Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Nuacht

An Chéad Dáil

Here is the much celebrated video shown at Sinn Féin's An Chéad Dáil event in the Mansion House Round Room on January 12, 2019. Sinn Féin former Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha wrote and presents this historic and inspiring reflection of the events of 100 years ago.


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Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton has expressed concern after a Catholic man, Martin McNally was left seriously injured after he was viciously assaulted on the Serpentine Road last night. It is the second incident in recent days after the attempted abduction of another Catholic man on Wednesday night in the lower Antrim Road/Carlisle Circus area.

Ms Stanton said:

"This vicious attack has left a man so seriously injured that he is unable to speak. They have had to delay a brain scan until Monday because the swelling is so serious.

"This is the second incident in recent days." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris TD, has reiterated Sinn Féin's demand that the five men being held in prison on foot of their protest against the Corrib gas pipeline be immediately released. Deputy Ferris was speaking following this morning's court appearance during three of the men had proceedings relating to the blocking of a road lifted. However, the five remain in prison.

Deputy Ferris said: "The unprecedented wave of support for the five Rossport men has clearly had its effect. The Government must respond to this by immediately releasing the men, and lifting the injunctions against others involved. They must also act on the concerns of the Rossport protestors and many others for a complete review of all aspects of the Corrib development." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough, Cllr Francie Molloy MLA has condemned the racist attack on said that he wants to meet with the victims of a petrol bomb attack in the town and with representatives of the ethnic community to discuss the ongoing racist attacks.

The Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Mayor said:

"The Ethnic community in Dungannon play an important role both in the local economy and the life of the community. It is vital that we do more to challenge racism, and the increasing number of attacks on people from within the ethnic community no matter where they emanate from.

"No one in Ireland should be treated as second class citizens because we are all first class citizens. This means that when it comes to the warmth of our welcome or to the rights of workers, or importantly the right to live free from fear, intimidation or harassment that everyone, no matter what their origin, should be treated equally.

"The Ethnic community bring with them a rich diversity. It is vital that Dungannon Council develop a dialogue with all of the different ethnic communities now living in the town so that we can ensure that attacks such as these become a thing of the past." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson commenting on the publication of the report into University of Ulster vice chancellor Professor Gerry McKenna has said that the entire episode highlights the need for genuine openness, transparency and accountability in the operation of all third level institutions.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Staff and students not just at the Ulster University but at all third level institutions deserve genuine openness and transparency in the operation of all third level institutions.

"This entire episode from the issues identified in this report through to the legal gagging orders only highlight the accountability deficit that exists with our universities.

"Universities play a vital role both as educational centres for our young people and in research that can benefit our economy and our society. They need to move out of the dark ages and adopt good practice models that befit the 21st century." ENDS

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Sinn Féin economy spokesperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has called for the immediate release of five men arrested because they were trying to halt the laying of a potentially dangerous gas line through their lands. The five men were sent to prison yesterday after they refused to give assurances that they would not obstruct work on their lands.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The Corrib gas field is a natural resource that could and should be developed for the benefit of everyone on this island. It must be developed in a way that is both safe and environmentally sustainable.

"These five men have legitimate concerns regarding the threat to safety that this pipeline may pose. They should be released without delay and there should be a complete halt to all work at the site until an independent safety assessment has been carried out and published.

"This group of men are part of a wider campaign in North West Mayo that successfully fought off three of the world‚s biggest oil and gas companies, who occupied Minister of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources 'headquarters in Dublin on Monday' to secure a meeting between themselves and the Minister.

"They have courageously tried to bring attention to the situation that has seen one of our key natural assets, that should be playing a key role in the development of the merging all-Ireland energy market, taken into private ownership and exploited.

"Both Fianna Fail and the PD‚s need to answer serious questions about why they allowed the national resource of Gas at Corrib to be given away with no apparent gain to the Irish nation, with severe environmental hazards to local people. The handling of this issue is a matter of concern for everyone in Ireland because the loss of such a key resource will effect people right across the island." ENDS

Note to Editors

Local landowners have successfully fought, over the past five years, a battle to stop the Shell led consortium experiment with a new, untried and they believe highly dangerous method, which puts their lives at risk and promises to destroy their environment, to process the raw Corrib Gas onshore - not as is the established custom, to process at sea, and only draw in the cleaned and processed gas at reasonably low pressures.

