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Sinn Féin activists plan for the future at major meeting in Dublin over weekend

Over 500 Sinn Féin elected representatives and activists from across the 32 counties of Ireland gathered in Dublin last weekend to discuss, debate and strategise the party's way forward.

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Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan today voted on a climate change report in Strasbourg ahead of next week’s Climate Change talks in Lima.

Speaking after the debate, Lynn Boylan, a member of the European committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety said:

 “The EU delegation that is heading off to Lima for the climate change conference should be ambitious in their aspirations and actions. Any plan agreed to bring into the negotiations in Paris in 2015 needs to be friendly to the developing world and should espouse the principles of fairness and transparency. The measures agreed should be quantifiable and comparable.

The recently published Trócaire report on climate change highlights how climate change adversely affects the developing nations with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning that climate change will increase poverty and hunger over the coming decades. Their research shows that it is the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world that are on the front lines, with their ability to grow food and earn an income diminishing by the day.

Both at home and at an EU level we need to lead the way on Climate Change.  Ireland has been described as being “significantly off track” in meeting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) finding that Ireland is highly likely to miss its 2020 emissions targets.

We can no longer ignore the irrefutable scientific evidence on climate change." added Ms Boylan.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has again raised the issue of the extremely short period to apply given to women under the terms of the symphysiotomy redress scheme.

Questioning the Minister for Health in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Caoláin stated;

“The symphysiotomy payment scheme is due to close in eight days' time, yet victims of Hepatitis C and the Residential Institutions had three years in which to apply for compensation. The redress scheme for the Magdalen women had no closing date for applications. However, in this instance, the survivors of symphysiotomy have been given an unprecedented period of 20 working days.

“It has been said that late applications will be considered but at the discretion of the assessor, Judge Maureen Harding Clark and within a further 20 day period. This is in marked contrast to the other instances I have cited and yet there are no appeals allowed.

“This redress scheme is a pathetic effort which is cold and callous. That is the view of a number of the women with whom I have spoken. It is designed to force acceptance of its terms by women who are already weary, who are aged, many of whom are in ill-health. They know that if they do not accept the Minister's terms their entitlements die with them. It is a shameful way to treat innocent women who have already been so cruelly treated.

“I urge that at the very least the Minister arranges for the extension of time of notice of application to present to a period of three years, in line with the other instances I have cited and not the insulting and outrageous 20 days that currently is the case. The scheme is set to close at the end of next week. I ask the Minister if he will act now.”

The Minister said that in exceptional circumstances Ms Justice Harding Clark has discretion to extend the time for receipt of applications by an additional 20 working days, which is up to 14 January 2015.

“In my opening contribution I instanced a number of possible situations that can arise where women may not be able to present to take up the offer of the terms of this redress scheme.

“Will the Minister please explain why he believes it is necessary to apply such a restrictive timeframe in this instance? Will he please, and I am asking sincerely, reconsider this particular element to allow more time?” concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.

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In an initial response to the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey figures released today Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín said the data is further evidence of a developing two-tier economy both in terms of geography and income.

The Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Spokesperson said:

“Whilst the rate of unemployment is slowly moving in the right direction there is much in the figures released today that should be of concern to government and policymakers.

“Ireland has the third highest rate of underemployment in the European Union and today’s figures tell us 127,300 workers across the state remain underemployed.

“We know from the OECD’s recent Employment Outlook report that Ireland has the second highest percentage of low-paying jobs amongst the OECD countries.

“High levels of low pay and underemployment will fundamentally undermine the sustainability of the economic recovery and is deepening inequality.

“Unemployment in the Midland and South East regions is significantly higher than the rest of the country. Dublin, Cork and the counties bordering Dublin fall slightly below the rate of unemployment for the state. This is further evidence of the two-tier economy model being pursued by the current government.

“The number of young people in employment remains a real concern with 15,400 less young people in employment since Labour and Fine Gael entered Government in 2011.

“Today’s figures show that for every job created under this government’s watch five people have emigrated.”

