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Sinn Fein Craigavon Councillor John O'Dowd has pledged to continue Sinn Féin's campaign against racism despite receiving hate mail from a white racist group calling itself the November 9th Society - Britain's Nazi Party operating in the Lurgan/Craigavon area.

Cllr O'Dowd said:

"This sort of racist propaganda will not deter Sinn Féin from leading the campaign against racism.

"Sinn Féin locally and nationally have supported the rights of ethnic groups and in Craigavon we have led the campaign to expose those racists who are campaigning against a mosque being built locally.

"The fact that this group of racists feel the need to target a Sinn Féin elected representative in a way shows that the Sinn Féin anti-racism campaign is hitting home. But it is vital that elected representatives, political activists, community and church leaders continue to work within communities and give positive leadership and challenge the twin evils of sectarianism and racism." ENDS

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In response to the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs to actively campaign for a strengthening of the UN mandate in Iraq, and more broadly for a concerted international effort to strengthen and reform the organisation. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Following the worst attack on a UN civilian mission in its history which injured more than a hundred people, and killed more than a dozen including UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello, this is a day of mourning for all of us who care deeply about the United Nations and its unique and important positive role in world affairs. I fully agree with Minister Cowen that this inexcusable attack is an assault on the entire international community. I extend my condolences to all survivors, families of the wounded and dead, and UN personnel.

"I now call on the Taoiseach and the Minister to ensure that these deaths are not in vain. For too long the UN has been underfunded and undermined and thus rendered vulnerable and unable to work effectively in many situations. The UN's unnecessarily limited mandate in Iraq is a prime example of this. Let this tragedy now spur this Government to campaign actively for an expansion of the UN mandate in Iraq ? a mandate that should have been exclusive from Day One. Let Ireland also use its upcoming Presidency of the EU to spearhead a campaign to restore proper respect and adequate capacity to the UN through a programme of proper resourcing and comprehensive reform.

"The UN needs Ireland's backing now more than ever before. Let this Government spare no effort to restore the international body to its rightful place at the centre of world affairs." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Trade and Enterprise Arthur Morgan TD has said that if the government gives in to the demands of huge international retailers and increases the permitted size of retail units it would "rip the social and economic heart out of towns and villages the length and breadth of this state".

Deputy Morgan was responding to reports that the Government was considering changing the rules to benefit retailers trying to build huge out-of-town superstores.

He said:

"There is no justification for even contemplating changing the current rules that guide the size retail units. This is not about competition and protecting consumer rights. This is about a weak government being bullied by international retailers with their threats to refuse to set up in Ireland. If these retailers can't operate under the current guidelines then that is their problem not ours. Small and localised indigenous companies who are operating

successfully under the current guidelines must not be penalised or punished by the government capitulating to the insatiable demands of profit and power hungry corporate giants seeking total global dominance in a particular market or for a particular product.

"If the Government gives in to these demand and agrees to increase the size of retail units then they will be responsible for ripping the social and economic heart out of towns and villages the length and breadth of this state.

"The reality is that these retailers are not looking to add competition to the Irish market they are looking to wipe out the indigenous retailer. Not alone will this a have a detrimental effect on the workforces of these companies but it will ultimately lead to less choices for consumers as they are forced through necessity to shop at the big out-of-town centres." ENDS

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Speaking after meeting the Steele Review Panel looking into safety at Maghaberry, Sinn Féin Representative Raymond McCartney 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. It is now a question of when and how segregation will be applied across the board.

"It is a question of commonsense. It is a question of safety.

"Sinn Féin has consistently opposed the actions of these micro groups who have little or no support or strategy. However, it is clear that forced integration does not work. There is no logic in trying to force politically hostile prisoners to live together in prison.

"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. ENDS

Speaking after meeting the Steele Review Panel looking into safety at Maghaberry, Sinn Féin Representative Raymond McCartney 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. It is now a question of when and how segregation will be applied across the board.

"It is a question of commonsense. It is a question of safety.

"Sinn Féin has consistently opposed the actions of these micro groups who have little or no support or strategy. However, it is clear that forced integration does not work. There is no logic in trying to force politically hostile prisoners to live together in prison.

"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. ENDS

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Speaking after an event held in Belfast's Linenhall Library today in support of Children's rights Sinn Féins MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew said:

"It is crucial that events such as this contribute in raising public awareness about the key issue of children's rights. I congratulate the organisers of this event. Society must be compelled to recognise that the child's best interests are paramount.

"The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child contains only the minimum rights protections, this makes it important that for any Bill of Rights to incorporate the UN Convention it must also include separately formulated rights that raise the bar for the level of protection. This is particularly necessary in a society that has experienced a conflict, which affected so many children.

