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Sinn Féin victim spokesperson Chris Hazzard has described Douglas Hogg’s elevation to the British House of Lords as an insult to all those campaigning for truth about British state collusion with loyalist death squads.

 Mr Hazzard said,

 “Douglas Hogg used parliamentary privilege in 1989 to name Pat Finucane as a solicitor who was sympathetic to the IRA.  

 “His claims were without any foundation but just two weeks later Pat Finucane was murdered by a UDA gang run by British state forces.

 “Douglas Hogg never apologised to the Finucane family nor did he ever produce a shred of evidence to support his disgraceful and discredited claims.

 “British prime minister David Cameron has welched on a British government commitment made at Weston Park to hold an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. 

 “Douglas Hogg’s elevation to the British House of Lords by the Tory Government adds insult to injury for Pat Finucane’s family and for all those campaigning for the truth into British state collusion with loyalist death squads.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has said that he is aware of threats and counter threats being issued over the deaths of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan and this is only adding to the anguish of both families.

 Mr Maskey said,

 “The only way to get justice for the McGuigan and Davison families is to allow the PSNI to carry out a thorough investigation into their murders.

 “I am aware of heightened tensions in the area as rumours of threats and counter threats are circulating and these threats only add further hurt and trauma to all those involved with the families and are counter productive to any investigation.

 “This is a time for calm heads and anyone who thinks that taking the law into their own hands will resolve the situation are mistaken as they will only add to the grief of both families.

 “Political and community leaders need to show leadership to help reduce tensions within the area.

 “Every citizen is entitled to due process and it’s incumbent on all of us including the press to ensure that what we say is measured and does fuel speculation.

 “I would again appeal to anyone who has any information to bring it forward to the PSNI and allow them to bring the killers of both men to justice.”

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Cllr Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that reports today that the Cork Local Government Committee is likely to recommend a merger, are “deeply worrying”.

The Sinn Féin Candidate for Cork South Central, has said that this confirmed the worst fears of many experts, and members of the community, and felt that this would be a serious mistake for Local Government in Cork City

He said;

“Today's Evening Echo reports that the Local Government Committee met to finalise its report with Minister Alan Kelly, and that it is very likely to recommend a merger of Cork City and County Council by a slim margin of two to three.”

“I find this news deeply worrying, and I believe that such a move would be a serious mistake, with massive implications for Local Government in Cork, both City and County.

“Sinn Féin was the only party to oppose a merger in both the City and the County Councils, and we did so because we understood the considerable fears of the community on such a proposal, as well as the concerns of many experts."

“This appears to be part of the Government's desire to centralise power, having abolished town Councils last year. Clearly the status quo, with large areas of the City being within the remit of the County Council, was unsustainable. But for Cork City to thrive, it needs its own, autonomous independent and strong Local Government, and Cork City has a history of Local Government stretching back centuries.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said today that tomorrow’s UUP Executive meeting is simply a rubber-stamping exercise for Mike Nesbitt’s attempts to spook the DUP into collapsing the institutions.  

The Newry Armagh MLA also said at a time when the parties should be united to oppose swingeing Tory cuts to public services, social welfare protections and the living standards of low-paid workers we have parties acting purely out of electoral self-interest.

Conor Murphy said:

“Tomorrow’s meeting of the UUP Executive will simply be a rubber-stamping exercise for Mike Nesbitt’s bid to spook the DUP into collapsing the political institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement.

“Given that the UUP has stood shoulder to shoulder with the representatives of unionist paramilitary groups involved in extortion, drug dealing and murder, it is clear they are driven purely by electoral self interest. 

“Let me be say that Sinn Féin and our voters cannot and will not be wished away or excluded. Those days are long over.

“The real issues facing all our people are building a fair and prosperous economy and safeguarding public services and the most vulnerable against Tory austerity. It is about ensuring proper living standards for workers and families.

“At this time we need all the parties to stand for the whole community against the Tories. 

“The UUP have been silent about the outworkings of their short-sighted strategy on our public services, the economy and on all in our community.

“The public needs to hear from Mike Nesbitt what the next steps are in his ‘cunning plan’ if he gets his way and crashes the institutions.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called for the Minister for Environment to address an anomaly which has led to increases in council rents for families which have had their income cut under changes to the One Parent Family Payment (OPFP). He made his comments having been contacted by someone who, having lost their One Parent Family Payment, was reassessed and given a €80 increase in her monthly rent.

