Commenting on an attack last night on the newly built home of a Catholic family in Desertmartin, South Derry, local Sinn Féin Councillor Sean Kerr said:
" This Catholic family were preparing to move into their newly built home in the Desertmartin area. This despite the fact that loyalists have already attacked the home five times during its construction.
" There is clearly a very active group of unionist paramilitaries operating in the South Derry area at this time. There have been attempts to intimidate Catholics from areas in Magherafelt and now we have this sectarian attack in Desertmartin.
" I would call on the political leadership of unionism in this area to make it clear to the paramilitaries operating from within their community that sectarian attacks on Catholics must stop. This family must be allowed to move into their home without fear of further threat or attack." ENDS
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster representative Cllr Francie Molloy has criticised the latest announcement that over £280 million has been redistributed from the original budget decisions.
Former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, Cllr Molloy said:
"While the announcement of money being redistributed within the block grant provides a short term injection of money to meet urgent needs in areas such as health and education the reality is that such a high level of budget redistribution is bad financial management and undermines long term planning.
"This weak financial management is a legacy of two previous SDLP Finance Ministers who were obsessed with the New Labour approach to budget management. Sean Farren and Mark Durkan enjoyed making announcements about 'new' money being redistributed in the belief that it 'looked good' but the reality is that it was never 'new' money.
"Moving such large sums around between departments highlights a weakness in budgetary planning. Departments need to know exactly what resources are available to allow for programme development and staff planning. It also disguises the fact that the block grant allocated through the Barnett formula is insufficient to meet our pressing needs." ENDS
Chairman of Save Lisadell Action Committee and Mayor of Sligo, Alderman Sean MacManus has expressed 'grave concerns‚ at reports that the private sale of the historic Lisadell House and Estate may be concluded within the next day'.
Calling on Minister Cullen to intervene to secure the house for the people of Ireland, Mayor MacManus said:
"The case for state ownership of Lisadell House is overwhelming. This has been made clear to both Minister Cullen and the Taoiseach by myself on behalf of the Save Lisadell Action Committee. Sligo County Council has also indicated their willingness to become involved in the future running of this potentially major tourist attraction. I now call on the Government to take immediate action in line with the wishes of the people of Ireland."ENDS
Speaking after Conor Murphy and himself met with British Direct Rule Minister John Spellar this afternoon, South Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Cllr Alex Maskey said:
"At this afternoons meeting we raised a range of key issues with the Minister which require the urgent attention of the British Government, including aspects of the Good Friday Agreement which remain outstanding.
"We deliberately raised with Mr Spellar the case of the killers of Peter McBride who remain part of the British Army, as a result of a decision which he participated in, and we raised the issue of British State involvement in the murder of citizens in the six counties.
"Another area of concern we discussed with Mr Spellar was the crisis of confidence which exists around the Human Rights Commission at this time and the increase in racially motivated attacks across the north.
"We will continue engaging with both governments and the other parties in the time ahead and press strongly our belief that we need to see the British Government setting a firm date for the cancelled Assembly elections." ENDS
The five Sinn Féin TDs have strongly criticised the current military saturation of parts of South Armagh which is causing serious concern and anger among local residents. The five have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen to request that he insist that the British authorities bring an end to the unwanted and unwarranted intrusion. They have also passed on details of specific incidents to the Anglo-Irish section of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Speaking on behalf of the five TDs Martin Ferris said:
"While much has been made of the relative peace of the loyalist marching season, the people of South Armagh are currently living under virtual siege.
"This is making it increasingly impossible for communities to get on with their daily lives as local businesses, sporting events and religious ceremonies have been deliberately disrupted by the activities of unwelcome and unnecessary British troops. Furthermore, none of this can be in any way justified by any alleged 'security situation'.
"We have written to Minister Cowen to request that the Irish Government demands that the British authorities put a stop to this, and to insist that they abide by their commitment to implement the agreed, albeit limited, demilitarisation of this part of Armagh". ENDS
Commenting on the commencement of the Hutton Inquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly, Sinn Féin representative for North Belfast Kathy Staunton said:
" In the immediate aftermath of the death of arms expert Dr. David Kelly, Tony Blair moved to establish a judicial inquiry. That inquiry commenced this morning only a week after Dr. Kelly was buried.
