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Sinn Féin budget supports fair and sustainable recovery - Pearse Doherty

Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget would repair communities, rebuild the economy and renew society. The budget lays out how Sinn Fein would abolish the local property tax and water charges and our programme for investing in disability services, health and education.

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2015 here




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The British government should suspend the assessment process until such time as the Work Capability Assessment can be shown to be fit for purpose, says Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady.

“In light of a recent report which revealed an appalling record of failure by Atos, the company paid to carry out ‘fit for work’ tests on those currently in receipt of Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance, I am calling on the British government to suspend the reassessment process until such time as the Work Capability Assessment is shown to be fit for purpose.”

“Systems failures are notoriously costly to the taxpayer, when that failure also involves the infliction of unnecessary distress onto some of the most vulnerable people within our community, it is doubly incumbent on those responsible to do something about it.”

 

Note:

The study was carried out by the Citizens Advice Bureau, “Right First Time” and published last week.

The CAB was concerned about the accuracy of the WCA test carried out by Atos to determine eligibility for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) the benefits replacing Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance.

The CAB became concerned after receiving hundreds of thousands of inquiries about the WCA many questioning the accuracy of the test. Inaccuracies were creating huge difficulties for thousands of ill and disabled people who were being declared ‘fit for work’ despite the serious nature of their condition.

Many thousands of people appealed the WCA decisions that had thrown them off benefit. Of those overturned on appeal, 60% involved cases where the claimant had originally been awarded no points by the WCA.

In other words appeals were overturning WCA decisions, not just in cases where claimants had marginally failed to meet the WCA requirements as might have been expected, but most often in cases where the test fundamentally failed.

The frequency of failure and the wide margin by which people were being wrongly declared fit for work suggests the WCA is fundamentally flawed.To date the unreliability of the WCA has cost the British government over £80m in appeals.

Atos, the company carrying out these assessments are paid on the basis of the number of people processed. A refusal by the British DWP to comment further on the Atos contract suggests there is currently no penalty for failure to carry out reliable assessments.

In other words, not only is the WCA demonstrably unreliable but also there is no incentive for those conducting the assessments to improve.

Since the introduction of the WCA, there have been a number of additional recommendations by occupational therapist Professor Harrington but there has not been the kind of fundamental reform the failure rate indicates is urgently required.

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South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has welcomed the decision to give the go-ahead to three new stands at Ravenhill.

Alex Maskey said:

“This is obviously a great boost for rugby with the end result being a modern stadium fit to host the many big games that I am sure will come to Ravenhill.

 “South Belfast will also benefit from the employment opportunities, especially in the construction industry and the overall economic benefits that will flow from this.  Having met with local residents and attended meetings at the grounds, I would be anxious that the concerns of the residents are taken on board by the association and resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

“Along with the planned works due to take place for Gaelic games at Casement Park and soccer at Windsor Park, this is good news for not only sports in the city but all the businesses that will benefit from the work being done.” CRÍOCH/END

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said the government has no mandate to ratify the new Eurozone austerity treaty without consulting the people in a referendum.

Deputy Adams was speaking today after comments from Finance Minister Michael Noonan on the requirement for a referendum.

He said: “This treaty will inflict a decade of austerity on the Irish people yet the government is attempting to deny them a vote on it.

“Fine Gael and Labour have no mandate to ratify the new Eurozone austerity treaty without consulting the people in a referendum.

“If the government manages to negotiate its way out of a constitutional requirement for a referendum there is still a democratic imperative to put it to the people.

“The people must be afforded the right to judge this treaty for themselves.” ENDS

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Speaking following the publication of the Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card on the government’s performance in child related areas, Sinn Féin Children’s Spokesperson Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caolain condemned the failure to address child poverty and the impact that Budget 2012 is having on children and young people.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said;

“The Children’s Rights Alliance has highlighted the fact that the Government is failing children in some key critical areas, most significantly in the outworking of Budget 2012, which has plunged vulnerable families further into poverty, and for the treatment of children detained in St. Patrick’s Institution. While we welcomed the Government’s decision to introduce the position of Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with full status and their commitment to hold a referendum on children’s rights in 2012, ‘glaring violations of children’s rights’ continue.

“The Children’s Rights Alliance, as an umbrella body of children’s organisations, were key players in spearheading a campaign for a constitutional referendum. This Report Card clearly demonstrates the need to hold a referendum as soon as possible. Sinn Féin will continue to push for the rights of children to be enshrined and vindicated. The Report Card 2012, while positive in some areas, clearly demonstrates the failures of this Government in key areas of concern.”

“I am calling on the Government to examine this report carefully, including the recommendations proposed by the Children’s Rights Alliance and immediately live up to their own commitments towards children by implementing their own Programme for Government guarantees and introduce a children’s rights referendum bill immediately.”

ENDS

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Speaking today Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the setting up of a new civil society campaign calling for the government to stop paying the Anglo Irish Promissory Note.

Anglo-Not Our Debt is calling on the government to immediately suspend the Promissory Note repayments and to enter into negotiations with the relevant parties, including the European Central Bank – to ensure that this unjust debt is written down. The campaign is supported by debt and development NGOs, community and social justice organisations, trade unions and a number of academic groups.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I want to welcome the setting up of the Anglo-Not Our Debt campaign. This is an important civil society campaign with an impressive range of sponsors in the NGO, community, trade union and academic sectors.