Deputy Ellis said;

"As from the obviously unjust cut which was inflicted on these families which has led to many losing hundreds of euro of vital income every month, to then increase the rent of these families, is unacceptable and must be recognised for the mistake it is and corrected.

“The government ended payment of OPFP to parents of children over seven this summer. This led to the woman I spoke to losing €80 a week of her already meagre income with which she has to support a family. 

“Due to the way rents are calculated based on income in council housing, she was reassessed and has had her rent increased by €20 per week, totalling an extra €1040 a year due to a cut in her income of over €4000. This is because the OPFP is treated as a separate income and only 50% of second incomes are considered when calculating rent.

“The complicated system of calculating rent levels is to protect people from unfair levels of rent increases when situations change for them, but in some cases it has worked in the opposite direction as a second hard blow for one parent families.

“The Minister must address this. I have contacted his office and hope that he will direct councils to review any changes they have already made and avoid further incidents of rent increases for people in similar cases.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has called for the largest possible turnout in Dublin tomorrow to demand an end to Water Charges and the abolition of Irish Water.

Gerry Adams said:

"The Fine Gael/Labour Government's water policy has been an unmitigated disaster from the outset.

"The provision of water is a human right and a key public asset.

"Fine Gael and Labour's imposition of domestic water charges, originally proposed by Fianna Fáil, represents an unfair form of double taxation on ordinary householders who have borne the brunt of the economic crash in recent years.

"Irish Water has been dogged by controversy, cronyism and the squandering of public money since it's inception. It is a toxic brand.

"Whether they simply cannot pay or refuse to pay, the reality is that the majority of households have not signed up to Irish Water. It's going nowhere.

"The Government needs to scrap water charges and abolish Irish Water. In government, Sinn Féin would do this. We would retain water services in public ownership and establish a new model of governance for our water services.

“I would encourage citizens to mobilise in huge numbers in Dublin tomorrow to demonstrate that huge opposition to water charges has not gone away but indeed has grown."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has stressed the need for pre-school children with special needs to have adequate support and resources as the new school year begins. Though the government have promised additional funding in the budget, this will not benefit those children who have been informed of drastic cuts to their early learning entitlement in recent weeks.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“Appropriate educational supports to young children with special needs is of paramount importance to assist in their social, emotional and cognitive development. Five years ago a free pre-school year was introduced, giving families an entitlement of 15 hours early learning for each child prior to their entry into primary school.

“However, this initiative has not been backed up by sufficient resources with that most vulnerable cohort, children with special needs, not getting the supports they require - whether it be in terms of access to pre-school services, or insufficient services within the pre-school setting. The government has acknowledged their failure in this regard.

“However it is galling to find out that there are children with special needs who are having their hours cut in recent weeks. These are families that have fought tooth and nail to attain the supports their children need. Though the government have promised additional funding in the upcoming budget, how will this serve families whose children, at the very age they need the best of educational support, will be denied the resources they need at such a critical time?

“I was made aware of a family in Kerry, for example, whose child will have supports cut from 15 hours to just six. The HSE told the parents that, due to increased demands on the service, they were unable to reinstate the critically needed hours for their child.

“This is a very sorry state of affairs. An interdepartmental report due to be published in September will not alleviate the stress on parents who have children with special needs that are not being met. Not least in this consideration are the children themselves who will suffer if deprived these early years vital learning supports.

“I am urging Minister Leo Varadkar to confirm if and when he intends to adequately resource the necessary supports for these vulnerable children."

ENDS

* Please note that in the case of the family in Kerry, their child has just been awarded the hours which had been taken away, on appeal. However it transpires that she will now have three different assistants on five hours each, which is highly disruptive for a child in need of routine and consistency.  

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Dublin South West representative Seán Crowe TD has described reports of up to 10,000 struggling families across Tallaght and Clondalkin being supported by St Vincent de Paul (SVP) with back-to-school cost as unprecedented but hardly surprising.

Crowe said that traditionally at this time of year with children returning to school there is huge financial pressures on parents with clearly the buzz talk of a recovery not filtering into the mind-set of these families.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“There is an unprecedented demand on the St Vincent De Paul particularly at this time of the year as more and more parents struggle and are turning the charity to meet the growing
back-to-school costs.

