Speaking following the publication of the Residential Tenancies Bill, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan criticised Minister Martin Cullen for his failure to address rent regulation in the Bill.
Deputy Morgan said
"Tenants throughout this State have waited a long time for the Residential Tenancies Bill. And while I welcome the fact that the Bill has now been published it is clear from even an initial reading that it fails to address a number of key issues of concern to tenants in private rented accommodation. The failure to address rent regulation and issues regarding affordability will seriously undermine the security of tenure provisions contained in this Bill. Sinn Féin is totally opposed to the provision in this Bill that says rents applicable in the private rented sector should be solely dictated by the market. Rent increases should be index linked and not market driven where demand far exceeds supply.
"The Government needs to starting looking at the issue of housing in a completely different light. It can no longer be looked at in simply market or economic terms. We have to look at and address it in social terms. We need to face the reality that very many people are excluded from either renting or buying reasonable quality affordable housing because successive Government policies have pushed house prices through the roof, making multi-millionaires of greedy speculators and developers at the expensive of ordinary people.
"In the absence of measures to address rent regulation, I do not believe that this Residential Tenancies Bill will bring about a significant improvement in the situation of tenants." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Fisheries, Martin Ferris TD has welcomed today's decision by the European Parliament to reject the Spanish bid to gain access to the Irish Box conservation area. MEPS voted by 334 to 108 to maintain the box. Deputy Ferris said;
"The vote by the Parliament constitutes an important vindication of the position of Irish fishermen regarding the maintenance of the Irish Box. It is now crucial that the Commission takes note of this and acts in what is clearly the best interests of Irish fishing and indeed of fish conservation in general". ENDS
Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson Bairbre de Brún has called on Des Browne to publicly set out how the Rights and Equality commitments in the Good Friday Agreement and the Joint Declaration will be implemented.
Ms de Brún said:
"Rights and entitlements cannot be conditional. Five years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the commitments from the two governments in the Joint Declaration represent key areas that the British government, in particular, has not yet implemented.
" The two governments have said they will implement the rights and equality agenda. How is this to happen? People now need to hear
· How will the unemployment differential be eliminated? What are the targets? And how will they be monitored?
· When will the bodies subject to the statutory equality duty be extended?
· How can the process for taking forward the Bill of Rights be advanced?
· When will the Foras na Gaeilge funding be restored?
· When will the Irish language film and television production fund be established?
" In the end of the day this is about breaking the cycle of poverty, disadvantage and despair. Therefore, we need to ensure that the focus remains on economic development in areas of greatest need, and on effective mechanisms that can restore momentum to the implementation of the Equality agenda and ensure that equality gained becomes equality sustained.
" We also need to introduce effective measures to tackle sectarianism, and to learn from international best practice with regard to victims and reconciliation.
"I have sought a meeting with Des Browne at the earliest opportunity to clarify how the British government will implement their commitments in the rights and equality field. The Joint Declaration represents the promise of progress on some key areas of the Good Friday Agreement such as policing, justice, human rights, equality, the Irish language and other issues. People now need reassurance that this will become a reality." ENDS
Commenting on the latest report on the composition of the civil service from the Equal Opportunities Unit of the DFP, SF West Belfast MLA Bairbre de Brún said:
"A concrete foundation for equality is to have institutions which are
· representative of the community as a whole, at all levels and in all their functions, and
· providing equality of treatment for the community as a whole.
"We need equality and representativeness not only in the political institutions but in government departments, the judiciary and the legal system, the police and public services.
"This latest report gives us a clear idea of how far we still have to go in respect of one aspect of our institutions, namely the civil service, and in particular the Senior Civil Service level." ENDS
Commenting upon the Government's Progress Report, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD has claimed that it's record so far has been one of failure to deliver on the promises made to rural communities in the course of last year's General Election and in the Programme for Government.
Deputy Ferris claimed that the cuts being made, not only in the Departments with direct responsibility for the economic and social development of rural areas, but in education, health, transport and elsewhere means that the quality of life in rural communities is coming under direct assault from a Government that is working to a right-wing agenda for which it has no mandate from Fianna Fáil supporters. The Progressive Democrats had at least been honest in what they wished to accomplish although their policies had only won the approval of 4% of the electorate.
Deputy Ferris said:
"It is clear that this Government has not tackled the crisis in rural communities. Farming incomes continue to fall and there appears to be a complete lack of any forward strategic thinking as to how best to develop the agricultural sector, or to provide the necessary jobs and infrastructure for those rural dwellers not employed in farming.
