Sinn Féin junior Minister Gerry Kelly MLA has welcomed the news from today’s Executive meeting that the £80 million Social Development Fund is to be rolled out across some of the most deprived areas in the Six Counties.
Speaking today Mr Kelly said;
“This is indeed welcome news for some of the north’s most socio-economically deprived communities; I have no doubt those people working tirelessly on the ground will welcome today’s announcement.
The Executive set itself an objective of targeting disadvantage and supporting those most vulnerable within our community; this additional £80 million is about tackling that same disadvantage, about tackling dereliction and about tackling directly the effects that poverty and other disadvantage has on our people, not least issues around mental health, physical wellbeing, access to training and employment etc.
This news should be welcomed by all of those who make prioritising working class and disadvantaged communities their benchmark.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Dessie Ellis has today called on Minister Willie Penrose to reverse the new income thresholds for social housing brought in by former Minister Michael Finneran in one of his last acts as Minister.
Deputy Ellis said the new thresholds, if implemented, could result in thousands of families being removed from housing waiting lists and left in unsuitable accommodation.
Speaking today Deputy Ellis said:
“In one of his final acts as Minister Fianna Fáil’s Michael Finneran signed into law the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 which included new income thresholds for social housing in some cases as low as €20,000 for a single person.
“These measures, if implemented, will have a devastating impact on thousands of low income families throughout the state who could be taken off housing waiting lists and left in unsuitable and inappropriate accommodation.
“I have brought this issue to the attention of the new Minister, Deputy Willie Penrose, and I am calling on him to reverse these thresholds.” ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has welcomed the publication of the Moriarty report today.
This is a lengthy, detailed investigation into the actions and behaviour and decisions of former Fine Gael Minister Michael Lowry and it deserves careful scrutiny.
However, it is clear on first glance that the Moriarty report is a “damning indictment of Mr. Lowry’s actions and decisions as a Minister” which the report variously describes as ‘abusive’ and ‘profoundly corrupt’.
Mr. Lowry is accused of a ‘grave dereliction of duty’ and of a ‘grave conflict of duty and interest’ and of providing substantive information to Denis O Brien which was ‘of significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence’.
The Sinn Féin leader has called on the Taoiseach to make a full and frank statement to the Dáil on the Moriarty report and to schedule a debate on this issue.
Mr. Adams said:
“The Moriarty report is a damning indictment of the behaviour of the former Fine Gael Minister Michael Lowry, as well as the lack of accountability and scrutiny of a Fine Gael government of which the Taoiseach was a member.
“The report says that Fine Gael benefited to the tune of $50,000. Was this declared to the US Justice Department at that time?
“Apparently, Fine Gael eventually returned this money. Presumably because it knew that this transaction was inappropriate. But what did Fine Gael do about this? The report also states that Fine Gael received up to 22,000 punts in other donations from Denis O Brien or his companies. What did the party do about these?
“There needs to be a full debate in the Dáil on this issue.
“The Moriarty report reveals a culture of corruption and cronyism that goes to the heart of the lack of trust which many citizens have in the political system.
“It highlights the need for fundamental political reform which includes holding Ministers and TDs to account for wrongdoing.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member Daithi McKay has challenged the SDLP to come clean on the nature of their financial relationship with business tycoon Denis O’Brien. Mr McKay’s call comes after the publication today of the Moriarty Tribunal into political donations made by Mr O’Brien in return for political favours in the south.
Mr McKay said:
“Today the Moriarty Tribunal into payments made by businessmen including Denis O’Brien to politicians published its findings. While the relationship between O’Brien and Michael Lowry and indeed Fine Gael was well known it also emerged during the Tribunal hearings that Mr O’Brien was also a significant donor to the SDLP.
“Given the very disturbing nature of the Moriarty Report and the self proclaimed links between the SDLP and those political parties in the south implicated in its findings it is now vital that the secrecy which has surrounded the SDLP’s financial dealings is lifted.
“During her bid for the party leadership Margaret Ritchie promised to reveal the extent of the SDLP corporate donations by April 2010. She has repeatedly failed to honour this pledge. Indeed the SDLP recently supported the NIO in extending secrecy provisions around political donations in the north.
“The question needs to be asked, what have the SDLP to fear from openness and transparency in politics. Why have they consistently refused to reveal the extent of their relationship with big business? As a starting point and in the wake of the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal let the SDLP at least detail the full extent of their financial relationship with Denis O’Brien.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Policing spokesperson Alex Maskey MLA said ;
“Firstly i reject totally the assertion from absentee Minister Owen Patterson that the time is now right for the ending of 50/50 Recruitment to the PSNI.
