Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty has released the following statement regarding the use of his travel expenses.
The Donegal South West TD said:
“Since 2009 I have published my accounts on the Web. I have at all-times been up-front that I use a portion of my wages (over €19,000) and a portion of money that was paid to me for expenses to employ additional staff in my Donegal offices. I am a registered employer with the revenue commissioner and my employees enjoy all of their statutory entitlements. Last week an issue arose as to whether this was allowed. I have always stated that if I breeched any rules that I would rectify that.
“Over the past week I have met with Oireachtas officials on a number of occasions to discuss my travel and accommodation allowance.
“I have stated on my website that the cost of traveling to and from Dublin and throughout my constituency was €11,273.67 in 2011. This cost was calculated factoring in the cost of the Diesel and toll charges only.
“The representatives have informed me that in order to calculate and certify the travel expenditure that I incur that I am entitled to take into account a number of travel cost factors besides fuel costs. These vehicle related expenditure include Diesel, Oil, Tyres, Maintenance, Insurance costs, Car tax, Driving licence, AA membership, and the cost of replacing the car i.e. depreciation.
“They have informed me that these items are incorporated into the civil service mileage rate on which the Standard Travel Allowance is based. The appropriate rates are 95.05 cent for the first 4000 miles and 45.79 cent thereafter.
“The mileage that I incurred in 2011 was in excess of 45,000 miles which if applied to the rate that underpins the TAA scheme would be in excess of the portion of the Standard TAA allowance which relates to travel that was paid to me for these purposes in 2011 and when added to the cost of accommodation that I incurred during that same period which was €13,005.64 would be in excess of the total allowance that I received under the TAA scheme.
“I have provided all of this information to the Oireachtas officials and they have confirmed to me in writing today that I haven’t breached any regulations and have stated to me that ‘the regulations have been complied with’.
“I again want to restate my position that the payment of expenses to TD and Senators should be fully vouched and call on the government to introduce such a scheme.”
Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has welcomed the publication of the Rural White Paper by Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill.
Mr McMullan said,
“There are many issues that affect the rural community and the publication of this paper today will outline a strategy of how we address them.
“Whether it is concerns round farming, lack of broadband, health facilities or limited public transport there is a vast array of issues that have to be addressed in rural communities in order to allow them to access services that other people take for granted.
“The paper outlines a commitment not only from the Agriculture Department but from all the departments in the Executive to an action plan that will make a positive impact on the entire rural community.
“I would commend the Minister Michelle O’Neill for bringing all the departments together and the publication of this paper which will drive equality in rural life for the foreseeable future.”
Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD called on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to clarify that public sector increments are covered by the Croke Park Agreement and called on him not to go after the pay packets of low paid public sector workers at the behest of his Fine Gael colleagues.
Deputy McDonald TD said:
“This week we saw two Ministers call for the government to breach its commitments under the Croke Park agreement. The Transport Minister went so far as to call for the suspension of public pay increments. All of this in the same week when the government has yet again breached its own salary limit for the new Chief Executive of the VHI.
“Any attempt by government to withdraw increments will disproportionately hit low paid public servants and new entrants.
“Those on the highest grades in the public and civil service have a single pay point. It will take a new entrant Clerical Officer on a start off salary of €20,859 seventeen years and 13 increments to reach a salary of €33,607. By comparison a Secretary General has a single pay point of €200,000 regardless of performance.
“The new chief executive of the VHI is to be paid a salary of €238,727, that’s nearly €50,000 more than the starting rate for new chief executive officers in the State-owned health insurer which was set out by the Government just a year ago.
“If the Government is serious about reform and cost reductions in the public sector this needs to start at the top. Labour and Fine Gael need to get serious about tackling runaway pay for high rollers across the public sector, including their own pay packets.” ENDS
Speaking from Leinster House the Sinn Féin spokesperson on the arts Sandra McLellan has expressed her disappointment at the Government’s failure to support the Private Members Motion on the arts.