"With regard to the current proposals for CAP reform, the Progress Report confines itself to vague generalities which is fitting as the Government has completely failed to properly represent the interests of Irish farming in the negotiations which have now reached a crucial stage. Having buried his head in the sand and provided no leadership since the Mid Term Review began last July, Minister Walsh is now desperately trying to jump on the coat tails of whatever half-baked counter-proposals are being put by other member states.
"The ability of Irish agriculture to adapt to future needs is also being impaired by a range of cuts not least those currently been implemented in Teagasc. The closure of research and education facilities makes a mockery of the Report's claim to be broadening the scope of agricultural education. There can also be little faith placed in the ongoing promises to tackle the issue of access to land, which Sinn Féin believes needs to be addressed in a much more fundamental fashion than tinkering with tax incentives". ENDS
Speaking today at the launch in Belfast of 'an Breadán Feasa', Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Bairbre de Brún called for legislation to protect the rights of Irish speakers.
Ms de Brún said:
"The legislation which saw the establishment of Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (Council for Irish Medium Education) was a great step forward. However this is the only piece of domestic legislation in force that offers specific protection to Irish speakers, and only in the field of Irish medium education . The rights of Irish speakers will only find adequate protection when we have comprehensive legislation in place here.
Ms de Brún was speaking at the launch by Gaeloiliúint at Farset International in Belfast of a range of Irish medium further and higher education courses.
Praising this groundbreaking initiative, Ms de Brún said:
"There has been tremendous growth in Irish medium education throughout the North, with 3 Irishmedium secondary schools, 25 Irish medium primary schools and 37 Irish medium nursery schools.
"The establishment of the first Irish medium secondary school, Meánscoil Feirste was a ral watershed, as was the setting up of Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, the council for Irish Medium Education. Now it is time for the next breakthrough, with employment on the one hand and third level education through the medium of Irish on the other. I congratulate all those involved in the groundbreaking initiative being launched by Gaeloiliúint today." Ends
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has thanked Alex Maskey and his wife Liz for 'a tremendous year in office'. Mr Adams comments come on Alex Maskey's last day in the post of Belfast City Mayor.
Mr. Adams said:
"Alex and Liz Maskey brought a unique approach to the office of Belfast Mayor. It is almost universally accepted that they have been pioneering and throughout their year in office have made massive efforts to build bridges in what is a divided and indeed diverse city.
" A benchmark of inclusivity and respect for all citizens has been laid down by Alex Maskey for those who will hold the Mayoralty in the future.
" Given the success of the past year it is therefore appropriate that Sinn Féin has appointed Alex to take the lead role in its future out reach work with the wider unionist community." ENDS
Speaking today at a Press Conference in Belfast Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said:
" Demilitarisation was a key element of the Good Friday Agreement. Five years on the British government have not delivered on their obligations. It was therefore a crucial part of the recent negotiations between Sinn Fein and the British government which led to the Joint Declaration.
"Sinn Féin's position has been consistent. We want the removal from the Six Counties of all British Forces - including the RIR. RIR are first and foremost a unionist militia. Conflict resolution inevitably involves the removal of the RIR. Many nationalists, victims of the UDR and RIR, will want to know why Mr Trimble wants to retain this force. They are synonymous with sectarian violence. Many members are also members of unionist paramilitary gangs, up to their necks in collusion and the murder of Catholics.
"Sinn Féin will oppose any moves by the British government to dilute the Joint Declaration as part of a further exercise in pandering to negative and rejectionist unionism." ENDS
"They have become like the Tories in Britain after repeated terms in power. In their case it was the hard right led by Norman Tebbitt who set the agenda. In the case of this Government the agenda is set by the Progressive Democrats clique with Michael McDowell as the standard-bearer of the Right in Irish politics.
"While the PDs dominate, the Taoiseach dithers.
"The Taoiseach's lack of clear and resolute leadership is shown in the ongoing battle between the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Health and Children on the health services. Fundamental reform of the health services is needed and in six years in office this Government has failed to even recognise that fact. Instead they made promises they knew they could not keep, including the notorious pledges to end hospital waiting lists in two years and extend the medical card to a further 200,000 people. Meanwhile the crisis in our hospitals has steadily worsened since the PD/FF return to office a year ago and Health Boards are being forced to cut vital services.
"The ideological and policy direction of this Government is set by the PDs.
"Fianna Fáil was once a party with a commitment to
·the central role of the State sector in the economy
·the provision of social housing
"Those values have been shredded by the PDs and their allies in the right wing of the Fianna Fáil leadership, chief among them Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy. We now have:
·housing provision totally reliant on the developers' drive for profit regardless of social need
·the destruction of Irish neutrality.
