It is with deep regret and sadness that we have learnt of the death of our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness who passed away in Derry during the night. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Speaking this morning Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said:
“Throughout his life Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness.
“He was a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the re-unification of his country. But above all he loved his family and the people of Derry and he was immensely proud of both.
“On behalf of republicans everywhere we extend our condolences to Bernie, Fiachra, Emmet, Fionnuala and Grainne, grandchildren and the extended McGuinness family.
“I measc laochra na nGael go raibh a anam dílis.”
by Gerry Adams TD
Sinn Féin MLA and former hungerstriker Raymond McCartney has welcomed the agreement that has allowed Kadar Adnan to end his protest after 66 days.
Mr McCartney said:
“I am delighted to hear that Kadar Adnan has come to an agreement that has allowed him to end his fast after 66 days. It is imperative that Kadar is now given immediate medical treatment in order for him to make a full recovery.
“I would also call for international agencies to be allowed to monitor his health and treatment in the days and weeks ahead.
“Despite this agreement Kadar Adnan is still being interned without charge and should immediately be released back to his family. The Israeli Government must be pressurised into adhering to international human right standards and the treatment of Kadar Adnan has fallen well short of this.”
Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey has welcomed the debate on the opt out scheme for organ donors.
Ms Ramsey stated,
“Organ donation saves many lives every year but for every person that receives a life saving organ three people die waiting for one.
“The debate today gave people the opportunity to look at options to increase the number of organs available for transplantation.
“While I supported the motion to change the criteria from opt in to opt out I believe that family discussion on the issue is key to any successful scheme. It is important that people who are in favour of donating their organs tell their next of kin so if there is a tragic accident the onus is less on the family to make the decision to donate the organ
“I would also like to see specialist transplant coordinators based in every hospital trauma unit that are trained in grief counseling. This model introduced in Spain led to a large increase in the number of families who consented to donate organs of a loved one
“It is important that we look at introducing a system that will maximise the number of organs available.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on education Sean Crowe has welcomed Minister Quinn’s u-turn on DEIS schools cuts but has hit out at his “appalling decision to spread new cuts across primary and post primary sectors”.
Deputy Crowe said that this basically pitches one child against another.
“This entire episode has been a fiasco for the Government and the decision to reverse some of the cuts to DEIS schools announced in December’s budget shows how unjustified this decision was in the first place. It was an attack on some of our most vulnerable children and came at a time when literacy and numeracy standards in Irish schools had fallen dramatically.
“The retention of 235 posts in DEIS Band 1 and DEIS Band 2 schools is welcome. However, I am very disappointed that the withdrawal of 192 posts from primary schools outside DEIS Band 1 and 2 and from DEIS second level will proceed.
“The Minister is bringing forward the decision to reduce the capitation funding for primary schools in 2012. This in effect will mean a five euro cut for every child.
“The review also confirms that changes in staffing arrangements will result in approximately 73 schools nationally losing a teacher from September 2012. This will have serious implications in terms of their sustainability and their educational outcomes.
“Since the introduction of the DEIS school system in 2005, significant progress has been made in helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is an indictment on this government that they were prepared to jeopardise the success of DEIS schools through very punitive cuts.
“Today’s review is a partial victory for fairness and equality and I wish to commend all of the teachers, parents and people who opposed these cuts.
“However we still have a long way to go. The effects of this review will essentially pitch one child against another. At a time of economic crisis the government should be investing in education and in combating disadvantage, not adding to it.”
The Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the Taoiseach to axe the Household Charge following the publication of figures which show that less than 7% of households have paid.
The Louth TD also called on the government to put in place a Plan B to ensure that local councils are adequately funded.
Deputy Adams said:
“Figures released on Monday show that less than 7% of households
liable for the Household charge have actually paid the tax. With only weeks to go before the March 31st deadline the government’s plan to generate €160 million for local councils appears to be in real danger of collapse.
