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Agenda for Government: Clár Rialtais — Sinn Féin Assembly Election Manifesto 2003

Equality agenda is central to building a new Ireland

A Chara,

Sinn Féin's Agenda for Government is the most comprehensive manifesto ever produced by our party. It sets out our policies for the incoming Assembly and Executive and our action plans in terms of the Peace Process and Irish unity and independence.

It also reflects our time in Government, on the Executive, the all-Ireland bodies and the All-Ireland Ministerial Council and the lengthy negotiations which have taken place with the Irish and British Governments.

At the core of our Agenda for Government is one simple word — Equality. Equality of opportunity and of outcome is central to our priorities in terms of the peace process, investment in public services, tackling the crisis in rural communities, ending child poverty and in bringing an end to years of structural inequality in many urban and rural communities and West of the Bann.

As republicans we are totally committed to ending inequality and to bringing about a society where all are treated equally.

Tá sé derún againn mar poblachtánaigh chun deireadh a chur le éagophromas agus sochaí úr a chur í gcrích sa dóigh go nmeidh gach duine glactha ar bhun comhionannais

Sinn Féin is determined to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented. In the last year the British Government brought down the political institutions, removed your right to vote and undermined key parts of the Agreement. Through all of this we never gave up. We have continued to negotiate with the two governments and the unionists to restore the political institutions. We stand firm. Sinn Féin will continue with this approach to get the Agreement implemented, to secure equality, a new beginning to policing and further all-Ireland progress.

Your vote counts. You can strengthen our negotiating hand, deliver real change and advance the peace process.

Le tacaíocht s'agat éireoidh linn níos mó a dhéanamh. Neartaigh ár n-áit sa tionól. Vótáil Sinn Féin.

In this election I am asking you to vote Sinn Féin.

Is mise,

Gerry Adams MP

Making a Difference

Over the last five years, Sinn Féin has consistently delivered in government, in our communities and in negotiations on the Peace Process. We took innovative and far-reaching decisions in the Departments of Health and Education, in Alex Maskey's role as Mayor of Belfast, and in support of the peace process. Our overall approach has been rooted first and foremost on equality but we also advanced an agenda based on openness, accountability and inclusiveness. This is an approach we will go forward with in the next five years.

Peace Process

Sinn Féin's strategy of negotiation has given rise to:

• Ongoing, robust negotiations on policing, justice, equality and human rights;

• The Assembly elections now being held;

• Initiatives to ensure momentum in the Peace Process;

• The political engagement with unionists, including the ground-breaking work of Alex Maskey as the first republican Mayor of Belfast;

• The advances secured for the Irish language;

• The IRA's engagement with General de Chastelain and putting arms beyond use.

All-Ireland developments

Sinn Féin has:

• Put the publication of a Green Paper on Irish unity on the political agenda;

• Advanced an all-Ireland approach in Health and Education;

• Actively participated in all-Ireland bodies and the All-Ireland Ministerial Council;

• Published an all-Ireland Rights for All document;

• Promoted proposals for balanced development along the border corridors;

• Successfully campaigned on Northern representation in the political institutions in the Oireachtas;

• Led the way in securing Irish passport services in the North.

Policing

• Sinn Féin put acceptable, accountable policing on the political agenda and has ensured that it stays there until we achieve a new beginning to policing;

• We secured major advances on the Mandelson Bill in 2000, at Weston Park in 2001, and in negotiations earlier this year in terms of democratic accountability, plastic bullets, demilitarisation, the Special Branch, and the transfer of powers of policing and justice.

Equality

Sinn Féin has:

• Put equality at the heart of the negotiations;

• Argued for a more proactive implementation of the TSN legislation;

• Pushed for rigorous equality proofing of legislation under section 75 of the NI Act;

• Brought forward proposals to address flaws in the Human Rights Commission;

• Published proposals on a Bill of Rights.

Education

Sinn Féin has led the way in:

• Tackling discrimination and inequality in education;

• Ending of the publication of schools performance 'league tables';

• Abolishing the Transfer Test (11-Plus);

• Making a massive investment in our schools.

Health

Sinn Féin has:

• Initiated a far-reaching evaluation of every aspect of the health service;

• Placed a far greater emphasis on the maintenance and promotion of health;

• Invested massive resources in acute services;

• Upgraded vital equipment;

• Provided resources to replace the ambulance fleet;

• Created additional residential childcare places;

• Developed all-Ireland co-operation in healthcare;

• Established 15 new local health and social care groups.