"The right-wing agenda of this Government, largely set by the PDs, has widened the gap between rich and poor in Irish society.
"No amount of reports or PR spin can fool the people who have been betrayed by this Government. The focus of Sinn Féin in the next 12 months will be to build the real alternative to the failed polices of this PD/FF Coalition." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has called for Bank Holidays on the island to become standardised.
Ms Gildernew said:
"We have a situation where last Monday we had a Bank Holiday in the Six Counties and today we have one in the 26 Counties. It would be much more sensible if Bank Holidays where standardised across the island.
"This makes business sense and makes common sense. The logic of the Good Friday Agreement which has seen the establishment of all-Ireland institutions across a range of significant areas dictates very clearly that this sort of situation needs addressed and needs harmonised." ENDS
Speaking in the Dáil today during a debate on the Protection of the Environment Bill 2003 Sinn Féin Arthur Morgan TD slammed plans by the government to introduce service charges. The Louth TD was also highly critical of provisions in the Bill which lessen the powers of local authorities.
"This is yet another Bill from Minister Cullen and yet another blow to democracy. People should remember that this is not the first Bill that Minister Cullen has brought before this house which has sought to diminish the powers of local authorities.
"Though there are some measures contained in this Bill that are to be welcomed they are simply window dressing for the Ministers real intention of diminishing by degree the autonomy of local authorities and for his planned imposition of service charges.
"If this bill is allowed to pass, local councillors will no longer have any function in deciding on household waste charges or regional waste management plans.
"I am particularly concerned that the Minister is attempting to persuade us that the imposition of service charges provided for in this Bill in based on the 'polluter pays' principle.
"This is a dubious claim designed to distract us from the fact that the economic policies pursued by this government along with its refusal to reform the financing of local government has left us with cash starved local authorities. An individual citizen is not the polluter who should be paying. It should be remembered that household waste accounts for less than 10 per cent of all solid waste. There is an unwillingness on the part of this Government to make the main producers of waste pay their fair share."
Speaking following the conclusion of the debate, Deputy Morgan was deeply critical of the Minister for absenting himself from the chamber during the debate on the premise that he had to meet with city and County managers.
"This shows what the Minister priorities are - he is not interested in hearing the voices of elected representatives at local level and he not interested in hearing the voices of elected representatives at national level. Martin Cullen has once again demonstrate his disregard for democracy" ENDS
Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Padraig MacLochlainn, has called for the truth to be revealed on the events surrounding the murder, by unionist paramilitaries, of party Councillor Eddie Fullerton. He called for full disclosure by the British government on collusion between its agencies and unionist paramilitaries and a full investigation into the conduct of the Gardaí. (Cllr. MacLochlainn was speaking in relation to Thursday nights Insight investigation into the murder of Eddie Fullerton)
Cllr. MacLochlainn said:
"Sinn Féin County Councillor Eddie Fullerton, was murdered in his home in Buncrana, County Donegal on 25 May 1991. Like Eddie Fullerton's family, Sinn Féin does not believe that the Garda Síochána has carried out a proper investigation into his murder. Given the web of corruption in the Gardaí in Donegal, over an extended period of years, and now being exposed daily at the Morris Tribunal, we believe their conduct in this case must be thoroughly examined.
"There are many unanswered questions about the murder of Eddie Fullerton. Most relevant to the Morris Tribunal is the conduct of the Garda investigation - to the extent that there was a Garda investigation at all. Eddie's family point out that on the one hand a comprehensive forensic examination of the scene of the murder was not carried out. On the other hand the Gardai took away notebooks, cassettes and other material from Eddie's home and car immediately after his death in a manner indicating an investigation of the victim, not of his killers.
"It is of grave concern that at least one Garda now under scrutiny and facing very serious allegations before the Morris Tribunal was himself centrally involved in the investigation of the murder of Eddie Fullerton.
"This is even more alarming when we place it in a wider context. There is growing evidence that like virtually all attacks claimed or carried out by unionist paramilitaries in this jurisdiction, the murder of Eddie Fullerton could not have been carried out without collusion from British forces.
- The UFF gang certainly had detailed local knowledge. Did they have local assistance?
- The assassins held up a family in their home, 1 mile from Eddie's home for 3 hours in advance of their attack
- The assassins entered and left the Fullerton home in the early hours of the morning with ease.
- They were obviously thoroughly familiar with the complex rural road network in the area and made their getaway without hitch.
