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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 Jennifer McCann has described an attack last night on a 74-year-old man in his home on the Mullaghglass Road as “vicious and cowardly”.

The West Belfast MLA said:

“This was a vicious and cowardly attack on a pensioner in his own home.

“How anyone can put a knife to a 74-year-old man and cut him in a bid to steal money is beyond me?

“This was a horrific ordeal for the victim and his brother who was home at the time.

“The people who carried out this attack have no regard for anyone and they need to be taken off the streets.

“I urge anyone who has any information on the people behind this attack on a helpless pensioner to immediately contact the PSNI.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has extended sympathy to the family and friends of former economist, journalist and author Colm Rapple who has died.

Gerry Adams said:

"I was sad to learn of the death of Colm Rapple, the well known and widely respected former economist, journalist and author.

"Colm always advocated a progressive and fair economic approach and was consistent in pointing to what was in the best interests of Irish citizens, especially ordinary families.

"I wish to extend my deepest condolences to Colm's wife Nuala, his children Simone and Rory and to all his family and friends at this sad time.

"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam."

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has welcomed the public support of SIPTU President Jack O’Connor for developing an agreed platform among the left.

Jack O’Connor is to set out his position in a speech this morning at Glasnevin to commemorate Jim Larkin.

Sinn Féin’s South Antrim candidate in this year’s Westminster election said:

"Sinn Féin called this week, to begin formal discussions between ourselves, progressive independents, the trades union movement, grass roots community organisations, and others on the left in Ireland, north and south. 

“Therefore SIPTU President Jack O’Connor's public support for developing an agreed platform among the left is to be welcomed.

“There is an obvious need for a democratic, inclusive and politically non-sectarian discussion among all those genuinely committed to opposing austerity, supporting equality, social solidarity, and the protection of citizens’ welfare.  

“Those who recognise the need for an alternative political and economic vision and strategy across the island have a responsibility to discuss how that can be brought forward.

“Sinn Féin is committed to working with others in good faith to explore how progressives in Ireland can maximise cooperation to bring about the change which is needed, based upon democratic control of the economy, sustainable investment policies to stimulate growth, protect public services and create employment.  

“Building support for an agreed, united Ireland is an essential part of that process.

“Austerity and partition have failed all sections of Irish society. The dominance of Irish and British conservative elites north and south must be ended. The result has been growing inequalities, division, sectarianism and racism.

“Sinn Fein believes serious discussion on the left is now required to develop a new economic and political vision for a real Republic, and on the alliances to bring it about. This moment should indeed be seized.  It is the way forward."

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Sinn Fein National Spokesperson on Workers Rights and Trade Union engagement Senator David Cullinane has welcomed comments from SIPTU General President Jack O' Connor on the need for a left led Government and the need to address the wages and conditions of workers.

Speaking today Senator Cullinane said:

"I welcome today's comments from SIPTU General President Jack O' Connor. The political landscape is changing in Ireland and across Europe. More and more people are demanding real change and an end to conservative politics and austerity economics.

“The impact of these austerity economics by the previous and current Irish Government has been to reduce wages, reduce hours worked, undermine public services and place additional charges such as the family home tax and water charges on struggling citizens. This is unfair, unacceptable and not sustainable.

"Sinn Fein is about real change and a transformation of politics on this island. We want a fair recovery, investment in public services, decent pay and strong and robust employment rights. A new politics is possible in Ireland and across the EU. Sinn Fein is a central part of that new politics.

"Sinn Fein fully supports the need for a debt conference to address the legacy debt placed on the Irish people. We are committed to quality jobs, fair hours and an increase in the minimum wage. Next week the party will host a conference on these issues which will be addressed by ICTU General Secretary Patricia King.

“Sinn Fein is committed to forming broad alliances with like-minded parties and independents to maximise the potential for an Irish Government that is anti-austerity, committed to building a fair recovery and to delivering a republic for all its citizens"

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has condemned two shooting incidents in the North Belfast area this evening. 

 Mr Kelly said;

 "This evening's shootings in the Old Park and New Lodge areas have left one man in a critical condition and another man injured. 

 "These attacks are wrong and must be condemned. 

 "There can be no place for these type of actions in our community. 

 "Those responsible for these shootings are criminals ‎and are not representative of the local communities. 

 "I am calling on those behind these attacks to catch themselves on, listen to the will of the local communities who want to move on and stop these actions immediately. " Ends / Críoch

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At a selection convention in Waterford the Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane was selected unopposed to run in the forthcoming General Election.

