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Massive crowd in Dublin for Right2Water rally

Some of the sights and sounds of today's massive Right2Water rally on Dublin's O'Connell Street this afternoon (March 21).  Reports that up to 80,000 people from all across Ireland traveled to attend.

Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has said documents released today by Sinn Féin clearly show the DUP acted in bad faith over the Welfare Reform Bill.


"If the DUP want to strip benefits from children with disabilities, from adults with severe disabilities, the long-term sick; or push children further into poverty, then they need to explain and justify that. Sinn Féin certainly will not accept that approach." - Martin McGuinness 



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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called on Minister Hogan to explain himself. He made his call following the revelations that the scandal prone Minister may have lobbied Kilkenny Co. Council to obstruct the housing of a traveller family.

The particular family were living in crowded unsuitable conditions.
A letter was sent in Minister Hogan’s name from his constituency office on his headed paper naming the family and telling residents that the Minister and a local Fine Gael councillor had worked to block the family from housing in Bonnettstown, Co. Kilkenny.

"This Minister still refuses to meet the Priory Hall residents, who have been out of their homes for almost a year. A Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government should be meeting the housing needs of people rather than obstructing them.

“Minister Hogan has some very serious questions to answer about the letter sent to residents of Bonnettstown, whether he lobbied Kilkenny County Council and if so why?”
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The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA today highlighted the vital contribution social enterprises can make to business growth.

Martin McGuinness was speaking at the Bryson Charitable Group Annual Conference in Belfast. Addressing the conference the deputy First Minister said:

“Stimulating entrepreneurship remains an important challenge in our economic growth. Creating a supportive and enabling environment for social enterprises to thrive, will play an important role in regenerating communities and balancing our economy.

"Martin McGuinness continued:

“Bryson Charitable Group, and other local social enterprises, are valuable sources of services and employment for disadvantaged neighbourhoods and individuals. They play an important role in providing a supportive environment to those furthest from the labour market.

“Bryson Charitable Group, through its social business units, makes a collective effort to achieving our long term vision for the economy through embarking upon major social and economic challenges. The Group’s success demonstrates the social enterprise model can and is delivering a positive impact.“The measures put in place through the Executive’s Programme for Government and Economic Strategy will see the social economy sector go from strength to strength over the coming years.”

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has said that Minister Ruairí Quinn is wrong to press ahead with proposals to include capital assets when means testing student grants in the 2013-2014 academic year.

Speaking today Deputy O’Brien said;

“The current means testing arrangements for third-level grants is based on income only but Education Minister Ruairí Quinn seems determined to change this criteria and include ‘certain capital assets’ when assessing student applications.

“His refusal to rule out assessing farmland and business premises is a serious cause for concern, particularly amongst rural communities and small business owners.

“Including capital and productive assets for student grant applications will unfairly penalise farmers, landowners and people who are self-employed.

“It would also be a further blow to rural Ireland as it will prevent many students from farming backgrounds from availing of grants to help pay of their third level education.

“Minister Quinn is failing to take into account a number of factors, including how farming incomes and related assets fluctuate on a monthly basis. His proposals would be yet another barrier to students from lower income backgrounds from pursuing their studies in higher education.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the Minister’s Youth Guarantee flagship proposal is worthless unless properly funded.

Speaking to the Minister in the Oireachtas Committee this morning Deputy Ó Snodaigh pointed out that the European Commission has budgeted just fifty cent for every young person unemployed across the EU in a scheme the was hailed by the minister earlier in the week.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said;

“In the Minister’s presentation she makes much of the proposal for a ‘Youth Guarantee’ and describes Youth on the Move as the EU’s flagship initiative.

“But can the Minister tell us what finance has been allocated to this? A recent report from the International Labour Organisation, on the possibility of a youth jobs guarantee, put the cost of a jobs action plan in Ireland at €435 million.

“The reality is that the European Commission has allocated a budget of just €4 million to implement its Youth Guarantee.

“That’s just over 50 cent each for the 7.5 million young people across Europe that are neither in employment, education or training.

“In the absence of funding the Youth Guarantee is a scheme that's going nowhere.”

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Speaking on the issue of appointments to the judiciary today, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the appointments process needs drastic reform and that public confidence in the justice system is contingent on a judiciary which is free from political control or political or other bias.

