Speaking at the annual Coen/Mac Manus Memorial Lecture in Sligo, Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson has said that the Irish government must demonstrate its commitment to the rights of every Irish citizen. S peaking in Sligo today Ms de Brún said:
"The Irish government has two opportunities next week to demonstrate that they will uphold the rights of all Irish citizens. One opportunity will be at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which will discuss the package of measures submitted by the British government in response to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights on 4 May 2001. It is a package of measures that is wholly inadequate.
"The Irish government has a duty of responsibility towards its citizens in this regard, and must stand by the families of those killed at Loughgall, the family of Patrick Shanaghan, the family of Pearse Jordan and the family of Gervaise McKerr.
I am calling on Minister Brian Cowen to ensure that the Irish government
- Makes it clear at the Committee of Ministers that the package of measures is inadequate.
- Contacts other governments about this
- Does not under any circumstances accept the package of measures and
- Meets the families following the 11/12 February meeting of the Committee of Ministers to brief them on the contribution, which the Irish government made at that meeting.
"The other opportunity in this coming week will be at the talks, where they must remind the British government and Unionists of their commitments and impress upon them the need to defend and implement the Good Friday Agreement.
"For many nationalists and republicans there is a serious question mark over David Trimble's willingness, or indeed ability to lead Unionism in support of the Good Friday Agreement. What is clear however is that resistance to change has created yet another crisis in the process. "The present talks Sinn Féin are seeking the full implementation of the GFA as agreed by the British government and the unionists. Yet those same people are seeking more than was agreed, while commitments they have already entered into have not been honoured.
"We neither have the new beginning to policing, nor a criminal justice system that has the support of the whole community. The British government has put in place no rolling programme of demilitarisation. We do not have equality have or the promotion and protection of human rights. Vulnerable communities cannot live free from sectarian harassment as we saw once again in North Belfast last night.
"While loyalist death squads wage war on the catholic community and each other, the British government and the UUP continue to focus on the IRA.
While we hear much speculation in the media, therefore about significant moves by the IRA, this is hardly the climate in which such moves could be expected.
Sinn Fein will continue to play our part in implementing the Good Friday Agreement, but others must play their part also. The two governments must defend the Agreement they signed up to and all aspects of that Agreement must be implemented.
In a specific reference to recent media speculation about a possible move from the IRA, Ms de Brún added:
As Gerry Adams said in Belfast yesterday - Is this the climate for a significant move by the IRA? I hardly think so. Does any one think there will be movement unless everyone moves? Unless the British government honours its obligations?" ENDS
Note to Editors
The European Court of Human Rights delivered judgement on 4th May 2001 in the cases of Jordan v UK, McKerr v UK, Kelly and others v UK and Shanaghan v UK. The Strasbourg court found that in all 4 cases the British government had violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights because of its failure to carry out proper investigations into these deaths.
This week on the 11th and 12th of February the Committee of Ministers will meet to discuss the package of measures put forward by the British government in response to this judgement.
Sinn Féin will hold a Press Conference on Monday 10th February in the Press Conference suite at Stormont to highlight the issues raised by the judgement against the British government and the forth-coming meeting of the European Committee of Ministers. Members of the Jordan, McKerr and Mallon family will also be available to talk to the media.
He went on, 'the current crisis in the peace process is not about the IRA. It is about resistance to change and the growth of Sinn Fein as an engine for change. It is about delaying the equality agenda. It is about the growth of republicanism across this island."
Mr. Adams said:
Sinn Fein has been at the heart of the peace process, of the negotiations and the Good Friday Agreement, and at the heart of the changes which have resulted from all of this.
We continue to drive the process of change. We are committed to achieving the new beginning which was agreed on Good Fridarimble's approach has not changed over the last 5 years.
Over the last five years on several occasions he has sought to have Sinn Féin expelled from the Executive. He has not been successful.
But what he did succeed in doing was to get the British government to act outside the terms of the Agreement and to unilaterally introduce suspension legislation. It is apparent that the British government are pursuing a strategy whereby the survival of David Trimble as leader of the UUP is more important than the survival of the Agreement itself.