No police service, anywhere in the world, cannot simply expect the total support of the community if it is not fully representative of that community.
Clearly progress has been made in relation to policing but that has been slow and painstaking; collectively we still have some way to travel yet. I welcme that more people across the community have been willing give the PSNI a chance in recent times, however the onus remains on the police to engage with communities, build confidence within communities and the composition of the police is an essential element of this process.
The people that we in Sinn Féin represent will not accept anything less than the highest standard of community focused, civic, accountable and representative policing, regardless of whatever any absentee British Minister believes.
Our focus will remain on holding the PSNI to account and to ensure that they become a fully representative police service, worthy of community support.” CRÍOCH
Speaking at the Arts Council Headquarters in Belfast this morning deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA said;
"Ireland is renowned for its culture, its creativity and art. Every corner of the island is alive with enterprise, art and creative thinking.
It is not a new thing, but it is our thing.
An investment of over £4million per annum is being made with NI Screen and for every £1 invested in it over the last three years, there has been a return of £4.60 to the local economy.
Our Executive is about to complete its first full term since the restoration of devolution twelve years ago. Great progress has been made in building relationships and laying the foundation for the future. We now need to do more to realise the potential that exists of for us internationally and at home
We need to continue to promote creative thinking and innovation not only for their economic value but because of the changes they can bring to us all." CRÍOCH
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on natural resources Martin Ferris TD, has called on the Government to reverse Pat Carey’s election day approval for the Corrib gas pipeline and to introduce changes to the licensing and revenue terms governing oil and gas exploration. The Kerry North/Limerick West TD was speaking at a Shell to Sea event outside Leinster House this afternoon which was attended by TDs from Sinn Féin, the United Left Alliance and several independents.
Deputy Ferris said:
“The last Government pulled a sleight of hand in issuing the approval for the pipeline on the day of the election. The current Government parties must immediately reverse that order to allow the entire project to be revisited.
“More and more people are coming to realize that under the current licensing terms that a hugely valuable natural resource and potentially massive injection to the economy has been handed over with little benefit to the Irish people. The state needs to take a controlling interest in oil and gas and to introduce a tax on the exploration companies in line with that imposed in other countries. This is a matter of crucial importance at the current time when the potential revenue from oil and gas could provide a stimulus to the economy.” ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has announced the portfolio responsibilities for each of his party’s TDs.
Speaking from Leinster House today Mr Adams said:
“Sinn Féin is putting forward a first class team to shadow the Government and hold them to account.
“I have every confidence that this enhanced Sinn Féin team will play a constructive role in this Dáil.
“Our priority will be to protect those on low and middle incomes, defend Ireland’s national interests and promote Irish unity.”
Sinn Féin Dáil team – March 2011:
· Gerry Adams – Party Leader, shadowing Taoiseach
· Mary Lou McDonald – Deputy leader and Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform
· Aengus Ó Snodaigh – Spokesperson on Social Protection and Party Whip
· Pearse Doherty – Spokesperson on Finance
· Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin – Spokesperson on Health and Children
· Padraig MacLochlainn – Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade
· Peadar Toibin – Spokesperson on Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation and An Gaeltacht
· Jonathan O Brien – Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Defence
· Martin Ferris – Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
· Sean Crowe – Spokesperson on Education and skills
· Brian Stanley – Spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government
· Micheal Colreavy – Spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and Marine
· Dessie Ellis – Spokesperson on Transport and Housing
· Sandra McLellan – Spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Tourism and Sport
The MEPs endorsing the following statement welcome Sortu the “new political and organizational project” presented 7th February and whose statutes reject all kind of violence, ETA´s included. Such an announcement takes us closer to a lasting and sustainable peace in the Basque Country.
We don’t necessarily share the presented political project, but we understand that such a political party has the right to be legal and contest elections as any other party. We call on the Spanish authorities not to put any additional barriers.
We understand that for a resolutive dialogue to be set up, all the parties should take part on equal conditions, and so the Abertzale Left should be legalized.
We want to call on all parties to make an effort for the resolution of the conflict. Peace in the Basque Country is peace in the very heart of Europe, and so we must understand it.
Soutien des MPE à la légalisation du Sortu, le nouveau projet politique et organisationnel présenté le 7 Février
Les députés européens qui approuvons la déclaration suivante, félicitons Sortu le nouveau «projet politique et organisationnel » présenté hier et duquel les statuts rejettent tout violence, celui d´ETA inclus. Une telle initiative nous rapproche d'une paix durable en Pays Basque.
