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South Armagh Sinn Féin Cllr. Pat McGinn has demanded an explanation from the Security Minister Jane Kennedy after a UVF Flag was hoisted on the British Army base in Bessbrook.

Cllr. McGinn

"A UVF Flag has appeared on the British Army base in Bessbrook. It is attached to one of the stanchions used to support spy cameras at the military complex. It must be stressed that this flag is in such a position that the only people who could have erected it were those within the base.

It has now remained in position for a number of weeks.

" Jane Kennedy should now publicly explain to the people of South Armagh why this flag has been erected and by who and why it has not been removed. She should also spell out what action she will be taking after this serious incident.

" We have known for many years that British state forces have shared information, weapons and membership with the unionist paramilitaries. It is however unusual for such a public display of collusion to be put on display."

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Editors Note: Copies of a photograph showing the UVF Flag flying from Bessbrook British Army Base are available from the Sinn Féin Press Office.

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Sinn Féin Newry Armagh representative Conor Murphy has said that the three devices abandoned in the Camlough/Bessbrook area by Unionist paramilitaries were apparently intended to target Sinn Féin representatives.

Mr Murphy said:

"This is the reality of being a Sinn Féin representative. Unionists of all shades in their attitude to republicans legitimise the targeting of elected representatives. While some politicians are indulging in shallow opportunism around tee shirts there still remains the vital task of building on the foundations of the peace process and serving the needs of constituents.

"These unionist paramilitaries are opposed to the political process and opposed to the peace process. They have nothing positive to contribute to the challenges we face as a society in dealing with the inevitable process of change and transformation the Good Friday Agreement stands for.

"The failure of unionist leadership, particularly in areas like South Armagh in rising to meet these challenges and their inability to respond positively to change has helped to create the political vacuum. This is being filled by the widespread increase in unionist paramilitary violence that has spread throughout the six counties." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has expressed his sympathy to the Kearney family of the death of Oliver, a tireless campaigner against discrimination and inequality.

Mr Adams said:

" It is with great sadness that I learn of the death of Oliver Kearney. Oliver was a tireless campaigner against discrimination and inequality, and along with his late wife Bridget, will be remembered for their efforts across the United States to see the MacBride Principles on fair employment adopted.

"On behalf of Sinn Féin I would send my condolences to the Kearney family at this sad time." ENDS

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Commenting on the birth of a baby en route to Cavan General Hospital from a doctor's surgery in Ballybay, Co. Monaghan today, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

"This is the second such birth in a week which shows the dire need for the Maternity Unit at Monaghan to be reopened as a matter of urgency. Last week a woman gave birth in Monaghan Hospital itself, even though the site has neither a maternity unit nor an A&E unit. Now another child has been born in an ambulance along the roadside. People in County Monaghan are outraged at what expectant mothers are being forced to endure.

"The promised report on Monaghan Hospital by Mr. Kevin Bonner must be published without further delay. There is a widespread perception now that this report is being delayed by the Department of Health and Children as they endeavour to whittle down the recommendations as initially drafted by Mr. Bonner.

"People campaigning for the restoration of the Maternity Unit at Monaghan have been dismissed repeatedly by the Minister for Health, his Department, the professional bodies and the Health Board Executive when they have raised the prospect of more roadside births and the grave danger to expectant mothers and new-born children. What does it take for them to recognise the reality staring them in the face?"ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has said the announcement that a British Major caught cheating on a game show is being thrown out of the British Army while the killers of Peter McBride are retained 'is yet another insult to the McBride family'.

Mr Kelly said:

"The killers of Peter McBride were welcomed back into their regiment and rearmed after serving a short time in prison. Today we hear that the British Major caught cheating on the TV game show 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' has been thrown out of the British Army.

"These decisions taken together show the contempt with which those in the British military establishment hold Irish lives. It is deemed a more serious matter in their eyes to try and swindle a TV game show than gun down an unarmed teenager yards from his own front door." ENDS

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Responding to an attack on funding for the GAA by Gregory Campbell, Sinn Féin Representative for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy has said that it is 'typical anti-Catholic, anti-GAA nonsense from the DUP'.

Mr Murphy said:

"For years the DUP have mounted a sectarian campaign against the GAA. At various times this anti-GAA cheer leading has resulted in attacks by the various unionist paramilitary organisations on GAA members and GAA property. That is the context in which we must view this latest attack by Gregory Campbell.

