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Sinn Fein Weeks in Review 21 September - 15 November

Sinn Fein Weeks in Review 21 September-15 November 2012

Grim growth and job forecasts highlight failure of austerity

On 14 November Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said that the revised growth and unemployment forecasts contained in that day’s Medium Term Fiscal Statement `demonstrates once again that the Government’s policy of austerity isn’t working’.

The report, released by the government’s Department of Finance significantly revised down growth projections for 2013 and confirmed that unemployment will remain high in the coming years.

Deputy Doherty said `austerity is strangling the domestic economy’ and was `blocking a return to growth and forcing more and more people into emigration and unemployment’.

Pointing out that growth for 2013 had been revised downwards by 0.75% to 1.5%, he added `While the Government has slightly revised upwards the projections for 2012 to 0.9% this is still lower than the 1.3% projected for 2012 outlined in last Decembers Fiscal Outlook.’

He said the report also confirmed the Government’s expectation that unemployment will remain high, at 13% in 2015, adding `astonishingly this means that the Government is planning for an unemployment level of 13%’.

He said the reasons for this were `very simple’ and that `reducing government expenditure and cutting the disposable income of low and middle income people is keeping the domestic economy in recession.’ He said `Today we had a former Deputy Director of the IMF argue in the pages of the Irish Times that ‘perpetual austerity seems destined to fail.’ We also read reports in newspapers of a Grant Thornton study suggesting that the tax burden on ordinary families could rise by as much as €3,000 in December’s budget.’

He concluded: `Today’s Fiscal Statement highlights once again the failure of austerity to revive the domestic economy. Yet despite all the evidence it seems that the Fine Gael and Labour look set to continue to heap the burden of the crisis on low and middle income families. Unless the government abandon’s this failed policy of austerity and start to seriously invest in jobs and growth then the economy will not recover and the next Fiscal Statement will again revise downwards growth projections.’

Galway tragedy highlights urgent need for legislation

On 14 November Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital, Galway, underlines the need for long overdue legislation to provide for the termination of pregnancy where the life of the woman is in real danger.

He said: `I extend deepest sympathy to the family of Savita Halappanavar. News of her death in such tragic and traumatic circumstances has caused distress to people throughout the country.

`While we must await the outcome of on-going inquiries before drawing conclusions on all aspects of this particular case, it is clear that the tragedy highlights once again the need for long overdue legislation to provide for the termination of pregnancy where the life of the woman is in real danger.

`From the testimony of the husband of the deceased it appears that Savita was denied a termination on alleged legal and ethical grounds, even though it was clear that the baby would not survive and that the mother’s life was in danger from infection.

`The absence of the required legislation denies women protection and the right to obtain a termination in such circumstances. It also creates an ambiguous legal situation for clinicians in the same circumstances.

`Minister James Reilly has stated that he does not wish to be the seventh Minister for Health to fail to legislate in this regard. He must keep that commitment.’

Armed groups killing for the sake of killing

On 12 November Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Policing Board Gerry Kelly said the killing of the Prison Officer David Black `was wrong and those behind it, no matter what they call themselves, need to realise that their actions are not carried out in the name of the Irish people’.

He added, `What did the shooting of David Black achieve other than bring grief and hurt to the Black family. My answer to that is nothing.’ He said there was `no future for armed organisations such as this’, and added `They cannot deliver a united Ireland’. He said `That is in the hands of the Irish people who have overwhelmingly endorsed the peace process. All these groups can deliver is hurt and anguish.’

He concluded: `These groups need to realise that they cannot derail the peace process and their actions will not resolve anything within the jail or in wider society. They are killing for the sake of killing and should stop immediately.’

Sinn Fein condemn sectarian breaching of Parades Commission determination

On 10 November Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín condemned the breaching of the Parades Commission determination by a band at the Apprentice Boys’ march past St Patrick’s Church and Carrickhill this morning.

The North Belfast MLA urged The Apprentice Boys, Parades Commission, PSNI and unionist politicians `to come out clearly and condemn this blatantly sectarian and provocative action by the Dunmurry Protestant Boys’ band who played the sectarian ‘Famine song’ during the march. They also need to take action against against the band.’

She added: `Residents entered into discussions with the Apprentice Boys’ prior to the march in good faith’, but said `the Apprentice Boys’ cannot think that they will enter into these discussions just to get a favourable determination by the Parades Commission.’

She said it was the fourth time that the Parades Commission determinations had been broken on the route `and the residents feel that their good faith in trying to reach a resolution to the situation is being treated with contempt’.

Sinn Féin would continue to support the residents in their attempts to reach a genuine resolution `but that needs to be reciproctated by the Loyal Orders’, she said, concluding `meaningful dialogue is the way but the residents patience is wearing thin with these repeated breaches and a lack of consistency by the Parades Commission determinations.’

Sinn Fein MP to join meeting on Irish prisoners in Westminster

On 20 November, Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy will join speakers at a meeting `Justice Campaign’ hosted by Labour MP John McDonnell. The meeting will `examine and discuss the justice issues surrounding the imprisonment of Irish prisoners Gerry McGeough, Marian Price and Martin Corey’ and takes place at the House of Commons, Committee Room 15, at 7pm.

Other speakers will include Eamon O Cuiv TD (Fianna Fail), Monsignor Dr Raymond Murray and Moya St Leger, former President of the Connolly Association. The meeting is organised by the Justice Campaign.

Sinn Fein condemn politically motivated charges against Padraic Wilson

On 6 November, after strong condemnation of his arrest and remand in custody from the previous Friday, Sinn Fein Assembly Member Gerry Kelly welcomed his release on bail. However, he added that `he should never have been charged in the first instance’ on what he described as `politically motivated charges’. He said Sinn Féin `will continue to campaign to have these charges withdrawn.’

At a press conference the previous day, as hundreds of people protested at Mr Wilson’s arrest and imprisonment, Sinn Fein held a press conference in Stormont, urging his immediate release.

Gerry Kelly said the `bogus and politically motivated charges against him’ should be dropped, and that the protests that day `marks the beginning of a campaign to bring this about’.

He said Sinn Fein wanted to `signal up again our determination to have removed from policing structures the small number of political detectives who are continuing to challenge the change agenda within policing’.

He added `we have set ourselves the task of transforming policing, establishing new and fully accountable civic policing arrangements, of holding the policing structures and every single person within them to account. This includes the culture and mindsets which individuals within policing bring to their job’ and said `we will not be deterred from these objectives’.

He said that when Sinn Fein had `embarked upon this task we anticipated a fight back from elements of the ‘old guard’ who remain within the policing structures’ which had `manifested itself in various modes and at different levels in recent years.’ He said particular examples included:

  • The RUC role in the cover-up relating to who was responsible for the McGurk Bar bombing in 1971,

  • The activities of SOCA

  • The blocking of inquests

  • Obstruction of the work of the Police Ombudsman’s office

  • The retiring and rehiring debacle in which old guard RUC officers who retired with significant financial pay-offs were re-employed and allocated to investigations relating to Historical Enquiries

He said that the arrest and charging of Padraic Wilson `is but the latest manifestation of lingering negative elements within the PSNI which must be removed’. He added, `The agenda pursued by these individuals is political. It is designed to undermine the change agenda and the political process and to reverse the progress we continue to make. There is a particular opposition located within the Serious Crime Department which must be challenged. We will continue to challenge them and we insist that those within the senior ranks of the PSNI, in particular the CC, Matt Baggot, do likewise.’

He concluded: `Throughout the mid 1990s and up until his release in 2000, Padraic Wilson played a pivotal role in building support among prisoners for the peace process. Since his release he has continued to play a central role in supporting and developing the Political Process. His arrest represents a very serious challenge to the political process. It has nothing at all to do with delivering justice for the McCartney family.’

