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Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for a Beefed up inspection regime at Shannon airport to coincide with the passing of the Biological Weapons Bill 2010 which aims to prevent the production, transportation or use of Biological weapons.
Speaking during today’s debate on the Bill Deputy Ó Snodaigh said “This Bill needs to be coupled with a beefed up inspection regime in Shannon Airport or other airports used by the US military or indeed any other military force”.
“Let us not forget the controversy in this country in relation to extraordinary rendition. What is certainly clear is that a new regime of inspections at Shannon Airport is necessary for this bill to be useful. This lax inspection regime allowed Ireland to be implicated in the horror that was the Guantanamo detention centre and all the matters that emanated from that.”
“The Bill does however make the possession of such weapons or agents a criminal offence thus implicating any individuals whatever their nationality who are in possession of such weapons or agents for example on a plane parked at an Irish airport. Despite this welcome development the Bill unfortunately doesn’t provide greater search and prosecutorial powers to those who may suspect that biological weapons are being moved through Irish airspace or ports. Given the reluctance of the Irish authorities to search the aforementioned US war planes in the past this may in effect restrict the usefulness of these provisions.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin TD for North Kerry Martin Ferris has welcomed the announcement that Aer Arann is to enter into negotiations to take over the air link between Kerry and Dublin that was placed under threat by Ryanair’s decision to drastically reduce the number of flights.

Deputy Ferris said:

“I very much welcome this news as it provides a means to preserve the existing link as a full service. Myself and the other Kerry TDs met last week with Minister Dempsey. Kerry County Council has also stressed to all concerned the critical importance of the link for both commercial and social reasons. I am pleased therefore that Aer Arann has undertaken to negotiate with a view to assuming responsibility and I hope that this is brought to a successful conclusion.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Seanad Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has said that the proposed ESB price hike which will come into affect this month will leave thousands of families literally in the dark as they struggle to find the money to pay their electricity bills.

Senator Doherty said that introducing this levy which will push ESB prices up by 5% is ludicrous especially considering that not only is the ESB is a highly profitable company but also the salaries of the top brass of company are beyond excessive.

Senator Doherty said:

“The decision by the government to introduce this new levy at a time of unprecedented hardship for households and businesses is simply ludicrous. This will punish already struggling families and will heap further pressure on small and medium businesses who have to deal with already crippling costs and a lack of credit.
“The levy which will push electricity prices up by 5% will be especially hurtful to families considering that not only is the ESB is a highly profitable company having recently reported profits of €500 million, but also that the CEO of the company earns a tidy €654,000 including bonuses per annum.

“900 homes a month are having their electricity cut off because of late payments. This levy can only serve to increase the amount of disconnections.

“Sinn Féin actively supported a campaign against the electricity levy and our activists have collected thousands of signatures from across the state objecting to it’s implementation.

“There is no need to push up electricity costs. It is wrong and will leave thousands of families literally in the dark. At a time when bank bailouts coupled with NAMA will be costing the taxpayers anything up €100 billion it is disgraceful that something as fundamental as electricity is being denied to people. This levy should not go ahead. It is wrong and the government need to take action immediately.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Seanad Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has hit out at the establishment parties for supporting public spending cuts. The Senator said that there is a better way to address the deficit which does not include cutting frontline services.

Senator Doherty said:

“The economy is in freefall. Ordinary people across the state are seriously struggling. They are looking to their elected representatives for leadership, they are not receiving it. Instead they are being told that the priority is to bail out the banks, the people come second.

“The three main parties have all signed up to spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit. We in Sinn Féin reject that notion. Yes the deficit needs to be reduced but a slash and burn job on public services is not the way to do it. The only way forward is to stimulate the economy. Sinn Féin would do this by investing in job creation and retention, by eliminating wasteful spending and by taxing the wealthy.

“More budget cuts will mean huge hardship for people across the state. In my own constituency in Donegal South West budget cuts will mean reduced hospital services, poor quality roads and schools and social welfare incomes slashed in a county which is one of the worst hit by unemployment rises.

“We in Sinn Féin will be launching our pre-budget submission in the coming months. In it we will show that there is a better way which is an alternative to cuts. Those who say that there is no other way are wrong.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Seanad Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has said that the proposed ESB price hike which will come into affect this month will leave thousands of families literally in the dark as they struggle to find the money to pay their electricity bills.

Senator Doherty said that introducing this levy which will push ESB prices up by 5% is ludicrous especially considering that not only is the ESB is a highly profitable company but also the salaries of the top brass of company are beyond excessive.