" Contrast this with the treatment of the family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane. It is fourteen years since his murder through collusion yet the British government is still actively resisting an independent judicial inquiry.
" The failure to establish an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane and other victims of collusion is part of an attempt to cover up the policy of state sanctioned murder in Ireland." ENDS
West Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Hartley has said that it is only through good fortune that nobody was seriously injured after houses in the Cupar Street area came under petrol bomb attack from loyalists on both Saturday and Sunday night.
Cllr. Hartley said:
" As the West Belfast Festival drew to a close at the weekend homes in Cupar Street came under attack from petrol bombers in Mayo Link on the unionist side of the peaceline.
" On Saturday night ten devices were thrown and last night twelve landed in gardens in the nationalist Cupar Street area.
" So far this summer has been relatively quiet and I can only hope that these sustained attacks are not an attempt to restart tensions along this interface. I have been in discussions with local community leaders this morning and it is my hope that some sort of dialogue can take place today to ensure that we do not have a repeat of the last two nights attacks." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications Seán Crowe TD has welcomed as a positive first step the announcement from mobile phone operator O2 (Ireland) that they are to introduce an All Ireland Call Rate for business users and ordinary consumers.
Deputy Crowe said: "This announcement from O2 (Ireland) is a positive first step towards the development of a truly All Ireland mobile call rate. Up to now it has been a source of immense frustration and anger for people travelling to the Six Counties both on pleasure and business as they incur charges for receiving calls once they cross the border as a result of so-called 'roaming' charges.
Specifically it has hit people in the border regions hardest where crossing the border is a normal everyday and natural occurence. It is also a fact that in many areas the signals from mobile phone masts in the Six Counties are often stronger than in the 26 Counties so people close to the border can be charged for 'roaming' calls when they don't even leave the jurisdiction.
"To most people the border has lost any real relevance. Social and economic contact is increasing all the time and O2's announcement is an acknowledgement of that fact. I would call on the other mobile phone operators in the 26 Counties to follow the example of O2 and introduce similar all Ireland rates for their customers."
"While this development is welcome for business users and ordinary consumers in the 26 Counties it needs to be matched by mobile phone operators in the Six Counties. O2 (UK) should in conjunction with O2 (Ireland) launch a similar rate for people in the Six Counties travelling to the 26 Counties. There is absolutely no justification whatsoever for people being charged for roaming calls while still on the island of Ireland by any network."ENDS
Speaking at the launch of the Law Centre's 'Sanctuary in a Cell' report into the plight of Asylum Seekers in the Six Counties, Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy said:
" This is an updated version of a report made public three years ago. At that time it made 33 recommendations. Despite a Sinn Féin motion to the Assembly which was unanimously passed calling for these recommendations to be adopted only 1 of the 33 has been accepted by the British Home Office.
" The current British policy regarding those fleeing persecuting in their own country has been to lock them up as criminals inside Maghaberry prison. This practice can only be described as internment and has included young children and pregnant woman. This sort of treatment is unacceptable and must end.
" The British Home Office need to take note of this report and face up to this issue. So far attempts by local politicians to meet the British Home Office to discuss the internment of Asylum Seekers in Maghaberry have been ignored and they have so far resisted calls to end this disgraceful practice." ENDS
North Belfast Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly has welcomed today's meeting between Jean McBride and British Minister John Spellar.
Mr Kelly said:
" The McBride family had been keen to meet with Mr Spellar given his role in the Army Board which retained the killers of Peter McBride in the British Army after their murder convictions. Initially Mr Spellar had refused to meet with the McBride family.
" This was an issue which was of concern to nationalists in general and Sinn Féin in particular given that his responsibilities covered Human Rights. We raised this with Mr Spellar and his office on a number of occasions. I welcome the fact that a meeting between Mr Spellar and the McBride family has now taken place.
" Sinn Féin will continue to raise the case of Peter McBride with the British government at every opportunity." ENDS
Sinn Féin Representatives Alex Maskey and Conor Murphy will this afternoon meet with British Direct Rule Minister John Spellar at Castle Buildings at 2pm. The meeting will discuss the cancelled Assembly elections, the Human Rights Commission and the need to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented.