And Mr. Trimble has successfully exploited this willingness on the part of London. This approach has been aided by other elements of the British system who are still waging war against republicans.
In the almost 5 years since Good Friday 1998 the political institutions, in a clear breach of the agreement, have been functioning for less than half of that time. On 4 separate occasions, at the behest.
But for many nationalists and republicans there is a serious question mark over whether Mr. Trimble is willing or able to lead Unionism in support of the Good Friday Agreement.
What is clear is that resistance to change has created yet another crisis in the process. And four months into this crisis there is no sign so far that the British government are willing to move effectively to deal with this.
Accordingly we have seen much speculation in the media about a possible move by the IRA.
Let's put all of this into some sort of perspective. In the negotiations Sinn Féin are seeking the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement as agreed by the British government and the unionistcontinue to target republicans.
While Loyalist death squads wage war on the catholic community and each other and their actions temporarily fill our TV screens, the focus continues to be on the Irish Republican Army. Is this the climate for a significant move by the IRA? I hardly think so. Does any one think there will be movement unless everyone moves? Unless the British government honours its obligations?
The current crisis in the peace process is not about the IRA. Of course the existence of the IRA is an affront to its enemies. But this process is about changing all that in a way which will bring an end to all the armed groups. Can that be achieved by ganging up on republicans? Or making movement towards basic rights conditional on movement by the IRA? Or by punishing Sinn Fein voters and other citizens if the IRA doesn't comply with unionist demands.
The underlying problems in the process and the current crisis is about resistance togislation was brought in to deal with the registration of voters here. This legislation has wiped tens of thousands of voters from the register. Every political party is affected by this, but the areas and people most affected are those where Sinn Fein is strongest. Nationalist, working class and young voters have been particularly disenfranchised.This is an issue of democratic rights. Every political party should be concerned about the fact that people are being disenfranchised. It is my very firm view that the motivation behind this legislation is designed to limit Sinn Fein's growth as a political party.
The focus for us must be to thwart the efforts to prevent the process of change. We must continue to build our political strength, and to defend the Good Friday Agreement.
Our party will not dodge our responsibilities in the times ahead. There is no way forward except through negotiations. We are agents of change and our commitment is to play a full role in meeting every challenge in the time ahead.
Sinn Féin Chairperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA for Foyle has called for an investigation into banking practices here following the latest claims by consumer magazine 'Which' that banks here are on occasion charging up to ten times more than their counterparts in Britain.
Mr Mc Laughlin said:
"It has long been claimed by clients and consumer groups that banks here are a law unto themselves. There have been accusations that some penalties imposed by Banks here is nothing short of unscrupulous profiteering by an establishment that has no consideration for its clientele.
The average client does not possess the expertise to compare the myriad of charges that are levied by the various banks. The client is left in a situation in which they believe that they have no choice but to pay whatever charges imposed however unjust theyom banking interests to participate in other schemes being offered by the bank. Unless stringently regulated those least able to afford it will become prey to unregulated banking practices devised by people that have no conception of the difficulties of living on a fixed income.
I am calling on government to set up an independent investigatory body to scrutinise banking practices and if necessary a regulatory body.
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP today led a party delegation to meet with the Electoral Commission to discuss the serious shortfall in the Electoral Register. Speaking after the meeting Mr. Doherty said:
"It was reported this week by the Electoral Office that 18,000 people have been added to the register. This is a mere drop in the ocean when you consider that around 180,000 are missing.
"Sinn Féin have serious concerns about the ability of the Electoral Office to deal effectively with this matter. We need to see from the Commission and the Electoral Office serious, radical and detailed plans to bridge the massive gap between the numbers on the register and the numbers identified by the census returns.
"We also have concerns which we raised with the Commission today about the ability of the current system to deliver on the issue of photographic ID.
There are no indications that the system will be able to cope with demand and have the necessary ID issued before a May election.
