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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill, today outlined the role that agri-food sector can play in driving export led growth in the local economy.

The Minister was speaking as she attended a meeting of the Executive Sub-Committee on the Economy. At the meeting the Minister outlined a number of key points on how the agri food sector can make a contribution to rebalancing the economy, delivering jobs and promoting prosperity.

She said: “First of all, the agri-food sector has shown itself to be a strong and resilient sector. It has weathered the recession superbly well, but looking beyond that, it has been delivering solid growth for the past decade, despite major competitive pressures. That growth has all been generated from external markets, so it offers an excellent platform from which to build.

“Secondly, this is a sector which has exciting opportunities for growth. There is an increasing awareness of the projections for global population growth, the rising demands from the rapidly growing economies such as China and India and the increasing pressures on agricultural production systems around the world to try and keep pace with rising demands. All of this creates significant opportunities for our local industry, not just directly, but in terms of the knock on effects to existing markets.

“Thirdly, this is a sector that is deeply embedded within our economy. Recent research has demonstrated that for every job created in food and drinks processing, a further two are created elsewhere the economy. That is quite a bit higher than for many other industries. Therefore, growth in the agri-food sector will stimulate significant growth elsewhere in our economy.

“The fourth key point is that the agri-food sector is almost entirely located outside of the Greater Belfast Area. Therefore, it can make a hugely important contribution to delivering balanced sub-regional growth and can deliver jobs and prosperity to parts of our economy that other sectors simply can’t or won’t match.

“My fifth point almost goes without saying - we need jobs; not just jobs at the top end of the spectrum but jobs for all parts of society and for all levels of skill and educational attainment. We can’t leave anybody behind in our drive for economic growth. The agri-food sector can provide a broad spectrum of jobs. The average wage in the processing industry is at least as good as the average across the private sector as a whole. Agri-food can provide exactly the kinds of jobs we need now, today.

“Finally, in my view, investing in the likes of education, skills, innovation and research right across the economy are all exactly the right things to do to drive the economy. We have to do this, and indeed we are doing this in agri-food. It is an investment in our economic future, but the benefits will inevitably take time to come through in full. However, I believe that the agri-food sector is well placed to deliver relatively quick returns on investment.”

The Minister concluded: “This is a strong sector with excellent prospects, a sector that can stimulate jobs and growth right across the north and a sector that it keen to grow. I am convinced that the time is right for government and industry to come together to grab the opportunity that sits before us.”

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Sinn Féin TDs and Senators are calling on people to join them in a campaign to ‘Stop the Handover’ of billions of euros to Anglo bondholders. The first bond payment comes in 14 days and will cost €700 million. This unguaranteed senior bond will be paid out on 2 November. In January €1.2 billion will be paid out. This is against the backdrop of an austerity budget that will take over €4 billion out of the economy.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams announced details of a petition and urged the public to use their voice and tell the government parties to ‘Stop the Handover’. He also gave out the numbers of the Taoiseach’s and Tanaiste’s office and asked people to contact them.

Speaking from the launch Mr Adams said:

“On 2 November, this government will pay out a €700 million unguaranteed senior bond in Anglo Irish bank. This bond payout comes just one month before an austerity budget which will inflict hardship on children, on carers, on the disabled and on the working poor. In January a further €1.2 billion will be paid out – the 2 November is only the first payment of billions of taxpayers money.

“The government plans to take between €3.6 and €4 billion out of the budget. A €700 million saving could mean no household charge. It could mean no welfare cuts. Even the smallest cut has the potential to wreak so much damage. The cut of 200 Special Needs Assistants this year caused untold damage for families with special children and saved the state only €6 million.

“I am encouraging people to make their voices heard. People power can stop this outrageous payout. I am asking everybody to sign the petition and lobby the Taoiseach and their local TDs directly and tell them to ‘Stop the Handover’. The Taoiseach can be reached at 01 6194020 and the Tánaiste at 01 4780822.”

The ‘Stop the Handover’ petition can be accessed at the following link
http://www.petitiononline.com/a1b23456/petition.html

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Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson, Seán Crowe, TD, has challenged Minister Ruairí Quinn to explain why the Postgraduate Diploma in Education at University College Dublin has been renamed and downgraded from Level 9 to Level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

Deputy Crowe was speaking after he raised the matter with the Education Minister upon receiving representations from students who have already enrolled on the course and are angry that the exam’s designation has been changed.

