Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald MEP has today welcomed Finance Minister Brian Lenihan admission that increasing the VAT rate last October was a mistake addin, “in advance of the governments October budget Sinn Féin called for a modest reduction in VAT in our pre budget submission. We argued that a reduction in VAT would boost the incomes of low and middle income earning families and would stimulate consumer spending. Minister Lenihan’s admission of error is welcome however the government’s failure to tackle the perpetual negative impact of the VAT differential on the island has not been acknowledged, and retailers, particularly along the border counties are paying a heavy price.”
The Dublin MEP said:
“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. We need political and indeed business leaders to deliver innovative solutions to regain economic prosperity for the entire island.
“The problem caused by two competing taxation regimes on the island has been an ongoing problem for retailers and service providers. In the current economic climate and with the sterling/euro exchange rate the problem has been exasperated. Border county SMEs are taking the hardest hit and the potential jobs losses for the retail sector in the south is set to run into tens of thousands.
“Immediate steps should include a reversal of governments half percent increase in VAT. Retail outlets need to equalise the sterling euro currency differential and the government must put sufficient pressure on retailers to pass on these savings to consumers in the south. Large food retailers must also pass on savings made from purchasing stock in the north and Britain.
“However the governments longer term strategy must be the harmonising of taxation north and south. The existence of two taxation regimes on a small island simply does not make sense. This approach by both the Irish and British governments fosters economic distortions across the island and deepens the economic instability and social deprivation experienced in border counties as a result of partition.” ENDS
Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA and the Party’s Environment spokesperson Daithí McKay has added his support to a motion going before the Assembly today calling for support for the World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Earth Hour 2009’. The motion proposes switching off the lights in Stormont and all other Government Department buildings during ‘Earth Hour’ on the 28th March. Mr McKay said that all parties should support the motion and send a clear message out that the Assembly does not back the Environment Minister’s views on Climate Change.
Speaking from Stormont this afternoon Mr McKay said,
“For some time now Sinn Féin has been calling for the Assembly to mind its carbon footprint. There are many practical steps we can take to play our part in reducing our carbon output and help to reduce any detrimental impact on our environment.
“The WWF’s ‘Earth Hour’ will go some way in publicising and highlighting the small steps we all can take to reduce our carbon footprint and work towards practically saving energy and indeed during the current economic climate it will also go someway in helping to save money.
“I am sure that the Environment Minister will try and resist attempts being made to switch his office lights off in an attempt to highlight Climate Change but I would urge the rest of the Assembly to take this opportunity to ‘put his lights out’.” CRÍOCH
Sitting Sinn Féin councillors and local election candidates from across Dublin will gather on Sunday morning (15th March) for a meeting with newly elected Sinn Féin Vice President and Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald and newly elected Party Chairperson, Declan Kearney.
The meeting will focus on the upcoming elections in June and current political developments across the island with a particular emphasis on the economy and the unemployment crisis facing the country. The meeting will take place in Sinn Féin’s Head Office at 44 Parnell Square at 11.30am. Before it begins Mary Lou McDonald and number of Councillors will be available to talk to the media. The meeting will be followed by a group photo opportunity at the Garden of Remembrance at 12.30pm.
Speaking in advance of the meeting Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhalaigh, from Dublin South Central said, “Tomorrow will be the first opportunity Councilllors and prospective councillors from across the Capital will meet as a group with the Party’s new Vice President, Dublin MEP, Mary Lou McDonald. It will provide us with an opportunity to discuss the upcoming elections and strategies for maximizing the republican vote in the City and County.
“Extraordinary events have happened over the last number of months on the political scene – the economic crisis has brought a new and challenging dynamic to political discourse. I believe many people, now more than ever, are receptive to the ideas of equality and justice that Sinn Féin has been promoting for years. There is a realization there that the economy should be there to serve all the people not a small number of greedy bankers and corrupt politicians.
“Tomorrow’s meeting will provide the opportunity for those of us on the frontline to bring our experiences on the ground to the strategic thinking of the party as it prepares for elections. The upcoming elections, local as well as EU, provide an opportunity for the people to say – enough is enough – we want a real and radical alternative – not the tweedle dum and tweedle dee politics of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that have brought us to where we are now.”
Sinn Féin is holding a day of action in towns and cities across the country today demanding action on the unemployment crisis. Today marks the beginning of a series of launches and actions to be rolled out over the coming weeks around Sinn Féin’s proposals to get Ireland back to work, develop the all-island economy, public sector spending and public finance savings.
