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Sinn Féin launches campaign to win Carlow/Kilkenny By-Election

Sinn Féin Councillor Kathleen Funchion has been selected as the party's candidate to contest the Carlow/Kilkenny by-election caused by the resignation of Fine Gael's Phil Hogan.

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Sinn Féin activists from across South Tyrone gather in Dungannon to plan their campaign strategy for the upcoming Westminster election as part of the wider Fermanagh/South Tyrone campaign to see the successful re-election of Michelle Gildernew to that iconic constituency.



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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking this evening at the launch of the election campaign for west Belfast MP Paul Maskey said:

“Sinn Féin has consistently opposed to the economics of austerity. We said it was economically counterproductive and unjust.

It has been championed by governments in the EU, in London and in Dublin.

It has failed across Europe, failed in Britain and failed in Ireland.

The cost of this failure has been paid by the working poor, by the unemployed, by the sick, by the young and old and by those forced to emigrate.

The British and Irish governments continue to impose austerity on the people.

The Stormont House Agreement provided for progress on a number of issues. When others said no more could be achieved, when the SDLP folded on welfare, Sinn Féin stood firm and put in place additional protections for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and the long term sick. We ensured no one would pay the bedroom tax and we protected large families from the impact of the benefit cap through a unique system of top-ups and flexibilities.

In fact there will be no reductions in benefits under the authority of the Executive.

Progress was also made on the issues of the past, parades, flags and emblems.

The Stormont House Agreement did not resolve the issue of the ongoing budget cuts to the block grant in the north. The British Government will continue to strip hundreds of millions from the budget in the name of austerity. Their partners in the Irish Government stood silently by supporting the Tories.

·    Sinn Féin is determined to continue to campaign for an effective budget for the North.

·    Sinn Féin Ministers will safeguard those most in need from the hardships of British Government cuts.  That is why we fought for welfare protections. That is why we will continue to do all that we can to protect frontline public services.

·    That is why we are determined to have the fiscal powers transferred to allow us to grow the economy for the benefit of all.

·    Ultimately it is clear the cost of the Union is austerity. It is undemocratic and has failed.  And we are determined to bring that to an agreed and peaceful end.

As always we cannot do this alone, we need to build a progressive alliance against British Government cuts.

It is misguided and a diversion to attack the Stormont House Agreement.

Some who do this are motivated by party political interests. If they were really concerned about opposing austerity they would do it with its advocates.

The responsibility for these cuts comes from Westminster, not from any party in the Executive.

Some appear to argue that we should just hand over power in the north to Tories for direct rule.

That would be wrong and will only increase hardship. The hard-fought safeguards on welfare would be lost and any protection of public services surrendered.  That will only give back powers on all aspects of life including equality, parity of esteem, policing and justice back to a British government.

The solution has to be found by building a campaign that increases the budget and delivers the powers for the people in the north to determine and deliver a fair recovery.

The Irish government is ideologically wedded to austerity and the harsh price that citizens are paying is evident everywhere.

It can be seen on the record number of citizens on hospital trolleys; the cuts to respite grants, to child benefit; in the half a million citizens forced to emigrate, in the lengthening homeless figures.

And a Fianna Fáil government would be no better. Fine Gael and Labour are implementing Fianna Fáil policy. There is no difference between tweedle dee and tweedle dum.

I have specifically challenged Mícheál Martin and Fianna Fáil to stand in the north.

If Fianna Fáil is genuinely concerned about citizens in this part of the island then it should organise here and let citizens have the opportunity to pass judgement on them.

Sinn Féin has shown that austerity is not the solution. It is part of the problem. There are fairer alternatives. There are other choices that a Government can make. Sinn Fein has made clear our opposition to punitive, regressive taxes aimed at those who can least afford them and for a reformed, progressive tax system, which could sustain public services, accessible to all.”

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Sinn Féin party spokesperson on Youth Affairs, Senator Kathryn Reilly, has expressed her disbelief that over the past weekend the Labour Party had virtually ignored the youth crisis in Ireland, and where they had addressed it, they did so as if they not played a part exasperating it.

Senator Reilly said:

 “Like Fine Gael last weekend, the Labour Party have this weekend cheer led this government’s work, or lack thereof, in the area of youth affairs.”

“Their obliviousness to the youth crisis in Ireland at the moment is so bizarre, that in the midst of all the self-congratulation on their performance in government, the party members passed a motion calling for the government to reinstate welfare payments for those under the age of 26 which had been cut in Budget 2014.”

