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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD stated his support for the protest outside the Dáil today by groups representing people with disabilities. He said:

"It is disgraceful that yet again people with disabilities have to demonstrate outside Leinster House because of the failure of this Government to keep their promises. The Programme for Government promised to 'complete the programme of expansion of appropriate care places for people with disabilities'. Instead funding for people with intellectual disabilities has been cut, existing care places cannot be maintained and the promised Disability Bill has not been published. On the eve of the Special Olympics this is a shameful record for the Government in the face of the international community." ENDS

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Speaking in advance of David Trimble's meeting with British Defence Minister Geoff Hoon in London today, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice Gerry Kelly said:

"Sinn Féin's position has been both clear and consistent. We want the removal from the six counties of all British forces - including the RIR.

"The RIR are first and foremost a unionist militia. Conflict resolution inevitable involves the removal of the RIR. Many nationalists, victims of the UDR and RIR, will want to know why Mr. Trimble is in London today demanding the retention of this force.

"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

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Sinn Féin MPs Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Michelle Gildernew and Pat Doherty this morning attended a special press conference organised by Relatives for Justice for a number of families whose members were killed either directly or indirectly by the Crown Forces.

Speaking from Cookstown Mr. McGuinness said:

"I wish to commend these families for taking this initiative. However the fact that they have had to resort to the UN is an indictment of the current inquest system and on the policy of obstruction adopted by the PSNI. As a result of this obstruction and the fact that it is now a decade since these killings, the families feel that the only way that the circumstances of the deaths of their loved ones can be investigated satisfactorily is through this sort of UN intervention.

"These families have invited the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitary Executions to visit the north on a fact finding mission. The inquests into the killings in Coagh, Clonoe and in the case of Roseanne Mallon are continuing to be obstructed by the PSNI refusing tohand over material requested by the lawyers. The PSNI are continuing, along the RUC route, of concealment, cover-up and secrecy.

"The attendance of Sinn Féins four MPs at this event is a signal of our strong support for the families in their fight for the truth."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MPs Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Michelle Gildernew and Pat Doherty will attend a special press conference organised by Relatives for Justice in the Greenvale Hotel, Cookstown, tomorrow, Tuesday 10th June at 10.30am.

The press conference is being held by a number of families whose loved ones were killed either directly or indirectly by the Crown Forces.

Speaking today Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Martin McGuinness said:

"These families have invited the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions to visit the north on a fact finding mission. The inquests into the killings in Coagh, Clonoe and in the case of Roseanne Mallon are continuing to be obstructed by the PSNI refusing to hand over material requested by the lawyers.

"In light of this obstruction and the fact that we are a decade on from the killings, the families feel that the only way that the circumstances can be investigated satisfactorily is through this sort of UN intervention.

"Sinn Féin's four MPs will attend the press event as a signal of our strong support for the families in their fight for the truth." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport, Martin Ferris TD has called for a Gaelic football match between members of the Oireachtas and a team from the PSNI to be abandoned. Deputy Ferris was responding to plans by fellow Kerry TD Jimmy Deenihan to organise a match to be held at the Kilmacud Crokes pitch in Dublin next Tuesday, June 17.

Deputy Ferris said:

"It is entirely inappropriate for TDs and Senators to take part in such an event at this point in time. The excerpts from the Stevens Report which detail the appalling level of complicity on the part of the RUC/PSNI in the murders of nationalists prove that until there is proper reform of the police in the Six Counties they should not be granted the kind of respectability which such an event would confer.

"Apart from that, members of the PSNI and the British Army continue to harass members and supporters of the GAA who are taking part in Association activities. Indeed the most glaring example of this continues to be the constant and intrusive overflights and British troop movements around the GAA pitch in Crossmaglen. Until such interference ceases, and until there is a properly reformed and acceptable police force in the Six Counties it is not appropriate that the GAA and its facilities should be used to promote the premature rehabilitation of the PSNI". ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality, and Human Rights Aengus Ó SnodaighTD has announced that Sinn Féin is backing the Equality Coalition's demand that the Minister for Justice withdraw his proposals to amend the Intoxicating Liquor Bill by removing the Equality Tribunal's jurisdiction in discrimination cases relating to licensed premises and allowing publicans to set their own age limits for access, on the grounds that this will have the effect of undermining the Equal Status Act. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Everyone has a right to equal treatment and to protection against discrimination. There are no exceptions to this, and therefore there can be no exemptions from equality laws - they must apply equally to everyone. There is no doubt that the Minister's proposals to make exceptions in the case of licensed premises will establish a dangerous precedent that could potentially unravel all the equality legislation gains made to date. It sends a signal that if an interest group has the money and the power they can successfully lobby this government for an exemption from compliance with this law, and the rights of the marginalised in our society can just be binned. This is ludicrous. It makes a mockery of our equality laws. Such proposals cannot be allowed to stand.