"Sinn Féin will return to these matters when the party President Gerry Adams MP meets with the Chief Electoral Officer Denis Stanley on Monday morning."ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh has express anger at the increase of Brucellosis and TB reactors identified in herds here and the deterioration in meeting targets for removal and s laughter.
Mr McHugh said:
"In December we were missing the 15 day target for removing Brucellosis and TB reactors by 4 days for TB and 2 days for Brucellosis. The latest figures from the Department of Agriculture show that the average for removing reactors now stands at 32 days for TB and 21 days for Brucellosis. It is also disappointing that the Chief Veterinary Officer expresses 'satisfaction' at this slippage in meeting the 15-day target identified in December.
"There is a continuing rise in the numbers of Brucellosis and TB reactors in every DVO across the north of Ireland. The number of Brucellosis reactors has jumped by over 27% across the north since December, with a massive jump of over 50% ia delay resulting from insufficient valuers and slaughter capacity. A problem that appears to be deteriorating
"In the last three months there have been over 4350 TB reactors (up from 3,862 in December) and over 200 Brucellosis reactors (up from 161 in December) identified with particularly high levels in Fermanagh, Antrim, Tyrone and Armagh giving rise to concern that not enough is being done.
"This compares very badly with the South where they have practically eradicated Brucellosis and reactors are removed within 4 to 5 working days. In Monaghan and Louth the level is practically nil. This is hitting farmers here who are developing pedigree herds hardest, particularly because of the cap on compensgriculture Minister to ensure that the British Army adhered to movement guidelines when moving through farms but the situation seems to deteriorated further." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD, spoke today in the Dáil on the serious crisis facing Irish farmers at the present time. Among the issues which he referred to were the sharp falls in income, the effects of this years budgetary cutbacks, and the apparent exclusion of farmers representatives from the final phase of the talks on a new Social Partnership deal.
Deputy Ferris said;
"I am only too well aware from meeting with farmers in my own constituency that the sector is in serious crisis at the present moment. Income levels have continued to fall and this has placed thousands more farmers on the poverty line or facing having to leave farming. This has been compounded by the cutbacks in Government investment in agriculture.
"While paying lip service to the notion of modernising farming, the most severe cuts are in education and research, rural development, and in schemes desirm."ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation consisting of, Assembly Group Leader, Conor Murphy MLA, Michele Gildernew MP, MLA, Policing and Justice spokesperson, Gerry Kelly MLA, British Desk co-Ordinator, Dodie Mc Guinness and Louth TD, Arthur Morgan, was the first of the parties to meet with the British/Irish Parliamentary Group at Stormont this morning. The Inter-Parliamentary Group is made up of cross-party Members of the Dáil and the British Houses of Parliament.
Speaking on behalf of the delegation following the meeting Gerry Kelly described it as a "useful exchange of views".
Mr Kelly said:
" We raised a series of issue during our discussions with the Inter-Parliamentary Group empathising the negative impact the British governments continuous suspension of the Institutions is having on the whole process. Other issues that we raised included Policing and Justice, Human Rights, Demilitarisation and Equality.
We reminded the BIIPG that we are now entering into a period of intense discussions that the British government has the power to impact positively on by producing its plan for completion of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD, has expressed his concern at the manner in which the negotiations on a new Social Partnership deal appear to have concluded. He was speaking following claims by farmers' representatives that the talks had failed to address the main issues of concern to farmers.
Deputy Ferris said; "It is vital that all sections of the community have a real input into the framing of a new deal. It is clear, however, that this has not taken place and that farmers along with others have been excluded from the main decisions. That can only spell disaster as we face into a period of sustained budgetary cut backs.