Senator Doherty said:

“The decision by the government to introduce this new levy at a time of unprecedented hardship for households and businesses is simply ludicrous. This will punish already struggling families and will heap further pressure on small and medium businesses who have to deal with already crippling costs and a lack of credit.
“The levy which will push electricity prices up by 5% will be especially hurtful to families considering that not only is the ESB is a highly profitable company having recently reported profits of €500 million, but also that the CEO of the company earns a tidy €654,000 including bonuses per annum.

“900 homes a month are having their electricity cut off because of late payments. This levy can only serve to increase the amount of disconnections.

“Sinn Féin actively supported a campaign against the electricity levy and our activists have collected thousands of signatures from across the state objecting to it’s implementation.

“There is no need to push up electricity costs. It is wrong and will leave thousands of families literally in the dark. At a time when bank bailouts coupled with NAMA will be costing the taxpayers anything up €100 billion it is disgraceful that something as fundamental as electricity is being denied to people. This levy should not go ahead. It is wrong and the government need to take action immediately.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan has today welcomed yesterday's offer by the Minister for Finance to give official figures to opposition parties in advance of the publication of the Government's four- year budgetary strategy next month.

Deputy Morgan:

“I welcome the offer made by the Minister for Finance and his Department to share their figures with the opposition parties.

“I accept this offer of open disclosure of figures and I look forward to sitting down with the Department.

“I trust that, in accepting this offer, I will have access to all the key figures as well as programmes in order to get a true reflection of the position of the State’s finances.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has criticised the “deeply and profoundly flawed” Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010.

Speaking in the Dáil debate on the bill Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The bill before us today is the third incarnation of the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill. Each time this bill has been re-published the Minister has taken out about 5% of the objectionable provisions and kept the rest more or less intact. At this rate, in nineteen years we might get an immigration bill that could be welcomed by Sinn Féin. This is not that bill.

“The bill retains the three most serious flaws of its predecessors. The first is the provision for summary deportation, which allows for a foreign national to be removed from the state on the basis of a Garda’s opinion that he or she is unlawfully present. It is obvious that there is potential here for mistakes of enormous proportions.

“The second serious flaw is the vast amount of Ministerial discretion the bill allows. It gives statutory approval to the arbitrary and ad hoc nature of the current system, which leaves people confused about their rights and entitlements and subjects them to wildly inconsistent decisions. A glaring omission is the ‘visibly independent appeals process’ promised in the Programme for Government.

“The provisions dealing with victims of trafficking are also flawed. Victims are not allowed to apply for recognition as trafficked persons nor can they challenge a decision to refuse them recognition. This section also continues the approach of tying victims’ protection to their willingness to assist in prosecution. Victim protection should be aimed at addressing a person’s needs.”

Deputy Ó Snodaigh also criticised the lack of provision for family reunification, permanent residency and legal aid for domestic violence victims and concluded by stating, “We are all in agreement over the need to reform our immigration system. But we must reform it in a way that is fair, transparent, constitutional and consistent with our international obligations. It is the right thing to do, it will save the state money on court challenges and it will save the need for further amending legislation to fix all the problems this bill will create.” ENDS

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Speaking after the meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs with the Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan criticised the influence that the ‘old establishment’ are having on the regulators office when banking practices are being supervised by many of the same banking figures that caused the crisis in the first place. Deputy Morgan also criticised the lack of action being taken in respect of auditors and convictions against any corrupt bankers.

Deputy Morgan said:

“I feel that the Office of the Regulator is coming under pressure from the old establishment that runs this town and their golden circle who benefit from it.

“I had shared in the hope that the Office of the Regulator would be in a position to do their work independently and effectively and I said so when Matthew Elderfield first visited this Committee several months ago.

“Unfortunately I am developing some doubts and concerns that the old clique may be exercising some influence on the office. Indeed, the banking practices introduced by the regulator since the financial collapse in 2008 are being supervised by many of the same banking figures that caused it in the first place. I say this because at least six of AIB’s board members are the same individuals that were in place and whose policies led directly to the banking crisis and the crash of the Irish economy.

“Matthew Elderfield said that he would not sanction people for appointment as board members to a bank where they had a criminal record. But we all know that the people who ran the banks should have a criminal record by now. Not one of these bankers has been hauled before the courts and most of us have no expectation of court appearances and convictions against any of these corrupt bankers.

“I am also concerned that the Office of the Regulator is adopting a softly-softly approach in relation to the auditors of the banks. Some of the auditors ought to have and should have known of the scams that were going on within banks. However instead of exposing the corruption the auditors simply overlooked it. Currently these auditors are self-regulating and there is no accountability in respect of their actions. This is completely unacceptable.

“I acknowledge that the Office of the Regulator is still grossly understaffed and that the regulator has only been in the position for nine months, but we expect more action to be taken at this stage.