"The Fullerton family deserves the truth. We support their demand for an inquiry and we call on the Minister for Justice to act." ENDS
Speaking at a Sinn Féin press conference in Dublin today Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD called for representation in the Dáil to be given to Six-County MPs without further delay and said it was a "political imperative". Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "The time for action on Northern representation is now. It is a political imperative, especially given the undemocratic cancellation of the assembly election by the British government. When I questioned the Taoiseach on this in the Dáil recently (13 May) he stated:
"The Government is in favour of the right of MEPS to attend and participate in committee debates on the EU and for Northern Ireland elected representatives to participate in debates on the Good Friday Agreement and other relevant debates. Some of those mechanisms can be put in place if there is agreement in the House."
"I asked the Taoiseach if he would take ownership of the issue and he replied 'Yes, most certainly.' Last week again he expressed willingness to move ahead. Accordingly the five Sinn Féin TDs have tabled a motion to amend Standing Orders to allow MPs to speak in the Dáil. I urge the Government to support that motion or to put forward their own so that we can have real progress before the summer recess.
"Today we welcome our colleague Sinn Féin MPs and MLAs here as the Dáil debates our party's Private Members motion. Our MPs and those of other parties from the Six Counties should be allowed to participate in this debate.
"Sinn Féin is seeking:
· Right of attendance at the Dáil for the 18 Westminster MPs elected in the Six Counties.
· Reform of the Seanad to include election by a national list system with people in the Six Counties having the right to vote.
The right to vote in Presidential elections for citizens in the Six Counties and emigrants."
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" in light of the Brennan report which highlights 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.
He said there was "a stark contrast between the position of the hospital consultants and the unjust way the Government has treated the public health doctors currently in dispute".
Commenting on the report of the Brennan Commission, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"This study has once again identified the privileged position occupied by those consultants who manipulate the public health services to facilitate their private practice.
"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. In January 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 their sense of 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.
"This report comes at the height of the public health doctors dispute. There is a stark contrast between the position of the hospital consultants and the unjust way the Government has treated the public health doctors who work solely in the public sector. With talks due to begin this Friday I urge the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin to ensure that public health doctors get a fair deal." ENDS
Concluding the debate on Sinn Féin's Private Members motion before the Dáil tonight Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said that the 'dictatorial' power to cancel elections in the Six County and to suspend the institutions must be taken away from the British Government. He went on to say:
"The Irish Government and this Dáil must give leadership. We must stand united in opposition to the decision of the British government to cancel democratic elections in Ireland. The Irish Government must act not as a subordinate party in an unequal relationship - the way the British Government too often has treated it - but as a co-equal partner in an international Agreement, and it must vindicate the rights of all Irish citizens."
Full text to follow:
Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le gach Teachta a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht ar rún Sinn Féin. B'fhiú an díospóireacht é agus tá súil agam go bhfuil tuiscint níos fearr againn uile mar thoradh air.
Cuirim fáilte ar leith anocht roimh Teachtaí Sinn Féin ó na Sé Chontae atá linn sa Dáil. In áiléar na gcuairteoirí tá an Teachta Gerry Adams ó Bhéal Feirste Thiar, an Teachta Michelle Gildernew ó Fear Manach agus Tír Eoghain Theas, an Teachta Pat Doherty ó Tír Eoghain Thiar agus an Teachta Martin McGuiness as Lár-Uladh. Cuirim fáilte chomh maith lenár dTeachtaí ón Tionól atá linn san áiléar poiblí.
I regret that Sinn Féin MPs Gerry Adams, Michelle Gildernew and Martin McGuinness who are with us here tonight in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery cannot join in this debate. The same applies to the 18 MPs of all parties in the Six Counties. I welcome them and I believe the day is fast approaching when they will be speaking here. I acknowledge the Government's agreement in its amendment to our motion that the issue of Northern representation in the Oireachtas should be taken forward by agreement in the Dáil and Seanad. That should happen before the end of this session and I ask the Government to adopt the motion in our name to amend Standing Orders to allow for speaking rights for Six-County MPs here.
I welcome also the Sinn Féin Assembly members who are present in the Public Gallery. Tomorrow is a very significant day for them and indeed for all democrats in Ireland.
Thursday the 29th of May 2003 should have been polling day in the Assembly election in the Six Counties. But not for the first time the British government intervened and violated the democratic rights of the Irish people. There is cross-party agreement in this Oireachtas, as reflected in our debate last night and tonight, that this decision was wrong. The election should be rescheduled for the end of June. The Government amendment expresses the view that the election should take place, regardless of any other considerations, no later than the Autumn. Either way, the overwhelming opinion throughout this island is that the British government has intervened in an unacceptable and a unilateral way and that those elections must take place as soon as practically possible.