Sinn Fein to raise Wilson case with MP’s at Westminster

Conor Murphy MP said the meetings formed part of Sinn Féin’s on-going engagement with British politicians’. He said he intended to draw MPs’ attention `to the incompatibility of the actions of a small number of political detectives within the PSNI and efforts to transform policing’, who he said were `opposed to the agenda of change and intent on inhibiting the establishment of new and fully accountable civic policing arrangements which would hold the policing structures and every single person within them to account’. This included `the culture and mind-sets which individuals within policing bring to their job’ he added.

He said he would be `requesting that they use whatever influence they have within their respective parties to show support and commitment to the full transformation of policing in the North of Ireland’ and would be highlighting a number of examples of where this opposition to change had manifested itself’.

Sinn Fein condemn killing of prison officer

On 2 November Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams commented on the shooting of prison officer David Black on the M1 motorway between Lurgan and Portadown yesterday.

Mr Adams said `The killing of a prison officer yesterday is wrong. There is no future in such actions which are rejected by the entire community, North and South.’ He added `Whatever position individuals may hold on the efficacy or otherwise of armed struggle in the past, there is no rationale for it in the present circumstances. There is no rationale now for the existence of armed groups or for carrying out armed actions in any part of this country. Those involved have no popular support or political strategy.’

He said `There may be a small number of people who tolerate the existence of militarist groups or their violent actions or who provide shelter, resources or facilities to them. They need to reflect on what they are doing. These groups are not the IRA and nobody should be under any illusion about that. Those organisations that are politically associated with armed groups have failed to outline how these actions advance republican objectives. On the contrary they play into the hands of those in the British system who are opposed to the peace process and to its potential for achieving a united Ireland.’

He called for the groups to be `challenged’ and said the media `has a responsibility to ask these organizations where they stand on actions such as Thursday’s murder’. He said there was `no room for ambiguity on this issue. Ireland and the Irish people have chosen the path of peace and conflict resolution.’

Elsewhere, Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member John O’Dowd condemned those behind the attack and said it was `an utterly pointless death’ which would `resolve nothing either within the prisons or in wider society. It is not part of any strategy or campaign’.

He said `all it has done is to plunge a family into grief. The people responsible or those who act as their political spokespeople need to explain themselves to the community. Time and again when these factions carry out violent acts we get complete silence from those who at other times are only too willing to come onto the airwaves and attack the political process.’ He said it was `patently obvious that the peace process will not be derailed by incidents like this. It hasn’t in the past and it won’t in the future. That is a reality that those behind these actions need to realise and bring an end to these pointless actions.’

Sinn Fein meet British Secretary of state over welfare reform effects and damage to economy

On 31 October Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP, Pat Doherty was in London for a series of meetings with MPs including British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers. The meetings were part of Sinn Féin’s intensive lobbying exercise `to influence political opinion on a number of issues crucial to the interests of the northern Irish electorate’.

He said he would be impressing on them `the hardship that the so-called Welfare Reform Bill in its present form will inflict on the most vulnerable in our society and the damage it will do to the local economy’. He said that Ms Villiers `needs to take her lead from the Executive and not simply parrot the one size fits all attitude to the economy of her government colleagues’. He said he would focus on the Sinn Féin proposed amendments `and our determination to see them addressed’.

He said in meetings with Theresa Villiers and Labour’s Shadow Secretary Vernon Coaker he would be `reiterating the Sinn Féin demand for the immediate release of Marian Price and Martin Corey’. It is totally unacceptable and an affront to natural Justice that a British Secretary of State can defy the decisions of the Courts and imprison anyone without producing compelling evidence against them’.

Sinn Fein protest to demand jobs not cuts

On 2 November Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South Central, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, urged the public to support the following day’s Jobs not Cuts protest in his constituency.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said Sinn Féin was `demanding that the government implement a proper jobs strategy’. He said that the Fine Gael/Labour government `promised that jobs would be top of their agenda but what we have witnessed is more of the same failed strategy based on austerity. This has involved cutting spending and implementing stealth taxes that take money out of people's pockets and out of the economy. The government has prioritised the needs of zombie banks over the needs of people and their communities. Our economy is weaker now than when this government came to power eighteen months ago’.

He said Sinn Féin believes the government `must create jobs to create wealth’, adding `Our jobs strategy would see €13 billion being invested in job creation and economic growth over the next four years. This would see the creation of 156,000 jobs and retention of 15,000 jobs. The plan would include the building of 100 new schools, 50 primary health care centres, and regeneration projects in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. The funding would come from the National Pension Reserve Fund, European Investment Bank and the private pension sector.’

He said the protest `will allow the public to voice their frustration and anger at a government that has placed the needs of bond holders over the needs of Irish citizens. We demand a change in direction for the government. We demand jobs not cuts.’

Minister must outline concerns on Welfare Reform Bill

On 5 November Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey said Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland should advise the Social Development Committee what changes he was seeking to the Welfare Reform Bill.

Mr. Maskey said that recent weeks had seen over 60 submissions from various groups including Church leaders, Trade Unions, Community and Voluntary sector and disability rights groups.

He said `each and everyone of them have raised a wide range of concerns and not one supported this Bill as it stands’. He said `as we now move further into consideration of the bill we will continue to robustly scrutinise and intensively consult on this bill as we have promised we would do’.

He added `The Minister is on record as stating that he wouldn’t personally bring this Bill forward and stated he is in discussion with the British Government to bring changes to the Bill. I am now calling on the Minister to outline what parts of the Bill he is seeking to amend in order to assist our committee consideration of the Bill.’ He said `recent weeks have shown the extensive opposition to key elements of this Bill and clearly it is the responsibility of all party’s to address these concerns. I will be raising these matters at the Committee tomorrow when the Department of Social Development is before it.’

Cutting EU budget would exacerbate austerity – Sinn Fein MEP

On 5 November, Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson MEP said that `those calling for a reduction in the EU budget should concentrate on the effects of their cut and slash attitude to fiscal matters closer to home. They should realise that bureaucrats target the most vulnerable first in any budget cutbacks’.

She added `Of course there are areas of waste in the EU Budget and they need to be tackled and eradicated. I have previously highlighted the scandalous waste of money spent moving the European Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg every month. Rather than reducing the budget we should be looking at ways to redirect the funds available into infrastructural and job creation programmes. We could start by cutting the outrageous salaries paid to higher-level bureaucrats. And let's look at why, for the 16th time, the EUs own auditing body, the European Court of Auditors, has been unable to accept the EUs annual accounts. So let's make sure that the fight against cheating and fraud is a key priority in the coming years and put that money to better use in relieving the austerity measures being imposed across Europe.

She said `let’s not listen to those in Westminster calling for reductions to the EU budget that would result in cuts to farm payments, investment in much needed infrastructure, training funds for the unemployed, investment in innovation and the other positive things that are done with a large part of the EU budget. And we all know that these are the things that the bureaucrats will cut first.’

She concluded: `The headline seeking games being played out in Westminster diverts attention from the real issues of what public authorities can and should do to invest EU funding in jobs and growth. The knee-jerk reaction of the DUP in supporting cuts in the EU budget although not unexpected could further hamstring the Executive on top of the Tory cuts being imposed from London government.’

Gerry Adams calls for border poll

On 16 October, speaking during Leaders Questions in the Dáil, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD raised the issue of a border poll, and expressed `disappointment’ at the Taoiseach’s refusal to consider supporting such a poll at this time.

Mr. Adams said that partition had `failed the people of this island’ and was `uneconomic, unjust and inefficient’. He said it was `the right time for a debate on this issue in the context of rebuilding the economies on this island and beginning a process of dialogue and consultation around Irish unity.’