"The monies cut from agricultural and rural development programmes in the Estimates will have severe consequences throughout rural Ireland over the next few years. Now to compound that, farmers' representatives have to all intents and purposes been left out of the finbe made suffer the consequences of this Government's cuts; whether they be the low paid, elderly, sick, or farmers struggling on the poverty line, have once again not had their say."ENDS
"A Bill of Rights without effective protection mechanisms will only raise expectations, which cannot be fulfilled. All sections of society need to have confidence that the failures of the past will not be repeated. The most effective mechanism to ensure that we move forward and give confidence in the future is, we believe, a constitutional court. This would guarantee the provisions of the Bill of Rights, and uphold the principles of human rights as set out in the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice and Equality Aengus Ó Snodaigh this morning attempted to raise in the Dáil, before being ruled 'out of order', the Supreme Court decision that allows for the wholesale deportation of the parents of Irish children simply on the grounds of ethnicity said:
"The Supreme Court decision has reduced thousands of Irish-born children to the status of second class citizens on the basis of their ethnicity alone. This ruling paves the way for the de facto deportation of thousands of these Irish citizens, together with their parents - contravening the rights of these Irish children under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Ireland has ratified. This move will not only encourage racism in Irish society and immigration policy but may also lead to discrimination against women asylum seekers." ENDS
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin TD to "take on the privileged position of consultants" following the latest report which has highlighted their powerful role within the health services. Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed out that the Government had failed to reach the target set out in the National Health Strategy for the conclusion of an agreement on a revised contract for hospital consultants.
Commenting on the leaked report of the Brennan Commission, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"For the second time in a week a study of our health services has identified the privileged position occupied by consultants who manipulate the public health services to facilitate their private practice. The Brennan report recommends clear accountability of consultants including a cap on the number of private patients treated in public hospitals. It urges that consultants be required to plan the use of the resources allocated to them.
"This report comes two days after bed-blocking by consultants, resulting in worsening waiting lists and adding to the crisis A and E situation, was highlighted by the CAPITA report.
"In the National Health Strategy (Action 89) the Government promises that 'greater equity for public patients will be sought on a revised contract for hospital consultants'. This was to be achieved by agreement of a revised contract for hospital consultants by the end of 2002. The Government has missed this target. Yesterday I tabled a Dáil question to the Minister for Health and Children asking when an agreement will be reached on a revised contract for hospital consultants. The Minister was unable to indicate when negotiations will conclude or even whether an agreement will be reached.
"Through their professional bodies the consultants have a veto on the deployment of their services throughout the health system. Too often their decisions are based on the career needs of their profession rather than on the healthcare needs of service users. This must change or else reform of the system will prove impossible.
"It is time the Government really challenged the privileged position of consultants. Contracts must be revised and there must be a new relationship which harnesses the skills and dedication of all health professionals to provide true equity and the best possible care." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Arthur Morgan has called on the Taoiseach in the Dáil this morning to state unequivocally what steps the Government will take in the event of the US taking unilaterally action against Iraq. Before being ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle Deputy Morgan said:
"In the public interest we require urgent consideration of the failure of the Taoiseach to state yesterday in the House the Government's position on what responses they will take in the event of unilateral action by US armed forces in Iraq. We also need a response to the failure of the Government to schedule a debate in Government time on Iraq even though promises to do so have been made since October." ENDS
Following a meeting between Sinn Féin and the Human Rights Commission today in Belfast, the party's Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson Bairbrede Brún said:
"Sinn Féin requested today's meeting to discuss the nature of the future consultation around the Bill of Rights and to appraise the Commission orther issues we have raised in the talks process.
"It is our view, shared by most parties, that we need a comprehensive and inclusive Bill of Rights to emerge in the time ahead.
"We would be hopeful that there will be progress made among the political parties on this issue in the current talks process.
"The involvement of civic society in the Bill of Rights process is crucial. To this end I welcome the conference being organised by the Human Rights Consortium being held on Monday 3rd February in the Long Gallery where issues relating to what should be contained in a Bill of Rights will be debated."ENDS
Sinn Féin Consumers Affairs spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has accused Ryanair of engaging in "sharp and shady practices" after Aer Rianta revealed that the budget airline was "pocketing money which didn't belong to it". Deputy Morgan made his comments in light of the revelations that emerged from yesterdays Oireachtas Transport Committee meeting. He said:
"Like everybody else I was astonished to hear that Ryanair was pocketing millions of Euro of money which didn't belong to it. There are very serious questions to be asked about the legality of what appears to be very sharp and shady practices. Ryanair must come clean. For years now the public has been bombarded with propaganda from the airline in which it accuses all around it of ripping passengers off with high prices. On the face of it they would appear to be equally guilty of ripping 'no-show' passengers off only in a more underhand and systematic way.