“So here we had the Labour Party calling on the Labour Party to reinstate welfare payments that the Labour Party had slashed in Budget 2014.”

“Despite all the bombastic rhetoric emanating from Killarney, the reality is that young people have become more marginalised under this government. Young people are over twice as likely to be unemployed than the national average, they have suffered welfare discrimination because of their age, and they have emigrated in higher numbers than any other age group.”

“Both Labour and Fine Gael have thrown out the reduction of youth unemployment as proof that they have remedied the youth crisis in Ireland. However, what they fail to mention is that in the last five years over 165,000 young people, aged between 16 and 25, have emigrated, and there are now 60,900 fewer young people between the ages of 20 and 34 in employment since this government took office.”

“If it’s a core Labour Party policy to insult the young people of Ireland, then they fulfilled the implementation of it this weekend.” 

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Thosaigh Liadh Ní Riada Feisire Eorpach de chuid Shinn Féin ar a stailc teanga inniu. Sa chéad cruinniú de chuid an Bhuiséad agus Gnóthaí Eacnamaíocha agus Airgeadaíochta bhí an Junker Investment plan á phléigh. Rinneadh iarracht pointe a chuir chun tosaigh trí Ghaeilge ach cuireadh stop léi láithreach.

Agus í ag labhairt ón Pharlaimint sa Bhruiséil dúirt Ní Riada

"Ní féidir glacadh leis an méid a tharla le linn an choiste sin. Chuaigh mé i dteagmháil leis na dá choiste an tseachtain seo chaite chun iad a chuir ar an t-eolas faoin stailc. Mhínigh mé go raibh mé á dhéanamh mar chomhartha agóide i gcoinne an maolú teanga agus mura rabhadar sásta seirbhís ateangaireachta a chuir ar fáil bhí leigheas an scéal againn tríd úsaíd a bhaint as mo chomhairleoir polaitíochta chun an ateangaireacht a dhéanamh.

“Níor tugadh cead dom mo phointe a chríochnú agus tá ´sé sin do-ghlactha toisc go bhfuil stádas oifigiúil ag an Ghaeilge san Aontas Eorpach.”

ENDS

Liadh Ní Riada, MEP for Ireland South began her language strike today. The Junker Investment Plan was being discussed in the first joint committee meeting of Budget and Economic and Monetary Affairs. An attempt was made to make a point through Irish but her contribution was interrupted almost immediately.

Speaking from the parliament Ní Riada said:

"It was inadmissible what happened in the committee today. I contacted the committee secretariat last week to inform them of the strike. I explained that I was doing it in protest against the language derogation that is currently in place and if they were not willing to provide interpreting that my political advisor would be able to do so on my behalf.

“I was not allowed to finish my point and this is totally unfair considering the fact that I was speaking in official working language of the EU.”

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Chris Hazzard has welcomed the commitment of the Education Minister John O’Dowd to promote the STEM subjects.

Mr Hazzard said,

“The subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) are subjects that are having a bigger impact in the modern world as we see major technological advances in the way we work and live and we need to ensure that they are promoted if we are develop our economy.

“Todays motion is about ensuring that our children are given the proper tools to compete in a modern world and that we develop an education system that embraces and encourages these subjects.

“I am delighted that the Minister has stated his commitment to promoting the STEM subjects and has already embarked on some invaluable work in getting children to retain these subjects through to degree level.

“These include supporting the ‘STEM is Cool’ initiative as well as The Young Scientist Awards and the promotion of the subjects through careers classes.

“I am confident that the Minister will continue to promote STEM subjects to ensure our children are properly equipped to compete in a modern world.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has responded to reports from the Higher Education Authority that Student Assistant Fund claims are up 28%.

The Cork North Central TD said -

“Once again we are seeing the impact of an underfunded education system. The HEA are today reporting a significant increase in applications for the Student Assistant Fund. This payment, in many cases, is key to ensuring that individuals whom otherwise would be unable to take up third level education, are in a position to do so”

“Despite her acknowledgment in February that the objective of the student assistance fund, is to assist, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, students who might otherwise, as a result of financial reasons, suffer severe hardship or be unable to continue with their third level studies, Minister Jan O’Sullivan has refused to provide a top-up to the fund as was done in the past”

 “This comes just days following the Labour party’s annual conference in which there was much pontificating on the need for action in tackling the issue of inequality in education. While I welcome the sentiments expressed by the party, what we need now is for the Minister to take action on this issue and ensure any roadblocks to education are eliminated”

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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Sean Crowe has described as ‘a nightmare scenario’, the 3am raid and subsequent shooting of an 11 year old boy on Saturday in Tallaght.

