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Gerry Adams Addressing the Extraordinary Ard Fheis on Policing

 

 

Martin McGuinness, Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, NI Secretary Peter Hain and DUP leader Ian Paisley in the first minister's office on May 8th 07

 

Latest News - 25 July, 2007

Pearse Doherty tops poll to win Sinn Féin's first Senate seat

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty was elected on Monday to the Seanad (Upper House of the Irish Parliament) after topping the poll in the Agriculture Panel. This was the first time Sinn Féin had won a Seanad seat since the 1930's. Sentaor Doherty is expected to play a hugely important role in the Oireachtas team and in ensuring that the party goes from strength to strength in the coming years.

A highly-successful Labour-Sinn Féin voting pact secured Mr Doherty the seat as well as Labour's Alex White. Fianna Fáil lost one of its Seanad seats due to the pact.

Speaking yesterday Senator Doherty said, "Going into the Seanad election there were only 58 Sinn Féin members with a vote. We had to reach out to other parties. I am very glad that a number of Labour voters, and others, voted for me".

Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD congratulated Pearse on his election and thanked all those involved in his campaign.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Our job is very clear in the time ahead. We will work hard in the interests of all those communities that we represent. We will hold the government to account every day of the week. We will work with other parties and individuals in the Dáil and Seanad to help end the crisis in the health service, to prioritise investment in primary school education, build affordable housing and encourage job creation. And we will work closely with Sinn Féin Ministers in the north in the interests of everyone on the island.

"Ireland will face a lot of challenges and opportunities in the time ahead and Sinn Féin will play our part in bringing about progressive change for the country."

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New Sinn Féin's Online Store website

The Sinn Féin's Online Store website has a new look. After more than ten years online the Sinn Féin store has been given a complete facelift.

The following is a message from the Sinn Féin Online Store.

While we've refined the design, we've also expanded our customer service. Our ambition is to help customers quickly and easily buy and receive our unique collection of Irish Republican merchandise.

With the new features we've introduced on the site, customers will have the ability to:

• Pay directly through PayPal and take advantage of the ease and security this offers.

• Track the status of their orders online.

• Receive updates on new productions.

• Give reviews on products.

To launch our new website and to encourage our customers to visit we are now having a great value opening sale:

We have slashed the price of two of our most popular collections:

Our T-Shirts and our Irish Historical Photographs.

For more information on this giveaway sale please visit our new site go to www.sinnfeinbookshop.com.

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Interview : Sinn Féin Councillor Fiona Kerins

Sinn Féin gained a third seat in Cork City Council on Monday 9 July with the co-option of Fiona Kerins. From Ballyphenhane Cork City, the 22 year old is the youngest member of Cork City Council having been co-opted to fill the vacancy left on the death of Independent Councillor Con O'Connell. Fiona is a lively, cheerful young woman with a candid manner and a real commitment to the republican project. Here she talks about her respect for the late Councillor O'Connell, growing up in rebel Cork and her desire to 'play her part'.

Tell me about growing up in Cork.

I love Cork. I was born in Ballyphehane in Cork City. I went to the Presentation Secondary School. We're eight in family, my parents, four brothers, a sister and myself. I wasn't very keen on school but I went on to do a Diploma in Legal and Business Studies at Coláiste Stiofán Naofa. Now I work in administration in the Radiotherapy Unit at Cork University Hospital.

On your co-option you paid tribute to the late Con O'Connell. What did you think of the late councillor?

He was a neighbour and friend of ours and a very hard-working political representative. His niece and I are best friends -- Áine Murphy -- she's in the same Sinn Féin cumann as myself. Con had a stroke about four years ago and had been ill over recent years but he still worked up to two weeks before he passed away. Everyone in the community knew who he was and had great respect for him. During the 2004 elections he was sick in hospital but he topped the poll. He'd been elected early and I was at the count in City Hall at 1am in the morning and he rang to wish me luck. "Count every single vote and hopefully I'll be working along side you", he said. But unfortunately it wasn't to happen. I lost by just 34 votes. I knew him since I was small. I've very good shoes to fill.

How exactly did it come about that you ended up taking the seat left vacant by Con's death?

