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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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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said today that the family of Gareth O’Connor deserve access to the truth after an inquest into his death was postponed today.

Gerry Kelly said:

“I was made aware that my name was mentioned in court today in connection with an ‘on the run’ (OTR) letter issued by the NIO.

“I haven’t been told who the alleged recipient of the letter was.

"It is a matter of public knowledge that my name was attached to OTR letters as the conduit person for Sinn Féin. 

"If someone approached Sinn Féin and asked Sinn Féin to enquire if they were wanted for questioning by the PSI, I would take four pieces of information from them; their full name, date of birth, what area of the North they had lived in and when they left the jurisdiction. 

“No other information was sought by me or given to me.

"Those details were then passed to the NIO and the process after that belonged to the NIO and the British government. 

"The NIO informed Sinn Féin that they then checked with the various constabularies and if word came back to Sinn Féin that a person was not wanted a letter was issued and that letter would be addressed to the recipient but would include’ via Gerry Kelly’ on it. I had no other role in these cases.

"That is the full extent of my knowledge in all of these cases, including the one alluded to in these reports. 

"In relation to this particular case, I went to meet Gareth O'Connor's family at their request and told them that I did not have any information about the disappearance of their son and that remains the case. 

"This family deserves access to truth and I would support them in that."

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisin has stated that objections to the development of Coláiste Dhoire are not based upon financial concerns but grounded in a wish to slow the development of the Irish medium sector.

Speaking today Mr Ó hOisín 

"Coláiste Dhoire is a project that has been on going for some 20-odd years. This is a proposal that has come from and been driven by parents who wish to see their children educated in totality through the medium of Irish.

"There are 450 children in Co Derry currently going through their education in Irish and that's not including Derry city which will put the number up even further.

"There is only one Irish medium post primary school for the entire north of Ireland which is based in Belfast. In order to provide access for countless primary school children to be taught through the medium of the Irish language this project falls within the duty of the department of education to encourage and facilitate Irish medium education. 

"The UUP need to realise the right and entitlements of the Irish speaking community across the north instead of seeking to close down access to educational opportunities."

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has congratulated anti-austerity party Syriza on its success in the Greek elections. 

Ms Anderson said; 

"I want to congratulate Alex Tsipras and his Syriza party on their impressive victory in the Greek elections. 

"Their anti-austerity programme resonated with voters who wanted real progressive change after years of punitive budgets. 

"At the European Parliament I work on an ongoing basis with Syriza's MEPs, including Dimitri Papadimoulis and I look forward to continuing that engagement. 

"Syriza has pledged to renegotiate Greece's debt and to call for a European debt conference to discuss the economic situation across Europe.   

"I commend the Greek voters for choosing a left-wing alternative to the failed policies of austerity and I hope that people across all of the EU member states follow their example."

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Sinn Féin's Gearóid Ó hEára has said the campaign to bring Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann back to Derry is well underway. 

Speaking after attending the presentation of the European Citizen's Award to Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann in Cashel on Saturday, Mr Ó hEára said; 

"I was honoured to attend the award ceremony in Cashel on Saturday to see Comhaltas receiving the prestigious European Citizen's ‎Award. 

"This came about as a result of Martina Anderson lobbying European legal vice president and Syriza MEP Dimitrious Papadimoulis to get an extra nomination for Ireland to nominate Comhaltas. 

"Comhaltas was a well-deserved winner of this award for its promotion of reconciliation tolerance and respect for other cultures. 

"This was particularly evident in Derry during ‎Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2013 when loyalist bands got involved in the celebrations. 

"At the awards ceremony we lobbied the Comhaltas leadership on bringing the Fleadh back to Derry in the next few years. 

"There is no doubt that 2013 was the best Fleadh ever so we are extremely positive about bringing the Fleadh back to Derry and we will be looking to host it for more than one year. 

"I, together with Martina Anderson and other representatives from the city will continue to campaign to ensure the Fleadh comes back to Derry as soon as possible."

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Dublin Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan has stated that there is still no clarity regarding the future of the flat complexes in O'Devaney Gardens and Croke Villas after speaking with Dick Brady Senior Housing Manager of Dublin City Council today.


Speaking today from her home near O'Devaney Gardens and having lived in the flats for most of her life, Cllr Boylan said:

“It is still unclear what proposals are in place to house homeless families in these two complexes. The Department of the Environment took a walk around O'Devaney Gardens last Thursday and has received the report from the council, highlighting what work needs to be done to bring these units up to standard. However the Department is yet to come back to DCC with a definitive response as to what it intends to do.

I would again urge Minister Kelly to seriously consider what opening these units back up even in a temporary capacity would mean for the area. These are not suitable for homeless families as they were due to be demolished as soon as they have been fully detonated. The remaining families left in O'Devaney Gardens and Croke Villas deserve to be re housed ASAP and a complete regeneration project needs to be seriously considered for these sites.