"The Minister has made no secret of the fact that he opposes a rights-based society. Yet as Minister for Justice and Equality he has a duty to ensure that all are treated equally under the law. If he cannot do this, he should not continue to hold the office of Minister.

"Sinn Féin believes that, rather than limiting the scope of the equality laws the Minister should be looking at ways of strengthening the equality legislation by extending the grounds to include trade union membership, political opinion and status of formerly incarcerated persons. As well, non-discrimination and promotion of equality should be statutory duties, not optional.

"Equality rights threaten nobody. Indeed they are a fundamental measure of social progress." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, a member of the Oireachtas Joint Commmittee on Finance and the Public Service has called for the CEOs of the leading Irish banks to attend a special hearing of the Committee to explain the leading Irish banks' failure to pass on the European Central Bank's interest rate cut. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"It is a disgrace that unlike the majority of financial institutions in the EU, the leading Irish banks, AIB and Bank of Ireland, have not passed on the interest rate cut. It is yet another example of the fleecing of customers which they have been allowed to get away with for too long.

"I have today written to the Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service, Deputy Seán Fleming, urging a special meeting to which representatives of the banks would be invited. Let them come and explain themselves to the elected representatives of the people they exploit so freely. We also need to examine the whole system of bank charges and the disregard of the banks for people in rural areas where they continue to close branches.

"Finance Minister McCreevy's statement that the situation should be left to the market to sort out does not make sense because we do not have enough competitive diversity in financial services in Ireland, with the big players like AIB and Bank of Ireland dominating, and these virtual monopolies are subject to no real control by the State."ENDS

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Former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, Sinn Féin's Francie Molloy has said that Angela Smith has failed to make the case for the imposition of Water Charges.

Mr Molloy said:

"Angela Smith has failed to convince people that the attempt to impose Water Charges is either justified or will lead to improvements in water services.

"The terms of the debate set out in the current consultation are totally unsatisfactory. The debate should be about what are the benefits of water charges and what are the real costs but instead Angela Smith is acting as if imposing a water tax is a foregone conclusion and the debate is being framed about what mechanism she will use.

"The £400 million under spend revealed last week puts into perspective the potential to generate money from water taxation.

"Trade Unions, local government and across the political spectrum there is vocal opposition to the imposition of Water Charges. It is time that Angela Smith listened to what people really think. The consultation process is bogus. We need to go back to the drawing board.

"The comparison with the UK is also fraudulent. Large amounts of capital were invested into both Wales and Scotland prior to moving towards a 'self-financing' model. Here we have had decades of under investment that Angela Smith now proposes that we are penalised for. Similarly to compare rates here with UK models is wrong because they are based on entirely different models of local government service provision. We are not comparing like with like.

"The British Treasury is determined to see water charges imposed here regardless of strong local opposition. Unions, political parties, community organisations and individuals need to stand up and be counted and force Angela Smith to reconsider.

People are angry. They know that they already pay for their water through their rates. They know that the record of the water services is very poor and that the most recent Public Accounts report highlighted massive levels of water lost through leaks, literally money down the drain.

"My concern is that this is the first step on the road to the privatisation of water as part of a wider privatisation agenda set in train by Mark Durkan's flawed Reform and Reinvestment Initiative.

"The consequences of this project which includes substantial rates increase, imposing water charges - the so-called Durkan taxes, the Strategic Investment Body as currently constituted, the wholesale stripping of public assets and privatisation have not been properly thought through.