Nous ne partageons pas nécessairement le projet politique présenté, mais nous soutenons le fait que ce parti politique a le droit d’être légal et de participer à des élections de la même manière que tout autre parti. Nous appelons les autorités espagnoles à ne pas mettre d’obstacles supplémentaires.
Nous pensons que pour qu’il y ait dialogue dans un cadre de résolution, toutes les parties doivent pouvoir y participer dans les mêmes conditions. La légalisation de la Gauche Abertzale est donc une nécessité.
Nous appelons à toutes les parties à faire un effort pour la résolution du conflit, car la paix au Pays Basque veut aussi dire la paix au cœur de l'Europe.
March 2011, Brussels
François Alfonsi, Corsica, EFA/Greens
Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Euskadi, ALDE
José Bové, France, EFA/Greens
Frieda Brepoels, Flandres, EFA/Greens
Bairbre de Brún, Ireland, GUE/NGL
Nikolaos Chountis, Greece, GUE/NGL
Pat the Cope Gallagher, Ireland, ALDE
Catherine Grèze, France, EFA/Greens
Marian Harkin, Ireland, ALDE
Oriol Junqueras, Catalunya, EFA/Greens
Jürgen Klute, Germany, GUE/NGL
Marisa Matias, Portugal, GUE/NGL
Jiří Maštálka, Czech Republic, GUE/NGL
Miloslav Ransdorf, Czech Republic, GUE/NGL
Raül Romeva i Rueda, Catalunya, EFA/Greens
Alyn Smith, Scotland, EFA/Greens
Csaba Sógor, Rumania, EPP
Bart Staes, Flanders, EFA/Greens
Eva-Britt Svensson, Sweden, GUE/NGL
Marie-Christine Vergiat, France, GUE/NGL
Tatjana Ždanoka, Latvian EFA/Greens
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún called on the governments and on fellow MEPs to reject the proposed amendment to the Lisbon Treaty saying it will lead to "the imposition of further austerity measures".
Speaking in advance of the European summit this week, Ms de Brún said:
"The proposed treaty amendment is less to do with economic governance than with the imposition of further austerity measures.
"It is fully in line with the EU/IMF package which Ireland is suffering. It tries to make ordinary people pay for the failings of the banks and does nothing to bring about growth and employment. I am in favour of improving accountability and transparency in our economic governance but cannot support this treaty change.
"It puts further downward pressures on pay, pensions, public services and unemployment benefit, as John Monks, President of the European Trade Union Confederation has said in a letter to MEPs.
"I appeal to my fellow MEPs to vote against this amendment on Wednesday and I appeal to the governments to reject it at the European Council meeting on Thursday." ENDS
Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA (South Antrim) has called for the introduction of a refundable levy on all alcohol containers.
Mitchel Mc Laughlin said:
“The increase in off-premises drinking has created many social and environmental problems. While there are many worthwhile statutory and voluntary bodies dedicated to addressing the social problems created by alcohol misuse, local authorities seem powerless to address the environmental problems caused by outdoor drinking.
“Our parks and streets are strewn with the debris of this behaviour on a daily basis but particularly at weekends. Cans, bottles and blue bags litter every green area available to those, many of them underage, who indulge in this activity.
“Not only is it unsightly but it puts an extra burden on local Councils and ratepayers who have to pay to clean up the mess. It also creates an unwelcoming atmosphere in our public parks for family enjoyment. This situation cannot be allowed to continue unabated.
“I suggest that one way of addressing the negative social and other aspects of this problem would be to introduce a refundable environmental levy on all alcohol containers. Such schemes have been introduced in other jurisdictions with great success. A deposit would be charged on all cans and glass containers, which would be refunded on return to the off-license or retailer. Therefore not only would it contribute to cleaning up our parks and streets it would create employment and entrepreneurial opportunity. In conjunction with proposed restrictions on cut-price drinks promotions it would also help combat the growing problem with underage drinking.
“I realise that local authorities do not have the power to introduce such a levy and legislation would be required. It is obviously an issue that the Assembly in the new mandate should address as a matter of urgency.”
Speaking after a joint meeting between the Sinn Féin Stormont and Dáil teams, held at the Assembly today, Party President Gerry Adams TD said;
“Today’s meeting is the first of the Sinn Fein teams in Stormont and the Dáil since the Southern election.