The technology that Shell wants to test for use will reduce its capital costs by €360 million, and its operating costs by 40% per annum. It would require a rigid and fixed gas pipeline through bog land, which is estimated to be between 70 and 90% water, where the raw gas is under huge pressures of 2 ton per square metre - around 400 times the normal pressure in the national grid gas pipeline.

The sale of the Corrib gas field was initiated by former Irish government Minster Ray Burke and finalised in 1992, giving away the national rights to this huge gas reserve, (estimated between 3 and 7 trillion cubic feet of gas), at a minimum taxation rate of 25%, which could be written off against costs, zero royalties, and an agreement that Bord Gais would finance the pipeline of the gas from Ballinaboy to the grid and interconnector.

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will be the guest speaker at the official opening of Naíscoil Naomh Éanna at Saint Enda's GAC, Glengormley. The opening will also serve as a graduation ceremony. Ms de Brún said that the school 'reflected the vibrancy in the language and its important place within the community'.

A number of the older children transferring to Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain will be presented with leaving diplomas and the younger children will be presented with certificates of achievements for completing year one of naíscoil.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"I am pleased to have been asked to participate in both the opening and graduation ceremonies at Naíscoil Naomh Eanna. The significance of this school to the local community in the Glengormley area cannot be underestimated. The school has been in existence for a year and has provided opportunities to foster cultural activities in a growing and largely new community in the area.

"I want to pay tribute to all of those who have made the school a success, from the teachers and staff to the pupils and their parents. Irish classes are provided for parents and other interested people living in the community. At a time of revival and great interest in the Irish language, and in light of official European recognition of Irish, all of those connected with Naíscoil Naomh Éanna can feel rightly proud.

"There are now over 40 naíscoil across the North. Parents are choosing Irish medium education for their children not only because of their love of the language but also because of the high standard of education in the Irish medium schools.

"I want to wish Naíscoil Naomh Eanna all the very best for the coming years and hope that the school will flourish. All of those attached to the naíscoil can feel very proud that it is contributing to the growing popularity in Irish medium education in Belfast and its surrounding areas." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has dismissed today's announcement from direct rule Regional Development Minister Shaun Woodward on government policy to address affordability as 'too little too late' and called for a radical agenda to address housing need.

Cllr McCann said:

"Sinn Féin have been leading the demand for a radical shake up of housing policy. We need a radical shake up of the points system for the Housing Executive and fundamentally we need to do something about the failure of Housing Associations to meet the level of demand for social housing. We believe that need to allow a revamped and more representative and accountable Housing Executive to take the lead responsibility in substantial new build programme.

"Today's announcement from Shaun Woodward is very disappointing. His refusal to accept full responsibility for dealing with the provision of affordable housing is a disgrace. If central government does not lead from the front in meeting the need for housing then the reality is that the fundamental right to housing will not be met.

"Placing absolute faith in co-ownership is a mistake. We need a radical agenda for meeting housing need that will only be realised if there is a commitment to provide social housing.

"Sinn Fein have voiced serious concern at the impact of the Housing Growth Indicators in both urban and rural areas in limiting the development of sustainable communities. A read across of the implications of the indicators demonstrates that it is largely within nationalist areas that there will be a very significant shortfall of housing. The decision to increase the indicators is a step in the right direction but it will only pay dividends if it is matched with a radical agenda for the provision of social housing.

"This announcement is too little too late. I believe that we need to call together a roundtable forum on housing including all of the community, voluntary, statutory and political stakeholders to develop a vision for meeting housing need that is based on the fundamental rights of people to appropriate and affordable housing." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that 'the European Union is running scared of the electorate'. Today's session of the Forum on Europe was addressed by the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"At today's session on the Forum on Europe I challenged the President the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso on his assertion that the EU is listening to people in light of the referendum result in France and the Netherlands.

"It is a contradiction to say that you are both listening to people on the one hand, and on the other hand say that the EU Constitution in its current form is the best deal on the table and the EU is going to continue with business as usual.

The reality is that the European elites are running scared of the electorate; this is why they have put the EU Constitution process into deep freeze.