He said: “I have asked Minister Quinn to explain the reasoning behind the decision to downgrade the Postgraduate Diploma in Education at University College Dublin (UCD) from level 9 to level 8 and why was this decided after students had already enrolled in the course and paid their registration fees.

“There can be no justification for the devaluing of this very important qualification and UCD must also explain when they were made aware of the Department’s plans and why were students not informed what was happening before they applied for the course under PAC in 2010 for entry in 2011.

“Students who have contacted my office believe they have been hoodwinked into enrolling for a course without being informed that the designation of the exam they were studying would be downgraded. This has implications for when they apply for teaching positions in what is a very competitive market and it may reduce their future pay scales and act as a barrier if they decide to gain employment outside of Ireland.

“The consensus amongst students is that this decision has been made for financial reasons and is an attempt to force those studying for the Diploma to stay on at University and gain an additional qualification. Minister Quinn must clarify the situation immediately.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Dublin City Council group leader Councillor Larry O'Toole, has today expressed, grave concern at the City Manager’s attempt to give away millions of Euros of Dublin City’s Council assets.

Speaking after last night’s special Dublin City Council meeting to discuss the privatisation of Dublin’s waste collection services, Councillor O’Toole said:

“For the third time in two months a full meeting of Dublin City Council has voted against waste collection privatisation. The first time was in September when Sinn Féin was the first party to put down such a motion. All parties and groups on the Council, except Fine Gael, are against this privatisation. Yet the City Manager is prepared to drive ahead. This is a travesty of democracy.

“Sinn Féin has very serious concerns about how this City Manager is operating. He has attempted to ignore the elected councillors of this city and has now ignored those employees providing the waste collection service. He is attempting to rail road through the privatisation of the City’s bin services.

“We predicted this would happen when bin charges were first introduced. Extra powers were given to the City Manager by Fianna Fail’s Environment Minister Martin Cullen to make him unaccountable and allowed him to enforce bin charges. We now see the sorry outcome of this decision. The City’s assets are being stripped and given away to a private waste collection service.

“The Manager aims to give away recycling plants and waste depots to a private company on December 5th. Waste collection is an essential public service. It must remain in public ownership if we are to provide a sustainable and efficient service to everyone in the city.

Councillor O’Toole explained, “City Council management has given a public commitment to privatise the bin collection service in this city by December 5th. This is unacceptable and we will continue to resist it every step of the way. We have met with IMPACT and with SIPTU. We will be seeking legal advice following last night's meeting.

“We believe that it is illegal for the City Manager to give away assets that belong to the public. He must understand that the Management are accountable to those of us with a democratic mandate.”

In conclusion Councillor O'Toole said, “We will be demanding answers to these serious questions from the City Manager. I hope the Manager sees sense and calls off his sale of the family silver.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has called for clarity of all information regarding previous instances of pollution of the Sixmilewater river.The Sinn Féin MLA was speaking ahead of an adjournment debate in the Assembly on pollution of the river. Several years ago after work was done on protecting the river from pollution and poaching, and restrictions placed on fishing methods, there was a return of salmon to the river along with brown trout and dollaghan.
However there have been recurring instances of pollution on the river and the Sinn Féin MLA wants to know if anyone was found responsible and if so that they should be named and shamed.
Mitchel McLaughlin said:“We need a clear statement on who and what was the source of the pollution. Is it coming from industry or farming and what sanctions/fines were imposed on those responsible?
“If there was no-one brought to book over these recurring incidents then we need to know why not. At the very least this Executive needs to send out a clear message to polluters that every possible avenue will be used to bring them to account and that the punishment should fit the damage done. 

“Our rivers are not only a crucial asset in the life of any land but they are also something that brings great joy to those that use them for recreation including fishing and the tourism that also brings. We should make sure they are passed on to the next generation in the best possible condition.”

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The Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has roundly condemned the system of checks and balances which allowed the uninhabitable Priory Hall to be built.

Deputy Ellis has asked for a Dáil discussion on the issue and speaking on it today warned that this could be the tip of the iceberg in terms of below standard housing given the green light during the boom.

Deputy Ellis said:

“Priory Hall was signed off on based on the word of contractors and insufficient visual inspections. Now 240 people, many young families, have been forced to evacuate due to the risk posed by the condition of the apartments. Dublin City Council are footing a €4,000 a day bill for emergency accommodation.”