Deputy McLellan said:
“Sinn Féin is deeply concerned by the proposal to merge the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Crawford Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Ireland. We are also opposed to the proposed merger of the National Archives and the Irish Manuscript Commission; and to any change in the “arm’s length principle” or to any proposals that would interfere with the independence of key artistic and cultural institutions.
“The Government has not produced any information regarding cost-benefit analysis, head- count reductions etc. that would justify the proposed changes yet it is hell bent on embarking on a process of amalgamations, mergers, dissolution of independent boards and non-renewal of vital leadership roles.
“In a time of fiscal austerity, cutbacks, mass unemployment and national despondency the arts offer a valuable and creative outlet for people. In a mature society that values expression and creativity the arts have the potential to enrich lives. They help us to think about the world and our place in it in a more imaginative, innovative and abstract way.
“I call on the Minister to respect and adhere to the ‘arm’s length principle’. He must also immediately establish an independent recruitment process to fill the CEO vacancies in the key cultural institutions and to meet with the National Campaign for the Arts.
“As we begin the decade of commemoration it is imperative that we have independent, robust, and well-funded national artistic and cultural institutions. Only then can the various commemorations be seen as an opportunity to revisit our past with the aim of building a more equal and caring society.
“Sinn Féin calls on the Minister to develop an all-Ireland approach to arts and culture. And we would urge him to remember that sometimes, there are very rare institutions, whose societal value far exceeds any monetary value.”
Speaking after a decision on costs was announced by the High Court in Pearse Doherty TD’s case against the Referendum Commission, the Donegal South West TD said that “my decision to take the case was vindicated by the court today.”
Deputy Doherty said:
“I took this matter to court in good faith and because I believed it to be an issue of central importance to the referendum. I believe that both the substantive judgement on the case and the decision today on costs vindicate my decision to pursue this course of action.
“Judge Hogan's substantive ruling stated that the case ‘raised profound and very difficult questions, which at their heart involved complex and intricate issues’, that it was ‘impossible for me at this juncture to express a definitive view on the ultimate question raised’.
“On the central matter in dispute between the Referendum Commission and myself, Judge Hogan said that ‘there is unquestionably room for legitimate legal and political debate on this issue.’
“I welcome today’s determination by Judge Hogan on the issue of costs. I believe it vindicates my decision to take this challenge.
“Despite accusations from some quarters that this was ‘nothing more than a stunt’, the judge said today that this was ‘a serious, worthy and bona fide case that raised legitimate important issues which were crucial to the referendum debate.’
“It is also significant that though my legal team did not seek costs against the Attorney General the judge indicated that he would have awarded costs against them measured at €7,500.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the environment, community and local government Brian Stanley TD has accused Minister Phil Hogan of failing to give a commitment on financial assistance for households who must upgrade their septic tanks.
Responding to the publication of septic tank guidelines by the Department of the Environment Deputy Stanley said:
“Sinn Féin fully supports protecting our water system and wants septic tanks to meet EU standards. Our submission to the septic tank guidelines was comprehensive and solution-based. We welcome their publication but Minister Hogan has once again failed to provide people with financial means to upgrade their septic tanks to meet these new standards.
“The Minister must give a commitment that financial assistance will be provided to households that need it. It is simply not good enough to arrive in forty years too late with standards and no financial plan to ensure they are fully implemented. If households are expected to register they must know what assistance will be available.
“The concern with group schemes is that they will only function when connected to existing sewers and will not work in isolated rural areas. The €2,000 grant for group schemes is totally inadequate. The Minister knows this and has given assurance that this will be revised upwards as a matter of urgency.'
“It is also important that local authority staff is used to carry out the inspections. It would be far more cost effective to utilise council engineers rather than private contractors to carry out this work.
“Sinn Féin will continue to put pressure on Minister Hogan to provide financial assistance for households in order to meet the septic tanks standards.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking this afternoon outside the Dail said:
“I want to welcome today’s historic meeting in Belfast between the President of Ireland, the Queen of England, First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.
It brings our journey of relationship building within this island and between these islands onto a new plane.