"I will attempt to raise the matter in the Dáil later today and will demand that the Minister for Transport and the Director of Consumer Affairs investigate this issue as a matter of urgency and to initiate proceedings which will prohibit airlines from retaining taxes that they are not entitled to." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP has described this afternoon's meeting with Ambassador Richard Haass as a very good engagement and said that the US Administration stand ready and willing to help the Irish peace process in any way that they can. Today in Washington Mr. McGuinness also met with a cross party delegation of members of Congress and with Senators Dodd and Kennedy.
Mr. McGuinness said:
"Today's meeting with Richard Haass was a very good engagement and is a testament to the huge importance which the White House attaches to the success of the Irish peace process. They are clearly aware of the current difficulties, which we face and stand ready to help in any way that they can.
"I welcome the fact that Ambassador Haas will be in Ireland next week and I hope that this may provide the opportunity for a serious engagement between the parties and the Irish and British governments on all of the outstanding issues. The central focus of all of our efforts at this time must be the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."ENDS
Speaking prior to a meeting of Sinn Féin's five TDs in Leinster House today, the party's Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said they were planning to challenge the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition on "their litany of deceptions since they took office". He also accused the Government of "complacency" and "incompetence". Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"There is a growing public anger at the incompetence and duplicity of this government. The health service is limping from crisis to crisis with the appalling situation in Accident and Emergency departments demonstrating that the National Health Strategy and Fianna Fáil's pre-election promises have been reduced to pipe dreams.
"The School Building Programme has left pupils, teachers and parents in over 250 sub-standard schools with nothing but the vague promise that their plight might be addressed some time in the future.
"People with disabilities have had to take to the streets to protest yet again at cuts which have halted the progress made in recent years and there is still no ease in the housing crisis.
"In the face of public anger at all of this the Coalition has displayed complacency and arrogance, content to rely on their numbers in the Dáil to force through their flawed programme.
"Sinn Féin will hold this government accountable for their litany of deceptions since they took office. The cuts they imposed in the Budget are now being felt throughout the country. We will campaign both inside and outside the Dáil to demand that hospital waiting lists are dramatically reduced; that children are no longer educated in overcrowded and substandard schools; and that there is a fairer distribution of the obvious wealth that exists in this country.
"We will also use this session to robustly challenge the government on the cynical and underhanded tactics it has used to allow Shannon Airport to become a military staging post on the way to war in Iraq. They have displayed a complete disregard for Irish public opinion and their futile attempt to deceive the public about the true nature of the military machine, which they are facilitating, has only served to expose their dishonesty. We will be urging people to support the National Anti-War Demonstration in Dublin on 15th February, to uphold Irish neutrality and independent foreign policy and to urge a peaceful resolution of the present international crisis.
"The Government has insulted people's intelligence and we are determined to call them to account." ENDS
Speaking from the College of St Rose in Albany in America, former Education Minster, Martin McGuinness MP, MLA, has said that political will is required to find a way out of the current political impasse and called for urgent movement from the British government to restore the political institutions it suspended in October.
Martin McGuinness said:
"The democratic institutions agreed and established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement have been unilaterally suspended by the British government. The British government has also publicly accepted that it has failed to fully implement its commitments under the terms of the Agreement.
"Those institutions need to be put back in place urgently. We are currently engaged in negotiations in an attempt to achieve this and I have no doubt that, if there is the political will to work together, we can find a way forward.
"There can be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, The Agreement must be implemented in full. We must see an end to political policing. Our society must be demilitarised, on all sides. There must be an end to discrimination, inequality and sectarianism. Human rights must become a reality for all our people. There is a particular onus on the British government to deliver on these obligations.
