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Glacadh le rún ag Comhairle Bhalie Átha Cliath aréir, molta ag Comhairloeir Sinn Féin Críona Ní Dhálaigh, ag cinntiú go mbeidh ainmneacha Gaeilge ar eastáit tithíochta nua agus go mbaineann na hainmneacha le stair and béaloideas áitiúil.

Dúirt an Clr. Ní Dhálaigh:

"Tá áthas orm gur glacadh leis an rún seo mar is céim chun tosaigh é do athbheochan na teanga sa chathair seo. Beidh comhairleoirí Sinn Féin ag moladh a leithéid de rún ar comhairlí ar fud an Stáit agus tá súil agam go nglacfar leo chomh maith.

"Déanann an rún seo a chinntiú go mbeidh eastáit tithíochata i mBaile Átha Cliath ainmnithe i nGaeilge le ainmneacha a bhaineann le stair agus béaloideas náisiúnta, in ionad an chórais ainmniúchán ad hoc a bhí ann." Críoch

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Speaking at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sports, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs today, Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has appealed to the government to cease plans to rationalise Community Development Programmes (CDPs) into a single body. Senator Doherty said this, along with the cessation of money to a number of CDPs would have far-reaching effects on the future of these important local projects.

He said:

“Community Development Projects are a community owned, community led, grass roots movement which support the most disadvantaged individuals, families and communities to articulate their needs and to become actively involved in developing strategies to have those needs addressed.

“The nine CDPs in Donegal work tirelessly to deal with local issues, providing resources and are the life-blood of the community.

“Budget 2009 saw a cut of 15% on Community Development Projects. The proposed amalgamation of the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme and the Community development programme would have a massive impact on community initiatives across the state not least in Donegal.

“The proposed move has been described by those involved in Community development Projects as an attempt to effectively dismantle community ownership of the projects, reduce the role of management to advisory and run the risk of losing the trust and participation of the most disadvantaged in our society.

“Projects like the nine in Donegal are crucial for the viability and future growth of our communities. Without them the very heart of our communities will be ripped out.

“Community Development Projects truly are the People’s Projects. At a time when communities are facing cutback after cutback, unemployment and many other hardships, Community Development Projects should be kept paramount.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, speaking in the Dáil this evening on a motion on the proposed cut in the Child Benefit Payment said if the cut goes ahead it will result in more women being forced to leave the workforce and will cause increased financial strain and stress on families at a time when they need most support.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The child benefit payment provides much needed support for parents who leave the workforce in order to care for their children. It also contributes to the cost of crippling childcare fees for those still working.

“Childcare costs in Ireland are far above the EU average, with Irish families spending 20% of their incomes on full-time crèche facilities compared with 12% of income for families in the rest of Europe. Childcare costs are so high that it is now out of reach for many low income families.

“The impact of the proposals to cut in Child Benefit will be to force many women out of work and leave women working in the home with less support. For families where women are now the main breadwinner, it will cause increased financial strain and stress on the family at a time when they need most support.

“Let’s not forget that child benefit has already been significantly cut in the past two budgets. Now in dire financial times, many families who need help most at the moment are being hit again.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on Minister Dermot Ahern to bring forward legislation to regulate shops that are offering cash for gold this Christmas. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said these shops are taking advantage of the economic circumstances of the least well off and is leading to an increase in burglaries as thieves are targeting jewellery more than ever.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Minister Ahern must bring forward legislation to regulate these shops which are currently taking advantage of the economic circumstances of the least well off. In many cases family heirlooms are being handed over for cash as people struggle to cope with the pressures of Christmas.

“The availability of cash for gold is also leading to increased burglaries as thieves are now targeting jewellery more than ever. I know there has been an increase in burglaries in my own constituency and in a lot of cases jewellery has been the target. The burglars are specifically targeting the elderly and those living alone as they are considered easy prey.