When he addressed the issue of the election in his speech last night the Minister for Foreign Affairs Deputy Brian Cowen stated that if the Irish Government had been legally required under the Good Friday Agreement to sign for elections to be cancelled, it would not have done so. "We can only do what is within our power," he stated. That was a very revealing statement. It shows the Irish Government being placed in a totally unacceptable situation by the British Government. The logical political conclusion is that the power to unilaterally cancel Assembly elections and to collapse the institutions should be taken away from the British government once and for all. That is something Sinn Féin has repeatedly called for. I hope the Irish Government has learnt the lesson of the four suspensions of the institutions and the two cancellations of the Assembly election by the British government. I urge the Irish Government to push for the removal of these dictatorial powers from Westminster.
The Irish Government and this Dáil must give leadership. We must stand united in opposition to the decision of the British government to cancel democratic elections in Ireland. The Irish Government must act not as a subordinate party in an unequal relationship - the way the British Government too often has treated it - but as a co-equal partner in an international Agreement, and it must vindicate the rights of all Irish citizens.
There is much common ground in the Sinn Féin motion and the amendments tabled by the Government, Fine Gael and Labour. Support for the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process is reaffirmed. The essential role of the All-Ireland Ministerial Council and the All-Ireland bodies is affirmed. Very importantly there is a growing recognition of the role of systematic collusion between British state forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the conflict and the need for truth and justice. That systematic collusion has never been confined to the Six Counties and there is evidence of the hand of British state forces in all the attacks by loyalists in the 26 Counties since the early 1970s. The purpose was clear. It was not to target republicans but to intimidate the Irish people in general and the Irish government in particular and to deter them from fulfilling their proper role in vindicating the rights of nationalists throughout the island.
The vote tonight will be on the Government amendment. I have welcomed the predominantly positive tone and content of that amendment, reflecting as it does the issues raised in the Sinn Féin motion. However the Sinn Féin TDs cannot accept the Government amendment. In drafting our motion we sought to present a common ground approach realising full well the importance of a united House on this issue. Regrettably, while the Government amendment recalls the progress made in recent talks it also recalls what it says was "the disappointing failure to achieve the required clarity on the completion of the transition from paramilitarism to exclusively peaceful means". This is a claim that the Government drafters of their amendment know full well that we neither accept nor can agree to. The question arises "Clarity required by whom?" I believe there was sufficient clarity and that the initiative on the part of the IRA was unprecedented. The IRA leadership made it clear in its statement that it is determined that its activities will be consistent with its resolve to see the complete and final closure of the conflict. As the President of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams made clear, the IRA leadership is determined that there will be no activities which will undermine in any way the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
We in Sinn Féin have fulfilled all our obligations under the Agreement. We will not accept special strictures on our party over and above those of other parties as set out in that Agreement. The people we are proud to represent have never accepted the status of second-class citizens and they never will. Our central role in the peace process, our place in the Assembly, in this Dáil, in the Executive and in the All-Ireland Ministerial Council is based on our electoral mandate. Nothing more and nothing less.
I believe the current very serious impasse in the process will be overcome. That can only be done on the basis of equality. The peace process and the Good Friday Agreement represent the way forward for all our people. Let us embrace that future and go forward together.
Sinn Féin Assembly members, MPs and TDs have called on people to come out tomorrow, Thursday May 29th, to protest the cancellation of the elections and demand the right to vote. Events have been organised in over 30 towns and cities across the island including: Dublin, Belfast, Derry, Cork, Letterkenny, Galway, Wexford, Kildare, Athlone, Sligo, Limerick, Tralee, Waterford, Omagh, Enniskillen, Lurgan, and Strabane. Events will also take place in the United States and Britain. Speaking in Dublin this afternoon Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:
"Tomorrow, 29th May, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Six Counties should be going to the polls to elect 108 Assembly members and a new cross party Executive. Instead the British government have cancelled the elections, shut down the political institutions and created a dangerous political vacuum.
"The cancelling of the elections is wrong and was taken against the wishes of people across the island of Ireland. It is imperative that the British government reverse this decision and set a date for the Assembly elections. I am calling on people to come out tomorrow and demand the right to vote."ENDS
10am All Assembly election candidates and elected representatives will hand in a letter of protest to local electoral offices in Ballymoney, Banbridge, Belfast, Derry, Omagh and Glengormely.
