Sinn Féin's Upper Bann representative, Dr Dara O'Hagan, has reiterated Sinn Féin's support for the residents of the Garvaghy Road in Portadown in their opposition to an Orange march through the area.
Dr O'Hagan said:
"Sinn Féin's position in relation to this issue is clear. I met the Parades Commission last week and put forward the Sinn Féin position that the march should be re-routed away from the Garvaghy Road. The situation has not fundamentally changed since 1998 when the Parades Commission first turned down an application from the Orange Order to march along the Garvaghy Road. Since that time, Portadown District Orange Lodge have consistently refused to meet directly with the representatives of the Garvaghy Road community with a view to working towards a resolution of the marching issue in Portadown. Indeed, the Orange Order has even refused to meet with the Parades Commission itself.
"In the absence of local agreement and given the Orange Orders intransigent stance the only correct decision is to re-route this march. There is an alternative route. The Garvaghy Road community should not be held hostage to wider political fortunes. The right of that community to live free from sectarian harassment and intimidation must be upheld." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking at a meeting of the party's Ard Chomhairle in Dublin this morning said that the only way to fill the dangerous political vacuum which has been allowed to develop is through the implementation of the Agreement and the setting of a firm date for the Assembly elections
Mr. McLaughlin said:
"For some time now the British government has allowed the process to drift into a dangerous political vacuum, through the suspension of the institutions, the cancellation of the elections and the failure to implement the Agreement. And the only thing that is guaranteed, if we continue with this policy, is that there will be no executive, no power sharing and no political progress.
"The Irish government needs to use the opportunity of next week's meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to move the British government from this negative position into supporting a renewal of the peace process.
"There can be no preconditions placed on peoples democratic right to vote. We need to see the continued implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, we need to see politics working and central to this is the setting of a firm date for the Assembly elections in the Autumn."ENDS
Commenting on the resignation of Justice Flood as Tribunal chairperson, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:
"Justice Flood deserves praise for his conduct of the Tribunal which has helped expose much about the corrupt nature of planning in this State over many years. Despite its duration and cost the tribunal has also ensured the return of much taxation revenue both directly and indirectly as a result of its activities.
"The Government has indicated that it will have to legislate to ensure that challenges on costs because of the resignation of Justice Flood do not succeed. The Government should also introduce separate legislation to properly regulate the exorbitant fees of legal teams involved in tribunals.
"Minister McDowell's proposal to bring in private inquiries behind closed doors should be rejected. While he claims this would reduce costs it would be at the expense of transparency." ENDS
Speaking during the course of this afternoon's Statements on the World Trade Organisation Talks in the Dáil Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan said that Ireland must be a voice for justice and fairness. "The only proper policy this government should adopt in the negotiations at Cancun is one of moral leadership," he said.
Deputy Morgan said: "If we are to believe media reports, the coming WTO talks are crucial to not just the future of the Irish economy, but that super omnipotent force "international financial markets" and the cause of "free trade".
"As a republican it reminds me of the Irish Volunteers who in the 1780s used their military strength as a bargaining chip to force the British Government to repeal the repressive Corn Laws and allow free trade between Ireland and Britain. It wasn't just our trade that was held to ransom by this and other British economic policies - it was our people who were forced to endure poverty, deprivation, malnutrition, starvation and death. Looking today at the realities of international financial markets we can clearly see that other nations, other peoples of the world are now enduring the same type of economic oppression.
"It is for this reason that the only proper policy this government should adopt in the negotiations at Cancun is one of moral leadership. We must be a voice for justice and fairness. We must be a voice for redressing the inequalities that our economic policies are imposing on other nations today. This means taking positive steps like acting on food export subsidies, taking down tariffs on goods exported from developing states and making our international companiesresponsible." ENDS
Reacting to the news that former Minister for Education Michael Woods prevented news being issued to schools around the country because he believed it would undoubtedly harm Fianna Fáil's election chances Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe described the party as "morally bankrupt" and stated that it is a party willing to say, do or promise anything to get elected.