Speaking today at the GPO on O’Connell Street Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald Dublin MEP said, “Unemployment is spiralling out of control. The government needs a three-year plan to hold on to or create the 1,000 jobs a day that are being lost. This must include stopping job losses, creating new jobs, keeping people in education and stimulating consumer spending.”
The Dublin MEP added:
“In advance of the governments supplementary budget Sinn Fein will publish our proposals on job retention and creation in a document entitled “Unemployment is out of control – Time for Action” which sets out the key challenges and contains more than 60 proposals designed to keep as many workers as possible in the workforce, retrain those who have lost their jobs and specific measures to start creating new jobs.
“The government needs to end its laissez faire attitude to Ireland’s soaring unemployment. The Tánaiste’s handling of SR Technics impending closure is just one example of the government’s hands-off approach to job losses. Following meetings with trade union officials with the company Sinn Féin called on Mary Coughlan to work with trade union officials to ensure every avenue is fully explored with the objective of keeping the Dublin facility open for business with the maximum number of jobs retained. We are also seeking a meeting with the Tánaiste.
“The economy can be turned around. Despite the difficulties there are still huge opportunities if the right plan is put in place and real leadership is shown. This is where the government is failing. And realistically the people that got us into this mess are unlikely to be the people to get us out of the problem. Different ideas require different people.” ENDS
Note to Editor on upcoming launches and events:
Thursday March 19th Dublin Public Meeting – Time for Action Mary Lou McDonald will be joined by leading trade unionists at a public meeting in Dublin - Time for Action on Ireland’s soaring unemployment.
Monday March 23rd National Media Launch Job Creation Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan, Mary Lou McDonald and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn will launch the party’s Job Creation proposal’s to the national media in Dublin.
The party will be publishing a its employment which will set out the key challenges and contain more than 60 proposals designed to keep as many workers as possible in the workforce, retrain those who have lost their jobs and specific measures to start creating new jobs.
Thursday March 26th National Media Launch Public Finance/Public Sector Savings Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan and Mary Lou McDonald will launch the party’s public finance and public sector proposals.
Week commencing Monday March 30th Supplementary Budget Submission Sinn Féin will be making a detailed submission to the government in advance of its Supplementary Budget due on April 7th. The submission will be based on Sinn Féin’s job creation, public sector and public finance proposals.
Reacting to news that the Irish National Teachers Organisation will take part in a one day work stoppage closing all 3,200 primary schools across the state on 30th March as part of protests against the pension levy Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty called on the Taoiseach to re-engage with the social partners and build a resolution based on ICTU’s ten point plan.
Senator Doherty said he and his party will continue to support teachers and other unions in their efforts to defeat the implementation of the pension levy.
Senator Doherty said, "The implementation of the pensions levy has the potential to propel the state into the economic abyss with an all out industrial relations catastrophe.
"The Taoiseach must re-engage with the representative of the workers of this state upon whom he wishes to apply this pay cut. Workers have already had to forego pay increases which have been agreed at partnership level and in the spirit of true partnership and respect the Taoiseach has an obligation to re-engage.
"The implementation of the pension levy along with the reneging on agreed pay increases will see many teachers lose up to 20% of their salary before next month’s budget which promises even further cutbacks.
"The pension levy is the straw that broke the horses back for the teachers who have been working in the midst of massive cutbacks in the education sector.
"Sinn Féin feels they are justified in taking strike action against this unfair pay cut and will continue to support teachers and other unions in their efforts to defeat the implementation of the pension levy." ENDS
Sinn Féin International Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said figures released today, which show that the vast majority of 1,434 Palestinians killed in Israel’s latest offensive in the Gaza strip were civilians, puts an end to the Israeli lie that they did all in their power to prevent civilian casualties.
The final death toll from the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza shows that 960 of the 1,434 killed were civilians. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the figures show that Israel’s incursion into Gaza was an act of genocide.
Speaking today as the final death toll was announced Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "These figures finally put an end to the blatant Israeli lie that they did all in their power to prevent civilian casualties and shows that this incursion was in fact an act of genocide.
"And now after the cameras have gone what Israel has left in their wake is a devastated civilian population who have had their entire lives turned upside down. Family members have been killed, homes destroyed, livelihoods obliterated and entire communities devastated.
"Meanwhile the Israeli blockade continues unchallenged by the International community. Essential aid including food, fuel and medical supplies are being blocked by Israel even now.
"Israel must be made to feel consequences for its latest war crimes against the Palestinian people. The blockade on Gaza must be ended and economic sanctions against Israel introduced." ENDS
Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, announced the outcome of the Review of Irish Medium Education today at the annual Comhairle Na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG) Conference in Belfast.