"It is clear that the European Commission and Council have a very different vision for the future of the EU to that of citizens of many member states and they are now trying to find a way to push their proposals through.

"When the voters in a member state speak, they need to be listened to. It is time for reflection - it is time for the European Commission and Council to reflect on the concerns being expressed and do something about them. However, given that they are so far removed from the voter and we have currently have no means to hold either the Commission or the Council to account for their actions this is unlikely to happen.

"Sinn Féin has long held the view that a new vision is required. We want to help create an alternative Europe which promotes equality, social protections and global justice. The current Europe is taking us down a different path, to one which promotes increased militarism, the shifting of power further from national institutions and economic growth at the expense of environmental and social progress." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has accused Loyalists of attempting to raise tensions in South Belfast after flags were put up in the mixed Finaghy Crossroads area and a gang of 20-25 men with pickaxe handles gathered in the Ormeau Bridge area and attempted to enter the Lower Ormeau Road area. Mr Maskey called on Unionist and community leaders to intervene to try and reduce tensions in the area.

Mr Maskey said:

"Many of theses areas throughout South Belfast are now shared spaces. Loyalist erecting flags in the area are clearly trying increase tensions.

"I am also concerned about the dangerous potential of a gang of 20-25 men gathered on the Ormeau Bridge armed with pickaxe handles who appear intent on coming into the nationalist Lower Ormeau Road area.

"This evening there are many people in the in South Belfast who are very concerned and I would urge nationalists to be extremely vigilant.

"Unionist and community leaders need to show leadership and intervene to try and reduce tensions throughout South Belfast." ENDS

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Sinn  Féin spokesperson on Social, Community and Family Affairs, Seán Crowe
TD  has  described  as  “incredible”  and  “unacceptable”  that  almost one
thousand people are waiting longer than three months for a determination on
their  eligibility for disability allowances.  The Dublin South West TD was
reacting to an answer given to him in the Dáil this evening by the Minister
for Social and Family Affairs, Seamus Brennan.

Deputy  Crowe had asked the Minister the reason for the delay in applicants
receiving  disability  allowances and arrears from his Department.  He also
asked  the  Minister  if  it was staffing issues within the Department that
were  the  problem and what measures the Minister would take to shorten the
lengthy times it is taking for determinations to be made.

Deputy  Crowe  said:  “This is a very serious matter.  We are talking about
vulnerable  people  in bad health.  While I asked this question in relation
to  one  particular individual, who has been waiting more that three months
for  a  determination  on eligibility for a disability allowance, I find it
incredible  that  the  Minister has admitted that almost one thousand other
people are in a similar situation.  This is completely unacceptable.

“Three  months  is  a  very  long  time to be awaiting on vital allowances.
People  should  not  be  forced  into  the position of borrowing money from
friends and families and it must be accepted by the Minister that very many
people,  for  whatever reason, be it pride or whatever, are not comfortable
approaching Community Welfare Officers for emergency payments.

“These  are some the most vulnerable people in society, they are ill and in
need of this money.

“If  as it appears from the Ministers response to my question that staffing
issues  are a significant part of the problem then it needs to be addressed
with the utmost urgency.” ENDS




FULL  TEXT  OF  EXCHANGE  BETWEEN SEÁN CROWE TD AND MINISTER SEAMUS BRENNAN

FOLLOWS




Mr.  Crowe  asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for
the  delay  in applicants receiving disability arrears from his Department;
if  it  is  due  to  a  shortage  of  staff  in  processing claims; if many
financially  vulnerable  clients  have to wait up to three months for their
entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23813/05]

