Commenting on remarks made today by Gregory Campbell after his appearance last night at the West Belfast Festival, in which he claimed the DUP only confronted but did not engage with Sinn Féin, Cllr. Alex Maskey said that the DUP know fine well that further engagement with his party in the future is inevitable.
Cllr. Maskey said,
" Like the recent DUP demand for the disbandment of Sinn Féin, the pretence that they do not engage with but only confront my party, is as farcical and unrealistic as their demand for a re-negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.
" The reality is that Sinn Féin is supported by the majority of the nationalist community in the north. The reality is that there will be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. Some of Dr Paisley's party colleagues know, and privately accept, this.
" Today's comments from Gregory Campbell about only confronting Sinn Féin are less about Sinn Féin and more about the ongoing battle within unionism. Gregory Campbell knows fine well that further engagement with Sinn Féin in the future is inevitable." ENDS
Sinn Fein Representative and local election candidate for Donaghmede, Killian Forde, today called for an imaginative, creative and tough approach to the car insurance rip off and public transport shambles in the state. He called for the introduction of 'weekend only' car insurance to attract car owners to public transport during the working week.
He made his comments in advance of the publication of the Oireachtas Committee report on reducing insurance premiums.
Mr Forde said:
"At the moment car owners are not attracted to the idea of leaving their car at home and taking public transport after forking out hundreds of Euro on car insurance.
"The introduction of 'weekend only' car insurance would encourage car owners to leave their vehicles at home during the working week and use public transport to get to work.
"Increased use of cars for commuting to and from work is not sustainable in a city with the growth rate of Dublin. This government needs to introduce incentives to get people onto public transport and out of their cars, such as the option of weekend only insurance and pre-paid tax-deductible travel tickets.
"It would be ideal if public transport could serve people all day, every day of the week, but the reality is that due to increased suburbanisation and the ongoing siting of shops, cinemas and services near motorways, such as the M50, car ownership is a real need for most families in Dublin.
Mr Forde added:
"A weekend insurance rate for a car could save a family over €1,200 per year. That money, in a contracting economy like ours, could be better spent elsewhere and kept out of the pockets of the profit driven insurance industry, who only last week announced profits of €183 million.".
"The Minister for Transport needs to take immediate action if the ongoing transport crisis is to be addressed. He needs to get creative, he needs to look further afield at transport models that work and he needs end profiteering by greedy insurance companies." ENDS
Bairbre de Brún, the party‚s spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality will be leading a delegation tomorrow to meet with British Minister John Spellar.
The meeting was requested by Sinn Féin to discuss how the provisions of the two governments‚ Joint Declaration will deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking in advance of tomorrow‚s meeting Bairbre de Brún said:
"This meeting will deal specifically with the Equality and Human Rights elements of the Agreement and with the core mechanisms established to advance and protect these.
"We will stress to John Spellar that his government must take decisive action to ensure that public confidence in the Human Rights Commission, as a key mechanism arising from the Good Friday Agreement is restored. Those most in need of rights expect and deserve to have a Human Rights Commission that will stridently champion their rights in a wholly independent manner.
"The Equality agenda is being slowed down and frustrated on many levels. The British government must send out the signal that discrimination will not be tolerated and will be tackled vigorously."
Note to Editors: The meeting will be held at 11.30am Friday 8th at the NIO offices, Belfast. The Sinn Féin delegation team will consist of: Bairbre de Brún; Dr. Dara O'Hagan and Belfast City Councillor Chrissie McAuley.
Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has claimed that the judiciary in the north are 'unashamedly biased'. Ms Gildernew's remarks came after the latest loyalist gang to appear before the courts here was granted bail.
Ms Gildernew said:
"This morning a loyalist gang caught with £2.5 million worth of drugs appeared in court. As has now become standard practice for loyalists they were all granted bail by the judge.
"Contrast this with the continuing internment without prospect of trial of North Belfast man John O'Hagan. John O'Hagan has now been held for 17 months on document charges. He has received no trial date and has been repeatedly refused bail. The reason for this is simple. John O'Hagan is a republican.