“The developers, the contactors and the inspectors must be investigated and those who have been negligent or guilty of cutting corners must be held accountable. The families, who have been uprooted, who've had to live in these terrible conditions, who were betrayed must get justice.”

“I will be calling on the Minister for Environment to investigate the possibility of using NAMA controlled housing to securely house these people who have been failed by the State’s checks and balances.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has reiterated his calls for Ombudsman Al Hutchinson to leave his office immediately so that damage done to the reputation of the office can be repaired.

The Sinn Féin Police & Justice Spokesperson’s comments come prior to the screening tonight of a BBC programme in which former Chief Executive of the office Sam Pollock said he had ‘basically lost confidence in the direction of the office and the independence of the office in relation to very serious matters’.

Gerry Kelly said:

“Following three critical reports into the Ombudsman’s Office and this confirmation by the former Chief Executive that the office had lost its independence, it is clear that Al Hutchinson remaining in place will just further damage the reputation of the office.

“Sinn Féin believe in the Ombudsman’s office and that it is a crucial mechanism to make sure we have accountable policing. However with the independence of the office being yet again called into question the credibility of that office is at rock bottom.

“Al Hutchinson carries full responsibility for this unprecedented damage.  The rights of victims must be paramount and they have already stated that they’ve lost any faith in Al Hutchinson to investigate the deaths of their loved ones. The revelations in this programme will no doubt confirm their belief that Al Hutchinson must go now.”

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Sinn Féin vice-Chair of the Assembly Justice Committee, Raymond McCartney MLA (Foyle) speaking in advance of a debate tomorrow on the issue of ‘anti-social activity said: “Anti-social activity is a term we hear day and daily about the activities of the small minority involved. While there is a need to reach out to this minority and attempt to convince them to desist, there can be no equivocation in our condemnation of them and no ambiguity in our support for the wider community. I believe that this type of activity should be described as exactly what it is – anti-community activity. “It is time to reclaim our communities through positive action.  But while elected representatives, community leaders and residents acting together can help to deter the small minority from vandalising our homes, property and streets, the PSNI and other statutory agencies need to be seen to be pro-active in tackling the more serious crime in the community. “It is no good hearing politicians calling for the introduction of harsher penalties if existing legislation and resources are not being properly utilised and targeted. Neither does it serve the community for the PSNI to continuously blame lack of resources or community cooperation for the rising crime figures and anti-community activity. “I believe that a strong, united community response coupled with properly deployed policing is required to combat these issues. “Many of the more localised and general anti-community issues can be tackled by talking to and listening to young people, making them part of the solution by encouraging outlets for their energies. Those few that refuse to adhere to the wishes of their community should be left in no doubt that their activity will not be tolerated and that every legal avenue will be used against them.” CRÍOCH

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 Sinn Féin MLA Ó hOisín Cathal has welcomed the decision to transfer Shackleton Barracks to the Office of First/Deputy First Minister so that it can be used for business and community use.

Mr. Ó hOisín stated,

“This site comprising over 750 acres can be used for the regeneration of the entire region and although there are still some decontamination of the site to be carried out there is a large portion that can immediately used for regeneration.

“There are already facilities such as a lecture theatre, sporting facilities including pitches, and accommodation that can be utilised immediately for the benefit of the entire community.

“There are also large spaces that can be used for industrial and commercial development and we need to look at attracting a mixture of small medium enterprises as well as sourcing for bigger clients through foreign direct investment.

I will be calling on Invest NI to support this site in a way that can be the catalyst for the regeneration of the region.

“It is important that community and business groups now start to prepare business cases in order to meet the demands of the site.  This is a huge opportunity and we must ensure that we get the correct mix of business and community use of the site to maximise its potential.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD will tomorrow launch a new campaign to stop the Government from handing over €700 million for an unguaranteed Anglo Irish Bank bond on the 2nd of November.

The campaign, called ‘Stop the Handover’, aims to bring public pressure on the Government to stop a payout of a €700 million unguaranteed bond with Adams claiming that the money should be used for the benefit of the people in the upcoming budget.

Deputy Adams will be joined by the entire Sinn Féin Oireachtas team for a press event on the plinth at Leinster House at 2pm tomorrow, 18 October 2011.