“As children return to school this week, the  St Vincent De Paul isexpecting to pay out over a €100,000 to assist over 10,000 hard pressed parents with the cost of fees, books, uniforms and other ancillary costs in Tallaght and the Clondalkin area.

“Many of the families are new and reflect the growing amount of cash poor individuals and family units.

“The talk of recovery and a new beginning is nonsensical and seems like a million miles away. The recovery buzz words have not filtered into the mind-set of many of these families struggling to make ends meet.

“Demands on some parents locally have been exasperated in recent weeks, as many families were left waiting for the Government’s‘back-to-school’ grant – a payment which covers a fraction of a child’s back-to-school costs.

“The Back to School Allowance is available to a small cohort of families but many complain that aside from the delay it is not fit for purpose, with the gap between the allowance and the cost of sending a child to school growing every year.

“Currently the means tested grant is available for children between 4 years - 11years is 100 euro, between 12 years – 22 years, it is 200 euro, with the stipulation that the student between the age of 18 years and 22 years has to be attending fulltime College.

“With many families already crippled by austerity measures and increased charges, the biggest worry at this time of the year is sourcing expensive new uniforms and other additional equipment to send their children to school.

“Back to School Cost continue to rise with many families relying on charities like St Vincent De Paul for additional support. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the demands are increasing rather decreasing.”

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has said that reconciliation, healing and forgiveness are needed to free society from the pain of the past.

 Speaking at a Gasyard Féile event in Derry on a panel including PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, he acknowledged the loss suffered by all sections of the community and stressed there can be no hierarchy of victimhood or humanity.

 Declan Kearney said:

  "I acknowledge without exception the loss and pain of all sides. I regret none of it can be undone. I am sorry for the pain experienced by the RUC family during the war; the suffering caused to the unionist section of our community, (the human tragedy of the Shankill Bomb, being one instance of that); and, equally for the pain of the families of IRA volunteers killed here in Derry and elsewhere during the war; as well as many nationalist civilians who were killed and injured.

 “For many years I and the Sinn Féin leadership have called for an initiative of common acknowledgement by all sides for the pain caused, as a contribution to forgiveness and healing.

 “In that spirit, I welcome George Hamilton’s remarks at the West Belfast Féile on the benefit of a collective acknowledgement of the pain caused by our past. This would indeed be a powerful expression of shared commitment that it should not happen again.

 “Embracing that challenge will require courage, and opening our minds and hearts to the need for respect, generosity, forgiveness, and trust.

 “The hurt of war still needs healed long after war’s end. Expressing remorse and regret for death and injury could help deepen mutual respect and move us all closer to a healing process. That should not be confused or devalued with seeking the repudiation of political allegiance.

 "Painful and uncomfortable compromises will need to be considered. The mechanisms proposed by the Stormont House Agreement to deal with legacy issues are the compromise to deal with our past at this time. Each mechanism must be implemented. If supported by all sides its template provides a way forward. ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said today that the unionist parties should end their sham fight and get back to the work of dealing with the real issues.

 Gerry Kelly said:

 “The unionist parties are engaged in a sham fight which is all about the electoral rivalry between the two parties.

 “This is an attempt to punish a section of a community for the actions of a few criminals. Let me be clear the days of exclusion and discrimination are over and they aren’t coming back.

 “Sinn Féin will robustly defend our electoral mandate and we won’t allow a electoral contest within unionism to deflect us from representing the people from all over this island who elect us.

 “The emerging political crisis is a distraction from the real work which needs to be done in facing up to the Tory cuts which are damaging our frontline public services.

 “They should bear in mind any action to bring down the institutions will disenfranchise all of our people, The choices for the unionists are clear.

 “They can either continue to compete with each other in pulling down the institutions or they can return to the task of defending our public services, protecting the vulnerable and delivering on a deal on the legacy of the past.”  ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has described today’s Ulster Farmers Union conference on dairy farming at Greenmount Campus as an opportunity to co-ordinate the campaign to get dairy farmers a fair deal for their produce.

 Mr McMullan said,

 ‘We are only too aware of the crisis dairy farmers are facing and today’s conference was an opportunity to gather stock and look at ways of working our way through the present difficulties.

 “It is important that we work together as politicians, unions and farmers to get the best deal possible to return dairy farmers to profitability.