Mr.  Brennan:  My Department is committed to providing a quality service to
all  its  customers.  Every effort is made to ensure that customers receive
all their entitlements as soon as possible following application.
  Entitlement  to  disability  allowance  is  contingent  on  the applicant
satisfying  both  medical  and  means  conditions.   To satisfy the medical
condition  customers  submit  a  medical  certificate  from  their  general
practitioner.   A  medical  assessor  of my Department examines the medical
evidence  submitted  and,  if  necessary,  asks  the person to attend for a
medical  examination, to establish if the medical conditions for the scheme
are  met.  The weekly rate of disability allowance depends on the amount of
weekly  means  the  person has.  Means are assessed on the basis of income,
which the person or the person's spouse may reasonably expect to receive in
the  year  following  the  date  of the claim.  An officer of my Department
gathers  all  the  necessary evidence, including documentation, in order to
make  an  assessment  of a person's means.  In certain circumstances a home
visit may be necessary before the assessment can be completed.
  Inevitably,  a  period  of  weeks elapses, while these investigations are
taking  place.   This  results in arrears accruing to the person.  However,
once a decision is made on the person's entitlement, the weekly rate is put
into  payment,  to ensure that the person receives ongoing payments as soon
as  they are due.  Arrears accruing for the period from date of entitlement
to  date  of  first  payment  are  then  computed  and issued as soon as is
practicable.   Many  claimants  are  in  receipt  of  supplementary welfare
allowance or other primary social welfare payments during this period.  The
amount  of  such overlapping payments must be established and deducted when
computing  the  net  arrears due.  Having regard to the time it necessarily
takes  to  decide  on  applications  for  disability allowance in the first
instance and to subsequently calculate and issue the appropriate amounts of
arrears  due,  it  is  inevitable that a number of weeks will elapse before
these matters are finalised in any individual case.
  One of my Department's priorities is to minimise the time lags, which are
involved  in processing new claims and any associated arrears due.  Targets
are set for claim processing, including calculation and payment of arrears,
but  pressures can arise at certain times due to claim volumes, as a result
of  which,  these targets are sometimes not met.  My Department makes every
effort   to  ensure,  however,  that  payments  are  made  as  quickly  and
expeditiously as possible.
  Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
  There  has  been  a  significant  increase  in  the  number of disability
allowance  applications  that  have  been  received by my Department in the
first  six  months  of  2005.   A  total  of  10,500 applications have been
received,  compared  with  8,700  in the first six months of 2004.  In this
context,  priority  has,  in  the  first instance, been given to processing
entitlements to the allowance.  Consequently some delays have been recently
experienced  in  the  processing of arrears of disability allowance.  Staff
resources,  which  have  become  available  as  a  result of the successful
completion  of  another project in the disability allowance area, are being
dedicated  to  the  processing  of  arrears  to  reduce the number of cases
awaiting  decision.  The situation is being and will continue to be closely
monitored to ensure that service improvements are effected.

Mr.  Crowe:  I will be interested in seeing the additional information.  We
are talking about vulnerable people in bad health.  The Minister has spoken
of delays in terms of weeks.

I  have  heard  of one particular case where a person was waiting for up to
three  months.   I  have been told there is a problem within the Department
and that people were on long-term sick leave.  How long are people actually
waiting?   What  is  the  longest waiting period?  Is the embargo on public
servants  the  cause of the problem?  There may not be enough people in the
Department processing the forms.


"How  many  staff  are  working  in this area?  Is it a matter of training
people  if  others are out for the long term?  Have people been waiting for
six  months?   The  Minister  mentioned  that  some can go to the community
welfare officer.  Many people will not go to the community welfare officer,
due  to  pride  or  whatever.   I  know of one case which was successful in
obtaining arrears with the help of the Department.  However, there are many
people  who  do not want to go down that road and they borrow from families
and  others.  In light of the difficulties that seem to be emerging in this
section,  will  the  Minister carry out some kind of organisational review?
These  are  some the most vulnerable people in society, they are ill and in
need of this money.

Mr.  Brennan:  In  the  first  six months of 2005, 10,500 applications were
received.  That compares with a total of 8,700 in the same period last year
so  that  is  quite an increase.  Currently, there are 3,422 cases awaiting
calculation  of  arrears  and  2,800  of these are for people who have been
awarded  the allowance.  A total of 572 cases are for persons who have been
given revised rates of payment.  Out of the 3,422 cases in arrears, 925 are
awaiting  determination  for  longer  than  three  months.   I am examining
resources as a result of this information."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this evening attended the Make Poverty History rally in Dublin.  Calling on the Irish government to honour their commitment to increase aid spending to 0.7% of GNP, Mr. Adams said 'Strong words on eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality and combating HIV and Aids will mean nothing if they are not matched with action.'

