Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has welcomed this evenings statement from DUP MPs Nigel Dodds and Peter Robinson on the need to work to achieve a peaceful summer. The Sinn Féin leader said:
"I welcome the DUP support for efforts to ensure a peaceful summer and agree that everyone in positions of influence should do all in their powers to bring this about. It is important that this sentiment is acted upon at all levels of our community and I would urge community leaders and activists, particularly at interface areas, to engage with their counter-parts across the political divide.
" A peaceful summer would bring enormous relief for families and communities who have had to suffer the effects of interface conflict in the past. A peaceful summer would also make a significant contribution to rebuilding confidence inthe political process.
" Two of our MLAs, Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey, are currently engaged in intensive contacts with civic society, the community and voluntary sector, and political opinion across all sections of society with the objective of ensuring a peaceful summer. Today's statement is a positive and welcome development." ENDS
Spokesperson for Rural Affairs, Martin Ferris TD, while commending Minister Eamon Ó Cuiv for his commitment to rural communities, pointed at the failure of the Government to fulfil its commitments in the White Paper on Rural Development, saying that Ó Cuiv's "good intentions" were "being nullified by the overall thrust of Government policies."
Speaking at the final stage of Sinn Féin's Private Members' motion on Rural Development, Deputy Ferris said:
"The Minister is correct in saying that trying to halt the decline in rural communities is one which no other European, or indeed any other modern developed state, has succeeded in cracking but that he is prepared to attempt this in an Irish context. That is certainly a laudable aim and he has attempted to do so by establishing a number of initiatives as the Minister in a separate Department. I believe that Minister Ó Cuiv is passionately devoted to the future of rural communities. What concerns me, however, is that his good intentions and the excellent work being carried out under his Department are being nullified by the overall thrust of Government policies.
"It is my belief that the socially progressive objectives of the Minister and many others within his own party are having to take second place to the dominant ideology within the Government which is driven by what one might describe as a right-wing fiscal agenda. It is no coincidence that this is taking place at a time when the single most right-wing party in this state - the Progressive Democrats - is part of the Governing coalition. There are without doubt fundamental differences between the world view of many within Fianna Fáil and the PDs. I cannot imagine that Minister Ó Cuiv shares his colleague's views or the PD's extreme attitude towards the role of the state. Individual initiative is crucial but private enterprise itself will never be sufficient to solve the problems facing rural communities. The Government expresses support for the Western Development Commission but in practice has ignored many of the recommendations which have been made by the Commission. In its blueprint for Organic Agri Food Production in the West, the WDC pointed to the potential for organic production allied to higher value added processing for the export market but this has not been followed by the Government. In fact it has cut the level of state support, training and support for the organic sector.
"Despite commitments made in the National Spatial Strategy, the so-called 'hub centres' have not proved sufficient to attract new foreign companies. And most of them have actually experienced increased unemployment since 2002. In Tralee, which is served by a technology centre and an Institute of Technology, there have been no new inward investments since the launch of the spatial strategy, and it would appear very little effort on the part of the state to interest foreign companies in the area. The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has refused to meet with Tralee Councillors to discuss ways of tackling the jobs crisis.
"An area that is crucial to economic development is up-to-date communications technology. This is especially important in places outside of the main urban centres where e-commerce can potentially outweigh other structural disadvantages. The White Paper referred to the prospect that the provision of broadband telecommunications might facilitate an expansion of this country's development in this sector, with the view that rural areas would benefit from this. However, a report from February this year concludes that this has not been successful and states that " - Ireland has a disappointingly under-developed broadband market. Low penetration is due to high wholesale costs, lack of co
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will be in Dublin tomorrow, Friday 4th June at 10.30am to launch the party's manifesto for the Local Government election campaign.
Also attending the press conference in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street in Dublin will be Meath Councillor Joe Reilly, Dublin South East representative Daithí Doolan, Arthur Morgan TD and Dublin DOE Maria Doherty.
Sinn Féin candidate for South East Daithí Doolan speaking while canvassing on Pearse Street this evening said that today's comments by Minister Martin Cullen have exposed the reality that this Government is diametrically opposed to equality in Irish society. Mr. Doolan said:
„Recent comments by the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and his side-kick Willie O‚Dea and today‚s rant by the Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, have exposed the reality that this Government is diametrically opposed to equality in Irish society and that the Environment Minister does not know what he is talking about.
"If Minister Cullen had read the Sinn Féinn manifesto he would see that far from calling for withdrawl from the euro, Sinn Fein supports the adoption of the euro in the Six Counties as part of the creation of an all-Ireland economy.
