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20 May 1999 Edition

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Sinn Féin launches local government campaign

The seven-year wait for local government elections in the 26 Counties says much about the priority placed by establishment parties on local government and people's right to participate at a local level in their areas. This was the view of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams at the launch of the party's 26-County local government election campaign in Dublin on Wednesday, 19 May.

Speaking to reporters and Sinn Féin local government candidates from across the 26 Counties in Dublin's ATGWU Hall, Adams said: ``Sinn Féin is standing in this election on a platform designed to bring forward change. Change in local government structures, change in the way business is done, change in terms of empowering people to participate in local government.

``Sinn Féin candidates are standing before the electorate on a ticket of replacing cronyism and corruption with consultation and integrity.''

Sinn Féin is standing 109 candidates in 129 wards. The party is contesting 20 Corporations, 54 County Council's, 44 Urban District Councils and 11 Town Commissions, and is fielding candidates in 22 out of the 26 Counties. There are 13 Sinn Féin women candidates in 15 wards and 31 of the party's candidates are under the age of 35. Sinn Féin is also the only party in Ireland contesting all five EU constituencies.

Also addressing the launch, Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin said: ``We do not have local democracy in this country. We have an outmoded system of local administration with a disempowered elected tier. Sinn Féin demands root and branch reform of this system. I have raised this demand at the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on the Reform of Local Government and its parent body, the Joint Committee on the Environment and Local

Government. I pushed successfully for inclusion of some key sections in the Sub-Committee's report on Local Government Reform, including the need for proactive measures to ensure greater representation of women in local government.

``Both of these committees, together with current Minister for Environment and Local Government Noel Dempsey, have failed to address the key issue in Local Government Reform - the need for own resources funding. The local authorities should be given the powers to retain locally and spend locally a proportion of income tax. Local government must be financed and empowered in the context of fundamental tax reform as set out in this document, including a specific tax on the financial sector.''

Expressing confidence in Sinn Féin's ability to greatly increase its representation across the 26 Counties Gerry Adams told those assembled:'' Now that the opportunity is finally here, I am confident that Sinn Féin will come out of this election a much stronger political force in Irish society and better prepared to return Sinn Féin representatives to join Caoimhghín in Leinster House.


A Crowe among the turkeys


``I want to stop the European parliament ending up as a resting ground for politicians who are either washed up or preparing for early retirement''. This was the parting shot from Sinn Féin's EU candidate Sean Crowe at a meeting with nine of his ten running mates in the June poll. The debate, organised by the European Movement, was held in Dublin Castle last Wednesday, 12 May.

The presence of all but one of the Dublin EU candidates was not enough of an attraction for the general public, as the meeting hall was barely half full. So don't hold your breath waiting for a big poll on 11 June. However that did not stop the sparks flying, after some initial hesitation.

RTE's John Bowman was chair for the evening. He made a big deal out his attempts at fairness in ensuring all the candidates got equal speaking time. This did not stop him from displaying a range of facial expressions when speakers were making their contributions. Bowman gave us his incredulous raised eyebrow, his eyes cast to heaven, and on occasion a slightly smug countenance. Maybe this is what passes for political analysis in RTE these days.

Bowman asked each of the candidates to outline why they thought people should vote for them. Crowe said that he believed ``it is crucially important that Irish voters get a chance to vote for the Europe they want. It is only by electing strong hard working representative candidates who will stand up for Ireland's rights that real positive change will be achieved in restructuring and reforming the European Union''

``Sinn Féin wants to see an EU that is not a war monger but a genuine peace maker'' added Crowe, who also outlined some of the huge spending being run up by the U.S. and British Governments in their bombing of Serbia and Kosovo.

Prionsias De Rossa explained his U-turns on the EU by saying that we in Ireland had to cede sovereignty to the EU. Confessional-like, he told us ``I used to believe that Ireland could be a stand alone independent state'', but he now believed he had been wrong.

One wonders too about the type of EU favoured by Labour's Bernie Malone. She told the audience that there should be a referendum on participation in Partnership for Peace. We want to include the Balkan states in the EU and have them ``in that queue for enlargement''. Surely a Europe without queues is what we are aiming for?

Seán Crowe took questions from the floor asking about Sinn Féin's attitude towards the legalistion of drugs and ensuring equality for those enduring disability. He also contributed to a brief debate on neutrality and NATO's current bombing campaign.

Crowe sparked briefly with De Rossa, who claimed that Sinn Féin supports vigilantism. Crowe outlined Sinn Féin's record on tackling the drugs crisis, explaining clearly that Sinn Féin is the only party with a record of community involvment.

As John Bowman wrapped up proceedings and the crowd shuffled out, you couln't help but agree with Seán Crowe's assertion about washed up politicians. Ben Briscoe laboured on about his 34 years as a public representative. Mary Bannotti told us about her 15 years as an MEP in the same patronising manner she used to justify not having a referendum on Partnership for Peace membership. Jim Mitchell also gave us a report on his mileage clocked up as a public representative. It clearly is time to get rid of the turkeys and send a Crowe to Brussels.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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