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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has welcomed the release for Martin Corey and has stated that the British government have lessons to learn from his imprisonment.

Speaking today Ms McCann said:

“It is almost four years since the arrest and detention of Martin Corey. At no time was he questioned by police or were his legal team shown evidence against him.

“At no time was due process had. This was a clear abuse of Martin Corey's human rights and is an indictment on those who held him.

“Sinn Féin have consistently raised this issue and the conditions under which Martin Corey was detained.

“I am glad that he is now released and free to return to his family.

“There are very clear lessons which present themselves to the British government. The arrest and detention of people without any evidence being presented cannot be justified in any terms.”

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Environment Brian Stanley TD has accused Minister Phil Hogan of fobbing off the Dáil and the public regarding the costs of establishing Irish Water. The Laois/Offaly TD was speaking during this evening’s debate on the revelations regarding the amount of money spent by Irish Water on consultancy fees.

Deputy Stanley said:

“Having fobbed off questions from myself and others on the costs involved in setting up Irish Water, and denying that he knew any of the financial details, it now turns out that Minister Hogan was well aware of what was going on.

“Not only was he aware for months of the costs, including the large sums being dispensed to consultancy firms, but he was in fact being presented with monthly accounts setting out in detail exactly the costs involved and exactly where the money was going.”

Deputy Stanley also called into question the Governments claims regarding the savings to be made and warned that, as with Bord Gáis Energy, there was no guarantee that Irish Water would not be sold off at some point despite being established as a public company.

He also accused Fianna Fáil of hypocrisy given that they had not only agreed with the IMF in December 2010 to establish such a company, but had also agreed to introduce water charges.

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Speaking after meeting with representatives from IMPACT trade union this afternoon, Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh called on the Minister for Agriculture to meet with the union as a matter of urgency to avert industrial action.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:

“It is not acceptable for the Minister to shirk his responsibility on this matter. Six hundred agricultural officers in the Department have genuine concerns over their job security and thus far the Department have refused to meet with their union.

“The dispute centres on the decision by the Department to refuse IMPACT members the opportunity to apply for assistant principal posts, in defiance of a new civil service wide policy that allows all qualified staff to apply for posts.

“The workers now fear that this ban by management at the Department could seriously jeopardise their future job security.

“IMPACT was at pains to stress the dispute is not about money, rather they believe it is part of a long line of actions by the Department that put the agricultural officers’ jobs at risk.

Sinn Féin calls on the Minister to take charge of the officials at his Department and to immediately meet with IMPACT and resolve this unacceptable situation.”

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“What is happening here is disgraceful and an affront to the democratic process. Sinn Fein and other parties submitted amendments to the Local Government Reform Bill and Fine Gael with the support of Labour have ruled them all out of order.

“In other words, there will be no debate on this hugely important Bill as it passes through its final stages in the Seanad.

“The Bill will seriously limit the power of local government and have a particularly negative impact on community development committees and NGO’s, especially those that represent already marginalised groups such as Travellers, women, and disadvantaged communities.

“Sinn Fein submitted amendments on this and to other sections of the Bill but they were mostly ruled out of order. This means there will be limited discussion of the Government’s power grab of important sections of civil society.

“This Government got elected on the promise of accountability, reform and transparency. Their actions today tell a very different story and resemble the recent debacle around Irish Water when they also stymied debate and ridiculed those who posed important questions.

“The recent controversy over consultancy fees suggests they have not learnt their lesson and that they are willing to do whatever it takes to hide from public and democratic scrutiny.

“The government’s behaviour on this important legislation can only be described as yet another attempt to sabotage democracy.”

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The Minister for Finance’s own Department plans on spending an extra €5.075 on consultants next year according to Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD.

The figures were presented today to the Finance sub-committee on Finance.

Deputy Doherty said:

“These figures are totally unjustifiable. Minister Noonan failed miserably to explain what this extra €5.075m will be spent on and who will benefit.

“These figures represent a massive increase in public money being spent on external consultants. As we have seen in the past it is the usual suspects of accounting bodies and legal bodies who will benefit from these contracts. We have seen these few companies benefit from contracts from NAMA and other state bodies.