Economy

Sinn Féin has:

• Highlighted and tackled inequality

• Succeeded in getting the Executive to challenge the inadequate and unfair Barnett formula used by the British Government;

• Promoted resource allocation based on social need;

• Advanced plans for the development of the North-West and border regions;

• Placed all-Ireland economic co-operation centre stage;

• Advanced research on the social economy and campaigned for the ring-fencing of statutory support for community-based enterprise projects.

Regional development

Sinn Féin has:

• Promoted the redistribution of economic activity;

• Led the way in opposing water charges;

• Supported community-based public transport systems;

• Been at the forefront of redeveloping 'Brown Field' former industrial sites;

• Opposed the misdirected DRD 'Regional Transportation Strategy';

• Initiated waste management targets and recycling projects;

• Promoted frameworks for integrated regional development in the border corridors.

Agriculture and rural development

Sinn Féin has been working for a new deal for rural Ireland; We have:

• Argued for full decoupling as part of CAP reform since the beginning of the CAP talks, resulting in Minister Joe Walsh overturning his government's position;

• Opposed plans to concentrate dairy production in the hands of a small number of farmers;

• Brought forward proposals opposing attempts to introduce GM (Genetically Modified) food and crops into Ireland;

• Pursued the spending of rural development money in rural areas and lobbied intensively to have PEACE II money spent;

• Articulated the ways in which British agricultural policy is detrimental to Irish farming;

• Demonstrated the inordinate cost of running the Six-County agricultural department;

• Highlighted the failure and the unwillingness of DARD to properly eradicate both TB and Brucellosis.

Irish language, arts and culture

Sinn Féin has:

• Made Irish language promotion and rights a central concern in the negotiations;

• Established Comhairle na Gaelscoilíochta and Iontaobhas na Gaelscoilíochta to put Irish-medium education on a secure footing;

• Promoted bilingualism in all political institutions;

• Improved viability criteria for Irish-medium schools.

Women

Under Sinn Féin Ministers:

• The Education Department put in place an equality scheme to implement equality policies;

• The Health Department implemented new, flexible, family-friendly working arrangements, gender-proofed policies and monitored their application;

• Made nearly £1 million available to women's groups over the last four years;

• The Health Department prioritised support for marginalised women, supported healthcare training for Traveller women, and worked in partnership to develop best practice in combating domestic violence.

In addition, Sinn Féin MLAs have been a voice for equality in all the Assembly committees.

Children

Sinn Féin has:

• Worked to secure the appointment of a Children's Commissioner;

• Ensured a substantial increase in the number of pre-school places for three-year-olds and four-year-olds;

• Bolstered extra funding for children's services;

• Promoted all-Ireland registration and vetting of child-sex offenders;

• Established an all-Ireland Centre of Excellence in the education of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders;

• Secured an inquiry into residential and secure accommodation for children.

Housing

Sinn Féin has:

• Secured support for proposals to tackle inequalities in housing;

• Promoted, as part of the Executive, the setting of measurable targets in relation to housing poverty and homelessness;

• Led the way in the commissioning of two reports into homelessness.

Environment

Sinn Féin has:

• Promoted alternative energy use such as hydro-electricity;

• Joined in the flotilla opposing the transport of dangerous nuclear waste through the Irish Sea;

• Made a submission to the British Government's energy review in relation to nuclear power;

• Secured all-party support for the development of a nuclear-free and sustainable all-Ireland energy market.

Multiculturalism

Sinn Féin has:

• Brought forward major initiatives to tackle sectarianism and racism;

• Launched an anti-racist charter and are seeking to have it introduced in councils across the country. Demanded and promoted equality for all cultural traditions;

• Resolutely defended the right to freedom from sectarian harassment.

Building an Ireland of Equals

Sinn Féin's Priorities for 2003 - 2008

Sinn Féin is committed to building an Ireland of equals and will pursue policies to bring this about in the Assembly, Executive, All-Ireland Ministerial Council and the Oireachtas.

Peace Process

• Re-establishment of political institutions;

• Implementation of Good Friday Agreement;

• A new beginning to policing, including transfer of powers;

• A new criminal justice system;

• Build on our ground-breaking talks with Ulster Unionists.

All-Ireland developments

• Preparation and publication of a Green Paper on Irish Unity;

• A broad campaign to create an 'Alliance for Irish Unity';

• Expansion of the areas for all-Ireland implementation and co-operation

under the All-Ireland Ministerial Council;

• Representation in the Dáil and the Seanad and voting rights in Presidential elections for Irish citizens living in the North;

• Promoting balanced integration along the border corridors;

• Intensification of the political engagement with unionism.

Policing

• Creation of an acceptable, accountable, representative and unarmed policing service;

• Banning of plastic bullets;

• Ending of the use of repressive legislation;

• Effective inquiries into the killings of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, the Brian Nelson affair, and multiple allegations of collusion;

• Root and branch reform of the justice system;

• Transfer of powers on policing and justice to the democratic accountability of the Assembly.