"In relation to the impact of low tax and free trade policies, the European Anti Poverty Network has said that the European Social Model is „under attack with a deepening divide between public and private services in areas like health, education and housing. This has led to growing levels of poverty and inequality.‰ Minister Cullen also ignores the rising numbers of working poor in Ireland. This Government believes that anyone living in poverty in Ireland is just lazy and this is completely untrue. 20% of households living in poverty are headed by people who are working, and the vast majority of other such households are pensioners, the disabled, or otherwise out of the workforce. These people need assistance, not Government press releases telling them to get a job.
"Has Minister Cullen even read the Sinn Féin Manifesto? Does he have the slightest understanding of basic economic and European issues? Is he aware of what is going on in Ireland or is he too busy crippling working families with unfair double taxes like the bin charges while backing away from taking on the manufacturers who produce packaging? Is he too busy kow-towing to his developer friends to see increasing levels of homelessness in Dublin?
If Minister Cullen wants a real debate might I suggest he reads policy documents before talking any more nonsense."ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. today questioned the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Noel Ahern T.D. regarding what measures are being taken to redress the predicament whereby single people, in particular single men, who make up 32% of the 48,000 on housing waiting lists, find it virtually impossible to secure social housing.
Deputy Morgan said:
"During my questioning of the Minister of State Noel Ahern T.D. today, he admitted that only 10% of social housing provided by local authorities is allocated to single people without dependents despite the fact that single people now make up 32% of those on local authority housing waiting lists. This amounts to discrimination against single people in the allocation of local authority housing. The Government needs to put in place measures to ensure that single people without dependents receive an equitable outcome in relation to the allocation of social housing.
"I pointed out to the Minister that the overall lack of social housing and particularly the lack of social housing being constructed to meet the needs of single people has been highlighted by groups working with the homeless as one of the primary hurdles in accommodating homeless people and enabling them to make to transition from emergency to permanent accommodation.
"The Minister must intervene to put an end to this discrimination against single people trying to access social housing. The Social Housing guidelines need to be revised to include a specific reference to the necessity for local authorities to ensure that the housing needs of single people are met and to ensure that the points system being used by local authorities do not discriminate against single people without dependents, making it impossible for them to secure social housing." ENDS
Speaking after meeting Aer Rianta workers and union representatives in Dublin Airport today, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Seán Crowe TD reiterated the party's strong opposition to the break up of Aer Rianta and accused Minister Seamus Brennan of living in 'a the fantasyland of free market economics.'
The Dublin South-West TD said:
"It is almost a year since Minister Brennan first suggested he would be pushing ahead with the break up of Aer Rianta. He has yet to advance any coherent explanation for why he intends to shatter a successful and profitable state company beyond repair. He is content to live in fantasyland of free market economics and where he can vandalise a company on nothing more than a hunch.
"The independent reports and analyses have been mounting over that year, each one containing warnings of the problems, both financial and structural, in the proposals. It now seems that while the Minister has ignored the unions and those reports he has been reined in by the Minister of Finance who seems to have grave concerns over the proposed, and as yet unseen, legislation.
"We told the workers in Aer Rianta this afternoon that Sinn Féin is committed to opposing Minister Brennan‚s attempt to wreck a company that has been a huge asset to the Irish economy for over 60 years and we will stand by that pledge." ENDS
Sinn Féin candidate for Dublin in the coming European Elections, Mary Lou McDonald said that protecting public companies and workers rights would be a top priority for her in the European Parliament. Launching Rewriting the Lisbon Agenda, a party document dealing with public services and workers rights, she said that 'Sinn Féin is committed to defending public services state and we want to see a well-run dynamic public sector delivering quality services on the principle of equal access on an island-wide basis.'
Ms McDonald, speaking after meeting Aer Rianta workers and union representatives at Dublin Airport said:
"The Lisbon Agenda is founded on the theory that increasing competitiveness is the key to resolving the economic problems of the EU and this requires the privatisation of public companies and public service provision. But privatisation in Ireland, in particular in the telecommunications industry, tells another story.
"EU regulations forbidding state investment in public services and restricting borrowing for investment in schools and hospitals are undermining our ability to provide for the people of Ireland. While the EU has made many positive contributions to the issue of workers‚ rights, the so-called European Social Model is increasingly under attack across the continent.
"Sinn Féin is committed to defending public services and we want to see a well-run dynamic public sector delivering quality services on the principle of equal access on an island-wide basis. It is this agenda for change we will bring to the heart of the European Union on behalf of workers and citizens." ENDS
Sinn Féin Six County EU Election candidate Bairbre de Brún was today joined by party President Gerry Adams, newly elected Deputy Mayor of Belfast Joe O'Donnell and other party colleagues as she launched the parties EU Election manifesto in the six counties.