"The judiciary in the north are discredited, sectarian and unashamedly biased. The treatment of John O'Hagan when contrasted with the cases of various unionist paramilitaries is a clear example of that." ENDS
Sinn Féin President and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has accused the Department of Social Development of 'deliberately seeking to undermine the Targeting Social Need criteria in the distribution of European Peace money' and of 'presiding over a shambles which will see up to £55 million returned to Europe, instead of being spent here in seriously deprived communities.'
The Sinn Féin MP revealed that the Party has asked the Equality commission to investigate the Fund and that it will be raised by Bairbre de Brún, Dara O'Hagan, and Chrissie McAuley when they meet British Minister John Spellar tomorrow.
Mr. Adams was speaking at an event in the Springvale Training Centre today at 12 noon where some of the EU Peace II funds are being distributed.
Mr Adams said:
"I welcome the funding coming to the Clonard and Springfield Road communities. It will make a real difference to these communities.
While Clonard has benefited from this European Measure I am greatly concerned as to how this fund has been managed and distributed by the Department of Social Development.
The fund of £12 million was to target the most disadvantaged communities and to redress the legacy of conflict.
While some communities have benefited from the fund. Sinn Fein believes that the design of the fund discriminated against the nationalist community and that the administration by the Department has been a shambles. (Note to editor: this was the term used by the House of Commons select committee reporting Peace II)
The Department developed a very narrow definition of the conflict. It ignores the role of the State and fails to identify those areas which have suffered most from the conflict.
The criteria for funding was reduced to focus in on areas with interfaces and at the cost of areas of higher social disadvantage.
We are entitled to ask where is the funding for the Upper Springfield, Twinbrook, Poleglass, Andersonstown and large sections of the Falls.
We have yet to get a clear understanding of how the measure was designed and the money distributed. What we do know is that nationalist make up between 70%- 80% of the most disadvantaged communities yet received only 56% of this fund.
The decisions made by the Department subverts Targeting Social Need and undermines the Equality Agenda.
We have asked the Equality Commission to use their powers to investigate this fund.
The problems with the fund have not ended with the design.
The distribution of moneys has been delayed for over a year by the Department.
A sizeable portion of the money would have to be returned to Europe if the Belfast Strategic Partnership Board and West Belfast Partnership Board had not intervened to ensure the money reached the Clonard community.
At present the misadministration of the Peace funds by Government Agencies could see as much as £55 million returned to Europe.
When measure 2.11 was designed it was to be a pilot for the new Neighbourhood Renewal Policy of the Department. This measure has failed to target those communities most in need. This mistake cannot be repeated by the Department.
TSN and Equality are central to developing communities and tackling the causes and legacy of conflict. The support offered to communities must be commensurate to the scale of the problem.
It is nonsense to deal with any section of West Belfast in isolation from the rest of the area. Neighbour Renewal must cover the whole of West Belfast to complement the work of the West Belfast Taskforce and the newly established Integrated Development Fund.
A delegation from Sinn Féin, headed by Bairbre de Brún will raise these matters at a meeting with John Spellar tomorrow.
I raise these criticisms of this fund not to take away from what Clonard as a community have achieved or diminish their needs.
The achievements of Clonard community and the vital projects which the fund supports must be replicated throughout West Belfast and in the most disadvantaged communities across the six counties." Ends
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said that there are serious concerns about collusion between the PSNI and the loyalists in the bomb attack on the home of Cllr. Paul Butler yesterday.
Mr Adams said:
" Paul Butler's home is overlooked by a number of spy cameras operated by the PSNI. The PSNI have said in this mornings Irish News that if the cameras were not recording then PSNI personnel were observing them. This means that the PSNI either recorded the attack or witnessed the attack and took no action. They then informed the media that what was clearly a highly flammable device was in fact a hoax.
" In addition to this after the forensic team left the Butler home yesterday parts of the device and a roll of tape possibly used in its assembly were found nearby. It is clear that the examination of the scene was seriously flawed and has ensured that potentially crucial evidence was not retrieved.
" These are classic symptoms of collusion. Loyalists being allowed to move with impunity past security installations and into the heart of republican districts, false spins given to the media and the follow up investigation carried out in such an indifferent manner as to render any convictions unlikely.