For more information contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD was speaking today at the “International Conference to Promote the resolution of the conflict in the Basque country” in San Sebastian.

Mr. Adams said:

“Seize the moment

The Nobel Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Cure Troy’ catches at once the despair of conflict and the hope of peace and justice.

For many, the conflict in Ireland, rooted in centuries of war and division, and violence seemed intractable.

Every generation had known war – and between the cycles of violence there was the despair of oppression and discrimination, of instability and institutional violence.

The cycle seemed destined to continue into a depressing future.

Seamus Heaney wrote:

‘Human beings suffer
They torture one another
They get hurt and get hard …’

But there were some who dared to dream and to hope of a different way; to look to Heaney’s ‘far side of revenge’ and to believe it is possible to achieve peace.

And this is where it must begin.

To believe it’s possible to break the cycle to see beyond the conflict, to make hope and history rhyme.

I am here as a guest. Not to be prescriptive, not to pretend I know more than the people who live here, about what caused your conflict.

I am here on behalf of Sinn Féin to help.

Ireland enjoys a long historic relationship with the Spanish, the French and the Basque people.

I am here as a friend.

The participants in the conflict in the Basque country have different views of its origins and of its solution.

The key to making progress, the first step that is needed, is a willingness and a determination from all involved to agree to talk to each other.

This needs leadership.

Violence usually occurs when people believe that there is no alternative.

Transforming a situation from conflict to peace requires therefore that an alternative is created.

A good faith engagement is essential.

Anything less is counter productive and wrong.

Making peace therefore is hugely challenging and enormously difficult.

It demands that we seek to understand what motivates, what inspires, what drives their opponent.

Ultimately, as Madiba - Nelson Mandela - said, we have to make friends with our enemy.

Each conflict is different but in the course of our efforts Irish republicans learned that there are general principles of peace making, methods of conflict resolution, that can be applied elsewhere and which can help end conflict if applied properly.

These elements include:

• The imperative of dialogue. That means talking to the enemy.
• The process must tackle the many causes which lie at the heart of the conflict
• There must be a good faith engagement by all sides
• The process must be inclusive – with all parties treated as equals and mandates respected
• All issues must be on the agenda.
• There can be no pre-conditions
• There can be no vetoes
• There can be no attempt to pre-determine the outcome, or preclude any outcome
• And there should be time frames. This will provide a dynamic and a measurement of progress.
• Participants must stay focused and be prepared to take risks and engage in initiatives and confidence building measures.

But if there is a starting point it must be dialogue.

Over and above all other elements this is the foundation upon which any progress will be built.

At this point trust does not exist. That is a reality. But trust will be built as the process succeeds and advances.

Dialogue is the key first step.

And creating the climate in which dialogue can take place is crucial.

In this context confidence building measures are crucial.

In Ireland this meant, among other things improving conditions for prisoners, including moving those who were in England closer to their homes in Ireland.

It meant demilitarizing the environment and ending the use of emergency laws and repression and a new beginning to policing.

It meant respecting and acknowledging the democratic rights of all political parties and treating them as equals.

It means the electorate having the right to vote for candidates and political parties of their choice.

That requires the release of political prisoners so that they can help build a new dispensation.

Peace processes are challenging for every participant but especially for governments.

There will be ups and downs. There could be breakthroughs and breakdowns.

But in Ireland Sinn Féin never gave up. So you must never give up.

I believe there is a real opportunity at this time to achieve a peaceful outcome to decades of conflict.

The onus is on all political leaders and others to grasp this opportunity.

I wish you all well in this historic endeavour.

Tapaidh an deis – seize the moment.”

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Sinn Fein’s Jennifer McCann MLA (West Belfast) has called on Education & Learning (DEL) Minister, Stephen Farry to assess and recognise that projects such as ‘Training by Choice’ situated in Swan House in East Belfast is a lifeline for young people in the 16-19 age bracket who have left formal education with little or no qualifications.

Jennifer McCann said:

“I attended a protest at Parliament Buildings, Stormont today in support of the young people who were participating in the ‘Training by Choice’ project at Swan House on the Albertsbridge Road for which funding has run out.

“I spoke with some of the 32 young people who are affected by this situation and they are devastated at the prospect that the project will be discontinued if funding is not restored.

