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October 09, 2006

Sinn Fein Week in Review

Sinn Fein Week in Review

25 September to 7 October 2006

Adams urges governments to focus on restoring power sharing

Speaking on 3 October, in advance of talks to take place in Scotland with the political parties and the British and Irish Goverments, Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams MP, reiterated the party’s stance that restoring power-sharing was is the single most important issue to be addressed by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern in coming days.

Momentum continued to grow towards the November 24 deadline, throughout the latter part of September and early October, as the British political party conferences took place.

Mr Adams said there was `no more important issue facing either the Irish or British governments’ than `getting these political institutions bedded down and the Good Friday Agreement rolled out’.

In relation to the DUP and wider unionist community, Mr Adams said there had been `a greater outreach, [more] than at any time in my experience, with broad sectors of unionism’, and added `there is clearly a desire that there should be locally-accountable ministers in charge’.

He was speaking ahead of a meeting with Tony Blair at Chequers. He also said republicans had honoured `every single commitment they have made’ and called on the British Government to `honour all of its commitments and… ensure that there is no stone left unturned so that the political institutions are in place on November 24.’

Speaking the same day Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy also said that Ian Paisley should `face up to his political responsibilities and to convince the nationalist and republican community that he is willing to share the future on this island with them’.

Mr Murphy said the DUP leader seemed `intent on hiding behind preconditions to avoid a real political engagement’.

Unionism will not stop process of change

On 1 October Gerry Adams addressed a rally in Letterkenny to mark the end of the 1981 hunger strike, where he also spoke of the current situation in the political process and the approach of the DUP.

He spoke of the legacy of the hunger strikers and that the political growth of Sinn Féin and of Irish republicanism was `in no small measure a result of their courage’.

That legacy, he said was to be found in the peace process `and the positive transformation it has wrought in Irish society in recent years’.

Speaking on the current situation he said Sinn Fein remained `firmly focused on building a nationwide movement for change not only to end partition but for social justice and equality across the island of Ireland’.

He said the big challenge in the short term was to get the political institutions `back in place’, which meant `Ian Paisley's DUP agreeing to share power with the rest of us’.

He said if Ian Paisley decided not to share power it would condemn his own constituents `to living in a second-class society with second-class public services undermined by punitive fiscal policies administered by unaccountable British Ministers’.

He said the process would continue `including on an all-Ireland basis and across a

myriad of cross-border measures and agreed partnership arrangements’ and adding `when unionism decides to come back to the negotiating table in the future

the progress that will have been made in those areas cannot and will not be


He said Irish republicans would be `generous and magnanimous in our outreach to

unionism because that has to be the mark of our vision which includes a view

that orange and green can be united on the basis of equality’, adding `Unionism also needs to be generous and magnanimous.’

Agreement is possible

On 6 October Gerry Adams MP, party chief negotiator Martin McGuinness MP and cairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP, met Tony Blair at Chequers

Speaking afterwards Mr Adams said the focus of discussion had been the restoration of the political institutions, and that Tony Blair had said it was his `firm resolve to see working institutions in place by November 24th’.

Mr Adams said there was `no more important work in the time ahead for the two governments and the parties than reaching agreement’ and Sinn Féin believed `a deal is possible on all of the issues’.

He added that it would `become clear whether or not the DUP are up for an agreement. If they are, the opportunity is there – the way has been cleared.’

Labour conference hears calls for power sharing

On 26-28 September a senior Sinn Féin delegation attended Labour Party Conference in Manchester for a series of debates and events, including on the way forward for the peace process in the run up to the 24 November deadline. Addressing the Agreed Ireland Forum, Sinn Fein Assembly Member John O’Dowd reiterated Sinn Fein’s commitment to restoring power sharing institutions.

Party Vice President Pat Doherty MP also took part in a cross-party breakfast debate, alongside DUP MP Nigel Dodds, UUP leader Reg Empey and SDLP MP Alisdair McDonnell; and also addressed by Secretary of State Peter Hain.

Pat Doherty said the event was an important opportunity `to address the issues which lie ahead of us in the coming months’. He said there were `big challenges and decisions ahead for the DUP and they know this, in regards to sharing power with the rest of us and on the equality and all Ireland agenda’. He added `Sinn Féin is ready to move forward, but it remains to be seen whether or not the DUP is ready to move forward with the rest of us’. He also stressed `the absolute need for the British Government to put in place a financial package to target issues such as the infrastructural deficit and to redress almost 35 years of British under funding and neglect in the Six Counties.’

A well attended Sinn Fein fringe meeting later in the week heard party Assembly Member Caitriona Ruane further develop the party’s position on the current situation, and also lay out its platform in terms of building equality and a future `Ireland of Equals’. The discussion also heard contributions from prominent Labour politicians and members, including Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn MP, in support of all efforts to restore power sharing and the Assembly without delay. Sinn Fein Representative to Britain, Dodie McGuinness, urged those in the British labour movement to do all they could to raise the issues and keep the momentum up in support of implementing the Good Friday Agreement – in particular in the run up to the November deadline.