“At this rate, councils across the state will be left in dire straits when
it comes to funding their services. Indeed many councils are already in difficulty.
“The government should accept that the Household Charge is an unfair tax - an unjust tax – which should never have been introduced. It is a flat tax that hits the poorest hardest. People on low and middle incomes are bearing the brunt of austerity. They are struggling to pay mortgages, the universal social charge, the increase in VAT, increases in motor tax and much more.
“Last week the SIPTU trade union joined the chorus of voices calling for the abolition of the Household Charge.
“Is the government seriously planning to haul tens, maybe hundreds of
thousands of citizens before the courts when not one banker has faced due process?
“The Household Charge should be axed and the government should introduce a cap on wages in the public sector at €100,000, as proposed by Sinn Féin in our pre Budget submission. This would raise €265 million – more than envisaged by the Household Charge.
“With only 7% of households having paid, the government needs to be getting ahead of the curve and planning now for local government services.”
Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has said that the recent cuts to the community and voluntary sector will cost as much as they will save.
The Waterford Senator was speaking in the Seanad today following the launch of the ICTU report on changes in employment and services in the voluntary and community sector in Ireland.
Senator Cullinane said:
“This report highlights the damage that is likely to be done to the community and voluntary sector, and to communities all over the country, if recent cuts are not reversed.
“It is yet another example of this government being penny wise and pound foolish. In 2008 the community sector was to be estimated to be worth €6.5 billion to the Irish economy, three times the size of the State’s investment.
“Many services will cease to operate and the state will be forced to step in and provide them at what will more than likely be a greater cost.
“Many vital services will be hit. These are services in areas such as healthcare, Meals on Wheels and anti-Drugs schemes. It is utterly irresponsible for the State to remove these services from the communities that need them most.
“Some 11,000 people will lose their jobs because of these cuts. This will push many families closer to the brink of poverty and will take huge amounts of money out of local economies.
“These schemes play a crucial role in the creation and retention of jobs. Given the current jobs crisis, and the infrastructure that has been built up over twenty years in this area, the role that the community and voluntary sector provides has never been so crucial.
“These cuts are completely counterproductive and must be reversed.”
Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has today written to Minister Brendan Howlin calling on him to contractually guarantee current good cause funding levels are maintained when awarding the new National Lottery licence contract.
Deputy McDonald said:
“The Government’s Capital Programme announcement of late last year boldly stated that it intended to use the upfront payment from the new National Lottery operator to fund the National Children’s Hospital. It is interesting to note that this capital funding commitment has now been watered down to receipt of just one third of the projected proceeds from the up-front payment. Minister Howlin needs to clarify to what purpose the government intends to use the balance of the proceeds from the up-front payment.
“Currently one third of the National Lottery’s sales provide funds for good causes amounting to €244 million in 2010. Now more than ever community groups and services rely heavily on this funding stream. It would be simply unacceptable for the government to offer up a twenty-five year licence worth €1.2 billion euro without including a clause that guarantees current funding levels for good causes be maintained and indeed increased by up to 5% if and when sales increase.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has challenged FG Deputy John O’Mahony over his claims that Sinn Féin has closed 28 schools in the North.
Deputy Crowe suggested that Mr O’Mahony “get his facts right” before commenting on issues North of the border and said no amount of misrepresentation on behalf of Fine Gael could mask the damage his Government is inflicting on the Irish education system.
He continued: “Deputy O’Mahony’s claims that the North’s Education Minister, John O’Dowd, MLA, has closed 28 post-primary schools in the North are simply not true.
“Minister O’Dowd has not closed any post-primary schools either last week or since he came into office last May. The decision to close a school is taken primarily by the local education authorities, and, unlike what is being imposed in the South, decisions are taken for educational – not budgetary reasons.
“The Minister will only agree to a proposal to close a school once he is satisfied, following consultation with the community, parents, stakeholders etc, and having examined all the evidence, that it is in the best interests of the children’s education. This means he must be satisfied that alternative arrangements have been put in place to allow children to attend a school in the area which meets their educational requirements.