“I would call on the Garda Commissioner to ask members of An Garda Síochána to reinforce the security in the home message to the community and especially the elderly, and for neighbours and the community to be extra vigilant to this type of crime in the run in to Christmas.” ENDS

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South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA and Laganbank councillor Alex Maskey has welcomed the fact that a Sinn Féin motion, aimed at tackling the problems in the Holyland area, was passed unopposed at last night’s Belfast City Council meeting.
 
Alex Maskey MLA said,
“Just over a month ago I welcomed the work that was done by Employment and Learning Minister Reg Empey through his work in organising the Holyland stakeholders forum.
 
“I also pointed out, however, that much more needed to be done and that the work could not be left to one Executive Department, adding that if the root causes are to be tackled then a cross-departmental approach is required to ensure that Assembly Ministers are not abdicating their responsibilities on this issue.
 
“It is with this in mind that Sinn Féin submitted a motion to last night’s Belfast City Council meeting.
 
“The aim of the motion is to compliment the on-going work by ensuring a long term strategic approach is adopted. It calls upon the Council to support the commissioning of a discrete study, led by Council officials in conjunction with other agencies, that will specifically identify the underlying causes of the problems in the Holyland area and hopefully lead to the development of proposals for a long term strategic plan for the area.
 
“I would welcome the fact that this motion was passed without any opposition and that a number of members from other political parties spoke in favour of this motion. This highlight’s the importance of this issue and emphasises the need for the problems faced by residents of the Holyland to be dealt with as apriority”
 

The motion passed at last night’s Belfast City Council meeting reads:

“The Council is concerned about the problems in the Holyland area of the City which have been evident for a number of years.  It recognises the work that its officers have undertaken in leading a multi-agency group to take forward interventions to deal with some of the issues which residents have to face. 
 
“The Council also welcomes the recent initiative led by the Minister for Employment and Learning, bringing together a Stakeholder Forum aimed at involving all groups in defining the problems and suggesting possible solutions
 
“To support this work and ensure a long term strategic approach, the Council supports the commissioning of a discrete study, led by Council officials in conjunction with other agencies, which specifically identifies the underlying causes of these problems and leads to the development of proposals for a long term strategic plan for the area.”

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Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has opened the Autistic Spectrum Disorder Learning Support Centre and Irish Medium Nursery School in Armagh.

Speaking at the opening in Christian Brothers' Primary School, the Minister said: "Improving provision for autism across the North is vitally important to enhance the quality of life for children, young people and adults.

"My Department will be developing a strategic plan which will identify a clear pathway for the development of autism services. This will build on much of the excellent work to date in the delivery of autism services in the education sector, ensuring we continue to strive to deliver an education system that enables children on the autistic spectrum to reach their full potential.

"The Centre for Autism, at Middletown, will have a key role in the future delivery of services for children with autism. The vision is that the centre will become a true centre of excellence for children across the whole of Ireland."

Ag labhairt di ag oscailt na Naíscoile nua, dúirt an tAire Oideachais: "Ba mhaith liom moladh a thabhairt don naíscoil seo freisin. Aithnítear go forleathan luach an infheistithe i luathbhlianta shaol an pháiste agus léiríonn taighde go mbíonn páistí, a mbíonn eispéireas réamhscoile d’ardchaighdeán acu, níos ullmhaithe don bhunscoil agus go mbíonn siad ag foghlaim níos gaiste.

Speaking about the opening of the new Irish Medium Nursery School, the Education Minister said: "I would also like to commend this Irish Medium nursery school. The value of investing in the earliest years of a child’s life is well recognised and research tells us that children who have a high quality pre-school experience are better prepared for primary school and learn more quickly.

"Tugtar ardtosaíocht do Ghaelscolaíocht i mo Roinn, agus tá lúcháir orm a fheiceáil go bhfuil páistí ag baint taitnimh as a dtimpeallacht foghlama, go háirithe ós rud é gur suíomh Gaeilge é.

