Thursday, October 06, 2005

European support for IRA move

Bairbre De Brún:

The IRA’s initiative found broad political support in Strasbourg last week.

Those who expressed their support were united in the call for the return of the political institutions and the need for the Democratic Unionist Party to engage with Sinn Féin.

General John de Chastelain’s announcement on Monday last week was a major topic of conversation.

Interestingly, apart from Sinn Féin and independent MEP Marian Harkin, not one other Irish MEP spoke in the parliament on the significance of what had happened.

We made a point of recognising publicly the important role of the European Union in contributing to peace-building in Ireland, both politically and financially.

Gerry Adams can be expected to return to this theme in his visits to the European parliament and European Commission today.

The Strasbourg session also saw the arrival of 53 national parliamentarians from both Bulgaria and Romania as observers in the European parliament.

The observers will play a full role in their groups, take part in committee meetings and attend plenary sessions without voting rights.

This is intended to ensure that the 53 new MEPs who enter the European parliament after the next enlargement in 2007 can integrate as smoothly as possible.

From Strasbourg, I travelled to Co Cork for the National Ploughing Championships. This event attracts thousands of people, and is the premier rural/agricultural event in the country.

The Sinn Féin tent attracted a huge amount of interest, with a steady stream of people wishing the party well.

On the Wednesday, Gerry Adams was practically mobbed by media and well-wishers alike, a further indication of his popularity as party leader and the resounding echo that last week’s move has found in Irish people across the country.

Rural communities are a Sinn Féin priority, and I took this message to the Ploughing Championships. We are working in Europe, through our TDs, our Assembly team and our network of councillors across the island to see that the framework for delivering money through the rural development programmes is right and to ensure that there is a greater sense of urgency about the crisis facing farm families and rural communities.

It was great to hear and see the Rossport Five address the rally outside Leinster House in Dublin on Saturday in person.

The men all emphasised that their fight was just starting following their release from prison on Friday. The men also stressed their willingness to talk to Shell or anyone else to ensure the safety of their homes.

The stand taken by the men and their families and small community has touched hearts right across Ireland and beyond. They deserve our thanks and our continued support.

On September 22, I participated in a conference in Brussels highlighting the issue of asbestos. I presented a report on the current situation regarding asbestos in Ireland.

It is believed that up to 3,000 former workers in the Belfast shipyards could still be affected by asbestosis.

Environmental exposure, as well as work exposure, is a point of contention across Europe.

According to recent research, more than 8,000 people can be expected to die each year in Europe from 2015 onwards from mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos.

Asbestos-related disease is clearly an issue for the present and future, and not just the past.

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