Equality and human rights

• Establishment of a Department of Equality;

• Single Equality Bill to be rapidly progressed;

• Restore momentum to the implementation of the equality agenda;

• Restructuring of the Human Rights Commission;

• Establishment of an all-ireland Constitutional Court to protect rights enshrined in a Bill of Rights;

• Bill of Rights based on an all-Ireland charter of human rights;

• Timetabled, monitored measures to eliminate the differential in unemployment rates;

• Economic development targeted towards areas of greatest need;

• Adequate legal assistance for those taking discrimination cases.

Education

• A significant increase in funding for education;

• Ending of academic selection;

• A sustained investment in Early Years Education;

• Making equality central to education provision;

• Resources deployed to promote access to education;

• Promotion of Irish language and culture;

• Building links and harmonising provision on an all-Ireland basis.

Health

• A significant increase in resources for the health service;

• Amalgamation of Belfast City Hospital with the Royal Group of Hospitals;

• Ensure that the health needs of people living west of the Bann are met;

• Development of a cross-border network of hospital services;

• Setting up of the proposed Regional Authority under the control of Health Departments, North and South.

Economy

• Develop an all-Ireland economy with one tax regime and one currency;

• Support the adoption of the euro in any future referendum;

• One over-arching economic development agency;

• An all-Ireland economic growth and development strategy;

• Redirect resources for Britain's war machine into a peace dividend to rebuild communities damaged by conflict;

• New mechanism for calculating the block grant for Assembly;

• Support the introduction of tax varying powers within the North

Agriculture and rural development

• All-Ireland co-ordination of agriculture and rural development;

• A long-term all-Ireland agricultural development strategy based on higher value added production, with the removal of 'UK' status on food exports from the North of Ireland;

• Introduce early retirement schemes;

• A coherent strategy for rural economic development;

• Full decoupling of all EU farm payments;

• End to cutbacks in the provision of public services to rural communities.

Regional development

• All-Ireland transport policy;

• Prioritise investment in the key transport corridors;

• Harmonisation of Irish fuel taxes;

• Investment in public transport and in our inadequate water and sewage infrastructure;

• Oppose the introduction of water charges;

• Ensure the integration of the National Development Plan in the 26 Counties with Shaping our Future in the Six Counties to provide the basis of an all-Ireland implementation plan.

Irish language, arts and culture

• Develop an all-island policy approach to arts and culture;

• Designate St Patrick's Day as an all-Ireland public holiday and day of national reconciliation;

• Redress biased nature of Arts funding;

• Establish an all-island soccer team;

• Adequate resourcing of Foras na Gaeilge;

• TG4 to be accessible across the North;

• Immediate appointment of a Commissioner to oversee the promotion of Irish language measures within government agencies and departments;

• The enactment of an Irish Language Bill to give Irish an equal status to the Welsh and Scots Gadhelic languages;

• An integrated approach to the funding of the arts through the medium of Irish.

Women

• Targets and timescales for achieving equality of representation in public life;

• The National Plan for Women in the 26 Counties to have an all-Ireland focus;

• Gender-proofing in appointments and policies for all public bodies;

• Quality, widely accessible childcare system.

Children

• Appoint a Minister for Children and Young People;

• Development of realistic and measurable targets for the eradication of

child poverty;

• All-Ireland co-ordination of child protection policies and procedures;

• Expansion of funding for statutory and voluntary children's services.

Housing

• Housing as a right to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights;

• Development of a properly funded social housing programme;

• Enforcement of enhanced legal protection for tenants;

• Development of a statutory integrated approach to tackle housing poverty and homelessness.

Environment

• All economic activity and policy decisions to be environmentally proofed;

• Continued support the campaign for the full closure of Sellafield;

• Rejection of all forms of incineration;

• Promotion of an all-Ireland waste management strategy;

• Invest the resources required to bring water treatment plants up to standard;

• Full reform of local government;

• A major overhaul of planning laws throughout Ireland.

Multiculturalism

• All political parties to sign an anti-racist pledge;

• An all-Ireland policy for asylum seekers and refugees to be developed within the framework of the all-Ireland bodies;

• Responsibility for asylum seekers and refugees to be devolved to the Assembly;

• Adoption of an all-Ireland Citizen Traveller Campaign;

• Transfer of responsibility for Traveller accommodation from local councils to the Housing Executive should be speeded up and fully resourced financially.

To read the full Sinn Féin Assembly election manifesto, log on at http://www.sinnfein.ie/assembly/

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