"The litmus test of any Bill of Rights that deals with Children and Young people's rights will be whether those rights will be given affect by accessible enforcement mechanisms that can make a real difference in the lives of our children and young people.

"As the organisers of today's event have already indicated, a Bill of Rights alone cannot ensure the right of children to play a constructive role in society. The state must also commit itself and its resources to ensuring that children and young people can secure their rights within a stable and peaceful political environment." ENDS

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Commenting on reports that the UUP Executive has received the necessary number of signatures from the 'No' camp to trigger a meeting of the UUC, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP said:

"The pandering policy of the British government to every whim of rejectionist unionism is having the effect of crippling the entire peace process. This pandering to unionism is what has driven the decision of the British government to suspend the political institutions and cancel the Assembly elections.

"The approach of the British government to managing the peace process has given succour to those within rejectionist unionism who wish to see the Agreement fail. This has led to the implementation of the Agreement becoming dependent on the whim of the repeatedly recalled UUC.

"The British government need to remember that the Good Friday Agreement is an international treaty, overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of this island. It is not the property of the grey suits within the UUC who seem to have been given power over its implementation.

"If progress is to be achieved the British government need to end this policy and place the implementation of the Agreement before the internal demands of the UUP." ENDS

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Speaking on the day the Major Charles Ingram left the British Army after being dismissed for cheating on a game show, Sinn Féin Representative for North Belfast Kathy Staunton said:

"Charles Ingram leaves the British Army today after being dismissed for cheating on a game show. Also today in the same army the convicted murders of Peter McBride will lift weapons and go about their duties as normal.

"When these two cases are contrasted it shows the hypocrisy and double standards which operate at the core of the British Military Establishment. They deem cheating on a game show a sackable offence yet gunning down an unarmed Irish teenager his own country yards from his front door does not merit such action." ENDS

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Newry Armagh Sinn Féin representative Conor Murphy has accused British securocrats of continuing their covert activities and has questioned why members of a British Army foot patrol photographed his home on Monday evening.

Former MLA Conor Murphy said:

"On Monday evening several British Army foot patrols accompanied by members of the PSNI were seen on the main road passing my home in Camlough. One particular patrol stopped and took a series of photographs of my house. This is a very worrying development for my family and myself.

"For many years British Army and Special Branch files have been a primary source of information for unionist paramilitaries. On many occasions I have highlighted the long history of collusion, which has resulted in the deaths of nationalists and republicans. This latest development is nothing less than state intimidation and an attempt to silence Sinn Féin and myself from demanding the truth about collusion.

"I have also written to British direct rule Minister Jane Kennedy asking her to explain why the British Army are photographing the homes of elected representatives. I have also questioned who has access to this information and where is it stored. We need answers as to why the British Army continue to gather and collate information on elected representatives. This is clear evidence that the securocrats within the British administration continue their covert activities. I have also raised this matter with Brian Cowen and the Irish Foreign Affairs Department in Dublin." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that nationalists and republicans are 'sick and tired of the double standards which operate at the heart of the judiciary in the six counties'. The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP's remarks come after loyalist Jim Fulton, who faces 64 charges, including murder, had his bail conditions varied to enable him to travel to England with his defence team where he will be staying with one of his co-accused.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Nationalists and republicans are sick and tired at the sectarian double standards which operate at the heart of the judiciary in the north. In recent times we have seen the judiciary in the six counties release on bail a leading loyalist caught with a firearm in the middle of an internecine

loyalist turf war and a man was convicted of assembling intelligence information on a Sinn Féin councillor received a suspended sentence. Last month an RIR member accused of stealing firearms and ammunition was granted bail and Jim Fulton was previously given a judges blessing to attend the Twelfth parades.

This runs in stark contrast to recent cases involving nationalists such as North Belfast man John O'Hagan who has been held in custody awaiting trial on documents charges for 17 months with no prospect yet of a trial or bail.

"At the core of the criminal justice system in the six counties are the Diplock judges. These are the men who rubber-stamped the Special Branch activity in the torture centres. The men who refused to back Sinn Féin Councillors in their demands for security measures on their homes, and who continue to operate with a blatant anti-Catholic securocrat agenda. Nationalists will never have confidence in the Criminal Justice System as long as this ethos is allowed to operate."ENDS

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Sinn Féin North Belfast Representative Cathy Staunton has accused Alban Maginness of 'either sleeping through the negotiations or not being part of the SDLP negotiation team'. Ms Staunton's comments come after Mr Maginness claimed that Sinn Féin did not raise the issue of ex-prisoners reintegration during the talks and in subsequent negotiations.

Ms Staunton said:

"This is not a new issue. Sinn Féin has raised this issue consistently as part of the conflict resolution process. If there had not been a political conflict there would not have been political prisoners. Sinn Féin has always demanded that barriers to ex-POWs integration back into their communities are removed.

