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Sinn Féin in government will axe the water tax – Mary Lou McDonald TD

"Sinn Féin in government will reverse water charges. These charges will only cause further hardship for families already struggling to make ends meet."

Today, Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD launched the party's vision for water services accompanied by both Brian Stanley TD and Cllr. Cathal King who is the Sinn Fein candidate for the upcoming by election in Dublin South-West.

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Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy commenting on British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers statement that ‘disagreement over welfare reform and the budget must be sorted out before a cut to the business tax rate is made’ said:

“I welcome the announcement of all-Party Talks.  Sinn Féin has been calling on the governments for some time now to convene these talks and I welcome the fact the Irish and British governments are now committed to making them happen.

“The British government has been part of the problem in the political process in the North. It’s now time it became part of the solution and problem solvers rather than have Ms Villiers introduce further obstacles and preconditions.

“There can be no preconditions, threats or preconceived outcomes to the negotiations and as such the British government should immediately lift its threat to impose severe financial penalties on the North’s Executive.

“Instead of Theresa Villiers seeking to draw back from her Prime Minister’s commitment on corporation tax, the transfer of full fiscal powers to the Executive should be on the table in the wake of promises made to Scotland after its referendum

“We need the transfer of a full suite of fiscal powers. These include corporation tax and the tax varying powers needed to grow our economy in the aftermath of the British government’s cut to our block grant by billions over the last four years and its reneging on commitments made to boost our economy. “

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Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan was one of the MEPs asking questions at today's hearing in Brussels of the Health & Food Safety Commissioner-designate, Vytenis Andriukiatus.

Speaking in Brussels this morning the Dublin MEP expressed her exasperation at the half-hearted, non-committed response she obtained from Mr. Andriukiatus:

"My question to the Commissioner-designate highlighted the conflicts of interest in the European Food and Safety Authority. I pointed out the 'revolving doors' atmosphere prevalent, where people who were at one stage working in the food and safety agency deciding which GMOs were to be authorised, then ended up working for the very biotech companies they were previously regulating. This is just one of many examples of the ‘revolving door’ prevalent in European agencies.

"I highlighted to the Commissioner-designate that there is no obligatory 'cooling off' period between appointments to the food and safety agency and jobs in the industry. I asked Mr. Andriukiatus to explain how he would improve the independency structures within the food and safety agency and how he would then enforce those structures.

"The Commissioner-designate's response was wishy-washy to say the least. He was very vague and spoke in general terms about mistrust in scientific opinion. It was a very disappointing response especially when there is an array of recommendations available on this issue from a number of bodies and yet he could give no commitment to any concrete actions, as I had requested.

"I will write to the Commission this week and ask again as to what will be done to improve the conflicts of interest problems at agencies. There are ample recommendations available regarding the issue of conflict of interest. The European Parliament itself has recommended a 2-year cooling off period.

“If Mr. Andriukatis is successful in becoming Commissioner for Health and Food Safety I will hold him to account for these conflicts of interest. I look forward to enlightening the commissioner designate as to the array of recommendations he has at his disposal and look forward to seeing him implement them." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has condemned those behind a hoax bomb alert, which caused disruption on north Belfast last night. 

Speaking after the security alert in the Antrim Road area, the North Belfast MLA said; 

"This served no other purpose than to create disruption in the area. 

"Around 40 families were evacuated from their homes during this alert, causing huge inconvenience to the community. 

"Those responsible for this hoax have nothing to offer the people of north Belfast and need to stop this pointless activity. 

"I want to pay thank Belfast City Council and community and voluntary groups in the area who provided assistance to the families evacuated during the disruption." 

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Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann has called for an independent and thorough investigation into Kincora Boys Home.

Speaking ahead of an Assembly debate on the issue she said,

"Reports that members of the British security services, politicians and civil servants knew about the abuse of children at Kincora Boys Home have been in the public domain for some time.

“It has been claimed that British security services were not only fully aware of what was going on but actively blocked any investigation into the Home.

“They allowed in effect the abuse of young children to continue so they could use it for the purposes of intelligence gathering.

“The victims of the horrendous abuse at Kincora Boys Home must not be let down by the state again.

“It is important that any investigation into Kincora has the powers and remit to access files and witnesses including information held by the British security services. "

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Brian Stanley TD has reiterated Sinn Féin’s opposition to water charges. He has said that Sinn Féin will reverse the charges over the course of any government in which his party is involved.