“I would to think we will build upon that. When Queen Elizabeth visited here and made the positive remarks that she did, and visited the Garden of Remembrance, I said at that time that it needed to be built upon.
“That’s what Sinn Féin is trying to do in terms of this engagement but there are issues that have not been brought to a conclusion, specifically the issue of the legacy of the conflict. Both governments have a big role to play in that.
“I know that some people in the north – especially in my own home district of Ballymurphy – who are big supporters of the peace process are hurt. Just last week they were told by the British Secretary of State Owen Patterson that they would not have the type of inquiry that they were looking for, the kind of investigation that they wanted, into the deaths of their loved ones by the British Army.
“So, the government in London needs to stop obstructing these matters; and the government here needs to press them to do just that.
“But all in all it’s a good day for Ireland and a good day for the people of these islands.
The significance will be seen in how much we can build upon it.
“I think the vast majority of unionists will be pleased that this happened because they know it’s essentially a real gesture beyond the rhetoric towards their sense of identity and their sense of allegiance.
“Ireland is changing; its changing because of the peace process, it’s changing because of all the revelations of sleaze and scandals and corruption in this state and its changing because of the economic crisis. So people know we deserve a better society and republicans like everyone else who thinks about the future and thinks about Ireland want to be part of shaping that out and the unionists are a very essential part of that equation.” ENDS
Speaking during a topical issues debate in the Dáil today on the IT crash at Ulster Bank, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that “bank management, the regulator and the government still have questions to answer regarding the on-going debacle at Ulster Bank.”
Deputy Doherty said:
“The debacle at Ulster Bank continues. This morning managing director of branch banking at Ulster Bank, Jim Ryan admitted that despite earlier assurances, customers will continue to experience disruption into next week.
“More than 150,000 people have been affected. It is causing enormous distress to individuals, families and businesses.
“We are almost a week into this debacle and still key questions remain unanswered. How did a relatively minor software upgrade lead to such widespread disruption of the banks payments system? Where was the bank’s disaster-recovery safety-net?
“Crucially the public want to know could this kind of problem occur at any of the other banks operating in the state?
“The Central Bank, the Financial Regulator and the government need to address these questions publically. Given the seriousness of the issues I strongly believe that the Minister and the regulator as well as Ulster Bank management need to appear before the Finance Committee to answer these questions.”
Speaking in the Dáil today on the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information against Children) Bill 2012 Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD described the Bill as an important piece of legislation that “signals the end of a culture of containment and silence in Ireland.”
Deputy McDonald said:
“This legislation seeks to further protect our children and vulnerable adults. It is a foundation to build upon. Robust support mechanisms must now be implemented without delay.
“This legislation is an acknowledgement by the Government that the decades of horrific abuse experienced by our children will never be tolerated again.
“However we cannot talk about the future protection of children and vulnerable adults without highlighting the failure of this Government to redress the wrongs of the past.
“In opposition Fine Gael and Labour regularly berated Fianna Fáil led Governments for failing to provide redress to the survivors and an apology to the women and children incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundries and Bethany Home.
“The reality of course is that the State has already conceded this abuse that took place as documented in the Ryan Report. There is a mountain of physical evidence showing State involvement in the Laundries and the Bethany. Heart-breaking testimonies support this evidence.
“Survivors do not have time on their side; they are elderly and many have serious health problems as a result of the abuse they suffered. They need urgent access to healthcare. Magdalene women continue to be denied pension supports despite decades of work in the laundries, once used by government departments.
“Fine Gael and Labour in Government can no longer shirk their responsibility to the survivors of Bethany and the Magdalene Laundries.”
Speaking in the Dáil the Sinn Féin spokesperson on justice and equality Jonathan O’Brien TD called on the Government to amend the Proceeds of Crime Acts to ensure that monies seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau can be put back in to communities that are worst affected by drugs.