“In his statement, Deputy O’Mahony refers to the closure of Drumcree College in Portadown. Drumcree College was one of a number of schools referred to in the ‘Post Primary Review Strategic Regional Report’ published by the Commission for Catholic Education on 13 February 2012. It is the responsibility of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools to manage provision in the maintained schools’ estate and to bring forward proposals to the Department of Education.
“That process has yet to take place with regard to Drumcree College and the others named in the Commission’s report.
“It is wholly inaccurate and ‘gilding the lily’ to make wild claims that Minister John O Dowd has closed 28 schools.
“On a wider point, Sinn Féin was not responsible for the £4bn reduction to the Block Grant which has been imposed on the people of the Six Counties following the British Chancellor’s Spending Review announcement on 20 October 2010.
“The cuts imposed by the British Tory Party on the Executive and Assembly budget have been resisted at every turn by Sinn Féin and our party was the driver behind the Budget review process which has, so far, identified £1.6billion in additional revenue.
“My party colleagues and others in the Assembly are continuing to resist these cuts and are seeking additional means of finance. They have battled vigorously to defend the North’s education sector at every opportunity and will continue to do so.
“Unlike Fine Gael and Labour they have prioritised and ring-fenced education funding for disadvantage and children with special needs.
“It is quite clear that the newly found interest in Northern issues by FG and Labour is an attempt to ‘muddy the waters’ and deflect attention away from the serious damage they are inflicting on the Irish education system by completely misrepresenting what is actually happening there.” Críoch
Sinn Féin's Raymond McCartney MLA (Foyle) will be in Wales along with Party Officials on Wednesday 22nd February to meet with Members of the Assembly of Wales
Before leaving, Raymond McCartney said:
"The Sinn Féin delegation will meet with the various parties and the Speaker of the Assembly of Wales as well as members of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly.
"This is part of the Sinn Féin process of building contacts and working relationships with politicians across all of the parliamentary fora in Ireland and Britain.
"We will take the opportunity to inform our Welsh colleagues of the state of play in our own Assembly and to update ourselves on developments in the Welsh political scene. We will also explore areas of common interest including promotion of our national languages and culture."
Sinn Féin MLA Willie Clarke has announced that he is to give up his Assembly seat in order to concentrate on Down District Council.
Mr Clarke said,
“Sinn Féin has a policy of eradicating double jobbing in terms of public representation and in view of this policy I have opted to give up my Assembly seat in order to concentrate on the local Council.
“This was a very difficult decision to make and in conjunction with my family I have decided that continuing my work through the local council is the best option for myself.
“It has been an honour to represent the people of South Down in the Assembly and I would like to thank everyone who has assisted me in that endeavour. I would also like to thank my Sinn Féin colleagues for their support throughout my term and allowing me the option to choose which arena I would continue my political representation.
“There is a great challenge in Down District Council over the next two years, the task of shaping the out workings of RPA and I want to be part of that challenge. I will utilise my Assembly experience to help Sinn Féin to be at the forefront of these changes. I personally want to dedicate more time to community initiatives, which will require more on the ground involvement.
Sinn Féin Assembly group leader Raymond McCartney added,
“I am sorry that Willie Clarke has decided to leave the assembly and I would like to thank him for his considerable contribution to the Sinn Féin Assembly project.
“Willie Clarke has made a huge impression in the Assembly and has the respect of not only his Sinn Féin colleagues but also his political opponents and the staff in Stormont for his courteous manner and diligence in representing his constituency.
“I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Sinn Féin Assembly team to wish Willie well and look forward to working with him in his capacity as a Councillor in moving the Sinn Féin project forward."
The Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has welcomed today’s news that Pay Pal is to create 1,000 jobs in the Dundalk area over the next four years.
Deputy Adams said:
“This is very good news for Dundalk and County Louth.