I stood in 2004 local elections and was sixth in a five-seat ward, only missing the seat by 34 votes as I said. I was the candidate polling the next highest vote in the 2004 election after the five elected councillors which is what made me entitled to the co-option. In this ward we've a very strong cumann, the Traolach MacSuibne Cumann, in Cork South and that was probably the main reason why we did so well at the local elections. I was 18 years old when I was nominated. At that time I had the basics of what is involved but I didn't really know all that much about elections and the like. I learned as I went along. But I never joined the party to have a career in politics. Back then I didn't really know what being a councillor meant. If I hadn't been asked to stand for elections I'd be still working away with the party.

How did you get interested in republicanism?

I joined the movement in 2002. I used to always go to the commemorations -- the Easter one in Cork City. I was about 16 when I went to the first one with my dad Brendan. He was originally from Kerry and my mum Pauline is from here. There were commemorations for Crowley and Ahern and for Terence MacSwiney. My dad's family were republican minded and my family are republican supporters. I remember going to Kilmainham Jail when we were on holidays in Dublin. I remember too that the 20th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike had a big impact on me. There were a lot of commemorations going on at the time and the whole story of the Hunger Strike touched me. But I was always interested in history and the politics of the Six Counties. I never had an interest on Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. I'd have watched Hearts and Minds and Questions and Answers rather than Prime Time.

You come from rebel Cork. There's rich republican history in your county.

Yes. There are many Cork people who really impressed me. People like Terence MacSwiney and Tomás Mac Curtáin -- former Lord Mayors of Cork. Tomás Mac Curtáin was shot in his bed by the RIC in his home in Cork city in 1920 and Terence MacSwiney died on hunger strike in Brixton prison. Great people. Tomás Mac Curtáin was only Lord Mayor only for a short time before he was killed and then Terence MacSwiney took over as Lord Mayor of Cork. Actually the Republican Plot where I went to my first Easter commemoration is where Tomás Mac Curtáin was buried and when he died Terence MacSwiney bought the plot. So Tomás was the first to be buried in the Republican Plot there in St Finbars and Terence MacSwiney is buried on his right hand side. Then of course there was the Fenain Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa from West Cork who went through a very tough time in jail in England. I fully supported the armed struggle while it went on and see the connection through all these people down through the generations.

What do you think of Michael Collins?

While some people are split on the issue I think a lot of Cork people are very proud of him. I wouldn't say a word against anyone who went out and fought for their country. I've great admiration for people who stand up for what is right even if it costs them their life. You have to admire people who believe in something so much that they'd give their life for it.

What do you hope to bring to Cork City Council?

As a young woman, I believe that I can bring a new and vibrant perspective to City Hall. I will be campaigning and lobbying for more investment in youth facilities in the South City and increased financial support for local sports clubs and community groups. I will also be prioritising social and affordable housing and in particular I want to see a transparent points allocation system so that people know exactly where they are on the housing list and on what basis housing allocations are made.

What's your passion?

I love the Irish language and Irish culture. Tá alán suim agam sa teanga. I like socialising and having fun too.

And your life's ambition?

I just want to play my part even if it's just to make a small difference.

If you'd one wish what would it be?

To see a United Ireland where we use the Proclamation as our template for running a fair and inclusive society.

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Ballymurphy to remember Tommy 'Todler' Tolan

The 30th anniversary of the killing of IRA Volunteer Tommy 'Todler' Tolan is to be marked by republicans in Ballymurphy where his name and reputation is revered.

On Sunday 29 July republicans from the Upper Springfield area of Belfast will assemble at the Ballymurphy/Springfield memorial garden, on the Upper Springfield Road, before marching to Divismore Crescent where 'Todler' was assasinated by so-called 'Official IRA' (Workers' Party) gunmen on July 27 1977.

A plaque in memory of Volunteer Tolan will be unveiled on the day.

'Todler's' widow, Maureen McGuinness, will perform the unveiling. The couple had only been married two weeks and had just returned from their honeymoon when the gunmen struck.

The main speaker on the day will be the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, a close friend of 'Todler'.

So who was Tommy 'Todler' Tolan?

Tommy Tolan was the third child of Lily and Charlie Tolan, born in June 1946. The family lived in dire conditions in Carrick Hill in North Belfast before they moved to Ballymurphy where Tommy grew up.

The Divis and Black Mountain were his playground and it was on these high hills that embraced West Belfast that a young Tommy Tolan spent his childhood. Like so many young nationalists his education and employment prospects were limited but on leaving school at 14 'Todler' managed to find some employment.