"Despite the recurring difficulties, substantial progress has been made. Only a very short time ago a vicious circle of injustice, inequality and conflict afflicted us in the north of Ireland. In a relatively short period of time the political landscape has been transformed and we have provided the hope, if not yet the certainty, that the failures and injustices of the past can be addressed effectively so that they will never be repeated." ENDS
Speaking after attending a press conference organised by Community Platform in relation the Social Partnership negotiations Sinn Féin spokesperson on Community, Social and Family Affairs Seán Crowe said he agreed with their analysis, which questioned the government's commitment to real social partnership.
Deputy Crowe said:
"The Governments rhetoric on the issues of social inclusion in advance of the last general election has now well and truly been exposed as a sham. Their pledge to provide 200,000 extra people with a medical has come to nothing. Their pledge to tackle poverty with social welfare increases was meaningless when rising costs and inflation meant people were in reality worse off. The housing crisis and the number of homeless people on the streets continue to grow unabated.
"There is no evidence to suggest that their commitment to redressing the massive social imbalance that exists in this state will emerge from this round of negotiations on social partnership.
"The reality is that the gap between rich and poor has widened in the many years of social partnership deals. Those most vulnerable in society continue to be disadvantaged by government policies.
"I support Community Platform in their efforts to have the voices of people living in poverty and suffering discrimination heard and represented at the negotiation table. For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to demand government policies that will make Ireland a just and more equal place to live." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has expressed his support and that of his party for groups representing people with disabilities who will protest tomorrow (Tuesday 28 January) at the Taoiseach's launch of the European Year of People with Disabilities.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said the protest was "inevitable" given the cut in the budget for services for people with intellectual disabilities in particular. He said the cut from €38 million in 2003 to €13.3 million in 2004 means that existing services cannot be maintained. He said:
"One of the most neglected groups of people in this country for decades have been people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Progress has been made and acknowledged in recent years but the savage cut in the Budget allocated to the health boards for mentally handicapped services in 2004 - from €38 million to €13.3 million - is a total disgrace.
"This cut has been described as disastrous by the Federation of Voluntary Bodies and by the National Association of the Mentally Handicapped of Ireland as bringing us back to the mid-1990s. The caring agencies and voluntary bodies cannot maintain existing services let alone proceed with badly needed new developments. It will mean longer waiting lists for day care, respite care and long-term residential care.
"The scandal of nearly 500 people with intellectual disabilities detained inappropriately in psychiatric institutions is set to continue.
"These are very vulnerable people. Carers of the mentally handicapped are mostly themselves elderly people trying to cope and living with the worry of what will become of their children when they die. The Government should make an immediate commitment to reverse this callous cut. Otherwise its endorsement of European Year of People with Disabilities will ring hollow." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD, has accused Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh of being dangerously inconsistent on the current proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. Deputy Ferris claimed, for example, that Walsh had given two completely different interpretations of the FAPRI report on the effects of decoupling. Deputy Ferris said that this was in line with the Minister's lack of engagement with the current reform process and that the Irish Government was being negligent in failing to put forward concrete proposals in opposition to those they felt would be harmful to Irish farmers.
Deputy Ferris said:
"There is no doubt that aspects of the Fischler proposals do amount to a threat to Irish farming. However, the CAP does need to be changed and this Government needs to be making its own proposals as to how this should take place. It is not good enough simply to demand that there be no reform of a system that has clearly failed tens of thousands of Irish farmers over the past 30 years.
"Farmers will be badly served by a tactic of relying on the French veto which will not safeguard specific Irish interests. Where the proposals contain measures that are agreed to be harmful then they must be opposed. However, there must also be a willingness to examine where some of the proposals could be beneficial and to suggest changes where necessary. Farming and rural Ireland in general are in crisis and burying your head in the sand is not going to solve those problems. What is needed is a radical overhaul of the entire thrust of agriculture and rural development policy at EU and national level." ENDS