CRIOCH

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Sinn Féin West Belfast MP, Paul Maskey has reiterated the Party's total opposition to the introduction of water charges north and south.

Mr Maskey said;

"Sinn Féin prevented water charges being introduced and will continue to do so.

“Sinn Féin has always taken a strong stance in opposition to domestic water charges and creeping privatisation.

“We recognise that water is a precious resource universally recognised as a basic human right and we will continue to block any moves towards introduction of charges." 

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Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard was speaking after a public board meeting of the South Eastern Trust in Downpatrick on Wednesday afternoon. 

The South Down MLA welcomed the opportunity to address the Board Meeting, but says “more must be done to repair serious damage to public confidence in the ability of the South Eastern Health Trust to future-proof our local hospital" in Downpatrick.

Mr Hazzard said: 

“Today we have heard strong appeals yet again from public representatives calling on the Trust to reverse its recent decision to close beds at the Downe - closures that will in reality spell the end for Coronary Care at the Downe. 

“The local South Down community have been very clear, it is wholly inequitable that the Downe should have to face a 20% reduction in beds while the Ulster Hospital escapes yet again. We reject entirely this unrepentant centralisation of services to Belfast. 

Mr Hazzard added:

“I do however welcome the Trust’s remarks that we need to work together in building a local health service that meets the increasing needs of the South Down community. 

"I am heartened that they have now welcomed Sinn Féin's suggestion that we work towards establishing a people’s forum where we can build a partnership between the people of South Down and the decision makers. 

“In light of this I would call on the South Eastern Trust to immediately put on hold any plans to close beds at the Downe and lets enter a dialogue on the best way forward.”

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Seán Crowe TD, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, met the Honduran human rights defender Donald Hernández today.

Donald is a member of the Latin American Lawyers’ Network, a network that works against the negative impacts of transnational extractive mining companies in Latin America, working to legally represent people adversely affected by open cast mining in the Siria Valley in Honduras.

Deputy Crowe said:

“I want to thank Peace Brigades Ireland for facilitating Donald Hernández’s timely visit to Ireland.

“Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Central America and one of the most unequal countries in Latin America.

“Since the coup there continues to be a swathe of land disputes across the country and Donald’s legal and human rights work, along with the work of others, is extremely important

“Donald informed us that the human rights situation has continued to deteriorate in his country, especially for indigenous people, workers, environmentalists, and human rights activists.

“There is mounting international concern that the Honduran Government is using state security forces to support mining companies and attack rural protesters over land rights, and turning a blind eye to their murders.

“Due to the nature of Donald’s work he, and his colleagues, are regularly subjected to harassment and viable death threats.

“In his meeting today Donald has alerted us to many issues concerning human rights and land rights in Honduras which I will be raising with the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Ireland needs to use all avenues to highlight and call a halt to the blatant undermining of Honduran democracy, and the environmental catastrophe that is happening to communities’ right across the country.”

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Dublin Sinn Féin housing spokesperson and chair of Dublin City Council housing SPC has cautiously welcomed the additional funding announced today by Minister Alan Kelly’s but has stated that it is just not enough to tackle the housing crisis we currently face.

Cllr Ní Dhálaigh said;

“I am dismayed that the new housing strategy only promises an extra 36 million euro a year towards the housing crisis. This plan is not the major step the Minister claims it is and will not provide sufficient housing to deal with the crisis. The numbers do not add up and are being misrepresented as major increases in spending.

The current housing building budget for 2014 is one billion euro less than it was in 2008 and  this strategy means the budget for the next six years will on average be only 36 million euro more than this year. Any increase is welcome but an extra 36 million a year will not solve the crisis.

The government figures also vary wildly. In October they said 2.2 billion euro would deliver 10,000 homes in 2 years, now they claims 3.8 billion euro will deliver 35,000. How has the average cost of a home gone from 220,000 euro to 108,000 euro in the space of a month when everyone else is reporting prices going up?

