Irish American Information Service


02/22/05 12:36 EST

Sinn Féin has said the sanctions announced today by the British government are a "distortion of democracy" and said the party would fight against it.

Speaking in London following the decision of the British government to extend sanctions on the party the South Belfast MLA, Mr Alex Maskey, said the Northern Ireland Secretary had "no right to discriminate against democratically elected Irish politicians".

He also questioned the Irish Government's claim that it was opposed to sanctions.

"Paul Murphy does not have one vote in Ireland. He has no right to discriminate against democratically elected Irish politicians. These actions are a distortion of democracy. The people of Ireland elect us and we are accountable to them. We reject these anti-democratic actions by a British government against an Irish political party," Mr Maskey said.

"We will continue to fight this discrimination politically, legally and through an ongoing campaign of democratic resistance. We will go to the nationalist and republican people in elections in May."

Mr Maskey said the 'Independent' Monitoring Commission (IMC) upon whose report today's action was based was "not independent".

"It is the tool of the securocrats whose stated aim is to prevent the further growth of Sinn Fein and the further development of the peace process. Sinn Féin predicted exactly the scenario we see being played out now when this body was first established at the behest of the UUP."

The Ulster Unionist leader Mr David Trimble, meanwhile, demanded a new power-sharing administration in Belfast, with republicans barred.

Speaking following the Northern Ireland secretary's announcement, he said: "All that is saving Sinn Féin from exclusion from office in an Assembly now is the [British] government's decision to continue suspension."

The Northern Ireland Secretary fined Sinn Féin the maximum possible. He announced a freeze on the party's Assembly payments would be extended by 12 months. MPs in Westminster are also to vote on a bid to halt expenses and office facilities for Sinn Féin.

The SDLP leader Mr Mark Durkan claimed the sanctions would play into republicans' hands.

"They only allow Sinn Féin to pretend to be victims of the current crisis. The victims are the families held hostage by the IRA and the Irish people who have seen their peace process damaged by the provisional movement's criminality."

Mr Durkan said the party was opposed to the "silly sanctions" on Sinn Féin. But he added that Sinn Féin had "nobody to blame but themselves".

"Our message to the Governments has been consistent. The best way of dealing with paramilitary criminality is not through sanctions. It is by going after paramilitary crime and confiscating criminal assets. It is also by showing Sinn Féin that they do not have a veto on progress. For so long as Sinn Féin believes that nothing can be done politically without their say so, the provisional movement will think that it can get away with as much crime as it likes."

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