“The Department of Finance’s budget contains five programmes. Each of these five programmes’ budgets contain an increase in the amount allocated for ‘consulting and other services’. One programme (Financial Services Policy) contains an increase of €3m for “consulting and other services”. This is unjustifiable at a time when the most vulnerable are being asked to live on less yet Minister Noonan thinks an extra €5m is justified from his own department on consulting.

“The public are rightly questioning the use of external consultants given the debacle at Irish Water. For an important government like the Department of Finance to seek an extra €5.075m for consultants without proper explanation of what the money will be used for is unacceptable.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has welcomed a commitment today by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to hold a Dáil debate on the North before the end of the month.

The Taoiseach was responding to a question from the Sinn Fein Leader in the wake of the conclusion of the Haass negotiations.

Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach:

“Taoiseach, the Programme for Government commits to supporting the full implementation of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements.

“Now that negotiations chaired by Dr Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan have concluded, will you support a full Dáil debate on the North at the earliest opportunity?”

In his response the Taoiseach confirmed that he would facilitate such a debate before the end of the month.

In an earlier Dáil debate and in response to a question from Sinn Féin TD Sean Crowe, the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said that the Irish Government was committed to the implementation of the Haass proposals.

ENDS

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Responding to questions raised by Mary Lou McDonald TD at a Dáil committee Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin conceded that he would consider using monies raised from the sale of state assets to fund a HSE voluntary redundancy scheme.

The Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson said:

“Selling off the family silver is bad enough but to use this money to fund another public sector redundancy scheme is a shocking admission by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

“Commercial state companies have been built up over decades providing essential utilities paid for by generations of citizens. Investment in job creation and critical infrastructure is not reliant on the sale of these assets. Government has a number of funding options for such projects.

“It will certainly stick in the craw of many citizens that the Minister responsible for Public Expenditure is considering using the monies raised from the sale of state assets to further deplete numbers working in the public sector.”

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In response to Minister Coveney’s announcement yesterday of news CAP funding arrangements, Sinn Féin’s agricultural spokesperson, Martin Ferris TD, said:

“The reduction of Pillar II payments sends the wrong message to a sector that has contributed favourably, in extreme circumstances, to the Irish economy.

“When the reductions in Pillar I payments were first suggested, farmers were told that the payback would come in Pillar II.

“Farmers find themselves being asked to do more for less under environment schemes and with the REPS IV coming to an end, without replacement until 2015, many will suffer unacceptable drop in income.

“A positive message was needed, but unfortunately, it was not forthcoming from Minister Coveney last night.”

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Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams TD described the Irish Water controversy as “one debacle to many” and called for the resignation of Phil Hogan, the Minister for the Environment.

The Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams TD also called the Taoiseach’s responses to questions on the Irish Water scandal as “a joke”.

Mr Adams accused Phil Hogan of showing contempt for the Dáil, its members and citizens by concealing his knowledge of the expenditure involved in the establishment of Irish Water, including that spent on consultants.

Gerry Adams said:

“Yesterday, John Tierney told the Oireachtas Environment Committee that Minister Hogan was aware in September 2012 of the allocation of €180 million of public money to establish the company.

“Yet, despite repeated questions on this issue from Sinn Fein’s Environment Spokesperson Brian Stanley TD and others, he refused to answer questions on Irish Water. He has shown contempt for the Dáil, its members and the citizens we represent.”

The Sinn Fein Leader said that yesterday’s submission to the Environment Committee by Irish Water CEO John Tierney confirmed that from March 2013 the Minister’s Department was receiving a detailed monthly breakdown of expenditure on Irish Water, including the amount of money being paid to consultants.

Mr. Adams pointed out that Brian Stanley TD had also submitted several Parliamentary Questions, including one in June 2013 asking for a breakdown of Irish Water expenditure, including wages and service contracts. Despite the fact that he had this information, the Minister refused to divulge it.

Mr Adams said:

“Taoiseach, you promised a new way of doing politics – a ‘democratic revolution’. Instead you have compounded the worst excesses of your Fianna Fáil predecessors.