" This fits into the pattern of investigation outlined by PSNI detective Roy Suitters recently when he admitted failing to arrest those responsible for the murder of Gerard Lawlor." ENDS
Responding to news from the UPRG that the UDA is shortly to announce the findings of a six month review of its alleged cessation Sinn Féin Lagan Valley representative Cllr. Paul Butler said:
" The UDA claim to have been on cessation for the past six months and they will announce the findings of some sort of review later in the week. I have to say that I am a little shocked by this announcement. It would indicate that the UPRG believe that the UDA is on cessation.
" In the past six months things have been quieter, but a significant level of violent UDA activity is on-going. In Lisburn and Dunmurry alone there have been a series of violent attacks and only yesterday my own family were targeted in a bomb attack.
" The UDA need to stop their campaign against catholics and they need to stop their involvement on peddling drugs within their society. That is the message people want to hear from the UPRG this week" ENDS
Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew MP has criticised the British governments approach to the political process in general and in particular efforts to maintain calm this summer.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The British government is fascinated by the machinations within unionism and this has dictated the approach to their management of the process. The peace process and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement have been stalled as a result.
"This has caused a dangerous crisis which the rejectionists have sought to fill. This includes people within the British system.
"Against this background, and against the odds, given the vacuum in the political process, community activists and republicans on the ground have done sterling work to reduce tension and ensure a peaceful summer.
"Their efforts and energy is in stark contrast to the political inertia being displayed by the British government both in regard to the overall process and the issue of easing community tensions in particular." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe confessed to a feeling of deja vú at the announcement that Minister Dempsey intended to review State support for private schools. Deputy Crowe expressed concern that Minister Dempsey had not thought the matter through properly and left his ideas vulnerable to rejection by the PDs again.
The Dublin South-West Deputy said: "I welcome the fact that the Minister is looking at the possibility of ending State aid to private schools but there seems to be very little information about exactly what he intends to do. No proposals or plans have been put in place and it is with a sense of deja vú engendered by the Fees debacle that we see Minister Dempsey going at an idea, which on the face of it is good and long overdue, without any preparation.
"I would be concerned that in his rush to grab some headlines the Minister has not thought the whole matter through and is leaving himself vulnerable to being slapped down by the Progressive Democrats again.
"A review of this issue is a welcome development and something I have previously raised. I must confess to being a little confused however when I saw reports suggesting that the Minister told Cabinet colleagues before the summer that he was considering the abolition of the grants while in a reply to me in June he said 'I have no plans, at this stage, to withdraw State support for the payment of teachers in fee-charging schools.'"
Concluding Deputy Crowe said: "In any such review we must be conscious of the possible implications for the 21 Protestant schools and our need to protect religious minorities." ENDS
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has pointed out that the latest figures showing no improvement in hospital waiting lists have come as Fianna Fáil distributes leaflets to householders boasting of their 'achievements' in health. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The latest figures show almost 30,000 people on hospital waiting lists and they confirm that there is absolutely no chance that Fianna Fáil's pre-election promise of eliminating hospital waiting lists within two years will be fulfilled. As these figures emerge Fianna Fáil in recent weeks has been distributing a leaflet boasting of their so-called achievements in health.
"Having promised last year to end waiting lists within two years, the Fianna Fáil leaflet now promises that this issue will be dealt with by the yet-to-be-established Health Services Executive. Fianna Fáil claims it will, set 'national priorities' such as 'reducing waiting times for treatment'. This is a far cry from the promise which helped secure the re-election of the Fianna Fáil-led government. While patients suffer on waiting lists the main remedy from this Government is bureaucratic change rather than real reform." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Transport Seán Crowe has congratulated the workers and management of Aer Lingus for their tremendous accomplishment on delivering an operating profit of €14.3 million for the first half of 2003.
The Dublin South-West TD said:
"This is an excellent result for the company and underlines its success in recovering from the difficulties experienced by all airlines in the aftermath of September 11th. It shows that State owned companies can be successful and innovative in their approach. There can be no case for the privatisation or sell-off of such an important, and profitable, State company.
"These results will hopefully encourage the company to come to terms with cabin crew workers on pay and prevent the suggested privatisation of Aer Lingus' catering section. It is the workers of Aer Lingus who are responsible for these results and it is only just that they reap the benefits." ENDS
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food, Martin Ferris TD has defended Sinn Féin's position on Genetically Modified food following an attack from Fianna Fáil backbencher John Cregan. Cregan had accused Sinn Féin of sensationalism and of issuing misleading press statements. He also claimed that Minister for Agriculture Joe Walsh has no responsibility for GM foods.