The Sinn Féin leader pointed out that under the Good Friday Agreement there is provision for a border poll and argued: `there is an onus on the Irish government to “prepare a strategy, a plan, in co-operation with others, and including a Green Paper on Irish unity, that has the Irish government take the lead” on the issue of Irish unity, including the setting of a “date for a border poll”.’

Welcoming the Taoiseach remarks in Cleveland last Friday in respect of a united Ireland Gerry Adams said this was `one of the great historic challenges facing the Irish people at the start of the 21st century.’

He said a united Ireland `will only happen when those who believe that partition is a costly, inefficient, bureaucratic duplication of services on this island, persuade those who wish to retain the union, that Irish unity will be better for them and for their children’. He added `We have to demonstrate in practical ways why working as partners and living together as equals on this island is better.’

In the Constitutional Issues section of the Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement (1.iv) the British and Irish governments: “affirm that, if, in future, the people of the island of Ireland exercise their right of self-determination on the basis set out in sections (i) and (ii) above to bring about a united Ireland, it will be a binding obligation on both governments to introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish” Sections (i) and (ii) referred to are the requirement for the consent of a majority within the North and the provision for concurrent referenda North and South. The Good Friday Agreement therefore provides for a poll on Irish unity as follows, which was also incorporated in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Schedule 1) passed at Westminster.

“1. The Secretary of State may by order direct the holding of a poll for the purposes of section 1 [of the Act re. Irish unity] on a date specified in the order.

“2. Subject to paragraph 3, the Secretary of State shall exercise the power, Under paragraph 1 if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland. “3. The Secretary of State shall not make an order under paragraph 1 earlier than seven years after the holding of a previous poll under this Schedule.”

Sinn Fein urge support for 20 Oct anti-cuts rally

On 18 October Sinn Fein Assembly Member Maeve McLaughlin MLA urged support for the anti-cuts Rally in Belfast this Saturday 20 October. She said Sinn Féin, as the only all-Ireland Party, were `to the fore in opposition to the Tory austerity measures North and South.’

She said that `no matter if it is austerity measures imposed by British Tories on the people of the North or Irish Tories in the South for an all-Ireland party like Sinn Féin our answer is the same – no to austerity!’. She said that greater fiscal autonomy was required in the North, which would `allow the freedom to generate revenue and to develop policies of benefit to the people of the North without the current restrictions’. She said it would `help facilitate an economic strategy which is underpinned by local budgetary and fiscal decision making’. She said Sinn Fein would `not simply allow unamended Tory cuts to social welfare to be implemented in here’ and promised to `fight tooth and nail to resist them in the Assembly’. The party `will not shirk from our responsibilities to the most vulnerable in our opposition to the Tory Austerity agenda’ she said.

Last week Sinn Fein brought forward an Assembly motion calling for a reversal in direction and a growth centred policy, which read:

‘That this Assembly notes, with concern, the continuing pursuance of austerity measures by the British and Irish Governments, and the subsequent detrimental effects on our local economy; and calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to impress, on both governments, the need to follow a path to economic recovery that is based on job creation, progressive taxation, the protection of the most vulnerable, and the provision of first class front-line public services.’

She said the party’s opposition was based on our `core beliefs and ideology as Irish Republicans’, reinforced by the `mounting evidence that austerity simply doesn’t work.’

Sinn Fein MPs continue Westminster engagement

Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty will meet MPs in London on 31 October, as part of the party’s ongoing engagement with the political parties in Westminster. The party has been raising a number of ongoing issues, including concern over two bills in the British House of Lords on Justice and Security and Crime and Courts. Alongside civil liberties groups and others, Sinn Fein has raised concern over the two bills, including increasing legal disclosure restrictions in courts and the effect in undermining the new policing provisions which the creation of a new `FBI-style’ police force may have in the north of Ireland. Opposition to the swingeing cuts in the Welfare Reform Bill has also been on the agenda, alongside ongoing issues in the political process.

Loughinisland massacre: `investigation needs independent review’

On 17 October Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane accused the PSNI of dragging its heels over the Loughinisland investigation.

Ms. Ruane said she had been raising the matter of the investigation into the Loughinisland investigation at all levels, including both the Irish and British governments and the Policing Board, and said she believed `not enough is being done to move the investigation forward’.

She said there were `many questions to be answered into the Loughinisland attack including the original RUC investigation, the role of British state agents and the destruction of evidence. The families have now been waiting for eighteen years for justice yet every announcement brings more questions than answers and they are quickly losing confidence in the PSNI ability to bring them the truth.’

She concluded: `it is time we had an full independent review of the entire case and I am intent in ensuring that the truth of this matter is brought into the public domain no matter what obstacles are placed in the way.’

Sinn Fein respond to Peter Robinson’s call for voluntary coalition

On 12 October Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff responded to Peter Robinson's calls for a voluntary coalition at Stormont, and said he should `stop playing word games’. He said `an end to what he is calling Mandatory Coalition and replacing it with a Voluntary Coalition is code for removing Sinn Féin from government and a return to some form of unionist majority rule’.

Mr McElduff added `this isn’t going to happen. The north went down that road for 50 years and look where it took us. The current arrangements are in place precisely because unionism proved itself incapable of sharing power and incapable of basic equality. Sinn Féin won’t allow it. The structures of government here were agreed as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin supports these structures which are inclusive of representation from across our community.’

He concluded: `Unionism needs to wake up to a basic reality – if you are going to exercise political power then it will be in partnership with nationalists and republicans on the basis of equality. There is no other way.’

Orange Order `apology’ wholly inadequate

On 17 October, commenting after the letter sent by Grand Secretary of the Orange Order Drew Nelson to the parishioners of St Matthew’s was distributed at Mass on Sunday Cllr Niall Ó Donnghaile said the Orange Order `may as well not have bothered’ as their `so called “apology” makes absolutely no reference to the countless breaches of the Parades Commission determination and the complete disrespect shown to this community over the duration of the Covenant parade’.

He added, `There should be no ambiguity; there should be no excuses, what happened outside St Matthew’s was wrong and the leaders of the Orange Order and political Unionism need to step up to the plate and say that. Partial apologies will not solve outstanding issues around contentious parades in east Belfast – only direct dialogue will achieve that’.

Sinn Fein’s youngest Senator brings anti-austerity message to progressive students conference in London

On October 13th, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly was in London to speak at the Progressive Students Conference on the subject of Europe against austerity – building an alternative to cuts.

Outlining the `disastrous consequences of austerity policies on young people across Ireland’ she said it was `abundantly clear’ that conservative forces were intent on pushing through ever deepening attacks. She said in Ireland `we see the increase in speed in the process of privatisation of health care and education’ and that the Irish Labour Party `which previously defended the rights of all children to benefits now is supporting moves to means test children’s benefits. Disability services and allowances for carers have been attacked’. She there was a `battle’ in Ireland, `a country still divided by a partition which has bred incredible economic and social fragmentation’ and that in the north and south, there were `common challenges… depressingly similar to those faced by Britain and its people across Europe today `as the austerity mongers ramp up their attacks’. She outlined the blight of youth unemployment `at at least 30%’ in the south, but a figure `highly camouflaged by the sky high level of emigration mainly to Australia and Canada’.

In the north, Tory/Liberal Democrats coalition cuts were devastating people’s lives. She said `These two different situations complicate matters for an all-Ireland party like Sinn Féin but our answer is the same north and south- No to Austerity!’

She said there was a progressive alternative, and that `against these forces Sinn Fein is leading a campaign for a change in direction, a campaign for workable policies that will see the Irish economy regain strength without having to dismantle our public services or inflict brutal cuts against working people.’ She urged a growth centred policy, `we need to grow our way out of recession… we would stop the payments to bad banks and instead use those billions to invest in and stimulate our economy.’

