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2014 - Year in Review

Just some of the key political moments from the year 2014 as seen through the video lens of An Phoblacht.  Among the issues covered: the Haass talks, charity donations, water charge protests, Tory cuts, Acht na Gaeilge, sectarianism in Belfast and of course elections.

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Senator Kathryn Reilly has highlighted her dismay at a review released today by Social Justice Ireland (SJI) which has outlined that government policies are further excluding vulnerable people who are already clinging to the margins of society.

Speaking from Strasbourg, where she is attending the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Senator Reilly stated:

“It is always disappointing when a review from an organisation like SJI highlights in facts and figures what we already know to be true. It is disgraceful that government policies which are now further contributing to the exclusion of vulnerable people on the margins of their society.

“We hear constant government rhetoric about recovery and the creation of an Ireland for which our emigrants can return, however, the reality is staunchly different. The review has highlighted that Ireland’s employment rate is nine percentage points lower than the Europe 2020 Strategy target. Furthermore, almost one in four young people are unemployed, and while the government will point out that this is slightly down, SJI rightly point out that this figure would be even higher but for the fact that emigration has been a constant part of Irish life.

 “The review raises two critical concerns around youth emigration and unemployment for Ireland’s long-term future. It outlined that such high emigration levels amount to a “brain drain” and this will have long-term negative impacts for Ireland in terms of loss of highly skilled and educated young people from the labour market.

“Coupled with this we have the implications for unemployed young people who remain at home. Their experience of unemployment coupled with an inability to access any work, training or education, can leave ‘a scaring effect’ on young people. This has the result of increasing the challenges associated with getting these people active in the labour market at any stage in the future and may have long-term effects on their lives.

 “The fact that the latest data on the number of young people aged 18-24 years in Ireland who are not in education, employment or training is 20.5 per cent compared with and EU28 average of 17 per cent is disturbing. In fact, in 2013 only Romania, Spain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece and Italy were worse. What is even more worrying about Ireland’s 20.5 percent was that it would be much higher only for the extraordinarily high level of emigration among young people.”

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Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has described the Government’s support for the EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia as a travesty that is ill-timed and will undermined societal change.

The FTA came before the Dáil for ratification today and Crowe said that it will do little if anything to improve the human rights situation in Colombia.

Deputy Crowe said:

“Sinn Féin opposed this Agreement in the European Parliament and we opposed it in the Dáil today.

“We oppose the timing, the content, and the lack of viable human rights safeguards and mechanisms within this Agreement.

“Colombia continues to be one of the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist or human rights activist, and the human rights provisions in this FTA are crucially not robust enough and will not deliver safety for activists.

“Colombia is the world leader in ignoring regulations regarding human rights that it actually signs up to in international agreements.

“The Government’s new review of Foreign Affairs launched two weeks ago placed human rights at the key of Ireland’s foreign policy. Passing this FTA flies directly in the face of that.

“While the Government may sight human rights provisions in the Agreement, crucially, no impact assessment around the implementation of this agreement on human rights has ever been done.

“A recent US Senate report on the US Free Trade Agreement with Colombia states very clearly that labour rights have actually deteriorated since the passing of that agreement and warns other trade agreements to really carefully re-consider how human rights can be enhanced and protected.

“It is clear the EU has not done that with this Agreement.

“For all the talk of human rights provisions being far-reaching the agreement provides no means of compellability on parties to respect those rights.

“We see the same with the EU-Israel FTA, which supposedly has human rights provisions, which were also described as far reaching. Yet they flattened Gaza last summer, killed over 2,000 people in a few weeks, and the EU continues to be its largest trading partner.

“The Dáil had a real chance to stand up for human rights today.

“This FTA needs to be passed by all the national parliaments of EU Members States. If it is rejected by one it collapses.

“When the FTA came before the EU Parliament Labour MEPs voted against it. Today Labour TDs ensured that it passed through the Dáil and sadly the Government stood in favour of big business and against human rights, justice, equality, and fairness, and supported this counterproductive FTA.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has expressed dismay at Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s rejection, again today, of the proposal for a European Debt conference.

In the Dáil this morning, Mr Adams pointed out that the Tánaiste, Joan Burton, has supported the debt conference initiative. He said ordinary citizens could not understand Mr Kenny’s refusal to pursue options that could make the State’s debt burden sustainable and fair.

Addressing the Taoiseach in the Dáil this morning, Gerry Adams said:

“The Government’s narrative is all about the next election. Government-speak is all about how the sacrifices of our people are now being rewarded; that the recovery is underway; that it is fragile; that not everyone is feeling the benefits yet; but leave it to our two heroes, Enda and Joan, and it will be alright on the night.

