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13 March 2003 Edition

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Taoiseach urged to move on National Representation

Sinn Féin launched a document last week that puts the case for representation in both Houses of the Oireachtas for Irish Citizens throughout the 32 Counties.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD launched the document

Also attending the press launch of the document were Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin; Conor Murphy, leader of the Sinn Féin group in the Assembly; Ard Chomhairle member Mary Lou McDonald; Assembly member Mary Nelis; and former Minister for Health in the Six Counties, Bairbre de Brún.

The launch was part of a daylong series of engagements between Sinn Féin's TDs and Assembly members in Leinster House aimed at furthering northern representation in the Houses of the Oireachtas. The TDs and Assembly members also met with a number of other political parties and independent TDs to discuss the issue.

Speaking at the news conference, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said:

"The document we are publishing today - 'The Ireland of the Future - National Representation' - is an update and restatement of the case we made almost five years ago when we called for citizens in the Six Counties to be represented in the Oireachtas.

"At the time of the Good Friday Agreement the Taoiseach asked the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution to consider how the people of the Six Counties might play a "more active role in national political life". It took the Committee from 1998 to last year to report on the issue.

"In the meantime, I have repeatedly called on the Taoiseach to act. I and my colleagues in the Dáil have continued to do so since the General Election. The time for action is now and it is long overdue. Recently the Taoiseach said he agreed with the Committee's recommendation that MPs should have the right to speak in the Dáil. That was welcome but we need a pro-active engagement by the Taoiseach with all the parties to make this happen.

"The All-Party Committee made a range of findings and recommendations and while they do not go as far as we would like, they provide a basis for progress.

"Sinn Féin is seeking:

Right of attendance at the Dáil for the 18 Westminster MPs elected in the Six Counties.

Reform of the Seanad to include election by a national list system with people in the Six Counties having the right to vote.

The right to vote in Presidential elections for citizens in the Six Counties.

"We are presenting this document in the form of a submission to the Taoiseach and I urge him to adopt its positive and progressive proposals."

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