The Cork North Central TD said;
“Around €14 million was seized solely under the proceeds of crime legislation during 2006-2010. We have asked the Government on numerous occasions to retain this money for community development purposes. This is separate to the money that is seized by CAB for revenue and social welfare fraud. It is the money taken from drug dealers and criminals who are profiting from the communities they are decimating.
“It is Sinn Féin’s view that this money should be set aside for communities that are worst affected by the drugs trade, for example for use as a funding mechanism for the local drugs task forces short-to-medium term projects.
“The Government has cut community funding in general and the current legislation allows for all monies collected by the Criminal Assets Bureau to be returned to the Exchequer in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 and 2005. The funds are then paid into the Government’s Central Fund, from which the Government draws for expenditure. If the Government had the political will to fund these much needed community organisations they could very easily do it by amending the Proceeds of Crime Acts.
“I am calling on the government to introduce this mechanism to fund Local Drugs Task Forces and community groups.”
Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the government to abandon its plans to merge the National Library, the National Archives and the Irish Manuscripts Commission.
Teachta Adams warned that “this merger coupled with the Department of Arts reiteration of the need for “necessary structural reform” will have profound and damaging implications for these three institutions.
The Sinn Féin leader said that the arts and culture can make a significant contribution to reshaping society on this island and urged Minister Deenihan “to join with the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the north Caral Ní Chuilin in discussing an all-Ireland strategy to use the arts and culture in the promotion of integration and understanding and national reconciliation. But to do this in a real and meaningful way, the Minister must preserve the independence of the various institutions and honour his party’s commitment to the arm’s length principle.
“It is imperative that we preserve and safeguard the nation’s past. In the final analysis, the language of protection, preservation, imagination and creativity must replace the state centred language of structural reform and bureaucratic control.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking in the Dáil today recalled his recent personal experience in a health service in serious difficulty because of health cuts.
Teachta Adams described the government’s austerity policies as “taking money from working people and from the most vulnerable and essential public services to pay off the debts of the banks and the elites.”
The Louth TD accused the government of preparing to cut €500 million from the Social Welfare budget while handing over €598 million today to senior bondholders.
Today’s payment is part of €1.14 billion that will be paid in the next three days to senior bondholders for bonds formerly held by Irish nationwide and Anglo Irish Bank.
Deputy Adams said:
“The central problem the state is facing is the failure of government policies and those of Fianna Fáil.
“The government’s austerity policy is based on taking money from working people or from the most vulnerable and using to pay off the debts of the elites. That’s the crux of the failure of its policy.
“So for all the apparent disagreement within the cabinet they are fully in agreement that €500 million should be cut from the Social Welfare Budget while senior bondholders are paid in full. This week €1.14 billion worth of bonds formerly held by Irish Nationwide and Anglo Irish Bank are to be paid.
“Today a bond worth €598 million will be paid, that’s more than the €500 million the government plans to take from citizens who receive social welfare.
“It is a fact that citizens need certainty if they are to have the confidence to spend their money and if the domestic economy is to have any chance of recovery. The austerity policies of the government are stripping away that certainty. Along with the absence of a coherent and effective job creation and retention strategy the government is failing to invest in the economy and public services.
“One consequence of this is the crisis in the health service.
“I recently had personal experience of that when I hurt myself cycling. I attended Louth County Hospital which could not treat me and had to be taken by ambulance to Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda. I spent the night on a hospital trolley and saw for myself the great hardship this imposes on the sick and elderly and young.
“Over the next few days as I returned to hospital for tests I also witnessed the great work done by dedicated nursing and medical staff.
“The HSE and the Minister for Health are also proposing that Louth County Hospital in Dundalk and Navan in County Meath will have their services cut yet again because of the Government’s austerity policies.
“Austerity is not working. It is crippling the economy and destroying our public services, particularly our health service.
“Sinn Féin strongly believes that there is a better and fairer way out of this economic crisis.
“In the coming period we will be outlining our own proposals for investing in jobs and in the autumn we will be launching our own budget alternative.”
Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on the Government to get tough on high pay across the public sector, including excessive Ministerial salaries.
