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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún today voted on a new law regulating food labelling and information to consumers.

Ms de Brún voted in favour of amendments supporting an extension of 'country of origin labelling' De Brún said "Mandatory country of origin labelling already exists on some products, such as beef, but is has now been extended to all meat, poultry, dairy products and other single-ingredient products. This is important as it increases the transparency of food production and the traceability of what consumers are eating. This also strengthens the power of EU farmers, and will allow our own farming community's produce to stand out against those of unclear origin."

However not all amendments supported by Ms de Brún were passed.
"It is a shame that the 'traffic lights' system of food labelling was not adopted, as this would have made it easier for those on specific diets, for example low salt, to know exactly how good, or bad, for them a certain product is. It would also been very time-saving and useful for those who don't have time to read all the ingredients individually when they are doing their shopping."

"Big business was against the introduction of the traffic light system, and unfortunately the majority of parliamentarians supported them"

"The report, now passed by the parliament, will now have to go to the European Council, and possibly again back to Parliament before it becomes law in the 27 member states, so it may be a while before we see evidence of the new laws on country of origin labelling on our shelves " ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice and Equality spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has urged the Government to proceed with the Civil Partnership Bill before the Dáil summer recess. He was responding to last night's statement from the Catholic bishops.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The Government should proceed with the Civil Partnership Bill before the Dáil summer recess. There should be no wavering on this basic civil rights issue.

"Like any other citizens the Catholic bishops have a right to express their view on this matter. However, I reject their efforts to bring pressure to bear on political parties in the Oireachtas by calling for a 'free vote'. Why is it that they do not call for a 'free vote'on other measures such as the Social Welfare Bill to cut welfare payments for some of our most vulnerable citizens? The Catholic bishops' time would be better spent getting their own house in order rather than seeking to interfere in the work of the Oireachtas."

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has condemned today’s graffiti attack on a GAA Club in Rasharkin. The initials UFF and LVF were scrawled on the wall of the club.

Mr McKay said;

“This attack is clearly sectarian in nature and will be condemned by all sides of the community here.

We want to see all sectarian attacks on people and property here brought to a total and absolute end.

I would also encourage anyone with information relating to this attack to bring it forward to the PSNI to ensure that those responsible are brought before the courts.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams this morning hosted a press conference to highlight the demand for truth and justice by the families of those killed in Ballymurphy and Springhill almost 40 years ago.

Mr. Adams said:

“On Tuesday the Bloody Sunday families finally achieved truth for themselves and their loved ones.
The British Prime Minister in apologising for the actions of the Paras stated that “Bloody Sunday is not the defining story of the service the British Army gave in Northern Ireland from 1969-2007.”
That is wrong.

Bloody Sunday is the defining story of the British Army in Ireland.

The British Army, British Military Intelligence, and a variety of British intelligence agencies, like the Military Reaction Force and the Force Reconnaissance Unit, along with the UDR and RUC, were directly responsible for 400 deaths in disputed circumstances.

Through collusion and sectarian murders they were responsible for hundreds more.

The Ballymurphy and the Springhill Massacres are examples of this and in these cases, as in so many others, the families still do not have truth.

In Ballymurphy six months before Bloody Sunday, we have another striking example of the brutality with which the Paras acted and how the British system then connived in a cover-up.

In the 36 hours after the introduction of internment in August 1971 eleven people - ten men, including a local priest and a mother of eight children - were killed by the British Army’s Parachute Regiment in the Ballymurphy area.

The accounts of how their loved ones died the bear a striking similarity to the stories told by the Derry families and now vindicated by the Saville report..
Paratroopers also killed others in Belfast in the same period, including a 14 boy in Lenadoon, a 17 year old in the Clonard area, a student teacher from Downpatrick outside St. Comgalls in Divis Street and Robert McKinnie and Robert Johnstone from the Shankill.
Six months after Bloody Sunday, on 9 July 1972, they shot dead five people in Springhill.
Among the dead was the second Catholic priest to be killed in greater Ballymurphy. He was administering the Last Rites to victims when he himself was cut down.
Of the four others killed, three were teenagers and the last was a father of six children who was with the local priest.
On 9 March 1973 the Parachute Regiment arrived for duty in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast. Within weeks they had shot and killed 5 people, one a 12-year-old boy.
In South Armagh a 12 year old schoolgirl was shot dead on 14 August 1976.
None of those killed had any connection to any armed group. They were all innocent civilians.

All of these families deserve the full support and encouragement of the community, and of the Irish government, in their efforts to secure an independent international investigation in these deaths.

We will be meeting the British secretary of State about these matters.

The British government in acknowledging the wrong done in Derry must acknowledge the wrong done in Ballymurphy and elsewhere and to these families. It must make a public apology for what it and its armed forces did.

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Responding to comments made by the British Prime Minister David Cameron in Westminster today in which he talked of Martin McGuinness having been ‘rehabilitated’ as a price for peace and his ‘pain’ of having to work with him, Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty said:

“David Cameron may well have been under some pressure from his own establishment after the damning verdict handed down by the Saville Tribunal yesterday and his response to it. However his comments today in Westminster show a lack of understanding of the negative role of British interference in Ireland, the development of the Irish peace process and the Sinn Féin role in that.

“David Cameron of course was a party colleague of Ted Heath the British Prime Minister who presided over the events in the lead up to Bloody Sunday and the events after it including the Widgery cover up. So he needs to stop for a minute and reflect on that past.

“Sinn Féin’s position within this political process is based upon the electoral mandate we receive. The electorate has decided that David Cameron works with Sinn Féin no one else. David Cameron would do well to remember that. His own party of course couldn’t even muster a single seat here in the recent election.

“Neither Martin McGuinness nor any other Sinn Féin leader have been ‘rehabilitated’ as Mr Cameron today stated. We are unashamed in our Republican politics and in our belief that Britain should have no role in Irish affairs.” ENDS

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Speaking this evening on the Social Welfare Bill Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social and Family Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that the Bill was putting the cart before the horse in its treatment of social welfare recipients, that the Bill did not tackle the real reasons for increasing unemployment and that instead of once again targeting the least well off, that the Government should be investing time into creating viable alternatives.


Ó Snodaigh said:

“This Bill puts the cart before the horse. It threatens welfare cuts at a time when sufficient education, training, childcare and job opportunities simply do not exist either for the 361,000 claimants affected by this Bill never mind for the almost half a million on the dole as a whole. The Minister has claimed that the Bill is about activation, about getting people back to work. But it’s not. It’s just about cutting spending because the government can’t bail out the banks, their developer cronies and Greek shipping magnates without finding someone to foot the bill.

