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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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Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has called on justice minister David Ford to reconsider his decision to withdraw funding for the Railway Street addiction services unit in Ballymena. 

Daithí McKay is leading a delegation of people who would be affected by the closure to meet David Ford today.

The North Antrim MLA said:

"Railway Street Addiction Services will close if the Justice Minister goes ahead with this withdrawal of funding. 

"Many of those who have had their lives utterly destroyed by drugs in this area know that Railway Street was the crucial factor in getting their lives back on track.

"Many lives have been saved by this facility. 

“It is an exemplary service in terms of prevention and there is no doubt the Department of Justice has saved millions over the years because Railway Street prevented drug-related crime, reduced reoffending and worked well with the police and other statutory agencies.

“This is a small amount of money which this service needs. The removal of the funding will be devastating as it will ensure that those become addicted to drugs as well as their families and communities, will not get the support they need. 

"This decision makes no sense whatsoever.

"The minister must listen to the voices of those who have had their lives devastated by drugs and he must act."

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Sinn Féin was right to vote against the regressive Finance Bill last night.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I and my Sinn Féin colleagues were right to vote against a regressive Finance Bill which favours the better off and does nothing to deal with lifting the burden of water charges and the family home tax.

“At the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill, I tabled more amendments than all other opposition TDs combined. No Labour Party TD was present throughout the fourteen hours of discussion. These amendments included abolishing Water Charges, abolishing the Local Property Tax and removing 296,000 low earners from the minimum wage.  The government rejected or did not even allow a discussion on these amendments which is why we rejected this Finance Bill.

“In the Finance Bill that passed last night somebody on the Taoiseach’s salary got a tax break of €747 while somebody on €30,000 got less than a quarter of that. It also allows for people who were involved in deliberate high level tax avoidance to have interest reduced and surcharges scrapped and for certain people earning €1,000,000 to pay €111,000 less tax while those earning less than €30,000 will have their tax decrease wiped out by water charges.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has called on the Taoiseach Enda Kenny to urgently conclude the government’s deliberations on a decision to reopen the ‘Hooded men’ case with the European Court of Human Rights.

In a letter to the Taoiseach on Wednesday the Sinn Féin leader pointed out that there is a December 4th deadline – only six working days (from date of letter) – left for the government to seek to have this case reopened.

Gerry Adams described the decision of the European Court in 1978 as “a landmark judgement. The 14 men were denied justice.

“The Irish government lost a case it should have won. And because of British lies the ECHR judgement in 1978 facilitated the use of these torture techniques in other conflict situations, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There is a grave onus on the Office of the Attorney General and the government to conclude its deliberations and seek a reopening of this case.”

The text of Gerry Adams letter to An Taoiseach:

Taoiseach a chara,

In 1971 the Irish government took a case to Europe on behalf of ‘The Hooded Men’. These were 14 Irish citizens who were arrested by the British Army following the introduction of internment in August 1971.

In the course of seven days they were hooded and subject to brutal in-depth interrogation techniques by the RUC Special Branch and the British Ministry of Defence’s Joint Services Interrogation Wing (JSIW).

The European Commission on Human Rights in 1977 ruled that this was torture. The British government appealed and the following year the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the men had not suffered torture but inhuman and degrading treatment.

Taoiseach, evidence has now emerged that the British government lied to the Irish government; lied to the lawyers acting for the ‘Hooded Men,’ and lied to the ECHR.

Lawyers acting for ‘The Hooded Men’ wrote to the Office of the Attorney General last October.

They provided a range of new material in respect and asked that the Irish government ‘urgently review the ECHR judgement marked in the case of Ireland v the United Kingdom, Application no. 5310/71, 18th January 1978 with a view to reopening the same before the Court through their capacity as a member state under Article 33 of the Convention.’

In March the Attorney General concluded that she could ‘find nothing new in the documentation’ and concluded that it did not meet ‘the threshold which would warrant this state bringing an application to reopen the case before the ECtHR.’

I expressed my disappointment and called for a reversal of the decision.

In June a major documentary by RTE – The Torture Files - reported on additional new evidence which it and the Pat Finucane Centre had uncovered.

