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No alternative to dialogue and agreement , says McGuinness in major statement on 20th anniversary of IRA cessation

Delivering a keynote address in Derry on Sunday morning on the 20th anniversary of the IRA announcing “a complete cessation of military operations”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said there is a real threat to the political institutions in the North from political stagnation and the absence of progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in a keynote statement today has warned that the “political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.”


Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Peadar Tóibín TD, has today challenged An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, to “stand up and defend Irish jobs at Aviva”.

Speaking this morning, Deputy Tóibín said:

“Under the guidance of An Taoiseach Enda Kenny this economy is haemorrhaging jobs on a daily basis. The latest crisis at Aviva comes hot on the heels of the Talk Talk disaster.

“Minister Richard Bruton has once again side stepped the issue claiming it is only a rumour of a problem. This response is wholly irresponsible. We need immediate action from the highest level of this government. I am calling on the Taoiseach to meet the workers of Aviva and to assure them of his total support in defending their jobs.

“Protecting these jobs must be a priority for this government. Anything less is unacceptable.

“These job losses are a direct consequence of the government’s policy of shrinking the economy with cuts. We need to re-inflate the economy with investment.

“Platitudes from the government are simply not good enough. We need them to get directly involved in resolving the issues at Aviva. I have contacted UNITE and I intend to meet with representatives of the employees this afternoon to discuss how best we can work together to save these jobs.” ENDS

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Ní mór don rialtas tréan iarracht a dheánamh an méid is mó postanna gur féidir a choinneáil in oifigí Aviva i nGaillimh agus ar fud na tire.
Agus é ag caint ar ráflaí go gcaillfear tuarim is 500 post mar thoradh ar athbhreithniú ar ghníomhaíochtaí domhanda Aviva, dúirt an Clochartach;
‘‘Is ábhar imní iad na ráflaí go bhfuil postanna d'ardluach in oifigí Aviva i nGaillimh agus ar fud na tire i mbaol. Is tréimhse deacair é seo do na hoibrithe agus a dteaghlaigh agus téann mo chroí amach dóibh.’’
Dúirt sé freisin;
‘‘Ní mór don rialtas, an IDA, agus eagraíochtaí fiontar eile gach ar féídir leo a dhéanamh chun na postanna seo a chaomhnú.’’
‘’D’iarrfainn ar Aviva chomh maith an chaighdeán ard de na hoibrithe atá ag obair san earnáil airgeadais in Éireann, in éineacht le na buntáistí uile a bhaineann le gnó a dhéanamh I nGaillimh agus in Éireann a thógáil san áireamh in aon chinneadh a thógann siad.’’

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Sinn Féin Justice and Equality Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has today introduced a Bill to the Dáil to strengthen the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) following the Government’s proposal of a merger with the Equality Authority.

Deputy O’Brien, speaking in the Dáil today said:

“This Bill would increase the remit of the Irish Human Rights Commission and give it the protections and status it deserves as a crucial element of the human rights provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I think it is somewhat hard necked of Taoiseach, Enda Kenny to speak today at an IHRC event organised to celebrate its 10th anniversary while at the same time he plans to merge it with the Equality Authority and water down both bodies.

“The proposed merger is simply a cover for cuts and both of these organisations are already chronically under resourced.

“The Government proposal can only lead to a loss of focus and expertise in two distinct fields.

“I don’t know where the Labour party are in relation to these changes. They were very vociferous in opposition to a similar merger proposal when it was made by the previous Fianna Fáil led Government

“The Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore at the time accused that particular government of ‘trying to turn back the clock on the equality agenda’. He deemed such a merger an ‘ominous’ proposal.

“Obviously things are different now for both the Tánaiste and the Labour party.

“The IHRC was a very important component of the Good Friday Agreement, an international agreement between the Dublin and London Governments.

“The Government’s proposal would undermine the Good Friday Agreement as a whole by sending a message to any party to the agreement that the possibility exists to hollow it out one component at a time; and have no doubt there are those who would wish to do so.