“Getting young people off benefits and back to work will not come off the back of unfair cuts to jobseekers payments, but rather from a guarantee of meaningful and appropriate training, education or work placements for every young person on the Live Register within 3 months of becoming unemployed.

It’s not just about the number of job opportunities or the number of education and training places available either. A successful activation strategy must focus on the quality and suitability of opportunities and supports.
“Sinn Féin is calling for:

* a skills audit of all those under the age of 25 who are currently unemployed to be carried out within 3 months.
* an overhaul of FÁS which would see it providing an individual plan for the long term prospects of every person under 25 who is on the live register, varying according to their situation and identifying the barriers preventing them from getting a job and an education and tackling those barriers.
“This Bill isn't an anti-poverty measure. It’s the opposite. It’s an unscrupulous penny pinching measure. It isn't about shifting people off welfare and into paid employment because the job, education and training opportunities simply don't and won't exist on the basis of current government policy. It's about shifting lone parents off one welfare payment and onto another less flexible, less supportive and unsuitable payment.”

(Full speech follows)

Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) 2010
This Bill puts the cart before the horse.
It threatens welfare cuts at a time when sufficient education, training, childcare and job opportunities simply do not exist either for the 361,000 claimants affected by this Bill never mind for the almost half a million on the dole as a whole. This Bill is mean spirited, nasty and counterproductive.
Nobody can have a problem with activation policies (moving people from social welfare to paid employment) in principle. The vast majority of those dependent on social welfare would prefer to be in paid employment, paying their way in society and having an income that could contribute to enhancing their lives and their children’s lives. Regretfully the Minister’s approach in this bill is not activiation its compulsion, its penal, its all stick and no carrot, because there are no jobs, there are too few little educational courses and fewer still training opportunities.
Of course there is always the Bád Bán, the government’s safety valve for decades, emigration. Minister, you are confirming Minister Lenihan’s message in last year’s budget when he cut young adults’ jobseekers allowances – “young people of Ireland, you know where the boat is”!
The intention of this bill is to punish the unemployed, those on Jobseekers Alllowance and Supplementary Welfare Allowance. You, minister intend to punish them, mainly young people, amnd with families, for your government’s failure to create jobs. Even worse they will be punished for refusing to take up non existence jobs or courses.
Or, is the minister telling us that all these course, training opportunities and jobs will be in place by the time this bill is passed.
There isn’t a hope in hell that ½ a million job opportunities, courses or training places will be created by July when he intends to have this bill rammed through the Dáil.
What we will have is a repeat of the ANCO glory days when courses were set up the government to massage the unemployment figures, courses which required the long-term unemployed, including many graduates to sit in rooms pretending to learn telephone skills with bananas or just sit there hours on end twiddleing their thumbs because there was no purpose to the course. And the reward was, return to languish on the Dole, because again in the 1980s as today, the jobs weren’t there.
Not only is this bill illconcieved and previous, as I said the cart before the horse. It is a fraud.
This is about cutting costs, its not about getting people back to work.
Minister, the jobs are not there.
Have you not noticed that you fucked up the economy.
Look around you, you have gambled away the jobs and used the money needed to create new ones to bail out the banks, your developer cronies and Greek shipping magnates.
From your point of view, somebody had to foot the Bill, and it wasn’t going to be your friends. That’s what the Social Welfare Bill is really about. Picking the pockets of the poor to give to the rich, to repay their gambling debts.
By the way Minister, what defines a ‘suitable’ job offer? It’s not defined in this bill, another discretionary power to social welfare inspectors.
What constitutes an education and training offer. These are important questions minister, as they could be difference between life and death, the difference between being on the breadline and under it. Living in poverty is a daunting prospect a daunting reality for many in Irish society today, you are looking to condemn more to that reality with this bill.
What of the minimum wage, minister can you guarantee that there will be no reduction to the national minimum wage?
I doubt it, because the indication to date is that is the next target for cuts.
With this Bill the government are putting their shoes on before their socks.
Getting people back to work will not happen as a result of unfair cuts to jobseekers payments. It will happen when there are meaningful and appropriate training, education or work placements for everyone within 3 months of becoming unemployed. And most of all it will happen with the creation of jobs.
The reality is that there is a gaping hole where appropriate education and training opportunities should be, .
We are now over two years into an unprecedented economic crisis and this government cannot even come up with a jobs creation strategy. Such ineptness deserves to be punished, roll on the election.
What of the government’s much hyped Work Placement Programme it isn’t delivering with less than ½ of its miniscule 2,000 places filled.
And of the only 2,500 college places supposedly created for jobseekers in Budget April 2009, 35% remain unfilled, because the supports aren’t there. That’s the activation measures, minister. Talk to the Minister for Eductaion.
The government’s logic of penny-pinching has been exposed by their decision to cut on the sly the job retention fund, the Enterprise Stabilization Fund by €22million last month. That fund was established to support viable, but vulnerable export companies, to keep people in employment.
What of those mid-way through their apprenticeship. The 3,000 or so apprentices who were within 6 -12 months of completing their apprenticeship who have no work placement or the 5,000 former apprentices who were made redundant must be facilitated and supported to complete their courses. The public and private sector must be incentivised to take them on. ESB Networks have shown the way, agreeing to take on 400.
A Aire, tríd an bille seo a brú tríd san slí atá molta, ag an am seo, is léir nach feiceann tú ní hamháin gur cur amú ama agus fuinimh dóibh súid dífhostaithe cúrsaí mí-oiriúnacha, is cur amú airgead cáin-íocóirí é chomh maith, nach cuideoidh in aon chuir leis an gheilleagar.
Séard atá de dhíth ná cúrsaí traenála agus oideachasúla oiriúnacha atá dírithe ar postanna, nó a chuideoidh le seans post a fháil. Tá gá le réamhsmaoineamh chun sin a dhéanamh, áfach, tá fíor bheagán de sin le feiscint ón rialtas.
Minister, in railroading this Bill, you are failing to see that inappropriate education course or training is not only a waste of the young person’s time and energy, it is a waste of taxpayer’s money and will do nothing for the economy.
What is appropriate is training and education which is likely to lead to a job or enhance ones chances of getting a job. That requires forethought on the behalf of the government, sadly lacking in this area.
Where is the job strategy?
What are the future job opportunities which will be available?
What are the companies which will be attracted to Ireland in the future
What indigenous goods or services will be the characteristic of a future Irish economy?
What are the skills that economy will require.
A recent FÁS report found that many of their courses have lost focus and are of little use to young people in terms of getting work.
I would urge you minister to read our Getting Ireland back to Work Time for Action, jobs creation and retention document