"The GAA is the largest sporting organisation in Ireland. It makes an invaluable contribution to society across the island and merits any statutory funding it receives. It is more popular in terms of participation and spectators than either rugby, cricket or local soccer. Maybe that is the real problem Gregory Campbell has with the GAA." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at the launch of the march and rally against collusion said:

"Collusion between British state forces and unionist death squads has been a consistent feature of the 6 county state since its creation.

State forces have shared information, weapons and membership with unionist paramilitaries.

Over the last 30 years collusion became a daily reality and resulted in some of the worst incidents of violence including the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and the reign of terror conducted by the Shankill Butchers.

In the mid-1980s, the British government introduced a new policy to give them greater control of these death squads. The unionist paramilitaries were to be re-organised, resourced and directed by the British intelligence services to ensure that their targeting, to quote a British intelligence report, was 'more professional'.

Subsequently, British Intelligence recruited, or placed, large numbers of agents in the loyalist paramilitaries.

The loyalists were armed with modern weapons. In December 1987 over 300 weapons were brought into the north of Ireland, with the full participation and knowledge of British Intelligence.

British Intelligence updated and organised loyalist intelligence documents to ensure that the loyalists would, in the words of the British Army officer, Colonel Gordon Kerr, (interviewed by the Steven's Enquiry) ' concentrate their targeting on known provisional IRA activists'.

Hundreds of people were killed, and many more injured and maimed, in a campaign of state-sponsored murder.

No member of the Special Branch or British military Intelligence has been indicted for these crimes. More seriously, this policy of collusion has never been reversed. It remains, perhaps less active, but nevertheless, intact today.

The British agencies, which executed this policy, remain in place today. The Special Branch of the RUC became the Special Branch of the PSNI while the Force Research Unit of the British Army has been renamed the Joint Services Group. MI5 continues to operate as before.

The policy of employing the loyalist death squads was not the actions of rogue agents or individuals who overstepped their responsibilities. It was a policy endorsed at the highest political level. The British government has never accepted its responsibility for the deaths which resulted from this policy.

Sinn Féin, along with the families of the victims of this policy of collusion, are organising a march and rally to Belfast City Hall, at 3pm on August 10.

We are calling for a large attendance in support of the families of those who were killed through the policy of state-sponsored murder and to demand from the British the truth about its role, and that of its various armed and intelligence agencies, in the killing of citizens.

Its time for the truth about collusion." ENDS

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Lisburn City Sinn Féin Cllr. Paul Butler has said that the campaign to expose discrimination on the Council will now move to the courts. Cllr. Butler's remarks came after the Council refused to debate a Sinn Féin motion calling for the D'honte principles to be applied to allocating Council positions. This came after the unionist parties excluded nationalists from all Council positions.

Cllr. Butler said:

"The motion put before Council last night by Sinn Féin offered the Council a way out of the discrimination mess which the unionist parties have embroiled us in. Unfortunately the motion to introduce D'honte was not even allowed to be debated last night. The unionists chose to defer it to a committee in September."

"This approach is not good enough. Sinn Féin will not simply stand aside and watch nationalists and republicans being treated as second class citizens. I will be meeting with our legal representatives this morning and we will be actively exploring the possibility of seeking a judicial review of the original decision to exclude all non-unionists from civic positions." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy has accused the British Home Office Minister Fiona McTaggart, of 'deliberately misrepresenting the situation regarding those people claiming asylum who are currently being held in Maghaberry prison'. Mr. Murphy's remarks come after an interview this morning on Good Morning Ulster when the Minister claimed that only 10 Asylum Seekers are held at any one time in the prison.

Mr. Murphy said:

"This morning British Home Office Minister Fiona McTaggart justified the failure to provide accommodation for those seeking asylum in the six counties on grounds of economics. She defended the practice of interning asylum seekers in Maghaberry claiming that there are never more than ten people detained there at any one time.

"This claim is simply lies. I was in touch with the Refugee Action Group this morning and they confirmed that last months figures show 18 asylum seekers interned in Maghaberry including two pregnant women and two children. As the Minister responsible for these people I can only presume that Ms McTaggart was aware of this figure and when she made her remarks this morning.

"It would seem that the Minister is deliberately misrepresenting the situation regarding asylum seekers held in prison here. I recently visited some of those being interned in Maghaberry and I would restate the Sinn Féin position that there is no possible justification for holding people who have not committed any offence within a prison regime." ENDS

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Two weeks ago Mr Patrick Yu resigned from the Human Rights Commission (HRC). He was the third Commissioner to do so on the basis of deeply held serious concerns about the effectiveness of the HRC established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Following on from this Sinn Féin requested a meeting with both governments to raise this and a number of other serious concerns about the HRC.

Following recent events, including today's interview in the Irish News with the Chief Commissioner Brice Dickson, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams warned that 'the Commission‚' ability to uphold and protect human rights is seriously in doubt. Only last week a Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights also identified serious problems with the Commission. If public confidence is to be restored the British government needs to act now.

The Sinn Fein President continued:

"The highly disturbing revelations around the actions of the Chief Commissioner Brice Dickson and several other Commissioners, regarding the blockade of children attending Holy Cross primary school and the policing of that situation by the PSNI, have further dented political and public confidence in the Commission‚s ability to uphold and protect human rights.

"The Chief Commissioner‚s public explanations in the media today about this matter are unconvincing and unsatisfactory.

"Sinn Féin has consistently raised concerns around the Commission, including its powers and resources, the representativeness of Commissioners and the appointment process itself. Last week the Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights reached many of the same conclusions and recommended amending legislation to place a duty on the Commission to act with independence and impartiality.

"This is crucial in order to repair the damage to the Commission and to make it an effective guardian of human rights. Prompt action from the British government is essential to repair the damage to the Commission and to make it an effective guardian of human rights.

"It is also crucial that the Commission itself seriously reflects on the growing fears being expressed by former commissioners and other human rights experts that its approach on equality and parity of esteem have a potential to undermine the Good Friday Agreement itself". ENDS.

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My focus at today's discussion is the role of education in a civilised society. Of course, this title presupposes the existence of a civilised society and that, unfortunately, is not a given. The Ireland of today has still some distance to go if we are to presume to define ourselves as a civilised society.

This year the Orange marching season in the north has been much more peaceful than we normally experience. This is the result of intense work on the part of political and community activists on the ground in both sections of the community. But the existence of ingrained sectarianism continues to afflict society in the north of Ireland and the images of the young children of the Holy Cross School in Ardoyne running a gauntlet of sectarian abuse and attack underlines starkly how much further we have to travel.

And our lack of civilisation is not confined to religious hatred and bigotry. The intimidation and driving out of a Muslim family in the north two weeks ago was a disgrace and demands the attention and action of any society which aspires to be regarded as civilised.

Racism against others is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland and all the more despicable given that we, as people, were and still are at the receiving end of racist bigotry and ignorance.

Racism and sectarianism have no place in a modern society. They have no place in a civilised society and they must have no place in Ireland.

Of course, some recent developments have been more encouraging. The hosting of the Special Olympics in Ireland this year is something we can all be proud of. The organizers deserve full credit for the enormous effort that they made. But the true heroes are of course the participants from every corner of the globe who came here to participate and to demonstrate in the most visible way possible that every human being has his or her own strengths and abilities. The focus on the abilities of the participants, rather than the disabilities, was a positive, enlightening and educational experience for all the people of this island.

Crisis in the Peace Process

On the political front we have also much to celebrate and be proud of. I can say without fear of contradiction that, as a result of the peace process, where we are now is a far better place than where we were 10 years ago. And I am confident that where we will be in 10 years from now will be a far better place again.

Unfortunately, however, our peace process is facing yet another, perhaps its deepest crisis yet. The democratic institutions agreed and established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement have been unilaterally suspended by the British government. But more damagingly, the British government has unilaterally cancelled elections in Ireland which derive directly from the Good Friday Agreement which was itself endorsed by the majority of the people of Ireland voting in referendums in 1998. The British government has no mandate in Ireland. The British government has no right to over-ride the democratic process in Ireland.

The canceling of elections undermines democracy and politics and damages the peace process which is premised on the possibility of making politics work. Perhaps the British government does not fully understand the significance of their actions but they are entirely responsible for the dangerous vacuum which currently exists and which opponents of the peace process on both sides will try to exploit.

I will talk later about the review of the school curriculum and our attempts to show children that contentious issues can be addressed and resolved politically. But to do that politics must work and must be seen to be working. That task becomes very difficult if the British government unilaterally and arbitrarily suspends the democratic process upon which politics is based.

A definite date must now be set for the cancelled elections.

The institutions agreed on Good Friday and endorsed by the people need to be put back in place urgently.

Sinn Fein is now engaged in a renewed negotiation with the two governments in an attempt to achieve this. But there can be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement must be implemented in full. We must see an end to political and paramilitary policing. Our society must be demilitarized, on all sides. There must be an end to discrimination, inequality and sectarianism. Human rights must become a reality for all our people. The British government has accepted, in the recently published Joint Declaration, that it has failed to deliver on these obligations so there is a particular onus on that government to do so without further delay.

But despite the present and on-going difficulties that we face, we have made enormous progress.

The peace process has already transformed the situation in Ireland. A few short years ago it would have been unimaginable that I would have been here addressing you as a former Minister for Education. 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. We seemed trapped in a conflict that many believed to be intractable. In a relatively short period of time the political landscape has been transformed and we have provided the hope, if not yet the certainty, that the injustices and failures of the past will never be repeated. The progress we have made is based on the key principles of equality, justice and inclusivity. There is much work still to be done in these areas if we are to build a civilised society based on these principles, but we have at least made a start.

The Role of Education in a Civilised Society

In addressing the topic of today's discussion perhaps I could approach from a slightly different angle. It is my belief that education has a key role to play in the achievement of a civilised society. I am convinced that education can be the heart of a new, more enlightened more tolerant and progressive society. But to be so, education, and the system which delivers it must be modern, forward looking and, itself, progressive. It must be child centered and based on equality, diversity and mutual respect. It should challenge division rather than entrench it and it should act as a unifying influence in our society.

It was because of the transforming potential of education that I chose to be Minister for Education.

In his first public speech Abraham Lincoln said that Education was then the most important issue facing the American people. I believe that Education is the most important issue now facing the Irish people. Education is critical to who we are. It defines uhat equality must be at the heart of anything we do. The reality is that academic selection for some means academic rejection for the majority of our children. It is a system which is fundamentally unfair.

And the group which does worst under academic selection is the disadvantaged and most strikingly the disadvantaged Protestant Community. The poorest results are seen in state schools serving disadvantaged working class Protestant areas. In some working class Protestant areas a grammar school place is beyond the reach of almost all pupils - in the Shankill for example, less than 2% of pupils pass the academic test at age 11.

The system is not serving the working classes and it is certainly not serving children from working class Protestant families.

I want fairness and better educational opportunities for all children; whether they are Catholic or Protestant; well off or disadvantaged; whatever their abilities. A system which designates any 11important that we recognize that and deal with it. We have to leave the wounds open to the air to heal. We have to hold up our past and ask ourselves what we need to do to ensure we can all move forward together.

I believe that one of our most important tasks will be to try to ensure that there is a political alternative to conflict and that our young people are equipped to handle political disagreements peacefully and democratically; to be proud of their own culture while accepting other's; to welcome and value diversity; to understand the real, practical meaning of equality, human and civil rights, civic responsibilities, democracy and justice.

To do that we are fundamentally reviewing the common core curriculum in our schools. If get this right, we will have a curriculum that I believe will do more than anything else to help build a tolerant society at ease with itself - a civilised society. A curriculum which acknowledges our unresolved political ir Education, I recognized and acted on the progressive and civilizing potential of education. I doubt if we can yet define ourselves as a civilised society but I hope that we are moving in the right direction. When asked his view of modern civilization, Mahatma Gandhi famously replied, 'That would be a good idea‰. We all have some distance to go.

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Sinn Féin's Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed the Government's allocation of 50 million EURO for improved services for people with disabilities but said that its piecemeal approach to funding must end. He said:

"This is a welcome allocation for much-needed improvement in services. But it must not be forgotten that people with disabilities had to protest before, during and after the Special Olympics to demand that the shortfall in funding be addressed urgently by the Government. As a result of the political pressure they have now relented. This shows a piecemeal and unplanned approach which must be replaced with properly planned funding based on the real needs of people with disabilities and in full consultation with their representative organisations.

"The Government must also clarify as a matter of urgency if they will remove the three year cap on CE schemes, on which many people with disabilities and disability organisations depend.

"This 50 million allocation for some of the most vulnerable people in our society is placed in perspective when we see that Tony O‚Reilly alone is set to gain a dividend of 20 million EURO from the Valentia break-up of the privatised Eircom." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as 'appalling' the massive loss by the National Pension Reserve Fund on the international Stock Market. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"As a seasoned gambler Minister McCreevy chose to establish the Pension Reserve Fund and sink massive sums in speculation on the international stock market. We see today the appalling result of that gamble. The fund was ill-conceived from the beginning. It should be totally restructured and funds used for infrastructural investment, including transport, health and education services." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning launched the party's new look website at the ITXP internet café on the Ormeau Road in Belfast. The site contains many new features and is designed to be easily accessible to users.

Mr. Adams said:

"This website is the latest and most high-tech way of bringing the republican message to an audience at home and across the world. It will help us advance our struggle to achieve our objective of a united Ireland, an Ireland of equals.

"We have always recognised the absolute importance of explaining our struggle to a wider audience, of winning hearts and minds.

"Republicans, throughout the years of repression and censorship, found innovative ways to get our message across. Thankfully, we have come a long way from the days when republican prisoners, naked except for a blanket, told the world the story of their resistance by smuggling out notes scratched on cigarette strength to strength, with more and more people identifying with our message of building an Ireland of Equals. It is vital that people are fully aware of the type of Ireland we are trying to create and that they can get involved in our work.

"When we initially launched the site in 1995, it played a vital role in the emerging peace process. I believe that our new look site will play just as meaningful a role on the road to Irish unity and independence."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, Upper Bann representative Dr Dara O'Hagan has expressed concern over the motives that led to the allocation of Peace II European money being described in a recent Westminster report as a shambles‚.

Dr O'Hagan said:

"There have now been three key reports on the administration and allocation of European money through the EU's Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation.

"The administration of Peace II was a shambles‚ and the conclusions of the recent Westminster select committee report highlighted that processing applications frequently exceeded 100 working days. This is unacceptable and a key factor behind the threat of having to return over £55 million of available money to Europe.

"This is money that should be destined to tackling the objective need that exists as a result of decades of conflict and systematic institutionalised discrimination against the Catholic community.

"The report by consultants Haase and Pratschke into Peace I estimated that the Catholic Community‚s share of programmes funding was 56% compared with the Protestants community's share of 44%. The report found that this was a result of higher levels of disadvantage in Catholic areas.

"The Joseph Rowntree report into Peace highlighted the fact that the key changes between Peace I and Peace II were highly contested and conducted behind closed doors‚.

"One of my key concerns is that there was a politically motivated decision making process within the Department of the First and Deputy First Minister, headed by a prominent unionist economist, that deliberately sought to undermine the work of the Peace I programme by making the application process around Peace II obstructive. With the aim of reducing the availability of resources that could effectively target objective need.

"The result has been to discriminate against the community and voluntary sector, and all areas were there exists a very real and urgent objective need. The report into Peace I highlights the fact that this is a need that exists in significantly higher levels within the Catholic community."ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality Bairbre de Brún is in Boston this week with party colleagues Robbie Smyth - General Secretary and Lucilita Bhreatnach - Head of Equality Department, to attend the 'Justice in Times of Transition' seminar in Harvard University. Ms de Brún has described the seminar as a welcome opportunity to discuss issues of governance but said what is urgently required to put these into practice is the holding of elections and the re-establishment of the political institutions.'

Speaking from Boston today Ms de Brún said:

"Over the last number of years Harvard University has run a series of seminars directly related to the peace process under the auspices of the Justice in Times of Transition programme. All of these seminars have allowed a very valuable exchange of information and have afforded an opportunity to discuss issues of governance as we move out of conflict.

"Of course the primary difficulty that we currently face is the absence of political institutions and the fact that the British government has refused to set a date for Assembly elections. The British government should stop undermining democracy and allow good governance to develop throughout Ireland."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has said the conduct of the investigation into voting fraud centred on UUP Chief Executive Alastair Patterson raises a number of concerns.

Ms Gildernew said:

" The arrest of leading unionist and former senior electoral official Alastair Patterson raises a number of hugely significant issues. Aside from the obvious question of political bias within the electoral system and the disadvantage that any proven fraud has caused to nationalists and republicans West of the Bann, many people are questioning the conduct of the investigation currently under way.

" It seems that Mr Patterson was released from questioning last night on what were described by the PSNI as very serious matters. It now emerges that he returned today to continue with this process. This method of questioning is in sharp contrast to that employed on almost everybody else unfortunate enough to come under investigation by the PSNI.

" It is unheard of for a suspect detained on serious matters to be questioned, sent home to bed and asked to come back in the morning. Would this be the approach adopted by the PSNI to the detention of a nationalist or republican? I think the answer is obvious. It seems that Mr Patterson's position as a senior unionist is delivering previously unheard of benefits for him in relation to this investigation." ENDS

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Commenting on the decision of the British Labour Party's Executive to recommend organising in the six counties Sinn Féin Representative for Upper Bann Dr. Dara O'Hagan said:

" The dynamic and logic of the Good Friday Agreement is about shifting power, control and influence away from London and onto the island of Ireland. The result of this has been for partitionist parties in both the 6 and 26 Counties to explore the possibility of following Sinn Féin and organising on an all-Ireland basis.

" The reality is that we do not need British parties organising in Ireland. We already have Irish parties organised in Ireland. There is no logic political or otherwise for the British Labour Party organising in Ireland.

"History tells us, that in any election British Labour party candidates would be peripheral figures in much the same way as the Tories in the six counties have been." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Mid-Ulster and former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, Cllr. Francie Molloy has held an hour long meeting with British Direct Rule Minister Ian Pearson to discuss a range of finance related issues. These included rates, industrial de-rating, water charges/tax, vacant property rates and the failure to deliver EU Peace II monies.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Molloy said:

" The meeting dealt with a range of key issues with particular relevance to the development of small to medium businesses. I left the Minister in no doubt that if the blanket industrial de-rating was to be removed a relief scheme needs to be put in place for all small businesses and not just those concerned with manufacturing.

" I also made the case for start-up grants which are not constrained by red tape. Small firms require hands on support in terms of finance and back-up. Rates Bills are the big issue for small business at this time. I lobbied Mr Pearson to abandon Mark Durkan's proposals to bring local rates into line with England. Such a scenario would cripple many local firms.

" The Vacant Property Rate needs to be given much more consideration and a period of extended consultation is required. Otherwise it will put developers off. Such a scheme must be linked to an incentive programme for regeneration and an appeals mechanism for those who wish to rent their property but who cannot find a tenant. There is no doubt that those who are land banking vital town areas need to be pressed into developing it.

" I pointed out to Mr Pearson that the proposals he inherited from Sean Farren would lead to water charges, increased rates, an end to industrial de-rating, rates on vacant property, and tolls. All this will inevitably lead to small businesses closing and resultant job losses." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance and Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has described as 'astonishing' the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's claim that he does not support the privatisation of semi-state companies. Responding to the reported remarks of the Taoiseach at the Labour Relations Commission last night, in which he said he is not a supporter of privatisation 'even if that is not the view of my colleagues', Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"This is quite a remarkable statement for the Taoiseach to make. It is in fact astonishing and paints a very clear picture of a leader that is no longer in control of his government or the policy direction of that government. Sinn Féin has being saying for months now that the PDs are running the Government and that all policy decisions including the drive towards the privatisation of semi-state companies are being dictated by the right wing ideology of Mary Harney, Michael McDowell and their fifth columnists in the Fianna Fáil party, Charlie McCreevey Martin Cullen and Seamus Brennan.

"It has become patently obvious that Fianna Fáil's traditional policies, including support for semi-state companies have been swept aside by the PDs. In their rush to promote greed over justice and equality they have neglected the infrastructure of essential services, like health and education. And they have rewarded the corporate greed that was most recently evidenced with the announcement that the new owners of Eircom have paid themselves a dividend of almost €500 million. This despite the fact tens of thousands of ordinary people lost out massively when the Government conned them into buying the original shares which they were then forced to sell to the fat-cats led by Tony O'Reilly.

"The Taoiseach is the head of Government and he cannot wash his hands of the actions of any of his Ministers, like a bad football manager blaming his players." ENDS

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