“I protested here at the Water Services Bill being rushed through the Dáil. Brian Stanley has been asking questions on this issue for one-and-a-half years.

“On the last sitting day of 2013, over 30 TDs left this chamber in protest against the ramming through of the Water Services Bill. This government has obstructed the Dáil by concealing its knowledge on the expenditure involved in the establishment of Irish Water.”

He asked the Taoiseach if he agreed that the Minister had stood over one too many debacles and whether he would now ask for his resignation.

Gerry Adams said that money being handed to consultants was being taken from vulnerable citizens:

“You are giving €86 million to consultants while slashing in the region of three million euro from the housing adaptation grant scheme for elderly and disabled citizens. That is why citizens are angry”, he said.

Saying that Sinn Féin opposed water charges and water privatization he pointed to the fact that the Local Government Audit Service report on spending by Dublin City Council for 2011, “raised serious questions about the spending of almost €100 million of public money on the Poolbeg Incinerator project under John Tierney’s watch”.

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Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has accused the government of wooing the people with false promises of reform during the last election and reiterated the calls of party leader Gerry Adams T.D. for Minister Phil Hogan to resign.

Speaking in the Seanad today, Senator Cullinane said:

“They promised that if elected, business would be done in a more transparent way.

“Accountability was to be the hallmark of the new government and a new era of transparency coupled with oversight and ethical behaviour was forecast.

“In sort, the plain people of Ireland were offered nothing short of a democratic revolution.

“The reality is that the government mislead the people by withholding important information from the Dáil about the huge levels of expenditure that were involved in the establishment of Irish Water.

“Yesterday John Tierney, MD of Irish Water told the Oireachtas Environment Committee that Minister Hogan was aware of the allocation of €180 million of public money to setup the company.

“In light of this, I like many others want to know if Minister Hogan knew that these costs included €80 million in consultancy fees.

“Before Christmas I was rebuked by Fine Gael and Labour senators and by the Minister for time wasting because I was expressing my deep concerns about this Bill and especially about the way it was being rushed through.

“I take no pleasure in saying that I was proved right and that yet again this Government in its haste to privatise important public utilities has wasted much needed public funds on private consultants.

“This is yet another example of gross incompetency and Minister Hogan should resign immediately.

“The establishment of Irish Water will only serve to place an extra burden on already hard pressed families with water charges.

“Sinn Féin is opposed to water charges and to the privatisation of water services.”

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Sinn Féin’s EU candidate for the constituency of Ireland South, Liadh Ní Riada, has stated that Labour party Mep, Phil Prendergast, cannot have it both ways on EirGrid.

Ms Ní Riada was responding to comments made by Prendergast in which she likened the building of pylons to the “rape of the countryside”.

She also voiced her strong concerns regarding health risks associated with pylons.

Ní Riada said:

“I appreciate the Labour Party MEP’s concerns even if her language was designed to grab headlines. However, Phil Prendergast cannot have it both ways on EirGrid.

“She is a member of a government party that is pushing these pylons on the people of rural Munster and South Leinster. Perhaps she should be challenging her own party colleagues regarding their stance on EirGrid rather than seeking headlines.

“Pat Rabbitte has been the main government cheerleader for the EirGrid proposal.

“Minister Rabbitte said, as far as he is concerned, that there were no health concerns regarding the building of pylons. He added that a national agency of government, such as EirGrid, has no vested interest in exposing people to risk.

“This directly contradicts what Health Minister Dr James Reilly said about the issue.

“Expert reports have conclusively shown that high voltage energy lines increase the risk of cancer, particularly for children.

“Nobody trusts Minister Rabbitte on this or any issue given his comments on TV when he said that Labour deliberately told lies during the last election.

“The bottom-line is that Phil Prendergast cannot have it both ways on what is a very serious matter for people in affected communities. It is the height of hypocrisy for her to come out with such statements while failing to challenge her colleagues and party leadership on the matter in any meaningful way.

“She is the part of an organisation that bears a weight of responsibility for all of this. She is at best complicit.