The Bill also makes cuts to the lone parent payment scheme.
It seems the Fianna Fáil/Green government now want to rob the food from the mouths of growing teenagers.
Earlier, the Minister alluded that the changes are aimed at addressing the scandalously high number of lone parent households in poverty. I would welcome steps to address this level of poverty, but sadly this Bill isn't an anti-poverty measure. It’s the opposite. It’s an unscrupulous penny pinching measure.
I have stated already this Bill isn't about shifting people off welfare and into paid employment because the job, education and training opportunities simply don't and won't exist, on the basis of current government policy. It's about shifting lone parents off one welfare payment and onto another less flexible, less supportive and unsuitable payment.
This will also have severe and counterproductive consequences for lone parent claimants who are in low paid part-time employment.
There is no denial that the lone parent payment scheme is in major need of reform. The government own report Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents of 2006 contained a range of recommendations including a recommendation that the age of qualifying children be lowered.
However Minister that report clearly stated that any such move must be predicated on childcare supports being available. Even you minister have admitted that the availability of after school and summer supervision supports is hotch potch patchy at best.
The 2006 report also stated that the selection of a particular cut off age “is a matter for decision by Government following a consultation process.”
Where was the consultation?
Why pick 13?
Research conducted by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice into the cost of a Minimum Essential Standard of Living clearly demonstrates that households with adolescents spend more on food, social inclusion and education than households with younger children.
Minister you might think you’ll make savings with your penny=-pinching, but don’t kid yourself . Over the longer term if parents are forced to cut spending on these essentials, you are storing up far more costly problems for society in the future.
To conclude this Bill should go no further. ‘Minister Mean’ and his Fianna Fáil friends Greedy, Stingy and Muddle should withdraw and scrap this Bill.

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In a reply to a Dáil Question from Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen has revealed that his Department is paying salaries to secretarial assistants employed by four former Taoisigh, including sitting Deputy Bertie Ahern. Deputy Ó Caoláin called for a review of this and other expenditure on former Taoisigh.

He said:

“The Department of the Taoiseach is paying the salaries of secretarial assistants for four former Taoisigh. This includes a sitting Deputy, Bertie Ahern who, as Taoiseach, introduced the scheme.

“As a TD, Bertie Ahern is already entitled to salaries for a parliamentary assistant and a secretarial assistant. But according to the Taoiseach’s reply, Deputy Ahern also benefits from the former Taoisigh scheme by having the salaries of two secretarial assistants paid for up to five years after his retirement as Taoiseach, and the salary of one secretarial assistant indefinitely after five years.

“In Deputy Ahern’s case the secretarial allowance amounted to €114,000 in 2009 alone. The service to Dr. Garret FitzGerald has cost over €300,000 since 2001.

“This lavish expenditure on former Taoisigh is in addition to their very generous pensions and the State cars and Garda drivers at their disposal.

“Home help hours for elderly citizens are being cut and we must ask how many such hours would this scheme pay for? It should be ended and the funds made available for a useful purpose.”

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Speaking today outside Leinster House at a picket against new cuts in Social Welfare to lone parents and in advance of speaking on the The Social Welfare Bill later this evening, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social and Family Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said that the proposed cuts were a counterproductive penny pinching measure and called for the scrapping of the Bill altogether.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The Social Welfare Bill is mean spirited, nasty and counterproductive. Minister Mean Éamon Ó Cuív wants to rob the food from the mouths of growing teenagers.

“This Bill isn't an anti-poverty measure. It’s the opposite. It’s an unscrupulous penny pinching measure. This Bill isn't about shifting people off welfare and into paid employment because the job, education and training opportunities simply don't and won't exist, on the basis of current government policy. It's about shifting lone parents off one welfare payment and onto another less flexible, less supportive and unsuitable payment.

“This will also have severe and counterproductive consequences for lone parent claimants who are in low paid part-time employment.

“As a result of this Bill lone parents with teenage children who work in low paid jobs while their children are in school could see their incomes fall by over €100 per week. Those who have their hours cut, which is very common in recessionary times, could see their incomes drop by almost €250 per week.

“I am calling on ‘Minister Mean’ and his Fianna Fáil friends Ministers Greedy, Stingy and Muddle to withdraw and scrap the Bill." ENDS

note to editor:
The following information is from the National Womens Council of Ireland -
The rules for the OFP only consider the amount of earnings a lone parent has, not how many days a week they work. In contrast, a person cannot claim Jobseekers Allowance if they are employed for more than 3 days a week, regardless of how little they earn.
To take a concrete example - a lone parent with one child who works in retail, earning the minimum wage, and working 20 hours a week, 4 hours a day over 5 days. Currently this lone parent is entitled to €218.30 One Parent Family Payment (OFP) and €68.82 Family Income Supplement (FIS), bringing their total net weekly income to €515.31. Under the proposed changes, this parent will not be entitled to claim Jobseekers Allowance (JA). They will be entitled to a higher FIS payment - €199.80 - but this will still leave them at a loss: their total net income will be €413.28, a weekly loss of €102.03.
However, many workers in the retail sector and other low paid service positions report that their hours have been cut during the recession, meaning that many no longer get enough hours to be entitled to a FIS payment. For lone parent families in this situation, the proposals may force their withdrawal from employment entirely.
Currently, a lone parent working for 15 hours a week, over 5 days, and earning the NMW of €8.65 a week is not entitled to FIS, but they can claim OFP of €225.80, giving them a total net income of €410.74. Under the new proposals, this lone parent would not be entitled to any weekly social welfare payment, leaving them with a net income of €164.37 to survive on. This is more than €130 below the threshold at which the household is at risk of poverty, and represents a loss of €246.37 on the current provisions.

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called for an urgent explanation in the Dáil tomorrow (Wednesday) from Health & Children Minister Mary Harney about why it was only after Melissa Redmond and other mothers went public that the HSE ordered a review of cases over the past five years, even though the Minister has known of the issue since August 2009.

In a reply (copy below) to a written Dail Question from Deputy Ó Caoláin this evening, Minister Harney admits that the Melissa Redmond case was brought to her attention in August last year.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“When Melissa Redmond courageously spoke out about her experience in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda she was followed by other women across the State with similar experiences. Minister Harney stayed silent on the issue which was a cause of huge concern and, indeed, grief to many women. Now for the first time Minister Harney has admitted that she knew of the Melissa Redmond case since August 2009, the month following the mistaken diagnosis of miscarriage.

“In her reply Minister Harney describes how her Department and the HSE handled the Redmond case but gives no indication that the wider implications were considered or that they even looked at the possibility that women might have had similar experiences in other hospitals.

“In the Dáil tomorrow I will be calling on Minister Harney to come into the House to explain her silence and her inaction and to explain why it was only after the issue received widespread publicity that the HSE ordered its review of cases over the past five years. This will be a hugely traumatising experience for possibly hundreds if not thousands of women who may find that their viable pregnancies were terminated after being wrongly diagnosed as miscarriages.