“Of course, the other narrative is that a third of our children are living in consistent poverty. Inequality is rife. Half a million taxpayers have been forced to emigrate.

“That public money that should be used to tackle the crisis in our hospitals, to rebuild our public services, to house our citizens, to stimulate the economy and to create jobs has been used instead to repay private bank debt.

“This unsustainable debt burden which has been forced upon our people is the single biggest cause of our economic misery. This is not just an Irish problem. This is a European problem. It needs a European solution.

“There is nothing whatsoever to lose if the Taoiseach endorses a European Debt Conference. It makes sense. There can only be gains. I understand the Tánaiste still believes it has merit. But Mr Kenny has again today rejected it.

 “Irish citizens should not have to suffer deprivations, inequality, poverty and the denial of their rights to pay private banking debt. This is not the Irish people's debt. The Taoiseach, in Davos, tried to explain it away by claiming “Paddy went mad”.

“But the financial and economic crisis in this State was caused by a small, unrepresentative, wealthy elite. €62 billion in bank loans were in the hands of just 190 borrowers. 50% of the Irish loan book of Anglo Irish bank was held by just 20 individuals.


“The Government repeatedly rejected Sinn Fein’s consistent call for ‘burden sharing’. This is now EU policy. The Government has had the option, since December, to formally apply for retrospective re-capitalisation of AIB and Bank of Ireland. But they have not done this.

“Ordinary citizens cannot understand the Taoiseach’s refusal to pursue options that could make our debt sustainable and fair.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment Brian Stanley TD has questioned the financial viability of Irish Water. He was speaking in the Dáil this morning in response to Minister Alan Kelly’s reply to a question Deputy Stanley had asked regarding the likely sums of money to be taken in from water charges in 2015.

Deputy Stanley said: “The Minister claims that domestic charges will bring in €271 million this year, with a further €229 million in commercial charges.  The conservation grant will cost the exchequer €130 million, and the cost of collecting the charges will be €20 million.

“If those figures are correct and if we assume that at least 30% will not pay the charges then the net figure from domestic charges will only be €40 million or less in 2015. At that rate, it would take 19 years to recoup the costs of the installation of meters alone, apart from all the other costs accrued by Irish Water. This is voodoo economics.

“Nor do I share the Minister’s confidence that the EU will accept the Government’s proposals, as the indications from the leaked Commission report would strongly indicate that they consider the so-called water conservation grants, introduced in reaction to massive public opposition to the charges, to be unacceptable forms of state aid. Senior officials in the Commission have been quoted in recent days as saying that the conservation grants are a direct “exchequer transfer” to Irish water. If that is the case it will not meet the market capitalisation test.

“All of this underlines the fact that Irish Water is not viable in the manner which it was claimed it would be when it was being set up, and when the charges were introduced as part of the 2013 Water Services Bill. In the light of that, I would urge that the Government abandon it and come up with an acceptable and financially viable alternative to this monstrosity.” 

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Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris TD has spoken out in support of an Ardfert man whose shop has been broken into three times in the space of a few months.

Deputy Ferris said:

“The whole community of Ardfert is supporting Jimmy Collins who has been the victim of crime three times in as many months.

“The kind of people who target a small local shop and take advantage of a gentleman like Jimmy should not get away with it and I call on anyone information about these crimes to go to the Gardaí

“It is unfortunate that the people who commit such crimes can target areas where the presence of local guards is a thing of the past.

“I hope that Jimmy Collins will recover from his ordeal and that he knows the support he has locally.”

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called on the Minister Paschal Donohoe to come before the Transport Committee later this week to discuss the future of the state held stake in Aer Lingus. He made his comments following a decision by the Oireachtas Committee on Transport to request submissions from stakeholders on the future of the company, following a letter sent to the committee by Deputy Ellis.

Deputy Ellis said;

"I am very glad that the committee has agreed to hold meetings to discuss the future of Aer Lingus given the very serious threat posed by the recent IAG takeover bid which the government has said they will consider. I wrote the Committee last week requesting these meetings with stakeholders, but the Minister must also be present.

“We hope to have representatives of the workers of Aer Lingus like IALPA and SIPTU, the Chamber of Commerce, the IDA, managers from Dublin and Shannon Airports and the tourism industry. The Minister should be present to listen to their thoughts and concerns and to address the issues this meeting will raise.