The Donegal North East TD said;

“Sinn Féin is committed to the establishment of an independent and impartial judiciary which is representative of the community it serves. The sheer number of politically affiliated judges adds to an already embedded public perception of the judiciary is an elite to whom the law of the land does not apply equally. This has been exacerbated by perceived inconsistencies and poor sentencing decisions in a range of areas including drug-related crime, domestic and sexual violence in particular.

“Judicial independence requires that the judiciary must be independent of other branches of government. They must be free of political and other bias when adjudicating. It is high time that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board should be required to publish an annual report to include information on candidates who are selected for appointment.

“We are calling for the establishment of a fair and accountable appointment and removal process for the judiciary which involves meaningful lay participation representative of the public interest.

“Sinn Féin believes that judicial independence is undermined by the current appointment process in the 26 Counties. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) was established in the wake of the controversial appointment of Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court in 1994, and was meant to have removed sole discretion for judicial appointments from Government.

“However there is still political involvement in the appointment of the judiciary, as the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board merely provides a list of seven qualified candidates to the Government who makes the appointments of judicial office holders.

“Sinn Féin believes that appointment procedures should be transparent to enhance public confidence in the process. This Fine Gael/Labour Government promised to be a reforming government and put an end to the ‘jobs for the boys’ culture, but looking at their judicial appointments so far it is clear many of their political cronies have received jobs from them.”

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that Jim Allister's proposed Bill to discriminate against former political prisoners is politically motivated and cannot be taken seriously given the proposer's failure to raise the issue of an ex-LVF prisoner being appointed to a senior position in the DUP in North Antrim in 2004.
Speaking today Mr Mckay said:

"In 2004 Jim Allister was a senior member of the DUP in North Antrim and was elected as the party's MEP. In that same year Gary Blair was appointed a party officer in North Antrim even though he was an ex LVF prisoner convicted of the killing of Sinn Féin member Malachy Carey in Ballymoney in 1992. Mr Allister did not oppose this appointment or comment on it in any way at that time.

"I raised this point in the debate today and he refused to discuss it. This exposes the hypocrisy of Jim Allister and the fact that he does not practice what he preaches when the ex political prisoners concerned are loyalist not republican. It is clear from this that his motion is politically motivated.

"This Bill undermines the Good Friday Agreement and the proposer of the motion is clearly not consistent in opposing the appointment of ex political prisoners to positions of office when it's in an organisation that he is a leadership position in.

"That being the case it is regrettable that the SDLP followed Jim Allister into the voting booths this evening in a clear case of political opportunism.
"It is obvious that former political prisoners have played a key role to date and will do in the future. No amount of political opportunism from whatever party will alter that reality."

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Speech of Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children
Second Stage Speech on Thirty First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012