"Irish Medium Education is given a high priority by my Department, and I welcome the opportunity to see at first hand children enjoying their learning environment, particularly when it is an Irish language setting.

"Tá an Roinn ag obair ar fhorfheidhmiú an Athbhreithnithe ar Ghaelscolaíocht a chur i gcrích. Tríd seo a dhéanamh, cinnteoimid go gcuirfear an Ghaelscolaíocht san áireamh agus polasaithe ábhartha ag gach leibhéal á mbreithniú agus á gcur i bhfeidhm, lena n-áirítear ag leibhéal na réamhscoile."

"The Department is currently taking forward the implementation of the Review of Irish Medium Education. In doing so we will ensure that Irish Medium Education is mainstreamed in the consideration and application of all relevant policies, at all levels, not least pre-school."

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Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, today visited Disability Action to see first hand the transport schemes they operate.

Disability Action manages a number of programmes on behalf of the Department including, Door-to-Door Transport, Group Transport Services and the Mobility Centre.

The Minister met with users of these services and learned how important Door-to-Door Transport is in helping people with disabilities, or older people, to get to local facilities and services and how the Mobility Centre helps disabled people to gain or retain their independence as drivers and passengers.

The Minister said: "I welcome the opportunity to visit Disability Action today. This is a real opportunity for me to see first hand the important work of Disability Action and to hear what people with disabilities think about these services.

"I am committed to promoting and supporting transport that addresses the needs of everyone in our community. I would like to congratulate Disability Action on the excellent job they do. Disability Action, with my Department’s support, provides valuable services for older people and for people with disabilities.

"Today has reinforced the importance of these services and how they make a real difference to people’s lives and to their independence."

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Lisburn Sinn Fein councillor and Lagan Valley MLA Paul Butler has reacted strongly to death threats made to himself, councillor Angela Nelson and other Sinn Fein councillors in Lisburn.

Mr Butler said:

"On the evening of Tuesday, 1 December, my party colleague Angela Nelson received a death threat by phone which threatened the Sinn Fein councillors on Lisburn council.

"The caller threatened that myself, councillor Nelson and the other Sinn Fein councillors on Lisburn council would be shot dead very soon.

“I have been told by the PSNI that they are taking the threat seriously.

Councillor Nelson has made a detailed statement to the PSNI. The PSNI have traced the caller’s number to Cadiz in Spain close to the British Army’s base in Gibraltar.

 

One possibility is that the caller is based at the Gibraltar base but the knowledge about Lisburn council and having councillor Nelson's number also suggests a local connection.

 

Paul Butler continued:

"We believe it is no coincidence that these threats have been made ahead of a Lagan Valley Sinn Fein selection convention in Lisburn next week

"I want to say that Sinn Fein will not be deterred by these threats.

"Our project to achieve equality, work for Irish unity, and do our best for our constituents will continue."

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has said that the remit of the proposed new Independent Statutory Body to examine MLA salaries should be extended to include senior civil servants.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

“I welcome the proposals to set up an Independent Statutory Body to examine pay levels for MLA’s. But I believe that it also presents an opportunity for a radical examination of how remuneration for senior grades in the Civil Service here is calculated.

“Remuneration levels for anyone paid out of the public purse should be approached in a manner that does not offend public opinion as it is the general tax-payer who ultimately foots the bill.

“I therefore believe that we should not squander this opportunity to examine and restructure the methods of determining not only elected representatives salaries but also those of all public servants, particularly those in senior positions. I would recommend that the new Independent Statutory Body should therefore, have the power to examine pay structures within the Civil Service.

“I welcome the decision by the Committee for Finance and Personnel today to write to Minister Sammy Wilson recommending that he gives consideration to this proposal.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and Chair of the Committee for Finance & Personnel Jennifer McCann has called for a review of Senior Civil Service pay levels following confirmation that they earn more than Ministers. 


Speaking today Ms McCann said:

"It is clear that there is too much of a differential in pay scales between senior civil servants who are working at Grade 5 or higher levels than those civil servants at the lower level of the scale.