Deputy Ferris said:
"It is clearly Deputy Cregan who should check his facts. If he paid more attention to Dáil questions, he would realise that Minister Walsh, with responsibility for Agriculture and FOOD, is in fact the Minister who deals with the issue of GM. It was in this capacity that he replied to my questions on GM crops, and the holding of a public consultation before the Government makes any further decision on GM.
"I would also be confident that I was aware of the most recent EU legislation before Deputy Cregan. In fact we referred to it and to the detail of the new labelling regulations in our press statements. We are not denying that the EU has taken action on GM but we are stating that it is inadequate and that far more needs to be done before this country with its potential for high quality food production decides to open itself up to GM.
"The facts, as they stand at present, are:
Responding to the announcement of a Review by the British government into safety at Maghaberry, Sinn Féin Representative Michael Ferguson said:
"The setting up of this Review is a tacit admission that the safety of prisoners is the issue. This makes it clear cut. What is required is segregation. The NIO should move immediately to introduce this.
"It is a question of commonsense.
"There is no logic in trying to force loyalist and republican prisoners to live together in prison.
"There is no need for a review to establish it is not safe to continue with a policy of forced integration. A review will only bring delay and possibly even allow for the situation there to deteriorate.
"The NIO already operate a policy of segregation in Maghaberry for individuals from within the differing factions of Loyalism. This was a decision taken on the grounds of safety and without any necessity for a review.
"The same logic should be applied across the board and segregation introduced without further delay." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has said that the only way the current crisis in the peace process can be resolved is through the British government establishing a firm date for Assembly elections.
Mr Doherty said:
"Various unionists in recent days have been attempting to dodge the core problem in this process. The political institutions are at the very centre of the Good Friday Agreement. The absence of these institutions and the cancellation of the Assembly elections by the British government has caused enormous difficulties.
"This situation has been exacerbated by the continual pandering to negative and reactionary unionism by the British government.
"If the crisis in the political process is to be resolved the British government must end its patronage of the Ulster Unionist Party. A firm date for the postponed election must be set. The British government's moratorium on politics must be ended." ENDS
West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty is calling for people to attend a major 'Truth about Collusion' rally to take place at Belfast's City Hall this Sunday at 3pm.
Sinn Féin, in conjunction with families of the victims of the British governments collusion policy, is organising the march and rally and will signal a stepping up of the campaign demanding the truth about collusion and to demanding that it ceases.
Mr Doherty said,
As in most other parts of the 6 counties, and indeed in many parts of the 26 counties, families and communities in West Tyrone are no strangers to the policy of collusion.
Hundreds of people were killed, and many more injured and maimed, in a vicious campaign of state-sponsored murder; the unionist death squads killed elected representatives, human rights lawyers, Sinn Féin members and their families, journalists, IRA volunteers and ordinary citizens.
On April 17th 2003, Sir John Stevens concluded his third investigation into collusion, acknowledging: 'My enquiries have highlighted collusion, the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder'.
To date no member of the Special Branch or British military intelligence has been indicted for these crimes. However, even more serious and worrying, this policy of collusion has never been reversed. It remains, perhaps less active, but nevertheless, intact and as potentially deadly today.
Those British agencies that executed this policy remain in place today. The Special Branch of the RUC has become the Special Branch of the PSNI while the Force Research Unit of the British Army that ran many of the British agents has been renamed the Joint Services Group. MI5 continues to operate as before.
The policy of employing the unionist death squads was not the actions of rogue agents or individual 'bad apples‚ who overstepped their responsibilities. It was a policy which was endorsed at the highest political level. It was British State murder. The British government has never accepted its responsibility for the deaths which resulted from this policy.
Sinn Féin, along with the families of the victims of this policy of collusion, is organising a march and rally to Belfast City Hall to take place on August 10th. We are calling for a large attendance in support of the families of those who were killed through the policy of state-sponsored murder and to demand from the British the truth about its role, and that of its various armed and intelligence agencies, in the killing of citizens.
It's time for the truth about collusion. END
Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has welcomed the announcement that the PSNI will be required to produce a register of interests declaring membership of organisations such as the Orange Order.