 

He was accompanied by Martin McGuinness MP and TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Martin Ferris, Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Sean Crowe.

 

Mr. Adams said:

 

"This evening thousands of people gathered in Dublin, adding our voices to the millions across the world, demanding the eradication of global poverty.  We need to ensure that this campaign continues and that more and more pressure is put on all those governments who signed up to the Millennium Declaration to make them honour their commitments.

 

"In September 2000 the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration. One of the targets in this declaration is to halve the proportion of people living on $1(EUR0.75 approx) a day by 2015. Unless countries, such as Ireland, meet the very modest target of 0.7% of GDP this target cannot be reached.

"However, a number of member states have not met their commitments, whilst others have begun a process of decreasing aid levels. Strong words on eradicating poverty, reducting child mortality and combating HIV and Aids will mean nothing if they are not matched with action.

"We need to see the Millennium Goals set out five years ago implemented. We need to see the complete cancellation of developing world debt. We need to see the provision of more aid, better targeted and sustained. We need fair trade not unrestricted free trade that favours the richest countries and punishes the poorest.

"If money used to pay off foreign debt was diverted back into health and education, and the other goals set by the Millennium Summit were implemented, the lives of seven million children could be saved each year. That is the lives of 1000 children every hour, of every day, of every week could be saved. "ENDS

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Sinn  Féin  spokesperson  on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Arthur  Morgan  T.D.   has  said the  failure of BNFL personnel to report a
significant leak at the Sellafield plant was symptomatic of the “culture of
cover-up,  hiding,  deceit  and lying that has been endemic within BNFL for
many years ”.

Deputy Morgan said

“The fact that personnel at BNFL did not report a huge leak of thousands of
litres  of  highly  radioactive  liquid,  as  required  by both British and
International regulation, is not surprising.

“A  culture  of  cover-up, hiding, deceit and lying has been endemic within
BNFL  for many years now. On each occasion that they have been caught-out (
and there have been many) BNFL usually tell us it will not happen again. On
this  occasion, the leak continued for approximately nine months. BNFL knew
there  was  something wrong, but said nothing, attributing the problem to a
calculation error.

“What  is  most  worrying  about  this  latest fiasco, is that this problem
occurred  in  new  equipment, which was designed by the top nuclear experts
available. And it completely failed.  The new system of reporting incidents
to  the  RPII is simply not working, nor can it work while BNFL continue to
ignore all the rules. This situation is unacceptable.

“The  Minister  for  Environment,  Heritage and Local Government Dick Roche
should  immediately convene a roundtable conference of all those opposed to
Sellafield,  including  representatives of the Nordic Countries, to plan an
effective  campaign in opposition to this death plant.  Minister Roche must
also   raise   this   particularly   worrying  incident  with  the  British
Government”.  ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Mitchel Mclaughlin has this morning led a party delegation to meet with the Parades Commission to discuss a number of contentious parades across the Six Counties.

Mr McLaughlin was joined by party colleagues Gerry Kelly MLA, Francie Brolly MLA, Councillor Tom Hartley, Dara O'Hagan and Sue Ramsey.

Speaking today Mr McLaughlin said:

"Today's meeting was at our request and dealt with a number of contentious parades across the six counties. I raised with the Commission the example provided by the process of dialogue which was put in place in Derry and has led to the successful agreement on the conduct of the 12th parade in that city.

"Orange parades pushed through Catholic areas are anti-Catholic and inherently offensive. If the Orange Order is insisting that they want to march in areas were they are clearly not welcome then they must listen to and deal with the concerns being expressed by the host community. The Orange Order must as a whole move away from the confrontational approach which they have adopted in areas outside Derry and enter into a process of dialogue with local nationalist communities.

"We made it clear to the Parades Commission today that the situation of republicans policing and dealing with the aftermath of bad decisions on parades is no longer tenable. This point has become particularly stark with the recent arrest of Sean Kelly.

"Sinn Féin will obviously do all in our power to see a peaceful marching season. But the parading issue can only be resolved through meaningful and genuine dialogue between the Orange Order and the communities through which they seek to march." ENDS

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Speaking during today's Dáil debate on the failure of the Minister for Health to introduce Risk Equalisation to the health care market Sinn Féin Deputy Arthur Morgan said: "The decision by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children to reject the Health Insurance Agency's recommendation in relation to the introduction of risk equalisation is based on the Tánaiste's ideological outlook.