“If she has no confidence in Minister Rabbitte then she should say so. However, if the Minister is misleading people, deliberately or as result of ignorance, he should resign.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has described the Environment Minister’s claim that he has no responsibility to the company’s spend as “off the wall”.

Deputy McDonald was speaking ahead of this evening’s meeting of Public Accounts Committee which is due to review the systems of oversight and accountability in respect of exchequer funding to Irish Water

The Public Accounts Committee member said:

“Phil Hogan’s refusal to oversee, never mind account for, the €85 million spent by Irish Water to date on a vast array of consultants is mind boggling. However, his excuse that to do so would be to micromanage the company is off the wall.

“Claims that the Minister had neither sight nor sound of the details regarding the massive amounts of exchequer funding paid out to these consultants is truly hard to believe.

"Yesterday the Environment Committee heard that the Department had sought a budget breakdown from Irish Water, substantiation of items, and queries on the procurement process for external consultancies.

“What kind of show is Phil Hogan running?

“Fine Gael and Labour like Fianna Fáil before them are wedded to water charges. Let’s not forget it was Fianna Fáil in government who first committed the state to water charges in November 2010 in their National Recovery Plan 2011-2014.

“Micheál Martin was a member of the cabinet who made this decision.

Fianna Fail’s crocodile tears will be little comfort to families who will now have to shell out hundreds of euro next year on the charge.”

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Sinn Féin’s Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has called on Minister for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley TD, to immediately publish all submissions relating to the review of the Official Languages Act.

Speaking today on the publication of the Government's legislative programme for this parliamentary term, on which the amendment of the Official Languages Act is included on the main list, Ó Clochartaigh said:

“It is two years since the Minister requested submissions from the public on amendments to the Official Languages Act. The department has been working since on a report compiling all recommendations. We were promised that this would be made available when the bill was finished. This report and all submissions need to be made available now so that a comprehensive discussion on the topic can be had.

“Sinn Féin has had no part in the weakening of the Official Languages Act.

“We have had no part in the merging of the Office of the Language Commissioner and the Office of the Ombudsman.

“It is clear that the Minister McGinley has been negligent in the implementation of the act, not the Language Commissioner, and that he should resign, not Seán Ó Cuirreáin. It is ironic that the government is moving forward with the new act now as notice of retirement is given by the current Commissioner.

"It is clear that the Irish language community has lost confidence in the Irish government regarding the implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language and assurance is needed that the Official Languages Act that is to come before the Houses of the Oireachtas this year does not represent another backward step.”

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Caithfidh Aire na Gaeltachta, Dinny McGinley, na h-aighneachtaí ar fad a bhaineann leis an athbhreithniú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a fhoilsiú láithreach, dar leis an Seanadóir, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

Ag labhairt dó inniu ar fhoilsiú clár reachtaíochta an rialtais don téarma parlaiminte seo, a bhfuil an leasú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ar an bpríomh liosta ann, deir Ó Clochartaigh:

“Tá sé dhá bhliain ó d’iarr an tAire aighneachtaí maidir le leasuithe d’Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ón bpobal. Tá an roinn ag obair ar thuarascáil maidir leis na moltaí ar fad ó shoin. Gealladh dúinn go gcuirfí seo ar fáil nuair a bheadh na cinn bhille réidh. Tá sé in am aige anois sin a dhéanamh agus na h-aighneachtaí ar fad a rinneadh a chur ar fáil ina iomláine chun go mbeidh díospóireacht chuimsitheach ar an ábhar.

“Níl aon ghlacadh ag Sinn Féin le lagú a dhéanamh ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

“Níl aon ghlacadh againn le comhnascadh a dhéanamh ar Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga le hOifig an Ombudsman.

“Is léir gurb é an tAire McGinley atá faillíoch maidir le cur i bhfeidhm an achta, ní an Coimisinéir Teanga agus gurb eisean is cóir a bheith ag éirí as, seachas Seán Ó Cuirreáin. Tá sé íorónach go bhfuil an rialtas ag bogadh ar aghaidh leis an acht nua anois agus fógra scoir tugtha ag an gCoimisinéir reatha.