“This issue has been known to the Minister, her Department and the HSE at least since August 2009. It is a classic case of patients not being listened to. We must have full disclosure.” ENDS


QUESTION NO: 274

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Health and Children (Ms. Harney (Dublin Mid-West))
by Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 15/06/2010


* To ask the Minister for Health and Children when the misdiagnosis of miscarriage in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth and the resulting hospital internal inquiry was first brought to her attention; the action that she has taken; the further action she intends to take in view of this and similar cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Details Supplied: Melissa Redmond , Donabate, Co. Dublin.


REPLY.
I would first like to say that all incidents of this kind are serious and are treated as such. They are distressing to the women and families involved and I wish to again express my sincerest sympathies to all of those that are affected.

On 7 August 2009, the Solicitors for this person wrote to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda seeking certain assurances about her care and other actions to be carried out by the hospital.

On the same day, the solicitors wrote a short letter to me enclosing a copy of that letter. This was also copied to the CEO of the HSE and to the State Claims Agency.

The case was handled by my Department in line with the Patient Safety Protocol which was adopted in September 2008. The protocol deals with correspondence from patients, doctors, health service staff and solicitors. It is managed by the Chief Medical Officer on my behalf as a medical assessment of any potential patient safety issue is required.

Both my Department and the hospital treated the letters with urgency. Within one week the HSE responded to the solicitors and a further letter was sent on 24 August. I was copied on both these letters.

In line with the Protocol, my Department followed up by telephone and by letter with the HSE to determine if there were risk issues arising from their investigation of the case. The HSE reviewed the case and confirmed that it had put a number of measures in place to ensure that the chances of making an error of this kind again are minimised.

The Chief Medical Officer was satisfied that the case had been dealt with appropriately by the HSE. At the time of completion by April last, it was assessed that the review and follow up actions for patient safety had been put in place at the hospital.

Measures put in place by the HSE in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, following this incident include:
A policy was put in place to ensure that no patient is prescribed a drug to take prior to a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) until the diagnosis of 'missed miscarriage' has been confirmed by a qualified sonographer through a second scan;
A “split” examination couch was put in place in the unit to facilitate the scanning procedure;
The scan machine that was in use in the hospital was replaced;
In July of this year a dedicated qualified sonographer will be assigned from 9.00 to 13.00;
The adjacent rooms/offices of the Gynaecological ward are used to speak privately with women and their partners.

A number of actions have been agreed by the HSE in conjunction with my Department to ensure the safe management of early pregnancy loss across the country.

The HSE is in the process of initiating a review of cases over the past five years to determine the number of patients who were recommended drug or surgical treatment when the diagnosis of miscarriage was made in error, and where subsequent information demonstrated that the pregnancy was viable. The terms for the conduct of the review are being finalised at present and will be made public very shortly. At that stage the HSE will be in a position to provide an indicative timeline for the completion of the review.

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, in an initial response to the Report of the Saville Inquiry, said it vindicates the dead of Bloody Sunday and exposed the lies of the Widgery Tribunal. Deputy Ó Caoláin secured a commitment from the Taoiseach in the Dáil this afternoon that there will be Dáil Statements on the Report next week.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The Saville Report vindicates the 14 dead and the injured of Bloody Sunday. It vindicates also the brave relatives of the dead and the courageous people of Derry who have campaigned for truth and justice for over 38 years.

“The people of Derry and of Ireland and people across the world have long known that the killings by the Parachute Regiment of the British Army were, in the words of the Saville Report ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’. It is highly significant that the British Government has now had to acknowledge that truth as a result of this Report.

“The lies of the Widgery Tribunal have now been fully exposed. For three decades the British government used that lying report to justify the murders committed by its Army on Bloody Sunday.

“This Report should now spur the Irish Government on to press the British government to comply with the unanimous all-party motion adopted by the Dáil nearly two years ago which called on the British government to release to an international investigation all facts it possesses on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974.

“The final act of justice will be when every remaining soldier of the British Army is at last withdrawn from the Six Counties.” ENDS

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Speaking today after a meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service with the Governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan said that the investigation into the State’s auditing and accounting firms needs to happen as a matter of urgency, not deferred until NAMA has concluded as Honohan has suggested.


Deputy Morgan said:

“In his report, Patrick Honohan noted that auditors and accountants should have been more alert to weaknesses in the banks’ lending and financial position and he called for further investigation. However, today he suggested that an examination of the role of auditors should be deferred until after the NAMA purchases have been completed.

“The audit and accounting process failed to disclose the shortcomings of the Irish banking system. Indeed, auditing firms that were subsumed in the financing debacle at Anglo Irish and culpable of financial misrepresentations are an integral part of the NAMA process now.

“Patrick Honohan was right that these firms needed to be investigated further, but I do not accept that this investigation can be deferred. The country cannot afford to defer this investigation; the people of this State who are taking on the debts of the banks and developers cannot afford for these auditing firms and practises to be left unchecked until NAMA has concluded.

“These auditing and accounting firms should be investigated as a matter of priority. Some of these auditing firms were either grossly incompetent or completely dishonest.”

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Speaking in the Dáil debate against the Fianna Fáil/Green Government’s motion of confidence in itself, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimghín Ó Caoláin said the Irish people are being made to pay the price for the disastrous failures of successive Fianna Fáil-led Governments. He said that Sinn Féin had consistently advocated alternative polices and warned against the direction being taken by Finance Ministers McCreevy, Cowen and Brian Lenihan.
He said:
“The people who are being made to pay the price by this bankrupt Government are the 440,000 people unemployed in this State, the jobless young people whose dole has been cut, the social welfare recipients whose payments have been reduced, the carers whose already meager support has been reduced further and older people whose home help hours have been slashed.
“The price is being paid by children in our schools and by patients in our hospitals. It is being paid by families who are losing their homes or who are living in poverty and debt because they are saddled with huge mortgages, legacies of the Fianna Fáil property bubble.
“Fianna Fáil has shaped this economy in a way that no previous Government could have shaped it because of their length of time in office and the massive resources at their disposal. Clearly, there is not a shred of credibility in their effort to shirk responsibility for what has happened to the Irish economy.

“There is a myth being peddled now by Fianna Fáil that all political parties in the Dáil were part of this collective self-delusion and encouraged the economic policies pursued between 1997 and 2007. I will let other parties speak for themselves but Sinn Féin stands on its record and during that period we repeatedly advocated a radically different direction for the economy. In the 2007 General Election itself we were the only party not promoting a policy of tax-cutting.