“I call on all members of the Oireachtas to read the Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Bill 2011, to support it and to oppose the retrograde merger proposals of the Government.” ENDS

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 Sinn Féin Spokesperson, Pat Doherty MP, MLA, Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Agriculture Minister has accused the Ulster Unionist Party of continuing its subservient alignment to the English Tory Policy on CAP reform rather than act in the best interests of farmers here. Pat Doherty said: "Once more the Ulster Unionists subservient adherence to Tory Party policy takes precedence over the best interests of our Agriculture industry. The UUP is suggesting that we align ourselves with the Tory Government's policy on CAP reform, which wants to see the phasing out of the Single Farm Payment (SFP) altogether. This would spell disaster for the farmers of the north, many of whom, without the financial support coming from the SFP simply would not survive. The British government's approach to negotiations on CAP Reform is as with all of its other economic policies, designed to benefit those on the island of Britain. The interests of the people in the North of Ireland whether it be farmers or any other sector are peripheral and do not factor into its planning.  "Fortunately the British overnment's approach to CAP reform is finding little favour with most other European member states and could find itself  isolated in these negotiations. "Michelle O Neill is taking the right approach in building allies with the South and elsewhere who have the same policy approach to us on CAP reform. The fact that the Irish government, may have the Presidency of the EU at a key point in the negotiations process means that it could be in a very strong position to influence the negotiations outcomes. "Minister O Neill should continue working with her Southern counterpart, Simon Coveney TD and all 15 of our MEPs to achieve the best possible outcome for our agricultural sector. To follow the path suggested by the Ulster Unionists and align herself with Tory anti EU policiies would see the ruination of Irish farming - North and South. 

"To compound the approach of the UUP and the Tories, the British Government's intention is to drastically cut the Agriculture budget which would further erode the already dwindling funds reaching our farmers and rural areas.

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Speaking from the National Ploughing Championship in Co Kildare today, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has stressed the important role the agri-food sector can play as a key driver for economic growth across the island.
 
The MEP said, "In the current difficult economic climate that we all face, the Agri-Food industry remains one of the success stories and continues to make a major contribution to our economy, not only by its resilience but also by its increasing productivity. We must all work closely together to harness the growth in the supply chain and help the agri-food sector deliver its full economic potential.”
 
She also commented, “In recent years, working with an all-Ireland approach, we have been able to greatly improve animal health, and my colleague Michelle O'Neill is working hard  to keep bluetongue out of the local industry and reduce Brucellosis (BR) and TB in our herds".
 
She concluded "I also want to stress my commitment to getting the best possible outcome from the discussions about the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.  That will include making sure Ireland North and South gets our fair share of EU funding from Single Farm Payments and the Rural Development Programme.."  

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Michael Colreavy will today launch a consultation programme entitled “Listening to Rural Ireland” at 12 noon at the Sinn Féin tent at the Ploughing Championships .

Deputy Colreavy said the aim of the consultation was to engage with a broad spectrum of people in the farming community and inform the party on issues that matter to rural Ireland.

Speaking from the Ploughing Championships Deputy Colreavy said:

“This initiative aims to inform party spokespeople as to the real day to day issues facing the farming and rural communities. The results of the consultation will go towards the formulation of a Sinn Féin policy which will draw on the very real day to day issues that people across rural Ireland are facing.

“We want to hear from as broad a spectrum as possible. We want to provide real and effective representation for rural Ireland.

“We are asking the following five questions:
- What type of farming are you engaged in?
- What do you believe are the three major issues facing Irish farmers at the present time?
- What do you believe are the three major issues facing rural Ireland at the present time?
- Do you feel that your situation has improved or worsened since the introduction of the Single Farm Payment?
- Do you believe that you or a family member will still be engaged in farming in ten years time?

“I am asking people to call down to the Sinn Féin tent at the Ploughing Championships today and take part in our consultation. We want to hear from you.”

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Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education this morning Sinn Féin Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh welcomed research from the Department of Social Protection dispelling the myth that social welfare acts as a disincentive to work once and for all.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“This research demonstrates that for the overwhelming majority of people on the live register social welfare payments are significantly lower than their income would be from even minimum wage employment.

“Certain politicians, employers and commentators have been spreading the myth that people are happy to stay on the dole because social welfare payments are too high. It’s time for those who have been banging this drum to admit that the real barrier to employment is the absence of job opportunities.

“I heard the employer who claimed he could not fill a 28,000 per annum post because welfare rates are too high. But the figures contained in this research demonstrate that the employer’s original tale was absolutely baseless.

“In fact in the case mentioned the income from employment would be four to five thousand euros greater than income on the dole. These myths are being promoted by unscrupulous profiteers who wish to drive down social welfare payments in order to facilitate wage cuts.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has anyone who recklessly disposes of strategic state assets is acting treacherously.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening on a Sinn Féin motion opposing the sale of the public stake in the ESB Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Public control of strategic assets is about much more than our economic recovery in the short term. It’s about our very survival as an island nation into the future.

