23 February 2006 Edition

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Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2006 INTERNATIONAL

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún speaking to Willy Meyer MEP, Left Unity, Spain

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún speaking to Willy Meyer MEP, Left Unity, Spain

EU policy developed further

Promoting a Europe of Equals

From the Basque Country to Congo, to the rights of migrant workers, this years Ard Fheis addressed a huge range of international items. Delegations from the GUE/NGL - Sinn Féin's group in the EU parliament, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Portugal and the US attended as did members of diplomatic missions in Ireland.

Two particular issues echoed throughout the three day conference - the EU Services Directive, and the idea of 'Fortress Europe' and the implications for asylum seekers and illegal migrants.

Delegates voted for the withdrawal of the Services Directive and opposed any attempt to resuscitate the European Constitution.

MEP Bairbre de Brún said Sinn Féin's main objective in the EU parliament since 2004 was to put forward the concept of an Ireland of equals in a Europe of equals.

Issues forming part of that agenda were world poverty, achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the threat from global warming, the role and responsibilities of the EU in relation to the Middle East, Israel and Palestine in particular, and to the right of those who seek refuge from conflict or seek a better future within the borders of the European Union.

In a significant elaboration of Sinn Féin EU policy the Ard Fheis adopted the discussion document Challenging the Democratic deficit - Democratising the European Union.

Delegates endorsed Sinn Féin's lobby for the Peace III programme, that will secure the maintenance and increase of peace and reconciliation funding. De Brún thanked the communities involved in these activities for their work.

On the EU Services Directive, Bairbre de Brún highlighted how the labour movement throughout Europe has united in opposing the directive, which she described as an "unprecedented and relentless attack on workers rights".

This demonstrates that people wants another Europe, as the rejection of the proposed EU Constitution in France and the Netherlands also showed.

Sinn Féin is also trying to build support in Europe for Irish unity with the aim of making the EU persuaders for Irish unity.

Basque solidarity

Pernando Barrena Delegates once again expressed its solidarity with the Basque independence movement, supporting their struggle for self-determination, and welcoming the proposals for meaningful dialogue and conflict resolution included in the Anoeta declaration. The Ard Fheis also called for an end to the ban against Batasuna, judicial actions against political and social organisations, newspapers and magazines, campaign groups and businesses and the end of the dispersal and torture of Basque prisoners.

Batasuna's representative, Pernando Barrena, congratulated Irish republicans for the advances made in the Peace Process, denounced policies of political exclusion, which he said "have never worked and will never work".

"The banning of ideas and political organisations will never open the way to peace and justice. Exclusion, humiliation, banning, criminalisation are peace's worst enemies," he added.

Barrena announced that there will be "significant changes" in the political situation in the Basque Country, as he reiterated Batasuna's commitment with the opening of "a dialogue that could allow the opening of a peace process based on the respect for the right to self-determination".

He thanked Sinn Féin for its support for a Basque conflict resolution process: "We have learnt from you that political negotiations are another front in the struggle."

Delegates expressed support for the housing of Roma refugees in Kosovo, the right to self-determination of the Kurdish people, the re-unification of Cyprus, and self-determination of Montenegro and Kosovo.

Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution was signalled as a model to follow in relation to using a country's natural resources for the benefits of its people, while delegates condemned the situation in Congo, a country rich in resources but ravaged by war, and the relentless pressure from international financial organisations to force developing countries into the privatisation of natural resources like water.

An emergency motion presented by the Ard Chomhairle, and supported by the votes of the delegates deplored the occupation of Iraq by the US and Irish Government complicity by allowing the use of Shannon Airport by US military involved in the Iraqi occupation and the practice of 'extraordinary rendition'.

The Ard Chomhairle also called for Israel to abide by international agreements and allow the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination, nuclear disarmament; and the resolution of conflicts in the Middle East through international arbitration.

For more see http://www.ardfheis.com/news/748

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