“I strongly support the central aim of the campaign which is for the government to immediately suspend the Anglo Irish Promissory Note repayments and to enter into negotiations with the relevant parties, including the European Central Bank – to ensure that this unjust debt is written down.

“Since early last year I have been raising the issue of the Promissory Note in the Dáil. Sinn Fein has challenged Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the Finance Committee and in the Dáil chamber on this issue.

“The decision by the Fine Gael Labour Government to continuing this toxic private banking debt is a national scandal. It is one of the biggest scandals of the entire banking crisis.

“It will cost the taxpayer at least €74 billion by 2031 and according to some economists may cost more than €85 billion.

“That the Fianna Fail Green Party Government signed the taxpayer up to this toxic private banking debt will surprise no one. That Fine Gael and Labour continue to support its payment is truly shocking.

“At a time when the government is cutting funding for vital front line services and heaping stealth taxes on low and middle income earners people are asking why is the government giving €3.1bn of taxpayer’s money every year to a dead bank.

“I urge people of all political persuasions and none to support the Anglo-Not Our Debt campaign and to play a role in getting this odious debt off our backs.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has extended his condolences to Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin on the death of his father Paddy Martin.

Speaking this evening the Sinn Féin leader said:

“My thoughts and sympathies are with Mícheál Martin and his family this evening after the death of Paddy Martin.

“Go ndeanfaidh dia trocaire ar a n’anam dilse.” ENDS

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Speaking in advance of Monday’s special meeting of Dublin City Council to address the widespread disruption and confusion that has followed the privatisation of Dublin City Council's domestic waste collection service, Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha, who is Chairperson of the Council's Finance Committee, criticised the handling of the changeover by City Council management and said the dominant Fine Gael and Labour groups cannot wash their hands of the privatisation as their parties in Government are following a privatisation agenda.

Cllr. Mac Donncha said:

“There has been widespread disruption and confusion following last week’s privatisation of Dublin City Council's household waste collection service. This has led to the calling of a special meeting of the City Council, such is the anger at the way this has been handled by City Council management and the private company Greyhound.

“People were informed only at the last minute that the changeover was happening. The facility for quarterly payment of the €100 standing charge was set aside. There will be no waiver after 2012. Bin lifts must be paid for in advance. In the past week in many areas bins were not lifted at the promised time or at all. And already charges are set to increase in July.

“City Council management must be challenged on their negotiation of this deal. They were content to let Greyhound demand the €100 standing charge up front. Yet within two days of the handover Greyhound, responding to public pressure, agreed to accept two instalments of €50. What were the Council negotiators doing?

“The Fine Gael and Labour groups who dominate Dublin City Council cannot wash their hands of this mess. They fully supported the City Council 2012 Budget which was based on the privatisation of this service.

“In Government their parties are pursuing a privatisation agenda as part of a failed austerity strategy that is bringing misery to people in Dublin and across Ireland with widespread cutbacks, punitive charges and mass unemployment and emigration. We in Sinn Féin will continue to oppose privatisation and defend public services.” ENDS

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Speaking following the leaking of the fourth draft of the Eurozone Austerity Treaty Sinn Féin European Affairs spokesperson Senator Kathryn Reilly described the latest draft as ‘even more draconian’ than its predecessor.

Senator Reilly said:

“The fourth draft of the Eurozone austerity treaty is even more draconian than its predecessor. Changes in the text seek to force member states to meet the 0.5% deficit ceiling at greater speed than previous versions. The text also talks for the first time about financial penalties for failing to meet this target and stronger enforcement mechanisms.

“All of this means deeper levels of austerity to be imposed on member states deemed to be in breach of these draconian deficit and debt rules and harsher penalties for non compliance.

“There is also a new call for a single EU economic policy which means that in addition to the failed one-size fits all monetary policy we will be faced with a one-size fits all economic policy. There is little doubt that this policy will be determined, like existing monetary policy, on the basis of the needs of the larger member states and to the detriment of smaller countries such as Ireland.

“Draft four toughens the language on the link between treaty ratification and access to future European Stability Mechanism bailout funds. This is not only legally questionable but a clear attempt to bully countries such as Ireland into accepting the terms of the treaty irrespective of the costs to citizens.

“And, significantly, the softer language on the requirement for the balanced budget rule to be placed in member states’ constitutions which was inserted into the third draft of the treaty at the request of the Irish government remains. Clearly the government has managed, despite German objections, to convince enough of its European partners that a referendum in Ireland is to be avoided at all costs.

“Draft four of the Eurozone austerity treaty is even worse than earlier drafts which is why the Government is doing everything in its power to prevent the people from having their say in a referendum.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said the numbers of personnel now revealed to be leaving the HSE will mean a major blow to the health services.

Commenting on HSE figures that show 3,500 will have left between last September and the end of February next, including 1700 nurses and 50 consultants, Ó Caoláin said:

“The scale of these departures of staff from the HSE will mean a major blow to health services in this State. Front-line services cannot be maintained with this scale of redundancies. The loss of nurses in particular will mean a serious reduction in services for patients. Particular regions and services will also face major challenges – for example the loss of four surgeons in the Dublin/North-East region.

“Minister Reilly has signalled his intent to tinker with the bureaucracy at the top of the HSE – without reducing the 110 senior managers on salaries of over €110,000. He should reduce these salaries and ring-fence all front-line health service posts, lifting the recruitment embargo so that vital patient care can be provided.” ENDS

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