 “The attendance of the Minister today and her statement of intent regarding a meeting with EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has to be welcomed.

 “It is important that we approach the 1st of September meeting agreed that the EU intervention price needs to be changed to reflect the special needs of dairy farmers in the North.

 “The conference also outlined the various ways in which CAFRE is working in helping farmers through workshops and the Minister took time to outline details of the record Rural Development Fund secured this week.

 “As member of the DARD Committee I will continue to work with the UFU, farmers and the Department to secure the best outcomes for the agricultural industry here.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor for the Collin area, Stephen Magennis has called on the armed grouping calling itself the ONH to withdraw death threats against NIE workers in the Twinbrook area.

Speaking today Cllr Magennis said:

“The NIE are currently updating and installing new electricity meters in the Twinbrook area. This is to ensure that a fully up to date service is provided for customers as the old meters are out of warranty soon.

“However NIE workers were approached by two men claiming to be from the ONH and were told that if they continued to install these meters they would be shot and their van burnt.

“This is completely unacceptable. No workers should be under such threats. They are working to improve services for our communities and for some unknown reason a group, which has no support in the area, thinks they can issue death threats.

“Understandably the work has stopped due to these threats as employee safety is paramount. Those behind the threat need to withdraw them immediately and explain their rationale to this community.  While the threat remains local people will lose out.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson and TD for Dublin North West, Dessie Ellis, has called on the Minister for Environment to address the failure to provide funding for the Emerald Housing Project in Ballymun. He made his statement after it emerged that despite receiving planning permission, housing association Cluid have been refused CAS funding to provide seven units to house people with disabilities.

Deputy Ellis said;

"This is a very disappointing development that needs to be resolved as soon as possible and if that requires the intervention of the Minister for Environment, he must act swiftly.

“The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, has indicated that housing funding is available for people with disabilities. He has alluded to a prioritisation of such housing and now he needs to put his money where his mouth is. It is well and good to make statements and send out press releases, but if the funding doesn't flow to the bodies providing housing then it is meaningless.

“In the case of the Emerald Project in Gateway Crescents Sillogue, Ballymun, seven housing units secured planning permission but have been refused CAS funding from Minister Kelly’s department. Given this revelation, the Minister needs to be forthcoming in releasing funding from his department, or provide an explanation as to why funding was denied.

“The housing crisis has been most severely experienced by those who are marginalised and vulnerable and this particularly true of people living with a disability. The Emerald Project is an important but small step and if the government cannot see it through, then it speaks volumes for their ability to address the wider crisis.”

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Sinn Féin MLA said today that it was important that the public got answers about the sale of NAMA’s northern property portfolio.

 Daithí McKay was speaking after it was revealed the NCA contacted the Law Society today only minutes before its members were due to give evidence at a Stormont Committee.

 Daithí McKay said: 

 “The Finance Committee supports the investigation being carried out by the NCA into the sale of NAMA’s northern portfolio.

 “The Committee has agreed that it would not investigate any area of the sale currently under scrutiny by the NCA as part of its criminal investigation.

 “Members of the Law Society were invited to appear before the committee today but they revealed that they had been contacted by the NCA only minutes before the hearing and their ability to testify was further restricted.

 “The Committee was not made aware of this until the hearings opened and in my view that’s not the proper way to conduct business.

 “In my view the Law Society could have told us much more today without compromising the NCA investigation.

 “It is in the public interest that the Finance Committee is able to properly scrutinise the largest sell-off of property in the history of the state. The public deserve answers on the sale and there are some who would like to sweep this issue under the carpet.

 “We will continue to work with the NCA but we will be meeting them to ensure that it too does not undermine or interfere unnecessarily with the carrying out of this inquiry.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

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 Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has welcomed the decision by Education Minister John O’Dowd to increase the number of children enrolled in Scoil na Fuiseoige, Twinbrook.

 Jennifer McCann said,

 “The growth in the number of parents deciding to educate their children through the medium of the Irish language is growing year by year.

 “Scoil na Fuiseoige has provided a first-class education for children in the Twinbrook area to an extent that more parents are looking to enroll their children at the school.

 “The announcement today by Education Minister John O’Dowd that he has approved a development to increase the number of class rooms to at least seven will help facilitate that demand.