Speaking after the event the Minister said: “Irish-medium education is thriving, more and more parents are choosing to educate their children through the medium of Irish. There are now over 3,300 pupils being educated in Irish medium schools compared to less than 400 in 1991. Gaelscoileanna are producing confident, capable, articulate, dynamic and bi-lingual students every year.
“Last year I launched the Consultation on the Report on the Review into Irish Medium Education. I would like to thank everybody who took the time to contribute and make their voices heard. Your contributions have demonstrated commitment, passion and dedication to the education of children and the importance of the Irish language.
“Learning a second language can open doors for young people and help our young people to become creative, confident and articulate individuals, able to play their full part in society and achieve their full potential. “The world is becoming a smaller place because of improvements in communication and technology. As a result, there is an increase in the number of international opportunities open to young people with bi-lingual skills.”
The Minister continued: “The Review was asked to take stock of the best way to facilitate continued and sustainable growth for the next decade, ensuring the highest quality education outcomes for pupils. I believe that it has fulfilled this brief.
“Today I announced my broad acceptance of the Review’s recommendations as I believe that they offer a comprehensive, creative and strategic way forward for the sector and for the resurgence of the Irish language.
“There are however still challenges ahead. We must now work towards developing a comprehensive and coherent policy for Irish medium education so that we ensure that the sector continues to grow and flourish.”
The Report of the Review of Irish Medium Education recommends a range of actions to address a number of pressing issues within the Irish Medium sector, including:
Providing the necessary changes to facilitate the expansion of Irish-medium pre-school provision. Addressing deficiencies in the accommodation of existing Irish-medium schools. Meeting the pressing need for classroom resources appropriate to teaching through the medium of Irish. The provision of more teachers at both primary and post-primary level in the sector, and meeting the need for more subject specialists. Putting in place the building blocks to ensure quality and growth within the sector, not least through the introduction of mechanisms to allow federations between schools.
The Minister added: “I have ensured that there is provision within my Department’s budget to address some of the key aspects and challenges raised in the Review. I believe that with continued support and dedication these challenges can be overcome.
“I want to congratulate Comhairle Na Gaelscolaíochta Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta on all their hard work in promoting the Irish Language schools and I wish them every success in the future.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. The CnaG Conference was hosted at Coláiste Feirste, a grant-maintained Irish-medium, co-educational post-primary school situated in West Belfast which caters for pupils aged between 11 and 18. The school was established in 1991 in a former Presbyterian Church in the Broadway area of the Falls Road as an independent school and attained grant-aided status, as a maintained school, with effect from 1 September 1996. 2. Sir George Bain, in the Report of the Independent Strategic Review of Education (the Bain Report), December 2006, recommended that DE should develop a comprehensive and coherent policy for Irish-medium education. 3. The Review was initiated in 2007 and was asked to take stock of the best way to facilitate continued and sustainable growth for the next decade, ensuring the highest quality education outcomes for pupils, particularly in light of the revised curriculum. 4. Caitríona Ruane launched the Report of the Review, and consequent consultation on 11 October 2008.
From today's Irish Times
OPINION: A Sinn Féin emergency budget would target job creation by public sector investment, fire failed bankers and ban home repossessions for three years, writes MARY LOU McDONALD
THE ELECTORATE has lost confidence in the Government. Fianna Fáil and the Greens have no plan, no vision and no courage. The longer they remain in office the worse our economic situation will get. Ireland needs change.
The question people are asking is not will the Government fall, but what could replace it? Writing in The Irish Times recently, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny outlined what he would do if in government. He talked the language of fairness while once again scapegoating the public sector, offering nothing but spending cuts and layoffs.
Fine Gael need to explain how they would cut public expenditure without damaging already under-funded public services. They need to identify which 5,000 public sector workers they would sack. They need to explain how adding to the dole queue and damaging public services can assist economic recovery.
In truth there is little difference between the failed policies of Fianna Fáil and those of Fine Gael.
For decades both parties advocated the unsustainable tax regime that has created such a hole in our public finances. For decades both parties supported the privatisation of our public services, creating a two-tier health system. For decades both parties advocated social and economic policies that have left 100,000 children in this State living in relative poverty.
Change won’t come by replacing a failed Fianna Fáil-led government with a Fine Gael-led coalition. We need more than just new faces at the cabinet table.
To create long-term, sustainable and equitable economic recovery we need a fundamental change of values and of social and economic policies. This is something that neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael can offer.
In calling for a new alliance for change at our ardfheis in February, this is exactly what Gerry Adams had in mind, not only a change of government, but a real change of direction.