“This is a DEL funded alternative education course focussing on music technology, digital photography and 3D websites. It is the type of project that grabs the attention of many young people in this age group who did not find similar stimulation in formal education.

“Considering the efforts put in by the Office of First and deputy First Ministers to attract major performing arts projects such as ‘Game of Thrones’ I would think that this project is precisely what we should be encouraging. I urge the Minister to assess and recognise the need to develop local talent through projects such as ‘Training by Choice’ to service these valuable performing arts projects.”

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Sinn Fein MLA and spokesperson on Agriculture, Oliver McMullan, speaking ahead of a Sinn Féin motion in the Assembly on the issue, has called for the examination of the Crown Estate along the coastline of the north of Ireland  with a view to realising the potential financial return for the Assembly. 

Speaking ahead of the motion Oliver McMullan said:

“The Crown Estate controls the revenue raising possibilities of the coastline and marine habitat along the coast of the North of Ireland. The current value of this is £10.9m with an annual income of £1m each year, derived from pipelines, marinas, fisheries and cablings and other such marine enterprise goes straight into the British Treasury.

“It is Sinn Féin's view that bringing this power under Assembly control would be highly beneficial to the local economy. 

“Not only would it bring the revenue of £1m a year directly into the local budget but could also stimulate further enterprise and investment along our shoreline. 

“It would allow the Assembly to regulate any existing or new leases including our ports, marinas, cables, gas pipelines and local authorities, shellfish operations and the future asset of the sea bed around Rathlin Island, the electric interconnector, wind turbines and tidal turbines.

“Local councils could further be encouraged to explore the options for building new developments on our shores aiding the construction industry and stimulating local enterprise.

“I all this is an initiative that can realise the massive potential our unique shoreline contains and we would be remiss to ignore such an economic opportunity.”

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Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Daithi McKay has said that Sinn Féin are determined to ensure that rural schools are not only delivering a first class service but remain at the centre of rural communities.

 

Speaking to a rural school motion Mr McKay stated,

 

“There are those who are scaremongering that planned reforms by Education Minister John O’Dowd will lead to a decline in the number and quality of rural schools.

 

“This is totally unfounded and I have submitted an amendment that will reflect the Sinn Féin position.

 

“Sinn Féin is committed to reform of the entire educational sector that will ensure that each and every school is delivering not only a first class education to the children but is also at the heart of every community.

 

“Rural schools play a very important role in the life of isolated communities but we must make sure that they deliver their primary function; that is educating our children to the highest standard.

 

“The review initiated by the Minister does not differ between rural and urban schools in that regard and each school will be judged on its own merits. The Minister has also made it quite clear that the viability of a school will be judged against a range of criteria - not simply enrolment numbers. Therefore, small schools - particularly in rural areas - are not unsustainable schools. If people are interested in the education of our children then they should support this motion and stop scaremongering about the number of rural schools that will be closed."

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The Assembly will today, Monday 17th October, debate a Sinn Féin motion calling for the development of an all-Ireland Job Creation Strategy.

Speaking ahead of the motion, the Party's Enterprise Spokesperson, Phil Flanagan MLA said:

"The length and breadth of Ireland, people are suffering as a result of this economic crisis, which is not of their making. The main item on most people's agenda is the lack of jobs. This is something that the Executive in the North and the Dublin Government need to work much more closely on.

"As the motion states, we are calling for the establishment of an all-island job creation strategy, under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council. This would be chaired jointly by both Enterprise Ministers on the island - by Arlene Foster in the north and by Richard Bruton in the south. This strategy would focus on areas of high unemployment across the island.

"It is no coincidence that the areas closest to the border suffer from even higher incidence of unemployment and lack of services than other areas. If we do not take immediate and effective action to address the ever rising levels of unemployment across Ireland, then we will simply continue exporting our best asset, our people.

"Unemployment and emigration is an island wide problem and therefore it requires an island wide solution. It doesn't matter whether you're from Tralee, Tallaght or Tempo; if you don't have a job, the challenges faced are the same.

"In this time of economic frugality, it makes no sense to waste resources on duplication in our approach to employment problems, as we already do in our health, emergency and welfare services.

"We cannot allow another generation to be failed by ineffective government policies - an all-Ireland job creation strategy would be a very important step towards the recovery of this island's economy."