“Sinn Féin have consistently highlighted these pay differentials and welcomed the Finance & Personnel Committee's recent review into senior civil servants bonuses’.

“I believe it is time for a review of senior civil pay for those working at Grade 5 levels and beyond."

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Sinn Féin Equality and Human rights spokesperson Martina Anderson is encouraging people to attend a major conference on disability which she is hosting in the city on Friday.

The Foyle MLA was speaking ahead of the conference entitled – ‘Disability is our Responsibility’ – which will take place in Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin.

“The conference will explore the difficulties encountered by people in this city who are living with disabilities,” Ms. Anderson said.

“There will be a number of contributions from people who are working within the field and those who will share with us their experience of living with disability.

“The event is all about sharing experiences and lessons and hopefully we can all take something from it including practical things that we can all do to take responsibility for disability – things which we can then take back into our lives and into our communities.

“Everyone is welcome and I would urge as many peoples as possible to attend.”

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Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Martina Anderson has welcomed the news of the £100million expansion plans at the Foyleside Shopping Centre Derry.

Martina Anderson said

“This is fantastic news and a massive vote of confidence for the retail sector in Derry City centre. Since Foyleside opened in 1995 it has grown from strength to strength.This investment will give stimulation to the Derry economy and create hundreds of jobs in both the retail and construction sectors and this is very welcome in the current economic  climate. I would like to congratulate Des Farrell and his team at Foyleside for putting this plan together.

These plans could be a major part of the jigsaw in the regeneration of Derry City centre and comes at a time of other major construction work such the new Peace Bridge across the Foyle ,the Ilex plans and a £1 billion investment in the North West's road and rail infrastructure by DRD Minister Conor Murphy.

I also think with a project of this scale it’s very important that as many people from this city get employment during all phases of construction .Sinn Féin have been lobbying very hard over the past few years for social clauses to be included in building projects in Derry. The next number of years will see significant expenditure and investment within the city within the public and private sectors; we must ensure that the benefits are kept within the city and that those presently marginalised within the existing labour market are supported by practical initiatives such as these.

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Sinn Féin Councillor Peter Anderson has advised people to be aware of a scam notifying people of windfall winnings in the ‘El Gordo Spanish Lottery’.

Peter Anderson said:

“I have been approached by a constituent who received notification that they had won close to one million pounds in the ‘El Gordo Spanish Lottery’.  They were advised that in order to claim their winnings that specific information was required. The information is very detailed and personal including bank account numbers, Debit account etc.

“People should treat this type of correspondence as they would all other junk mail. Bin it!

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Sinn Féin MLA and deputy chair of the Health Committee Michelle O’Neill has expressed concern at the decision by the Belfast Health Trust to treat vulnerable men and women with mental health problems together in Knockbracken

Speaking today Ms O’Neill said:

“The decision to merge two single sex wards into one ward in Knockbracken healthcare centre is extremely concerning.  

“Certainly this a U-turn on current best practice, which is moving more and more towards single sex wards.

“People who present to this ward are already vulnerable adults. To further expose them to the risk of extra contributory factors that may very well arise as a result of this forced integration is a serious worry.

“The Belfast Trust needs to consult and listen to very carefully to those who use the wards, their families, and past patients to understand the anxieties out there with regards to this move.

“This appears to be a measure to save money rather than putting the patient’s needs first and it is a move that is avoidable. What we are seeing is a not what can be called an efficiency saving but a way to save money.  Efficiency means that a service is provided at a better level of quality and competence, not a cut back of services.”

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Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney said:

“Peter Robinson claims ‘The DUP will play its full part in working the present arrangements but wish, in accordance with the St Andrews Agreement, to see those arrangements improved. ‘ “

 “If Peter Robinson is serious then where is the date for transfer? Where is the agreed process that the DUP entered into and where is the evidence of his efforts to resolve the impasse? It is not possible to improve on arrangements that are not being implemented.