Deputy McDonald said:
“Any attempt by Government to withdraw increments will disproportionately hit low paid public servants and new entrants. The fact is those on the highest grades in the public and civil service have a single pay point. It will take a new entrant Clerical Officer on a start off salary of €20,859 seventeen years and 13 increments to reach a salary of €33,607. By comparison a Secretary General has a single pay point of €200,000.
“If Government Ministers are serious about tackling runaway pay for high rollers across the public sector they need to first look at their own pay packets. Earlier this month I introduced a Bill which would see public sector pay capped at €100,000, a measure that could reduce the annual pay bill by €265 million. I’ve also sought a reduction in TD and Senators pay.
“Excessive pension pots must also be cut. Former Taoisigh, Government Ministers, and Secretaries General continue to receive annual pensions in excess of €100,000. I’ve introduced legislative proposals that would significantly reduce excessive public sector pension payments.”
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications Martin Ferris TD has called on the Government to introduce a Universal Service Obligation on mobile phone operators. Ferris said that this is necessary in order to ensure that when new licenses are put up for auction shortly that mobile phone users outside of the big population centres are guaranteed coverage.
Deputy Ferris said:
“Unless ComReg imposes a USO we are facing a situation in which the holders of operators licenses will be under no obligation to provide a service in lesser populated parts of the country. That would be unacceptable in relation to land lines or postal services and the same should now apply to what is an essential service for the vast majority of the population.
“ComReg has said that competition will ensure that the companies do compete for rural customers. However, the experience of deregulated markets in relation to other communications and public services proves that private operators will avoid areas of lower population.
“It is therefore essential that a Universal Service Obligation is put in place immediately, prior to the auctioning of the new licenses.”
Sinn Féin health and children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has welcomed the publication of the National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare which were drawn up by the Health Information and Quality Authority and endorsed today by Health Minister James Reilly.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“The National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare have been long in the making and their publication and endorsement are very welcome. They provide a robust set of standards for patient care in our health services. I welcome the strong emphasis on a patient-centred approach and on prioritising safety, effective care – including equitable access to care – and good management.
“The presentation by Margaret Murphy of the World Health Organisation Patients for Patient Safety Campaign, whose son Kevin died of hypercalcaemia as a result of very poor care in our health system, was a moving reminder of the need for the implementation of the highest possible standards.
“There is already a strong commitment to high healthcare standards among the vast majority working in the health services and these National Standards will provide a new impetus.
“However, the implementation of the standards will be hindered by the current regime of cuts being imposed on the health services, cuts which directly affect patients and staff. These cuts mean, for example, that hard-pressed staff often have less time to listen to patients, an indispensable element in ensuring the best possible care.”
Sinn Féin’s representative on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Senator Kathryn Reilly has told the Strasbourg Assembly that “austerity is choking this generation’s opportunities”.
Senator Reilly was speaking during a debate on a report from the Parliamentary Assembly entitled “The young generation sacrificed: social, economic and political implications of the financial crisis” which spells out the lasting impact the recession could have on younger people and societal cohesion if there is no change in policies.
“As the youngest member of the Oireachtas I see every day how young people are bearing the brunt of this recession.
“President Barroso and the European Commission recently announced the Action Team on Youth Unemployment. Despite this we are yet to see any concrete action beyond spin and rhetoric.
“The one solution advocated - the reallocation of unspent structural funds- is void in Ireland because our funds are spent. We are also burdened under an austerity programme which further exacerbates the problems.”
Finishing her address with a plea for a change in policy at a European and domestic level Reilly asked:
“Where is the investment, the money that is needed to be spent to ensure this generation has a chance? Where is the evidence outside of this Assembly, on the ground, that there is any real intention of empowering young people through large scale investments in training, education and job creation?”
Justice Committee vice-Chair, Raymond McCartney MLA (Foyle) has called for a full and transparent investigation into the death in custody of Christopher Stokes in Maghaberry last night.
Commenting on the circumstances of the death Raymond McCartney said;
“Firstly our thoughts are with the family of Christopher Stokes following their tragic loss.
