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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government, Brian Stanley TD, has branded Minister Hogan’s attempts at local government reform as, “a wasted opportunity”.
Speaking in Leinster House, Deputy Stanley said, “Today’s announcement by Minister Hogan was heavy on bluster and light on detail. The event was a stage managed, wasted opportunity. There is a great appetite for change and reform in local government. All the minister did was tinker with the structure while ensuring his department maintained the power and the purse strings.
"The minister has failed to keep the promise outlined in the Programme for Government of ‘reorganisation of local governance structure to allow for devolution of much greater decision making to local people’.
Council seats will be reduced by1,667 to 950. But more importantly nowhere in the document does the minster outline where extra power has been given to local authority. There are a lot of previews, reviews and commissions but nothing concrete.
Sinn Féin supports local government reform. We want local government to be accountable, transparent, adequately funded and to deliver local services efficiently. We want to see power devolved from government departments to local authorities and the community we represent. These powers should include water, waste management, transport, planning and economic development. The government's local authority reforms are a smoke screen for cutting funding and centralising power in the Custom House.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said the findings of the audit reports into the Fire & Rescue Service are startling and the public need reassured that the management of the service will put its house in order.

The West Belfast MLA and Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee said:

“We are hearing about senior officers authorising irregular bonus payments and whistleblowers being treated improperly to name just two points that are a great cause of concern.

“People need to have confidence that our public services are being run efficiently and in line with the highest standards expected of those in public positions, including governance.

“It is concerning that these problems seem to have been going on for some time and that the Department is only now beginning to tackle them.

“The minister is ultimately responsible for managing the performance of the Fire Service and we need assurances that they will take on a much more robust role going forward.

“The lessons should ensure that if similar situations arise in any other bodies in the health and social care sector they will be tackled immediately.

“We need to be very clear that most of those employed by the Fire Service are providing vital services, often under very difficult conditions, and it is important that the actions of those in the management do not negatively impact on their good work.

“I will be raising these audit reports in the Health Committee tomorrow as there are still questions that need answered.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government, Brian Stanley TD, has today called on Minister Hogan to implement the Programme for Government’s promise on local government reform.

Speaking from Dublin Castle ahead of the Minster Hogan’s announcement on local government reform, Deputy Stanley said:

“Sinn Féin supports local government reform. We support local government that is accountable, transparent, adequately funded and delivers local services efficiently. Minister Hogan’s local authority reforms should not be a smokescreen for collapsing local authorities, cutting funding and centralising power in the Custom House.

“The minister must fulfil the promise in the Programme for Government: ‘re-organisation of local governance structure to allow for devolution of much greater decision-making to local people’. It will be by this promise that today’s proposals will be judged.

“We intend to be constructive in our engagement with the minister; we welcome positive reforms while actively opposing moves to undermine local democracy.

“We want to see power devolved from government departments to local authorities in matters such as waste management, transport, planning and economic development.

“Sinn Féin will be studying the proposals in detail. We will seek a meeting with Minster Hogan later today to discuss the details and implications of the proposed reforms.

“We have also written to the Ceann Comhairle seeking a Dáil debate this afternoon on the proposed reforms.”

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Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson is to host a major European conference: ‘Combating child poverty and social exclusion - promoting children's well being in times of austerity’ in Belfast next month.
 
Ms Anderson announced the initiative at the Saints Youth Centre in Twinbrook, Belfast on Friday while visiting local groups and organisations to discuss future opportunities from European Union funding programmes.
 
Martina Anderson said:
 
“I will host a major child poverty conference in the Balmoral Hotel, (Blacks Road, Dunmurry) on Friday 16th November on behalf of the political group GUE/NGL (European United Left / Nordic Green Left) of which I am a member in the European Parliament.
 
“The increasing level of child poverty is an issue of great concern across Europe and is being exacerbated by the imposition of draconian austerity measures by governments across the Continent. It is being most acutely felt in every corner of Ireland which has been devastated by the economic collapse.
 
“The conference will be addressed by Skevi Koutra Koukouma from Cyprus, the present incumbent of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Other confirmed speakers are leading researchers in the field of child poverty such as Michelle Murphy (Social Justice Ireland) and Réka Tunyogi (Eurochild) as well as representatives from other progressive organisations including the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS).
 