Mr Robinson also says: “The DUP want policing and justice functions devolved just as soon as we can gain the necessary level of community confidence.” Would that be the confidence of the 18% of the electorate the DUP received at the most recent election - as the only quantifiable measure of community confidence is your electoral support?

“If Mr. Robinson continues to prevaricate it won’t be long before he completely loses  all community confidence and ends up indistinguishable from Jim Allister and the TUV as just another minority unionist party.”

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Sinn Féin Assembly Chief Whip Caral Ní Chuilin has described Gerry McHugh as fast becoming a figure of political ridicule following his latest political summersault and his announcement that he has now joined Fianna Fail.

Ms Ní Chuilin said;

“Gerry McHugh has now become a figure of political ridicule in Stormont and within his own constituency.

“Some months ago Gerry McHugh allocated his vote within the Stormont Assembly Commission to the SDLP block. Now, in the last few days, he announces he is joining Fianna Fail.


“When he leftSinn Féin and refused to give up his seat he stated that Sinn Féin was not republican enough.He told us all then that he would continue as an MLA and give leadership like Frank Maguire and Bobby Sands. Yet he is now telling the republican electorate of Fermanagh South Tyrone that he is comfortable within Fianna Fail.

“This is the party that endorsed NAMA, the Lisbon Treaty and is now considering cutting the budgets of Cross Border Bodies to save money.

“His hypocrisy is breathtaking and his credibility rating both here at Stormont and within his own constituency must now be at absolute zero.

Concluding Carál Ní Chuilin said;


“Mr McHugh’s political hypocrisy is clear for all to see.His latest political sidestep will fool no one, least of all the republican people of Fermanagh, South Tyrone. ” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this evening on the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh called for an enquiry in every county in the state as he believes that child abuse Catholic Church was not confined to Dublin.

He said:

“The Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin exposes glaringly how the most powerful men in the Catholic Church in the Dublin diocese conspired to protect abusers of children. Especially damning is the conclusion that the State authorities facilitated the cover-up and allowed the Church to operate beyond the reach of normal law enforcement. Senior Gardai, up to and including the level of Commissioner, repeatedly turned a blind eye to crimes of clerical sexual abuse.

“They colluded in crime in depraved sexual attacks, in an abuse of power and influence, they perverted the course of justice, they protected the guilty. They, the paedophile priests, the bishops, archbishops and Gardaí who protected them, I believe and many others believe are culpable in the deaths by suicide of many, many abused children or later adults whose lives were destroyed by the paedophiles and their protectors. Remember we are talking about children.

“I am calling for an inquiry into each and every county, because I believe that child sexual abuse on the systematic scale we have read in the harowing report from Judge Yvonne Murphy was not just confined to the Dublin diocese or to the Ferns Diocese as in the case of the Ferns Report, that it was widespread and was visited on children in every diocese. I believe that society owes it to those it failed to protest in the past, to expose the wrong done to those children and ensure that every step is taken to pursue the perpetrators and those who failed or purposely refused to carry out their duties to protect children and to investigate and prosecute criminals.

“It represents a gross betrayal of generations of children by powerful people in clerical and State authorities.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Snodaigh’s Dáil speech follows:

Statements on the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin 1/12/09

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Affairs

The Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin exposes glaringly how the most powerful men in the Catholic Church in the Dublin diocese conspired to protect abusers of children. Especially damning is the conclusion that the State authorities facilitated the cover-up and allowed the Church to operate beyond the reach of normal law enforcement. Senior Gardai, up to and including the level of Commissioner, repeatedly turned a blind eye to crimes of clerical sexual abuse.

They colluded in crime in depraved sexual attacks, in an abuse of power and influence, they perverted the course of justice, they protected the guilty. They, the paedophile priests, the bishops, archbishops and Gardaí who protected them, I believe and many others believe are culpable in the deaths by suicide of many, many abused children or later adults whose lives were destroyed by the paedophiles and their protectors. Remember we are talking about children.