So what could an alternative do if in government tomorrow? What would Sinn Féin do? We would:
put job retention and creation centre stage and develop a three-year job creation strategy;
stimulate immediate employment by investing in schools, rail infrastructure, green technology and the agri-food sector;
introduce measures to develop indigenous exports and increase support for small- and medium-sized businesses;
ensure that bank credit is available to sustain small- and medium-sized businesses;
introduce a three-year moratorium on home repossession and stop illegal evictions;
introduce fundamental tax reform that is sustainable and just;
invest in world-class public services, ending the two-tier health and education systems;
scrap the public service pension levy;
open discussions with unions, employers and the voluntary sector to produce a real national recovery plan based on principles of equality and solidarity; and
sort out the banks – this means sacking the bankers, not retirement with golden handshakes. Investigations of Anglo Irish and all other banking institutions with cases referred to the DPP for prosecution. We need a new, robust financial regulatory system.
At the heart of our economic recovery programme would be job retention and creation. The only way to secure the economy is through economic growth. The Government cannot simply cut or tax its way out of this crisis.
The haemorrhage of jobs, brands and skills must be stopped. A three-year job creation plan is vital. We would mandate a national jobs taskforce to develop detailed costed proposals and targets to replace the 164,952 jobs lost to the economy over the past 12 months. The strategy would focus on high tech information technology and renewable energy markets.
Our job creation strategy would be underpinned by a new approach to education and public finance. Increased investment in education is urgently needed if our workforce is to meet the challenges and grasp the opportunities of the 21st century. We need investment in retraining, including a national literacy drive; in primary education, particularly in information technology; and in university education.
Job creation and improvements in education will require immediate investment. This can only be achieved with a balanced public spending programme that combines sensible borrowing and meaningful tax reform.
Borrowing should be for strategic investment and must be time-limited.
Tax reform requires the end of tax shelters, tax exile status and an overhaul of tax reliefs, as well as the creation of multiple bands and rates, including an upper band for high earners, to make our taxation system progressive, fair and efficient.
We must end tax avoidance and evasion by the wealthy. The commission on taxation must be mandated to return their report before the end of the summer session of the Dáil.
Getting the right policies is crucial if we are to get the country back to work. However, we cannot identify the right policies if we do not have the right values. Greed, inefficiency, waste and corruption have been the hallmarks of governments in this country for too long.
It is time for an egalitarian alternative. It is time for an alternative that seeks to combine economic success with social responsibility; that fosters prosperity and equality.
It is time for a society that sees economic growth as a means to an end and the wellbeing of all as the ultimate benchmark of success.
Ireland needs a united, progressive and democratic movement for change – Sinn Féin is ready to join with those political parties, trade unions, community and voluntary organisations who seek this real political alternative. It is time for a new alliance for change.
Speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education, Senator Pearse Doherty has described the actions of Fine Gael spokesperson Brian Hayes and his party colleagues as "utterly hypocritical" with regards to the reintroduction of third level fees.
Senator Doherty said, "While preaching to third level students that he is totally against the reintroduction of fees and will be fighting along with them, in reality it is quite clear that Deputy Hayes is talking out of both sides of his mouth on this issue.
"What Deputy Hayes neglects to tell his student followers is that he and his party colleagues are ideologically driven towards fees but through different means. What Fine Gael propose is a version of tuition fees under the guise of a graduate tax, or as it is called in Australia ‘the Higher Education Contribution Scheme’, whereby students have their fees paid for upfront by the government and then pay back the amount owed through extra taxation.
"The Australian system has grown so complex that it needs circa AUS $5 billion to overhaul and comes as a response to a 272 page review of the system. The Higher Education Contribution Scheme as a system is broken and flawed. Originally created to increase access, it has the opposing affect. Students finish university steeped in debt and many students will never earn enough to repay their loan.
"Should a graduate tax system be implemented it would be upwards of a decade before any cost would be recouped by the state, so the argument that this system would be able to fund the sector is completely flawed.
"Sinn Féin is very clear on its position. We will not accept fees through the back door by increasing the registration fee, we will not accept fees through the front door by full-on tuition fees, and we will not accept fees through the side door by way of this fundamentally flawed graduate tax.
"Higher education benefits the entire society and should not be subject to these disgraceful attacks from the government and the Fine Gael party. It should be paid for through a fair and progressive taxation system." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald and Northern Executive Minister Conor Murphy today met the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin.
Mr. Adams said, "It was a very good meeting. The Taoiseach is clearly seized by the imperative of the Government’s and Parties’ uniting in defence of the Peace Process.
"It is crucial that there is no breathing space given to these unrepresentative groups and that there is no sense of ambiguity about our collective opposition to their actions.