He was responding to this morning’s announcement by the Energy Regulator of the charges to be paid by households.

Deputy Stanley said;

“While the charges for both metered and unmetered users will be capped for the first nine months; at an estimated €278 per year for a household of two adults and two children, that is above the average of €240 which the Taoiseach claimed earlier in the year.

“It is also clear from the pricing structure that when allowances end, as they will and when the full impact of charges is imposed that the average bill will rise significantly.

“My party remains opposed to water charges, and is committed to reversing them over the course of any government in which Sinn Féin is involved.”

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Sinn Féin MEPS are engaging in a series of hearings this week for potential European Commissioners.

MEP Liadh Ní Riada today questioned Karmenu Vella, the Commissioner designate for the Environment and Fisheries on his prospective role.

 Ní Riada inquired of Vella what steps he would take to sort out shortfalls in scientific data collection.

 “The issue of the fisheries budget has always been a contentious one, and now times are particularly tough with shortages in the areas needed for scientific data collection, which affects the ability to set accurate quotas. This has a knock-on effect and seriously impacts on the already tough livelihoods of fishermen. If elected how will you ensure this matter is resolved, and that it will not be a continuing situation year in, year out.”

 Speaking after the hearing Ní Riada said she found Vella to be vague and evasive.

 “He lacked substance; it was a lot of empty words. I’m not too hopeful that the reforms he speaks of are going to happen.

“Scientific data collection controls how the quotas are divided up. Although he gave a vague answer about the importance of scientific data collection and why we need to have more regional cooperation, he really didn’t answer the question I asked. We need guarantees that the EU will pay for any scientific data collection carried out in Irish waters.  Why should fishermen have to pay for scientific data when it is the EU who is implementing the quotas?

 “I also raised concerns about the crossover between Environment and Fisheries which is such an important industry to Ireland. I believe you have to have an absolute portfolio dedicated to fisheries and fisheries alone if you are being serious about implementing reform in a real way that’s going to benefit fishermen.

 “We need a commissioner who is willing to hear what we have to say and implement real reforms that are going to improve the lives of our coastal fishermen. The fishermen in Ireland are on their knees. They have had to endure over-regulation, the drift net ban and stringent rules on quotas and discards. We have seen the complete criminalization and overregulation of the fishing industry in Ireland. And that has to be addressed as a serious issue.”

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Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy today called on the British government to become part of the resolution of problems in the political process in the North of Ireland.

Conor Murphy was speaking at a fringe event at the Tory party conference in Birmingham as part of a panel discussion involving British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

Conor Murphy said:

“The British government has been part of the problem in the political process in the North.

“The British government refused to back the compromise Haass/O’Sullivan proposals on the issues of flags, parading and the legacy of the past. It has frustrated investigations into state killings and the state’s collusion with loyalist death squads and emboldened negative unionism by its increasing partisan pro-unionist stance. 

“It’s time therefore for the British government to become part of the solution.

“It can do that by honouring commitments it made in the Good Friday and other agreements on Acht na Gaeilge, a Bill of Rights and an independent inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.”

The Newry Armagh MP said that he welcomed the announcement of all-party talks. Conor Murphy said:

“Sinn Féin has been calling on the governments for some time now to convene all-party talks and I welcome the fact the Irish and British governments are now committed to making this happen.

“The governments are coequal guarantors of the agreements. Any negotiations must have an open agenda and the political will to reach agreement. The talks should include all parties and be time limited.

“There can be no preconditions, threats or preconceived outcomes to the negotiations and as such the British government should suspend immediately its threat to impose £87m in financial penalties.”

And Conor Murphy said the British government should transfer fiscal powers to the Executive in the wake of promises made to Scotland after the referendum

“The British government has cut the block grant to the Executive by billions over the last four years and reneged on commitments made to boost our economy.

“We need the transfer of a full suite of fiscal powers which includes corporation tax and the tax varying powers needed to grow our economy.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín said a number of families have been moved from their homes in the New Lodge area as a result of an ongoing bomb alert.

Carál Ní Chuilin said:

“A number of families have been moved out of their homes close to the Antrim Road as a result of what the PSNI is describing as a suspect device found in the area.

“The New Lodge Youth Centre in Upper Meadow St has been opened to provide shelter for the families affected.

“This alert is causing great distress to a number of senior citizens and families with young children. I want to thank the people running the youth centre for their willingness to help the people affected.

“I am liaising with the PSNI to find out more about this alert which is causing great inconvenience to local people.”  

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