Ms de Brún set out the Sinn Féin vision for an Ireland of equals within a Europe of equals.
Ms de Brún said:
Is clár athraithe é clár Shinn Féin. Teastaíonn uainn an clár sin a thógáil go croílár na hEorpa le próiseas na síochána a chur ar aghaidh, leis an chlár uile-Éireannach a chur ar aghaidh agus le hÉire chothrom laistigh de Eoraip chothrom a thógáil. Teastaíonn uainn, fosta, oscailteacht, trédhearcacht agus réalachas a chothú in institiúidí na hEorpa do ghnáth mhuintir na hÉireann.
Sinn Fein's agenda is one of change. We want to bring that agenda to the heart of Europe to promote the peace process; to further the all Ireland agenda; to build an Ireland of equals in a Europe of equals; and to make the EU institutions more open, more transparent and more real to ordinary people across the island.
Sinn Féin wants to be in there playing our part. We want to support and enhance those aspects of the EU which are good for people, and we want to play a part in changing those things which are not. Our agenda for change is positive, progressive and rooted in the belief that the EU must work in the interests of ordinary people, and not solely the larger states or interest groups.
The manifesto we are launching today outlines in some detail where Sinn Féin stands on a wide range of EU policy issues, from economic policy to equality and human rights. Throughout the manifesto we are demonstrating our commitment to working for an Ireland of equals in a Europe of equals.
Our key manifesto themes are:
"Sinn Féin MEPs will campaign for continued support for peace building; a greater focus on social inclusion; greater transparency and accountability; a sustainable future for farming and fishing communities; a clean environment; and an EU which respects and promotes equality and human rights domestically and globally.
"We will also work to see the Irish language given its proper status as an official working language of the European Union.
"Is é seo clár leathan, dearfach, leanúnach an pháirtí le hathruithe a bhaint amach. Tá sé in am don Eoraip guth úr a bheith inti, guth úr uile-Éireannach. Tá sé in am dúinn guth Shinn Féin a bheith san Eoraip.
"This is Sinn Féin's broad ranging, positive and progressive agenda for change. It is time for a new voice in Europe, an all Ireland voice in Europe. It is time for a Sinn Féin voice in Europe." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning joined the party's candidate in the six counties Bairbre de Brún as they launched the party's manifesto for the EU election in the six counties.
The manifesto addresses fundamental issues relating to the future of the EU and sets out Sinn Féin's policies for an Ireland of equals in a Europe of equals.
Mr. Adams said:
" Sinn Féin is an all-Ireland party fielding candidates in all five Irish constituencies have a unique manifesto and a unique set of objectives for the time ahead. This is a crucial election which will impact on the future direction of the EU and the future of Ireland for many years to come. Our manifesto sets out in detail our vision of a Europe of Equals - a real partnership of equal sovereign states, co-operating in social and economic development in Europe and beyond.
" This election also comes at a time of ongoing difficulties within the peace process. The institutions remain suspended, key sections of the Good Friday Agreement remain outstanding and the Agreement itself continues to come under attack from the rejectionists.
" As the largest pro-Agreement party we are best placed to challenge the DUP agenda and challenge those within the British system who continue to try and frustrate the promise of the Good Friday Agreement.
" There will be negotiations after this election. A strong Sinn Féin vote and a team of Sinn Féin MEPs will send the British government a clear message that people across the island are determined to see their basic rights and entitlements delivered. A major part of that is to see Bairbre de Brún returned from the six counties. She has a proven track record as a Sinn Féin activist, elected representative and Minister in the Executive. I am confident that she will prove to be an effective and radical voice within the EU.
" I have travelled extensively around the five constituencies over the past three weeks. And without taking the electorate for granted I am confident that we are poised to make significant advances. But we are not complacent we are chasing every vote possible in every county on this island.
" We are setting out a vision in this manifesto. A vision for the future direction of the European Union. A vision of an Independent sovereign Ireland within a rights based EU. A changed EU. One which reflects the political agenda of the people of Europe rather than the big States, the unelected Eurocracy, and big business.
" This is a unique vision and a unique manifesto. And I am confident that people across this island will respond to it and join with us and deliver a new voice in Europe." ENDS
Sinn Féin North West EU candidate Pearse Doherty has called for a reassessment of the application of the Nitrates Directive in light of evidence that nitrate levels in Ireland are currently within the 50 mg limit for the water supply and ground water.