No other political party on this island has the depth and geographical spread of Sinn Féin elected representatives. We are the only party with a strategy and a team to deliver all-Ireland political change.
Others talk about the all-Ireland agenda. Today is the all-Ireland agenda in action.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin MLA for west Belfast Jennifer McCann has welcomed today’s announcement from OFMdFM that they are to continue funding for Playboard scheme across the north for the next twelve months.
Speaking after questioning the First Minister on the issue in the Assembly this afternoon Ms McCann said;
“Firstly, I want to welcome today’s announcement from the First and deputy First Ministers that they are to continue to fund Playboard schemes for the next twelve months.
I would hope that this funding stream would be opened up for application to groups that provide an invaluable service within local communities.
Over these recent times we have seen a number of childcare services having to close due to lack of funding; the news that the funding for the Playboard scheme will be extended, and that an additional £12 million has been provided for a childcare strategy will no doubt go some way to provide quality affordable childcare.
Following today’s news, it is vital that we continue to work to ensure that those groups who are currently outside of the existing funding stream will be in a position to apply for this funding.” CRÍOCH
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on natural resources Martin Ferris TD, has said that a media report based on a leak from the McCarthy Group on State Assets confirms fears over the future of Coillte and Bord na Mona. According to a piece by Brendan Keenan in today’s Irish Independent the report will recommend a sale of forestry and peat and the establishment of a new company to ‘manage’ the land after the peat and timber are sold off. The Programme for Government is committed to merging the two companies as a new bio energy entity.
Deputy Ferris said:
“I will be raising this on the Order of Business tomorrow afternoon and I also expect to receive replies to several questions I have tabled on the possible sale of Coillte and Bord na Mona and on the contents of the McCarthy report.
“The new Government has said that it will be guided on its sale of €2 billion of state assets by the report. I am calling on them to honour their explicit promises during the election that Coillte would not be sold off.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education John O’Dowd MLA, commenting on today’s report into Educational Underachievement, with particular emphasis on the underachievement of Protestant boys from socially deprived, working class areas.
Mr O’Dowd who attended the launch at the Stormont Hotel later this afternoon said;
“While the findings of this report are deeply concerning in reality they will come as no surprise to those working within the Education and Training sector.
For some years now Sinn Féin has been highlighting the fact that working class protestant boys are the demographic most failed by the educational arrangements which Unionist representatives have fought vehemently to retain.
Sinn Féin is about bringing real change to our education system, about cherishing all of our children equally. That is why under the leadership of Martin McGuinness and Caitríona Ruane we put an end to the discriminatory 11+ exam and are driving the agenda of ‘every school a good school’.
This report highlights the very broad factors that impact directly upon the educational and vocational development of our young people, it recognises that our education system alone cannot solve all of these problems. Sinn Féin has also acknowledged this fact and have been actively developing cross-departmental approaches to the social, psychological and economic well being of our young people.
These figures are a wake up call for those politicians who continue to, for narrow political ends, bury their heads in the sand, when it comes to the realities faced by our communities. The old regime has failed the overwhelming majority of children and young people. For example, the DUP brought Academic selection to the talks table at St Andrews in 2007, and refused to share power with their nationalist and republican neighbours unless the British Government capitulated to the DUP demand that Selection be retained on the statute books.
To date the DUP have not publicly acknowledged on whose behalf such a demand was made, the evidence shows it certainly was not on behalf of the thousand of working class protestant children turned away from grammar schools every year and who are failing to enter university education.” CRÍOCH
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has unveiled an action plan which sets out a vision for the development of rural areas throughout the north over the next 10 years.
The Executive’s Rural White Paper action plan was developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including Government Departments. When implemented, it will make a positive contribution towards service provision in rural areas.
The action plan examines the challenges currently being face by rural areas and identifies innovative ways to target limited resources for the betterment and sustainable development of the countryside. The actions identified will address a wide range of issues including provision of access to services, poverty and isolation, business support, education and training.
Speaking at the launch of a twelve week consultation on the plan, the Minister said: “This action plan is one of the most ambitious pieces of work aimed at supporting rural dwellers ever undertaken in the north. For the first time we have a single document highlighting the actions which each government department will take to support rural communities. This clearly demonstrates that departments and Ministers are taking rural issues and the rights of rural communities seriously and are committed to ensuring a fair deal for them.
“The fact that the initiative will be taken forward across government is a demonstration that there is an Executive commitment to improve the lives of rural dwellers.”