The full text of her speech can be found here:

Sinn Fein MEP to host major European conference in Belfast on child poverty

On 16 October Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson announced details of a major European conference: ‘Combating child poverty and social exclusion – promoting children's well being in times of austerity’ which she will host in Belfast next month.

Ms Anderson said the conference, on 16th November would be hosted on behalf of the political group GUE/NGL (European United Left / Nordic Green Left) of which she is a member in the European Parliament.

She said increasing levels of child poverty was `an issue of great concern across Europe’ and was being `exacerbated by the imposition of draconian austerity measures by governments across the Continent’. She said it was being `most acutely felt in every corner of Ireland which has been devastated by the economic collapse’.

Speakers will include Skevi Koutra Koukouma from Cyprus, the present incumbent of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, leading researchers in the field of child poverty such as Michelle Murphy (Social Justice Ireland) and Réka Tunyogi (Eurochild) as well as representatives from other progressive organisations including the London-based Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS). Activists in the field from all areas are invited to attend.

Sinn Fein delegation meets Troika

On 17 October a Sinn Féin delegation led by deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald TD and including Brian Stanley TD, Peadar Toíbín TD and Senator Kathryn Reilly met the Troika. Speaking after the meeting Deputy McDonald said it was `clear that despite the claims from the government, the Troika deal is not impacting positively on the economy. This point was accepted by the Troika representatives. We have 450,000 people on the live register, the long term unemployed now accounts for 60% of all those unemployed, we have lost 33,400 job in the economy last years and we had 87,000 people emigrating last year. Our people are bearing the brunt of the pain and the deficit is increasing.’

She said the government and troika `have decisions to make, to continue with a policy that is costing jobs, deepening the recession and cutting essential public services or to change course and invest in job creation, promote growth and safeguard services to the most needy in our society. The way to deal with the deficit is through economic growth.’

She pointed out that `last week we produced a plan that would create a €13 billion investment fund to create jobs. We spoke to the Troika representatives who acknowledged that economic growth was needed but stressed that the decisions on how to achieve it rest with the government’. She concluded: `There is an urgent need for the government to support the creation of jobs and growth as the means to tackle the deficit.’

Sinn Fein challenge `unacceptable’ welfare reform Bill: `a continuation of the cuts agenda’

On 1 October, Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP, Pat Doherty was in Birmingham to address a cross-party fringe event at the British Conservative Party Conference the following day. The Sinn Fein MP said he would be taking the opportunity of the visit to `impress on the British Tories’ the `unacceptability of the Welfare Reform Bill to the people of the North of Ireland’.

He said proposals were `a continuation of the cuts agenda from a British Government that cannot relate to the needs of the people’. Reducing disposable income, he continued `coupled with the reduction of spending on infrastructure and capital projects will have the inevitable effect of pushing more people into poverty and deprivation’. This was `further evidence of the need to have maximum fiscal powers transferred away from London to the Assembly as it is clear that economic policy makers in Whitehall have no conception of the social and economic conditions that pertain here’, he said.

He also highlighted `the detrimental effects of the £4 billion cut to the North's budget which are already having devastating effects on our economy’.

He said he also intended to raise the Marion Price and Martin Corey cases `and call on the new British Secretary of State to take a more enlightened and sensible approach to this issue than her predecessor Owen Paterson.’

Meanwhile, in Belfast, Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey said Sinn Fein would seek the deferral of the Bill being placed before the Assembly on Tuesday, explaining: `the Bill is flawed, comes from the austerity policies of the Tory-led coalition and is targeted at the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society.’

He said the Assembly had `a duty to stand up for low-income families and those on benefit who are being directly targeted by many of these measures’ and the measures were `being imposed [as] a direct consequence of the Assembly not having the necessary fiscal powers’.

Sinn Féin will `press for fundamental changes to this Bill to ensure the maximum protections for those on benefits and in low-paid employment’.

Sinn Fein will oppose welfare cuts `north and south’

On 5 October Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on social protection, Aengus ÓSnodaigh TD, today congratulated his colleagues in the North for their stance on the Welfare Bill being placed before the Assembly next week.

Echoing the words of Sinn Féin assembly member and the Department of Social Development committee chairman, Alex Maskey, the Dublin Central TD said: `The Welfare Reform bill is an attempt to impose Tory welfare cuts on people here as part of the austerity policies of the Tory-led coalition.’ He said Sinn Fein’s position `North and South, is to stand up for low-income families and those depending on social welfare who are being targeted by many of the measures contained in this bill.

He added `Sinn Féin will be bringing forward a proposal to the Assembly on Tuesday to defer the Welfare Reform Bill until significant amendments are made to it. The fact that these measures are being brought forward by the Tory government and being imposed here is a direct consequence of the Assembly not having the necessary fiscal powers. Sinn Féin is calling on the government here to support the transfer of fiscal powers to the North giving the institutions the ability to impose taxes and to set social welfare payments. Sinn Féin will press for fundamental changes to this Bill to ensure the maximum protections for those on benefits and in low-paid employment.’

Sinn Fein host Westminster meeting on `national reconciliation in Ireland: the need for uncomfortable conversations’

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey, in London for meetings this week, also announced details of a major event in Westminster, hosted by the party on the issue of `National reconciliation in Ireland – The need for uncomfortable conversations'. The meeting will be addressed by Sinn Fein chairperson Declan Kearney, alongside a prominent cross-party panel of speakers on Weds 24 October, in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons.

Mr Maskey said that the meeting was part of Sinn Fein’s public initiative on the need for a process of national reconciliation, in which leading party figures, in particular party chair Declan Kearney, have urged an inclusive dialogue towards opening up a new phase of the peace process, `which Sinn Fein believes needs to be based on reconciliation’.

Declan Kearney outlined the nature of the initiative in recent articles: `Initiatives and gestures aimed at healing past hurt and division are crucial to peace building and reconciliation in the aftermath of political conflict. We believe a new level of engagement is required involving all sections of Irish society, and in particular between republicans and our Protestant and unionist neighbours in the North.

`That type of dialogue needs to be focused on the development of a reconciliation process which attempts to overcome the unresolved hurt on all sides but also inter-communal fear and divisions, partitionism, economic disadvantage, and social inequality.

`None of that will be easy because it will demand that we all have the courage and compassion to try and understand what it has been like to walk in each other’s shoes. I have described it as a dialogue of “Uncomfortable Conversations” that did not take place during all the heavy lifting of previous negotiations. Now, however, there’s more heavy lifting to do – that is, how we begin to build new human and community relationships among our people based on equality, increased understanding of each other, and mutual respect for our political differences'.

Moment of truth for the current PSNI leadership – Gerry Kelly

On 3 October North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the practise of retiring and rehiring former police members who received huge severance packages, was concealed and covered up by the PSNI for years. The Sinn Féin policing spokesperson said Sinn Féin welcomed the Audit Office’s publication of a report, `which contains evidence and facts that the Chief Constable can no longer dispute or deny’.

He said it was `a story of cronyism and jobs for the boys at the expense of the Police Service and the public interest.’ Sinn Féin had, he said, `been working to uncover the scandal of rehiring former police members who were given huge severance packages’. He added that `retiring and rehiring was rampant and this report proves it. The fact that £100m of public money has been spent makes it a scandal on an industrial scale.’ He said it `undermines what Patten was about with more than 1000 police officers retired under Patten being rehired’ and added `a £44m contract was awarded without tendering and thousands of jobs filled without public advertisement. Those employed were not accountable to the Police Ombudsman or bound by PSNI’s Code of Ethics. Add to that the fact that some have been assigned sensitive roles in which they have a serious conflict of interest regarding historical enquiries.’

He said the Public Accounts Committee would `hear evidence next week and I think the committee will play a crucial role in revealing more facts. This will also be the case in another part of this investigation carried forward by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, which is due to report in the coming weeks.’