"Risk equalisation is necessary to reflect the older age profile of VHI's membership.

"The Health Insurance Agency, recommended the introduction of risk equalisation in light of the damage being done to the VHI under the current regime. They concluded that consumers will be better served by lower premiums that would flow from risk equalisation. Given that the Health Insurance Authority is already in place to advise the Minister on these issues why did she consider it necessary to go and hire private consultants on this issue? Was it simply because she knew they would give her the results she wanted?

"The Tánaiste‚s decision is based on her desire to undermine the VHI. I would be interested to know the extent of the representations made to the Tánaiste by BUPA and VIVAS in relation to this matter.

"This is a clear case of the PD rampage against state companies. Her actions are likely to lead to an increase in premiums as VHI faces the continued loss of younger members to BUPA. The failure to introduce risk equalisation has the potential to irreparably damage the VHI as it enters a spiral of rising premiums and rising claims.

"In the absence of risk equalisation certain insures can concentrate in targeting lower risk individuals.

"It has been pointed out that the Health Insurance Agency took the commercial status of the VHI into account when arriving at its recommendation that, on balance, risk equalisation should be implemented. This undermines the claims made by the Tánaiste to justify her failure to introduce risk equalisation. Her decision is a scandalous and is totally unjustifiable.

"The boom in the numbers of people taking up health insurance is indicative of the failure of the Government to reform the health service in this state to ensuring equal and proper access for all.

"The people of this state are already paying over the odds for health care. We pay for it through our PRSI and through the additional health levy. On top of this, we pay out of pocket for every visit to our GP. And 50% of us are paying for private insurance as well. The Tánaiste said earlier that she welcomes this statistic. Well, she should - it is her Government's policies, and in particular the long waiting lists those policies have created, that have driven people into the arms of the insurers. The decision not to implement risk equalisation will only result in a further increase in the cost of health care.

"Fundamentally Sinn Féin believes that healthcare is incompatible with the Market. We believe in Free health care at the point of delivery based on need not ability to pay. We believe it is the responsibility of the Govt to provide health services through the general taxation system.

"Health care should never be a commodity to be bought and sold - it should be a right." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA commenting on the publication of the Economic Bulletin today has said that economic growth figures cannot disguise structural weakness in the economy with a high dependency on low wage part time employment, low levels of wealth creation and particular problems West of the Bann.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"It is time that we got real about what is happening with the economy in the Six Counties. There is a high dependency on low wage part time employment, low levels of wealth creation and particular problems West of the Bann.

"Half a million people are economically inactive and 220,000 of those are either suffering from long term illness or on incapacity benefit.

"The bottom line is that 54% of all jobs growth in the last 5 years is part time and that this is predominantly within the low paid service sector.

"The reality is that 38% of children live in low-income households and nearly 10% do not have enough clothing or food. These top line figures are based on low pay, a widening gap between the rich and poor, and the areas that are most affected are those that suffered disproportionately as a result the conflict and the negative impact of border.

"The report also highlights the low proportion of entrepreneurs here, particularly in comparison with the rest of Ireland. Yet at the same time this part of the Invest NI budget has been savagely cut by 21%." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for North Antrim Philip McGuigan has called on Unionist politicians to show leadership and urge respect for the Nationalist community of Ahoghill, Co.Antrim.

His comments come after another surge of sectarian attacks on Catholic owned property and homes. Both the local school and the Chapel were paint bombed and anti Catholic slogans written on the properties over recent days. There was also glass scattered around the grounds of the Catholic Church.

Mr McGuigan said:

"This week we have seen a concerted attack on both the local Catholic church and primary school as well as the continued attacks on catholic families living in the village.

"These attacks are motivated by sectarianism and seem to be an attempt to remove any semblance of Non Unionist culture in Ahoghill.

"This cannot be allowed to continue. Unionist elected representatives need to publicly tackle this issue and try to defuse tensions particularly in the run up to the 12th.

"A number of Nationalists have expressed their concern about the onslaught and the rise in levels of abuse directed towards them over the past couple of weeks.