“The government also want to massage the housing need statistics by designating Housing Assistant Payment recipients as appropriately housed. There are about 74,000 people currently on Rent Supplement nearly all of whom are on the housing waiting lists. The government’s strategy is to take these people off the lists by changing the name of their scheme and pretending that’s appropriate housing. It is not.

“Private rent is currently in a completely unstable situation and many rent supplement households have lost their homes in recent times. The government plan is to continue to spend over 330 million euro on private rent subsidies and do nothing to house these families.

This is a missed opportunity for the government to really tackle housing problems. Instead we have bombastic claims which extend well beyond the lifetime of this government but in reality represent less spending over the next 6 years than has happened in the preceding 6 years. This strategy is only an exercise in spin.

We also completely reject a return to the Public private Partnership model which utterly failed thousands of people during the boom period and left them in the some of the worst housing in the state.

The Minster had committed to meeting with a cross party delegation of Dublin City Councillors to discuss the housing crisis but this meeting was cancelled. I am again calling on Minister Kelly to meet with DCC councillors to discuss the serious housing crisis in our capital city.”

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Speaking form the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, Liadh Ní Riada, MEP for Ireland South criticised the announcement made by Commission President Jean-Claude Junker of a € 315 billion Investment Plan and said that it is simply delusional.

 Ní Riada said:

 "Junker intends on taking €16 billion from the EU budget to fund this package. Let´s not forget that the Budget Committee has practically fallen apart and we are still waiting on the Council to present us with the latest draft budget which will undoubtedly contain more cuts. All the while member states, SMEs, research centres, universities are still awaiting payment. People are waiting for what they have been promised and not for smokescreens to distract from previous shortfalls.”

 "There is also the issue of the huge deficit of €23.4 billion that needs to be addressed. The EU must be able to pay its debts and this proposal from Junker will do nothing to help the situation.”

 "Yes we absolutely need investment. Sinn Féin have been consistently calling for this. This proposal however is not the way to go about it as it will create nothing more than a financial bubble. Junker having oversight over this is like throwing the fox in the hen house considering that as the President of the Commission which presided over the worst austerity crisis while enabling tax havens. It is nothing but a recipe for disaster.

 "It would appear that for the Commission it is simply ´business as usual´ but what we need is a public investment programme and an end to austerity."

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Seán Crowe TD expressed his concern and asked the Minister of State with responsibility for Overseas Development Assistance, Seán Sherlock, the proposed funding pledged by the EU to fight Ebola and claims that it has not been transferred or reached those working on the ground to fight the virus.

Deputy Seán Crowe, the Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said:

“I tabled this question after the head of operations of the International Red Cross, Birte Hald, stated that Ebola is flaring up as aid agencies struggle to keep staff on the ground, and that EU pledges and donations have yet to materialise.

“I was happy to hear that all promised Irish assistance to fight Ebola has been paid and is reaching those fighting the virus on the ground, or is part of a structured payment programme.

“Ms.Hald also stated that the Red Cross has only seen €2 million of the EU’s promised €1 billion so far.

“I know that other organisations and the Government’s in West Africa also have to receive funds to stop Ebola, but the process needs greater accountability and transparency.

“Yesterday there was disturbing reports that burial workers in Sierra Leone’s third city dumped dead bodies in the street as a protest over having to work unpaid for the last 7 weeks.

“Ebola has now killed over 5,500 people and infected over 15,000. Billions have been allegedly pledged but burial workers, a key group in fighting the spread of Ebola, are not being paid.

“Surely if we have any hope of tackling the virus, it needs to start by at least paying health care workers, especially in Sierra Leone which has seen an increase in infections in recent weeks.

“If aid and assistance is not reaching the crisis areas and help doesn't arrive soon, the worst may not be far from over.

“We continue to thank and commend all health professionals and Ebola workers who are in Ebola affected countries and risking their lives to stop the spread of this deadly virus.

“The Irish officials and staff working there are a credit to our country and fantastic Ambassadors of our nation.

“Lastly, I called on the Minister to commend the Cuban Government, who has sent 165 medical professionals to Sierra Leone to help in the frontline fight against Ebola, by far the largest delegation of trained professionals of any country.”

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