“The Pay Pal investment is a much needed boost for the local economy which has suffered from a series of job losses in recent times and has seen a consistent increase in the number of citizens on the live register in county Louth. In January this figure reached 17,775.”
Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey has welcomed the appointment of a review team to investigate the outbreak of Pseudomonas at Neonatal Units in hospitals throughout the North.
The Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee said:
“I welcome the appointment of the review team as the public, especially the families tragically affected by this outbreak, will want answers.
“A thorough and professional investigation should not only provide those answers but also reassure the public that steps can be taken to prevent a reoccurrence of the outbreak.”
Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA Phil Flanagan has said there are huge gaps in home help provision across rural Fermanagh and not only is it affecting peoples quality of life but it is also having a massive impact on the Health and Social Care budget.
The Sinn Féin MLA is bringing an adjournment debate in the Assembly today to highlight the situation.
Phil Flanagan said:
“There is not adequate home help provision in County Fermanagh and one of the main reasons behind this is the poor terms and conditions for the carers.
“This is having a negative impact on the public’s quality of life, especially in the most rural areas. The knock on effect is that people are being kept in hospital longer than is necessary and this is obviously an added cost to the Health Care budget.
“A recent example I have worked on was when one local woman had to spend nearly nine months in hospital after being paralysed by a fall. She could have been home a lot earlier had the home help been available, but it wasn’t and therefore she spent that time in a hospital against her wishes.
"I am raising this adjournment debate to make sure the Health Minister is aware of the situation and to press him to resolve it and ensure that sufficient provision it as soon as possible.
"We cannot allow this disgraceful situation to continue and financial pressures are not an argument here. The Health Department is actually spending more as a result of these gaps than it would be if sufficient investment were to be made."
North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed the decision to approve a planning application for a new £100millon golf resort on the North Antrim coast. Mr McKay said it was a key piece of tourism infrastructure for the area that would lead to further investment and more events coming to the north coast. He also said that government should now build on this further by securing further infrastructure for tourism in the form of the proposed A26 upgrade and supporting a second hotel already approved for development in Ballycastle.
Mr McKay said
"The North Antrim coast is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland but it is somewhere that has not realised it's full tourism potential in the past.
"The passing of this application is one factor that will certainly help to change that, adding to the tourist infrastructure here, creating over 300 jobs and bringing a larger number of tourists into North Antrim for overnight stays as opposed to day-trippers.
"Sinn Féin are fully supportive of the development of golf tourism and this will certainly boost our chances of hosting more major tournaments. Another key piece of work is the upgrading of the A26 as this will decrease journey times between the north coast and local airports as well as Dublin. I think that this work needs to be seen as a key part of tourism infrastructure in addition to being necessary to improve road safety.
"The development of the tourism sector on the north coast needs to be balanced however and Invest NI must provide the necessary support to build another hotel in Ballycastle, one that has already been passed by Planning Service. There can be no excuses for not doing this.
"All in all this is good news locally as it will create much needed jobs, will lead to further investment and will act as an economic multiplier as it will have obvious benefits for businesses on the north coast."
South Down Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane has welcomed the progress made by the families of the Loughinisland massacre in their battle to get the Police Ombudsman’s report into the killings overturned.
The families have succeeded in winning a judicial review of the decision to deny them legal aid to challenge Ombudsman Al Hutchinson’s report that denied any state collusion into the killings of six men at the Heights Bar by a loyalist gang.
Caitríona Ruane said:
“This is a welcome decision for the families and one which will hopefully be successful when the judicial review is conducted.
“The Ombudsman’s investigation reached conclusions that were totally incompatible to the evidence produced which clearly pointed at collusion.
“It is essential that flawed report is overturned and Sinn Féin will continue to support the families in their search of the truth.” CRÍOCH/END
West Belfast MLA Jennifer McCann has slammed Justice Minister David Ford’s refusal to publish the findings of a Prison Service study into alternatives to strip searches at Maghaberry Gaol.