"We need to be confident that abuse of Nationalists isn't part of what Unionists call their 'culture'. We need them to prove this to the people of Ahoghill and other isolated areas in North Antrim." ENDS

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for a very tough job. That is the best way to deal with hospital infections. These measures cost money but savings can be made from the fact patients are not being kept in hospital for protracted periods due to infection or dying unnecessarily in our hospitals.

"Our health service infrastructure urgently needs a massive injection of funds if we are ever going to begin to win the war against infections such as MRSA." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Policing Spokesperson and MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has today responded to a survey which claims that public confidence in policing is very high in the Six Counties. Mr Kelly said that the survey was 'inherently biased and did not reflect the real-life realities of policing in nationalist areas'.

Speaking today Mr Kelly said:

"The results of this survey will come as a surprise to many people in the community whose experience of the PSNI is not reflected in the results of the survey. I note that the survey was commissioned by the Policing Board itself and many people will be dubious about this.

"On May 5th the nationalist electorate overwhelmingly endorsed the Sinn Féin position on policing. That is why, we have come some distance and Sinn Féin's role in this has been central. But we have still some way to go to reach the threshold which makes the achievement of an acceptable, representative civic policing service which is free from partisan political control possible.

"Plastic bullets, bugged homes and the beating of nationalist women and children to force sectarian marches through nationalist areas is no part of that. The promised new beginning to policing has yet to materialise and indeed nationalists are correct to be sceptical, just a few weeks after the PSNI purchased a new re-branded batch of plastic bullets." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today led a party delegation to meet with Direct Rule Minister Jeff Rooker to push for a PEACE III programme.

Today's meeting was part of a series of on-going initiatives to push for a PEACE III programme. Ms de Brún was joined at today‚s meeting by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD and Michael Ferguson MLA. The current PEACE II extension will end next year.

Speaking after the meeting Ms de Brún said:

"Today's meeting with Jeff Rooker was a constructive engagement around PEACE funding and we impressed upon him the need for continued support to cover the period 2007 -2013. While we still have concerns about how strongly the British government will pursue the case for a PEACE III, we were encouraged that Jeff Rooker understands the need for continued peace funding and a bottom-up approach to its design and delivery.

"In particular we were encouraged that Jeff Rooker understands that laying the grounds for a successful programme means you don‚t leave the planning to the last minute.

"We outlined the need for community based organizations to be fully involved in the design and implementation of the funding programmes. I explained the need for future funds to be directed to the twin goals of reconciliation and social inclusion, in order to combat the legacy of the conflict particularly for those most marginalized in recent decades. It is particularly important that future funds are distributed on the basis of need.

"We impressed upon Mr Rooker the importance of the PEACE I and PEACE II programmes towards the process of conflict resolution and community development. Both the British and Irish Governments must commit themselves to helping secure additional funding for the period 2007 - 2013.

"I recently visited a number of community groups who have benefited from this funding. I was able to see at first hand the benefits that have arisen from EU support for peace and reconciliation. Sinn Féin is keen to see that practical support for the peace process continued and built upon in the coming years.

"Issues affecting the southern border counties were raised at the meeting with Jeff Rooker by Caoimhgin Ó Caoláin TD. He dealt in particular with the issue of rural and cross border reconciliation. He stressed the importance of a PEACE III for building on newly developing opportunities." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that the Farm Inspections in respect of the 2005 Single Farm Payment due to begin in July must be flexible in their approach and should allow some time for farmers to put any problems or defects in order.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Unless these farm inspections are flexible both in the timing of their visits and in allowing time for farmers to deal with any problems they will fast become a policing arrangement as opposed to a facilitating and partnership arrangement.

"Inspectors need to be available to visit farms outside of daytime working hours in order to assist farmers who are either diversifying or involved in off-farm employment and therefore unable to facilitate inspections during 'normal' office hours. The reality is that given the low incomes and increasing dependence of farmers on off-farm income that a lack of flexibility creates greater problems for farmers, particularly farm families with smaller farms. Those whose are dependent on off-farm income must not have this affected unduly.

"Farmers have been inundated with paper work in the first half of this year while the Single Farm Payment was still being clarified. Given every farmer has been or is currently in the middle of harvesting this is another reason for flexibility." ENDS

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