Cllr. Maskey said:
" This afternoon's meeting will provide an opportunity for us to again demand from the British government a date certain for the Assembly elections. It is obvious to us all that the political institutions are at the very centre of the Agreement.
" The absence of these institutions and the cancellation of the Assembly elections by the British government has put great pressure on the entire process. As has ongoing and very public difficulties within the Human Rights Commission.
" This situation has been worsened by the British government pandering to negative and reactionary unionism. As we head this week into yet another round of internal unionist wrangling we will make it clear that if the crisis is to be resolved we need to see a date set for the elections and we need to see the political institutions re-established." ENDS
Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy will attend the launch of the updated Law Centre 'Sanctuary in a Cell' report into the situation regarding Asylum Seekers in the six counties tomorrow morning (Monday 11th) at 10.30am in the Equality Commission. Speaking in advance of the launch Mr. Murphy said:
"This report was first launched two years ago and a Sinn Féin motion to the Assembly calling for its recommendations to be implemented was unanimously passed. Unfortunately two years on the situation which Asylum Seekers in the six counties find themselves in has not improved.
"People, including pregnant women and children who have committed no offence are being interned in Maghaberry. This is a breach of the most basic human rights standards. Indeed the British government have even refused to meet with local politicians to discuss this situation, preferring instead to try and minimise publicity and minimise the fact that they are engaging in human rights abuses.
" Irish Republicans have an affinity with those people who are victims of oppressive and undemocratic regimes in their own homelands and we have an affinity with those being interned without having committed any offence. We will continue to highlight this issue and campaign for an end to the internment of Asylum Seekers in Maghaberry."ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Marylou McDonald has called on people throughout Dublin to support the search for truth in relation to British state collusion with unionist paramilitaries which caused the deaths of hundreds of people throughout Ireland, including people in Dublin City. She called on people to attend the march and rally against collusion which will take place in Belfast tomorrow, Sunday 10th August at 3pm.
Ms. McDonald said:
"British state collusion with unionist paramilitaries has taken a heavy toll on lives throughout Ireland, including our capital city. In December 1972 and January 1973 three bus workers were killed, in May 1974 in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings 26 people died in Dublin and in May 1994 Martin Doherty was killed having foiled an attempted bombing of the Widow Scallan's pub in Dublin. The full extent of British operations in the 26 Counties or the role of Irish government ministers has never been revealed
"This weekend thousands of people, from all over Ireland will be marching in Belfast in support of the families of hundreds of people believed to have been killed as a direct consequence of Britain's collusion strategy. We will be calling for collusion to stop and for the truth to be revealed. I am calling on people throughout Dublin to support the campaign for the truth and to attend the march and rally against collusion which will take place in Belfast tomorrow."ENDS
Commenting on the latest statistics from the EU (Eurostat, Statistics in Focus, Population and Social Conditions, No 20/2003) which show that Ireland has lowest life expectancy in Europe Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said:
"The lower than EU average life expectancy in this State is a damning indictment of successive governments, but especially the FF-PD administration of the past six years. Government policies have widened the gap between rich and poor and it is those on lower income who suffer more from ill-health and reduced life expectancy. This brings down the national average life expectancy. It is a direct result of our grossly unequal economy and our crisis-ridden health service." ENDS
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, West Belfast representative Cllr Sue Ramsey has welcomed the decision of the Eastern Health Board to implement a continuous admissions service for emergency medical admissions but urged management at the Royal Victoria Hospital to ensure that the Falls Road entrance to the hospital remains open on a permanent 24-hour basis.
Cllr Ramsey said:
"Sinn Féin have argued that once the infrastructure was in place that there was a need for continuous admissions service for emergency medical admissions at the Royal. This decision has to be welcomed.
"However, it is vital in addressing issues around access that the management at the Royal Victoria Hospital ensure that the Falls Road entrance to the hospital remains open on a permanent 24 hour basis.
"Sinn Féin have received a number of complaints from hospital users and staff about the closure of the Falls Road entrance to the hospital. Whether by design or otherwise the closure of the Falls Road doors grossly inconveniences the normally large numbers of people who wish to access the hospital at this point."ENDS
Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson, Bairbre de Brún speaking after meeting British Minster John Spellar has said that the British government must act on equality and human rights‚ commitments in the Good Friday Agreement.