11.30am Sinn Féin Press Conference, Belfast.
12-2pm City centre protests in Belfast, Omagh, Enniskillen, Lurgan and Derry
5-6.30pm White line pickets in Belfast, Toomebridge, the Ballygawley roundabout, Strabane, Cloghue, the Kinnego roundabout in Lurgan and the Craigavon bridge in Derry
8-9.30am Leafleting of DART stations across the city
11.00am Auction of democracy outside Leinster House
2-4pm Pickets at Stephens Green, GPO O'Connell Street and other venues across the city
5-6pm White line pickets along major city centre routes
8pm Rally outside the British Embassy, with musicians and street theatre
Galway Protests in Loughrea, Tuam and Ballinasloe, Street theatre and mock elections in Galway City
Mayo Protests in Westport, Ballina, Castlebar and Charlestown
Donegal Rally in Letterkenny at 8pm
Sligo Protest outside GPO at 5pm
N1/N2/N3 Navan, Drogheda and Dundalk - Dublin
N4 Longford, Edgeworthstown, Mullingar, Kinnegad - Dublin
N6 Athlone at 10am, Moate 12 noon, Kilbeggan 1pm, Kinnegad, Dublin
N7/N9 New Ross, Kilkenny City, Carlow, Naas and onto Dublin
N11 Wexford, Enniscorthy, Gorey, Wicklow, Bray - Dublin
Cork Protests in Cork City, Mallow, Middleton, Clonakilty
Waterford Protests in Waterford City
Kerry Protests in Tralee
Speaking during the second day of the Private Members debate on northern representation in Leinster House and the cancellation of the elections in the Six Counties Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe said: "Sinn Féin understands that we need to reach out to the Unionist community, and we are doing so quietly on a daily basis. Alex Maskey in 12 months of office has confronted the prejudices that existed about him and has begun to build what he called a City of Equals in his acceptance speech."
He went on to say that he wanted "to see change being brought about by exclusively democratic and peaceful means. And we want to see the conflict over and done with." "That is what the motion before us a Ceann Comhairle is trying to do. It is about the primacy of politics. And that does involve removing all of the guns out of the equation", he said.
"Unionism and its leaders need to understand that equality is not a concession; it is the right of everyone. Justice is not a concession, it is a right. A Police Service acceptable to all communities is certainly not a concession; it is desirable and necessary for everyone." ENDS
FULL TEXT FOLLOWS:
David Trimble is on record as saying that the Northern state was a cold house for Nationalists since its foundation. The working class people living on the Shankill, Sandy Row or the Waterside know only too well that it wasn't much warmer for them. All the Parties and Deputies in this house espouse the notion of an Ireland based on equality, justice and peace
The Good Friday Agreement attempted to put that concept in to legislative form. I don't believe that the historic comprises contained in that document, would have been possible without all those groups and individuals seeing beyond their own concerns and accepting the new potential that agreement opened up.
It is true; we have more in common than divides us.
The peace process was kick started by dialogue, complemented by the historic cessations and overwhelmingly embraced by the Irish people, North and South. It gave a sense of hope to people not only in Ireland but also throughout the world.
From day one it has been bedevilled by crisis after crisis but the process of dialogue has, and continues to - despite all the difficulties, move us forward and away from conflict.
Republicans on this island have had to make painful and difficult decisions in order to support that process. We acknowledge that we have inflicted great hurt on many from the Unionist tradition and continue to articulate and more importantly demonstrate our understanding of that reality.
All of us are emerging, slowly maybe, painfully certainly, but we are emerging out of a 30-year conflict that has affected and lessened each one of us. Yes we all want to see a just society and the fault lines of sectarianism removed forever.
We have gone from the days of unionists disinfecting Council seats, from refusing to sit in the same room as us, to negotiating face to face, to even sharing power.
I want to see change being brought about by exclusively democratic and peaceful means. And we want to see the conflict over and done with. That is what the motion before us a Ceann Comhairle is trying to do. It is about the primacy of politics. And that does involve removing all of the guns out of the equation
But there are still fault lines in the process. The Good Friday Agreement is not and has not been implemented fully by all sides. The potential for conflict is still with us. The cancellation of the democratic process because of the possible outcome does not augur well for the future.
Sinn Féin understands that we need to reach out to the Unionist community, and we are doing so quietly on a daily basis. Alex Maskey in 12 months of office has confronted the prejudices that existed about him and has begun to build what he called a City of Equals in his acceptance speech.