"British Treasury officials must be laughing up their sleeves at the gullibility and short sightedness of our own local Finance Ministers for buying into this double taxation and privatisation model so readily." ENDS

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Following representations made to him by Fishermen in county Wexford, Sinn Féin Cllr John Dwyer has called on the Junior Minister for the Marine, John Browne, to explain why Irish fishing vessels are being singled out for detention in Irish waters.

Speaking on Saturday Cllr Dwyer said:

"I have been approached by a number of fishermen in county Wexford lately who are greatly concerned at what clearly seems to be a deliberate policy, by the authorities, of detaining Irish fishing vessels for alleged offences in Irish waters.

"Over the past two years 63 Irish vessels have been detained in Irish waters, while the combined total of Spanish, British, French and Portugese amounts to just 21. This, despite the fact that Irish trawlers are limited to less than 20% of the total allowable catch around our coast. At present the number of Irish fishing vessels being detained is actually seven times greater than the number of Spanish vessels.

"This is a source of great anger to Irish fishermen, who feel that they have gained nothing from the whole EU project and indeed have seen their livelihoods threatened while fishing vessels from other EU countries have harvested our waters.

"I would ask the Junior Minister for the Marine, John Browne to explain the imbalance in the number of detentions of Irish vessels compared to other nationalities.

"Are the Irish authorities focussing on Irish trawlers and effectively turning a blind eye to the activities of other EU vessels? The evidence clearly points to a deliberate policy, on the part of the authorities, of targeting Irish fishing vessels in our own waters and this must be explained satisfactorily"ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking at the Robert Emmet commemoration in Tipperary this weekend said that 'the Irish government's failure to demand to be treated, as of right, as a co-equal partner with the British government is not the action of a government that is a co-equal partner in the family of nations.' He called for a concerted campaign by the political parties in this state demanding that the elections go ahead. Mr. McLaughlin said:

"The Good Friday Agreement, endorsed in referenda throughout the 32 counties was achieved after long and painstaking negotiations. It is an International Treaty between the British and Irish governments, not a British or a Unionist Agreement that can be changed unilaterally. But despite the enormous democratic legitimacy of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish government, as a supposed co-equal partner and guarantor of the Agreement could not or did not prevent the British government suspending the Assembly on four occasions or effectively cancelling the Assembly elections in an arrogant and arbitrary manner.

This was an Agreement that the nationalist political establishment described as the greatest act of Irish national self-determination since 1918. Sinn Féin rejected this interpretation and events since then have vindicated our position. If it really was the people of Ireland exercising self-determination then how could the British government, at the stroke of a pen, wipe it out and why is there not a concerted campaign by all of the political parties in this state demanding that the British government respect democracy and reverse its decision to cancel an Irish election?

"Failure to demand to be treated, as of right, as a co-equal partner with the British government, in an International Treaty, which underpins the Good Friday Agreement or refusing to respect and defend the democratic decision of the Irish electorate as h to point out to Irish unionism that our vision for the future, free from British dominance does not threaten or diminish their civil, human or cultural rights. No nationalist or republican in the New Ireland will enjoy one right or privilege that is not equally available to those of the unionist or any other tradition. The rights of all the people of Ireland will have to be safeguarded in a new Constitution and Bill of Rights."

Setting out the imperative for a broad coalition to deliver Irish unity Mr. McLaughlin said:

"The term Irish republican is often used in a narrow sense to describe members and supporters of Sinn Féin. But I think a broader definition is required which embraces all those who share a commitment to the complete freedom of the Irish people.

"The vision of the Irish Republic which we seek encompasses all of Ireland and its people. It involved social and economic equality, as well as political, religious and cultural freedom. It values the Irish language and culture while embracing cultural diversity in Ireland and internationally. For this new Ireland to be achieved we need to build a real coalition in the broadest sense of the word with all those campaigning for real and lasting change in our country.

"It is when we deliver an effective strategy for re-uniting the territory and people of Ireland, that we will be able to take our place Œamong the nations of the earth." ENDS

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Speaking at a public information meeting in the Rhue Glenn, Slieve Rue, tonight, Chairperson of Leinster Sinn Féin, Cllr John Dwyer, accused Waterford Port Authority of being 'hell-bent' on creating an environmental catastrophe with their plans to allow the Herhof company to site an incinerator at Bellview, South Kilkenny.