“Banks should be cleaned up. But this cannot come without a credible mode of enforcement. Going forward, financial regulation cannot be expected to reform the financial sector or change the culture of banking when at the core of the new system is the skeleton and the vices of the old one.” ENDS

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A delegation of farmers’ representatives from both sides of the border met today (Wednesday) with the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Northern Assembly, Michelle Gildernew, at Dundonald House in Belfast. The delegation included the County Chair of IFA in both Counties Monaghan and Louth, Bert Stewart and Denis Brennan, and the Co. Louth IFA Dairy Chair Gerard Melia. Representatives of the Ulster Farmers Union from Co. Armagh were also on the delegation.

Organised by the Cavan/Monaghan TD and Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, the focus of the meeting was on the critical importance of containing and eradicating the recorded brucellosis outbreaks on a number of farms north of the border.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“There is great concern among farmers on both sides of the border at the serious problem of brucellosis in cattle in Co. Armagh. At present there is brucellosis free status south of the border and this is a huge advantage to farming there.

“It has been estimated that before its eradication in the South, brucellosis control cost farmers €17 million annually in monitoring and pre-movement charges. Most of this is now saved because of the South’s brucellosis-free status. However, the persistence of the disease in the North means that some testing is still required and the full savings cannot be made.

“The spread of brucellosis to the South would have potentially devastating consequences including the ending of live exports to Europe and the closure of many export markets for dairy products to Asia. This would be on top of much greater costs for farmers in testing cattle and working to eradicate the disease once more.

“Today’s meeting was very constructive and was driven by a determination on both sides of the border to stamp out this disease and give the whole island of Ireland brucellosis-free status. Minister Gildernew and her officials share this determination and the delegation recorded their appreciation of the steps she and her Department are taking and plan to take in the period ahead. This is being done with the shared aim of preventing the spread of the disease and to eradicate it once and for all.” ENDS

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The Ballymurphy Massacre Families will meet the British Secretary of State Owen Paterson on Thursday

The Ballymurphy Massacre Family delegation will be accompanied by west Belfast MP Gerry Adams who is facilitating the meeting.

Speaking today Gerry Adams said:

“Next year will mark 40 years since the events of August 1971 when in the two days after the introduction of internment, 11 people, including a mother of 8 children and a local Catholic priest, were killed by the British Parachute Regiment.

The families have always disputed British Army and RUC claims about the circumstances surrounding the deaths. They have campaigned for almost four decades for the truth.

None of those killed had any connection to any armed group. They were all innocent civilians.

On Thursday the Ballymurphy Massacre families will meet with the British Secretary of State Owen Patterson.

The families will tell him that they are seeking truth. They want an independent international investigation into the deaths of their loved ones and an apology from the British government which recognises their innocence.” CRÍOCH

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Having pressed the Taoiseach yesterday evening on the need for government action to protect livelihoods in the taxi industry Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South Central Aengus Ó Snodaigh today reiterated his call for Transport Minister Noel Dempsey to meet with the Taxi Drivers.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“The situation is very serious. A taxi driver has commenced a hunger strike to highlight the appalling state of the taxi business.
“There is an urgent need for government action to address the abysmal state of the taxi industry which has tragically given rise to a high rate of suicides among taxi drivers. Government must step in where the taxi regulator has failed.
“The Minister’s refusal to meet with delegations from the various taxi representative associations is unacceptable. It is simply not acceptable for him to abdicate responsibility to the taxi regulator. There are issues which are outside the regulator’s remit that must be dealt with. And given the abject failure of the current system of regulation there is also a need for a Taxi Regulator (Amendment) Bill.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that Government-supporting backbenchers, if they are sincere about the health issues they have raised, should vote with the Opposition on this week’s Private Members motion opposing health cuts.

He said:
“A huge price is being paid for the misgovernment of this State over the past 13 years. Among those paying very heavily are public patients in our health services. They are now subject to savage cutbacks that are closing hospital services, shutting down beds and wards, increasing waiting lists and waiting times, worsening the overcrowding in A&E departments and slashing a whole range of services in the community.
“The so-called rebel backbenchers who have been raising health issues over the summer were happy to troop in behind Minister Harney and her Cabinet colleagues to vote for prescription charges for medical card holders on the day before the summer recess. And they voted for every health cut in every budget since 2007.
“This week they have a chance to redeem themselves and demonstrate their sincerity in raising the health service crisis in their regions. Then it will be up to the voters to decide if the real concern of these backbenchers are hospital beds or Dáil seats.
“The removal of services from Monaghan General Hospital, culminating in the ending of acute services on 22nd July 2009, has been used as a template for the downgrading of other hospitals. Government and HSE centralisation policy, as well as the tightening regime of cutbacks, including the recruitment embargo, sees hospitals across the State under threat.
“Over 100 staff on fixed-term contracts in Letterkenny General have received notice that their hours will be cut by 7 hours per week. This is at a time when frontline staff and patients say that the hospital is full to capacity. The HSE is also planning a range of major cuts to services at the hospital.