As Mayor of Belfast he handled in an inclusive manner the Remembrance Sunday commemorations and demonstrated vividly the lengths that republicans are prepared to go to show that, parity of esteem, equality and inclusiveness are not merely words, but have to be acted on.
Unionism and its leaders need to understand that equality is not a concession; it is the right of everyone. Justice is not a concession, it is a right. A Police Service acceptable to all communities is certainly not a concession; it is desirable and necessary for everyone.
The removal of the weapons of war, the intrusive watchtowers, and the armed patrols is not a concession to republicans but a necessity if we are to move to a peaceful society.
Sinn Féin is ready to move forward, we are ready to bridge the gap but we also need to know from Unionism and the British that they are prepared to work with us towards that new Ireland.
As most speakers have agreed with the substance of this motion it is disappointing that parties in this house could not feel comfortable supporting the Sinn Féin motion.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking today in Belfast has said that 'there is a collective responsibility on the two governments and all political parties along with community, church and civic leaders to work together to ensure a peaceful summer'.
Mr Adams said:
"Sinn Féin's consistent position has been to ensure that the summer months are peaceful, particularly in interface areas. For example last year at a meeting in Hillsborough of the Implementation Group we proposed that the two governments and all the parties agree a common approach to tackling the issue of interface violence and sectarianism. Unfortunately this approach was not fully embraced and people living in interface areas had to endure a summer of violence.
"There is a deep concern within the community that the present political vacuum could be filled with the type of violence which caused so much devastation last summer.
"Our focus is to avoid this. Sinn Féin, locally and nationally, have engaged in a wide range of initiatives and attempts to ensure that we do not see a repeat of last years violence. We are holding meetings at both political and community levels. We are encouraging and backing attempts by local communities to resolve interface tensions.
" All sections of society have a responsibility for these matters.
" There is a collective responsibility on the two governments and all political parties along with community, church and civic leaders to work together to ensure a peaceful summer.
" I welcome the meeting yesterday between the UUP and Loyalist leaders.
" We recognise that there are many within the Unionist and Nationalist community who have, and are, working hard to ensure that we have a peaceful summer period. This is vital work, which needs to continue.
" We also recognise that there are those who are intent on cynically manipulating the tensions during this period for their own political ends. This must not be allowed to happen." ENDS
For immediate release - 27 May 2003 (CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY)
Speaking during the opening of the debate on Sinn Féin's Private Members motion on the cancellation of the Assembly elections in the Six Counties Sinn Fein TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:
"Elections that were to have taken in two days time in Ireland have been unilaterally cancelled by the British. Approximately one million Irish voters will be disenfranchised by this most undemocratic decision.
"Other countries that have cancelled elections are: Lesotho - 1970; Chile - 1973; Algeria - 1992; Sri Lanka - 1998; Nepal - 2002; Georgia - 2003.
"All parties in this House have expressed concern over this move on 7th May, and most expressed their disappointment with it.
"I believe that it is possible for the House to reach a consensus on this issue that Sinn Féin has selected as the subject of our motion at this critical time.
"The Irish peace process has transformed the situation in Ireland.
"Only a very short time ago a vicious circle of injustice, inequality and conflict afflicted us in the north of Ireland. All of this was the legacy of the undemocratic partition of Ireland.
"The British government has no right to cancel elections in Ireland, which derive directly from the Good Friday Agreement and the endorsement of that Agreement by the overwhelming majority of the Irish people.
"The Irish government opposed this. Indeed every political party in Ireland opposed it. Only UUP leader David Trimble and the British government supported this undemocratic action.
"The cancellation of elections is a subversion of democracy.
"In any normal democratic society, a crisis in the political institutions would lead directly to elections to establish a fresh mandate for the political parties. That is the way of democracy. That is the way of politics.
"The cancellation of elections has created a dangerous political vacuum which those opposed to the peace process will seek to fill.
"The British and Irish governments accepted this logic in their recently published Joint Declaration when they said, " the best way of ensuring that peace remains permanent is by demonstrating that politics work." How does canceling democratic elections demonstrate, in any way, that politics work?
"And the damage is compounded by the failure to implement the agreement in full.
"The key to making politics work is democracy. That means that people have the right to vote. It means elections. Approximately one million Irish citizens have been disenfranchised. We are now left with a very dangerous political vacuum - one that has been filled all too quickly in the past by unionist paramilitaries.
"What needs to happen now is that an election date needs to be set. The institutions need to be re-established and the Agreement implemented in full. Meetings in the absence of this will go nowhere. Issues of human rights and equality and a proper police service cannot be conditional. They are basic democratic rights and the governments must move on these immediately.
