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DUP show contempt for talks process

"The refusal of the DUP to attend the opening of these talks showed utter contempt to all the other parties and the people who elect us. The last two years have been appalling because of the unwillingness and refusal of the DUP and other unionists to accept the democratic decisions." - Martin McGuinness MLA

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has thus evening reiterated his rejection of allegations made against him by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil Leader Mícheál Martin.

Gerry Adams said:

"I want once again to reject in the strongest possible terms, entirely malicious and spurious allegations by the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil  Leader that I have any information regarding abusers being moved from the North, across border to this jurisdiction or anywhere else.

"If anyone - and that includes Mr Kenny or Mr Martin - have information regarding the whereabouts of anyone who is a potential threat to members of the community, they should make that information known to An Garda Síochána."

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Sinn Féin TD’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Mary Lou McDonald today invited carer representative groups to the Dáil to make a case for the restoration of the Respite Care Grant. The carer representative groups were given the opportunity to address TD’s and Senators from all political parties and make their case for the restoration of the €325 grant.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh stated:

“Myself and my colleague Mary Lou McDonald invited these groups all of whom represent and/or work to support carers, people with disabilities and older people.  

“Carers, because of the nature of their role in society, don’t often get the chance to take to the streets in protest or kick up a fuss. But that doesn’t mean it’s ok to ignore them.

“The government had many options in terms of trying to reverse some of the worst impacts of successive austerity budgets. Restoring the Respite Care Grant should have been a priority. What we are saying is that it is not too late. In the overall scheme of things we are not talking about a huge sum of money – just €29.6 million – out of a budget of billions.

“We are calling on the Taoiseach and the Minister for Social Protection to reverse this cut and to restore the respite care grant in full.”

Deputy McDonald said:

“Carers are among the hardest-working groups in society. The work they do is invaluable to their families and communities and their work saves the state millions of euro year in year out.

“Instead of appropriately recognising and rewarding this contribution the government has instead cut benefits, including the Respite Care Grant. The meagre €5.00 extra in children’s allowance won’t make up for that.

“Today we heard testimonies from parents and carers who can’t afford to heat their homes, can’t afford to buy new shoes for their children and who haven’t been able to go on a family holiday for years. The Respite Care Grant is used by families to pay for necessities as well as treats and its cut has caused enormous hardship for thousands of families.”

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Sinn Féin MEPs today voted in favour of increasing EU funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency in Palestine.

Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson made the case for increased funding saying:

"Whilst the budget is not ideal I voted in favour of supporting the peace process and financial assistance for Palestine and for UNRWA.

"As the people of Gaza are emerging from the most recent onslaught their needs are greater than ever and UNRWA needs financial support to carry out their work.

"UNRWA is dealing with thousands of families who are homeless and without livelihood. Even those with homes find themselves in neighbourhoods where water, sewerage and electricity systems have been demolished.

"The future of Gaza must not be defined by the instability and poverty imposed by the blockade.

The international community needs to do more than just providing humanitarian assistance. We must take action to address the underlying causes of the crisis. Hence, ending Israels occupation in Palestine.

"As we wait on that to happen, UNRWA is playing a leading role in addressing the devastation caused by the recent conflict and the pervasive effect of the Israeli imposed blockade.

"UNRWA is seeking $1.6 billion for emergency relief, early recovery and reconstruction priorities in the Gaza Strip, and hence, the EU must increase UNRWAs budget.

ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Sandra McLellan has criticised Government proposals to preserve Moore Street as being inadequate, with consideration to the national importance of the site. Deputy McLellan has also highlighted that buildings on the Moore Street site which are due to be demolished, actually qualify for conservation.

Deputy McLellan said:

“The government’s proposals to preserve and develop 14-17 Moore Street, while welcome, are totally inadequate.

“Is the Minister aware that among the buildings on Moore Street that the developer Chartered Land proposes to demolish, are structures which pre-date the 1916 Rising? The reason given for not conserving buildings on this historic site has been that they were post 1916. These are both within the terrace containing the National Monument and within what the Taoiseach has called the ‘lanes of history’.

“The evidence is there to show that many of the structures alleged to be post-1916 do in fact pre-date the Rising.

“Is the Minister aware that the current façade of Number 18 was identified as a pre-1916 structure in the Conservation Report that accompanied the Environmental Impact Study of 2011 by Gráinne Shaffrey?

“Does the Minister realise that this key point was omitted from the Shaffrey Myles Battlefield Report?

“The decision by the government to grant permission for the development of Moore Street in this manner is tantamount to the obliteration of what the National Museum has called the most important site in modern Irish history.

“Sinn Féin fundamentally disagrees with the decision to grant a license to Chartered Land to demolish Moore Street and turn it into a shopping centre.”

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Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on the Arts Sandra McLellan, TD, has expressed disappointment at Minister Heather Humphries dismissal of her proposals that the government might make Hallowe’en a safer and more enjoyable event by learning from the way the Celts celebrated the Festival  of Samhain.