"I also stressed in our conversation the British Government must not step outside the political process.
"It is up to the police to deal with these matters.
"Political leaders, including the Governments must ensure that the process of positive change continues to deliver for citizens particularly those in disadvantaged sectors of our society." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald MEP has this afternoon described the Táiniste’s handling of SR Technics impending closure as shambolic and has called on Mary Coughlan to work with trade union officials to ensure every avenue is fully explored to keep the Dublin facility open for business with the maximum number of jobs retained.
Ms McDonald said:
“It is astonishing that despite the Táinistes commitments to SR Technics trade union officials, the union has not met nor do they know the identity of the independent aviation expert appointed to help assess the options open to local management and the workers to keep the the facility open.
“Even more mind boggling is the IDA and Enterprise Ireland’s strategy of directly referring all potential investors in SR Technics to the company’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Management despite the well voiced concern that SRT Zurich who own the company are intent on closing the Dublin base in an effort to consolidate this element of the aviation market for themselves.
“I recently met with trade union officals from SR Technics and it was crystal clear then from the evidence presented to myself and my Dáil colleagues that SRT Zurick is engaged in nothing less than commercial sabotage.
“The Dublin facility is a viable business and could be sold on as going concern to another investor or indeed the workers and local management themselves. This high skilled, high tech company is of significant strategic importance to the country and is still profitable. Jobs at SR Technics can be retained.
“The Táiniste and indeed the IDA and Enterprise Ireland have a responsibility to SR Technic workers and local management to exhaust every avenue in a transparent and accountable manner to retain jobs at the facility. Since the start of 2009 almost 1,000 people have lost their jobs every single day. We need a three year government led job creation strategy to get Ireland back to work. But most importantly we need to retain existing jobs in the economy. The goverments casual attitude to this stark fact cannot continue. ” ENDS
Louth Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan has called for the resignation of the Hospital Network Manager of the HSE Dublin North East, Mr. Stephen Mulvany, in light of revelations that he sought to influence the report of the inquiry into the death of a twenty-four year old woman and her baby son at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda in order to, among other intentions, have blame placed on staff at the Maternity Unit of the hospital.
Speaking today as news of the revelations came to light Deputy Morgan said:
“It is very clear from documents obtained by Michael Reade of LMFM radio that Mr Stephen Mulvany, Hospital Network Manager, HSE Dublin North East, successfully sought to influence the report of the inquiry in order to, among other intentions, place blame on staff at the Maternity Unit of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, for aspects of care management which lead to the death of a twenty-four year old woman and her baby son at the hospital in March 2007, rather than systems and resource failures.
“The Network Manager also admits that he did change the Report and that he sought to reduce the legal and financial impact of the incident on the HSE.
“The integrity of the Report is now seriously challenged. The actions of the Network Manager also displays a wholly blinkered view of his responsibilities demonstrating a narrow visioned allegiance to the HSE, rather than to the provision of proper care for patients in the North East.
“In light of these revelations, I believe that the Network Manager’s position is untenable. Staff in the Health Service in the North East can have no confidence that, if another incident were to occur, he would not seek to also scapegoat them. He should immediately apologise to staff at the Lourdes Maternity Unit for his efforts to divert blame onto them for the McCabe family’s tragedy.
“If he doesn’t resign in light of the shocking revelations contained in this document then he should be removed from office.” ENDS
Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has said infrastructure investment has a vital role to play in the current economic crisis.
Addressing the fourth All Ireland Infrastructure Conference in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, the Minister emphasised the Executive’s commitment to do "all in its power to ensure that our infrastructure is fully developed."
Mr Murphy said: "It is important that the public and private sectors work together to develop our infrastructure to ensure that we can take full advantage of the upturn in the economy, when it comes.”
The Minister said: “I want to give you the assurance that my transportation plans and priorities remain unchanged and that we are building for the future – even in these difficult times.”
The two-day conference was addressed by government ministers from the North and South and by representatives from all key infrastructure sectors – roads, railways, rapid transit, water, sewerage ports and airports. The conference brought together key players involved in delivering infrastructure on the island of Ireland, including policy-makers, members from the voluntary and community sectors, developers and sponsors, the construction industry and the legal and financial community.
“We must not lose focus on the role that infrastructure investment has to play. It is not just banks and consumer confidence that need support; transport is, after all, the backbone of the economy. Without efficient transport, the Irish economy, North and South, cannot function effectively – it is vital that we keep goods, commuters and customers moving. To have a successful modern economy we need to have a modern, efficient, sustainable transport network.
“This means we have to both construct and progress now, the infrastructure schemes that are needed for long-term success, producing a boost for the construction industry in the short term and wider benefits in the longer term."