Mr Doherty said:
"Sinn Féin believe that there should be a reassessment of the application of the EU Nitrates Directive in light of evidence that nitrate levels in Ireland are currently within the 50 mg limit for the water supply and ground water.
"The way that this issue has been dealt with places huge pressures on the farming community and there is insufficient dialogue between farmers' representatives and the government on this. This break down in partnership is very damaging to the future of our agricultural industry.
"Sinn Féin believe that a the development of a common way forward on agricultural issues across Ireland is vital for the long term future of our farming, fishing and rural communities. There needs to be a strong single voice for farming and fishing communities on this island, especially in Europe.
Mr Doherty also welcomed the exploratory talks between the Irish Farmers Union and the Ulster Farmers Union, adding;
"These exploratory talks between the IFU and UFU show that there is growing acknowledgement of the importance of adopting a common agenda in the key issues facing our farming and fishing industries.
"I particularly welcome the recognition from the UFU and IFI that an All Ireland approach to Europe can represent the best way of challenging and influencing the way that EU directives are implemented, and CAP and CFP reform in order to deliver a better future for all of our Irish agriculture and fishing industries.
"There are many key decisions to be taken in the coming months that will impact on the long-term viability of Irish farming, not least the Nitrates directives and the Phosphates issues next year, but also on CAP reform and the impact of enlargement and the global market where it will be vital that our interests are represented with a single strong voice within Europe." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty, Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald and Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe will meet with Aer Rianta Shop Stewards and branch representatives at the SIPTU Building at Dublin Airport at 3pm today,Tuesday 2nd June. They will be available to talk to the media following the meeting at 4pm.
The Sinn Féin leader on Monaghan County Council has said that his party will continue to oppose unjust Development levies after the election. North Monaghan representative Brian McKenna has called on all other parties and candidates to make the same commitment.
Cllr. McKenna said that Sinn Féin played a key role in ensuring that the unjust charges, which have been implemented right across the state, were rejected by local authorities in Monaghan.
He said: "Sinn Féin is proud that Monaghan County Council and each Town Council in this county rejected these unfair charges. We are quite happy to confirm that our position will not change after the election because we know that if implemented these charges would affect first time home-buyers and new home-builders disproportionately.
"People are now aware that the problem that has led us to this situation is that central governments have continually failed to adequately fund local authorities. Tax payers are having service after service included on the list of things we pay twice for. Rather than providing tax breaks and creating tax avoidance schemes for the mega-rich that money should be invested in local councils who could then gives communities the services they deserve.
"The Fianna Fáil government has tried to impose these charges on local communities under a threat that failure to do so may prevent funding for projects from central government. This is a bullying tactic that cannot be allowed to succeed.‰
Cllr. McKenna insisted that the rejection of development levies by councillors may have a beneficial impact for County Monaghan.
"In Monaghan we now have an opportunity, like never before, to encourage industry and investment to our county. We have low rate charges and we are the only county in this region to refuse to be bullied by the Fianna Fáil government to impose these charges on young couples building or buying their first home or on a business trying to set up and employ local people.
"If promoted correctly County Monaghan can become an attractive location for business. Our challenge following next weeks elections will be to implement a strategy that will make such an opportunity a reality. I hope that other parties will join us in making this a reality rather than trying to find ways to explain any possible u-turn."ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty speaking at the launch of the party's Youth Manifesto called on young people to join with Sinn Féin in building an Ireland of equals.
Mr. Doherty said:
"Over the last number of months we have listened to commentators and politicians write off the youth vote. They say that young people aren't interested in politics so their relevance is limited in this campaign.
"But everywhere I go, I see the opposite as true. At this very moment hundreds and hundreds of young people are involved in the Sinn Féin election campaign - as candidates, as canvassers and party workers. These are highly motivated young people who want to bring about real change in this country. Sinn Féin is standing 60 candidates under the age of 35 in this election 30% of our candidates. Two of our EU candidates are under 30.
"I want to call on young people to join with Sinn Féin in building an Ireland of equals and come out and vote for our candidates on June 10th in the Six Counties and June 11th in the 26 Counties." ENDS
Ógra Shinn Féin has today urged voters to reject the forthcoming Citizenship Referendum on June 11th. Ógra made the call during its launch of its manifesto for 2004 in Buswell's Hotel, Dublin (02.06.04). Speaking during the launch, Sinn Féin candidate for Rathfarnham Sorcha Ni Chormaic - said that they are "urging people to vote No to the Government's flawed, ill-conceived and ultimately racist referendum."