"These records have been used to discriminate against former political prisoners across a range of areas and they should be removed.

"This issue was raised by Sinn Féin during the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement and since and as such remains an issue to be resolved. If Alban Maginness believes otherwise then he was either sleeping through the negotiations or was not part of the SDLP negotiation team." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs Seán Crowe speaking following the publication of the Watson Wyatt's Top Management Compensation Report for Western Europe said that it shows that "it is time for this Government to stand up to the richest people in Irish society, and stand up for the poorest." The report, shows that the wages of Irish executives will rise 5.8% in 2003, second fastest in Europe.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "In terms of income distribution Ireland is one of the most unequal countries in the EU and OECD. During the lifetime of this Government it has systematically set about widening that gap with its every action.

"In 1987 6.2% of households were below the relative income poverty line. By 2000 this had increased to almost 12% and one third of households were below 60% of the average income.

"This latest report shows that the people profiting from the economic boom are the investors and the executives. The wealth of this nation is produced by workers, not by businessmen and women who often take their profits out of the country. IBEC calls on Irish workers to show wage restraint, but when the executives and top business people get massive pay rises, IBEC's calls for such restraint are conspicuously absent.

"The rapidly rising pay of these executives should also be seen in the context of Government policy, which is to give the largest tax breaks to the richest sections of Irish society.

"Sinn Féin is serious about redistributing the wealth of Ireland and building a country of equals. We are ready to increase taxes for the rich and well-off and use this money to tackle the urgent social problems in this State. It is time for this Government to stand up to the richest people in Irish society, and stand up for the poorest." ENDS

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e of the republican and nationalist community in his ability to carry out his duties. So far he has failed to do this. More immediately the British Ministry of Defence must move to dismiss the killers of Peter McBride from their ranks." ENDS

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quired. Now Mr Trimble has chosen to try and exploit the brutal murder of west Belfast man Danny McGurk in a cynical attempt to score cheap political points.

"The best contribution which Mr Trimble could make to achieving stability would be to remove his opposition to the inclusive political institutions and begin demanding that the British Government proceed with the Assembly elections." ENDS

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Commenting on today's publication by the Human Rights Commission of submissions made by the public on the Bill of Rights issue, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality, Bairbre de Brún said:

"The general public has widely and positively responded to the need to engage with the Bill of Rights as part of the Good Friday Agreement. This obviously needs to be built upon in the time ahead to ensure that civic society, alongside the political parties, can generate the maximum agreement for a comprehensive Bill of Rights for all.

"However, as we have stated publicly in recent weeks, there is deep concern around the fact that a quarter of the Human Rights Commission have resigned on matters specifically related to the Commission's approach to key equality and parity of esteem issues in the draft Bill of Rights and in relation to the highly questionable actions of the Chief Commissioner with regard to matters around the Holy Cross situation.

"It is our view that both internal and external impediments have produced a Human Rights Commission that is unfortunately not the fully independent and effective champion of human rights that was outlined in the Good Friday Agreement.

"The HRC needs to reflect on this as it launches the hundreds of submissions it received as a testimony to the multiple human rights issues that need to be addressed within our society.

"The British government should also seriously reflect and ensure that the HRC is provide with the fill range of powers and resources it needs to carry out its remit, Crucial to the future credibility of the Commission is the need to be representative of the society it serves. The current composition is not. It is therefore the responsibility of the British government to immediately put in place an independent appointments mechanism." ENDS

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Commenting on the suspension of two consultants at Cavan General Hospital, Cavan/Monaghan TD and Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

"I welcome the news that the consultants have been suspended and that an inquiry process has been initiated. This has been a long-running dispute at Cavan General Hospital and a real cause of concern to staff and patients alike. It has added to the pressure on the hospital during the past year after the Accident and Emergency unit at Monaghan was taken off call. This placed an added burden on Cavan, as did the closure of the maternity unit at Monaghan.

"The Health Board executive must now ensure that the suspensions cause minimum disruption to patient services, as they promise in their statement.

"The Committee of Inquiry into this matter to be established by the Minister for Health and Children should also examine the role of the Health Board executive to ensure that they acted appropriately and with due speed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson Conor Murphy has said that the British government must 'reinvigorate the political process through a sustained effort to re-establish the political institutions rather than close it down through lack of activity'.

Mr. Murphy said:

" In two months the political institutions will have been suspended for a full year. Despite this anniversary approaching there seems to be a lack of intensive effort from the British government to see the political institutions re-established and a date for the Assembly elections set.

" The British government must reinvigorate the political process through a sustained effort to re-establish the political institutions rather than close it down through lack of activity.