The Dublin South-West TD said: "I am beginning to wonder whether there was a single piece of honesty in Fianna Fáil's entire election campaign. Since the Government was re-elected it has broken promises it made to the people on an almost daily basis. It now transpires that they were lieing to children and their parents across Ireland as part of a campaign of deception and misinformation that is breathtaking in its cynicism.
"Fianna Fáil is a party that is clearly ready to say anything, do anything or promise anything in an effort to get elected. It would appear they care for nothing but gaining power and holding it. Once they have it, as we have seen over the last number of years, they do not demonstrate the will to use it effectively.
"Fianna Fáil has long been bankrupt of ideas. The revelation that former Minister Woods instructed civil servants to prevent news and information going to schools because he feared it might have a negative effect on his party's election prospects show that they are morally bankrupt as well." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, speaking during Statements on Audit of Health Structures, today accused the Government of embarking on administrative change rather than real reform. He said, "the two-tier health care system is inherently inefficient and no amount of better financial management or administrative restructuring can change that reality". He went on to say that the Governments proposals will mean less democratic accountability and that Sinn Féin would continue to campaign for a truly reformed health service.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "It is a tragedy and a scandal that healthcare in this State is delivered by means of a fundamentally flawed two-tier public-private
system. The Government's Health Strategy opted to retain this system. The two reports do not challenge it either, although they do expose some of the unfairness and inefficiency of the two-tier system. Health apartheid divides our society on income lines. The contribution to the common good which those on higher incomes could make is lost to the public system. As the Brennan Reports again exposes, many hospital consultants very profitably straddle the two systems and it is the public patient who loses out. The two-tier system is inherently inefficient and no amount of better financial management or administrative restructuring can change that reality.
"The vision and the political will to fundamentally reform that fundamentally unequal and inefficient system is absent from this Government.
"One of its key policy objectives and targets of the Health Strategy was for all additional beds to be designated solely for public patients. But instead of additional beds we are seeing bed closures, over 500 this year. At the same time public money is going to buy treatment in beds in the private system under the PDs' cherished Treatment Purchase Fund. This is a classic example of the piecemeal and contradictory approach of this and previous governments.
"The Government is embarking on administrative change rather than real reform. The most important recommendation of the Brennan Report is that all new public consultant appointments be on the basis of a commitment to work exclusively in the public sector. But the Government has chosen not to include that essential reform in its package of measures. We are urged to wait on the Hanley Report. But I suspect that the powerful consultants lobby has been at work and unless the government champions this proposal it will be shredded in negotiations with Finbarr Fitzpatrick and his colleagues.
"The administrative changes will mean less democratic accountability. Few will lament the passing of the existing health boards but where will the democratic input be? There is a reference in the Prospectus Report to Oireachtas representation at the level of the four Regional Health Offices but there is no detail and the Minister would not indicate in his response to my question on Tuesday what the composition of the Health Services executive will be.
"These reports come at a time of escalating government cuts. As beds are closed,as queues lengthen, as services for people with disabilities diminish, as people just above the income limit struggle to pay for GP visits, the Government will wave these reports at us and make more promises of a world class health service ? but not yet. It is not good enough and we will not stand for it. We in Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for a truly reformed health service which cherishes all of our people equally." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking following a meeting with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Government Buildings this morning said that what people want to see coming out of the meeting between the Irish and British governments next week is a definitive and unqualified assertion that the elections will go ahead.
Accompanying Mr. Adams this morning were party representative for Newry/Armagh Conor Murphy and Dublin EU candidate Marylou McDonald.
Mr. Adams said:
"What people want to see coming out of the meeting between the Taoiseach and Tony Blair next week is a definitive and unqualified assertion that elections will go ahead and that the Agreement will be implemented in full. We need to move quickly out of the dangerous vacuum that the British government has caused in the process. It is clear that elections would anchor the peace process and help restore people‚s confidence in its ability to bring about change.