I am calling for an inquiry into each and every county, because I believe that child sexual abuse on the systematic scale we have read in the harowing report from Judge Yvonne Murphy was not just confined to the Dublin diocese or to the Ferns Diocese as in the case of the Ferns Report, that it was widespread and was visited on children in every diocese. I believe that society owes it to those it failed to protest in the past, to expose the wrong done to those children and ensure that every step is taken to pursue the perpetrators and those who failed or purposely refused to carry out their duties to protect children and to investigate and prosecute criminals.

It represents a gross betrayal of generations of children by powerful people in clerical and State authorities.

This report is a reminder of the truth of the saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The hierarchical and totally male dominated structure of the Catholic Church gives bishops virtually absolute power in their own dioceses with the ultimate power residing in the Vatican. This has been a recipe for disaster for anyone – and especially any child – who finds him or her self a victim of abuse by clerics.

The Report puts it in very clear terms:
“The Dublin Archdiocese’s pre-occupation in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities. The Archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the State.”

The Report makes clear that the bishops in Dublin ignored the Church’s own rules on abuse and states:

“The authorities in the Archdiocese of Dublin and the religious orders were all very well educated people. Many had qualifications in canon law and quite a few also had qualifications in civil law. That makes their claims of ignorance very hard to accept. Child sexual abuse did not start in the 20 th century.”

The report strongly refutes the claim of the Archdiocese and other Church authorities that they were on a ‘learning curve’ prior to the late 1990s in relation to clerical abuse of children. This was a convenient date for such a claim because it was in 1994 that the extent of this abuse began to be realized by the public with the Brendan Smyth case. The claim of a ‘learning curve’ was a lie because senior clerics as far back as Archbishop John Charles McQuaid in the 1950s, and almost certainly long before him, were well aware of these cases and were covering them up. This was a cover up on a scale never seen before. This report shows the extent the perpetrators and their masters were willing to go to cover-up to "protest the reputation of the institutions and the reputation of priests". Why would we believe that this cover-up did not extend beyond Dublin. It did and will only be exposes by other Murphy Reports into the other dioceses.

All along, as the Report states, there was little or no concern for the welfare of the abused child or for the welfare of other children who might come into contact with the priest. All four archbishops in the period covered by the report – McQuaid, Ryan, McNamara and Connell failed to report knowledge of child sexual abuse throughout the ’60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

It is shocking that the archdiocese actually took out insurance in 1987, such was the extent of their knowledge of child sexual abuse in their church and the potential financial cost to them. The Report states that the taking out of insurance “was an act proving knowledge of child sexual abuse as a potential major cost to the Archdiocese” and “inconsistent with the view that Archdiocesan official were still on a ‘learning curve’ at a much later date or were lacking in an appreciation of the phenomenon of clerical child sex abuse” .

What galled me most as I read the disturbing accounts of the abuse contained in the report, taht in many cases there was no sense of remorse, of having done wrong. These abusers and their protectors were the very ones who would lecture us the public about morality and wrongdoing. These same twisted perverts were given the signal by their archbishops in Dublin over the years, by the impunity or blind eye turned to the crime of raping children, the signal 'carry on regardless' to all paedophiles in or out of the priesthood.

Hard questions must be asked of the insurance company involved in this, Church and General. What was the extent of their knowledge? Why were all the files shredded? Will there be a Garda investigation of the role of this company?

Will there also be accountability regarding the role of the Gardai themselves? The Report tells us that a number of senior Gardai, including the Commissioner in 1960 regarded priests as outside their remit. Essentially they bowed down to the hierarchy at terrible cost to the children the Gardai and the State generally were supposed to protect.

Anyone, including Gardaí, found to be complicit in the cover up of child abuse must face the full rigours of the law.