Cllr Dwyer said:

"Despite extensive local opposition, due to very real health concerns, it has become clear that Waterford Port Authority and the Herhof corporation are in agreement to site an incinerator at Bellview, South Kilkenny, and that these plans are at an advanced stage.

"Waterford Port Authority are an unelected body and so have little fear of a public backlash to their plans. Neither do they have any respect for the widespread public opposition to incineration as a waste management option.

"Aside from lethal dioxin emissions that will have no respect for county boundaries, of further great concern is the fact that the Port Authority seem to be intent on destroying the waters off Hook Head by their proposal to dump dredging spoils from the Bellview incinerator development.

"Waterford county councillors, along with their counterparts on Wexford county council, voted against incineration as a waste management option, only for both bodies to be over-ruled by their respective, unelected county managers. We are now very clearly seeing the end result of the erosion of local democracy.

"I would call on all concerned groups and individuals to step up their opposition to this development now as a matter of great urgency."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, former MLA Sue Ramsey has welcomed news that waiting list figures have fallen for the second quarter running but called for continued increases in investment in terms of staffing levels and resources.

Ms Ramsey said:

"The former Health Minister Bairbre de Brún put in place the foundations for far reaching change within our health care services. Fundamental to achieving lasting progress must be continued investment and increases in staffing levels and resources.

"The focus put on tackling waiting lists by Bairbre de Brún and the measures she introduced are now beginning to bear fruit. But too many people are still waiting for too long so there is still further progress to be made." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International and EU Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh has condemned the decision by EU Interior Ministers to add Batasuna, a Basque political party, to the list of organisations it suspects has links with terrorism. The decision was made at the request of a Spanish government that has been waging an accelerating ideological war against Basque culture, language and independence movements.

The Dublin South-Central TD said: "Everyone with an interest in seeing a peaceful solution to the problems in the Euskal Herria (The Basque Country) will regret this decision. The EU has been conned into doing the dirty work of a Spanish administration, which has continually displayed absolute contempt for the democratic process and for the Basque people. The threat to peace and democracy in Euskal Herria does not come from democratically elected Batasuna but from the Spanish Government.

"The meaning of democracy for Prime Minister Aznar includes the banning of political parties, the closure of newspapers and radio stations, the prosecution of culture and language activists, the imprisonment of the executive of Basque youth organisations and the ongoing and systematic abuse and torture of political prisoners, repeatedly denounced by human rights organisations and just as repeatedly ignored.

"Sinn Féin joins tens of thousands of Basques in expressing our continued support for Batasuna and the struggle for independence and socialism in Euskal Herria." ENDS

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Speaking before a meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen in Derry today, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said: The Irish government have a duty to ensure that democratic rights and entitlements are delivered and upheld. This includes ensuring that a date for the postponed elections is set.' Mr. McGuinness said:

"I welcome Brian Cowen's visit to Derry. It is important that Irish government Ministers interact directly with northern opinion at community, as well as political level. I am sure that Mr. Cowen will be made aware of the deep sense of frustration that exists following the cancellation of the elections by the British government and the ongoing pandering to negative unionism.

"The Irish government is a co-equal partner with the British in the Good Friday Agreement. They have a duty to ensure that democratic rights and entitlements are delivered and upheld. This includes ensuring that a date for the postponed elections is set. It means ensuring that the nationalist community no longer has to live under threat from a unionist militia like the RIR."ENDS

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East Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Joe O'Donnell speaking after today's meeting with the Parades Commission has called on them to uphold their original ruling on the parade. Cllr. O'Donnell met with the Parades Commission to discuss their decision to review their ruling regarding this Saturday's proposed Apprentice Boys marches around the Short Strand.

Cllr. O'Donnell said:

"This proposed parade has no history in the area and the fact that the Apprentice Boys wished to march around the Short Strand three times would indicate that the sole aim of this parade is to raise tensions in an area where people are working hard on the ground to maintain calm.

"The Parades Commission made a determination on this parade. In this determination both sides had to compromise. We have tried to sell this decision to nationalists on the ground while there are many within the unionist community who have refused to do so and have instead adopted a

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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

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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

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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

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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

· acceptable

· 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

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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

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