“I would urge people campaigning on health issues in the regions and nationally to keep up the pressure on Government-supporting TDs and help to hasten the departure of a regime that has caused huge hardship in our public health services.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for North Kerry and West Limerick Martin Ferris has said that the services of notorious Dublin criminal Martin “Viper” Foley are being used to collect debts from people in the Kerry and Limerick region. Deputy Ferris said that the Viper’s reputation was enough to cause fear among people and he criticised the government for failing to properly regulate the debt collection industry.


Deputy Ferris said: “It has come to my attention that some people are employing the services of known criminals as debt collectors to pursue people in this constituency. One of these criminals is Martin “Viper” Foley who has been in the debt collecting business for quite a while. Unfortunately, because there is little regulation and no code of conduct for debt collecting in this state, anybody, including known criminals, can set up legitimate debt collecting companies and are free to use whatever tactics they can get away with.
“Because of the crisis with credit and because the government has failed to introduce strict regulations on debt collection, some struggling businesses who are owed money are going to very extreme measures to get payment.
“I have received a copy of one letter sent to a businessman in North Kerry stating that his details had been passed onto the Viper Foley’s company. This person, whose business has collapsed, has a young family and is extremely fearful about what might happen. I am sure that there other families out there who are in a similar position and I want to make it clear to them that Sinn Féin will stand with them against any form of intimidation by these people.
“This is another legacy of this government’s reckless policies over the past decade. We have the ESB and Bord Gáis threatening to disconnect peoples electricity, we have banks threatening peoples homes and we have scum like the "Viper" Foley collecting debt without fear from the law." ENDS

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Responding to the comments made by the British Secretary of State, Education Minister Caitríona Ruane said;

"It is irresponsible to make ill-informed comments about areas which are not your responsibility. Mr Patterson is thankfully not in charge of any Department in the north of Ireland. He is attempting to divert public attention away from the fact that his government is proposing to slash public spending.

“Owen Patterson would be better focussed adhering to the St Andrews governmental agreement.

“No-one is more aware than me of the past inefficiencies in education. There is a responsibility on anyone dealing with public monies to act in an effective and efficient manner. As Education Minister I am on record stating that the Education and Library Boards are not the most effective and efficient way of dealing with education issues or managing public funds. That is why I have brought forward proposals to create one body - the Education and Skills Authority." CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA and Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee member Billy Leonard this afternoon joined Barry McElduff MLA and Rosie McCorley in a meeting with Human Rights Commissioner Monica McWilliams.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Leonard said;

“Our meeting comes after the Human Rights Commission informed the DCAL Committee that Culture Minister Nelson McCausland’s stance in relation to an Irish Language Act was not human rights compliant.

A large part of our meeting was seeking to find out what action the HRC could take in relation the Ministers continued stance and in particular his disputing of their inital remarks.

We also sought information on where Nelson McCausland’s position stood in relation to international human rights compliance.

This morning’s meeting was encouraging and we stressed the importance with the HRC that they continue to press both the Irish and British Governments to meet all of their obligations in relation to the Irish Language.

It remains clear and unfortunate that the Minister is choosing to use blocking tactics rather than discharging his legal duties in relation to this matter.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA and Poverty Spokesperson Daithí McKay has said that the British Government decision to cut child benefits in 2013 will have a greater impact on single parents and families with a stay at home parent than others. He said that the Tory party’s approach to cutting benefits will result in higher levels of poverty.

Mr McKay said

“This proposal from the British Government will leave you with a perverse situation where on the one hand a couple with one child who earn over £80,000 will qualify for Child Benefit yet a single mother or father with a large family and an income of just £44,000 will lose thousands of pounds in Child Benefit which they are now entitled to. This is a very crude proposal that has more to do with meeting targetted public spending savings than the best interests of children.

“This is in addition to the freezing of Child Benefit rates for the next three years and the fact that the British Government has not put forward any concrete proposals which will tackle child poverty.

“Further to that they are refusing to guarantee that the Winter Fuel Allowance will remain untouched. That is a major concern for us as the north has a high rate of older people in poverty, a rate which is continually rising.