“In successive pre-Budget submissions from 1997 onwards we called for fundamental tax reform, the development of public services on a sound basis, wealth redistribution and housing policy based on social need not speculators’ greed. The proposals of Sinn Féin and of other progressive voices were treated with contempt by the Fianna Fáil government and – let it be recalled – by the vast majority of economic and political commentators who cheered on Finance Ministers McCreevy and Cowen.” ENDS

Full text follows

Motion of ‘No Confidence’ in Fianna Fáil/Green Government 15.6.10
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Dáil leader

Today should have been the day when the spotlight was solely on an appalling Fianna Fáil Government which has been exposed as the principal cause of the recession in Ireland. It is a grossly incompetent Government. But we have a situation where the pressure has been taken off one set of incompetents – Fianna Fáil - by the political ineptitude of another set of incompetents – Fine Gael.

The Irish people now know all too well where the political leadership of Fianna Fáil has brought this State and this economy. But where would the political leadership of Fine Gael bring us? With the Fianna Fáil government on the ropes, Fine Gael has managed to deliver a knockout punch – to themselves.

We have no confidence in either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. But the motion before us today is about the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the Fianna Fáil/Green Government and we have no hesitation in opposing this motion of confidence in them.
When a motion of no confidence in this Government was tabled at this time last year I stated that the coalition of corrupt politicians, property developers and bankers brought this economy to its knees and they will not and cannot lead it into recovery.

Those words have been vindicated by the reports on banking published last week. I doubt if any Government during its term of office has been the subject of such a damning verdict on its stewardship of the economy over a prolonged period.

Fianna Fáil came to power with the Progressive Democrats in 1997 and they have been in office continuously since then. They have shaped this economy in a way that no previous Government could have shaped it because of their length of time in office and the massive resources at their disposal. Clearly, there is not a shred of credibility in their effort to shirk responsibility for what has happened to the Irish economy.

After a decade in office they brought the economy to a critical stage in 2007. In many ways this was a key year. The electorate was already disillusioned with Fianna Fáil but there was a sense that there might be economic problems ahead. And so, during the course of the General Election of that year, many wavering voters swung back to Fianna Fáil, seeking stability and continuity and believing that the so-called Celtic Tiger could be prolonged.

The people were in fact being deceived by the Government and the bankers. As the report of Patrick Honohan states, as late as 2007 the Central Bank was predicting a soft landing for the economy. Mr. Honohan’s report says:

This appears to have been a triumph of hope over reality. More generally, a rather defensive approach was adopted to external critics…

It was in 2007, in the wake of the General Election, that the re-elected Taoiseach Bertie Ahern lashed out at those he accused of “cribbing and moaning” and he wondered “why don’t they commit suicide?” It was a nasty little outburst that revealed the deep insecurity underneath the Fianna Fáil swagger.

There is a myth being peddled now by Fianna Fáil that all political parties in the Dáil were part of this collective self-delusion and encouraged the economic policies pursued between 1997 and 2007. I will let other parties speak for themselves but Sinn Féin stands on its record and during that period we repeatedly advocated a radically different direction for the economy. In the 2007 General Election itself we were the only party not promoting a policy of tax-cutting.

In successive pre-Budget submissions from 1997 onwards we called for fundamental tax reform, the development of public services on a sound basis, wealth redistribution and housing policy based on social need not speculators’ greed. The proposals of Sinn Féin and of other progressive voices were treated with contempt by the Fianna Fáil government and – let it be recalled – by the vast majority of economic and political commentators who cheered on Finance Ministers McCreevy and Cowen.

Before the property boom really took off we in Sinn Féin identified the social and economic damage that would be caused by a housing policy based solely on the market. When the Housing Act 2002 was being debated here in February of that year I stated:
[Government] housing policy, such as it is and as reflected in the Bill, relies almost totally on the market, and the profit motive of developers and the construction industry, to meet a massive social need. This policy has failed and always will…The Bill provides a legislative basis for what is called social and affordable housing. The very terminology is an admission of failure. It reflects the reality that decent housing is beyond the affordable reach of huge sections of our society. The National Economic and Social Forum in its report on social housing concluded that ‘home ownership is now beyond the reach of most people on average incomes’.
In the marketplace, on which the Government relies totally for housing provision, what matters most is the price of houses as products for sale and as investments, not their value as homes for real people.

The Taoiseach has claimed credit for abolishing some of the property-based tax relief which was done very late in the day. Again in 2002, I stated:

In Budget 2002, the Government restored interest relief on rented residential property and reduced stamp duty rates for investors. This will worsen the housing crisis by increasing property prices.

In November 2000 we stated, in our pre-Budget 2001 submission:

Sinn Féin's approach to the economy is distinctive ,radical and rational. We are not prisoners of the unbridled free market thinking which has dominated the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition. We reject their primary economic policy of cutting taxes in a way which has disproportionately benefited the higher paid.

To go back further, in November 1998, we pointed out that Irish banks “enjoyed a return on their equity which was double the European average, making them among the most profitable banks in the industrialized world”. It is clear now that greed and arrogance in Irish banks was inflated in such a situation and the ground was prepared for the property bubble and the lending spree to come.

We called for an increase in Corporation Tax for Irish retail banks with the resulting tax funds earmarked for community and local development projects in the most disadvantaged areas throughout the State. We said that ultimately the banking sector should be nationalized so that the Irish people could be the true beneficiaries of this vastly profitable business.

We know what happened. The only bank nationalized has been the zombie Anglo-Irish Bank, the pet bank of the Golden Circle and now a parasite on the Irish economy.

In 1999 we called for no more reductions in Corporation Tax and Capital Gains Tax. In 2000 we pointed out that the Government’s agenda was to implement tax cuts that primarily benefited the highest incomes. While those on low incomes were quite rightly being taken out of the tax net the Government refused to introduce wholesale tax reform. On the banks we said:

It has been clearly shown that the private and public banking companies have at times been active participants in systematic tax fraud. Their activities were compounded by a regulatory system that, at worst, was unwilling to tackle tax fraud and was, at best, incompetent and unable to enforce the tax laws of the State.

Crucially, in 2000 we also called for the control of land prices with a statutory ceiling on the price of land zoned for housing to stop speculation and reduce soaring house prices. And we called for a Constitutional amendment to allow for this if necessary.

In November 2002, in advance of Budget 2003, we called for a cost benefit analysis of the battery of tax reliefs set up by successive Finance Ministers. Of course that analysis was never done and untold millions were lost in property-based tax reliefs that fuelled the disastrous property bubble.

Speaking here on the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in 2004 my colleague Deputy Morgan said:

Rather than tackling the housing crisis through the provision of increased levels of social housing and taking real measures to tackle house and land prices, the government is appeasing bankers and developers by introducing measures which may result in over borrowing.

