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Sights and sounds from Bodenstown 2015

Some sights and sounds from the Annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare on June 21, 2015. Main speaker Sinn Féin deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald TD. During the course of her speech she talked about the need for a fair economic recovery north and south; demanded the British to come clean about collusion; and expressed solidarity with the people of Greece.

Martin McGuinness speaking at Stormont said that Sinn Féin's conditional support for the budget bill will create the space to resolve outstanding issues and ensure the executive has workable and sustainable finances and see the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.



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Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West and Sinn Féin spokesperson on TTIP, Matt Carthy, has stated that the vote in the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee on TTIP this week proved that the decision to postpone the plenary vote previously was nothing more than a delaying tactic by the European establishment.

Carthy said:

“At the June plenary, MEPs and the European Commission became acutely aware of the level of opposition to TTIP right across Europe as over 200 amendments were tabled to the report due to come before Parliament for a vote.

“Instead of tackling the issues head on in a democratic forum and allowing the MEPs to debate and vote on the issues, the European Parliament President referred the issue back to the Trade Committee.

 “However, European Parliament rules prevented the Trade Committee from omitting any of the submitted amendments despite, no doubt, the wishes of members like Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly.  Sinn Féin predicted that this would be the case and this week’s developments have exposed the antics in plenary as nothing more than a fudge and delaying tactic.

“What all of this demonstrates is that the European Institutions have completely underestimated the strength of opposition to TTIP and are desperately scrambling to cover up that fact.

 “It also means that we have wasted an opportunity to have a debate on the issues around TTIP – the first time that TTIP was actually due to come before the European Parliament for a vote despite two years of negotiations.

“The real victim here is democracy – It has been indicated that the schedule for July plenary will not allow this vote to take place therefore it would seem that the earliest opportunity for MEPs to have a say on TTIP will be September 2015.

“ In the meantime I, and my Sinn Féin colleagues, along with hundreds of other MEPs, will continue to ensure that the real concerns of citizens in Ireland and throughout Europe are heard by EU leaders.”

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Sinn Féin Senator and Youth Affairs Spokesperson, Kathryn Reilly, today met with the European Commission in Brussels to discuss high youth unemployment levels and the worrying drop in the number of young people in employment in Ireland at the moment.

Speaking after the meeting Senator Reilly said:

“It was a very informative meeting but this process has become incredibly infuriating. For the past four years I have been raising the issue of high levels of youth unemployment in Ireland and huge drops in both the number of people in the labour force and in the number of young people working in Ireland.

“I also raised the issue of the mass emigration of young Irish citizens over the past number of years and the negative effect this has had on Irish society and the future effects it will have on the Irish economy.

“While the Commission can be understanding of such issues they do not appear to have the appetite to tackle the problem.

“The Youth Guarantee, which was heralded as the panacea to youth unemployment throughout Europe, was underfunded from the outset and discriminatory in who could participate in it, excluding young people with disabilities.

“Furthermore, I put the figures to members of the Commission regarding Ireland. A drop of 64,000 young people in the labour force since the Fine Gael and Labour government came to power, and 29,800 less young people working in Ireland for the same period.”

Senator Reilly concluded by stating:

“In no uncertain terms I warned the Commission that failure to tackle the problem of decreasing levels of youth employment in Ireland would have catastrophic effects on Irish society and the economy in the future.

“It is crucial that we move towards investing in our young people, in the creation of quality jobs in a long-term perspective.

“There has to be the realisation by the European Commission and the Irish government that immediate and intelligent investment in Ireland’s young people will reap unquantifiable rewards in future years.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has said that Fine Gael and Labour are opposing a debt write down for Greece because it would expose the failure of the Irish Government to demand the same.

Mr Adams said the real concern of the EU, IMF and ECB, and the Fine Gael/Labour government, is political and he called the Government to set aside party political concerns and support the Greek government request for more time to negotiate a fair solution to the debt crisis.