Ms Ni Chormaic stated:
"The Government's racist and reactionary referendum to impose restrictions on Irish citizenship must be rejected. The referendum is in violation of the Good Friday Agreement and is a betrayal of the 1916 Proclamation.
"We utterly reject the Government‚s contention that this proposal is either necessary or desired. If this is passed, two children born in the same hospital ward on the same day could be deemed to have different constitutional rights. These children will be denied the same status or rights.
"The Human Rights Commission has found that Minister McDowell's so-called facts and evidence‚ used to back up his case for a referendum were not adequately researched or analysed. It has also said that the government should have consulted with other parties to the Good Friday Agreement on the impact of the referendum on the Agreement.
"Ógra Shinn Féin is urging people to vote No to the Government‚s flawed, ill-conceived and ultimately racist referendum." ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor Matt Carthy speaking at the launch of the party's Youth Manifesto for the Local Government and EU election campaigns said "this is a manifesto written by and for young people. It sets out our demands for Irish Unity, for youth rights and against racism and sectarianism." Cllr Carthy attacked the government's arrogance and described the holding of the elections and referendum on a Friday as a deliberate attempt to prevent young people from voting. He called on young people to come out and vote on June 11th.
Cllr. Carthy said:
"Thousands of young people have come on the voters register since the last Local Government and European elections and their votes will be critical in deciding who will represent them at local and European level. Our task in the final two weeks of the campaign is to convince young people that their vote does matter and that if they stay at home those who want status quo will decide for them.
"This Youth Manifesto is a manifesto written by and for young people. It sets out our demands for Irish unity, for youth rights and against racism and sectarianism. We are demanding that young people be treated as equals in society and have a proper say in decisions that effect our daily lives.
"The Fianna Fáil/PD government have a very different attitude. They have ignored youth issues for the last seven years and they couldn‚t even facilitate young people on election day. Instead they are holding the elections in the middle of the Leaving Cert and on a Friday and closing the polls at 9pm ˆ making it difficult for young people to vote.
" Ógra Shinn Féin is the fastest growing youth political grouping on the island. We are an active youth organisation. We believe that young people can deliver change. They can make a difference. But to do so young people must vote for a party that can deliver change, for a party that is genuinely different. In Sinn Fein they see a radical political party. They sense change coming, great change, and they want to be a part of it."
Among the priorities of Ógra Shinn Féin are:
Ógra Shinn Féin is the youth section of Sinn Féin. We are committed to the establishment of a 32-county democratic socialist republic. Our guiding philosophy is that all the people who inhabit the island of Ireland have a right to live in a society based upon the principle of equality.
Participation in politics
Young people are interested in political issues, but many feel that politicians don't represent their interests. This does not mean that our young people are apolitical. The willingness of so many young people to participate in political action was illustrated by the huge numbers who protested against the war in Iraq.
Ógra Shinn Féin aims to build a broad movement of young people working towards a more equitable society. We have been expanding our structures to achieve this, and there are now youth liaison officers across the country, five regional youth officers and a national executive.
Decisions are taken by government that affect young people, and to not have young people represented at that level is discriminatory. Young people have to live with the decisions of government and it stands to reason that they should also be involved in them.
We believe a number of areas need to be addressed to give young people a fairer stake in Irish society and to reverse the disillusionment and disenfranchisement felt by many.
Principles in practice
Equality demands social and economic policies to empower those who are marginalised in Ireland. Such policies could include:
Campaigning for change
Ógra Shinn Féin is involved in highlighting the prohibitive cost of car insurance for young people, the inadequacy of student grants and support mechanisms and in calling attention to the high rate of suicide among young males.
Ógra is also campaigning against drugs, in support of the worldwide anti-globalisation movement, and in support of a campaign for a higher minimum wage.
Respecting our diversity
All of the inhabitants of Ireland should have the right to Irish citizenship. Ireland should be a beacon of hope to oppressed peoples everywhere. Racist immigration laws cannot be tolerated and must be opposed.
The various religious, linguistic, political and ethnic differences of Irish people should be respected and no one conception of 'Irishness' should be promoted over another. This has an obvious importance to the unionist population of the North of Ireland.
Sectarianism and racism must be rejected.
We reject patriarchal structures enforced upon women, inside and outside the home, and commit ourselves to the promotion of equal opportunity in all areas of life for all women in Ireland.
Gay relationships should have the same status and legitimacy in the eyes of the law as any other, and gay couples should enjoy the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
Reject the Referendum
The government's racist and reactionary referendum to impose restrictions on Irish citizenship must be rejected. The referendum is in violation of the Good Friday Agreement and is a betrayal of the 1916 Proclamation.