He went on – and if only the Government had listened:

It is easy in a favourable economic climate to forget the dangers, for those who over borrow, of any significant rise in interest rates. They will end up paying mortgages way beyond their means and facing the threat of repossession. If the house price bubble bursts, they will end up with negative equity.

In that same debate Deputy Ó Snodaigh pointed out that banks were giving mortgages of three times the salary of the principal earner and the amount of the salary of the second earner. He reminded the Government that these were the same institutions which had been involved in many scandals and ripped off the State time and again.

Only eight Deputies voted against that Bill which helped to fuel the property bubble. They were the five Sinn Féin TDs and three others.

We in Sinn Féin were not alone in calling for a different economic direction and warning of the consequences of Government policy. But all dissenting views were dismissed by an arrogant administration that expressed supreme confidence in its own wisdom.
Where is that supreme confidence now? It seems now that they weren’t in control at all and certainly not responsible for the collapse. The Taoiseach has blamed the advice of the Central Bank and international factors. The Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern was the best of all when he said: “No one really is responsible. It just happened.”

I wonder how many times the dog ate Dermot’s homework when he was in school?
We know now who the culprits are but who is being made to pay the price by this Government? Not a banker or developer or speculator or so-called regulator has spent even a night behind bars. A handful have been removed from their positions. Most of them have had a very soft landing.
Patrick Neary, the Chief Executive of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority retired with a €630,000 payoff. In addition, he is receiving an annual pension of €142,670.
John Hurley was the Governor of the Central Bank until 2009. He received a payment on retirement of €525,000 and will receive a pension of around €175,000 a year.
Eugene Sheehy was Chief Executive of AIB until 2009. He earned €2.1 million in 2007 and €1.15 million in 2008. His pension is around €450,000 a year.
Brian Goggin was Chief Executive of Bank of Ireland until 2009. His pay peaked at €3.1 million in 2007 and his pension is around €650,000 per year.
So much for the soft landings. What about the crash landings?
The people who are being made to pay the price by this bankrupt Government are the 440,000 people unemployed in this State, the jobless young people whose dole has been cut, the social welfare recipients whose payments have been reduced, the carers whose already meager support has been reduced further and older people whose home help hours have been slashed. The price is being paid by children in our schools and by patients in our hospitals. It is being paid by families who are losing their homes or who are living in poverty and debt because they are saddled with huge mortgages, legacies of the Fianna Fáil property bubble.
The tragedy is that this situation need never have developed if the right policies had been pursued. But nothing has really changed and nothing will change under this Government.
We have a Health Service Executive that has proven to be even more dysfunctional than we thought it was. But how could it be otherwise? It was established to act as a buffer between the Government and, specifically, the Minister for Health & Children, who uses the HSE to insulate herself and her Cabinet colleagues from responsibility and accountability. And the HSE was established to underpin a grossly inequitable two-tier health system.
By that one act alone – maintaining such an inequitable and inefficient health system – the Fianna Fáil Government has forfeited any claim to the confidence of the people that it ever had.
The atrocious stewardship of the Government and the HSE has been exposed yet again in the scandal of the deaths of children in State care and in the miscarriage misdiagnosis scandal. And at this very time, just to show that nothing has really changed, the Government has approved the appointment as HSE CEO of a former CEO of the privatised Eircom with a salary greater than that of the Taoiseach or Cabinet Ministers - €322,000 per annum of public money.
Returning to the immediate issue that triggered this confidence debate, the banks, the two reports by Patrick Honahan, and by Klaus Regling and Max Watson vindicate what we in Sinn Féin have warned about for years. We called for:
* stronger regulation
* caps on remuneration for bankers
* an end to property inflation
* fair tax policy based on stable direct taxation
* corporate law to be improved
* a tax on speculative trading
* counter-cyclical budget policies.
These reports show how Fianna Fail governments recklessly managed our economy and led us directly into the current financial crisis. They are an indictment of Government policy and particularly of Brian Cowen’s role as Finance Minister. They are also an indictment of the financial regulator, rating agencies and bankers.
Sinn Féin stood alone in our warnings among the political parties. Fine Gael and Labour also wanted to feed the property bubble – they wanted to lower direct taxes and abolish stamp duty in 2007, all of which would have added fuel to the fire.
The Government claims it has learned from its mistakes. It hasn’t. One of the criticisms is that it followed a pro-cyclical budgetary approach and relied on unstable taxes. Pro-cyclical is Charlie McCreevy economics – spend money when you have it, don’t worry about saving. A counter-cyclical approach saves in the good times so you can spend in the bad, and spends in the bad times to re-inflate the economy.
The Government is still pursuing these fundamentally flawed policies. Its pro-cyclical approach now means cut, cut, cut which intelligent economists say is the wrong approach because it is deflating the economy.
The authors of reports published last week were not permitted to investigate anything that happened in the banks subsequent to the night of the guarantee in September 2008. Since then the government has nationalised Anglo Irish, one of the most corrupt banks in the world; awarded a million-Euro pension to the former CEO of Irish Nationwide Michael Fingleton; established NAMA, a body designed to buy €54 billion worth of bad loans that are probably worth much less; recapitalised several banks to the tune of billions, with the result that AIB is all but nationalised. Apparently inaccurate, if not fraudulent, accounts have been signed off at several banks by Government appointed Directors and auditing firms that were subsequently awarded contracts with NAMA.
The reports could not be clearer in showing that the crisis is domestic and that the Government’s excuses about the collapse of Lehman Brothers are spurious. They find, essentially, that the Government’s economic policies caused the crash. The banking inquiry arising from these reports will start over the summer and run for six months, but its terms of reference are already compromised by the Government. It is refusing to let the inquiry investigate Government economic policies, instead appointing an Oireachtas committee, which of course will have Government members in the majority, to report on the Government’s macro-economic policies.
Mr. Honahan’s Report states that the bank guarantee was necessary and justified to prevent the banking system imploding – but that the terms and conditions fell short. That is close to the position that we in Sinn Féin took. We accepted that action had to be taken on the banks to protect people’s deposits but we wanted strict conditions.
We urged that the guarantee be used as the first step to full nationalisation and was necessary to stop the banks imploding, based on the information put in front of us at that time. But the terms and conditions fell far short of what was required, they amounted to a bail-out of the culprits, so we voted against them.
We wanted Anglo-Irish Bank wound down. We wanted taxpayers, not bondholders protected. We wanted the main banks taken into public ownership and turned into a state bank.
Regrettably the Labour Party took a totally short-term and contradictory position, opposing the guarantee, but not presenting their alternative. They did not say what they would have done when it looked like people would be getting up the next day and finding they were not able to access the wages in their bank accounts. When Labour did get round to saying they would nationalise the banks - and nationalisation is a guarantee of sorts because the State takes on all deposits and loans - they followed it by saying they would give the healthy nationalised banks back to the private sector. So Sinn Féin will take no criticism from that quarter about our position on the banks.
Sinn Féin would remove all the bank executives and directors involved in causing the crisis who are still in positions of power. We would also make sure the criminal aspects of what happened were prosecuted. We would start taking care of ordinary citizens ruined by the banking crisis and being forced to pay for it when it wasn’t of their making. That entails protecting people in negative equity, facing repossession, and struggling with debt. It includes protecting viable businesses struggling to access credit. We would nationalise AIB and BoI and create a state bank from the two. We would wind up Anglo-Irish and let other banks fold if they could not exist on their own, taking their good assets into the larger banks.
We need rid of this rotten Government and we need a new beginning to Irish politics. That will not happen under a Government led by either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. For the first time it may be that a majority of voters are prepared to vote for parties other than these two conservative blocs that have dominated politics for so long.
We in Sinn Féin have a vision for a re-built Irish economy. This would be done through saving and creating jobs; reforming the tax system to ensure the wealthy are paying their fair share; eradicating waste in public spending, such as exorbitant executive salaries; reforming national and local governance; drawing up a realistic debt repayment structure on the basis of a growing economy, that will grow if it is invested in; and fully regulating a new finance system with necessary secure measures like stronger capital requirements for banks and the supervision of credit rating agencies.
All of this would be done to build an economy to serve the people. It would provide the basis for a transformed, equitable and efficient health service, education with access for all, decent and affordable housing, sound social welfare support for everyone who needs it and security for our older citizens.
The first step must be removal of this Government and therefore we oppose this motion of confidence.