Ms de Brún said:
"Sinn Féin requested this meeting to discuss how the provisions of the two governments‚ Joint Declaration will deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, particularly dealing with the Equality and Human Rights elements of the Agreement and with the core mechanisms established to advance and protect these.
"The British 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 an independent and effective manner. We need to look at a restructuring that will include the composition and appointments, the powers and resources of the Commission. The Human Rights Commission is broken. It needs fixed.
"The Equality agenda must not be slowed down or frustrated. The British government must send out the signal that discrimination will not be tolerated and will be tackled vigorously.
"There must be economic development and investment in areas of greatest need allowing communities, whether nationalist or unionist, to receive help commensurate with the level of need they experience. This will assure everyone that decisions will be taken on the basis of objective need." ENDS
Note to Editors: The Sinn Féin delegation led by Bairbre de Brún included West Belfast councillor Chrissie McAuley and Upper Bann representative Dr Dara O‚Hagan.
Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has accused the DUP's Gregory Campbell of playing a dangerous game by distorting the reality of spending ands disadvantage figures.
Ms Gildernew said:
"Gregory is playing a dangerous game by distorting these figures. He is feeding into a sectarian analysis of need. The reality is that the Irish language is more widely used than Ulster Scots with 10% of the population having a knowledge of Irish. There has also been an explosion in the popularity of Irish medium education. In sport, in terms of both participation and support, Gaelic games have a substantial and growing popularity.
"Gregory also quotes selectively from a recent report into the allocation of European funding. 56% of its three-year budget went to nationalist areas precisely because there is a greater objective need largely as a result of discrimination. Gregory also fails to mention the fact that Catholics are still more likely to be unemployed and suffer greater deprivation.
"As for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, if the British government stopped obstructing the search for truth and opened the files then progress would be relatively quick and the costs greatly reduced.
"Instead of admitting that Unionism, through its political power and the use of violence, has created division and structural discrimination against Catholics Gregory is feeding the myth that somehow the Peace Process discriminates against Protestants. This is untrue.
"The DUP would serve their own community better if they were honest with them. It is time for the DUP to recognise that there must be economic development and investment in areas of greatest need allowing communities, whether nationalist or unionist, to receive help commensurate with the level of need they experience. This will assure everyone that decisions will be taken on the basis of objective need." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokespersons on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD and Assembly member Gerry McHugh, and the party's European election candidate for Dublin Mary Lou MacDonald have questioned the support given by the Vatican for genetically modified food.
Deputy Ferris said:
"Both the ethical and scientific arguments against Genetically Modified Food have raged for many years, we the Irish people have never had the opportunity to air these views, and to counter the arguments put by the GM corporations. It was for this reason that we held a press conference on July 29 calling on both the Irish, and 6 county administration, to hold a simultaneous public consultation.
"The arguments for Irish agriculture are straight forward. We are a small country who cannot compete with larger countries in producing bulk commodities, and whatever the large GM corporations say there is no economic benefit for Ireland to grow GM crops. However the debate is much more complex than just economics. It has become enormously political. This can be seen in the way the U S government has endorsed Genetic Engineering, the manner in which President Bush criticised the E U for failing to adopt GM food and the strong link that the current American administration has to GM companies.
Mr McHugh said:
"This political argument has been seen as the main reason Michael Meacher was removed from his Ministerial post to the back benches, for his total opposition to GM food. The Blair government is setting the stage for the formal adoption of GM food later this year. All this comes on the back of the EU decision to adopt regulations on the labelling of GM food and the co-existence guidelines which prohibit national or regional governments from banning the use of GM organisms. This huge political support for GM food is a tremendous boost to the GM companies. They can refer to this support as a benchmark for the safety and the positive benefits which they say Genetic Engineering has.
"But last week possibly the most important and certainly the most symbolic endorsement of GM food came from the Holy See, in which the Vatican stated that GM holds " - the answer to world starvation and malnutrition". The Vatican goes on to say " - that the future of humanity is at stake and that there is no room for the ideological arguments advanced by environmentalists". This argument does not stand up. India has over 300 million undernourished people and yet can produce a grain surplus of 60 million tons. Food surpluses exist throughout Asia so it is wrong to say that G M is need to resolve world starvation.