He concluded: `there is no place for an old boys’ network in the new beginning to policing we all deserve and this is the moment of truth for the current PSNI leadership’.

Concerns at Crime and Courts and Justice and Security Bills

Meanwhile, in London, Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey was in Westminster to lobby members of the House of Lords over the Crime and Courts and Justice and Security Bills. Mr Maskey said the party had `serious concerns’ that the Bills provided for significant changes which would undermine and run counter to the accountability and transparency mechanisms in the new policing arrangements coming out of the Good Friday Agreement. Speaking from London, Paul said `Sinn Fein have serious concerns about the current content of both of these Bills, and the impact they could potentially have on the operation of justice and of police accountability in the north. These were two of the most sensitive issues we had to deal with as we moved towards a negotiated agreement in 1998, and the transfer of powers over these subejcts itself caused a whole new negotiation, to get those powers devolved to Belfast’.

He continued, `Given the north's history, real accountability for the police was a key requirement of Sinn Fein, and the nationalist and republican communities, signing up to the policing arrangments in 2007. The proposals in the Crime and Courts Bill on the setting up of a National Crime Agency (NCA) answerable only to the Home Office, and working without any reference to the Policing Board in the north is a potentially backward step in the progress which has been made, and any involvement by the NCA in “counter-terrorism” activity would bring this new “FBI” into the most contentious and sensitive area of policing in the north.’

He added `Similarly the provisions in the Justice & Security Bill to bring ‘closed material procedures’ – basically secret evidence to be seen only be a judge in judicial reviews into historic cases, and in civil actions, would again signal a step back from the transparancy and accountability which needs to be front and centre in our justice arrangements.’ He concluded `Sinn Fein will be lobbying widely on our concerns on both of these – my meetings today with a wide range of figures from the Lords were extremely useful, and our MPs will continue this work, as these Bills move from the Lords into the Commons in the near future’.

Gerry Adams urges `a social Europe’ and investment for economic stimulus

On 4 October Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD commented on remarks by the EU Parliament President Martin Schulz, who in a speech called on the EU to stimulate Europe’s economics through `encouraging growth, through stimulus packages and by getting people back to work and most importantly by protecting the most vulnerable of our citizens by protecting public services.’

The Sinn Féin leader welcomed President Schulz’s comments on the June deal but said the critical issue, around which there is disagreement, was whether this included lifting the legacy of bad banking debt imposed on the Irish people by the last government. Deputy Adams noted that President Schulz couched his remarks as his `personal opinions’. Gerry Adams added that from the outset of the economic crisis Sinn Féin has been arguing for a write down of private bank debt. `Bank debt needs to be separated from sovereign debt. And the burden of bad banking debt, the so-called legacy issue which was foisted on the shoulders of the Irish people also needs to be removed.’

Deputy Adams said in the conclusion to recent EU summits there had been `much talk about a renewed focus on jobs and growth rather than austerity, but people need to see delivery on these promises.’ He said European leaders were `failing to tackle the jobs crisis’ and some 24 million citizens were unemployed across the EU `and in this state there are 440,000 on the Live Register’.

He said the scourge of emigration was once more a factor for families and communities, particularly in rural Ireland. He said the Eurozone `urgently needs investment in jobs, particularly in the periphery states. This can be achieved by among other measures an enlarged investment fund in the European Investment Bank.’

He said the EU and member states `need to focus on stimulating Europe’s economies, encouraging growth through stimulus packages’, and added `we need to get people back to work and most importantly we need to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens by protecting public services.’

Sinn Féin had, he said `long argued that the role of the ECB needs to be re-examined and it needs to fulfil the role of a lender of last resort.’

Concluding, the Sinn Féin President said `sky high levels of unemployment, emigration, under-employment’ meant people were suffereing as the result of `an economic mess caused by the type of austerity policies the Commission is wedded to’. He said `until there is evidence that the European institutions and the governments are focussed on creating jobs, protecting public services, and sheltering the most vulnerable from the outcomes of austerity we will see a continuation of people being alienated from these institutions’. He said `a social European Union is what is required, European Union of equals, a European Union that protects our citizens, our rural communities, our young people and most especially those who are marginalised and vulnerable.’

Unionist leaders must condemn sectarian behaviour

On 4 October East Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Niall Ó Donnaighle called upon First Minister Peter Robinson to `make his position clear regarding the disgraceful and sectarian behaviour of some of the loyalist bands’ passing St Matthews Church the previous Saturday. Niall Ó Donnaighle said there could be `no ambiguity regarding the disgraceful scenes outside St Matthews Church on Saturday, not only by some of the bands but also supporters’.

Peter Robinson, he said, had spoken about `how important it is that we “try and bind our community together” then surely one section of that community being inflammatory, derogatory and outright sectarian to a different place of worship needs to be condemned.’ The Sinn Fein councillor said DUP and unionist politicians in general `have failed to give leadership in recent months and instead have pampered to the lowest rung of sectarianism within loyalism’ and said it was `well past the time that Peter Robinson, as the leader of unionism, took a stand against this sectarianism and bigotry and came out clearly against any such behaviour.’

Sinn Fein Senator to speak at London conference and urges action to tackle youth unemployment and alternatives to austerity

On 13 October, Sinn Fein Senator and spokesperson on Youth Affairs Senator Kathryn Reilly will travel to London to speak at a conference, `Student Fightback 2012’ on the issue of `Europe against austerity, fighting back against the cuts’. She will join a wide range of speakers at the conference, which takes place at University College London. Full details are here

Speaking earlier this week, Senator Reilly urged the Dublin government `to start acting on youth unemployment and stop waiting for miracle solutions from Europe’. She said recent moves by the European Commission towards a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), which the government has said it will not take part in, is now being linked by the Austrian and French governments to the proposed EU Youth Guarantee. Senator Reilly said t`his attempt by the Labour’s Party’s sister parties to link the commission’s proposed FTT with any Youth Guarantee is grossly unfair and smacks of an attempt to coerce countries like Ireland who are opposed to the FTT to give up their objections’.

“It is also grossly unfair on the 30% of young Irish people left in Ireland who are not at work to possibly exclude them from any benefits from an EU wide Youth Guarantee. “This government has tried to hype the possibility of a Youth Guarantee as a solution to our youth unemployment crisis without any details of how the guarantee would work and without knowing if it is to have any financial muscle at all. Now we hear that some governments want to see the guarantee linked to the introduction of a FTT. "The message should be clear. This government needs to stop waiting for miracle solutions from Europe and start acting here and now to tackle youth unemployment. Last year the government’s Jobs Action Plan mentioned young people only twice in its 126 pages. “This government has been in power for 18 months now and youth unemployment is as high as it was when they came to power. There may be potential in using EU support to tackle youth unemployment in the future but that is no excuse to not act now through investing in actions aimed specifically at creating jobs for young people as has been proposed by Sinn Féin.”

Government legislating `for failed fiscal strategy’

On 10 October, speaking in the Dáil on the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD challenged the government to explain why it was proceeding with legislation for a fiscal strategy that has already failed.

Deputy McDonald said the Bill would `damage the real economy, undermine delivery of frontline services and will push families into deeper debt. If this government continues to pursue policies that attack low and middle income families, policies that cut away the most basic social provisions and supports for carers, the disabled, for our children, policies that makes any chance of growth and recovery possible, then the human cost for many will be insurmountable.’

She added, `we need real reform. We need to put equality at the heart of all legislation and decision making that comes out of this institution. Recessions provide opportunities for change. Some of the most progressive social policies were put in place by governments across Europe during and after the Second World War. Standards of living improved and economies recovered.’

She concluded: `Ireland cannot recover without real and radical reform based on equity and justice. This Bill and the policies it embodies will enshrine austerity into law and this makes no economic or social sense.’