The Minister said that during the current economic crisis public limited companies need as much support as possible and indigenous businesses must have the right infrastructure in place to compete better in this increasingly challenging market: "Likewise we need the infrastructure to be able to attract foreign direct investment. My Department is bringing forward many projects in infrastructure sectors and these will support a successful modern economy."
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Fisheries Martin Ferris TD has questioned the use of British naval vessels to inspect Irish fishing boats in Irish waters. The Kerry North TD raised the matter during Order of Business in the Dáil this morning having received a copy of an internal Sea Fisheries Protection Authority report which details the fact that an Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) officer spent one week aboard the HMS Severn from February 11th to the 18th during which period the British vessel patrolled British and Irish waters and stopped two Irish boats the Catherine Alice and the Argo K which were then boarded by the SFPA officer.
Deputy Ferris said: “It seems extraordinary that an Irish state official should be operating from a British vessel conducting patrols within Irish waters and interfering with Irish fishing boats. Apparently this was part of a ‘Joint Deployment Plan’ of which as far as I am aware no-one else knew anything about. It is therefore incumbent on the Minister for Defence to explain the legal and indeed the constitutional basis for such a plan.
“While it may be pointed out that this is part of co-operation in the interests of both states, in actual fact the high level of inspections of Irish vessels, way out of proportion to their scale of operation within Irish waters, is regarded as harassment by most fishermen. Many believe that the level of restrictions imposed, the inequitable quota regime and the heavy handed surveillance of boats are all part of a deliberate attempt to force more and more fishermen to abandon their livelihood. The fact that Irish officials are using British naval vessels in our own waters adds further to that resentment.” ENDS
Ag caint sa Seanad inniu dúirt an Seanadóir Shinn Féin Piaras Ó Dochartaigh:
"Cuirim fáilte roimh an díospóireacht seo. Bhí mé ag cuartú díospóireachta ó tháinig mé isteach go dtí an Teach seo ar chúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta. Cé go gcuirim fáilte roimh an díospóireacht seo, níor chóir don Ghaeilge bheith curtha sa choirneál le linn Seachtain na Gaeilge. Níl go leor ama tugtha don díospóireacht agus ní cheart dúinn bheith ag plé cúrsaí Gaeilge as Gaeilge, ba cheart dúinn na cúrsaí uilig a bhíonn le plé againn, ó stát na tíre go dtí cúrsaí iacaireachta, cúrsaí fostaíochta agus cúrsaí eacnamaíochta, a phlé tríd an Ghaeilge. Chuir mo chomhghleacaithe sa Dáil rún síos ar Riar na hOibre ansin mar gheall air sin go mbainfaimis úsáid as an Ghaeilge 50% den am le linn an lae seo agus an lae amárach. Chuir mé féin agus Seanadóir O'Toole an rún céanna síos sa Seanad.
"Ag leanúint air sin, ba cheart go mbeadh sé aontaithe ag na páirtithe go léir céadchodán go bhféadaimis amach anseo le linn 2009 an Ghaeilge a úsáid sa Teach seo agus sinn ag plé ceisteanna eile.
"Sin ráite, cuirim fáilte roimh an díospóireacht agus tá mé buíoch den Cheannaire ach, mar a dúirt mé, caithfimid an Ghaeilge a úsáid agus sinn ag déanamh gnáthobair na dTithe seo agus ní amháin nuair a bhíonn cúrsaí Gaeilge a bplé againn.
"Ag díriú isteach ar an méid atá ráite ag an Aire Stáit, tá cúpla pointe ann. Nuair a luaitear na Gaelscoileanna, ceann de na neamairt mhóra atá á dhéanamh ag an Rialtas seo ná an ciorcalán 0044/2007 agus go bhfuil an tAire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta go fóill dubh in éadan an tumoideachais agus ag iarraidh deireadh a chur leis. Go dtí an pointe seo, tá gníomhairí na teanga ag tabhairt cás cúirte in éadan an Stáit le cosaint a thabhairt don módh teagaisc seo, modh teagaisc a oibríonn ar fud an domhain. Is scannal é má amharcann daoine ar cad é tá ag tarlú anseo nuair atá cosaint bhunreachtúil ag an Ghaeilge mar phríomh-teanga na tíre seo. Má amharcann daoine ar cad é atá ag tarlú sa Chomhthionól sna Sé Chondae, áit nach bhfuil an chosaint chéanna ag an Ghaeilge, tá an tumoideachas mar pháirt lárnach i bpolasaí an Rialtais ansin ó thaobh cúrsaí oideachais de. Bheadh sé go maith le linn Seachtain na Gaeilge dá bhfógródh an tAire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta go dtarraingeodh sé siar an ciorcalán sin agus go ligfeadh sé don tumoideachas dul ar aghaidh agus go gcuirfeadh sé stop leis an ionsaí atá an Rialtas seo a dhéanamh ar na Gaelscoileanna ar fud na tíre, scoileanna atá ag déanamh obair ar dóigh.