We utterly reject the Government's contention that this proposal is either necessary or desired. If this is passed, two children born in the same hospital ward on the same day could be deemed to have different constitutional rights. These children will be denied the same status or rights.
The Human Rights Commission has found that Minister McDowell's so-called facts and 'evidence' used to back up his case for a referendum were not adequately researched or analysed. It has also said that the government should have consulted with other parties to the Good Friday Agreement on the impact of the referendum on the Agreement.
Ógra Shinn Féin is urging people to vote No to the Government's flawed, ill-conceived and ultimately racist referendum.
Government lacks political will
The current attitude to youth work says that we must make do with what we have and continue to allow young people to fall through the cracks. The government lacks the political will to address the fundamental inequalities in Irish society. Last year's government decision to cut Corporation Tax is estimated to have cost us •350 million, in a state that already has the lowest tax take in Europe.
Why are our prisons filled with young people, mostly from deprived backgrounds, without educational qualifications or income, while none of the tax evaders or corrupt politicians are in prison?
Young people are sick of a corrupt political system that is unwilling to correct itself but is always willing to imprison the young, without addressing the dire social and economic circumstances that are a huge contributory factor to the causes of crime.
Ógra Shinn Féin supports the vital work of youth groups throughout the country and has been to the fore in campaigns against student poverty, for an increase in financial assistance and other targeted measures to tackle inequality in accessing education.
Ógra also recognises the need to support young people getting their own homes. We deplore the government's changes to the council housing requirements, designed to force young people out of their parents' home, even while the government's friends in the property industry manipulate house prices to force young people out of the market.
Access to Education
Juts 2% of full time students in the top ten 26-County colleges and institutes come from households where their parents were semi skilled or manual unskilled workers. Yet as a percentage of the population, these households make up more than 25% of the workforce.
Those from the poorest households in the 26 Counties are 16 times more likely to leave school without sitting the Leaving Certificate than those from the wealthiest households.
Those from the poorest households are also four times more likely to get insufficient points to get to third level and three times less likely to go even if they had the necessary points.
According to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), the maximum grant available to third level students does not even cover the accommodation costs of students who have to leave home for college.
Spending on disadvantage represents less than 5% of the education budget at first and second level.
All our children have the right to a top quality education, but too many are receiving second-class treatment because of government policy.
Ógra believes that funding should be directed at tackling inequality at all levels of the education system. As part of this, we are calling for the current student grant to be increased to social welfare levels.
Cherishing all of the children of the nation equally is a central tenet of republicanism, but Ireland's child poverty rates and the gap between rich and poor are the largest in Europe. This government has presided over one of the most unequal periods in Irish history. Those who can afford private schooling are many times more likely to achieve third level education, and there are still sections of society for whom college education is a pipe dream.
Children's rights must be protected in law. One in four Irish children live in poverty and we have one of the highest levels of child abuse in Europe.
Ógra proposes that:
A President for All
Ógra Shinn Fein is calling on the Dublin government to allow citizens living in the Six Counties to vote in the Presidential Elections.
As a step towards the reunification of our country, we believe that citizens living in the North should have the right to choose a President to represent the whole of the island of Ireland.
At present, we have a President who was born in Belfast; but the very people who grew up with her (and still live in Belfast) cannot vote for her!
Extending voting rights in Presidential elections to the Six Counties is a step towards a more inclusive society. We will only have a President who can truly represent the whole of Ireland when he or she is elected by all the people of Ireland.
Positive Neutrality in Action
The decision to hand over Shannon Airport for the US war effort in Iraq has demonstrated exactly what this government thinks about Irish neutrality. They have ignored the protests of ordinary people and have jeopardised Irish neutrality to an unprecedented and disgraceful extent.
Ógra Shinn Féin proposes an independent and progressive Irish international relations policy that opposes military alliances and works for international co-operation and conflict negotiation. That policy should be directed towards creating democratic social change and respect for human rights, universal demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament.
To this end, neutrality should be enshrined in the Irish Constitution and codified in legislation. We should have no involvement with the EU Rapid Reaction Force or NATO's Partnership for Peace.
Irish troops should train and serve abroad only under the auspices and leadership of the United Nations.
We are totally opposed to the use of Irish airports, airspace, seaports, or territorial waters for preparation for war or other armed conflict by foreign powers.
We also want to see an end to Irish involvement in the arms trade and profit from war.
Proposals for change
We believe a number of other areas also need to be addressed to give young people a fairer stake in Irish society and to reverse the disillusionment and disenfranchisement felt by many.
