Please watch and share this exclusive interview below which tells a bit of her life story as a mother of two from a small village in County Tyrone, her work in politics and in the Executive, standing up for equality, respect and integrity in government and continuing the work that Martin McGuinness has done stretching himself for peace and reconciliation.
Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey, himself a victim of British Agent Brian Nelson, has accused unionist politicians of living in denial over collusion and insulting the victims of the British State policy and those hundreds of families bereaved through it. Mr Maskey’s comments come after the reaction of both the UUP and DUP to the Taoiseach offering support to the Finucane family.
Mr Maskey said:
“Collusion was a very deliberate British State policy of controlling and directing the activities of the loyalist gangs. Hundreds of innocent Catholics, nationalists and republicans were killed and injured. Collusion was a policy which was about maintaining the Union, it was done on behalf of unionism, it was done in their name. At its height in the late 1980s and early 1990s unionist politicians were part of the cover-up. They led the public denials; they led the public dismissals as ‘Republican propaganda’. Indeed many elected unionists were little more than cheerleaders for the unionist paramilitaries.
“Now years into the Peace Process political unionism is still in denial. The behaviour of the DUP and UUP at the recent NSMC berating the Taoiseach for offering support to the Finucane family smacked of hypocrisy and was a deliberate insult to the victims of collusion and those families bereaved by it. On one hand they demand that the Taoiseach implement the Weston Park Agreement on the Breen/Buchanan Inquiry but on the other hand they support the British government in running away from their similar commitment on the murder of Pat Finucane.
“Peter Robinson, Arlene Foster and Danny Kennedy need to get real. They need to stop denying the reality of collusion and the nature of the British government policy which saw hundreds of people killed. Given the very strident opposition by unionism to a Truth Commission to deal with the past and indeed to an Inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane it is a reasonable question to ask what have they got to fear from such a process.
“Republicans have long flagged up the need to deal with the past in a sensitive and sensible fashion. Political unionism needs to quickly catch up and face up to its role in giving rise to the conflict and sustaining it for so long.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness last night delivered a speech on building an all-Ireland economy at the Sinn Féin Uniting Ireland Conference in Newry.
During the course of a wide ranging address Mr McGuinness said:
“Our economic needs do not register with policy makers in London. What can have the biggest impact on our economy is the situation in the South. Our economies are interconnected and interdependent. This is not a political aspiration but a statement of economic fact. We believe that greater cooperation across Ireland will deliver more for all our people than the existing competition between our regions. “Given that economic reality Sinn Féin believes frank, open and objective discussion to develop an all Ireland plan to promote jobs, economic growth, innovation and export threatens no one’s identity and benefits us all.
“Indeed I think in recent years there has been an ever increasing willingness by unionists particularly those in business to look sensibly at greater all Ireland working which benefits us all.“The real politick of delivering proper healthcare, education and in other areas like infrastructure mean that increasingly political unionism must look to all-Ireland co-operation as a sensible way forward in delivering effective public services.
He went on to say:
“The route we take to recovery must look beyond the old economic system and to the ability of the 32 Counties to contribute to a sustainable and competitive economy. The increase in cross border trade, banking and insurance regulation and the potential of an all-Ireland energy market have demonstrated the interlinked and inter-dependent nature of economies, north and south. The private sector has moved ahead of the Dáil and the Assembly, reflecting the reality that the all Island economy makes good business sense.
“There are just over 6.4 million people on our island. Existing economic strategies north and south are targeted at high value, high cost jobs and innovation, research and development, yet we have two separate education systems and disjointed and uncoordinated third level sectors and isolated industries. This situation is bad economics, it is bad politics and it is bad for ordinary people – nationalist and unionist alike.”
Full text of Martin McGuinness’ speech:
The last five years have seen a step change in peace and politics of the north. We have completed the first, full term of an inclusive power-sharing executive, in the history of this state.
Only this week we have published the Programme for Government and the Investment Strategy.We have faced challenges within and outside of the political process. We have met those challenges and have maintained working institutions which deliver for all our people.There remains a strong unity of purpose, across parties, to build on the achievements of the Executive and Assembly, to strengthen our relationships and build on our agreements.
In this term we face the need to deliver for all our people in the face of significant economic challenges.These challenges are global, national and regional. They are interlinked and impact on all in our community. Nationally we have the continuing fallout from the banking crisis in the South.
Two of our four banks are owned by the Irish Government. We could see in excess of £6 billion worth of assets in the North being part of NAMA. We have the continual fluctuations with exchange rates that create economic swings and roundabouts for business along the border. All of these uncertainties impact negatively on every citizen on this island.