Raising the matter directly with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil this afternoon, Gerry Adams said:

“Taoiseach, the crisis around Greece is about power and punishment. The Greek government is upholding the values of solidarity and co-operation that underpinned the foundation of the European movement. They are being punished for this.

“They are standing up for Greece and the Greek people, who are being punished by hostile EU institutions, the IMF, and some EU governments, including the Irish government.

“Taoiseach, the Irish government has contributed to the current crisis. Last Monday, according to the Financial Times, Minister Noonan along with the German Finance Minister pressed for emergency financial support for Greek banks to be stopped unless capital controls were imposed.

“On Sunday Minister Noonan got his way when the ECB froze it's funding line to Greek banks.

“Last week you railed against the idea of debt write down or of debt relief for the Greek people. That’s no big surprise. You have never asked for a debt write down for the Irish people either.

“Taoiseach, you have written off hundreds of millions in debt for companies in this state, including write downs from state owned and nationalised banks.

“Greece owes this state €300 million - Denis OBrien secured that much in debt write downs from IBRC – a state owned bank. So, you believe that debt write down is ok for some but not for the people of Greece.

“Is it not true that Fine Gael and Labour oppose a write down for Greece because it would expose the failure of this government to demand the same? Will the government set aside your party political concerns and support the Greek government request for more time to negotiate a fair solution?”

Mr Adams later said that he was not surprised by the Taoiseach’s refusal to adopt a more reasonable and compassionate position toward the people of Greece:

“Taoiseach, despite your protestations, you show no empathy for the people of Greece.

“The Greek government has presented reasonable proposals to grow the economy while protecting pensioners and those on low and middle incomes. You don’t favour that.

“They called for a debt conference and a debt write-down. You are against that also.

“Why? Because you chose to impose austerity on those who can least pay for it.

“Last week you claimed that in tackling the economic crisis here that you did not increase income tax, increase VAT, or increase PRSI. That is untrue. You did raise income and consumption taxes.

“You have also introduced water charges and a property tax. You opted for forced emigration and now half a million of our citizens are scattered across the globe.

“One third of our children are living in consistent poverty. The sick and the elderly end up on trolleys instead of hospital beds. They pay the price for your austerity policies.

“The real concern of the EU, IMF and ECB, and your government, is political. The Greek government has made clear its desire to remain within the Eurozone. Is it not now time for the EU to make clear its desire to keep Greece in the Eurozone by negotiating a solution that doesn’t impose years of economic depression on the Greek people?”

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Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast Paul Maskey has stated that the loss of 24 jobs from the company Initial in West Belfast is a blow for the local economy.

Speaking today Mr Maskey said:

“The loss of 24 jobs from west Belfast with people being made redundant at Initial, part of the Rentokil Initial group, is a blow for the local economy.

“I have spoke with employees, some of whom have worked for nearly 20 years with the firm and they are devastated.

“We heard this going back last month and I had arranged meetings on site with some of the employees, members of the trade unions and I met with the senior management of Initial to see as well, what we could do to try and protect these jobs, to see if they could be relocated,

“Following a consultation period it is now evident that 24 jobs will unfortunately be going. I think it’s a big blow for west Belfast but a bigger blow for the employees themselves.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has called on the European Council to enforce a new deadline for the abolition of mobile phone roaming charges. 

Ms Anderson said; 

"Last year the European Commission agreed to scrap roaming charges by December this year, however the European Council then halted that decision and pushed the date back to December 2018. 

"That delay was unacceptable to us and would have led to people living and working in border areas being hit with unfair roaming charges for another three years. 

"Matt Carthy and I met with senior officials from the European Council last week to call for a complete end to roaming charges as soon as possible. 

"Today's decision by the European Council to bring forward the date for abolition of roaming charges is welcome but unfortunately they will still be in place until June 2017. 

"The onus is now on the European Council to ensure this deadline is adhered to so that customers, particularly those in border areas, are not penalised by unfair charges beyond that date." 

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has said that the Sinn Féin Private Member’s Motion on Tuesday and Wednesday is final chance for the Tánaiste and her government to reverse the changes to the Lone Parent Allowance which will come into effect on Thursday.