“These proposals from the British Government will introduce stark inequalities into Child benefit distribution and will have a huge impact on single parent families and families with stay at home parents. Such an approach to welfare will inevitably lead to a rise in poverty and is something that this Assembly must oppose robustly.” ENDS

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Campbell attempts to criminalise the republican and nationalist community

Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle Raymond McCartney has stated that this mornings comments by Gregory Campbell that the nationalist and republican community must know who is behind dissident attacks and do more to help in the apprehension of those responsible is an attempt to criminalise and implicate the entire nationalist community.

Speaking earlier Mr McCartney said;

“Gregory Campbell's approach to the issue of how to tackle the dissidents is hardly surprising, yet offers no positive or constructive ideas.

“Gregory assumes, and is not shy in painting a picture, that the nationalist community know all about the movement and operations of dissident groups. In doing so he utilises language that we saw in the 1980’s and 90’s that unionist politicians used as cover for loyalists to attack and kill members of the nationalist and republican communities.


“He needs to be measured in his approach and stop alienating this community. He needs to step back from blanket portrayals and stop criminalising the nationalist and republican community. Maybe he should come forward with what he knows about loyalist activities and unionist party links with such groupings.”

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Responding to developments in Britain and the Minister for Children Barry Andrew's suggestion that child benefit be withdrawn from some children, Sinn Féin Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh called on the Government to maintain child benefit as a universal payment and tax high earners more.

He said:

"Moves by the Government to cut or restrict eligibility for child benefit would in fact be a counterproductive cost- cutting measure. By removing child benefit from high earners it would actually make child benefit up to thirty times more expensive to adminster.

"Responses to parliamentary questions that I recieved last week reveal that the current cost of adminstering child benefit stands at 0.2 per cent of the spend on it.  The introduction of a means test could cause the cost of administering the scheme to rise to 6 per cent (the current cost of administering the means-tested supplementary welfare allowance).

"Child benefit must be kept as a universal benefit.  The logical solution is to tax high earners more.  A third tax band should be introduced taxing 48% on individual earnings in excess of €100,000. This would increase tax revenue in a fairer way, while keeping administration costs at a low. ENDS"

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Sinn Féin MEP, Bairbre de Brún has said that international concern is growing over the case of the Cuban Five as the five men have now entered their 13th year in US prisons.

Speaking today, Ms de Brún said: “September marked 12 years since the imprisonment of the Cuban Five. René González, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labanino and Fernando González were arrested for monitoring Miami-based right-wing Cuban groups engaged in a campaign of violence against Cuba.

“It is widely recognised internationally that these men did not receive the fair trial that they are legally entitled to in Miami. Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission are among the respected rights groups that have highlighted this miscarriage of justice and condemned the biased nature of the trial.

“Last year the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the Cuban Five, without offering an explanation, despite global briefs to the court signed by 10 Nobel laureates and hundreds of parliamentarians.

“The wives of two of the men, Gerardo Hernández and René González, have been repeatedly refused visas by the US and as a consequence have not seen their husbands in 12 years.

“Sinn Féin is calling for the release of the Cuban Five and in the interim, as a humanitarian measure, for the wives of Gerardo Hernández and René González to be granted visas to enable them to visit their husbands.” ENDS

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Speaking today after the release of the Exchequer figures for September, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan said that the figures were another ‘sorry lament’ for the public finances and a reflection of the untold economic damage being done to the public finances by the Government’s failure to invest in and stimulate the economy.

Deputy Morgan said:


“Today’s figures are another sorry lament for the State’s public finances, with the income tax revenues down by over 6% on the same period last year and down 4.4% on the Government’s estimate for the period.

“The Government and the Department of Finance continue to get these figures wrong despite their conservative estimates. It is clear that the failure of the Government’s forecast to materialise is symptomatic of the failure of their policies. These figures will not improve until job creation and stimulus is put firmly on the agenda.

“The deficit is a symptom of the crisis- not its cause. The hatchet budget that the Government will bring in December will squeeze the real economy further, growing the problem of exchequer returns even more.

“The overwhelming priority for this Government should be restoring growth, getting people back into work and restoring investment in our infrastructure and public services. These are the polices that will actually secure deficit reduction, because tax revenues rise and welfare spends lower as people are brought back into work.

“Investment enables growth. Deflationary policies that put too much emphasis on deficit reduction will crowd out productive expenditure. The failure of the Government to deal with the jobs crisis has directly led us to the current exchequer shortfall and this economic mess.

“If the Government continue down this path of austerity, they will exasperate the problems with the public finances to the extent that recovery will be crippled. Today’s figures are a sorry reflection of the untold economic damage being done to the public finances by the Government’s failure to invest in and stimulate the economy.” ENDS
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