A patch work, half thought out attempt at fixing the homeless crisis will not work in areas that need a full regeneration project to bring a once thriving community back. Minister Kelly needs to go back to the drawing board and come back with housing plans that will actually work and benefit the many people in need of decent quality affordable housing.

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Minister for Health to address the concerns of pregnant mothers and ensure that Ireland reaches the highest safety standards for those preparing for and going through childbirth. The husbands of the two mothers who died in childbirth at Sligo Regional Hospital are today meeting with Minister for Health Leo Varadkar. There have also been concerns raised about services at Portiuncula Hospital in Co Galway following the deaths of two babies and oxygen deprivation to five others.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said;

“The families of mothers and newborns who were lost in the course of childbirth, must be provided with answers. Expectant mothers due to give birth in these hospitals must also be reassured that care is of the highest standard. Many of the problems highlighted point to a lack of continuity in consultant care.

“We know for many years now that Ireland has some of the lowest rates of obstetricians among OECD countries, which is particularly bad in the west of the country. We also have had a high birth rate over the past number of years and require a large increase in the numbers of qualified senior doctors.

“The Minister has said that it is unclear whether medical negligence was involved in the care of seven babies who have shown evidence of oxygen deprivation. Various deficiencies have been highlighted in the way care was provided. These must be addressed urgently.

“Resourcing of maternity units must also be investigated to ensure it is adequate. However, we cannot address many of the concerns of mothers until the root problem of underprovision of obstetricians is dealt with.” concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Caoimhghín Ó'Caoláin has expressed concern that the standoff between the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) has not yet been addressed properly by the Minister for Health.

Deputy Ó'Caoláin said 

“The issue of the increase in the NMBI registration fee is something that I have raised over the past few months, both in parliamentary questions and in engagements with the Minister. The NMBI unilaterally increased the registration fee by 50%, following on from an increase in the preceding year. The Minister has stated that this increase was not under his control and that he could not intervene. We then learn that the Minister has written to the president of the NMBI calling on that body to urgently enter into talks with the nurses' representative organisations on this issue.

“The NMBI has not yet faced up to its responsibilities in this matter. Minister Leo Varadkar must do more to ensure that the impending crisis is avoided. We already know that the health service is having difficulty recruiting an adequate number of nurses. It has also emerged that as low as a third of nurses have paid the new registration fee. The Minister must step in and solve the registration fee row that could see nurses de-registered and patients facing even further reduced levels of staffing.” concluded Deputy Ó’Caoláin.

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Martin McGuinness MLA led a Sinn Féin delegation to meet with DEL Minister Stephen Farry over funding threats to the future of St Mary’s Teacher training College in West Belfast. The delegation included Junior Minister, Jennifer McCann, MP Paul Maskey and West Belfast MLAs Alex Maskey, Rosie McCorley, Fra McCann and Pat Sheehan.

Speaking after the meeting West Belfast Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said:

“The fact this delegation was led by Martin McGuinness is a sign of the importance we attach to the contribution of St Mary’s to education across the North and just how serious Sinn Féin views the threat to remove the £1.1 million Special Premia allowance from the Training College.

"We had a full and frank discussion. We impressed on the minister, the strength of opposition to these plans being expressed by the community in west Belfast and across the North who rightly value St Mary's as an educational Institution.

“We requested that the minister reinstate the Premia, pointing out the importance of St Mary’s to West Belfast and the North in general.

“With 1,000 students and 160 staff – as well as being an educational institution the importance to the local economy is substantial.

“We will continue our discussions with the minister over the coming weeks in an effort to reach a positive resolution to this issue.”

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Sinn Fein’s Cavan/Monaghan Senator Kathryn Reilly has expressed grave disappointment over the news which broke late last week that BOSE Corporation have decided to close their manufacturing plant in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan.

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

“It is a crushing disappointment to see the scale of job losses due to the closure of BOSE Corporation’s manufacturing plant in Carrickmacross. It is absolutely devastating to the 140 workers, their families, the local community and the economy of South Monaghan.”

Reilly further added:

“An Oireachtas meeting has been convened for Tuesday 27th January to discuss the situation with Minister Richard Bruton, Enterprise Ireland, and IDA Ireland. Sinn Fein representatives intend to use this opportunity to urge the Minister to do his utmost to try and reverse the decision. If failing, Sinn Fein would request State Agencies to secure the earliest possible interest in the plant and its highly skilled workforce by a new company and management.

“Furthermore, we will also use the meeting to raise the issue with Enterprise Ireland and the IDA as to what they have been doing in relation to securing investment and job creation for the region, what they are currently doing, and what they are planning to do longer term for the Monaghan region”

The Sinn Fein Senator concluded by announcing:

“The closure of the factory and job losses is in stark contrast to the government’s position on continuous job creation and the claim that they have generated an Ireland for which our emigrants can return and find work. The reality is much different, and the distressing news of these job losses has had the unfortunate effect of highlighting this once again.”

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