“The Prison Administration needs to address all the flaws in the system which can result in this type of tragedy immediately.
“Without in any way apportioning blame, we have to reasssure ourselves that the failings within the prison system that have been consistently highlighted by several, knowledgeable agencies including previous Prison Ombudsman’s Reports, have not been overlooked in respect to the circumstances around this case.“Failings in our Prison system have been highlighted by a number of reputable agencies and the last thing we need is another investigation resulting in recommendations that are not acted on with a sense of urgency. " CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has called on the government to block the payment of €1.14bn worth of unguaranteed unsecured bonds by IBRC due this week. Four bonds are to be paid, two formerly held by Irish Nationwide and two by Anglo Irish Bank. They are due to be paid on June 26, 27 and 28.
Deputy Doherty said:
“This week IBRC will pay out on four unguaranteed unsecured bonds formerly held by Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide. The total pay-out will be €1.14bn.
“One of the bonds due to be paid today amounts to €598 million. Another bond, due to be paid on Thursday amounts to €496 million.
“Sinn Féin has long argued that such unguaranteed unsecured bonds should not be paid. Recently organisations such as the IMF, the OECD and the European Commission come round to Sinn Féin’s view that senior bondholders must take some kind of hit.
“The government has committed to wrenching at least €3.5bn out of the economy in this December’s budget. This week’s bond pay-outs amount to almost a third of this.
“This money should be invested in job creation. It could be invested in our education and health systems. Instead the government is allowing IBRC to waste it on bondholders, who may have bought the bonds on the secondary market for a fraction of the original price.
“Taxpayers money should not be used to pay-off speculative bond holders. The government should not allow these payments to go ahead. Rather this money should be invested in the domestic economy.” ENDS
Sinn Féin TD for North Kerry & West Limerick, Martin Ferris has called on Fine Gael senator, Tom Sheahan, to clarify allegations he made in the Seanad last week concerning Sinn Féin, which appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Independent.
Senator Sheahan alleged that when "a member of the Garda Síochána died in tragic circumstances in Co Kerry recently, a member of Sinn Fein said to a friend of mine in the Garda Síochána that they would have done a much cleaner job".
Deputy Ferris said:
“Members of my family knew the deceased garda very well and they were quite hurt by these allegations. I am certain that no member of Sinn Féin would make hurtful remarks about such a tragedy and I am calling on Senator Sheahan to name the person who allegedly made these remarks. If the Senator refuses to do so then we would ask him to withdraw his scurrilous allegations.
Senator Sheahan also made a number of unsubstantiated allegations about the recent Sinn Féin Árd Fheis in Killarney to which Deputy Ferris responded:
“I also want to refute Senator Sheahan’s remarks regarding our recent and most successful Árd Fheis in Killarney. Our security team worked very well with An Garda Síochána over the weekend and we were extremely grateful for their help and support. The Gardaí asked us what level of a cover did we want and we asked them to provide the same cover as they would at any other party conference or Árd Fheis, which they did.
“Senator Sheahan can make up all the allegations he wants in the Seanad without the need for any evidence of course. He is hoping that if he can throw enough mud that some of it might stick.
Sinn Féin Foyle MLA and Vice Chair of the Justice Committee Raymond McCartney has welcomed the news today that the Attorney General has ordered a fresh inquest into the murder of Manus Deery in the Bogside May 1972
Commenting Raymond McCartney said
“Manus Deery was a 15 year old boy who was shot dead by a British Army sniper in the Bogside area of Derry in 1972. He was standing with friends eating a bag of fish and chips when he was fatally wounded.
“The British Army claimed that they fired at a gunman and this went unchallenged at the first inquest and no prosecutions were brought forward.
“I welcome today’s news that a fresh inquest will be carried out into the murder of Manus. The Deery family requires the truth and they deserve justice
“The issues of accountability, truth and justice are paramount for all those who were victims and survivors of the conflict. The British State must also recognise its role in that conflict and acknowledge the part they played."