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6 November 2003 Edition

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Sinn Féin TDs join Assembly election campaign

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said this week that hardline unionists must accept the all-Ireland agenda of the Good Friday Agreement if they want to see a return of the Assembly and Executive.

Joined by Sinn Féin's second Assembly candidate for North Belfast, Kathy Stanton, and by three of Sinn Féin's five TDs, Kelly said he was confident that the party has delivered on its promises and pledged that Sinn Féin's focus would be to get the institutions up again.

"We are the only all-Ireland party," said Kelly, "and we will be at the centre of pushing the all-Ireland agenda in terms of every single department. We are the only party that people vote for in Kerry and Derry, West of the Bann, West of the Shannon, and in Belfast and Dublin."

"In the Southern elections last year, the people returned five Sinn Féin TDs. Those TDs and their election teams - along with other activists from the 26 Counties - will play a crucial role in the Assembly election campaign."

Visiting TDs Seán Crowe, (Dublin Southwest) Aengus Ó Snodaigh, (Dublin South Central) and Arthur Morgan (Louth) will be going into key constituencies throughout the North over the next four weeks, including East Derry, North and South Antrim, South Down and North and South Belfast.

The three shook off the suggestion that they could be neglecting their full-time duties in Leinster House by showing their support in such a visible way.

"This is not the first time we've been here," TD Arthur Morgan reminded the media. "We were here a number of times in relation to the Holy Cross school. But we're delighted to be back this time in a very positive mode, assisting Gerry and the team.

"We have already been canvassing alongside our candidates in South Armagh and are looking forward to a greater involvement with Gerry and all our colleagues here in Belfast.

"We will not be neglecting our duties. We have a very good organisation in each of the five constituencies we represent, and those organisations will be assisting in our constituency business. Things will be going ahead as they normally would. We're only here on a part-time basis."

Assembly candidate Kathy Stanton said the party remains optimistic about the upcoming election despite the political stalemate.

"We're the largest nationalist party at the moment and we expect to be the largest party in terms of seats after this election," said Stanton. "Sinn Féin is coming at this in a positive manner. The feedback we have received from the public so far has been excellent and our focus is on the future."

Gerry Kelly added that Sinn Féin has consistently delivered — when given the opportunity to do so.

"We have an Assembly that has been pulled down four times now, on top of 30 years of neglect through direct rule. People were left frustrated when the last set of negotiations came to an abrupt halt, but the fact is that when we were involved in negotiations, we delivered. When we were in government, we delivered.

"Perhaps the two most important departments on offer were health and education, yet the other parties refused to take them. They were afraid of the challenge. But we confronted it, and I think we've done very well."

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