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Martin Ferris TD has strongly criticised this morning’s announcement by Minister Pat Rabbitte to issue 13 new oil and gas licenses.

Deputy Ferris said:

“The Minister claimed this morning that the Irish offshore has real potential. It obviously does given the interest expressed by the exploration companies. However, no real benefit will accrue to the people or the exchequer until the licensing and taxation terms are radically revised.

“I also regret that the Minister has proceeded with the granting of the licenses before having the Committee conduct the review of all aspects of oil and gas exploration in this country, as he promised several months ago in response to a Sinn Féin Private Members Motion.”

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Sinn Féin has confirmed that party President Gerry Adams TD is travelling to the Basque country on Monday to take part in a major international initiative aimed at assisting a resolution of the conflict in the Basque country.

The conference is being held in San Sebastian in the Basque country on Monday October 17th.

The conference has been organised by Lokarri, the International Contact Group, the Basque Citizen Network for Agreement and Consultation and four other international foundations, peace/conflict resolution organisations, including the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

Also taking part will be former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; Jonathan Powell, former Chief of Staff to Tony Blair; former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern; Pierre Joxe, former French Defense and Interior Minister;  Gro Harland Bruntland, former Norwegian Prime Minister, and others.

Gerry Adams said:

“Monday’s initiative is a consequence of considerable behind the scenes efforts, involving Sinn Féin and others in recent months and years.  I am very hopeful that the San Sebastian conference will lead to significant progress in the conflict resolution process.”

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Sinn Féin TD’s Seán Crowe and Martin Ferris, both of whom sit on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, have welcomed a presentation by Northern based community activists.

The presentation took place on Thursday and was entitled: “The Peace Process and the next Ten Years.” It included contributions from a panel led by Ian Adamson, High Sheriff of Belfast, and including Republican and Loyalist activists Sean Murray, Jackie McDonald and George Newell.

Speaking after the meeting on Thursday, Deputy Crowe said: “Today’s discussion was a further step on the road to building greater understanding between the two communities in the North. It is part of a process of dialogue that Sinn Féin has been engaging in and a number of important issues were discussed including future events that will be organised to mark a number of historic anniversaries over the coming decade.

“One aspect of today’s discussion was how we can build a greater understanding about where our society finds itself after years of relative peace and, even more importantly, what the future holds. It was an opportunity for the Committee to hear diverse views and perspectives from people who have very different political outlooks.”

Deputy Martin Ferris agreed that the meeting had been very productive and he believes it is important that representatives from all political parties work towards identifying opportunities that can help consolidate the peace process. He continued: “We cannot take for granted the progress that has been made to date and we need to build understanding and tolerance as our society moves out of conflict.

“Today’s presentation focused on the present state of the peace process and the key challenges that lie ahead including issues around sectarianism, legacy/truth and the socio/economic situation. It also offered an examination of how we can best approach the oncoming decade of historic anniversaries and can we, for example, turn potential negatives into a way of promoting reconciliation, not only at a 6-county basis but on a truly national level.

“This means developing a shared understanding and each of us playing a role in generating greater understanding.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has described the hundreds of people who applied for nine social houses that had been advertised on the South Dublin County Council Website as evidence of the country’s housing crisis.

Deputy Crowe said: “At 7.45am this morning, over 700 people had applied for nine houses that had been advertised on the South Dublin County Council website’s Choice Based Letting Scheme.

“The demand for these houses starkly illustrates the crisis we face and shows the desperation of people who simply want a home of their own.

“The facts are, nine into 700 doesn’t go yet somewhat perversely, there are thousands of empty apartments and ghost estates across the country that could be used to reduce the housing waiting list.

“This must serve as a wake-up call for the government who keep telling us there is no housing crisis. It is simply wrong that at a time when we have a glut of unwanted vacant properties, families are still unable to enjoy the basic right of having a roof over their head.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has today slammed cuts proposals from the HSE which he described as “appalling”.

Among measures being considered are a freeze on new medical cards and slashing home help hours.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“I am absolutely appalled by the proposals contained in this document.

“Recommendations include a freeze on all new medical cards until 2012, reducing home help hours by 600,000 and removing 400,000 personal assistant hours.

“This would amount to an all out attack on the health services should these proposals be implemented.

“I want a commitment from Fine Gael and Labour that they will not adopt, or even consider, these disgraceful proposals.”

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