" The political institutions are at the core of the Good Friday Agreement and elections to them are an essential democratic imperative. Open-ended suspension of the institutions and a continuing failure to set a date for the Assembly elections is not an option for the British government if confidence in this process is to be re-built." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan has described Tom Parlon's remarks at the Parnell Summer School in support of property speculators as "right wing posturing" designed to woo his PD colleagues in advance of a leadership battle between himself and Michael McDowell when Mary Harney steps down.

Deputy Morgan said, "Tom Parlon has learned quickly at the feet of the governments ideologues of the right, McCreevy and McDowell. His right wing posturing aimed at wooing his PD colleagues in advance of a battle with McDowell for the leadership of the far right minority party is pathetic.

"Minister Parlon's defence of the role of greedy property speculators at the Parnell Summer School over the weekend and in interviews today clearly shows how out of touch and detached from public opinion and the public good that he and his Government have become. If he thinks Parnell and Davitt spent the long years of the land war struggling to create a state in which the rights of profiteers would be so inflated as to deprive ordinary people of housing it is time he re-read the history of that period.

"The land of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland and the right of people to housing will always take precedence over the profit making interest of landowners.

"The mere fact that this crisis has been allowed to get so out of hand illustrates the necessity for clarity in the constitution to give a more explicit protection to the common good. The constitution committee must act in the interest of the thousands of Irish people because this government certainly has no intention of doing so. It has abandoned those who find themselves unable to afford current house prices, who are trapped in an unregulated private rented sector, who are on housing waiting lists or who are homeless.

"It is quiet simple - Tom Parlon could not give a damn that thousands of Irish people are homeless. He does not give a damn about the countless number of homeless people he walks by each day as he makes his way to his office to spend his day defending the free market economy and wielding the auction hammer in publicity stunts to promote the sale of state property to the same speculators whose rights he does not hesitate to valiantly defend." ENDS

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Commenting on a report by the Commissioner for Judicial Appointments, John Simpson, Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly said:

Gerry Kelly said:

"The judiciary in the north is partisan and unrepresentative and does not enjoy the support or confidence of the nationalist and republican community. Recent judgements concerning the refusal to grant bail to nationalists while bending over backwards to facilitate loyalists attending Twelfth parades has served to underline this.

"During the negotiations Sinn Féin argued for mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that an acceptable and representative judiciary is put in place. We welcome any moves along this road and will look closely at today's report." ENDS

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Commenting after Freddie Scapatticci's case for full disclosure was dismissed in the High Court this morning, Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"A number of months ago British Intelligence comprehensively briefed the British and Irish media. Faceless and nameless securocrats in British Intelligence made a raft of serious but unsubstantiated allegations against Freddie Scapatticci.

"Mr. Scapatticci has denied the allegations in categoric terms. These allegations were made by the same people who

  • killed Pat Finucane;
  • ran Brian Nelson and used him and other agents to control and direct loyalist death squads against republicans, nationalists and Catholics;
  • continue to control and direct the unionist paramilitaries;
  • continue to target and gather intelligence, not just on Sinn Fein, but also on their own government;
  • at every turn of the peace process maliciously leak and brief misinformation to create crises and to bolster anti-agreement elements.

"This morning's judgement in the High Court will have the effect of providing further cover for the activities of these faceless and unaccountable agencies who made the allegations against Freddie Scapatticci. There should be full disclosure and an examination of the activities of British Intelligence Agencies." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has accused the SDLP's John Dallat of losing the plot and engaging in silly season antics in a desperate attempt to get publicity. She said that 'Sinn Féin is serious about the peace process, serious about ending world debt and serious about bringing about Irish unity, but you would have to ask yourself what do the SDLP stand for.'

Ms. Gildernew said:

"As part of the development of the peace process Sinn Féin has engaged widely with both Irish America and successive American administrations. The benefit of this engagement, to everybody on this island, is obvious. In order to support this project and to advance the case for Irish unity Sinn Féin fundraises in the United States. The reason why we have been so successful in this regard is because of the leading role that we have taken in the peace process and our clear policy of building a united Ireland.

"This is something that, despite repeated efforts, the SDLP has failed to do over the last number of years. I think that this is more a case of the green eyed monster rather than a serious argument for political parties funding charity.

"To add insult to injury John Dallat then belittles the issue of world poverty in a cheap attempt to attack our party.

"The issue of ending world debt and the collective responsibility that we all face in bringing it about is a serious priority for Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams has raised the matter with the White House and the British and Irish governments.

"The debt burden faced by developing countries is overwhelming. The UN has estimated that if the funds to pay off debt were diverted back into health and education the lives of seven million children a year could be saved. That is two million more than the entire population of this island. We are involved in trying to put this critical issue on the highest political agenda not cheap point scoring." ENDS

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