Ms McLellan said:

“During today’s Ministerial Questions I put forward a number of proposals to the Minister; that her Department should look at how our ancestors celebrated the Feast of Samhain in order to build on the many excellent festivals and family oriented events that are held at Hallowe’en.

"In my own constituency in Youghal we have the Youghaloween Spooktacular, an event that combines a range of activities that bring enjoyment to an entire community and provide an economic boost for the town.

“By learning from our Celtic ancestors we can improve existing festivals further and ensure Hallowe’en is a date in our calendar that is a time of celebration for everyone.

“It is sadly the case that in many areas across this State, Hallowe’en is used as an excuse for thuggish elements to participate in anti-social behaviour, with old and vulnerable people being placed at particular risk.

“During my debate with Minister Humphries, I cited the example of bonfire beacons that have proved very popular in towns and villages in County Down, where they are a safer, more eco-friendly alternative to traditional bonfires.

“Her dismissal of my suggestion that we learn from our past and her reluctance to consider some of the initiatives that have proven successful in the North, on the grounds that they would “dilute” the existing culture night, misses the point.

“If Minister Humphries is serious about ensuring a safe and enjoyable Hallowe’en then her and her Department have a responsibility to ensure events constantly evolve and one way of achieving this is to learn from how the Feast of Samhain was celebrated in the past.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams has welcomed news of Senator Gary Hart’s new role as the US Secretary of State’s Personal Representative.

Commenting on the appointment, Mr Adams said: 

"I welcome Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement that Senator Gary Hart is to take up a diplomatic role as the Secretary's Personal Representative with a particular emphasis on the current impasse and the talks in the North.

"Senator Hart's international experience and long service will bring a much needed dimension and urgency to the talks process.

"The American Administration's consistent involvement in the Irish Peace Process has been a valued and positive one and has provided that essential element of a truly "honest broker" for all the parties in the North.

"I had the opportunity to meet with Senator Hart in August in Dublin and found him to be knowledgeable on the difficulties in the current situation.

"I look forward to meeting with him soon."

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Speaking from Leinster House today about the news that merger talks between Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow have broken down, Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane has reiterated his support of the proposed merger, and his belief that not only does the Technological University of the South East have huge potential to revitalise the south east, but to mark a turning point in Irish education.

Senator Cullinane said:

“I was saddened to hear this morning of the suspension of merger talks between ITC and WIT. I spoke only last week that I was an enthusiastic supporter of a multi-campus TUSE. This merger and the others proposed in south Munster and Dublin are key government initiatives which need firmer checks and balances if they are to succeed. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the IT’s this month and I am keen to see that such progress is not wasted.

“The HEA and the Department of Education and Skills must take note of the serious implications that the suspension of these talks could have not only on the process of merging these two fine institutions of learning, but on the other ongoing mergers taking place. I would call on the Minister to give assurances that all appropriate efforts are being made to ensure that these processes are not being rushed or ignored, and when we can realistically expect these universities to be established.”

“We are dealing with separate entities with their other organisational cultures and structures and there will always be difficulties, but I would call again on all interested parties to work together in the spirit of their duty to current and prospective students to provide the highest level of learning that can be provided.” 

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Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew said a debate on the issue of the past in the British House of Lords was timely in the context of efforts to start all-party talks.

The Lords’ debate is being sponsored by former NIO Minister Lord Dubs.

The Fermanagh/South Tyrone MP said:

“This debate sponsored by former NIO minister Alf Dubs could not come at a more opportune moment.

“The topic of the debate is very appropriate. It recognises the need for both governments to use their influence with the parties to reach agreement on outstanding issues and to build on what was achieved in the draft Haass conclusions.

“It is important that people in Britain are aware of the seriousness of the situation in the North. There has been a drift by mainstream unionists towards a negative anti-Agreement axis.

“Lord Dubs motion will hopefully act as an impetus for the substantial support that exists in Britain for the peace process to let their voices be heard.

“It is important that all friends of the Good Friday Agreement speak out on the responsibility of the British government to do the right thing. It needs to use its considerable influence on unionism to bring the DUP in particular into genuine talks mode.” CRÍOCH/ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has welcomed 'constructive' discussions today with the Welsh First Minister, aimed at securing a common approach with Scotland and Wales to ensure maximum decision-making powers in the three Assemblies.

Mr McGuinness was speaking after discussions in Cardiff between the First and deputy First Minister and the Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Martin McGuinness said:

“Today's discussions were very constructive and follow similar talks with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond earlier this week.

“It is clear the three Celtic administrations are facing many of the same challenges as a direct result of the British Government’s austerity agenda. 

“But there is also clearly a combined will to use our collective strength as effectively as possible to protect the people we represent.

"And while there are big challenges ahead, there are also opportunities, particularly as a result of the changes to devolution arrangements that are expected to follow the Scottish independence referendum.

"Again there is a need and a willingness to co-operate on areas of commonality in this regard. 

“For my part, I certainly feel the North needs to be seeking the additional powers and economic levers which will enable Executive departments to better serve the people we represent.

"These powers should be in the hands of an Executive elected by and accountable to the people of the North, not a Tory cabinet of millionaires in London who are wedded to an austerity agenda for ideological reasons."

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