“Activists in the field from all areas are invited to attend”. CRÍOCH

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Welcoming the Fermanagh Trust’s recently published research report, ‘Maximising Community Outcome form Wind Energy Developments’ Martina Anderson said:



“The research is important and significant for many reasons, but from a local point of view it reinforces proposals contained within Derry’s One Plan.



Ms Anderson explained:



“It is widely accepted that we are entering into the era of peak oil production after which we can expect to see the depletion of fossil fuel reserves worldwide. Derry and the northwest are particularly vulnerable given our dependence on external sources for all our energy and fuel needs resulting in high levels of fuel poverty. We have growing numbers of people, particularly the elderly, faced with the choice ‘eat or heat’ in the winter months.



“The reliance on fossil fuels is also bad for the environment and makes more difficult the challenge of meeting EU climate change targets. Therefore, it is imperative that we become more self-reliant and resilient in terms of meeting our energy and fuel needs by moving away from the use of fossil fuels, towards renewable, greener sources.



“These needs were identified during the development of Derry’s One Plan. Two of the programmes contained within the Plan have a major focus on energy and fuel. And while the Fermanagh Trust focus on the potential benefits to communities of commercial wind farms the ‘One Plan’ Sustainable City programme and Co-operative / Social Economy Model concentrate on the principle of using local resources to address local needs. A requirement that the enterprises created should be co-operative in nature means there is an imperative that they provide a community benefit.



“I concur with Fermanagh Trust’s research that the key to the future growth of wind as a source of renewable energy depends on the buy-in of local communities who have to be convinced not only of the environmental benefits of wind energy but of the economic benefits too. For this reason I support the development of the co-operative model which will benefit communities rather than commercial projects that benefit distant shareholders.



“Given the EU climate change targets as well as the high levels of fuel poverty, wind energy could be a very viable component in a wider energy and fuel solution that would inject much needed funding into the Social Economy and assist in delivering the One Plan for the regeneration of the North West economy. CRÍOCH

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Ardoyne Sinn Féin Councillor Gerard McCabe has condemned the reckless shooting in Ardoyne last night.

The North Belfast councillor said:

“This was a reckless act in the extreme and we are lucky neither the adults or child in the house at the time were injured.

“Whether this attack is claimed by some pseudo group or a vigilante gang, the message they should take on board is that the people of this community want them to cease.”

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Sinn Féin representative for Dublin Mid-West Eoin Ó Broin, responding to what he described as a ridiculous and deliberately provocative press statement from Fine Gael TD Derek Keating, has challenged the deputy to a public debate on the unemployment crisis.

Speaking this evening Ó Broin said;

“Deputy Keating is clearly looking to provoke a reaction from Sinn Féin with his ridiculous and deliberately provocative statement. The fact that he sent his statement to all Sinn Féin TDs shows that he is looking for a response rather than simply making a political point.

“The deputy accuses my party of lying to people about the scale of our economic recovery. If he is confident in his party’s approach to our economy then he should dispense with the silly and immature statements and debate the issue with me in public.

“I would be happy to take part in such a debate at any time that suits deputy Keating. He has already refused to debate me in the general election of 2011 and during the Austerity Treaty referendum this year. It’s time for him to put up or shut up.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has warmly welcomed this morning news that An Bord Pleanála has given planning permission for the construction of a bridge near Warrenpoint, between South Down and County Louth.

Deputy Adams said:

“This is another vital piece in the jig-saw to secure the construction of this very necessary economic and strategic infrastructure project for the border region.

“The decision by An Bord Pleanála and by the North’s Department of Environment last week clears the way for the decision by the European authorities for funding to be made available.

“I want to commend all of those, especially the officials from the local councils, who have worked hard in recent years to secure planning permission.

“The Narrow Water Bridge will cost almost €18 million but its economic and social impact will be significantly greater. It will provide a huge boost to the local economy, create new jobs and spur economic growth in this region.”

Note to Editor:

The bridge is an opening bridge that enables tall ships, leisure craft and other marine vessels access to the Victoria Loch and the Albert Basin in Newry.

The bridge crosses the Newry River at Narrow Water to the Omeath Road at the Townland of Cornamucklagh, near the village of Omeath.

The total length of the scheme and bridge crossing is approximately 660 metres.

The proposed development is by Louth County Council in association with Newry and Mourne District Council.

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has warmly welcomed this morning’s news that An Bord Pleanála has given planning permission for the construction of a bridge near Warrenpoint, between South Down and County Louth.

Deputy Adams said:

“This is another vital piece in the jig-saw to secure the construction of this very necessary economic and strategic infrastructure project for the border region.

“The decision by An Bord Pleanála and by the north’s Department of Environment last week clears the way for the decision by the European authorities for funding to be made available.

“I want to commend all of those, but especially the officials from the local councils, who have worked hard in recent years to secure planning permission.

“The Narrow Water Bridge will cost almost €18 million but its economic and social impact will be significantly greater. It will provide a huge boost to the local economy, create new jobs and spur economic growth in this region.” CRÍOCH/END

Note to Editor:

The bridge is an opening bridge that enables tall ships, leisure craft and other marine vessels access to the Victoria Lock and the Albert Basin in Newry.

The bridge crosses the Newry River at Narrow Water to the Omeath Road at the townland of Cornamucklagh, near the village of Omeath.

The total length of the scheme and bridge crossing is approximately 660 metres.

The proposed development is by Louth County Council in association with Newry and Mourne District Council.

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Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane has welcomed the decision by Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission to the Narrow Water Bridge.

 Ms Ruane said,

“Following the decision in the North on Friday to grant permission this announcement today will allow the project to move ahead to the next stage.

 “I attended a meeting with Bord Pleanála in June to make a presentation for planning permission to be granted so I am delighted with the announcement today.   It shows that Bord Pleanála has listened to the views of all interested parties lobbying for this bridge.

“I would like to thank all those who also attended hearings with Bord Pleanála including local councilors, the Chamber of Commerce and the local community who send letters of support.

 “The focus of the campaign will now move towards the Special EU Programme Body so that Interreg funding can be accessed for the bridge.

 “I will be speaking to our local MEP’s including Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson to maintain the pressure so that this bridge can become a reality for the people of South Down and Louth.

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Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly is in London today speaking at the Progressive Students Conference on the subject of Europe against austerity – building an alternative to cuts.

Below is the text of Senator Reilly’s speech:

I am Senator Kathryn Reilly of Sinn Fein. I am the youngest Member of the Irish Houses of Parliament and Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on EU Affairs and Youth Affairs. I am also a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

That combination of roles means I follow closely the economic and political policies which come to a large degree from the EU and their slavish implementation in Ireland.

My role in Youth Affairs means I see the disastrous consequences of austerity policies on young people across Ireland.

It has also become abundantly clear to me through my role that conservative forces never miss a good crisis and that for them this is the perfect time for them to do things they always wanted to but could never get away with.

Hence in Ireland we see the increase in speed in the process of privatisation of health care and education.  The rights of Irish language speakers are thrown into question in the name of financial prudence. The Labour Party which previously defended the rights of all children to benefits now is supporting moves to means test children’s benefits. Disability services and allowances for carers have been attacked.

What we are experiencing is more than cuts; it is an attack on citizens’ rights and on the concept of equality.

What we are fighting is the politics of fear. For the first time in a long time the absolute victory of capitalism is in question and there are huge establishment forces who do not like that victory being put into question at all.

That is why those of us who question the dominance of uber-capitalism must co-operate and learn from each other. That is why I will now spell out how this battle is unfolding in Ireland.

Ireland today is a country still divided by a partition which has bred incredible economic and social fragmentation. That has been the case for most of the last century and now hopefully a course has been plotted that will bring about Irish unity and the creation of a democratic republic.

Ireland, north and south, today does however face some common challenges- challenges depressingly similar to those faced by Britain and its people across Europe today. These challenges are mounting as the austerity mongers ramp up their attacks. It seems the more they fail, the more they insist.

Youth unemployment in the south of Ireland is running at at least 30%. As horrendous as that figure is it is highly camouflaged by the sky high level of emigration mainly to Australia and Canada. In the north emigration is similarly high. It is estimated that as many people leave Ireland each year as complete the Leaving Cert (the state exams at the end of secondary school). In effect we are losing a generation to emigration, to austerity.

These common challenges north and south unfortunately cannot be taken on in the same manner due to the political situation in Ireland.

Starting in the south we have a government which still, despite its protestations, does have the power to tack a different course and to not blindly follow the path of austerity as laid down by the IMF and the Troika.

In the north, things are more complicated with economic matters generally being a “reserved matter” meaning the London government still control such policies. In effect we have a government situated in a different country making decisions for Irish people. Neither the Tories nor the Liberal Democrats stood for election in Ireland. Between them they received 0 votes from Ireland, yet they are insisting on their austerity being implemented in the north of Ireland.

These two different situations complicate matters for an all-Ireland party like Sinn Féin but our answer is the same north and south- No to Austerity!

This is an ongoing campaign, an ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of the population. It is also a battle against some very powerful forces. The European Commission, the IMF and the ECB, the so-called Troika, are pushing their ideologically-inspired agenda through their programmes in Ireland. A conservative Irish media and regrettably compliant Labour movement and Labour Party refuse to consider the alternative.

Against these forces Sinn Fein is leading a campaign for a change in direction, a campaign for workable policies that will see the Irish economy regain strength without having to dismantle our public services or inflict brutal cuts against working people.

Greater fiscal autonomy is required in the North.  This would allow the freedom for the North to generate revenue and to develop policies of benefit to the people of the North without the current restrictions, and would help facilitate an economic strategy which is underpinned by budgetary and fiscal decision making

Sinn Fein will not simply allow the Tory cuts to social welfare to be implemented in our country. We will fight tooth and nail to resist them in the Assembly and on the streets. We will not shirk from our responsibilities to the most vulnerable in our society and will not stand on the mandate we were elected on- that is “No Tories Here!”

Last week we brought to the Assembly in Belfast a motion calling for a reversal in direction and a growth centred policy. Our motion read:

That this Assembly notes, with concern, the continuing pursuance of austerity measures by the British and Irish Governments, and the subsequent detrimental effects on our local economy; and calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to impress, on both governments, the need to follow a path to economic recovery that is based on job creation, progressive taxation, the protection of the most vulnerable, and the provision of first class front-line public services.

Our alternative ideology

Our opposition is based on our core beliefs and ideology as Irish Republicans. It is also based on the mounting evidence that austerity simply doesn’t work. Unemployment figures in the south of Ireland are stuck at at least 13%, a figure which as I mentioned doesn’t include the ten s of thousands emigrating each year.

Sinn Féin believes we need to grow our way out of recession.

We would stop the payments to bad banks and instead use those billions to invest in and stimulate our economy.

We would reject flat taxes being levied on lower and middle income families at the same level as they are on the wealthy. We would introduce a wealth tax similar to the French model on wealth exceeding 1€ million. Those that can afford to pay more must be made paid more.

This week in Dublin our party launched our Jobs Proposal. This document is what we believe can be done to create jobs. The current Fine Gael and Labour government have stated explicitly that it doesn’t believe governments create jobs. We fundamentally disagree and will not be shy about showing how a state can stimulate, facilitate job creation and directly employ citizens.

Our document clearly shows the resources of the state can be leveraged to restart an economy.

Our proposal is difficult for the conservative parties in Ireland to conceive. They are stuck in love with an economic model which has clearly failed yet cannot even contemplate a change in policy.

So what precisely would Sinn Féin do?

We are proposing a €13 billion additional investment package in job creation and economic growth over 4 years in the 26 Counties. We identify funds for this from the remaining €5.8 billion in discretionary funding in the National Pension Reserve Fund €1.5 billion in funding from the European Investment Bank; a €3 billion incentivised investment from the private pension sector; and by maintaining €2.6 billion in the Capital budget spend, making necessary budget adjustments from the current spending and taxation.

That in a small island is the amount of money needed to make a difference. You can’t have half a stimulus. You must commit fully and only the state with the people’s backing can follow through on such a package.

Our stimulus, excluding the jobs retention fund, entails almost €13 billion additional expenditure on top of planned capital expenditure. This approximates to 104,000 short-term jobs and 52,000 long-term jobs. The jobs would be spaced out over the course of the stimulus and the length of the projects.

We would force the banks, more or less all nationalized now, to lend money, especially to indigenous enterprises rooted in the community.

According to Government figures, each person unemployed costs the state in the region of €20,000 directly - that is money lost in PAYE and social welfare costs. This doesn't include indirect costs such as those felt in the local economy from dampened consumer spending. While the effects of a stimulus must be studied in a more sophisticated way- the simple calculation of providing 104,000 jobs in this climate, saving the state €20,000 per person directly (€2 billion in total), is a massive pro of stimulus.

So what would we spend the money on to ensure it hits home?

Ireland lags behind our neighbours in terms of communications technology especially outside of Dublin. 2.5€ billion invested in our broadband network is needed to catch up while at the same time creating jobs in construction and engineering and providing a high-tech communications infrastructure capable of hoisting a computer age economy.

We would harness our natural advantages by kick starting the wind power industry. We will reform and reduce the lead in time necessary for projects and will mandate the ESB (state electricity company) to develop an extra 300 MW of off shore wind generation in 5 years. It is estimated that this industry has the capacity to create 50,000 jobs over 15 years.

Rather than charging people for water the state should invest in our water infrastructure where currently 40% of water can be lost through leakages.

Socially necessary projects must now be prioritised. This means the redevelopment of Dublin, Cork and Limerick cities where social deprivation can be very high and drug abuse prevalent.

Rather than close schools we would invest- building 100 more to serve our children, stimulate growth and ensure our education standard remain at a level fit for a modern economy.

These are just some examples of how a government can create jobs and how a state should lead the way out of recession.

We would focus very much on employment for young people. Currently the youth unemployment rate in the south runs at 30%. Again if emigration was factored in it is clear that we are looking at a huge social and economic disaster affecting our young people.

Here, while would be prepared to put our money where our mouth is, a change in policy alongside investment could turn things around. Specifically we would:

Reverse the extension of the retirement age - a government policy which, as well as forcing people to work longer, will actively keep younger people out of jobs, particularly in areas like the public sector.

Organize an individual plan for the long-term prospects of every person under 25 on the live register.

Organize A skills audit of all those under the age of 25 who are currently unemployed, to be carried out within 3 months, to identify the gaps between the skills of the unemployed and the skills required for those sectors of the economy identified as potential growth sectors

Lift the suspension on the early farm retirement scheme to make farming an option for younger people.

Tackling youth unemployment and underemployment is not just good economic sense it is a mark of a society with decent priorities and some ambition for its future.

That briefly is Sinn Féin’s alternative. It is not based on the logic of austerity or cuts.

It is based on the idea that the vulnerable need to be protected, that a cohesive society is worth fighting for and that wealth is created by workers working.

We are very conscious of similar struggles facing peoples right across Europe and right across the world. It is one of the lazier clichés trotted out by pro-austerity forces in Ireland to point at Greece and to say that were it not for austerity Ireland would be in an equal mess.

It is a malicious argument designed to divide the working people of Ireland from the people of Greece and it is not working. More and more Irish people are rejecting the Merkel view of Europe and focussing on the need for solidarity across Europe. More and more austerity and cuts are hitting even the middle classes and they don’t like it. Moreover they see it is not working.

As a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe I was delighted to contribute to a debate on two reports which blew apart many of the myths about austerity. International solidarity has always been a bedrock of Irish Republicanism and so it remains when the enemy is austerity.

I hope my words today have shown a little light on the battle raging in Ireland at the moment against failed economic policies. More than ever before, the need to reassert the rights of the Irish people to sovereignty, political and economic, needs to be discussed.

That is the approach Sinn Fein is taking today-on the one hand to outline our detailed progressive alternatives and to campaign on the streets and workplaces for their implementation instead of more and deeper cuts and on the other hand to assert our view that Irish sovereignty and democratic control of our economic future must be part of the solution. Establishment forces should not be allowed hide behind the IMF or the Tories in London.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Dessie Ellis TD has today call on the Department of Environment and Longford County Council to work closely to investigate serious health and safety concerns on the Gleann Riada estate in Longford.

He made his comments following a visit to the estate where he met residents and their families who believe an evacuation is necessary.

Deputy Ellis continued;

“I have been working with local party members for the last few months on trying to ascertain the extent of the problems in Gleann Riada and bring them to the attention of the government which at present does not seem to be taking any serious interest.

“The estate was signed off on and built with a substandard sewerage system which is causing sewer gas leaks and two explosions on the estate this year, one just a week ago and another in March. Obviously the residents are very worried and with one block of apartments being demolished due to safety issues already this year they want to know what is going to be done.

“The state has a responsibility to ensure these residents are safe in their homes and if Gleann Riada is not safe then they need to give these people somewhere safe while work is carried out.

“Today is one year on from the evacuation of Priory Hall. That terrible situation continues for those families and I want to make sure that Gleann Riada is not another Priory Hall and that these problems are dealt with swiftly.

“The Minister must come to Gleann Riada to meet these families and the Council.”

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Dublin Mid-West Sinn Féin will be holding a protest against the cuts to home helps and the proposed cuts to child benefit today, Saturday 13th of October in Clondalkin Village at 1pm at the offices of Fine Gael Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Labour TD Robert Dowds.

Announcing the protest Sinn Féin Dublin Mid-West representative Eoin Ó Broin said:

“Fine Gael and Labour are pressing ahead with their cuts to home helps. These cuts will have a devastating impact on those who rely on this service.

“The Government is also planning to cut child benefit payments. This will lead to increased financial hardship for thousands of families and an increase in child poverty.

“If the Government is serious about making the very wealthy pay their fair share then they should introduce a third rate of income tax on individual incomes over €100,000 per year. This would raise more money than the cuts to home helps and child benefit combined.

“With over 10,000 people on the live register in Clondalkin and Lucan and unemployment up 10% since September 2011 it is clear that the Government is not working in the interests of ordinary people.

“We need investment in jobs to get people back to work not cuts to vital services.

“If you agree with us then join our protest on Saturday 13th of October in Clondalkin Village AT 1pm at the offices of Fine Gael Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Labour TD Robert Dowds.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader and Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald will today attend the march to mark the first anniversary of the evacuation of residents from the Priory Hall complex.

Speaking today ahead of the march Deputy McDonald said it is an indictment on this government that one year on the residents are still in temporary accommodation no resolution to the crisis has been agreed.

Deputy McDonald said;

“On this the first anniversary of the evacuation of residents from the Priory Hall complex I want to once again call on the government to take this matter in hand, to engage with the residents, Dublin City Council and the banks to ensure that a suitable resolution to this crisis is found.

“It is a terrible indictment on this government that the residents are still in temporary accommodation and that no resolution to the crisis has been agreed.

“The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government must intervene immediately.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff who is also a member of the Assembly Commission responding to Peter Robinson's calls for a voluntary coalition at Stormont said:

“Peter Robinson needs to stop playing word games here. An end to what he is calling Mandatory Coalition and replacing it with a Voluntary Coalition is code for removing Sinn Féin from government and a return to some form of unionist majority rule.

“This isn’t going to happen. The north went down that road for 50 years and look where it took us. The current arrangements are in place precisely because unionism proved itself incapable of sharing power and incapable of basic equality.

“Sinn Féin won’t allow it. The structures of government here were agreed as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin supports these structures which are inclusive of representation from across our community.

“Unionism needs to wake up to a basic reality – if you are going to exercise political power then it will be in partnership with nationalists and republicans on the basis of equality. There is no other way."

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis has today described as shameful the behaviour of Minister Leo Varadkar who yesterday basked in the glory of launching a new fleet of Dublin Buses a day after withholding €36 million in promised funding to CIÉ.

Deputy Ellis continued;

“The irony of this is not lost on people. Minister Varadkar may enjoy the limelight of launching new buses but he is systematically dismantling public transport in this state, through cuts, reforms and fare hikes.

“Dublin Bus is part of CIÉ which has had its yearly state subvention cut from €312 million in 2009 to €242 million today and Varadkar is intent on making a further €40 million cut to this by 2014.

“He is gutting the companies under CIÉ with these cuts and forcing them to provide less of a service for higher prices. Minister Varadkar has stated publicly that fare hikes damage public transport and discourage use of it but has forced the companies to do just that.

“No one can take seriously a government which speaks about smarter travel as they make public transport less accessible and less attractive while running down services and cutting routes.”

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Responding to the news that Enterprise, Trade & Investment  Minister Arlene Foster has allocated £100,000 to carry out repair works on HMS Caroline, Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan said:

"I am appalled at the decision to award such a substantial amount of money from the Enterprise, Trade & Investment budget to carry out repair works on HMS Caroline.

"It has been gifted by the British MoD with a remedial repairs bill of £100,000. If this warship is in need of repair works, then it should have been left to the MoD to fund it instead of throwing public money at restoration. 

"Why should a devolved administration fund the repair when the MoD's annual budget stands somewhere in the region of £38 billion, £28 billion more than the total budget allocated to our Executive by the British Treasury?

"Surely this money, which comes from the Enterprise, Trade & Investment budget, could be better spent on hard-pressed employment schemes with a meaningful effect on creating jobs and growing our local economy."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has welcomed today’s inaugural meeting of the north south Inter-Parliamentary Association, describing it as “another forum through which good relations and trust can be built. Greater harmonisation of our natural, human and economic resources can be agreed to our mutual benefit.”

An equal number of MLAs from the Assembly and from the Houses of the Oireachtas, under the Joint Chair of the Ceann Chomhairle Seán Barrett TD and the Speaker Willie Hay MLA, will meet twice a year to discuss issues of interest and concern including the economy, health, environment, energy and social issues.

The establishment of the Association is a significant political development and is a realisation of important commitments contained in the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement.

Gerry Adams said:

“I want to welcome to the Oireachtas our unionist and nationalist colleagues from the Assembly for today’s first plenary meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Association.

“This is a very positive development. It reflects the increasing acknowledgement that Ireland is too small for our people to live in isolation from each other and that working together is better for everyone.

“Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. We want to see an end to partition and Irish unity. The unionists have a different view. That is a challenge and a matter of democratic persuasion in the time ahead.

“In the meantime it makes sense to develop the widest possible co-operation and co-ordination of public services and economic development by removing the social, economic and bureaucratic barriers to enhancing the quality of life of citizens on this island.

“The Inter-Parliamentary Association provides another forum through which good relations and trust can be built. Greater harmonisation of our natural, human and economic resources can be agreed to our mutual benefit.”

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Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has welcomed today’s announcement by the north’s Environment Minister Alex Attwood that planning permission has been granted for the proposed Narrow Water bridge near Warrenpoint.

It is expected that An Bord Pleanála will announce its decision in the coming days.

The Louth TD said:

“This is an important step on the road to securing the necessary funding for this important economic and strategic investment. My colleague Caitriona Ruane has been central to the campaign for this development and I want to commend her for her efforts.

Louth County Council submitted the projects CPO and EIS to An Bord Pleanála last January and it is expected that it will announce its decision shortly.

A bridge connecting County Louth and County Down will be a significant boast to the local economy, creating jobs and economic growth in this region. Louth County Council has applied for funding under the INTERREG IV A programme and Sinn Féin and others have added our voice in support of this.

In a response to a Parliamentary Question from me the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar confirmed last week that in the event of the authorities in the north finding 75% of the costs of the project that he would be ‘prepared to try to find a net Exchequer contribution of the order of €1.5 million”.

Of course, if INTERREG agree to fund the project any money paid by the two governments will be refunded.

Dáil Question
No: 263

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the progress made in plans to build a bridge linking North Louth and South Down at Narrow Water; the steps he has taken to progress the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Gerry Adams.

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 4th October, 2012.

Ref No:

42379/12

Answered by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
Leo Varadkar


REPLY


The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.

As you are aware, this Government has had to scale back capital spending considerably in recent times. This will impact significantly on the scope for new development projects.

The Narrow Water Bridge project is estimated to cost approximately €19 million. I understand that Louth County Council submitted the projects's CPO and EIS to An Bord Pleanála on 16th January 2012, that an oral hearing was held in June of this year and that Louth County Council expects a decision shortly.

I also understand that Louth County Council has applied for INTERREG IVA funding for the project. In advance of this application, I indicated to Louth County Council that funding under the INTERREG IVA programme would require a commitment from the Northern Ireland authorities to fund in excess of 75% of the up front cost of the project. I am not aware if Louth County Council has obtained this commitment. I did indicate that if the Northern Ireland authorities were willing to support the project and if an INTERREG IVA application were successful then I would be prepared to try to find a net Exchequer contribution of the order of €1.5m.

Note to Editor:

The bridge is an opening bridge that enables tall ships, leisure craft and other marine vessels access to the Victoria Lock and the Albert Basin in Newry.

The bridge crosses the Newry River at Narrow Water to the Omeath Road at the townland of Cornamucklagh, near the village of Omeath.

The total length of the scheme and bridge crossing is approximately 660 metres.

The proposed development is by Louth County Council in association with Newry and Mourne District Council.

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Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane has welcomed the announcement that planning permission has been granted for the Narrow Water Bridge.

 Ms. Ruane said,

“This announcement is another step forward in the creation of an infrastructural link between Counties Down and Louth and has to be welcomed.

 “I hope that Bord Pleanála can now also grant permission so that we can access funding and begin the next stage of construction.

 “I will now be liaising with Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson in order to lobby the Special EU Programmes Body to grant funding for the application.

 “This bridge can be the catalyst for economic regeneration in the region by creating a tourism pathway between the Mournes and Carlingford region of Louth.

 “While this is another step forward there is still much work to be completed and I would call upon all parties on both sides of the border to maintain the pressure to see this project completed.”

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