“Is léir go bhfuil muinín caillte ag pobal na Gaeilge sa rialtas seo maidir le cur i bhfeidhm na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge agus gur gá cinntiú nach céim ar gcúl eile atá in Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla atá le cur ós comhair Thithe an Oireachtais i mbliana.”

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Tá duine de iarrthóirí sna toghcháin aitiúla, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, díreach ceaptha ar Bhord Fórás na Gaeilge.

Ceapadh Ó Laoghaire, 24, atá mar iarrthóir i dtoghcheantair Bhaile an Chollaigh-Carraig Uí Leighin, mar duine de cheapaí Sinn Féin ag cruinniú earnála den Chomh-Aireacht Thuaidh Theas a tionóladh le déanaí.

D’Oibrigh sé cheanna leis an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, úrlabhraí an phairtí ar ghnóthaí Gaeilge agusGaeltachta, mar chomhairleoir agus mar chúntóir polaitiúil.

Is é Fórás na Gaeilge an príomh eagraíocht a dhéanann maoiniú ar earnáil na Gaeilge, agus bunaíodh é mar cheann de na príomh eagrais Uile-Éireannach faoi Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta. Is é an tUasal Ó Laoghaire t-aon ionadaí ó hCorcaigh ar an mBord.

Ag labhairt faoina cheapacháin, dúirt an tUasal Ó Laoghaire, “Is onóir agus pribhléid é a bheith ceaptha ar eagraíocht chomh tabhachtach leis seo. Mar dhuine a tógadh le Gaeilge agus a fauir a chuid oideachais trí Ghaeilge, tá todhchaí na Gaeilge fíor thabhachtach dom.”

“Tréimhse riachtanach o leith forbairt an Teanga í seo agus aon ról gur féidir liom a chomhlíonadh chun tacú leis an teanga, agus le labhairt na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn, táím thar a bheith sásta é sin a dhéanamh.”

Ó Laoghaire appointed to Board of Foras na Gaeilge

Sinn Féin local election candidate, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, has been appointed to the Board of Fórás na Gaeilge.

Ó Laoghaire, 24, who is contesting the Ballincollig-Carrigaline LEA in May, was approved as one the Sinn Féin appointees to the All-Ireland body at a recent North South Ministerial Council sectoral meeting.

He previously worked for two years with Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, the party’s spokesperson on Irish and Gaeltacht Affairs, as a political advisor and assistant.

Fórás na Gaeilge is the key funding body for the Irish Language sector, and was one of the key All Ireland bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Ó Laoghaire will be the sole Cork representative on the Board.

Commenting on his appointment, Ó Laoghaire said:

“It is a great honour and privilege to be appointed to such an important body. As someone raised and educated in Irish, the future of the language is very important to me.”

“We are at a crucial stage of the Language’s development, and any role I can play in supporting or promoting the language and its use, I will be glad to do so.”

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has condemned the government’s plan to privatise a portion of Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus routes. He made his comments as the Oireachtas Committee on Transport prepares to meet to discuss the proposal.

Ellis, a member of the committee, described the plan as a clear case of private profit being prioritised over public good and a cowardly act by any government.

Ellis continued;

“Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus are essential companies for the state. They provide invaluable service to communities across the capital and the state. While both companies have struggled to make ends meet over recent years due to the decrease in commuter numbers they have in the past been profitable and with sufficient support and good management they can be again. They are worth considerably more to the public than the funding provided by the state.

“Since coming into office this government has shown open contempt for the idea of public transport. They have dedicated themselves to cutting funding, hiking fares, slashing routes and talking down the workers in these companies while stirring unrest. This plan which will allow private operators to cherry pick profitable routes and further undermine public transport is just the latest in a long line of policies aimed and making Fine Gael's case for privatisation.

“The reality is that privatisation of public transport has shown to be a failed policy time and time again. It almost invariably leads to higher fares, worse conditions and less access. Even in the case of London where a form of Local Authority managed privatisation was put in place with a degree of success public funds are still required and in greater proportions than in the case of Dublin Bus.