This revealed that the British government lied to the ECHR about the use of the so-called five techniques for in-depth interrogation; lied to the ECHR on the severity of the interrogation methods employed and the detail of this torture, including its location; lied to the ECHR about the medical and psychological consequences on the 14 men tortured; and failed to inform the ECHR that this torture had been cleared at British Cabinet level by the then Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington.

It is clear from all of the documentation now available that the use of torture against these 14 men was a matter of administrative practise by the British government.

I immediately wrote to the Attorney General on this. In his response to me in July the Attorney General’s Private Secretary confirmed that the ‘process of giving detailed and careful consideration to the material is in hand and could take some time.’

Taoiseach, there is a December 4th deadline for the reopening of this case. Time is quickly running out.

This was a landmark judgement. The 14 men were denied justice. The Irish government lost a case it should have won. And because of British lies the ECHR judgement in 1978 facilitated the use of these torture techniques in other conflict situations, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is a grave onus on the Office of the Attorney General and the government to conclude its deliberations and seek a reopening of this case.

When do you expect that the government will conclude its deliberations and take its decision?

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Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien called on the Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, to outline her rationale for imposing internal school assessment on the new junior cycle system.

The Cork North Central TD said;

“The real block here in the dispute with teachers is the issue of internal assessment and the Minister has failed to outline what the educational benefit would be, if any.

“While I recognise, and parents recognise, that teachers assess students’ progress every day in schools, introducing that into the junior cycle would present a range of problems alongside the Minister’s failure to outline what the educational benefits would be.

“The Minister keeps repeating that “there is evidence” to support her claims and yet she has continually failed to outline what this evidence is here.

“And further to the point, even if the Minister could provide evidence to back up her claims, there is nothing to suggest that teachers can deliver this given the massive cutbacks to resources that schools have already faced.

“The fact is that in the absence of a convincing argument in favour of school-based assessment this appears to be a money-making exercise for the Minister and her Department.

“I am calling on the Minister to revisit this issue as a matter of urgency and desist from her attempts to paint teachers as being unreasonable on this matter.”

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Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe has said that the €108 million rise in water meter costs is unacceptable and that hard pressed tax payers deserve answers to why millions of extra euro is being spent on unwanted water meters.

Deputy Crowe was speaking after it emerged at the weekend that there was a €108 million 'mark up' in water metering costs in a period of eight weeks last year. Metering costs were originally supposed to come in at around €431 million when assessed by external consultants back in May 2013 but rocketed to €539 million just a short  couple of weeks later.

Deputy Seán Crowe said: 

"The saga of Irish Water continues to be blight on the back of hard pressed taxpayers. They will no doubt be delighted to hear that the cost of unwanted meters has rocketed from €431 million to €539 million.

"A more serious question emerges out of this huge jump in costs. This increase of €108 million also occurred a month after the contract for water meters was awarded. Irish Water has been rightly described an unmitigated disaster with scandal after scandal emerging almost on a daily basis.

"Members of the public, many who are tax payers with shrinking pay packets, are quite rightly asking where all this is going. The Government is not producing the figures to account for this huge increase in expenditure.  It is becoming increasingly evident that the Government is intent on simply giving Irish Water a blank cheque.

"Irish Water needs to be fully accountable to the Irish Parliament, with The Comptroller and Auditor General as well as the Public Accounts Committee having the right to scrutinise its accounts. Sadly Irish Water seems to be a law unto itself and lacking any oversight. €539 million is now being spent on unwanted meters.

"Irish Water is clearly not fit for purpose and needs to be wound down. Environment Minister Alan Kelly also needs to come into the Dáil again and answer more questions relating to this water 'meter millions' madness”.

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Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has met with Ms Claudia Luciani, Director of Democratic Governance from the Council of Europe to discuss the Save Moore Street campaign.

Speaking after the meeting Lynn Boylan said:

"I sought this meeting to discuss any obligations Ireland may have, as asignatory to the Council of Europe Convention for Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, to protect Moore Street from commercial development.

I had a very constructive and informative meeting on the Moore Street issue. I have requested that the Council of Europe write to the Irish Ambassador to highlight our concerns on the proposed development of Moore Street, primarily surrounding the planning process issues and the historical and cultural importance of this site to both the city of Dublin and the country as a whole.

I felt the meeting with the Council of Europe was a promising first step and I will now await the response from the Irish Ambassador on the issue."

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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.

ENDS

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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.”

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