 “It will also allow the school to meet the criteria for the sustainable schools policy and I have no doubt that the school will continue to flourish in the months and years ahead.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Pearse Doherty TD, has encouraged everyone opposed to the water charges to come out in their masses on Saturday to the rally organised by Right2Water.  

Speaking at the Right2Water conference today, Deputy Doherty, who was critical of the government for trying to deflect from the issue, said:

“I am encouraging everyone to come out on Saturday to voice their opposition to the water charges. The government have failed and failed again. Irish Water has been a disaster from the outset. It is time that we galvanise all those who are fed up of the absolute black-hole waste of resources and ask the government en masse to scrap these unfair charges once and for all.

“The government are under huge pressure on this issue. With every unfolding week comes news of yet another terrible decision, yet more millions squandered – and for what? Capital expenditure on infrastructure is less now than it has been in previous governments. Fine Gael and Labour commitments on conservation, investing in infrastructure and fixing leaks are just more hot air.  

“The government have been doing everything in their power to deflect from the issues at hand. They know that the majority of people have not signed up to Irish Water, between those who can’t pay and those who won’t pay. How can they expect Irish citizens to support a body such as Irish Water, which from its very outset has been mired by scandal and mismanagement? Its failure of the Eurostat test is yet more evidence that the Irish Water model does not work, and will not work.

“If in government, Sinn Féin will abolish the water charges, retain water services in public ownership and establish a new model of governance with democratic control, accountability and transparency. Water is a key public asset and it is also a human right and our water services must be organised with the greatest efficiency for the benefit of all our citizens.

“A big turnout to Right2Water demonstration on Saturday will prove to the government that water is not to pardon the pun, ‘off the boil’.  I am urging everyone to come out and demand their right to water. These charges must be abolished for good.”

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Caithfidh Aire Stáit na Gaeltachta an cinneadh maidir leis an tseirbhís aeir go hÁrainn a bronnadh ar Executive Helicopters a mhíniú, a deir an  Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

Ag labhairt dó tar éis don Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta & Gaeltachta a fhógairt gur chaill Aer Árainn an chonradh seirbhíse poiblí chuig trí Oileán Árainn, deir urlabhraí Gaeilge & Gaeltachta Shinn Féin  go bhfuil impleachtaí tromchúiseacha ag an gcinneadh.

Deir sé:

‘Tá muintir Árainn thar a bheith imníoch faoin gcinneadh seo. Tá go leor ceisteanna acu maidir leis an bpróiseas a bhain leis na tairiscintí agus an mheastóireacht a rinneadh ar na h-iarratais agus caithfidh an tAire Joe McHugh soiléiriú a thabhairt ar sin.

‘Ba chóir go gcuirfí eolas ar fáil láithreach maidir leis na h-iarratais a cuireadh isteach, an córas marcála a bhí i bhfeidhm agus na torthaí a thángthas air. Tá sé deacair a thuiscint cén bhuntáiste breise atá ann do lucht úsáidte na seirbhíse as an tsocrú nua seo, ná cén tairbhe atá ann don cháiníocóra agus ba mhaith liom míniú ón Aire ina leith sin chomh maith.

‘Tuigtear dom gur meastóireacht ar pháipéar amháin a rinneadh ar na h-iarratais. Bheadh sé dochreidte má rinneadh cinneadh chomh cinniúnach leis seo do thodhchaí Oileáin Árainn agus nach ndeachas chun cainte leis na daoine a bhaineann úsáid as an tseirbhís agus na h-iarratais éagsúla dhá mheas.

‘Ba chóir go n-inseofaí cé a bhí ar an bpainéal meastóireachta agus cén taithí a bhí acu maidir le aerseirbhís chuig oileáin a rith. Ar sheas aon duine acu in Árainn le linn an phróiseas no cén mheáchan ar tugadh do na h-aighneachtaí éagsúla a cuireadh chun cinn agus na h-iarratais dhá mheas?

‘Ní mhór a mhíniú chomh maith céard atá i ndán do na h-aerfoirt sna Minna agus ar na h-oileáin agus cé as a bhfuil sé i gceist ag Executive Helicopters an tseirbhís atá molta acu a reáchtáil. Más Aerfort na Gaillimhe é caithfear a chruthú gur féidir a leithéid a dhéanamh ós rud é go bhfuil an t-aerfort sin dúnta don phobal agus próiseas ar siúl le h-úsáid eile ar fad don suíomh a mheas.