Regionally we have the imposition of the Tory led fiscal policy on our economy without consideration as to their impact. The policies being pursued reflect the economic situation of Britain and England in particular. As our economy accounts for less that 3% of the British GDP it is not surprising that we do not register in their economic thinking. There is no support for their agenda here and yet they seek to impose it on us. They have set aside commitments given in the lead up to St. Andrews to address the legacy of underinvestment in infrastructure and conflict. This position is a disgrace.The size of the economic challenge we face is not insurmountable. The political process demonstrates that progress is always possible.
The scale of political change achieved over the past number of years has lessons from our economic future. The first is to believe that change is possible. The second is to face up to the reality of the situation. Our economic needs do not register with policy makers in London. What can have the biggest impact on our economy is the situation in the South. Our economies are interconnected and interdependent. This is not a political aspiration but a statement of economic fact.
We believe that greater cooperation across Ireland will deliver more for all our people than the existing competition between our regions. Given that economic reality Sinn Féin believes a frank, open and objective discussion to develop an all Ireland plan to promote jobs, economic growth, innovation and export threatens no one’s identity and benefit us all. Indeed I think in recent years there has been an ever increasing willingness by unionists particularly those in business to look sensibly at greater all Ireland working which benefits us all.
The real politick of delivering proper healthcare, education and in other areas like infrastructure mean that increasingly political unionism must look to all-Ireland co-operation as a sensible way forward in delivering effective public services.Only yesterday the NSMC met in Armagh – with much of the discussion on the economy and on infrastructural developments like the A5.
The route we take to recovery must look beyond the old economic system and to the ability of the 32 Counties to contribute to a sustainable and competitive economy. The increase in cross border trade, banking and insurance regulation and the potential of an all-Ireland energy market have demonstrated the interlinked and inter-dependent nature of economies, north and south. The private sector has moved ahead of the Dáil and the Assembly, reflecting the reality that the all Island economy makes good business sense.
There are just over 6.4 million people on our island. Existing economic strategies north and south are targeted at high value, high cost jobs and innovation, research and development, yet we have two separate education systems and disjointed and uncoordinated third level sectors and isolated industries. This situation is bad economics, it is bad politics and it is bad for ordinary people – nationalist and unionist alike.
Sinn Féin is the only party that has consistently advocated for the tax varying and borrowing powers to stimulate growth and deliver social justice. We have continually called for and will support the harmonisation of Corporation Tax across the island to promote growth. We would go further and seek the power to develop flexible approach to taxation and incentives to promote economic growth, research and development and social justice.
We face considerable economic challenges and opportunities in the time ahead. All in our community expects and are entitled to have prosperity and for that prosperity to be shared. We need an economy that delivers for all. The political agreements that we have reached define a dynamic approach to relations within the north and across the island that can and do deliver for all without changing our identities or core beliefs.
We now need to build economic agreements that allow for the same dynamic and flexible approach. Agreements which recognise that the greatest economic challenge and opportunity comes on an all Ireland basis. We need to approach this issue in an imaginative and pragmatic position and look fully objectively of the benefits of greater co-operation.
We need to look beyond the immediate and into the future. People have seen the political challenges we faced and overcome. We need to believe that change is the only option. We now need the same courage and innovative thinking from all sections of our community to meet these economic challenges head on.
Over the past four years I have been centrally involved in the process of working with investors. We have delivered significant investment including were we are today. I fully understand of the needs of business, the needs of the community and the opportunities that exist.
We now need to fully realise these opportunities. To be open to new ways of working and new structures. For our part Sinn Féin has led on political progress, we will bring the same approach, the same energy and innovation to delivering an economy for all our people.
A New Exciting Future - Uniting Ireland
I want to welcome all of you here this evening.
Ba mhaith liom aitheantas speisialta a thabhairt d’ár gcomhordaitheoir ar Éire Aontaithe, Lucilita Bhreathnach agus an foireann a bhí ag obair leí le roinnt míonna chun na comhdhálacha seo a chuir le chéile;- ceann i mBaile Átha Cliath agus i gCorcaigh i Meitheamh, ceann i nGaillimh agus an ceann seo anocht i Newry agus beidh ceann eile sa tuaisceart i Doire in January.
This is the fifth of a series of conferences Sinn Féin has held in the last 12 months on the theme of ‘Towards a New Republic – I dtreo Poblacht Nua’.
It is our first conference in the North. Our goal is to raise awareness about the mutual benefits that Irish unity can bring to the citizens of this island. It is about encouraging a truly national and international conversation around the objective of a United Ireland, and to create open and inclusive platforms in which those with differing opinions can discuss and debate the issues.