Jennifer McCann, who is a member of the Justice Committee at the Assembly, said:
“Following consistent lobbying by our party since the agreement of August 2010 David Ford undertook to examine alternative search procedures in prisons in the South of Ireland and Britain.
“Strip Searching is degrading and humiliating and is unnecessary in this day and age when technology could be used. Strip Searching was used in the past against republican prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh women's prison to degrade prisoners and attempt to break their morale and solidarity.
“Prisoners coming to and from visits in Roe House at Maghaberry are searched using a device called the Boss chair and we have consistently asked that this is extended to the reception area for prisoners entering and leaving the prison to go to court etc.
“Prisoners are at no time left without an escort whether prison officers or the PSNI and therefore the Boss chair should be used as an alternative.
“David Ford now needs to introduce with urgency a system of searching that will not humiliate or degrade prisoners. These forms of alternative searches are working effectively elsewhere and there is no reason why they can’t be used here.”
Sinn Féin TDs Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Mary Lou McDonald will both attend today’s protest march and rally against cuts affecting lone parents. The rally, organised jointly by SIPTU and the SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the rights of our Kids) campaign will gather at 2pm at the Garden of Remembrance and proceed to the GPO.
Deputies Ó Snodaigh and McDonald are available for media comment.
Speaking ahead of the rally Deputy Ó Snodaigh, the party’s Social Protection Spokesperson said:
“Budget 2012 removed many of the protections that were rightly put in place to help lone parents with the costs associated with returning to work. It has re-introduced poverty traps and put in place obstacles to work despite the rhetoric from the government that the opposite was its objective.
“I can tell you without hesitation that the idea that lone parents want to sit on welfare is a myth. I have witnessed first-hand their desire to work. But they must have the supports to do so.
“I want to encourage all lone parents, men and women, and anyone who opposes this government’s approach to social welfare reform to come out on Saturday and support this protest organised by SIPTU and SPARK.”
Tá sé tábhachtach go mbeadh níos mó comhoibriú Thuaidh-Theas ar siúl maidir le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ar fud an oileán a dúradh nuair a chas Gerry Adams agus toscaireacht ó Shinn Féin leis na hAirí Jimmy Deenihan.& Dinny McGinley.
Chuir ionadaithe Shinn Féin a gcuid imní in iúl chomh maith maidir leis an tionchar atá ag na ciorruithe buiséid ar an nGaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht. 'Mhínigh muid do na hAirí go raibh Ranna Rialtais áirithe ag cur an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge i mbaol de bharr na ciorruithe ata molta acu', a deir an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh a bhí ar an toscaireacht. 'Thagair muid go sonrach don Roinn Oideachas & Eolaíochta agus na h-athraithe maidir leis na scoileanna beaga tuaithe, an coibhneas múinteoir-daltaí do scoileanna Gaeltachta, caillteannas na poist oidhreachta agus acmhainní agus ciorruithe eile. D'iarr muid orthu cás láidir a dhéanamh i gcoinne na gciorruithe áirithe sin le Ruairí Quinn ar chúinsí pobail agus teanga agus dúradar go dtógfaidís ár moltaí ar bord'.
Bhí an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge ar chlár na cruinnithe chomh maith agus thug an tAire McGinley le fios go raibh cruinniú den Choiste Idir Rannach ar siúl an tseachtain seo caite ag a raibh ionadaithe ó gach Roinn Rialtais. Rinneadh cur síos ar an dul chun cinn atá dhá dhéanamh sa Chomthionóil maidir le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge sna sé chontae, idir an clár Liofa 2015 agus an ullmhúchán ar Straitéis don Ghaeilge a bheadh mar bhunús do Acht Ghaeilge ansin. Iarradh ar Rialtas na hÉireann dul i gcionn ar Rialtas na Breataine agus páirtithe leasmhara eile chun tacú leis na h-iarrachtaí seo agus gheall na hAirí go ndéanfadh.