For years, the National Youth Council of Ireland and the Union of Students in Ireland have been lobbying for Saturday voting. Tens of thousands of young voters are disenfranchised because they cannot get home to vote or because they are studying and working such long hours that time off to vote is a pipe dream.
Despite promises fromFianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, housing waiting list and homelessness has increased and young people make up a substantial proportion of those on the streets.
Young people are working in ever greater numbers and making a significant contribution to the Irish economy's growing wealth. However they are often working in difficult conditions, on low wages, with no sick or holiday pay and little real recognition of the anti-social hours or long shifts they put in.
We need to protect our young workers and ensure that their first employment experiences are not exploitative ones. The minimum wage needs a huge upward rise and the rights of young people in the workplace need urgent protection.
Young motorists are charged premiums that are not remotely reflective of the costs of actually insuring them but little has been done by government except to allow the continued exploitation of young drivers.
Sinn Fein's candidate for Dublin in the forthcoming European Elections Mary Lou McDonald has called for a greater focus on 'the dangers of drug abuse on the roads' following reports in today's Irish Independent that huge numbers of drivers are under the influence of illegal drugs. Ms McDonald went on to describe as 'truly appalling' the claim in the report that prosecutions are a rarity.
Ms McDonald said: "Following the most extensive survey of motorists in Europe the relevation that there has been a massive increase in the number of drivers who tested positive for driving under the influence of illegal drugs such as cannabis and increasingly cocaine will come as little surprise to many Dubliners. In many communities across the city local people have a great deal more of unwanted experience with drugs than they would like.
"What is truly appalling about the report is that it seems prosecutions for these offences are a rarity, with no proper structure in place to bring these people to justice despite the grave threat they pose both to themselves and other road users. With seven out of ten drivers testing positive for one or more drugs but negative for alcohol the scale of the problem is staggering. It is particularly noteworthy that one quarter of all male drivers under 25 are testing positive.
"Since being appointed the Minister for Justice has been all talk and little action on a wide range of issues while men and women are dying on Irish roads in increasing numbers. While the focus on drink driving has been welcome, it is clearly long past time for the Government to focus on the dangers of drug abuse on the roads." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Arthur Morgan, during Private Members' time today berated the Government for its failure with regard to balanced rural development, pointing to rising unemployment and calling the National Spatial Strategy "strong on commitments, weak on delivery"
Deputy Morgan said: "Current government policies based on laissez-faire economics is bringing about the destruction of rural Ireland as it is failing to ensure sufficient employment and income opportunities, failing to ensure balanced regional development and failing to maintain public services in rural areas. The border region is amongst the worst in terms of unemployment. Recent census figures found that Carndonagh, Castleblayney and Dundalk all have a rate of unemployment of a least 19% compared with 4.5 % nationally - this is an indictment of the coalition government, particularly coming off the back of the economic boom of recent years.
"The National Spatial Strategy, which was supposed to address the imbalance in employment, was strong on commitments, weak on delivery. The three main gateway centres into rural Ireland in the National Development Plan are Galway, Waterford and Limerick. The importance of these was re-emphasised with the launch of the National Spatial Strategy in November 2002. They were seen as the keys to increasing the economic attractiveness of the regions in which they are situated. In each of those cities, unemployment has risen since 2002. Of the nine hub centers, seven have seen the numbers of jobless rise, some by alarming levels. This makes a nonsense of the Government's claim that the National Spatial Strategy is a success. Publishing it may have been a success but it is clearly not being implemented.
"We need to recognise that encouraging entrepreneurship, indigenous industry and the social economy provide the best opportunities for job creation in rural areas. We need to move away from our over-dependence on multi-nationals who, after receiving huge grants to set up, pull out after a number of years leaving an area devastated. We must recognise that a small community, which becomes dependent on one large industry, is in a very precarious position. We need to support small businesses that can often generate small profits but a lot of local employment and which are often overlooked by the industrial development agencies.
"Women have also remained disempowered in rural Ireland because of the Government's failure to ensure gender balance on Rural Development bodies such as LEADER and CLAR. It has disgracefully failed to meet the target set of 40% representation of women on the management boards of rural development programmes. And it has refused to accept our amendments to recent legislation such as the Bord Bia Bill to ensure that these targets are met.