‘Tá dhá scór post i mbaol anseo agus seirbhís 45 bliain d’ardchaighdeán tugtha ag Aer Árainn do phobal na n-oileáin. Ní féidir sin ar fad a chaitheamh sna fataí lofa ag an bpointe seo muna bhfuil muid iomlán cinnte go mbeidh seirbhís níos fearr agus níos tairbhí le theacht ina áit agus níl sé soiléir ar chor ar bith gur amhlaidh atá.’

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Diaspora, Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has responded to figures published by the CSO today that show emigration levels of 80,900 in the 12 months to April 2015.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:

“The government can’t gloss over the facts – our emigration figures remain far too high. With 80,900 people emigrating up to April of this year, including 35,300 Irish citizens, it indicates that stories of our economic recovery have been exaggerated.

“It was also interesting to note that only 12,100 Irish people returned this year. I recall Minister Noonan claiming during his much hyped ‘Spring Statement’ of last year that our young emigrants are coming back, but there are almost three times more Irish people leaving the country than are returning.

“These CSO figures indicate that in the course of the Fine Gael/Labour government, the number of people between 20-34 years of age in the Mid-West region has fallen by 13,700. Where is the recovery here for thousands of young people forced to leave because of lack of opportunities, with their families and communities left bereft?

“Key barriers for the return of our emigrants include precarious working conditions, lack of career opportunities and progression as well as a lack of affordable housing. These are vitally important factors that are continually either ignored or inadequately dealt with by the government.

“Fine Gael and Labour may gloss over the figures, but they speak for themselves. If a true recovery was felt on the ground, surely Ireland would be a more attractive place to live for our many thousands of emigrants. Whatever economic recovery we may have had has only impacted on the pockets of the few.”

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Cllr Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has described as “alarming”, reports that efforts to develop a new Educate Together Secondary school on the Southside, is being hampered by a lack of a location.

It was reported today (26th) that efforts on the part of Educate Together, and the Local Parents Group, to plan for a new ET Secondary School in Cork, has been seriously delayed because the Department has yet to identify a location.

Councillor Ó Laoghaire said:

“Educate Together had intended to open in September 2016, and to begin enrolment next September. However, today we hear that this is being held back considerably, because the Department has failed to identify a site, even a temporary site.

“Educate Together has grown in recent years on the Southside, with schools in Carrigaline, Rochestown as well as Grattan St in the City Centre, and much of this was due to committed support from parents as well as teachers and communities in its earlier years of development. However, there is currently no second level outlet of this ethos for children who have been through ET Education.

“It has been announced that such a secondary school was to be located somewhere in the Southern Suburbs, and to open in September 2016. This is of course, also comes in the context of a growing population and pressure for secondary school places on the southside of Cork generally.

“It is reported in today's Irish Times, that it will now have to defer advertising for school principals, and Educate Together have stated it fears having to offer places in October to prospective 2016 pupils in schools “which are, at the moment, pie-in-the-sky."

“According to Niall Wall, Educate Together school manager for the Stepaside, Cork and north Wicklow schools, “It doesn’t engender confidence for parents in the system. Parents need certainty when it comes to the children’s education.

“This is an unfair situation for those involved in planning the school, and for parents interested in having their children educated at this school. The Department needs to give Educate Together certainty as soon as is possible, and I urge the Minister to ensure that this essential school is not impeded in sticking to its timeline. The southside needs school places. The bureaucracy and delays need to be overcome.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly today said the decision by the UUP to pull out of the Executive reeks of opportunism and rank hypocrisy.

Gerry Kelly said:

“There has been speculation for quite some time that the UUP would pull out of the Executive and go into opposition.

“The fact they have done this on the cusp of an election shows their actions are being driven by inter-unionist rivalry and electoral self-interest.

“It has nothing to do with what is good for society or the stability of the political institutions and their ability to deliver for all our people.

“This action reeks of opportunism and rank hypocrisy. 

“This is the same party and same leader which walked out of talks last year to stand shoulder to shoulder with the representatives of loyalist paramilitary groups which are actively involved in drug dealing, extortion and murder. 

“Instead of the amateur dramatics so loved by its leader the UUP would be better working with all the parties on the real issues of ending Tory austerity and cuts and protecting the most vulnerable in society.”

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