However as the upheaval of the 1960s washed over the world from Viet Nam to the Civil Rights campaign in the United States so life in Ireland was to be engulfed in these global politics. Irish nationalists, so long under the jackboot of Unionist one party rule, took their inspiration from Black America and got off their knees. The unionist establishment unleashing its forces to quell the demands for equality attempted to beat the Catholic 'untermensch' off the streets.

The State's violence lead to a resurgent IRA re-arming to defend besieged nationalist communities. In response the Stormont regime, under Brian Faulkner introduced Internment. The unionists again chose repression rather than negotiation. Over four hundred Nationalists were rounded up. Eleven Catholics, including a priest Fr Hugh Mullan, were shot dead by loyalist and British army gunmen in Ballymurphy alone in the days after the imposition of internment. The events of 9 August 1971, lead 'Todler' into the IRA were he developed a reputation as a "fearless and dedicated soldier of Ireland".

He fought the British army whenever and wherever he found them. And like so many other republicans he soon saw the inside of a prison. Interned on the prison ship Maidstone in Belfast Lough in early January 1972 'Todler' and six other POWs soon made light of the ship's security system. Within two weeks of his capture, on 17 January he escaped. He spent time on the border but soon returned to his native Ballymurphy where he again, with his close friend and comrade Jim Bryson, carried the fight to the Brits.

'Todler' was captured a second time and sent to the Cages in Long Kesh before his release in 1975. Again he reported back for active service and remained an active Volunteer until he was shot dead during a feud between the IRA and Workers Party gunmen.

Speaking to An Phoblacht Patrick Mulvenna of the Remember Our Volunteers Committee said: "This event marks the beginning of a five year programme aimed at commemorating and celebrating the lives of the dead of Ballymurphy. Our area is a proud area. It saw some of the bloodiest engagements between the IRA and British army in the course of the war and it was people like 'Todler' who lead that resistance. It is right and fitting that we honour their memory and sacrifice".

Adding his support for the project Paddy Adams called on people, throughout Belfast who knew 'Todler' to come along on 29 July.

"As republicans we should reflect on the sacrifices of our dead and re-dedicate ourselves to the struggle.

"We may have made a lot of political progress in the past number of years but we are still a people in struggle, our objective is unite our country. So until we achieve that goal we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us. The past sacrifices of our comrades should inspire us to re-dedicate and re-commit ourselves in our future activity".

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McGuinness meets Ahern in Dublin

The North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness held talks with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at Government Buildings in Dublin this afternoon.

Mr McGuinness gave an exclusive interview to Siinn Féin News before meeting Mr Ahern. The video can be viewed at www.sinnfeinnews.com/av.

The meeting follows the very positive exchanges at the All-Ireland Ministerial Council and British-Irish Council last week.

Mr McGuinness is asking the Irish Government to support efforts to attract inward investment to the Six Counties as well as support on issues like tax harmonisation on the island of Ireland.

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Sinn Féin hopeful of Senate seat

Sinn Féin is hopeful that it will see its candidate for the Seanad (Irish Senate) elected today. Pearse Doherty from Donegal would be the first Sinn Féin Senator since the 1930s.

Mr Doherty was in Dublin today and spoke exclusively to Sinn Féin News. The video of that can be seen at www.sinnfeinnews.com/av

Mr Doherty said he was honoured to have been selected by the party to contest the election and is hopeful of a positive outcome.

The election to the Seanad must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the Dáil (Irish parliament). The Seanad is composed of 60 Members as follows:

  1. 11 nominated by the Taoiseach.
  2. 43 elected by five panels representing vocational interests namely, Culture and Education, Agriculture, Labour, Industry and Commerce and Public Administration.
  3. Six elected by the graduates of two universities: - three each by the National University of Ireland and the University of Dublin (Trinity College)

Sinn Féin has call for a radical reform of the Seanad including directly electing senators.