The Government must take immediate action in response to the Report’s finding that the legislation governing the role of the HSE in dealing with child sexual abuse is inadequate and that there is a need to clarify that role. It is of great concern, as the Report states, that the HSE has given the impression to the Church authorities and the Gardaí that they can do more in the area of child sexual abuse than they actually have the power to do.

It is also of major concern, as highlighted in the Report, that the HSE does not properly record cases of clerical child sexual abuse.

The Government must immediately rectify the situation, again highlighted in the Report, where the Child Care Act 1991 does not sufficiently clarify the powers and duties of the health authorities.

Like the Ryan Report, this report must also serve to prompt the Government to act urgently to protect vulnerable children today.

The recent closure of the special care facility at Ballydowd raises huge concern over child services in this State. This centre is only nine years in existence and cost €13 million to put in place yet it had to be closed because of its unsuitability for the troubled children who have been held there.

It is extremely worrying that the HSE has presided over a facility in which, as HIQA has stated, there were ‘not enough staff to run the unit consistently and safely’ . How could this have been allowed to go on?

The HIQA National Children in Care Inspection Report, which included the report on Ballydowd, is a severe indictment of State failure to protect children. It highlights ‘serious deficits in standards aimed at safeguarding vulnerable children, including lapses in vetting procedures for staff and foster carers working with children’.

These are issues that my colleague Deputy Ó Caoláin, our party’s spokesperson on Children, and others have repeatedly raised in Questions to the Minister for Health & Children and at the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children.

We also have the scandal of children going missing from State care. The recent Ombudsman for Children Report revealed that a total of 454 children went missing from state care between 2000 and 2008. These are foreign national children who are in Ireland without a guardian. In many cases the children are not reported missing to gardaí. Nine hostels were inspected in the Ombudsman for Children report but only two were registered and seven found to be unsafe and unclean. In some hostels children were left overnight with little or no adult supervision.

The Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney who has ultimate responsibility, and the Minister for Children Barry Andrews who has direct responsibility, must explain in detail how children have been let down yet again in this way by the State. They must act with urgency to bring the care of vulnerable children up to standard or else we will have more Ryan Reports and Murphy Reports in years to come, only this time they will cover the present era.

The woefully inadequate state of our child protection services has been repeatedly exposed. There are insufficient social workers and other front-line workers and support systems in place. The HSE knows of cases where children are in grave danger but the services are not in place to make the interventions required. The nightmare of child abuse is not sadly a thing of the past. It is happening every day. Most of this abuse takes place in the family home. If the services are not in place then the State today will be just as culpable as it was in the past when it conspired with the Church to cover up the abuse of children.

There are a whole range of measures that must be taken in the light of the Murphy Report, but also in light of the Ryan Report, the Ferns Report, the Monageer Report and the recent HIQA Report that I have mentioned. These include:

Updating of legislation and clarification of the role of the HSE with regard to protection of child from abuse.

A full 24-hour on-call social work service for vulnerable children and families.

The delivery of the promised referendum to strengthen children’s rights in the Constitution.

Address the need for truth and justice and recompense for those abused in institutions, both residential and non-residential, not covered by the Ryan Report, including Finglas Children’s Centre, Scoil Ard Mhuire in Lusk, Trinity House, Trudder House and Madonna House, as well as the Magdalen laundries and institutions established after 1970.

A Commission of Investigation or another form of credible inquiry to investigate all matters relating to the conduct of Michael Shine in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

Implementation of the Children’s Ombudsman’s call for a child death review mechanism, in light of the deaths of at least 20 children in State care during the past decade, deaths which are now the subject of an internal HSE inquiry.

We have heard calls for the resignation of those bishops found culpable in the Murphy Report. I support those calls. But much more important is the need to reform the way our education system is managed. These bishops and others are so-called patrons of schools which are funded by the State. Many parents nowadays have their children baptized primarily to ensure that they can get into primary schools where Catholic Church baptismal certs are required. That is a disgrace and highlights the need to complete the separation of Church and State, especially in education.