Ms Gildernew said:
"This is one of the key issues that Sinn Féin raised during the recent negotiations with the British and Irish governments on which there was progress.
"Clearly membership of organisations such as the loyal orders or knights of Columbanus are not necessarily compatible with the need for an impartial police force.
"What we now need to see is progress on outstanding issues, including crucially the transfer of powers on justice and policing to a local accountable assembly." ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation met with Lord Clyde the Justice Oversight Commissioner yesterday in the party's offices at Stormont.
Speaking after the meeting Newry Armagh representative Conor Murphy said:
"Criminal Justice was one of the key areas raised by Sinn Féin in the negotiations with the British and Irish governments leading up to the publication of the Joint Declaration. It was Sinn Féin that argued that the new Act and accompanying Implementation Plan would not achieve the changes necessary in the Criminal Justice system.
"The British government agreed to produce a new Implementation Plan and new legislation that will place a greater emphasis on All Ireland co-operation, human rights, on achieving representativeness and on accountability. These developments were hard won. But there still needs to be movement, particularly on the transfer of powers to a local Assembly, if we are to achieve a criminal justice system that is fair, representative, accountable and commands the confidence of the entire community.
"Today‚s meeting with the Justice Oversight Commissioner Lord Clyde is a continuation of Sinn Féin‚s determination to ensure that the required changes are put in place and that there is a clear timetable for implementing the new Criminal Justice Plan. We will also continue to push for the further moves that are required.
"Sinn Féin will monitor implementation to ensure that there is progress on the Judicial Appointments Commission and the mechanisms that ensure its representativeness; action to address the issue of judicial representativeness; the duty on the DPP to refer all cases of PSNI misconduct to the Police Ombudsman; and the duty of all criminal justice agencies to have due regard of international and human rights standards." ENDS
Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has welcomed the publication of the InterTradeIreland report on North South Trade but has called for the creation of a single measure on trade within the Ireland and a greater focus on developing the potential of trade within Ireland.
Mr Doherty said:
"The report from InterTradeIreland (North South Trade: a statistical ground clearing exercise) marks an important point in understanding the dynamics and importance of trade between the north and south of Ireland.
"However, the fact that data has had to be gathered from three different bodies points the urgent need to develop a single measure for monitoring economic activity between the two parts of this island.
"It is clear that the volume of trade has significantly increased over the past decade. The value of all manufacturing goods 'exported' from the north to the south has doubled and now account for 25% of our non-UK exports.
"While the overall value and volume of goods from the south to the north has also increased it is clear from this statistical analysis that there is a far greater potential for growth in the volume and value of internal trade. In particular southern businesses need to wake up to the opportunities that exist in doing business with their northern counterparts.
"Work on removing barriers to developing the all Ireland economy needs to continue. In recent weeks there has been the recognition about the importance of a single energy market, we now need to wake up to the other opportunities that exist particularly in developing and growing indigenous business."
Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy has branded a Conservative Party plan to test all Asylum seekers for diseases in order to prevent burdens on the NHS, as a 'typical grubby little right wing Tory plan'.
Mr. Murphy said:
"For a start it is a bit galling for the British Conservative Party to be expressing concerns over the state of the NHS. It was of course the Tories who tried for almost 20 years to run the NHS into the ground.
"Their plan to forcibly test Asylum seekers for diseases is not about concern for the NHS, it is about appealing to a racist and right wing vote in England. The least the Tories could do is be honest about the motivation behind this grubby little ring wing plan.
"And the British Labour government would do better than simply criticise this plan and actually implement a humanitarian approach to the issue of Asylum Seekers here. The first stage along that road would be to release those Asylum Seekers currently interned in Maghaberry without having committed any offence." ENDS
Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Councillor Paul Butler has said he is in no doubt that loyalists were responsible for last nights attack on his home.
Cllr. Butler said:
"At around 11pm last night some sort of device was thrown from a passing car at the front of my home. This is the same address to which loyalists recently posted a bullet.
"I have no doubt that this attack is a response to Sinn Féin's ongoing efforts to highlight sectarian attacks in Lisburn and Dunmurry and our campaign against discrimination on Lisburn City Council.
" While these attacks are clearly very worrying, particularly for my family, I will not be deterred from continuing in my work in Lagan Valley." ENDS