Paying tribute to the work undertaken in its development, the Minister continued: “The Rural White Paper action plan is the culmination of a lot of hard work by stakeholders and government and I would like to pay tribute to everyone involved in it. It has been a privilege to lead on it with agreement of the Executive and I am confident that, when implemented, it will bring about meaningful and lasting improvements in the quality of life of those living and working in our countryside. "
Sinn Féin’s newly strengthened Dáil team of fourteen TDs will tomorrow travel to Stormont for a series of meetings with the party MLAs.
The meetings will focus on advancing the all-Ireland agenda and mapping out a series of areas of joint work between the Sinn Féin teams in Leinster House and Stormont.
Speaking today in advance of the meeting, Sinn Féin Assembly group leader John O’Dowd said:
“Tomorrows meeting will see 41 Sinn Féin TDs and MLAs gather in Stormont for the first time since the recent Southern election. This first meeting will focus primarily on advancing the united Ireland and all-Ireland political agenda.
“No other political party on this island has the depth and geographical spread of Sinn Féin elected representatives. We are the only party with a strategy and a team to deliver all-Ireland political change.
“Others talk about the all-Ireland agenda. Sinn Féin is the all-Ireland agenda in action.” ENDS
EDITORS NOTE: The all-Ireland Sinn Féin team led by party President Gerry Adams will be available to speak to the media tomorrow (Monday 21st March) at 3.30pm in the foyer in Stormont and after on the main steps for a photo call.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD who is in Washington today for a series of St. Patrick’s Day events, including the Speakers lunch with President Obama and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and the White House event this evening, has welcomed President Obama’s decision to visit Ireland in May.
The Sinn Fein leader said:
“Successive US governments have contributed significantly to the peace process in Ireland. The Obama administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has been an important part of this.
"I am sure that the Irish people will demonstrate their appreciation of this when President Obama visits in May.” ENDS
Note to Editor:
Gerry Adams held a meeting with the Congressional Friends of Ireland group this morning and met with senior State department officials. Their discussions covered issues such as collusion and the Pat Finucane case; the Ballymurphy Massacre; 50/50 recruitment to the PSNI; the recent general election and the economic crisis in the south of Ireland.
Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called for the establishment of a 1916 Quarter encompassing the GPO and the historic buildings on Moore Street 10 - 25 and for a Ceathrú Gaelteachta to develop the Irish language in the city.
Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the global interest in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day is evidence of the potential for our tourism industry if the Government is prepared to invest in it.
“Sinn Féin is calling for the establishment of a 1916 Quarter in the city by developing and maintaining a new cultural quarter encompassing the GPO and the historic buildings on Moore Street. This quarter would then be a base for historical and cultural tourism in the city.
“And we also want to see the establishment of a Ceathrú Gaelteachta to develop the Irish language in the city. Services for Irish speakers and learners could be concentrated on this area to create a critical mass and a new hub for economic activity and employment.
“The global interest in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day is evidence of the potential for our tourism industry if the Government is prepared to invest in it.
“Our Ministers across the globe tomorrow must focus on building important trade links but they should also be in a position to promote Ireland as a tourist destination and we feel developments such as the 1916 quarter and An Ceathrú Gaelteachta in Dublin could go a long way in attracting visitors from abroad.” ENDS
Speaking this afternoon in advance of the annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Sinn Féin’s TD for Dublin South West Sean Crowe said he was hopeful that the Obama administration would review the US immigration policies and has called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to raise the issue directly with President Obama during his visit to the US this week. Deputy Crowe was previously part of an All Party Dáil delegation that lobbied Capital Hill, Congress and Presidential election runners.
Seán Crowe said:
“I am hopeful that the Obama administration will review the existing immigration policies regarding undocumented persons in the United States.
“This number of undocumented includes a large number of Irish –born. Like all undocumented persons of all nationalities, their lives are uncertain, living in the shadows with their families, under precarious and sometimes dangerous circumstances.
“It would be to the huge benefit of the US as well as the undocumented individuals to regulate their status so that they become even greater contributors to the American system. The Irish undocumented are no burden on the state and contribute economically, socially, culturally to the American way of life.
"The present immigration system, if introduced in the past, would have meant that many leading Irish/American and even former President's would not have been eligible for office.
"The Obama administration need to urgently address this issue. They need to be creative on the issue of legalising the Irish and introduce a pathway to citizenship for all our undocumented.
“I am calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to raise the important issue of the undocumented Irish directly with President Obama and build on the goodwill evident today on his St. Patrick’s Day trip to the United States .” ENDS