The State pays for education through capitation grants, teachers’ salaries and other funding but the vast majority of primary and secondary schools are not under democratic control. They are predominantly under the patronage of Catholic bishops and in the ownership of the Catholic Church. It is a legacy of the era of Church power and control that allowed the abuse highlighted in this Report to happen.

We must move to a democratically controlled education system, truly representative of the community, respecting the rights of people of all religions and none and totally child-centred.

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For immediate release 1st December 2009:

Government lying on budget options – Doherty

Speaking in the Seanad today Sinn Féin Senator has accused the Government of lying to people when it says there is no alternative to the budget of cuts which it is set to announce next week.

Senator Doherty said there is an onus on all party’s who oppose the Government’s strategy to put forward their own ideas and Sinn Féin is currently the only party to have put forward a viable set of costed proposals to return more money than the Government is seeking to save but without targeting social welfare, child benefit or public services.

He said:

“We need to have an honest debate regarding the budget. In order to do so the Government must acknowledge that there is an alternative to the slash and burn budget which they are preparing to announce next week. The fact is that they are lying to people when they say there is no alternative.

“There is an onus on all party’s who oppose the Government’s strategy to put forward their own ideas and Sinn Féin is currently the only party to have put forward a viable set of costed proposals which would return more money to the public finances than the Government is seeking without targeting social welfare, child benefit or public services.

“Our proposals reject the notion that everybody has to pay on the grounds that many people simply can’t afford to pay, are not at fault for this economic mess and did not benefit from the economic boom when it was here.

“Instead we seek to target those who can afford to pay more, those who benefited most during the Celtic Tiger years and those who contributed to creating this economic mess.

“We are seeking to introduce a tax on wealth on assets worth more than €1million, a third tax band on incomes over €100,000 per annum, the standardisation of discretionary tax reliefs at the lower rate of tax and the abolition of property based tax reliefs.

“Our proposals would bridge the deficit by €3.7billion and also create a €3.2billion jobs package to keep people at work and get those currently unemployed back to work. But we seek to do this by targeting those who can afford to pay rather than those who can’t.

“The Government would rather tackle old age pensioners, the unemployed, children and those on low incomes than to target the high earners in this state.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson Martin Ferris TD called for adequate funding to be made available for areas affected by flooding throughout the country. Deputy Ferris said planning authorities had given permission for housing developments in areas with a history of flooding.

He said:

“The fact is that many of the homes affected by severe flooding were built in areas where there has been a history of flooding but where the planning authorities gave permission for housing developments where a more rigorous procedure might have decided that the risk of flooding meant that the sites in question were unsuitable.

“There is an onus on the Government to ensure that adequate funding be made available to those areas affected.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Board Member Martina Anderson is to visit the controversial Dungavel Holding Centre in Scotland tomorrow (Wednesday), in order to view the conditions in which asylum seekers are held there.

Martina Anderson said:


“This visit comes about as a result of concerns which myself and others raised within the Committee of the First and Deputy First Minister regarding the Dungavel centre in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.


“There have been a number of high-profile cases where asylum seekers have been forcibly removed from the North of Ireland and detained in Dungavel. People like Aderonke Falode, originally from Nigeria who had settled in Belfast with her three children, and who had played a positive role in the East Belfast community and her local church


“The purpose of the visit is initially to see at first-hand the kind of conditions in which these people are held.


“But, for me, it is also about highlighting Sinn Féin’s continued opposition to the use of draconian detention centres. Our party is wholly committed to the rights of all people and the use of these centres is in contravention of international human rights standards.”
Ms. Anderson also warned that the situation is likely to deteriorate as a result of the British’s Government’s latest immigration legislation.


“The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill will increase immigration controls and barriers to legal citizenship,” she said.


“It will also see police powers being conferred on the UK Border Agency which would put them beyond the accountability of the Police Ombudsman.


“That is a dangerous step and one which I believe will lead to more and more innocent families being transported to places like Dungavel
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