"How will GM food feed the people of the third world who are currently starving because they cannot access food, food production processes or simply cannot afford to buy it? The GM companies have developed terminator technology to prevent this year's harvested seed, being re-grown next year. They have removed the gene that allows the seed to germinate. This will mean that farmers who have no money now will have to purchase seed every year from the GM company. This seed will also have a patent, which ensures the company have the full economic rights to charge whatever they like.
Mary Lou McDonald added:
"From a consumer perspective, the safety of GM has not been proven. The GM companies will not guarantee that there will be no side affects, and at the same time many scientists have grave concerns about the future impacts on human health. There is no guarantee that the genes from animals transferred into plants will not cross into the human food system.. Indeed the whole process of gene transfer is a very difficult one with no apparent accuracy as to where the gene will attach itself. There are also deep concerns that the inserted gene may produce a protein that is toxic to humans. The GM companies do not have to carry out toxicological tests for each new GM food, and there are no set acceptable daily intakes (ASI's) for G M food.
"Dozens of Non governmental organisation such as Friends of the Earth; and others who specifically work in third world countries, with undernourished children and communities are totally opposed to the introduction of GM. Given the esteem that the Vatican holds, and the influence this decision will have on millions in the developing world we are calling on the leadersof Irelands Catholic population to set out the economic, scientific and environmental reasons for the Vatican decision on GM.
"We are firmly of the opinion that the best way to resolve the needs of the starving is for Europe to lead the world in cancelling the debt of impoverished nations, the UN has estimated that if the funds to pay off debt were diverted into health and education the lives of seven million children a year could be saved. There is also a need for fair trade principles to be established at the forthcoming WTO talks in Cancún in September, so that barriers can be brought down to allow third world countries access to European markets." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today appealed to people to support Sunday's march and City Hall rally against collusion. The West Belfast MP said:
"Collusion involves the sharing of information, weapons and membership between the British military and intelligence networks and unionist paramilitaries. To improve efficiency British military intelligence reorganised and rearmed unionist murder gangs in the 1980's. Hundreds of people were killed and many more injured and maimed in a campaign of state sponsored murder.
"The British agencies that executed this policy remain in place. RUC Special Branch is now the PSNI Special Branch. The British Army Force Research Unit has been renamed the Joint Services Group and MI5 continues to operate as before.
"No member of the Special Branch or British military Intelligence has been indicted for these crimes. This policy of collusion has never been reversed. It remains intact today.
"The truth about the role of the British government and its agencies is long overdue. The families of those who died as a result of a collusion policy have a right to the truth and in their pursuit of the truth deserve the support of the wider community.
"On August 10 Sinn Fein in conjunction with the families of victims of the collusion policy will stage a march to and rally at Belfast City Hall. By attending in large numbers we can add to the mounting pressure on the British government to place the details of this policy in the public domain.
"Its time for the truth about collusion." ENDS
Antrim Sinn Féin Councillor Martin McManus has accused the PSNI of deliberately endangering the lives of himself and his family. Cllr. McManus' allegation comes after the PSNI wrote to his solicitor and claimed to have visited Cllr. McManus on April 26th and advised him of a death threat. No such visit took place and no warning was received by Cllr. McManus or any member of his family.
Cllr. McManus said:
"Recently a loyalist was convicted of possessing the details of a Sinn Féin Councillor in Antrim and he received a suspended sentence. After this case my solicitor wrote to the PSNI demanding to know whether or not this information related to me. The PSNI have now written back claiming that the information this man had did not relate to myself.
"However in the letter the PSNI claim that I was informed of a separate threat to my life on April 26th 2003. I was not informed of such a threat. In fact I was actually out of the country on that date and family members have confirmed that the PSNI did not come to my home on that date.
"It seems that the PSNI have information relating to a threat on my life but have decided not to pass that information on to me. In this letter the PSNI have been caught out playing God with peoples lives. Serious questions need to be answered. The PSNI have deliberately endangered not just my life but also the lives of my wife and children." ENDS