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has welcomed the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from Ireland today. However, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said recently reported evidence of Mossad operating in Ireland adds to the already well established grounds for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador and that now needs to happen.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“I welcome today’s expulsion of the Israeli Diplomat at the centre of the abuse of Irish passports in the murder of a senior Hamas official.

“However, as I said previously, the expulsion of a faceless diplomat does not go far enough and will not bother the Israeli Government too much. The Israeli Ambassador should have been expelled to send a firm message to the Israeli regime that Ireland will not stand such abuse of sovereign Irish documents.

“Further to these already established and valid grounds for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador is the evidence reported at the weekend that Mossad agents have been at work on the ground in Ireland.

“Photographs shown to the skipper of the MV Rachel Corrie by Mossad agents when he was detained in Israel were taken in Ireland. This is a further breach of Ireland’s neutrality and a further reason for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador.” ENDS

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Speaking today after the release of the Quarterly National Household Survey for the First quarter of 2010 showed that a further 7,600 people have become unemployed since the end of last year Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the Government will this week vote confidence in itself while pushing through a Social Welfare Bill that pushes families further into poverty.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The house today should not just be facilitating a motion of confidence on the Taoiseach, but every member of the Government should be held to account for the economic mismanagement that has seen unemployment leap to 12.9%.

“The increase of 7,600 people in unemployment since the fourth quarter of 2009 is a harrowing account of how Government pre-occupation with the banking sector and recapitalising zombie banks is stunting Ireland’s economic growth.

“This week, along with voting confidence in its leader, this Government will force through a Social Welfare Bill that will push people further into poverty all the while it seems completely oblivious to the fact that it has no strategy to create jobs and get people off the dole. How could anybody have confidence in such a Government.

“The citizens of this State have no confidence in this Government and today’s unemployment figures are a reflection that the Government should have no confidence in themselves or their economic policies.

“I challenge the back benchers of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party Deputies and the Government Independents to depart from the Government whip and vote against the Government’s motion of confidence. Then we can turf out this Government and its draconian Social Welfare Bill.” ENDS

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Speaking following the vote on IFI funding in the European Parliament today, Bairbre de Brún MEP said:
“The International Fund for Ireland has carried out important work in those areas most affected by the conflict in terms of capacity building, reconciliation, economic development and regeneration of deprived areas.

Peace-building and reconciliation by their very nature require risk-taking but are essential in overcoming political, economic and social problems.

During the conflict, the voluntary and community sectors played an essential role in keeping the fabric of society together and in confronting social decline and deprivation. The IFI was often able to put money forward as the initial funders [to put money on the table first] enabling groups to then approach other funders for peace-building projects, and to avail of PEACE or Interreg funding.

The conflict in Ireland has left a long-term legacy which still impacts on Irish society and will probably do so for many years to come. In the north of Ireland the conflict has created segregated communities, leading to deep social, economic and political divides. Peace-building is a long-term process and participation at local level and from the most vulnerable in society is extremely important.

Thanks to the peace process in which I was privileged to play a part great progress has been made but we still have a long way to go. I would like to thank the EU for the continued support for the Irish Peace process.

It is vital that peace building programmes which have demonstrated their usefulness, in particular those involving community and voluntary groups, continue to be financially supported when current PEACE and IFI funding come to an end.” CRÍOCH

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Ag labhairt i ndiaidh an vóta ar maoiniú CIÉ i bParlaimint na hEorpa inniu dúirt an Feisire Bairbre de Brún;

“Thar na blianta, bhí ról an-tacúil ag an Chiste Idirnáisiúnta d’Éirinn in aimsiú buansíochána in Éirinn, Thuaidh agus theas.

Rinne an Ciste Idirnáisiúnta d'Éirinn obair thábhachtach sna réimsí is mó a ndeachaigh an choimhlint i bhfeidhm orthu maidir le tógáil acmhainneachta, athmhuintearas, forbairt gheilleagrach agus athfhorás i gceantair dhíothachta.

De bhrí go mbíonn baol i gceist le tógáil síochána agus athmhuintearais ach is gá é chun fadhbanna polaitiúla, eacnamaíoch agus shóisialta a shárú.

Le linn na coimhlinte, chomhlíon rannóga pobail agus deonacha ról riachtanach chun dlúth an phobail a choinneáil le chéile agus chun aghaidh a thabhairt ar mheathlú sóisialta agus ar dhíothacht. Ba mhinic an CIÉ ábalta airgead a chur ar fáil mar bhunmhaointheoir [sa chéad áit chun airgead a chur ar an tábla] ag cur ar chumas na ngrúpaí dul chuig maoinitheoirí eile le haghaidh tograí tógála síochána, agus chun maoiniú PEACE nó Interreg a fháil.

D’fhág an choimhlint in Éirinn oidhreacht fhadtéarmach a bhfuil tionchar go fóill aici ar shochaí na hÉireann agus is dócha go mbeidh seo amhlaidh sna blianta fada romhainn. I dtuaisceart na hÉireann chruthaigh an choimhlint pobail scartha, a d’fhág scoilteanna doimhne sóisialta, eacnamaíocha agus polaitiúla.