“As the European financial crisis deepens it is becoming an increasingly hostile and merciless place for small outlying members. The larger members are seeking to protect their own interests first a foremost. We are witnessing unilateral moves by the likes of France and Germany – at our expense these continental players are acting to protect their own banks which recklessly lent to Irish ones during boom times. Likewise, Finland’s insistence that Greece honour it’s debt to them over and above its debt to Ireland and others is another example.

“As an island nation we are different to other European nations. We have no international land borders. We have no choice but to be more self-reliant than others. We must now protect and indeed bolster our capacity to be self-reliant should the need arise.

“International commercial espionage is on the increase. We are losing Foreign Direct Investment not only to India but to our European neighbours also. During such times of crisis, economic or otherwise, our transport – sea, air, rail and road – communications and energy infrastructure are our last line of defence. Their privatization whether in part or in whole exposes us to attack in the increasingly competitive and cut-throat global environment.

“Our free market competitors can be savage and merciless in their actions. We must defend and hold what we have in terms of strategic assets. Anyone who recklessly disposes of our strategic infrastructure is acting treacherously and against the interests of the Irish people North and South.

“In terms of energy Bord na Móna, Bord Gáis and the ESB are profitable and of undeniable strategic importance. Even a partial sale would be the first step towards full privatization. The privatization of critical infrastructure both in Ireland and abroad has been an unmitigated disaster for the public. At home, Eircom was quickly asset stripped and in just a few short years post privatization Ireland plummeted down the league table of investment in broadband roll-out with very real, negative and lasting consequences for the Irish economy. In Britain, Royal Mail had to be bought back so bad was the experience of privatization and the privatization of British Rail literally cost lives so poor was the consequent maintenance of the railway lines.

“Critical infrastructure when in public hands can be deployed strategically to grow the economy. And because under a public owner the bottom line is not necessarily profit it can also be used to serve a diversity of public interests. As Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on social protection I actively opposed this government’s recent decision to cut pensioners’ fuel and energy allowances. This government made a decision to achieve savings by cutting fuel allowances under the Household Benefits Package rather than securing a bulk purchaser discount from the energy provider.

“We need to start insisting that our public services serve the public. We need to cut waste and the outrageous pay and conditions at the top. And we need to extract the very best for the public. These assets are only non-strategic if like the current government you fail to use them strategically.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the sale of part of the State’s stake in the ESB as “the worst kind of short-sighted policy that will come back to haunt our society and our economy in the years ahead”.

Speaking in support of a Sinn Féin Dáil motion opposing the privatisation and calling for investment in jobs and growth, which is being debated in the Dáil this week, Ó Caoláin said:

“The sound investment made when the ESB was established and developed has paid off handsomely over the decades. Throughout the current economic and financial crisis the ESB’s investment in infrastructure has remained high, unlike Eircom, which continues to be dogged by under-investment following its privatisation.

“We know who benefited from the fiasco that was the Eircom privatisation – the likes of Tony O’Reilly and other privateers who creamed off profits and dividends. And at what cost to Ireland?

“This State, which should be a world leader in communications infrastructure, now lags behind other EU and OECD states in terms of broadband availability per capita.

“The Fine Gael/Labour Programme for Government is committed to target up to €2 billion in sales of so-called ‘non-strategic’ State assets drawing from the recommendations of the McCarthy Review Group. This is not based on any sound economic strategy. On the contrary, it represents another step in the downgrading of our economy and a further limiting of the potential of the State to help create jobs and to bring about economic growth and recovery.

“These semi-State companies should not be privatised in part or in whole because they can play a vital role in delivering employment activation measures and training.” ENDS

Full text:

Sinn Féin Private Members Business
No privatisation of ESB
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


This is one of the most important motions to be put before the Dáil in recent years. The decision to sell off a stake in the ESB is totally wrong. It is the first step towards privatisation of this and other key strategic State assets at the diktat of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

The disastrous IMF/ECB deal so cravenly accepted by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government is now the equivalent of the old British regime at Dublin Castle, warping the Irish economy and impoverishing the Irish people for the benefit of outside interests.

It cannot be said often enough that the last General Election saw one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated against the Irish people. They rejected the Fianna Fáil/Green wreckers of the economy and gave a strong mandate to the Fine Gael and Labour parties who had been highly critical of the IMF/ECB deal.

That deal was clearly rejected by the people and armed with that mandate the new Fine Gael/Labour Government should have gone back to the IMF and the ECB and said that we cannot pay and we won’t pay, that the austerity regime is not working and that we must invest in jobs and growth instead of paying off bank bondholders.