"Public services in rural areas are under siege as the privatisation agenda is implemented. Government promises to 'rural-proof' all national policies are worthless as rural post-offices and Garda stations are closed and rural areas continue to be left bereft of access to public transport. Plans need to be sustainable with regard, not just to economic issues, and long-run profitability, but sustainable in relation to our environment, our natural resources, our culture, our social values, and the provision of social services to provide an acceptable standard of living.Rural development programmes need to be genuinely driven from community level upwards rather than directed by government-appointed officials and boards." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin today criticized the Government's failure to fulfil their commitments on Rural Development, citing the closure of hospital services, post offices and garda stations as "part of the avoidable decline of rural Ireland".
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Sinn Féin's argument is that every person, no matter where they are, ought to be entitled to an equal level of access to and provision of public services; be that health, transport, education, post offices or banking. The reality for many rural communities is very different. Many of these services are either non-existent or have been withdrawn from these communities. That is clearly illustrated by the health crisis within the regions. The loss of services at local hospitals must be seen as part of the avoidable decline of rural Ireland - a decline for which the Government is responsible. Monaghan and Louth hospitals have already been targeted. Under the Hanly Report, further hospitals will go under the knife. The reference to health in the government amendment cannot hide that reality. In the area of health there are relatively minor administrative measures that could be taken to integrate ambulance services so that people could be taken to the nearest available hospital rather than having to travel longer distances that might place them in greater danger.
"Farm incomes in real terms have fallen by almost 25% since 1995, according to the Central Statistics Office. This, in combination with current debt levels of E1.1 billion, has made it increasingly difficult for many family farms to survive. Over 30,000 people have left farming since the beginning of the 1990s.
The majority of these have been smaller producers and this has had a malign and devastating effect on rural communities. It has made it more difficult for local businesses to survive, and it has not been compensated for by an increase in other types of jobs in sufficient numbers to offset the recent increases in unemployment. The main reason for the real fall in farm incomes has been the declining share that farmers receive from the products which they sell - it is not unusual for farmers to receive 30 or 25 or even 20% of the price that the consumer pays. There is an argument for a return to real co-operativism to enable farmers to secure the best price for their produce and to limit the power of the multiples.
Although rural communities are not exclusively based on farming, it is important that agriculture remains strong and vibrant and provides both employment and the basis for other rural jobs such as processing. If the EU is committed to maintaining the European model of agriculture based on family farming, then measures must be taken to ensure that the current drift from the land is halted. In the context of the current reform of the CAP, that must mean that decoupling provides farmers with a guaranteed income, but also that the Irish Government develops new strategies to take best advantage of the new situation facing farmers. It must also mean that the funds taken away from direct payments through modulation are ring-fenced within the country they originate from, and that they are made to directly benefit the farmers from whom the funds are taken. These funds should be used here in Ireland for rural development.
"Another area where this Government is abandoning its commitments is in the area of community-based policing. Only last week, Minister McDowell was speaking about closing more Garda stations in rural and urban areas. This often has a particularly marked impact on rural communities where people see the withdrawal of local Gardaí as another form of abandonment by the State. People, and especially the elderly in isolated rural areas feel vulnerable in the absence of a visible and known Garda presence. Sinn Féin proposes that this problem can be addressed through the establishment of Community Policing Partnerships. These would comprise elected representatives, appointees of local statutory agencies, and representatives of the community and voluntary sector. These Partnerships would meet regularly with the Gardaí and ensure that a greater level of accountability and confidence is nurtured.
"Empowering rural communities - decentralization - does not just mean the relocation of Government offices from Dublin - it means the real empowerment of local government. This is especially important for many of our marginalised and neglected rural communities, particularly in the Border, Midlands and Western region. " ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast Michael Ferguson has accused the PSNI Special Branch of 'still conducting its dirty war against the nationalist community'. Mr Ferguson's remarks came at a press conference in Belfast where he was joined by two local men who had been pressurised to work for the Special Branch in recent weeks.
Mr Ferguson said:
"The stories told by these two men and other similar reports received by Sinn Féin about this sort of PSNI activity across the six counties
demonstrates clearly that the Special Branch's dirty war against the nationalist community continues.
"This sort of activity is bound to raise questions for those who have been so vocal in their support for the current policing arrangements.
Arrangements which clearly have at their core the Special Branch still active, still running agents, still trying to recruit agents and still trying to spy on the broad nationalist community. This sort of activity is not compatible with a new beginning to policing.
"This is not he sort of activity that we will hear members of the Policing Board discuss. The reality is that they are powerless to do anything about it and they know that to be the case.
"I am calling on Hugh Orde to get his Special Branch off the backs of these two men who have come forward and off the backs of the nationalist and republican community as a whole. He should end his media charm offensive and face up to the fact that what currently passes for policing here is unacceptable and incompatible with the demands of both Patten and the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS