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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



“The DUP are vocal about the consequences of not implementing these Tory cuts but remain silent on the impact of these cuts which would take hundreds of millions of pounds out of the pockets of the most vulnerable and least able to pay.  These cuts would plunge more children into poverty and take money from hard-pressed working families, people on benefits and from people with disabilities." - Daithí McKay



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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today visited the farm of James Brown, Newtownards to celebrate the ongoing success of APHIS Online.

Herdkeepers use APHIS Online to register births, deaths and movements. The central APHIS database facilitates the recording of information about animals, who keeps them, and where they are kept, and underpins public health, traceability, and meat product quality assurance.

The Ards area is the first DVO (Divisional Veterinary Office) area in the north of Ireland to have over 50% of calves born registered online.

Minister O’Neill said: “It is very encouraging to see the significant growth in the use of APHIS Online. Farmers in the Ards area are leading the way but other areas are catching up quickly. As part of DARD Online Services we provide a comprehensive range of services to make it easier for farmers to manage their businesses more efficiently.

"Traditionally herd keepers have registered calves on paper; posting, faxing or calling into the local DARD office. However in recent months there has been a large increase in the number of births registered online. Over the last year alone the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) has led a marketing and training project whereby over 1,350 farmers have been trained to use APHIS Online.”

It is not just the fact that it saves time, effort and money doing it online that is attracting farmers to make the switch to online. Accessing the system gives herd keepers access to many additional features including: 

Registering cattle births, deaths and stillborns.

Producing movement notification of cattle moving off your herd to market, abattoir or another farm.

Confirming cattle movements into your herd.

Viewing your herd list including information about your animals’ DARD statuses, TB & Br test results and export eligibility.

Viewing movement and progeny history of every animal in your herd. Viewing post and ante mortem details of slaughtered animals.

Producing a report to count and classify your animals as part of the Nitrate Action Programme.

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Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has this morning sharply criticised her Ministerial counterpart Brendan Howlin TD for failing to end the practice of serving secretaries general receiving bumper pension payoffs.

Deputy McDonald said:

“It is an absolute disgrace that yet another outgoing secretary general will retire early on a full pension worth €114,000 a year on top of a lump sum pay off that is for most the equivalent of winning the lotto.

“Fine Gael and Labour promised a new day on entering government yet it is business as usual. Those at the top of the public sector get bumper pay and pensions whilst the front line is decimated by cuts to staff and funding.

“Labour Minister Brendan Howlin TD has options. He could rescind the practice of added years and special severance gratuity payments to retiring secretaries general under the Superannuation and Pension Act of 1963.

“Minister Howlin could also introduce additional bands to the Public Service Pension Reduction targeting retired public servants on excessive pensions. Let’s not forget there are currently over 100 retired civil servants in receipt of pensions in excess of €100,000 euro per year. Yet the majority of retired civil and public sector workers receive very modest pensions.

“If this Government is serious about public sector reform it needs to step up and tackle the culture of entitlement that prevails amongst the top layer of the public sector.” ENDS

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The Culture Minister has congratulated Bunscoil Phobal Feirste as it celebrates its fortieth birthday.

Speaking as she joined pupils and staff at the school in their celebrations, Carál Ní Chuilín said: “This is a very important year for all of you here at Bunscoil Phobal Feirste and I want to congratulate you on reaching this milestone.

“As this school demonstrates, the Irish language is a vital part of the education system. Over 4,000 children throughout the north attend Irish medium schools and become confident and capable bi-lingual students who have much to contribute to society. 

The Minister explained the importance of the `Líofa 2015` initiative which she launched in September. 

 She said: “The cultural value of the Irish language is immense. It is an essential part of the fabric of our society and is part of our shared rich heritage. The Irish language is learnt, spoken and enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and traditions.“Irish is a living language and I am committed to getting more people speaking Irish which is why I launched ‘Líofa 2015'.

Almost 800 people have taken up theLíofa challenge to date which is very encouraging. Minister Ní Chuilín concluded “I also intend bringing forward proposals to enhance and protect our regional minority languages and as part of this I am considering options for an Irish Language Bill." 

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Sinn Féin Transport Spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has condemned the government for subsidising private toll operators who are making millions off the state due to low traffic numbers on motorways. Responding to the news that the operators of the M3 toll who are subsidised by the state made a profit of 19 million euro in its first 7 months, he said that these companies were holding Irish commuters and the public purse to ransom.

Ellis continued;

“The Minister and his government need to recognise that it cannot afford to pay private companies who are not happy with their profits in the current economic climate.

“With nearly half a million people out of work it stands to reason that traffic on this commuter belt will be down, the companies should accept this is a fact of doing business and the state should stand up for the public who are paying twice through their taxes and tolls.

“The government must refuse to pay these subsidies which should not have been agreed to in the first place. I have raised this in the Dáil and the Minister said he would not allow an agreement like this to happen again, this is not good enough.

“Between October and December 2010 a sum of 547,000 euro was paid to the company operating the M3 while they were making large profits off its tolls already.

“The toll operators across the state have taken enough money from the people who can no longer be held to ransom in this way as they try to get to work.

“This once again shows the folly of this and the previous government’s dedication to the Public Private Partnership model which has resulted in large profits for big companies, while the state pays over the odds and projects runs far overdue.” ENDS

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, today attended the launch of the final report of the Literacy and Numeracy Taskforce.

The Taskforce was set up to advise and oversee progress by the Department on developing and implementing the literacy and numeracy strategy.

Welcoming the report’s publication during a visit to Oakwood Integrated Primary School in Dunmurry, Mr O’Dowd said: “The Literacy and Numeracy Taskforce has played a valuable part in shaping the policies we now have in place for raising standards. We have benefitted greatly from members’ collective expertise and readiness to advise, support and challenge.

“In its final report, the Taskforce has recognised my Department’s ‘firm commitment’ to raising standards and tackling underachievement. It has also highlighted the importance of high quality teaching, strong leadership, high expectations, sharing good practice, the effective use of data and early intervention as important factors in raising standards. These are embedded within our school improvement policy and literacy and numeracy strategy.

“An issue of particular importance to the Taskforce is the forging of strong links between schools and their community. As I made clear in my recent statement to the Assembly, I am keen to work on ways of promoting the value we place on education as a society. To do this, we must examine how to achieve this, including as a beginning, encouraging greater parental engagement in education.”

The Minister continued: “Evidence suggests that the link between underachievement and socio-economic background is stronger here than in other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development) countries. Yet there is evidence, both locally and internationally, that the link can be broken. The solution to improving outcomes for all pupils, regardless of their background, lies in improving the quality of school leadership and the quality of teaching in all our schools. My Department’s policies are designed to do this and will address the root causes preventing pupils achieving their full potential.”

Commenting on the report, Sir Robert Salisbury, who chaired the Taskforce, said: “As a society, we must make sure all of our young people, regardless of background or ability, are fully equipped with the qualifications and skills they will need to succeed in the future. This must be our absolute priority. The final report identifies the key issues which the team felt ought to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Throughout our deliberations, the members of the Taskforce have been passionate about raising achievement in all our schools and I would like to thank them for their commitment and expertise.”

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has challenged Fine Gael’s Joe McHugh to a public debate on the budget. Deputy Doherty was speaking today after the Fine Gael TD attacked his party’s pre-budget submission which was launched in Dublin yesterday.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Joe McHugh and his Fine Gael party want people to believe that there are no choices to be made in relation to the upcoming budget, that the Troika has laid down the law and we must obey it.

“However, my party’s pre-budget submission, which is costed by the Department of Finance, clearly shows that there are choices to be made. It shows how the deficit can be reduced in line with the government’s targets but in a way that takes the burden off the less-well-off, that creates a fairer taxation system, gets people back to work and eliminates wasteful spending.

“Sinn Féin is putting people at the front and centre of its budget proposals. It is all about choices and we have made the choices that protect people and will get us out of this recession.

“I am not surprised that Joe McHugh has attacked Sinn Féin’s pre-budget submission as it exposes the myth that the government has been perpetuating, that their hands are tied and the must inflict harsh austerity measures on the less well off.

“I am challenging Deputy McHugh to a public debate on the issue in the run up to the budget. I hope that he will accept this challenge.” ENDS

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Speaking today from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Sinn Féin MEP welcomed the adoption in plenary of a resolution on the upcoming UN climate change negotiations in Durban.

de Brún who will be travelling to Durban as part of the European Parliament's official delegation said,

"It is an encouraging sign that such a strong majority of MEPs endorsed a largely positive and ambitious resolution which addressed many key issues with regard to the approaching climate change negotiations.

"The resolution demonstrated support for a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol - a crucial binding international agreement which commits industrialised countries to reduce emissions and stated that the EU must show leadership on the global stage in this respect.

"MEPs also expressed a desire that the EU help reach an agreement on funding sources and the management of a green climate fund to support developing countries who must be helped to avoid the 'dirty development path'.

"It is also great news that MEPs approved higher EU ambitions regarding the current 20% emissions reduction target. We must realise that moving to a target of over 20% will be massively beneficial to the economy and not harmful.

“The incredible potential for green growth simply can not be ignored any longer, especially at a time of such severe economic hardship for many." CRÍOCH/END

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Speaking in support of the University Student of Ireland’s (USI) rally today in Dublin highlighting possible increases in fees for students attending a third level institution, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe said:

“Sinn Féin is opposed to any change in Government policy that would increase the financial burden that has already been placed on many students. The Student Contribution Charge currently stands at €2000 which prevents many students from low and middle income families accessing third level education.

“Many families have had the unenviable task of deciding which son or daughter goes on to further education. Any further increase in college fees risks bringing our society back to the days when the benefits accrued from having a higher level qualification was enjoyed mainly by a small wealthy elite. Sinn Féin believes that education is a right not a privilege and we are opposed at any attempts to increase third level fees

“I wish to commend the USI for organising today’s protest march – it is important that everyone has the right to equal access to third level education.

“The Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, should honour his pre-election pledge and ensure there is no increase in fees or cuts to the maintenance grant.

“Access to a quality education is a basic building block if we are to kick-start Ireland’s economic recovery. This will hardly happen if the government continues to target education by implementing the same policies as their predecessors. As things stand, students and their families are being burdened with massive debt and this looks set to increase.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD joined the student demonstration this afternoon outside Leinster House.

He was accompanied by Sinn Féin’s Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald, Pearse Doherty TD and Jonathan O Brien TD.

Speaking to students and journalists the Sinn Féin leader expressed his “solidarity and support for the ‘Stop Fees. Save the Grant’ campaign.”

He said:

“Sinn Féin believes that access to third level education is a right not a privilege.

“Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, TD, and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore should now honour
Labour’s pre-election pledge that there will be no increase in fees or cuts to the maintenance grant.

“Sinn Féin also rejects any attempt by the Government to abolish support for postgraduate students.

“Sinn Féin supports the students and is opposed to any increase in college fees or additional cuts to student supports.” ENDS

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