Mar gheall ar an phróiseas síochána, a raibh sé de phribhléid agam páirt a imirt ann, rinneadh dul chun cinn iontach ach tá bóthar fada romhainn go fóill.
Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Aontas Eorpach as a thacaíocht leanúnach do phróiseas síochána na hÉireann.

Is próiseas é tógáil síochána atá fadtéarmach agus éabhlóideach, próiseas ina bhfuil rannpháirtíocht ag leibhéal áitiúil agus i measc daoine leochaileacha ríthábhachtacha.

Tá sé ríthábhachtach go dtacófar go hairgeadúil leis na cláir thógála síochána a léirigh a bhfeidhmiúlacht, ach go háirithe iad siúd bainteach le grúpaí pobail agus deonacha, nuair a thiocfaidh maoiniú reatha PEACE agus CIÉ chun deiridh.” CRÍOCH

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Speaking this evening after the DUP Minister Edwin Poots failed to deliver on the RPA and a potential saving of £400 million for the public purse, Sinn Féin Minister Conor Murphy said;

“The Review of Public Administration was about reducing administration and delivering effective local services. This is not a case of the Executive failing to agree but failure by the DUP to implement the agreement they reached with Sinn Féin 2 years ago.

We support the RPA process. We support cutting back on bureaucracy, delivering value for money for ratepayers and putting resources into frontline services. On that basis we put a motion to proceed to this evening’s Executive meeting.

These proposals would have delivered in excess of £400 million in savings to ratepayers and enhance local government. It would have embedded power sharing and equality within all 11 councils. In the past we have seen how councils such as the Minister’s own in Lisburn, has sought to exclude Sinn Féin representatives and failed to address the needs of nationalists.

This process has been ongoing for the past six years. It has been on the desk of three successive DUP Ministers. Two years ago it was agreed to have an 11 council model.

The DUP are clearly divided on the issue. They have now run away from a previous commitment to proceed. Sammy Wilson has already stated publicly his support for reducing the number of councils. Edwin Poots, for the narrowest of political interest’s, stands opposed to change.

The DUP fought the recent election campaign on a platform of cutting bureaucracy. Yet they failed to deliver. We face a very severe public spending round. This will require us to make savings, to protect frontline services. Edwin Poots has set aside six years work and set aside an agreement to proceed to the 11 council model. It will be ratepayers who have to pay for his failings.” CRÍOCH

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Commenting on the Fine Gael leadership battle, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimghín Ó Caoláin TD said:

“This should have been the week when the spotlight was on an appalling Fianna Fáil Government which has been exposed as the principal cause of the recession in Ireland. It is a grossly incompetent Government. But instead we have a situation where the pressure has been taken off one set of incompetents – Fianna Fáil – by the political ineptitude of another set of incompetents – Fine Gael.

“The Irish people now know all too well where the political leadership of Fianna Fáil has brought this State and this economy. But where would the political leadership of Fine Gael bring us? With the Fianna Fáil government on the ropes, Fine Gael has managed to deliver a knockout punch – to themselves.

“We have no confidence in the leadership of either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. But the motion before the Dáil this week is about the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the Fianna Fáil/Green Government and we have no hesitation in opposing this motion of confidence in them.” ENDS

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Tallaght based Sinn Féin Councillor Seán Crowe has welcomed the passing of a motion at today’s council meeting which calls on Health Minister Mary Harney to resign or be sacked before another health crisis emerges.

The motion passed today (full text below) also deplored the failure in Tallaght Hospital to read thousands of x-rays and to process thousands of GP referral letters and called for an end to the two-tier public/private hospital system and the development of a new single-tier system with access for all based on medical need alone.

Speaking after today’s Council meeting Councillor Crowe said:

“I welcome the passing of today’s motion. The motion calls for the resignation or sacking of Mary Harney as Minister for Health before another health crisis emerges. I put down this motion three months ago. In the meantime the scandal at Lourdes Hospital has emerged. How many more crises need to emerge before this Minister resigns or is forced from her position.

“The two tier public/private healthcare system is at the crux of the problems in Irish healthcare and Sinn Féin has long campaigned for its end. I welcome South Dublin County Council’s support for this position today.

“Only the establishment of a new single-tier healthcare system with access for all based on medical need alone can truly get rid of the inequalities that have infested our current system and led to scandals such as that at Tallaght hospital.

“For that to happen we need to see a move away from the conservative political parties and the emergence of a new era of progressive politics.” ENDS

Editor’s note: Full text of Councillor Crowe’s motion follows.

That this Council

* reaffirms its support for Tallaght Hospital as a vital public healthcare facility
* deplores the failure in Tallaght Hospital to read thousands of x-rays and to process thousands of GP referral letters
* welcomes the inquiry into how this happened and the proposal to appoint a new board
* urges that the inquiry should include within its remit:
- a full exploration and exposure of any or all administrative and/or clinical management failures which may have led to this serious breakdown
- the need for greater accountability on the part of consultants and recommendations as to how full compliance with the consultants' contract, restricting work in the private health sector, can be monitored and fully implemented;
* calls for an end to the two-tier public/private hospital system and the development of a new single-tier system with access for all based on medical need alone
* opposes any effort to downgrade and remove services from Tallaght Hospital
* urges the provision of essential resources to ensure that the Hospital can provide safe and effective services to patients including, if required, additional radiologists.
*supports a quicker and more transparent system of Doctor’s referral letters to the hospital and urges the immediate introduction and formal use of email
*calls for the resignation or sacking of Health Minister Mary Harney before another Health crisis emerges.

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Sinn Féin Councillors on Wicklow County Council John Brady and John Snell have welcomed the completion of the Council’s investigation into the deaths of two fire officers in Bray in 2007 which was announced at the Council meeting this afternoon.

Councillor Brady went on to call for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy in September 2007.

Speaking today Councillor Brady said:

“Ultimately I welcome the completion of the Council’s investigation into these tragic deaths. It has come as something of a surprise to most councillors here today but I welcome the news nonetheless.

“However, the value of the Council’s investigation is highly questionable given that the Council itself is under investigation by both the Gardaí and the Health and Safety Authority in relation to this very issue. In fact the County Manager Eddie Sheehy, who headed up the Council investigation, has himself been arrested in relation to this case and files have been prepared for the director of public prosecutions.

“Sinn Féin has, along with the families of Brian Murray and Mark O’Shaughnessy, been calling for a full independent investigation in the deaths of the two firemen. This must include an investigation into the entire operation of the fire services in Wicklow as there have been serious concerns of malpractice including concerns surrounding the vetting of emergency calls.” ENDS

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