Speaking in the Dáil today in advance of Sinn Féin’s PMB to reverse the changes, Dublin South Central TD said:

“The Tánaiste has continually targeted lone parents, one of the poorest groups in our society. She claims, as does the Taoiseach, that these cuts will incentivise lone parents to go back to work. However, these counterproductive cuts will have a massive negative impact on working parents, 8,000 of whom will be hit by cuts as big as €87 per week on Thursday.

“Adequate supports or structures are not in place for working lone parents.  Tánaiste made commitment in 2012 that she would not introduce cuts to the Lone Parent Allowance without the introduction of adequate and accessible childcare, or in her words, a ‘Scandinavian model’. We have yet to see a major investment in childcare and we definitely don’t have anything like a Scandinavian model of childcare.

“If the Tánaiste wants to live up to her earlier commitment she can overturn this decision. Likewise if the Labour Party have any remaining sense of social justice, they will support our motion and reverse the decision to implement these changes which will negatively impact what is one of the most deprived groups in our society.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann for West Belfast has welcomed the DOE Minister Mark H Durkan's announcement that he is looking at a bottle refund system to deal with the huge amounts of bottles, which are dumped or litter our streets and countryside.

 Mr McCann said,

 “I believe that this should include the drinks industry both in terms of alcohol and soft drinks who are responsible for the largest amount of bottles which end up dumped on our streets.

 “I will be writing to the minister to clarify what type of bottle he intends to include in the scheme as I understand that many of those companies use a mixture of glass and plastic to manufacture their bottles.

 “If the minister intends to include glass only then the impact will be negligible unless companies return to glass bottling which would allow a return price to be paid as plastic bottles are next to worthless

 “The drinks companies need to step up to the plate and take the lead if we are ever to get on top of this problem by working with the Department of Environment in reducing the amount of bottles dumped as litter on our streets.”

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South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is seeking a meeting with the PSNI to discuss its U turn on a commitment given in 2014 about the flying of flags on the Ormeau Road in Belfast.

And Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has accused the PSNI of colluding with loyalists who erected the flags  

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said:

“I am disappointed and share the frustration of residents who have contacted me and my office from yesterday evening.

“In June 2014, taking into account the changed demographics and the deluge of complaints from residents, the PSNI publicly stated they would treat the erection of flags in parts of south Belfast as a breach of the peace.

“This public commitment was repeated by the PSNI in private engagements with residents and Sinn Féin representatives.

“However, when residents on the Ormeau Road contacted police (last night) when a large group of up to 20 people were erecting flags, the PSNI arrived and took no action other than to facilitate this act.

“The Ormeau Road is a vibrant, multicultural community which in many ways sets an example for the city. No one has the right to mark out territory in this intimidatory fashion.

“I understand that many of the individuals who erected the flags are not from the Ormeau area. Their actions are not reflective of the Ormeau community, nationalist nor unionist, who reject any effort to harm community relations in the area.

“I would encourage residents to voice their concerns to the PSNI by registering their complaint on 101 or by using the online non-emergency reporting form at https://www.urzone.com/NEIRF/Terms.aspx

“I will be seeking an urgent meeting with senior Belfast PSNI to raise my concerns that they have reneged on commitments and have colluded with this clear act of intimidation.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said partnership working across Europe is key to tackling the problem of so-called legal highs. 

Speaking after meeting with the Scottish Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse, Ms Anderson said; 

"The scourge of psychoactive substances or so-called legal highs does not recognise borders and has caused misery right across Europe. 

"As part of a co-ordinated approach to dealing with these toxic substances, I met with the SNP's Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs to discuss the best approach to dealing with legal highs. 

"These substances have destroyed lives and devastated communities in both Ireland and Scotland, as they have across Europe. 

"We agreed to share information and examples of best practice on the work being done to combat legal highs in the Scottish parliament, by the Assembly and local councils in the North and in the European Parliament. 

"We identified areas of further co-operation and agreed to work together in the future to tackle this menace."

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