A Cheann Comhairle,
This is an historic day. It is one that the children of Ireland have awaited for far too long.
I must commend Minister Fitzgerald for bringing forward a formula of words that if passed, would provide a constitutional amendment acknowledging children’s rights, as individuals, in their own right.
We in Sinn Féin have called for children’s rights to be enshrined in the Constitution for many years. It is our view that the minimum standard for children’s rights within any State, within any legal system, is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
This was the view that we set out when the discussions around the enshrining of children’s rights resumed in 2008. It was the view we held when Minister Brian Lenihan produced a formula of words. It was the view we stuck to during the deliberations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children chaired by the former Deputy Mary O’Rourke. And it was the view we retained when former children’s Minister Barry Andrews produced a formula of words.
The UNCRC must be the document that underpins all of our laws concerning children. As contributors to the wording that eventually received cross-party endorsement in the Joint Oireachtas Committee, we were pleased that although it did not directly incorporate the UNCRC into domestic Irish law, it did go some way to including some of the core elements within it, such as the principle of equality between all children and that the best interests of all children would be paramount in matters concerning them.
While the words contained in the Final Report of the Committee received cross-party support, it is regrettable that it did not find favour with all who have addressed it since. The Thirty First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012 does not mirror that wording; however it does address some important issues for children in Ireland.
This constitutional amendment, if passed, will mean the “natural and imprescriptible” rights of all children will be protected and vindicated. It is not clear what the precise constitutional meaning of those “natural and imprescriptible” rights is, however. There is no accompanying legislation to set out what they are, but it is quite clear to anyone familiar with the Irish legal system and establishment, that the Supreme Court will not interpret this to mean that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is suddenly a part of domestic Irish law.
However, it does acknowledge that there are rights that children have.
And this is important.
It is a significant step on the road towards ensuring that children’s rights as set out in the UNCRC are incorporated into Bunreacht na hÉireann and become binding upon the State.
We in Sinn Féin do not view this amendment as being a panacea to rectify the myriad of ways in which the State has failed to cherish all children of the nation equally – we view it as the first step on a road towards incorporating the UNCRC into Irish law.
This amendment does not do everything we would like it to do but it does have the potential to rectify some of the legal barriers that have prevented the State from intervening in marital families where there is a child at risk or being abused. The amendment will readjust the threshold for State intervention and place an onus on the State to support children and to adopt a ‘proportionate’ response to parental failure so that cases such as the notorious Roscommon abuse case are not allowed to happen again.
It will ensure that children, in those very exceptional circumstances where children have been totally and utterly failed by their birth families, and have been placed in the care of foster families and have formed loving family connections with their foster parents, may be adopted and become their legal children and be entitled to all of the rights and privileges that accompany that status.
There are some 6,000 children in the care of the State, some of whom have been in care for more than five years and have no contact with their birth parents.
The amendment will also accommodate those parents who are married and in whatever unfortunate circumstances who may wish to place their children for adoption.
While the State must do everything within its power to help keep families together and do all in its power to ensure that families are adequately supported, there will be those exceptional cases where this is simply not possible. In such cases, the child or children concerned must be given a second chance to experience a loving family relationship. This amendment will have no impact on the definition of the ‘family’ under the Constitution. But it will allow the Oireachtas to legislate to allow ‘abandoned’ marital children to be adopted if that is in their best interests.
Under this constitutional amendment those children’s best interests would be the paramount consideration for the Court. We cannot underestimate the power of this. Our only criticism is that this particular constitutional provision means that the Courts are not required to view the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration in cases where there is not a guardianship, or custody or access issue in question.
The provision is specifically drafted to exclude the Courts from being required to consider the best interests of the child as paramount where the State is merely a party to a case.
That is to say, the provision is drafted so that the wording means that if, for example, a parent of a child with a learning disability took a case against the State because she or he felt the State had breached their duties under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN Act) due to a lack of special needs assistant hours, the Courts are not required to examine what the child’s best interests are in that case.
Further to this, outside of those guardianship and custody cases, the child will have no constitutional right to ensure that his or her own views are taken in to account by the deciding Court.
Of course, if this constitutional amendment is passed either in its current form, or as amended in our further debates this or next week, it is important that the Government gives a commitment that the necessary resources will be provided so that the rights that children will then have can actually be realised. It will be essential, I would think, that the legal profession and judiciary receive appropriate training on the new constitutional and legislative provisions.
Some of the principles of the UNCRC have been encapsulated in this text. However, we were disappointed with how narrowly they were drawn. Let us make no mistake about this constitutional amendment. It will not directly affect most children. It will resolve the outstanding child protection issues and adoption issues for children in marital families, but for the child who is living in poverty, or who has had their special needs supports cut, or who is in need of additional educational supports to get them through the school year – it will not address let alone resolve their situation.
We must be clear about what this amendment does and does not do.
Some will be disappointed that it does not go far enough. Some will think it goes too far.
The vast, vast majority of people will, I believe, support it and see it as real progress and a strengthening of the foundations of our society. That is as I see it and that is why I and my party will campaign for this constitutional change.
I have read some of the commentary of those who oppose this referendum. As I said earlier and I restate again - this amendment will have no impact on the definition of the ‘family’ under the constitution. I understand that there are people out there who will be concerned that this amendment will mean that there will be unnecessary levels of state intervention, or that the parent will not be the rightful automatic carer of their children. These arguments are false and potentially misleading.
While I would like to see a constitutional amendment to change the definition of family in order to more accurately reflect the diverse nature of families today, this particular proposition will not do that. This will neither alter nor weaken the constitutional family unit. The special protection received by the traditional family construct in Article 41 will not be damaged.
I am calling upon the Government to ensure that they invest the required resources to inform people as to what this referendum will do. It is of the utmost importance that false arguments shown to be so. What is at stake are children’s lives.
Childhood does not last forever, and for far too long in our society we have seen generations of children grow up and not have their needs met.
Passing this constitutional provision means that the Irish people will have acknowledged that children have legal rights as individuals.
It will be a constitutional acknowledgement that children have rights to be seen and heard that they did not have in 1937 when the Constitution was enacted or since. It will be another important step forward to a new and enlightened attitude towards children.
For several years now and with what has seemed an almost six-monthly regularity new reports have come out. Some are historical investigations, some are current and interim. The Ryan Report, the Roscommon Case, the Independent Child Death Review Group Reports, the inspections of the special care homes, the investigations into Church dioceses. It has been a long and sorry litany. It has been harrowing reading and we must all have felt ashamed. Details of who knew of child abuse and when they found out and their failures to act. People have cried out - “Why did no one say stop?”
This constitutional amendment gives all voting citizens the opportunity to say ‘stop.’ It is also about starting anew.
This amendment is not perfect – but it is a major step forward. We in Sinn Féin commend to the government and to all members in this house, our amendments to the proposed wording. We have tabled them to help make the wording as strong and comprehensive as we possibly can.
There is a very real opportunity here to make further tangible changes to children’s lives in Ireland and I would appeal to the Government to seize the moment and make this proposed constitutional change the very best and most worthwhile we can.
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Speaking tonight on a Sinn Féin Private Members’ Motion in support of the Magdalene Women’s campaign for justice and redress, the party’s spokesperson on education, Jonathan O’Brien said:
“The government’s refusal to support Sinn Féin’s motion shows its lack of commitment to provide redress for the cruelty and abuse inflicted on the women of the Magdalene Laundries and the survivors of Bethany Home.

