[Sinn Fein]

28th June 2003

Spirit of Olympics must be harnessed in supports of rights agenda

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP, speaking as the Special Olympics are coming to an end, said that the positive energy of the Games must be harnessed to ensure that the rights of the disabled are advanced in the months ahead.

Mr. Adams said:

``Over the last two weeks, people throughout Ireland - north, south, east and west - have come together with athletes from across the world to make the Special Olympics a huge success. Over the last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit some of the venues and meet with athletes, volunteers and people from host communities.

``Travelling the length and breath of the country over the last year, I witnessed the selfless dedication of communities and volunteers. They opened their doors and gave of their time to ensure that this event has been a positive experience for all involved. Of course these are many of the same people who give so much of their time, under constant pressure, year in and year out.

``I want to commend the leadership of the World games particularly Eunice Shriver Kennedy and Tim Shriver. The Irish Committee have done wonderful work and we should be grateful to them and to the host committees. But special thanks has to go to the athletes and to the 30,000 plus volunteers who have uplifted us by their example.

``The positive energy that the nation has experienced over the past week must not be lost when the Special Olympics leaves town. The determination and courage of the athletes has been a source of inspiration to the volunteers and all involved with the Special Olympics. Now, the politicians must not fail those who have given us so much. Irish people with special needs have been a neglected group in terms of facilities, resources and support services for too long. The government needs to match its warm words of praise with funding and recognition of the rights of these citizens.''

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