"Sinn Féin is fully committed to the peace process.
"Everybody in this chamber needs to get involved in the effort to re-build the process. What is required is the political will and the determination to proceed without further delay." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris to Sinn Féin Private Members debate on Cancellation of Elections in the Six Counties called on members of the Oireachtas to state in unequivocal terms, on an all-party basis, our opposition to the anti-democratic actions of the British Government in unilaterally cancelling the May 29th elections.' Mr. Ferris said:
This morning in Belfast Sinn Féin launched a document "Who sanctioned Britain's Death Squads? - Time for the truth". A copy of it will be distributed to all members of the House over the next two days. I would ask Deputies to read it carefully.
While not directly related to the issue we are debating here today - the contents of this document will give people an understanding as to why so many northern nationalists and republicans are alienated from and mistrustful of the Six County state and those who run it - and also why they are becoming increasingly angry and disillusioned with the so-called 'democratic process'.
I don't need to rehearse the arguments here today but it must be remembered that the nationalist/republican population of the Six Counties never asked to be part of that Statelet. They never asked to be abandoned by successive Irish governments. They never asked to be treated as second-class citizens in their own country. It was something foisted upon them without even the slightest reference to their consent - and then they were left to struggle on their own in the situation in which they found themselves.
In that situation they were at best ignored and disenfranchised by the British state in terms of social and economic opportunities and resources and at worst considered a threat to Unionist dominance that could and should be dispensed with. The recent limited Steven's report, which is strongly referenced to in the document launched this morning, estimates conservatively that since the 1980s up to 80 citizens have been set up for targeting by the British State. Twenty-nine of those were shot dead or blown-up.
Bearing this in mind there is nobody here that could argue that the nationalist/republican population of the Six Counties hasn't absolute justification for distrusting the intentions of not only the British Government and the Unionists but of the 26 County Establishment as well. However, they did through the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement try to understand and reach a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict.
And so following over a decade of an intensive peace process, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the establishment of the Assembly, the election of a cross-party Executive what do we have. The Good Friday Agreement still waiting to be fully implemented. The Assembly suspended. And democratic elections cancelled. The British Government at the behest of the Unionists did all of this.
Republicans have lived up to all of our responsibilities under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Indeed we have gone way beyond our responsibilities in the interests of making the Agreement work, while others have been actively engaged in trying to wreck it. We have stretched ourselves to breaking point to ensure that the Agreement doesn't unravel.
We have reached out to Unionism. We have sought to accommodate them where we could. We have made, to what is to many of our supporters, painful and profound compromises to reassure Unionists of our bona fides. But to many nationalists and republicans it seems that this is all one-way traffic. There is no evidence from either the British Government or the Unionists that they are really interested in bringing about the changes that are necessary to ensure that the Agreement not only survives but also flourishes.
The recent actions of the British Government have compounded the sense of anger and frustration that exists within nationalist and republican communities not only the Six Counties but throughout the island of Ireland. It is extremely ironic that for years and years Sinn Féin was being constantly lectured at by not only parties in here but by the British Government about putting our arguments to the test and standing in elections and getting a mandate from the people.
Of course these arguments were being promoted in the misguided belief that Republicans had not got widespread or popular support. The steady rise of Sinn Féin both north and south has exposed that as nothing more than wishful thinking.
Now the rules, according to Britannia, are to be rewritten to suit this new reality. Elections can be cancelled. Institutions suspended. Democracy denied.
It is not good enough to declare that you are opposed to the activities of the British Government. It is not good enough to say that it is wrong. There has to be a vocal and physical manifestation of that opposition. The British Government cannot be permitted to continue to just walk over the democratic rights and entitlements of Irish people, living north or south.
But to force the British Government to live up to its responsibilities the Irish Government must fulfil its own responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement. They must repeal their draconian and repressive legislation that has been introduced during the course of the conflict. They must also release all qualifying prisoners still detained years after they were supposed to be released.
For our part in this House we have this evening and tomorrow evening in the course of this debate an opportunity to put some of the wrongs that this State was responsible for right. We can state in unequivocal terms, on an all-party basis, our opposition to the anti-democratic actions of the British Government in unilaterally cancelling the May 29th elections. We can demand that Tony Blair re-enfranchise the people of the Six Counties by re-scheduling the elections for the earliest possible date in June. And we can ensure that those people in the Six Counties who aspire to representation in an Irish elected forum rather than Westminster can speak and take part in debates in this House. I would urge deputies of all parties to support the motion before us today.