"We, who supported the Good Friday Agreement, cannot wait on our rights and entitlements because of a crisis in Unionism. The governments have to recognise that these are democratic rights and move ahead with the implementation of all outstanding aspects of the Agreement."ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on children's issues, former West Belfast MLA Sue Ramsey has welcomed the appointment of a Children's Commissioner. Ms. Ramsey said:
"Sinn Féin welcomes the appointment of Mr. Williams to the post of Children's Commissioner. It is important that the post has been filled.
"However, we still have concerns about the specific role and remit of the commissioner, particularly around the issue of juvenile justice where the NIO were resistant.
"It is vital that the new Children's Commissioner gets the resources and support required to develop the full potential of this challenging portfolio. Sinn Féin looks forward to working with the new Children's Commissioner."ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has described Junior Minister Willie O'Dea's dismissal of demands for an inquiry into the murder of Donegal Councillor Eddie Fullerton as disgraceful. Mr. Doherty said that the family deserve to know the truth and supported their call for a full public inquiry into the matter.
Mr. Doherty said:
"Willie O‚Dea‚s dismissive attitude in the Seanad last night in relation to the murder of Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton was disgraceful. From the moment of his murder in 1991 questions have remain unanswered both in relation to the involvement of British military intelligence in his murder and in relation to the inadequate follow up investigation by the Gardaí.
"Minister O'Dea last night chose to ignore the valid questions that have been raised and incredibly refused to even countenance the possibility that the new witness that has come forward is fearful of attack from unionist paramilitaries.
"Furthermore it is not adequate for the Minister to say that any new information will be handed over to the Gardaí, especially when so many questions exist in relation to the Garda investigation itself and when at least one Garda, now facing very serious allegations before the Morris Tribunal, was himself centrally involved in the investigation of the murder of Eddie Fullerton.
"It is time that the government faced up to their responsibilities in relation to Eddie Fullerton's murder. His family deserve to know the truth."ENDS
Sinn Féin spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD and former Assembly Member Gerry McHugh have called on Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh and British Minister Pearson to ensure that the proposals agreed this morning by EU member states will be made work to the best benefit of Irish farmers.
Deputy Ferris and Mr McHugh said: "While we have still to analyse the full proposals and to consider what the implications will be, I welcome the fact that a decision has been reached. Sinn Féin also believes that the Irish Government should take the opportunity presented to implement full decoupling. We have set out our reasons why we believe that partial decoupling would only exacerbate the problems of bureaucracy while the full measure does, we feel, present an opportunity to allow for the future dynamic development of Irish farming. It can also create greater opportunities for the small and medium producers whose incomes and livelihoods have come under pressure over the past number of years.
"We also welcome the changes to the modulation proposal that will allow member states to retain control over the modulated funds. What also needs to be done is to ensure that those funds are match funded and made to bring about real benefits through the rural development measures that are proposed.
"We share the concerns expressed in regard to dairying. However, most of the problems in this sector are outside of the reform proposals. The recent Prospectus report indicated that prices will fall, quota levels will rise and many more farmers will leave dairying. In replies to questions I put to Minister Walsh he agreed with that analysis. So they are problems that will need to be dealt with separately from the reform of the CAP.
"Sinn Féin will be joining with others in attempting to persuade Minister Walsh to adapt the proposals to the best benefit of the majority of Irish farmers and we will be making detailed submissions on these over the next week". ENDS
Former Chairperson of the Assembly Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty and Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Upper Bann representative Dr Dara O'Hagan will lead a Sinn Féin delegation to meet with the head of the Strategic Investment Board today, Thursday 26th June, at 3pm at the Strategic Investment Body HQ.
This meeting is part of a wider series of meetings organised by Pat Doherty MP to in response to job losses West of the Bann.
Speaking ahead of the meeting Dr Dara O'Hagan said:
"It is vital that people see exactly what contribution the Strategic Investment Body will bring to investment in our infrastructure, particularly in areas where there is a legacy of under investment that has damaged the ability to retain jobs and attract inward investment.
