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Year 2005 No. 29, February 23, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Condemn the British Government Campaign to Penalise and Criminalise Sinn Fein

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Condemn the British Government Campaign to Penalise and Criminalise Sinn Fein

Sinn Féin Condemns Discrimination against Them by Northern Ireland Secretary

Joint Statement from Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris

Sinn Fein Determined to Succeed

Commission Chief Blasts Human Rights Sham

OSCE Call for Investigation of British Brutality

All the Marks of Managed Impasse

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Condemn the British Government Campaign to Penalise and Criminalise Sinn Fein

The British government has extended its political discrimination against Sinn Fein. Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy confirmed that a ban on Sinn Fein’s £120,000 Stormont Assembly grant is to be extended for another 12 months as recommended by the IMC, the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission set up by the British and Irish governments in January 2004. Among other things, the IMC is supposed to judge whether the Assembly parties are "living up to the standards required of them". It is made up of four members, including a former Deputy General of the CIA.

The Northern Ireland Secretary also signalled that he would be seeking to deprive the four Sinn Fein MPs who do not take up their seat at Westminster of their allowances and expenses, adding that he would talk to Sinn Fein next week before making his final decision. Sinn Fein MPs elected to Westminster have declined to take their seats in the House of Commons as they refuse to take the oath of allegiance to the Queen. The financial penalties could cost the party as much as £500,000. Sinn Fein was given until next Tuesday to lodge an appeal against the actions. A legal appeal by the party against last year's sanctions was recently rejected.

Paul Murphy, in announcing the moves, provocatively claimed, "The measures we are proposing are designed to express the disapproval of all those who are committed to purely democratic politics at the actions of the Provisional IRA." This statement contains a number of pieces of disinformation rolled into one, in order to slur and criminalise Sinn Fein as it wins the support of the electorate north and south through its principled stands and championing of social measures, the main stand that the British government dislikes being that of demanding that Britain end its interference in Ireland completely. For a start, Sinn Fein leaders have consistently maintained that they are not part of the leadership of the IRA and that the two organisations cannot be equated. Secondly, the measures of the IRA to further the Peace Process have been consistently treated with contempt by the British government. Thirdly, both Sinn Fein and the IRA have consistently denied their involvement in the Northern Ireland Bank robbery last December, while the British (and Irish) governments carry on regardless, not only turning on its head the principle of innocent until proven guilty, but also acting as though the case is proven, in much the same way as the existence of WMD in Iraq was proven. It is the IMC which has "concluded" that senior figures in Sinn Fein sanctioned the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery, and this, apparently, is all the case that Paul Murphy needs.

As an additional threat against Sinn Fein, Murphy added that his view on exclusion would have been different if the robbery had occurred whilst the Assembly was in operation, saying, "It is inconceivable, in my view, that members of Sinn Fein could again hold Ministerial office while the issue of paramilitary activity and criminality on the part of the Provisional IRA remained unresolved. "

WDIE unreservedly condemns these moves by the British government to penalise and criminalise Sinn Fein on the basis of secret evidence. In fact, all the evidence points to this episode being one to crudely set-up the republican movement. It seems like the British government calculates that with the armed struggle in the north of Ireland practically at an end, the Northern Ireland Assembly suspended, the time is ripe to throw mud at and try to strangle Sinn Fein, to fancifully try and include it by smear and innuendo in the ranks of the "terrorists", and thereby to perpetuate Britain’s annexation of the Six Counties. These attempts must not be allowed to succeed!

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Sinn Féin Condemns Discrimination against Them by Northern Ireland Secretary

Alex Maskey, who is the Sinn Féin Member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly for South Belfast, speaking in London on February 22 following the decision of the British government to extend sanctions on his party said that "Paul Murphy has no right to discriminate against democratically elected Irish politicians". Mr Maskey also questioned the claims of the Irish government to be opposed to sanctions.

Mr Maskey said:

"Paul Murphy does not have one vote in Ireland. He has no right to discriminate against democratically elected Irish politicians. These actions are a distortion of democracy. The people of Ireland elect us and we are accountable to them. We reject these anti-democratic actions by a British government against an Irish political party.

"We will continue to fight this discrimination politically, legally and through an ongoing campaign of democratic resistance. We will go to the nationalist and republican people in elections in May.

"The IMC [Independent Monitoring Commission] upon whose report this action is based is not independent. It has no credibility. It is the tool of the securocrats whose stated aim is to prevent the further growth of Sinn Fein and the further development of the peace process. Sinn Féin predicted exactly the scenario we see being played out now when this body was first established at the behest of the UUP."

Alex Maskey concluded: "The British government has no right to act unilaterally if this is a partnership arrangement. More importantly, the Irish government has a duty to defend the rights of Irish people and their political representatives. Will they do so? Will they stand up to the British government? Either the Irish government are co-equal partners or they are not."

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Joint Statement from Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, Martin McGuinness MP, and Martin Ferris TD in a joint statement issued in Dublin on February 21 made clear that Sinn Féin is totally committed to the peace process.