Instead, what did Fine Gael and Labour do? They bowed the knee to the IMF and the ECB, they took up the axe left down by Fianna Fáil and the Greens and continued the savage cuts.

Tá na páirtithe sa Rialtas seo tar éis dallamullóg a chur ar an bpobal. Vótáil siad ar son polasaí amháin ach tá polasaí eile ar fad á chur i bhfeidhm anois.

Minister Deenihan has proposed to take over the Bank of Ireland in College Green, the old Irish Parliament. This is indeed ironic given the fact that the members of that Ascendancy Parliament sold it out in return for bribes from the British Government - just as the political establishment in this State sold what was left of our economic sovereignty to the IMF and the ECB, surely the greatest sell-out since the Act of Union.
Now State companies are up for grabs, with large chunks to be sold off. It is the worst kind of short-sighted policy and will come back to haunt our society and our economy in the years ahead.

I wonder what joker came up with the name ‘New ERA’ for the body to be set up to act as the agent for the sale of State assets? It started as a Fine Gael policy document in November 2009 and promised then to create 105,000 new jobs. What has happened to that promise?

At least Fine Gael stated clearly in that plan its intention to sell off State assets. It was otherwise with the Labour Party which before the General Election said it was committed to state enterprises and pledged that it would use commercial state companies as a key part of economic recovery. It said it was opposed to privatisation.

Now this Fine Gael and Labour Party Government are to set up New ERA as a non statutory body within the NTMA and it will take responsibility for the management and disposal of commercial semi states from Government departments. New ERA will also decide on dividends paid out to the State, pay levels and pension fund policies. The Government claims that any monies raised will be used for investment and job creation but we know very well that the EU/IMF Programme wants the monies to be used to pay down the debt.

As our motion states, the ESB is self-financing, has paid €1.2 billion in dividends over the last nine years and contributed €2.2 billion to the Irish economy through purchases from Irish suppliers, taxes, rates, wages and dividends in 2010.

The company is of long-term strategic importance to the State’s energy supply, in providing skilled employment, training opportunities and a variety of energy and telecommunications services and could play an extended role in the area of telecommunications by using its existing networks to address the State’s broadband deficit. We reject the Government's decision to sell off a stake in the company to private interests.

Let it not be forgotten that the ESB, like other strategic State companies, was built up when wealthy private interests were unwilling to invest in the building and development of infrastructure in this country. They preferred to invest their money abroad, just as this Government is now sending billions out of the country to pay the gambling debts of bank bondholders.
When self-government for 26 of the 32 Counties was achieved successive governments built up strong State-owned companies. The ESB, Aer Lingus, our telecommunications infrastructure, Bord na Móna and others were strategic pillars of the economy. Of course these companies must be equipped to adapt to change but what is not acceptable is the ideology which dictates that the people of this State, through their government, cannot retain any of these in public ownership, or cannot even assist them out of public funds.

The sound investment made when the ESB was established and developed has paid off handsomely over the decades. Throughout the current economic and financial crisis the ESB’s investment in infrastructure has remained high, unlike Eircom, which continues to be dogged by under-investment following its privatisation.

We know who benefited from the fiasco that was the Eircom privatisation – the likes of Tony O’Reilly and other privateers who creamed off profits and dividends. And at what cost to Ireland?

This State, which should be a world leader in communications infrastructure, now lags behind other EU and OECD states in terms of broadband availability per capita.

The Fine Gael/Labour Programme for Government is committed to target up to €2 billion in sales of so-called ‘non-strategic’ State assets drawing from the recommendations of the McCarthy Review Group. This is not based on any sound economic strategy. On the contrary, it represents another step in the downgrading of our economy and a further limiting of the potential of the State to help create jobs and to bring about economic growth and recovery.

These semi-State companies should not be privatised in part or in whole because they can play a vital role in delivering employment activation measures and training.

Over the last ten years the ESB and Bord Gáis alone have paid out nearly €2 billion in dividends. It is economic madness to start selling off these vital national assets in whole or in part. The Government defends this by asserting that this is only a partial sale of a stake in the ESB. But once the rot begins where will it end?

Molaim an rún seo do na Teachtaí uile. Iarraimíd ar an Rialtas gan dul ar aghaidh leis an díol seo agus an Bórd Soláthar Leictreachais a choinneáil go hiomlán i seilbh mhuintir na hÉireann.

ENDS

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Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


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Mary Lou McDonald and Cathal King