The Sinn Fein delegation also attended a series of events, including receptions at conference hosted by the Irish Embassy, and by London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Tributes to Sinn Fein Assembly Member Michael Ferguson

On 25 September Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams extended his deepest sympathies to the family of West Belfast Sinn Fein councillor and Assembly member Michael Ferguson who died suddenly during the previous night. Michael Ferguson had been receiving treatment for testicular cancer.

Mr Adams said `No one who met Michael could fail to see his passion for life and determination. Despite his illness Michael's death will come as a great shock to the many people who knew and respected him.’

Sinn Féin Assembly group leader John O'Dowd led further tributes to Michael Ferguson, and said he brought `a huge energy and determination to his work’ and had `championed the educational rights of children and young people and was instrumental in the campaign against cuts to education services’. Michael Ferguson had taken this campaign to Westminster to lobby MPs and the government directly on a number of occasions.

Lisburn Council Group leader Cllr Paul Butler, added that `Michael was a life long republican with a huge commitment to the goal of Irish reunification and the realisation of social justice and equality’. He said he had `challenged inequality and discrimination at the heart of Lisburn Council and was a thorn in the side of all who opposed equality’. He also built alliances across the political spectrum, Cllr Butler said.

Sinn Féin West Belfast Councillor Marie Cush said `No problem was small and no mountain was too big. Michael will be missed by everyone who knew him.’

Substantial `peace dividend’ urged

On 6 October Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún welcomed discussions aimed at delivering a financial package for the north of Ireland, but warned that such a package must be `substantial and additional’.

Her comments came after officials from both departments of finance on the island met to discuss a financial package for the six counties.

Ms de Brún said Sinn Féin had `led the calls for a peace dividend’, but that `planned expenditure dressed up as new will not suffice’.

She said the British government had a responsibility to deliver this `given that they have set the six counties adrift over the years’ and that `consistent under funding of essential services and an infrastructure deficit is reflective of the British Governments’ priorities over the years’.

Sinn Féin demand action to tackle heath inequalities

On 6 October Sinn Féin health spokesperson, John O’Dowd MLA, commented on a new consultation, aimed at promoting equality and human rights within the health and social care system, announced by British minister Paul Goggins. He said the current approach of the Health department would `only reinforce health inequalities’.

Mr O’Dowd "Sinn Féin would submit a `comprehensive response’ to this consultation and in particular, focus on the `major inequalities in health which the policies of successive direct-rule ministers have created for people living in rural communities across the Six Counties’.

He said rural communities and particularly those west of the Bann had witnessed `a gradual erosion of health services within their areas under direct-rule’. Direct-rule ministers were adopting policies in relation to the delivery of essential health services which were `increasingly urban-based’ he said. He urged that this inequality be urgently addressed.

Sinn Féin support water charges legal challenge

On 6 October Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney publicly backed a legal challenge taken by the Consumer Council against the Department for Regional Development over the imposition of water charges.

Sinn Féin remained totally opposed to the introduction of a separate charge for water and sewerage services. Mr McCartney said the legal action also highlighted the `democratic deficit created by Direct Rule’ and that there was a `hidden agenda’ within the ‘reform agenda’ to try and force householders to pay a double water tax and pave the way for the privatisation of the Water Service.

He said the only way to resolve this issue was to fully restore `a locally accountable administration’ which meant `the DUP and the rest of us engaging on the basis of power sharing to show leadership on such key issues’.

Struggle over Shell continues

On 3 October Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris TD demanded to know why the Irish Government was so anxious to enforce the wishes of Shell in relation to the Corrib gas development. Deputy Ferris condemned the decision by the Department of Justice to order the Gardaí to break up a picket opposing the site of the oil refinery at Bellanaboy.

Deputy Ferris said that the Fianna Fáil Government was `seen to be clearly enforcing the wishes of a multi-national consortium against the will of the local people and against the best interests of the Irish people as a whole’.

He added: `Bertie Ahern's personal finances are small beer compared to the huge scandal of the giving away of our gas to companies that pay almost nothing in return in the way of tax or royalties’. He questioned `why this was done and the fact that Shell and others are terrified of revealing the terms of the rotten deal made raises suspicions of the nature of the relationship between Fianna Fáil and the oil companies’. He concluded `On the day that the Gardaí are forcing protestors off the road in Mayo at the behest of Shell the question needs to be posed: "Why is the Fianna Fáil piper so willing to do their bidding?".’

Week in Review is circulated by Sinn Fein MPs. Telephone 020 7219 8162. Email or visit

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