The joint statement spelt out that despite "our anger at attempts to criminalise our party and its supporters we have been measured in our comments. We have asked others to do likewise as we are conscious that a protracted war of words among Irish nationalists is deeply damaging to the overall process."

The statement said: "We want to state categorically that we are not members of the IRA or its Army Council. Our involvement in the peace process is as leaders of Sinn Féin and as elected representatives for West Belfast, Mid Ulster and Kerry North respectively. As part of this, in the past we have met with the Army Council to put propositions regarding the peace process.

"Sinn Féin's contribution to this process has been substantial and we will continue to play our part."

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Sinn Fein Determined to Succeed

The following is an edited version of the address by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams speaking in Strabane on February 20 to commemorate Michael Devine, David Devine and Charlie Breslin who were ambushed and executed by the SAS on February 23, 1985. The text is taken from Irish Republican News.

Many of those who are attacking us now are back in the place where they are most comfortable. They don't want an open debate on the national question; they don't want a focus on their management of the social and economic affairs of this island; they don't want the peace process to succeed if that means the loss of political power for them. At all costs they want to stop the growth of Sinn Fein and halt the radical political alternative to the forces of conservatism in Ireland. And in order to achieve this and to distract attention from all other matters they are trying once again to smear republicans with the criminalisation slur.

Sinn Fein does not underestimate the seriousness of the current situation. People across Ireland are concerned that the peace process appears to be in freefall and that ten years of work and progress is now being cast aside. My friends it is not enough for us to cry foul or to invoke the memory of the hunger strikers.

No republican worthy of the name can be involved in criminality of any kind. If any are they should be expelled from our ranks. We are not involved in criminality and we will not tolerate such behaviour. Our opponents know that. But some of them can barely disguise their glee at the recent turn of events. There has been trial by media.

A Sinn Fein member is arrested and released without charge and the entire Sinn Fein party is condemned as criminal. Money from the Northern Bank robbery is found in the RUC Athletic Association Club in Belfast and this is reported as being an effort to embarrass British forces. All of this stated as fact. And let there be no doubt that this campaign of vilification is going to continue for some time.

But let there also be no doubt that Sinn Fein will weather this storm. Do they think we are not serious about our republicanism? Do they think we are not determined to pursue our legitimate goals? Do they believe our commitment to the peace process is a pretence?

Of course if we were criminals as they allege their strategy would work. But we are not. And we have come too far, and too many people depend upon us. Let me tell you that Sinn Fein will continue, in the hundredth year of our party, to build political support, and a dynamic radical political organisation across this island.

The importance of the upcoming elections here cannot be overstressed. Others are already electioneering. The contest will be Sinn Fein versus the rest. So our effort has to be, in every single contest, to ensure the largest Sinn Fein vote possible.

20 years ago when Michael and David and Charlie were killed Sinn Fein was in the very early process of fighting elections and beginning the difficult work of building a political party. Today we are the largest pro-Agreement party in the north and third largest party on this island with elected representatives throughout Ireland. None of this was supposed to happen. The government thought that Sinn Fein would remain a minor player on the political scene but they were wrong.

Their mistake was in underestimating nationalist and republican people and they are doing that again.

And what of the IRA?

Let me restate here at the memorial to these IRA volunteers that the objective of all republicans must be to create the conditions in which the IRA ceases to be. That is a huge challenge for republicans. Others at this time think they can beat the IRA by the avalanche of propaganda, which is being spewed out.

Sinn Fein's contribution to the peace process has been dismissed and abused. Including our efforts to take all the guns and all the armed groups out of Irish politics. That remains the Sinn Fein leadership's objective. Many of those who are attacking us at this time have made no useful contribution to the peace process, but some have. If, as I believe, they intend to continue with the politics of smear, they have a duty to spell out how this will contribute to rebuilding the process in the time ahead.

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Commission Chief Blasts Human Rights Sham

Irish Republican News, 21-23 February, 2005

The outgoing head of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission launched a stinging attack on the British government today, accusing it of doing no more than paying lip service to human rights.

In a letter to British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy, Chief Commissioner Brice Dickson castigated the British government for failing to give his commission proper powers, running down its numbers and ignoring or rejecting its recommendations.

Professor Dickson wrote: "I cannot help feeling that on many occasions your government is content to pay lip service to human rights without actually doing much to protect them in practice."

He pointed to delays put in the way of disclosing the truth about the role of collusion in the murder of Belfast defence lawyer Patrick Finucane, and Ministry of Defence "obstructionism" during the Bloody Sunday inquiry.

The Commission was set up as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, but Prof Dickson's letter indicates the British government never intended the Commission to function properly.

Professor Dickson noted that when the British government put the legislation creating it through Parliament, it had been unwilling to confer on the Commission the full range of powers required.

The government had suggested that these would be enhanced within two years – but four years on, nothing had been done,

"Sadly, it is a familiar story. Time and time again the Commission has submitted recommendations to Government only to have them totally rejected or, worse, ignored," he added.