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Honours degrees for ex-POWs

Two republican ex-prisoners, Kevin Campbell and Kevin McGettigan recently graduated from University of Ulster, Magee, with an honours degree in Irish Language and Literature. The two began the degree after funding was secured by Tar Abhaile, the Republican ex-prisoners group based in Derry, to enhance the skills and employability of ex-prisoners and their families. Pius McNaught chairperson of Tar Abhaile commented: "I would like to congratulate the two men on succeeding in attaining their degree. It is another success story for former political prisoners in which Tar Abhaile through CFNI and SEUPB peace funding, has been able to enhance their individual training and their prospects for proper employment opportunities. This is in line with the other training opportunities which Tar Abhaile provided to former prisoners and their families such as the HGV, Bus Licence and Health and Fitness instruction through which many republican ex-prisoners who participated in such training have since sought and found employment." Kevin Campbell, who is also a Sinn Féin councillor, paid tribute to Tar Abhaile for the assistance which they were able to give to himself, Kevin McGettigan and many other former political prisoners, who have been to take up new forms of employment:

"Financial restraints and discrimination against ex-POWs in employment opportunities are some of the major obstacles that they face. However, the financial assistance that myself and Kevin received to help us do the degree course from Tar Abhaile contributed greatly to the success, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank Tar Abhaile for this".

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Women prisoners routinely ill-treated in North

Women prisoners in the Six Counties are routinely isolated, ignored, abused and mistreated, according to a report by the Human Rights Commission. The failure to provide adequate, female-centred places of detention leaves women prisoners particularly vulnerable. Incarceration in male dominated institutions results in women enduring restricted facilities and inadequate care while at the same time being subjected to open hostility and the constant threat of sexual violence.

The vast majority of women prisoners are convicted of minor offences, mostly debt related and pose no serious threat, yet the prison regimes to which they are subjected fail to reflect the distinctive pattern and nature of female offending. "We are calling once again for a separate and self-contained facility for women prisoners," said Monica McWilliams, chief commissioner of the Human Rights Commission.

The commission argues that prison is often a totally inappropriate punishment and should only be used as a last resort. Over 40% of women prisoners are jailed for non-payment of fines, says McWilliams. The report points out that women who pose no threat spend two thirds of their time locked in their cells.

Often women who fall foul of the criminal justice system are already vulnerable with many suffering from mental health problems or problems of addiction to either legal or illegal drugs and alcohol. A significant number will have also experienced domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse. "We highlight the demand for appropriate mental health facilities to be made available in the community," says McWilliams.

The current practice of detaining girls under the age of eighteen in prison is described as a serious breach of international human rights standards and should be ended. The report makes 55 recommendations and the Commission says it will be monitoring the authorities' response.

The Prison Within is a second report by the Commission and follows an earlier study into the treatment of women prisoners, The Hurt Inside published two years ago. The first report emerged after a series of suicides amongst female inmates incarcerated in Maghaberry focused attention on the negative consequences of jailing women prisoners within a high security male prison.

The report called for the establishment of a completely separate, purpose built, female detention centre. The response of the authorities was to move women out of Maghaberry into another male prison, Hydebank, a young offenders unit on the outskirts of Belfast.

In its follow-up report the Commission found many of the problems underpinning the incarceration of women prisoners in Maghaberry were not addressed by relocation in Hydebank. In other words the system is still failing women prisoners and some of the key recommendations made in the earlier report have not been implemented.

Accounts by women prisoners of the many problems they face offer the most compelling portrait of what can only be described as degrading and inhumane treatment meted out by both the prison authorities and male prisoners incarcerated in the same institution. Different aspects of systematic neglect and abuse are graphically described by those interviewed.

Neglect includes long periods of isolation locked in cells, inadequate access to basic educational and recreational material and facilities, lack of medical, particularly mental health care and the brutal treatment of women involved in self harm or at risk of suicide.

Although the prison is low security and has extensive grounds, access is restricted because of the threat of male violence and the women can only walk around when accompanied by staff. Use of the gym and education facilities is also restricted with the priority given to male inmates. According to the report women prisoners spent most of their time sitting in silence on hard chairs and smoking.

Women deemed at risk were kept on corridors that also contain punishment cells for aggressive male inmates who often subjected women prisoners to sexually threatening verbal abuse. Consequently women suffering from depression or at risk of self-harm and suicide were made to share not only the same location as violent male prisoners but also the same ethos of punishment.

Abuse sometimes flows from the implementation of inappropriate procedures such as strip-searching or placing women at risk in isolation units. At other times it flows from the failure of the authorities to implement procedures to stop informal abuse by male prisoners.

Both collude in establishing an ethos of degrading and inhumane treatment in which women suffer dual mechanisms of discrimination, either because their specific needs as women are ignored or because the abuse they encounter is gender specific.

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