Speaking after the convention Senator Cullinane said:

"I am delighted to have been selected as the party candidate for the forthcoming General Election. Waterford City and County needs strong and effective political representation. I hope to build on the fantastic success the party had in Waterford at the last local and EU elections. 

"Waterford City and County has a lot to offer and has huge potential. However it is being held back by poor political representation from the Government parties and a failure of Government policy. The City and County has unacceptably high levels of unemployment and is operating with one hand tied behind it's back. 

"As a member of the Oireachtas committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation I published comprehensive proposals aimed at tackling unemployment, creating jobs, supporting enterprise development and building critical infrastructure. This includes the need for a University for the region, the roll out of dark fibre broadband, support for the regional airport and the creation of a regional IDA Office based in Waterford City. These proposals need to be delivered. 

"I will be a strong advocate for low and middle income workers and the unemployed. I have a track record of robustly challenging unfair Government policies and standing up for ordinary citizens. I will also champion rural development and challenge rural decline and the closure of vital services.

"Sinn Féin is committed to a fair recovery, progressive taxation, investment in public services prioritising health, housing and childcare and championing decent work and pay. I look forward to debating all of these issues in the time ahead." 

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for the Environment Brian Stanley has urged all those opposed to water charges to come out in their masses tomorrow in peaceful protests across the country.

The protests, which will be held in local communities across the country, offer a vital opportunity for people to voice their dissent against Irish Water and the imposition of unfair water charges.

Deputy Stanley said:

"There is a series of events organised by Sinn Féin which are taking place across Ireland as part of a day of action against water charges. We are encouraging anybody who is opposed to the introduction of these unfair, regressive charges to take part in their local protest or march.

“Sinn Féin is committed to campaigning against water charges until they are stopped. The Government's handling of this unfair water tax has been shambolic.  Along with the Local Property tax, this has become a staple of this government's austerity agenda.

“It’s time to tell this Government that concessions are not enough. These concessions came after an immense show of will from the Irish people. Labour and Fine Gael may have reacted, they didn't listen. They offered introductory offers and caps as bribes for silence, but we are demanding abolition. Water is a human right, not a commodity to be controlled and traded.

“This is why it of such importance that the people come out and make their voices heard tomorrow. It is time that Labour and Fine Gael are told in no uncertain terms that either water charges go - or they do. Sinn Féin is committed to scrapping water charges and to reversing this legislation if in government."

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson and MP Michelle Gildernew today officially launched the countdown to an Anti-Fracking Conference, taking place on Friday 20th Feb.

Speaking from the launch at the Lough Erne Resort, Michelle Gildernew MP said:

“Three weeks from today the first-ever anti-fracking conference to be held in Europe is going to take place right here in Fermanagh.

“I cannot express the importance of this conference and I thank Martina for choosing to host it here in Fermanagh.

“The Scottish government's recent moratorium on fracking proves that more and more people across the world accept that fracking has a devastating impact on the environment, agriculture, health and tourism.

“A number of experts on these fields are addressing the conference. These include a key note address from Andy Gheorghiu, author of the Friends of the Earth Fracking Frenzy report.

“Sinn Féin has stood firm in our opposition to fracking.

This conference will highlight how we will continue to oppose it.

“I would encourage those wishing to highlight their opposition, express their concerns or simply learn more to attend the conference. To register e-mail nathan_mcglinchey@outlook.comENDS

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Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has today attacked the government for moving ahead with plans to open up ten per cent of public bus routes to the market.

Speaking in Dublin today Ms Boylan said:

“Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann provide vital transport links for citizens around the city and country. Privatisation will inevitably lead to some of the non-profitable routes being discontinued and some areas being deprived of essential transport services.

“The fact that the government is forging ahead with these plans despite vehement opposition from unions representing transport workers, demonstrates its indifference to those who depend on the Dublin Bus service to get to the shops, to school, college and work.

The privatisation of public bus services will ultimately lead to higher bus fares and poorer working conditions. The Irish Government in its arrogance has refused to learn lessons from mistakes made abroad on this issue.

For example when the Tory government privatised services in the UK. At the time it claimed that privatisation would lead to greater investment, improved services and fare reductions.

The biggest losers were those who worked in the bus industry. Bus driver’s hourly wage ranked 7% above the average blue collar worker but within ten years of privatisation had fallen 14% below.

Passengers also lost out, as fares have risen consistently above inflation.

Many other right- wing governments have attempted privatisation policies in this industry and have failed. The cherry-picking of the most profitable routes by private operators and the financial burden of subsidising the less lucrative routes inevitably leads to a reversal of privatisation policies.

The government should re-think its stance on this issue now before it will have to make another embarrassing policy U-turn.”

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