D'impigh baill Shinn Féin ar na hAirí chomh maith cur ina luí ar a gcuid comhleacaithe san Rialtas an cinneadh maidir le comtháthú Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga le hOifig an Ombudsman a chuir ar ceal. 'Léirigh muid an imní atá ar phobal na Gaeilge maidir leis an moladh atá déanta ag an Roinn Caiteachais Poiblí agus nach léir go mbeidh buntáiste ar bith don Stát ná do shaoránaigh as seo. Chuir na hAirí in iúl duinn go bhfuil na haighneachtaí maidir le Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla dhá mheas faoi láthair agus go dtógfar na moltaí a thagann as chuig bord an Rialtais', a deir Ó Clochartaigh.
Mhinigh an toscaireacht as Sinn Féin chomh maith go bhfuil fo-choiste curtha ar bun acu féin le dul i gcomhairle leis na heagrais bunmhaoinithe Gaeilge i dtaca leis an Samhail Nua Maoinithe atá molta ag Foras na Gaeilge. Tugadh le fios gur bhuail an fochoiste seo le formhór na h-eagraíochtaí agus go ndúirt siadsan leo gurb é seo an chéad iarracht dáiríre a rinneadh chun suí síos agus todhchaí na hearnála agus an maoiniú a théann leis a phlé mar is ceart.
Pléadh tábhacht Údarás na Gaeltachta ag an gcruinniú chomh maith agus Bille na Gaeltachta atá beartaithe ag an Rialtas. Thug an tAire Deenihan le fios go raibh súil aige go mbeadh an bille sin rite sula mbeadh deireadh tagtha le tréimhse an bhord reatha i mí Dheireadh Fómhair agus go raibh sé dhá ullmhú mar phríoracht ag an Roinn. Bheadh tionchar mhor aige seo, a dúradh, ar obair an Údaráis agus oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga.
Tarraingíodh anuas ceist Mheitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta ag an gcruinniú chomh maith agus na tograí pobail agus na creidneoirí a fágadh ar an trá fholamh de bharr leachtú na comhlachta sin. Dúirt an tAire Deenihan le toscaireacht Shinn Féin go raibh súil aige go ndéanfaí fógra faoi mhaoiniú LEADER sna ceantair Ghaeltachta as seo go ceann seachtaine nó mar sin agus gur dóigh gur faoi scáth áisíneacht Ghaeltachta a bheifí dhá dháileadh. 'Thuig muid uathu chomh maith go mbeadh siad ag iarraidh seasamh le tograí a raibh maoiniú geallta dóibh ón gclár LEADER a bhí ann roimhe seo', a deir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, ' agus tá súil againn go n-éireoidh leo sin a dhéanamh, mar go raibh roinnt mhaith tograí tosaithe agus leathchríochnaithe nuair a thit an tóin as MFG agus fágadh iad le billí nach raibh íoctha agus creidneoirí a bhí ag lorg iocaíochta uathu agus níl sé sin inghlactha', a deir Ó Clochartaigh.
The importance of having greater North South co-operation in relation to developing the Irish language was the message that Gerry Adams TD and a Sinn Féin delegation gave Ministers Jimmy Deenihan and Dinny McGinley when they met during the week.
The Sinn Féín representatives voiced their concern over the damage that proposed budgetary cutbacks will do to the language and Gaeltacht areas.
“We explained that some government departments were jeopardising the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language in the way they are trying to make savings,” said Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who was part of the delegation.
“'We highlighted in particular the Department of Education and Science and its proposed changes to small rural schools, to the pupil-teacher ratio in Gaeltacht schools and to the loss of 'legacy' and resource posts in these areas among other cuts. We asked them to make a specific case with Ruairi Quinn to have these proposals reversed based on community and linguistic criteria and they said they would take our recommendations on board.”