“This is either a cowardly act by this government who do not want to take on the task of providing real quality public transport or it is an underhanded act intended to prepare these companies for sell off or dissolution.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has called on Environment Minister Phil Hogan TD to resign over the debacle at Irish Water.

Deputy Adams made his comments at Leinster House today where he was outlining his party’s priorities ahead of the new Dáil term.

He said:

“By failing to answer repeated questions, from Sinn Féin TDs and others, on the cost associated with establishing Irish Water, Minister Hogan and his department have shown contempt for the Dáil, its members and the citizens they represent.

“He is incompetent. He has been involved in too many debacles. Minister Hogan should resign immediately and the government should abandon its regressive policy on water provision.”

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Sinn Féin East Derry MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has welcomed the news that the Lough Foyle Ferry Company with meet with the Committee for Regional Development to discuss funding issues and a change to the legislation that would facilitate this. 

 Mr. Ó hOisín said,

 “I welcome the fact that Lough Foyle Ferry Company will make a presentation to the Committee for regional Development on the future of the ferry service between Magilligan Co. Derry and Greencastle Co. Donegal.

 “The long term future of the ferry is in doubt due to lack of funding yet I believe that this can be secured with the proper political will.

 “I am aware that the Lough Foyle Ferry Company has already approached Irish Transport Minister Leo Varadkar regarding this issue and I am proposing to bring forward to the Assembly a Private Members Bill which is a pre-requisite for funding this vital piece of infrastructure.

 “The securing of the ferry service will add the social and tourist economy of the entire North-West region so it is important that we resolve the issues as soon as possible.

 “I have already brought this matter up on many occasions and I am gratified that the DRD Committee as well as the two Councils, Limavady and Donegal have been supportive.

 “A major obstacle to development of the ferry, namely the nonsense of ‘an international Port of Entry’ and the attendant costs that this incurred was very satisfactorily dealt with by former DRD Minister Conor Murphy so I hope that Minister Kennedy can be as effective, so that the service can be assured as a regular, year-round provision for tourists, locals and industry throughout the region.”

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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the Midlands North West constituency, Matt Carthy, has expressed serious concern at reports from the Bloomberg News agency that the EU commission is to back the controversial practice of fracking.
 
Matt Carthy said: 

“It has emerged through the Bloomberg News Agency that the EU Commission is to recommend allowing companies to use the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique. This is clear evidence of the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU and of the impact of lobbying by powerful energy companies.  

“Communities are totally opposed to fracking as evidenced by the vote in favour of a ban on fracking in Leitrim County Council. 

“People have real concerns about the impact of fracking on health, the environment and farming.  But once again it appears that the EU Commission is listening to corporate interests rather than to citizens and communities. 

“It is wrong that lobbyists have more power than the people these European institutions claim to represent. 

“Lobbying by powerful groups such as these energy companies is something that I am extremely concerned about and that I plan to tackle if elected to the European parliament next May. 

“There are far too many yes men and women in Europe who refuse to stand up to the European commission on these matters. I commend Leitrim County Council members for the position they adopted and I will continue to work with my party colleagues for a ban on fracking in Ireland.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed the acceptance of an amendment he and his party brought forward to the Assembly today in regard to the case of firefighters and the Public Service Pensions Bill.

 Mr McKay said

 "We brought forward a number of amendments today in relation to this Bill to ensure that the normal pension age for public service workers would be an issue that would be decided on through regulations at an Executive and departmental level.

 "The link with Westminster in regard to normal pension age leaves us at the mercy of the British government there rather than having these decisions made by local accountable politicians. That runs contrary to the concept of local devolution.

 "I am particularly glad to see that other parties accepted our argument that pension age for firefighters should be decided upon at a local level through regulations and voted for the Sinn Féin amendment.

 "This is an issue that local firefighters have been concerned about and we are glad that there will now be an opportunity for government locally to consider the introduction of regulations in conjunction with the Fire Brigade Union.

 "There is a public safety aspect to the issue of firefighters that have to work until their later years in life and it is only proper that this is considered fully." ENDS

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