Amnesty call for investigation into British Army and RUC torture claims

On 8 October, Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan welcomed the call by Amnesty International for there to be an investigation into allegations of torture including waterboarding carried out by the British Army and RUC in the 1970s. The allegations were aired in a BBC radio documentary Inside the Torture Chamber.

The West Belfast MLA said he welcomed the call for an investigation `into what is another shameful example of Britain’s involvement in the North’. He added `among republicans and the nationalist community it was common knowledge that both the British Army and the RUC tortured defenceless prisoners.’

He said that `claims of this torture were well documented at the time and available to those who would listen. The British Government have been condemned by the European Court for inhuman and degrading treatment so this should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed Britain’s record in Ireland.’

National reconciliation `crucial element of the peace process’

On 1 October, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, spoke to the annual convention of the International Bar Association in Dublin, and said it was his belief that dialogue can lead to the development of a process of truth and reconciliation that all parties to the conflict can support and accept.

The speech came as Sinn Fein announced details of a key meeting on the issue in London, to be addressed by party chair Declan Kearney on 24 October (see below).

Mr McGuinness said he welcomed the opportunity `to have a public conversation about how we deal with our past’, adding `that conversation will be not easy and the challenges will be great’.

He said `the criminal justice system is wholly inappropriate to the task of truth recovery, or reconciliation in respect of the legacy of the conflict’, and that `unfortunately to date the British State has refused even to acknowledge its role as a participant in the conflict’. That position was `not tenable’, he said, adding `it is insulting to victims of events like Bloody Sunday and it is insulting to people’s intelligence. It is also excluding the British state from assisting a genuine process of national reconciliation in Ireland.’

Sinn Féin has put forward proposals to address truth recovery and deal with the legacy of conflict, and he welcomed the support of Michael Mansfield QC for Sinn Féin’s position on independent international truth commission.

Mr McGuinness said `any process must be victim-centred and international, independent and inclusive of all participants including the two governments’. He said republicans had `made it clear that we would participate in such a body’, but that the British Government had to accept `that it was central to the conflict and make it clear that it would participate in such a process’.

He said the task of building national reconciliation is as much a part of the Peace Process as anything that has gone before.’

London meeting on reconciliation and need for `uncomfortable conversations’

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s Chairperson, who has spoken and written extensively on the issue, Declan Kearney is set to address a Westminster meeting on national reconciliation, hosted by Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey and with a panel of speakers including Lord Alderdice and former Minister Baroness Angela Smith.

The meeting, `National reconciliation in Ireland – The need for uncomfortable conversations', on Weds 24 October, in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons.

Mr Maskey said that recent months had seen Sinn Fein take a public initiative on the need for a process of national reconciliation, in which leading party figures, in particular Declan Kearney, have made keynote addresses and major articles, aimed at the unionist, Protestant and republican communities, seeking inclusive dialogue towards opening up a new phase of the peace process, `which Sinn Fein believes needs to be based on reconciliation’.

Sinn Fein call for deferral of Welfare Reform bill

On 4 October Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey said that his party would be seeking the deferral of the Welfare Bill being placed before the Assembly on Tuesday, following strong concerns over the `flawed’ nature of its proposals and threats to the most vulnerable in society.

Mr Maskey said that DUP Minister Nelson McCausland had, for some months `been attempting to bring forward a Bill which will mean that Tory inspired welfare cuts are imposed on people here. The Bill is flawed, comes from the austerity policies of the Tory-led coalition and is targeted at the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society.’

Sinn Fein, he said, believed that the Assembly `has a duty to stand up for low-income families and those on benefit, who are being directly targeted by many of these measures. The fact that these measures are being brought forward by the Tory government and being imposed here is a direct consequence of the Assembly not having the necessary fiscal powers.’

He concluded: `Sinn Féin will be bringing forward a proposal to the Assembly on Tuesday to defer the Welfare Reform Bill until significant amendments are made to it. We will press for fundamental changes to this Bill to ensure the maximum protections for those on benefits and in low-paid employment’.

Sinn Fein step up London engagement

In addition to the Paul Maskey-hosted meeting on 24 October, Sinn Fein MPs will be in London this month to discuss concerns at the Welfare reform Bill and other issues, in Westminster. On 10th October Paul Maskey MP will be in London to meet cross-party peers over concerns at two bills – the Crime and Courts Bill and the Justice and Security Bill – currently going through the Lords. Later on 17 October, Michelle Gildernew MP and Conor Murphy MP will meet MPs from the Select Committee on the north of Ireland and others; and on 31 October, Pat Doherty MP will follow up these discussions when he is in Westminster that day.

Sinn Fein put forward progressive alternative to austerity at British Labour conference

On 1 October Sinn Féin Junior Minister Jennifer McCann MLA and party colleague Senator David Cullinane were in Manchester for a series of events at the British Labour Party conference.

Speaking from Manchester where she addressed a Sinn Féin Fringe meeting, Ms McCann said Sinn Fein believed it was `important to have a presence at party conferences in Britain in order to ensure that politicians and party activists of all parties are kept informed of events in Ireland – in particular of the effects the austerity policies being pursued by both Dublin and Westminster have across the island of Ireland.’

She said the party wanted to `highlight the devastating effect that the approach to Welfare Reform adopted by the Tory/Lib.Dem coalition will have on the most vulnerable people in the North of Ireland. Sinn Fein is totally opposed to this attack on those dependent on State benefits, and we will be scrutinising them closely when the Welfare Reform Bill comes before the Assembly this week’.

Senator Cullinane also addressed the packed Sinn Fein fringe meeting and added, `our fringe meeting “Uniting Ireland – Fighting Austerity”, clearly set out our priorities – the need for policies of growth and investment by both governments, and also continuing the debate on the glaring need for developing an all-island economy in the here-and-now. We also raised the need for a border poll to be called by the British government to allow citizens in Ireland to express their views on their constitutional future.’

The delegation also spoke a fringe meeting organised by the Agreed Ireland Forum, a breakfast organised by the cross-party group Champ, and events hosted by the Irish Embassy and by trade union and other groups.

Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty will travel to Birmingham on 9 October, where he will join a fringe breakfast panel at the Conservative Conference, at Birmingham Town Hall, hosted by Champ.

One billion euro bond payment `further evidence of government failure’

Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that last week’s payment of a €1bn unguaranteed and unsecured bond by Allied Irish Bank (AIB) as `yet further evidence of the Government’s failure to deal with the debt crisis’. Deputy Doherty accused the Government of having no strategy to deal with the massive pay-outs of taxpayer’s money to speculating bond holders.

Deputy Doherty said that it was likely that `the holder of this bond will make a massive profit at the expense of citizens’. He said it was `totally unacceptable for this bond to be paid’, adding `it is double the total cut to the social protection budget for 2012. It is almost double the total cut to the health budget in 2012. It is just under a third of the total adjustment the Government is set to make in next year’s budget.’

He said `The fact that this bond is being paid today is further evidence of the Government’s failure to deal with the debt crisis. Just as they have no clear strategy to deal with the Anglo Irish debt or the pillar bank debt, they have no plan to deal with the on-going payment of unguaranteed and unsecured bonds.’

He said the Government `should have put a plan in place months ago to deal with these bonds, signalling well in advance the state’s inability to pay. This would have created an opening for negotiations to secure a write-down of the debt. Unfortunately the government does not have the political will to deal with this matter. As a result today is yet another bonanza pay-out day for bondholders.’ He concluded `This is not public debt. It should not be paid with public money. The Government must change course and adopt a new approach. It must signal its intention that the taxpayer is not in a position to pay these private banking debts. Failure to do so will result in more cuts to hospitals, schools and other vital front line services.’

Sinn Fein oppose child benefit cuts

On October 2nd, Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said his party would oppose any attempt to cut Child Benefit payments. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said if the government wants to target high earners in the upcoming budget then the way to do that is to target their income through taxes.

He said `child Benefit has already been cut by both the Fianna Fáil government and the current Labour/Fine Gael government.’ He said the cut was `not necessary. The books can be balanced without it. If the government wants to target high earners in the budget then it should go after their income. This would also be more beneficial for the economy.’

Sinn Féin has proposed a third income tax rate of 48% on income over and above €100,000 bringing in €365 million. The return on the proposed cut in child benefit would return only €200 million.

He added `Although the minister is refusing to show us the detail of the new leaked report I am very concerned that the means test will be set at miserly threshold, possibly limiting the full payment only to those who are dependent on social welfare. This will create the very unemployment trap that the current child benefit system so effectively avoids.’

He concluded: `The department’s own value for money review of child benefit published in 2010 demonstrates the dependence of middle income families on child benefit. It’s analysis found that households in the 4th and 5th of ten income bracket fall below or onto the poverty line after paying their taxes and it is child benefit that then lifts them onto and over the line respectively.’

Sinn Fein-backed marriage equality motion defeated in Assembly

On 1 October Sinn Féin MLA Bronwyn McGahan has said that she was `extremely disappointed’ that the Marriage Equality motion in the Assembly was opposed and fell.

Ms McGahan said Sinn Féin had tabled the equality motion calling for the provision of legislation to ensure marriage equality for the LGBT community and that she was `extremely disappointed that there are still those in society who are opposed to equality and feel that certain rights are beyond given proper equal consideration to.’

She added: `Equality threatens no one and this motion today would only have given members of the LGBT community the same rights including legal rights as other married couples.’ She concluded that Sinn Féin `will continue to support the call for equality for everyone on this island regardless of their colour, creed or sexual orientation.’

Face to face talks will resolve parades issue – Sinn Fein

On 26 September Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said that the core issue of respect had not been dealt with and direct dialogue was needed regarding the Ulster Covenant parade past Carrickhill and St Patrick’s Church. His comments follow a meeting with the Carrickhill residents to discuss the Parades Commission determination. Gerry Kelly said the residents `feel that the Parades Commission determination has rewarded the organisers and bands for their breaching enmasse of their previous ruling against the bands playing music on August 25th’. He said residents `still want dialogue and that dialogue should happen now. This is the first of several parades to mark centenaries that will add to the over 30 Loyal Order parades that the residents face every year.’

He added `we also have the leaders of unionism saying that those talks between the residents and the Orange Order should take place. So lets start those talks. While the residents are disappointed in the determination it also states: “However, the Commission is disappointed that there has not yet been direct contact between the parade organiser and Carrick Hill residents. The Commission expects this to be rectified in the near future”.’

He urged to Loyal Orders `to heed this and engage with the residents in face-to-face talks’ and said `the residents will be holding a protest within the boundaries of the Parades Commission determination but the core issues are not resolved.’

He concluded: `What everyone wants is calm and for our part Sinn Féin will be there to support the residents. This issue can be resolved but for that to happen face-to-face dialogue needs to take place between the parade organisers and the local residents.’

Sinn Fein meet Villiers over welfare reform and concern at `Tory cuts agenda’

On 25 September a Sinn Féin delegation, led by Alex Maskey MLA, who is also chair of the Assembly Social Development Committee, met new British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, to outline the party’s concern over the British government’s Welfare Reform Bill.

Alex Maskey said the `made it clear that the Tory led Welfare Reform bill is unacceptable to Sinn Féin in its current form.’ He said there were `a range of issues that we want to see addressed. The Tory cuts agenda is not just an attack on benefits but these cuts will impact on lower income families, the disabled, the unemployed and the elderly, all off whom are vulnerable members of our community.’

He added `Ms Villiers for her part acknowledged that once again we have tabled a range of concerns and she indicted that she will continue to explore how these concerns may be addressed with her British government colleagues.’

He said while he welcomed this commitment from the Secretary of State `I did reiterate that Sinn Féin would be unable to support this bill in its current form. Sinn Féin will seek to make fundamental changes to this bill as it passes though the Assembly.’

He concluded: `It is imperative that we seek to protect the most vulnerable in our society and reduce the impact of this bill by working with the Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, the British government, and the many concerned sectors within our society.’

Sinn Fein discuss Irish unity and opposition to austerity at British party conference fringes

This weekend senior Sinn Fein figures will travel to Manchester to speak at a number of events at the British Labour Party Conference. Senator David Cullinane and Assembly Minister Jennifer McCann will speak at the party’s fringe event, `Uniting Ireland – fighting austerity’ on Sunday 30 September at 6pm, Jury’s Inn Hotel. They will be joined by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, writer Owen Jones and economic Michael Burke.

Later that evening, Jennifer McCann will join a cross-party platform at a meeting hosted by the Agreed Ireland Forum, `After the handshake, the shape of politics’, at 9pm also at Jury’s Inn. David Cullinane will speak at the Champ-hosted `Ulster Fry Breakfast’, on Tuesday morning, and the delegation will attend events hosted by the Irish Embassy, trade unions and other groups.

On 2 October, Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty will travel to Birmingham to address the Champ breakfast at the Conservative Party Conference. Last week Michelle Gilernew MP joined a panel at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, also hosted by Champ. Speaking prior to the event, the Sinn Fein MP said she would be reminding the Lib/Dems – sister Party of Alliance here in the North – `of their culpability as partners in the British Coalition for the devastating effect of their austerity policies on our economy’.

She added that `as part of the coalition government with the Tories, the Lib Dems acquiescence in the failure to deliver on election promises to prioritise the rebalancing of the North’s economy, compounded by the imposition of a £4billion cut in the block grant cannot be ignored.’

She said: `Nick Clegg’s Conference pledge to target the rich with new taxes, when judged against his subservient performance in government so far will not inspire those in society who are suffering under the swingeing cuts programme of the government of which he is a central player. If the Lib/Dems are serious about wanting to build a more equitable society then they should make it clear that the welfare reform agenda – which Sinn Féin is totally opposed to – will not proceed to implementation in its present form.’

She concluded: `They also need to make it clear that the interference in the justice system and imprisonment by dicktat, in the North by British Secretaries of State is unacceptable and the continuing imprisonment of Marian Price, Gerry McGeough and Martin Corey should end immediately.’

Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney address Westminster meeting on national reconciliation in Ireland

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey this week announced details of a major event in Westminster, hosted by the party on the issue of `National reconciliation in Ireland – The need for uncomfortable conversations'. The meeting will be addressed by Sinn Fein chairperson Declan Kearney, alongside a prominent cross-party panel of speakers and will take place on Weds 24 October, in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons.

Mr Maskey said that recent months had seen Sinn Fein take a public initiative on the need for a process of national reconciliation, in which leading party figures, in particular Declan Kearney, have made keynote addresses and major articles, aimed at the unionist, Protestant and republican communities, seeking inclusive dialogue towards opening up a new phase of the peace process, `which Sinn Fein believes needs to be based on reconciliation’.

Declan Kearney outlined the nature of the initiative in recent articles: `Initiatives and gestures aimed at healing past hurt and division are crucial to peace building and reconciliation in the aftermath of political conflict. We believe a new level of engagement is required involving all sections of Irish society, and in particular between republicans and our Protestant and unionist neighbours in the North.

`That type of dialogue needs to be focused on the development of a reconciliation process which attempts to overcome the unresolved hurt on all sides but also inter-communal fear and divisions, partitionism, economic disadvantage, and social inequality.