"Ó thaobh an staidéir teangeolaíochta de, a luaigh an tAire Stáit sa ráiteas, rud atá ardaithe agam sa Teach seo go minic, ní thuigeann an Rialtas cé chomh práinneach agus atá sé. Tá se foilsithe anois ó 2007 agus chosnaigh sé níos mó na €500,000. Tá sé ráite go soiléir, i ndubh agus bán, sa staidéar go mbeidh an ceantar is láidre sa Ghaeltacht ag fáil bháis taobh istigh de 15 bliana mura gcuirfear na polasaithe atá sa staidéar i bhfeidhm. D'fhógair an tAire go mbeadh plean gníomhaíochta ag an Rialtas roimh dheireadh na bliana 2008. Tháinig sin agus d'imigh sé agus go fóill níl an plean sin againn. Nuair a chuir mo chomhghleacaithe sa Dáil ceist síos don Aire le fáil amach cé mhéad uair a bhuail an coiste aireachta ar a bhfuil an Taoiseach ina chathaoirleach, dhá uair ba fhreagra don cheist." Críoch
Donegal Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has said that proposals for Seanad reform from both Government and other opposition parties do not go far enough. He has described the Seanad as elitist, undemocratic, outdated and, in the minds of many, irrelevant.
Senator Doherty said, "The Government needs to take the bull by the horns and reform the Seanad. Tweeking at the edges will not suffice. The reality is that the Seanad is elitist, undemocratic, outdated and, in the minds of many, irrelevant.
"Many Senators last year were outraged at the idea that the Seanad chamber would be relocated to the National museum during planned refurbishments of the existing chamber. It is my view that that is exactly were the current model of the Seanad should be located permanently. It is outdated and despite a dozen reports on Seanad reform since 1937 and a constitutional referendum thirty years ago this year no Government has the political will to reform the Seanad to a second chamber of parliament that can provide a meaningful role in parliamentary affairs in the 21st Century.
"Sinn Féin has argued for a Seanad that is directly elected by the people of Ireland and of its citizens abroad, a Seanad that would represent a wide range of diverse views and a Seanad that will increase the role of community consultation as legislation is being drafted.
"Tonight's debate offers little in real reform and while it may address some of the issues the proposals do not go far enough. Senators need to take a hard long look at themselves and not protect a chamber that does not reach its full potential in today's Ireland. Its time for bold action and real leadership from this Government if they want to do more than once again pay lip service to real Seanad reform." ENDS
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has commended today's launch of 'The People's Forest', the joint project between the Ulster Camogie Board, the Ulster Ladies Football and the Back to Eden Group.
The goal is to plant a thousand Ash Trees at Mill Dam and Wolfhill on the foothills of Belfast's Black Mountain and Cavehill.
Mr Adams said,
"This is an excellent and innovative programme that will be good for the environment and good for sport.
The Ash Tree has a long association with Irish culture and in particular with Hurling and Camogie.
With so few native trees being planted and given the scarcity of woodland in Ireland, this project is very worthwhile and deserves to be supported.
I would urge everyone to buy a tree." CRÍOCH
Connecting the 30% of the EU's rural population that has no high speed internet access should be a priority for achieving 'broadband for all' by 2010, the European Commission has said.
Local MLA, Cathal Boylan, has welcomed the Commissions findings and agrees that good internet access can make farms and companies in rural areas, especially SME's, (Small to Medium Enterprises), less isolated and more competitive.
'Broadband access is becoming more and more essential for businesses, there are pockets of the North which are still finding it increasingly difficult to access a reliable service, among them parts of South Armagh and Tyrone. Even in the Armagh City and District area, Middletown, Carnagh and Derrynoose find internet access difficult.'
'I recently contacted DETI Minister Arlene Foster about the delivery of broadband in these local areas by BT, the Minister responded by saying that every household wishing to avail of a broadband service in the North can currently do so.'
'The problem is that in many cases where a fixed line connection is not possible, then a satellite service is offered, and the Minister has admitted that for many potential customers this is not an option or a choice they wish to partake of. There is a slight difference in a service being offered in a certain format and 'every household' being able to avail of it. Just because it is there, does not mean it is accessible for everyone.'