"Sinn Féin supported the concept of a Strategic Investment Body that can generate change and deliver on this infrastructural deficit. But we have serious concerns about the potential of the SIB to centralise power; to take unaccountable decisions outside of departmental priorities or to make decisions that are based on narrow economic criteria as opposed to meeting the long term requirements of targeting social and economic need.
"There is the danger that if it operates in this narrow way that it may become a vehicle for replicating patterns of under investment and reinforcing the divisions and discrimination witnessed in the past." ENDS
Sinn Féin's Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness is in London this morning for a meeting with President Bush's Special Envoy for the north Richard Haass.
Speaking this morning before the meeting Mr. McGuinness said:
"Our meeting will provide an opportunity to review the current crisis in the peace process.
"I will stress to Mr. Haass Sinn Féin's view that the two governments, but especially the British government, need to move decisively to fill the political vacuum, implement the Good Friday Agreement and set a firm date for Assembly elections."ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan has called for Compulsory Purchase Orders to be used against speculators who are hoarding land and for compensation if necessary to be based on existing use value and not potential value as a consequence of rezoning. He also called on the Coalition partners to break their ties to the speculators and to "defend the interests of the ordinary people". The Louth TD was speaking during the second day of the Green Party's Private Members debate on Planning.
Deputy Morgan said: "The hoarding of building land by a small number of speculators and developers has helped to maintain the high price of development land, which has resulted in the current unaffordable house prices. The Government must act now.
"To the Coalition parties, I say break your ties to the speculators and defend the interest of the ordinary people of Ireland who face a bleak future, if the coalition fails to take radical reforming measures to deal with land speculation and the spiraling cost of building land.
"A code of practice should be implemented to ensure that speculators are not profiting from the development of State funded infrastructure by local and / or central government.
"Compulsory Purchase Orders should be used against speculators sitting on landbanks and derelict properties. Compensation for land procured through the CPO process, should where compensation is necessary, be based on existing use value or existing use value plus a stipulated percentage as outlined in the Kenny Report. It is not justifiable for local authorities to be faced with paying the full market value for land which has been hoarded and which has derived much of its value from the actions and decisions of that local authority like rezoning.
"The people of this state face a grim future if the Government does not address the problem of land speculation." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs Seán Crowe has called again on the Government to legislate for same-sex marriages.
Speaking in Leinster House yesterday the Dublin South-West TD said: "In light of last week's decision by the Canadian Government to legislate for same sex marriages, will the Taoiseach tell the House if it is proposed to introduce similar legislation to tackle this glaring inequality in Irish society, particularly regarding the property rights of couples in long-term relationships?"
"Following the announcement by the Ceann Comhairle that no such legislation is promised, Deputy Crowe said: "It is time the Government took a bit of initiative on this issue and recognised that same-sex couples should have the same rights as any other section of society. It's time to end discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP along with colleagues Mary Lou MacDonald and Conor Murphy will meet with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at Government Buildings in Dublin tomorrow (Thursday 26th) at 10.30am.
The delegation is available to speak to the media.
Speaking this evening Ms McDonald said:
"These meetings are part of the effort to fill the present vacuum caused by the suspension of the institutions, the cancellation of the elections and the inability of unionism to deal with the process of change.
"Our message to the Irish government tomorrow is clear, they must act, along with the British government to implement the outstanding aspects of the Agreement and fill the current vacuum with politics." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has claimed that the Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan was wrong to justify the use of plastic bullets by the PSNI in a report following unionist rioting at Drumcree last year.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The facts around plastic bullets are very clear. They are lethal weapons and they should not be used - they are not a mechanism of crowd control, they are killer devices.
"Nuala O'Loan is out of step with international Human Rights opinion in her defence of the use of these weapons in riot or crowd control situations and she is wrong to justify their use.