“Despite their advancing years, those who survived Bethany Home have campaigned courageously for an apology and an independent inquiry into what happened to them.

“Bethany Home is a place that symbolises the abandonment by the state of its duty of care to women and children. It was also an example of sectarian segregation.

“It is simply scandalous that between 1922 and 1949, more than 220 children died in Bethany Home and 219 were buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery. Countless others were abused and suffered illness from years of neglect.

“Earlier this year, when the Residential Statutory Fund Bill was debated, Sinn Féin sought to have established separate redress boards for the Magdalene Women and the Bethany Home Survivors.

“This would have provided some help and support for the suffering of the survivors of these institutions. This humane measure was rejected by Minister Ruairí Quinn who echoed past excuses about the cost to the State.

“The government’s rejection of this motion is a travesty. It exposes the pledges made in opposition by TDs like Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch who stated that the Government must "do the decent thing and end this outrage". These sentiments were echoed by Deputy Joe Costello and others. Yet now that they are in a position to honour these past commitments they refuse to act.

“The women and children unfortunate enough to be held in the Magdalene Laundries and Bethany Home suffered the most degrading and appalling treatment and deprivations imaginable under the State’s watch. It is simply unacceptable that they are still denied any form of acknowledgement. This Government should be compelled to act and meet the very reasonable demands of both these groups.”
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Sinn Féin is using its private members time in the Dáil this week to move a motion on the abuses that took place in the Magdalene Laundries. The motion seeks the Dáil’s commitment to put in place urgent supports for the aging Magdalene survivors and an open and meaningful debate on the issue of an apology, redress and restorative justice once the inter-Departmental Committee completes its report later this year

Speaking during this evenings debate Deputy McDonald said:

“Sinn Féin has brought forward this motion in recognition of the huge injustice done to the women and girls of the Magdalene Laundries and of the hurt and hardship caused by their exclusion from the Residential Institutional Redress Scheme.

“To date these women have not received the recognition or redress that they deserve. The State has pondered an apology but has yet to deliver it. The women are now predominantly elderly and many are suffering from ill health as a direct result of their brutally harsh incarceration.

“The facts of the brutality experienced by the women and girls confined in the laundries have been established. The complicity of the state has been established. Yet the government hides behind the inter-Departmental committee – its last fig leaf, it last excuse to stand still.

“Government do this in the full knowledge that time is not on the side of the aging Magdalene women. Labour and Fine Gael have offered no apology, and refuse even the comfort of the women’s pension entitlements. The pension entitlements of incarcerated slaves.

“The motion seeks the Dail’s commitment to provide immediate funding for and the implementation of a helpline for the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries; to enable the women access their pension entitlements reflecting their years of work in the laundries and an open and meaningful debate on the issue of an apology, redress and restorative justice once the inter-Departmental Committee makes its report later this year.

“It is our hope, and indeed the omen’s hope, that we can get the support of the government parties when the motion is voted on in the Dáil on Wednesday evening.” ENDS

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Massive crowd in Dublin for Right2Water rally


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Sinn Féin Dublin South West