The 20 Year Strategy was discussed in its own right at the meeting as well and Minister McGinley stated that an Interdepartmental Working Group was convened for the first time last week with representatives from all departments to discuss implementation of the strategy. The work that is being undertaken in the Assembly in relation to the promotion of Irish in the six counties, the 'Líofa 2015' programme and the preparation of a language strategy which could form the basis for a Language Act, was also outlined. The Irish Government was asked to use whatever influence it has with the British Government and other important stakeholders to support these developments and the ministers gave their commitment to do that.
Sinn Féin also called on the ministers to convince their cabinet colleagues to reverse the decision to subsume the Language Commissioner's office into that of the Ombudsman.
“We explained that the Irish language community are incensed by the recommendation of the Department of Public Expenditure and that they do not see any advantage to the state or the citizens to proceed with it. The ministers informed us that submissions in relation to the Language Act have recently been received and that they would bring recommendations based on them to the Cabinet table,” said Ó Clochartaigh.
The Sinn Féin delegation took the opportunity to inform the ministers that the party has set up a subcommittee to consult with Irish language organisations in relation to the new funding model proposed by Foras na Gaeilge. They told them that a majority of the organisations said that this was the first time anyone had engaged in meaningful discussions about the future of the sector and the funding they receive.
The importance of Údarás na Gaeltachta and the forthcoming Gaeltacht Bill was also discussed at the meeting. Minister Deenihan informed them that he hopes the Bill will be passed before the term of the present board comes to an end in October and that it was being drafted by the Department as a priority. The Ministers said this would obviously have a bearing on the future role of the Údarás and that of the Language Commissioner.
The issue of Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta was also discussed at the meeting and the plight of community groups and creditors who were left in the lurch on the liquidation of that company. Minister Deenihan told the Sinn Féin delegation that he expects an announcement on LEADER funding in the Gaeltacht areas in the next week or so and that it appears that the funding could be made available through a Gaeltacht based organisation.
“'We understood from them that they hoped that projects which had been promised funding from LEADER previously would have those commitments honoured under the new funding mechanism,” said Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, “and we hope that they will be able to do so, as many had already started and were in some cases nearly finished when MFG closed shop. These people were left with unpaid bills and creditors looking for reimbursement and that is totally unacceptable,” according to Ó Clochartaigh.
Sinn Fein spokesperson on environment, community and local government, Brian Stanley TD, has welcomed SIPTU's decision today to oppose the household charge.
Speaking after SIPTU's NEC voted unanimously to oppose the charge, Deputy Stanley said: "SIPTU's decision to come out against the household charge is a significant blow to the government's plans to impose this unjust tax. SIPTU is the biggest union in the country, their support for the campaign against the household charge is very positive.
“SIPTU must now put words into action. SIPTU must join with those of us campaigning against the household charge to bring it to a successful conclusion."
In conclusion Deputy Stanley said: "Sinn Fein will be seeking a meeting with SIPTU as soon as possible to coordinate our campaign."
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Energy, Martin Ferris TD has claimed that the awarding of a Bord Gáis maintenance and safety contract to British firm Balfour Beatty is already costing jobs among former contractors and employees. Deputy Ferris was responding to information he received that Balfour Beatty are to make 72 people redundant. The workers concerned were working for two companies which formerly had the contract.
Deputy Ferris said: “According to information which I have been given, Balfour Beatty getting the contract will lead to the immediate laying off of 72 people. I also believe that the workers concerned intend to picket Bord Gáis in protest at what they claim is the awarding of the contract to Balfour Beatty.
“I have already highlighted the poor safety record of this company and the Minister said he was looking into the issuing of the contract in the light of that. Given that the contract is still under probation due to legal challenges I would hope that he will expedite that investigation.
“He should also take into account the job losses and the fact that that surely conflicts with the ‘economic viability’ criteria attached to the tender process, given that this company will lose jobs here with a consequent knock on effect in terms of social welfare and spending.”