“The Minister must also make clear to members his thoughts at present. The potential loss of jobs and vital slots at Heathrow are a serious threat to our economy and the livelihood of many people who have worked long and hard in service of the company. The government must stand against this threat and work with all interested parties to avoid the sell off."

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Speaking on Wednesday morning Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West Constituency and Carrickmacross native, Matt Carthy, again called on the IDA and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to urgently intervene to protect the jobs at the BOSE plant or to secure alternative employment at the site.

Carthy said:

“Having spoken to many of the staff of BOSE manufacturing plant I still share their bewilderment at what has happened.  The decision of BOSE, based as it is on such a penny pinching and mean mentality, goes contrary to everything that we have known of the company during its tenure in South Monaghan.  Bose has been a good employer which has benefited from a hard-working and loyal community in Carrickmacross that simply will not be matched anywhere else in the world.

“I have offered the staff my full support for any measures which they decide to undertake and I want to assure them of my full assistance both individually or collectively in the weeks and months ahead.

“It is my firm belief that thorough and resourceful attempts must be made by all relevant parties in order to keep the plant open or failing that, to attract alternative employment to the site.

“To this end, I have written to the CEO of BOSE to investigate if any conditions could be met in order for them to reconsider the decision to close the plant and I have sought a meeting with the CEO of IDA in order to assess what opportunities may exist to ensure South Monaghan retains and attracts investment and employment.

“I wrote to Minister Bruton on receiving the news of the BOSE closure last week and while I received a reply it was not sufficient to indicate that the government are taking this matter as seriously as they should.  I have written to the Minister for a second time reiterating my call for direct and immediate intervention on his part to retain the plant in Carrickmacross and indicating that I am available to offer any support I can in terms of retaining the jobs or securing European funding to support the workers of BOSE if the company decides to proceed as announced.

“I am calling on elected representatives of all persuasions and relevant agencies to work together at this critical time to ensure that every effort is made to prevent the closure of the BOSE plant.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has given a broad welcome to the Central Bank’s announcement on new mortgage rules. He said the debate around the new rules has shown up the government’s’ failure to provide social housing and a functioning rental market.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I give a broad welcome to the Central Bank’s new rules. Sinn Féin fully supports the principle behind the move. Regulation such as these new rules have a crucial role to play in creating a normal healthy lending market that is not based on runaway property prices fuelled by credit.

“These new rules must be monitored and reviewed to ensure they achieve their aim of keeping house prices down. Constantly soaring house prices and credit demand chasing increasing prices is bad for the economy and bad for society. This is especially true in Dublin.

“What this debate has brought to the fore is the absolute failure of this government to provide social housing and a functioning rental market. The Central Bank have now effectively put the ball in the government’s court. They must put in place a plan to make sure all parts of the housing market are working.”

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Dúirt an CTR Sinn Féineach Cathal Ó hOisín nach raibh san iarracht le stop a chur ar Choláiste Dhoire ach cur amú ama acu siúd atá ag iarraidh bac a chur ar fhorbairt na Gaelscolaíochta.

Bhí an tUas Ó hOisín ag labhairt i ndiaidh gur theip ar rún de chuid an UUP ag iarraidh ar an Aire Oideachais John O’Dowd amharc arís ar phlean forbartha don Choláiste.

Theip ar an rún nuair a reachtáil Sinn Féin le tacaíocht ón SDLP achainí ar bhonn ábhar buartha leis an rún a chur ó mhaith.

Dúirt Cathal Ó hOisín:

“Is scéim í Coláiste Dhoire a bhí daoine ag obair uirthi le 20 bliana anuas.

“Tháinig an moladh seo ó thuismitheoirí atá ag iarraidh oideachas a chur ar fáil trí mheán na Gaeilge dá gcuid páistí.

“Tá 450 páistí i gContae Dhoire, taobh amuigh díobh siúd atá ag freastal ar Ghaelscoileanna i nDoire Cholmcille, ar bhunscoileanna Gaeilge.

“Níl ach iarbhunscoil Ghaeilge amháin i láthair na huaire sna Sé Chontae ar fad, Coláiste Feirste. 

“Tá dualgas ag Roinn an Oideachais scolaíocht trí mheán na Gaeilge a chur ar fáil agus a spreagadh ar son na bpáistí sin uilig atá ag iarraidh teacht uirthi.

“B’fhearr don UUP cearta na bpáistí sin ó phobal na Gaeilge a aithint in ionad bheith ag cur ama amú ag iarraidh failleanna oideachasúla a dhruidim síos.”

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