`None of that will be easy because it will demand that we all have the courage and compassion to try and understand what it has been like to walk in each other’s shoes. I have described it as a dialogue of “Uncomfortable Conversations” that did not take place during all the heavy lifting of previous negotiations. Now, however, there’s more heavy lifting to do – that is, how we begin to build new human and community relationships among our people based on equality, increased understanding of each other, and mutual respect for our political differences'.

Labour should withdraw support form `dysfunctional’ Dublin government – Gerry Adams

On 27 September, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the resignation of Minister of State Róisín Shortall from the Fine Gael/Labour coalition represented a `crisis for this Government’.

He said that ‘Stroke politics’which people rejected in the last election `are evident in the actions of James Reilly who has failed to publish the criteria for his selection of primary care centre locations’.

He added `The real losers in this whole debacle are the people who desperately need a reformed health service. Roisin Shortall is the fourth Labour TD, and the second junior Minister, to have resigned the Labour whip since that party entered government. She has clearly stated that Labour is not sticking to its health reform commitments in the Programme for Government.’

He concluded: `The Labour leadership failed to support her or its own programme. Labour should now do the decent thing and withdraw its support from this dysfunctional Government.’

Government must ignore Fiscal Advisory Council advice to deepen austerity measures

On 27 September, speaking during an Oireachtas Finance Committee presentation from the Fiscal Advisory Council, Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that the Government must `ignore the proposal from the Fiscal Advisory Council to increase its austerity measures by €1.9bn over the next three years.’ Deputy Doherty also said the remit of the Fiscal Advisory Council is far too narrow and takes no account of the domestic, economic, social and human impact of the fiscal policies proposed.

Deputy Doherty said the council had `proposed an additional austerity burden of €1.9bn between now and 2015. The economic, social and human impact of an extra €1.9bn in spending cuts and tax increases would be disastrous. It would further depress consumer demand and block a return to growth. It would also add an enormous burden on hundreds of thousands of people who simply have nothing more to give.’

He added `Part of the problem is that the Fiscal Advisory Council’s remit is far too narrow. It looks primarily at the state’s compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact rules as amended by the Austerity Treaty. There is a need for its remit to be broadened to include the impact of its policy recommendations on the domestic economy, job creation, social infrastructure, equality and human wellbeing.’

He said `Fiscal policy does not exist in a vacuum. The kinds of fiscal policies a government pursues play a major part in creating the society in which we all live. If we want a society based on prosperity and equality then we need to ensure that our fiscal policy decisions produce these kinds of outcomes. The recommendations in the latest Fiscal Advisory Council report, if implemented by this government, will retard growth, damage public services and increase inequality. On this basis I am urging the Government to ignore their advice.’

Sinn Fein table private members motion on justice and an apology for Magdalene survivors

On 25 September Sinn Féin announced it would be using its private members time in the Dáil that week to move a motion on the abuses that took place in the Magdalene Laundries. The motion would seek the Dáil’s commitment to put in place urgent supports for the aging Magdalene survivors and an open and meaningful debate on the issue of an apology, redress and restorative justice once the inter-Departmental Committee completes its report later this year

Speaking during this debate Deputy McDonald said the party had `brought forward this motion in recognition of the huge injustice done to the women and girls of the Magdalene Laundries and of the hurt and hardship caused by their exclusion from the Residential Institutional Redress Scheme.’

She added `To date these women have not received the recognition or redress that they deserve. The State has pondered an apology but has yet to deliver it. The women are now predominantly elderly and many are suffering from ill health as a direct result of their brutally harsh incarceration. The facts of the brutality experienced by the women and girls confined in the laundries have been established. The complicity of the state has been established. Yet the government hides behind the inter-Departmental committee – its last fig leaf, it last excuse to stand still.’

She said: `Government do this in the full knowledge that time is not on the side of the aging Magdalene women. Labour and Fine Gael have offered no apology, and refuse even the comfort of the women’s pension entitlements. The pension entitlements of incarcerated slaves. The motion seeks the Dail’s commitment to provide immediate funding for and the implementation of a helpline for the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries; to enable the women access their pension entitlements reflecting their years of work in the laundries and an open and meaningful debate on the issue of an apology, redress and restorative justice once the inter-Departmental Committee makes its report later this year.’

Sinn Fein repeats call for release of Marian Price

On 27 September Sinn Fein Assembly Member Jennifer McCann said the continued imprisonment of Marian Price was `totally unjustifiable and she should be released immediately’.

The West Belfast MLA was speaking after a Derry court was told that UN doctors as well as prison and defence doctors all concurred that she was too ill to stand trial as she is unable to give instructions to her defence team.

Jennifer McCann said: `It is clear once again that Marian Price is unfit to stand trial and should be released immediately. The added weight of the UN doctors opinion alongside both prison and defence doctors all agreeing that she is unable to give instructions to her defence team makes her continued imprisonment unjustifiable. There should be no delay as her further detention is an affront to natural justice.’

Gerry Adams attends Clinton global initiative in New York and Irish Echo event honouring Irish trade union movement

On 25 September Sinn Féin President was in New York for the eighth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Mr Adams also attended the Heads of State reception and afterward he spoke at an event organised by the Irish Echo to celebrate and honour the work of Irish Americans within the trade union movement.

The Sinn Féin leader described the CGI as an `exceptional and pioneering initiative by President Clinton which has raised billions of dollars and created hundreds of unique health, education, economic and business partnerships that have helped almost 400 million people in the developing world’.

Speaking at the Irish Echo event last night Gerry Adams said: `The Irish in America, as well as elsewhere around the world – in Canada, in Britain and Australia – have played a significant role in building the trade union movement.’

He added `The importance of and the role of trade unions in defending the rights of working people cannot be overstated. This is especially true at this time when in the midst of a world-wide economic recession there are those arguing for strategies and policies that are about cutting wages and sacking and undermining workers’ rights and protections. These conservative and right wing elements see the recession as an opportunity to increase profits irrespective of the social and human cost.’

He said `The trade union movement has to be in the frontline battling that strategy. Every day trade unionists confront and combat inequality. Every day anti-union laws are advocated.

`Every day trade unionists strategise and plan and campaign to ensure their members have decent health care and insurance; safe working conditions; decent wages and security from exploitation.

Today in many places there are laws defining and protecting workers rights. But there is still a battle to be won in many parts of the world to introduce legislative protections for workers. Everywhere workers’ rights have to be constantly defended. That is the primary role of the trade union movement.’

Sinn Fein TD urges US to end embargo on Cuba

On 27 September Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD, met Dr Aleida Guevara, Ché Guevara’s daughter, in Leinster House.

Dr Guevara, who is a paediatrician, was visiting Ireland to attend the Ché do Bheatha festival in Kilkee and also launch her book `Remembering Ché: My Time with Ché Guevara’ in Liberty Hall.

Speaking after the meeting Deputy Crowe said `it was great to meet Dr Guevara and hear her speak about the health care system in Cuba and the forced economic embargo of the Caribbean country.’ He added `the advancement Cubans have made in health care is a massive achievement, as they have to work under an illegal trade embargo by the US. Three-quarters of the pharmaceutical medicines created in the world are produced by US firms. That means Cuba has largely had to create a self-sufficient pharmaceutical and health care system, which they have done with great success.’

He said Dr. Guevara also mentioned `major medical advances that Cuba has made in relation to vaccinations for lung and colon cancer. They are ready to share these ground breaking medical treatments with the world but because of the embargo they cannot. I think it is a tragedy that people are suffering from these terrible illnesses but yet they can’t avail of these major medical breakthroughs because of the illogical trade embargo.’

He said that the US `needs to end this illegal embargo on Cuba, a position which has consistently been overwhelmingly supported at the United Nations General Assembly. It is clear to see that the world will benefit from trade with Cuba and of course the Cuban population will benefit from full trade with other countries.’

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This document was last modified by Mick Carty on 2012-11-28 18:21:55.
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