He said the Prison Service had actually banned the HRC from making visits to prisons. Other departments and agencies had been allowed to simply ignore the Commission.

He also hit out at the British government for its failure to support the Commission by filling seats left empty by Commissioners who had resigned or retired.

Since September 2002 the British government had allowed the number of Commissioners to decline from 13 to six, and despite knowing for six years when his term of office expired, has yet to name a successor.

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OSCE Call for Investigation of British Brutality

Irish Republican News, 10-12 February, 2005

A meeting at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Vienna has heard a call for an investigation into British Crown forces abuses in Ireland.

Russian officials said a fact-finding mission should look into the "disproportionate" use of force by PSNI and British Army.

It is understood that the call was in response to recent heavy-handed raids in republican areas of the North which have prompted widespread protests.

The OSCE "should conduct an in-depth study of all the circumstances surrounding the current exacerbation of this long-standing conflict," Russia's acting permanent envoy to the OSCE, Mr Boris Timokhov, said.

Mr Timokhov told the OSCE on Thursday that Russia was concerned at the situation in the North after the IRA withdrew its offer to disarm and move into a new mode earlier this month. The mission should consider "instances of a disproportionate use of armed force by the army and the police that have occurred there", he said.

Britain's ambassador rejected the statement on excessive force. "There are many problems in Northern Ireland, but use of excessive force is not one of them," Colin Munro declared in his response.

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All the Marks of Managed Impasse

The Irish American Unity in Action Committee drafted this letter earlier this month regarding recent events in the north of Ireland.

Irish American Unity in Action Committee
c/o Frank Durkin
52 Duane Street, 5th Floor New York, New York 10007
9 February 2005

Dear Prime Minister Blair and Taoiseach Ahern:

We the undersigned, national Irish American organisations write to express our deep concern over recent events which undermine the peace process in northern Ireland.

The present breakdown in the peace process is based upon official and unofficial speculation and bears all of the marks of managed impasse and political manipulation that have plagued past negotiations.

For the third time in as many years, those opposed to sharing power with the Catholic/nationalist population have made unsubstantiated charges against Sinn Fein aimed at causing a reversal in the peace process and preventing the seating of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

When this is spearheaded by elements in the government, police and military intelligence, heightened by innuendo and reckless speculation in the press and by rival political parties, it is a grievous offence against the principle of political equality and democratic rights.

All political parties that possess an electoral mandate to represent their constituents in the northern Ireland and elsewhere in the world, have the right to participate in the democratic process free from governmental and police slander and unsubstantiated charges.

The internationally acknowledged principle of the separation of functions within the judicial process – unbiased police investigation, balanced by an independent judiciary with proper roles for prosecution and defence, free from political influence – is being grossly violated.

No Chief-of-Police in a democratic state would publicly declare the outcome of an investigation before it was concluded or even fairly begun. Certainly this denial of basic rights should never have been allowed to happen in the unstable and volatile climate of the present Irish peace process.

It must be remembered, that three times in the past three years, when unionist political parties unilaterally obstructed or walked away from seemingly agreed upon political solutions, it was "official" police and/or military intelligence operations based on neither legal nor evidential substance, that manipulated blame where it didn't belong.

It threw the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement into chaos. When past police allegations and prosecutions in concert with media and political attacks against Sinn Fein proved baseless, the peace process was nonetheless derailed.

There were no apologies afterwards, neither was the assembly restored. We further note Sinn Fein's progressive role and fairness in negotiations over the past ten years. We have complete confidence in the commitment of the their leadership, to the goal of removing the gun permanently from Irish politics.

The Sinn Fein leadership have made monumental strides to make the Good Friday Agreement work, including helping to influence the Irish Republican Army to make historic commitments, only to have everything rejected because of unsubstantiated accusations time and again.

We would respectfully urge those who are disseminating these charges against Sinn Fein to ask themselves if we are any nearer to that goal as a result of their actions.

We all believe in peace, democracy and permanent disarmament and demilitarisation. Isolation of large groups of voters; financial sanctions based on dubious, secret briefings; and government sanctioned police innuendo and speculation will deliver none of these things.

We urge the Irish and British governments to follow international principles of jurisprudence regarding investigations, set their minds to moving the peace process forward free of partisan politics, and implement the Good Friday Agreement.

The South African experience shows that two things are vital to conflict resolution: adversarial groups in conflict must meet face-to-face around the same table and there can be no winners and no losers.

Sincerely,

Paul Doris, Chairman, Irish Northern Aid
Ned McGinley, President, Ancient Order of Hibernians
Judge Andy Somers, President, Irish American Unity Conference
Joseph Jamison, President, Irish American Labour Coalition
Frank Durkan, Esq Chairman, Americans for a New Irish Agenda
Sean Crowley, Esq, President, Brehon Law Society
Sean Cahill and Stephen M McCabe Irish Parades Emergency Committee
Ed Lynch, Lawyers' Alliance for Justice in Ireland

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