'The Minister also informed me that when the current contract expires in April 2009, BT have intimated they will no longer be offering the satellite service, so therefore more people will be unable to access broadband services.'
The Sinn Féin representative concluded;
'The European Parliament are currently discussing a proposal to make a further € 1 billion available through the European Economic Recovery Plan to spread high speed internet access more widely throughout European regions, I would hope the Minister will ensure that some of that funding if it becomes available will be used in hard to reach places in the North.'
Conditions at Eglish National School are completely unacceptable for teachers and children - Sinn Féin EU candidate
Date for Health and Safety Authority Improvement Order on the school has passed
Following a visit to Eglish National School in Ahascragh, County Galway, Sinn Fein's EU candidate for the North West constituency, Cllr Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has described conditions in the school for teachers and children as "completely unacceptable". Deputy Mayor of Galway and local Sinn Féin Councillor, Dermot Connolly accompanied Cllr Mac Lochlainn for the visit.
Cllr Mac Lochlainn said:
"I have to say that I was absolutely shocked at the conditions at Eglish National School. It is so bad that the Health and Safety authority has issued an Improvement Order on the school, the deadline for which passed in recent weeks. It really is a scandal that Department of Education officials cannot just move immediately to build a new school at this location for the teachers and 49 children rather than adding them onto a list with no end in site. I would be stunned if there are any National Schools with worse conditions ahead of them. I certainly can say that I haven't seen worse".
"The School is 110 years old and is just crumbling. At one stage, the school had to be closed for a number of days when dangerous fungus was discovered and fungal growth on the walls is ongoing. The windows are crumbling and the children inside are protected from glass breaking by bird wire. It is like a prison scene but this is where children are educated in the year 2009.
The roof was recently felted and tarred over to prevent loose slates and leaks but that is now coming off. The prefabs adjoining the school are a waste of money and are completely inadequate with leakages and poor insulation and heating. The toilet facilities in both prefab and school are just shocking"
"Despite recent emergency funding, they were only able to paper over the cracks. I am calling on Minister for Education Batt O' Keefe to immediately visit this School and try to justify not releasing the funds for a new school building at this location. My party colleagues will be pressing him at the earliest opportunity to do so in the Dáil".
SINN FÉIN President Gerry Adams has said, “that the recent attacks on the peace process have created an unprecedented degree of unity between political parties in the north. I am confident, that without minimizing the challenges, that the popular resolve will prevail and that the process of change will continue.
“A similar approach is needed to tackle the economic crisis. This means that those parties who have an alternative vision for the future should forge an alliance for political change based on values of fairness and decency.”
The Sinn Féin President was speaking this evening in County Westmeath where he has attended a number of engagements.
Gerry Adams said:
"Figures released last week show that the public finances are in freefall and unemployment soaring to levels not seen in decades. The government has still not delivered a real plan on how it intends to reverse this trend.
"We can get through the current crisis but only if the current government delivers a plan. But let's face facts.
"There is now a real sense that a fundamental realignment of Irish politics is possible. People are re-appraising the kind of Ireland they want. They are rejecting the greed, inefficiency, waste and corruption that has been witnessed in recent years. They want a society based on values of fairness and decency.
"It is up to those parties who believe in an alternative political future to improve their message, to provide credible leadership and to forge a new alliance for change.
"In one year alone unemployment in Westmeath has nearly doubled. Unemployment figures for the county in February 2008 were 4,574. In January of this year that figure had risen to 8,042. In February that figure was 8,620. That is nearly 600 jobs lost in just one month!
"We need to remember that these are not just mere statistics but real people who have families to care for and financial commitments to meet. Due to the policies purused by the present government these commitments often include exhorbitant mortgages and astronomical childcare costs.
"Many people in towns such as Mullingar are forced to commute to work in Dublin every day. Counties like Westmeath need a government-led strategy to provide employment here in the county itself.
"Sinn Féin has called for business starter centres should to be established in towns such as Athlone and Moate to help restore employment in Westmeath. But this has to be part of a much wider drive to create and retain jobs. Action by the government is key to this.
"The Government's budget last October did nothing to stimulate the economy nor protect and create jobs. As it now stands unemployment figures will far exceed the projected figure of 400,000 by the end of the year.
"The government's almost exclusive focus on cuts is fundamentally undermining Ireland's economy. The number one priority should be retaining and creating jobs. We need a plan to hold on to or create the 1,000 jobs a day that are being lost. We need to fast track business start-ups. We need to develop our indigenous export market.
"It is time to provide hope and opportunity at this time of economic uncertainty. The government needs to act but it is failing to do so. If it cannot do the job it should step aside." ENDS