" Sinn Féin's position on plastic bullets is well known - we are absolutely opposed to their use and have campaigned for many years on this issue. We have made the issue of the continued use of plastic bullets a crucial part of our discussions with the British government." ENDS
"The Minister has been advised that this practice ended around the 1960s. I assure him that it continued into the 1980s. This is where an investigation is needed. If the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynecologists thought that this practice finished in the 1960s, who then is responsible for the brutality that carried over into the 1970s and even as late as 1983, when I understand three operations were carried out in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, and others at The Coombe Women's Hospital? As for the assertion that the results of these operations were very good, there are grounds for inquiry there too. If the Minister were to meet representatives of the group, he would know that the results were not very good." ENDS
For Immediate Release: Monday 23rd June 2003
Sinn Féin has welcomed the election of Councillor Pat O'Rawe as the first Sinn Féin Mayor of Armagh City & District Council as a positive step and a triumph for fair play and equality.
Following her election the new Mayor, Pat O'Rawe said;
"Today's election is indeed historic. I do not view it as a personal victory but rather as a triumph for equality and fair play. Sinn Féin is the third largest party on the council and therefore is entitled to this position. We have held and do hold similar positions on councils throughout the north and have shown that as a party we are both competent and capable. There area those who will view today's election in a negative manner but I would say to them they are wrong. The situation on other councils has proved that when a Republican Mayor is elected that the sky does not fall in. Sinn Féin Mayors and Chairpersons have shown a willingness and capability to get on with the job. I will endeavour to maintain and improve on that record for Armagh City & District Council. I do not intend to be simply a Sinn Féin Mayor. I will be Mayor for the whole council conscious of the fact that not everyone agrees with my party politics.
"Those who view my election in a negative manner will probably do so from a perspective of party politics. I would say to them that they are wrong. Today's election is a triumph not for Sinn Féin as a political party but for the continuing task of making councils and other forums properly representative of the electorate who elect them. The voters who voted for myself and my council colleagues are just as entitled to see elected representatives hold the position of Mayor as the voters who elect representatives from the other political parties. The issue here is one of equality and will be viewed by many as such.
"In the coming year I will endeavour to represent this council to the best of my ability. As I have said I am conscious of the political divisions within our community but I will try to overcome these. I cannot meet people half-way who are not willing to come half-way but nevertheless I am looking forward to the challenges of the coming year. Although we still have some way to go I recognise that the council has made positive steps towards full and proper representation. An example here is the positions on the various committees. Today's election is an extension to that and I hope will pave the way for further improvements."ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education and Science Seán Crowe, speaking in Leinster House this afternoon, called for an emergency debate on the decision of the Department of Education to axe 300 concessionary teaching posts and the impact this will have on the Government's education policy.
The Dublin South-West TD said: "The Government claims it intends to improve access to education and reduce class sizes and then, in a complete contradiction of Government policy, it announces that hundreds of teachers are to be thrown on the scrap heap. These latest cutbacks demonstrate once again the determination of this Government to balance the books by cutting vital public services instead of increasing revenue through a tax system that genuinely redistributes the wealth in Irish society.
"Many of these teachers are involved in minority subjects where we are trying to stimulate interest or in teaching children with special needs. Ironically while the Special Olympics are going on, the Government is targeting those with special needs again. Today it's secondary education targeted for cuts. Tomorrow it could be child benefit, CE schemes or community investment. Increasingly Irish people are asking themselves if there is anything this Government won't cut." ENDS
Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew commenting on the publication of the 'People and Places, A Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal' by the Department of Social Development has said that it will fail unless it genuinely tackles the legacy of discrimination.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The Department of Social Development has acknowledged that 70% of people living in the 10% most deprived wards, as measured by the Noble Index, are Catholic. All statistical evidence and indicators show that the legacy of institutionalised discrimination against Catholic communities has resulted in significantly higher levels of disadvantage. Any strategy that aims to tackle disadvantage and deprivation must address this legacy of discrimination.
"Sinn Féin has already voiced serious concern with the department and Equality Commission at the criteria developed by DSD in implementing the EU Peace II Programme for Neighbourhood Renewal Areas (under measure 2.11). Any repetition of this approach is unacceptable and runs contrary to commitments in the Good Friday Agreement and the Joint Declaration. I would warn Mr Speller against failing to recognise that need must be addressed on an objective basis. Targeting objective need means targeting objective need." ENDS