Deputy Crowe said:

“I am utterly appalled at the actions of these individuals. Not only was this an attack on an innocent young boy, it is an attack on society.

“This shooting can only be described as the ultimate nightmare scenario. A family were awoken from their beds by raiders and attacked whilst attempting to flee. It is difficult to imagine the fear and panic such a scenario would provoke.”

“The rise in aggravated burglaries and assaults, including incidents such as that witnessed on Saturday, is a worrying development, as is the increase in the use of firearms. I am relieved at  media reports that the injuries incurred by the young boy are not life threatening, however the deep psychological impact and the gravity of this attack cannot be underestimated. It could all too easily, have gone the other way and resulted in a fatality.”

“This is a new low, not only for Tallaght but for the Island of Ireland. When citizens cannot sleep soundly in their beds without fear of attack, we have a cause for serious concern. Families are entitled to live out their lives free from fear and intimidation from criminals. I am appealing to the Gardaí use all their resources at their disposal and act swiftly in bringing these perpetrators to justice.” 

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Speaking from Cork today, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien today called on the Minister for Education and teacher unions to go back in to discussions to resolve the ongoing dispute on the reform of the Junior Cycle.

 The Cork North Central TD said;

 “Parents and students will be relieved to hear that there are no plans for a third day of strike action as we get closer to exam time, but this issue needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency.”

 “The Minister will not succeed in ramming through a reformed Junior Cycle in the absence of co-operation from teachers and it would be unreasonable to expect parents and students to have faith in the reforms should that be the approach she takes.”

 “I am calling on the Minister to go back and speak to the unions again and listen to their concerns and desist from floating the idea of sanctions and penalties in order to scare teachers in to agreement.”

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Sinn Féin TD and Housing Spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has welcomed comments by the Minister for Environment that he is planning to introduce measures to regulate residential rents but has said more detail of his plan is needed so that high rents can be dealt with without delay. He made his comments following a statement from Minister Alan Kelly that he would be seeking to introduce a framework to give rent certainty to tenants.

Deputy Ellis said:

"Whether you call it rent control, rent regulation or rent certainty we have been calling for measures to limit rent rises and bring fairness to rates for years now. The Minister and his government have consistently said that they would not introduce any such measures, even ridiculously claiming that to regulate the rental market would be unconstitutional. We know that was rubbish so why has it taken so long for the government to even admit some action on rents was needed?”

“What the Minister said at the weekend was positive and I welcome that but we need clarity. A temporary rent freeze and new limits on future increases would be very positive but how does he plan to do this. Based on previous comments in January it is questionable if the Minister's definition of rent certainty would meet the standards of many people calling for such measures. Speaking at the beginning of the year he floated the idea of new 5 year leases which would provide for more stable rent levels for tenants. This would be helpful but we need rent regulation to help people in current difficulty and we need to ensure that this is binding for all landlords and tenants.”

“The Minister has also proposed giving tax breaks to landlords to take up these leases. That's not the right way to go. The government does not need to further fund landlords in order for them to charge fair rents. We need mandatory regulations for all leases which set maximum rent limits based on the consumer price index, limit future increases and to promote longer leases as well.”

“Real action is needed not tax breaks for landlords or more statements from the Minister. He must introduce rent regulation without delay.” 

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Sinn Féin's Gearóid Ó hEára has called on Employment and Learning minister Stephen Farry to lift the cap on the number of students at Magee. 

Mr Ó hEára said; 

"Everyone is in agreement on the need to expand Magee and increasing the number of students is key to that. 

"Lifting the Maximum Student Numbers (MaSN) cap is essential to ensuring the growth of Magee. This is something, which could be easily done, and it is within the power of the employment and learning minister to do so. 

"This would be a clear indication of the minister's commitment to the expansion of Magee. 

"I welcome the fact Stephen Farry has said he intends to bid for additional funds to expand Magee in the next Comprehensive Spending Review but this now needs to be followed up with action by lifting the MaSN cap. 

"Not only would this be a concrete step towards the full expansion of Magee, it would also help generate revenue to pay for that expansion through additional students. 

"This is within the power of the minister and if he is serious about the expansion of Magee then he needs to show it by lifting the MaSN cap immediately."

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