crisis that such little urgency was being placed on it by the two governments.
"It is now three months since the British government collapsed the political institutions at the behest of the UUP.
"It is not good enough for Tony Blair to merely acknowledge that the British Government have failed to implement the Agreement. What is urgently required is a plan to implement the Agreement and resolve all the outstanding issues.
"Sinn Féin believe that these issues can be resolved and that the Good Friday Agreement represents the best way forward."
The Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle also passed a motion of support for the IFA mobilisation in Dublin today. ENDS