At its core this debate is about the future. Of course, as John McCallister has reminded us, to plan for the future we have to deal with the past. Sinn Féin has never shied away from this whether on the issue of victims or on other matters.
Dealing with the past is not easy and there is little agreement at a political level about how we do this. But that should not be an obstacle to the future. Republicans, including the IRA, have acknowledged the hurt they have inflicted.
And Sinn Féin have put forward proposals to both governments, victims support groups and the other political parties, for an independent, international process for dealing with all of the issues arising from the conflict and with deference to all the victims, including victims of the British state and unionist paramilitaries, as well as the IRA.
I very much welcome John McCallister’s contribution here this evening and the presence of other unionists at this event.
Unionists are 20% of the population of this island - a real political force able to shape economic and political policy, and exercise real political power to the benefit of those they represent. They should use this power wisely.
I will resist the temptation to remind John of how this power was used unwisely and ruthlessly, though I do note that there has not been a fulsome acknowledgement, much less an apology for this abuse which benefitted neither unionist working class nor the rest of us.
The net beneficiaries were the unionist ruling class and the British establishment. Thankfully those days are gone. But they are only gone because good people made a stand and refused to accept anything less than equality. So, this journey continues. There is still a lot to be done.
Reunification is possible through reconciliation and all of us have a responsibility to deal with all the issues involved. Tonight’s discussion is part of a process for doing this. It should not stop tonight. Let’s find ways to talk about all these matters. To discuss the different possible governance arrangements - including perhaps federal arrangements - which could serve as transitional measures or as governmental systems in their own right.
Let’s talk about issues of tradition and identity; about Britishness and orange marches.
Let us also consider how we can celebrate and commemorate the many centenaries that will take place over the next decade. In their time the signing of the Ulster Covenant, or the 1913 Lockout or the Rising in 1916 were all viewed differently.
For some they were moments of heroic struggle. For others they represented a threat.
We have a collective opportunity to use these events imaginatively and in a way that encourages greater understanding and appreciation of the differing attitudes that exist.
It’s about creating a new society on this island that looks beyond partition and is inclusive and democratic and is built on equality and citizens rights. Like most political decisions the shape of partition was dictated as much by economics as by unionist objections. Before partition the north-east part of the island of Ireland was the most economically advanced. It was a net contributor to the British exchequer.
At that time Ireland exported £20.9 million in manufactured goods and £19.1 million of this came from the industries centred around Belfast.
It had the shipyards, the linen mills, the rope works, the tobacco factories and the engineering companies.
Partition also allowed for continuing British control and influence in Ireland. It defended British economic and strategic interests.
Both states created by partition have been characterised by economic failure, by emigration, by backwardness on social issues, by inequality and by the failure to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.
On an island this small partition never made sense. It created a duplication of public and private services, two sets of currencies, and two tax systems, laws and regulations. Partition also ensured that the border region became one of the most disadvantaged parts of this island with higher than average unemployment levels, poverty, poor infrastructure and little investment.
Towns like Newry on this side of the border, and Dundalk on the other, were cut off from their natural economic hinterland. Economic development was stunted.
Greater co-operation and harmonisation and unity would transform the economic and political landscape. Imagine the financial and efficiency benefits if we had one education system, health service, energy network and investment practices?
Imagine a border region not plagued by differing rates in VAT, in corporation tax, in excise duties as well as currency.
Imagine how much better off citizens would be if we put in place a comprehensive all-Ireland Economic Recovery Plan which was able to deliver prosperity and sustainable economic growth. Imagine ‘Brand Ireland’ being employed creatively to grow our exports and create jobs. All of these things are possible.
For example, without anyone giving up their position on the union it is imperative for citizens in this border region that policy makers find ways of regenerating and maximising our potential from the Boyne to the Burren, from Newgrange to the Mournes.
There is an onus on politicians at Stormont and Leinster House to co-operate and work together. Within this area we have a beautiful coastal mountainy landscape replete with history, poetry and myth from neolithic times to the present.
In this immediate area it is ridiculous that the people of the Cooley peninsula and the Mournes do not have the benefit of a bridge at Narrow Water to bring them closer and to enhance the tourism and economic potential of the area.
Sinn Féin supports this project and we are working to achieve it. It’s all about political choices and political will. Of course, what some describe as the ‘constitutional question’ is about more than economics.
There is an imperative on those who want Irish unity to engage with unionist opinion. The context for this has changed in recent years and especially with the Good Friday Agreement. In a speech to the Assembly in June the British Prime Minister David Cameron said, ‘as the Agreement makes very clear’, the constitutional future of the north does not rest in his hands or those of his government but in the hands of the people.
As a unionist Mr. Cameron made his preference clear but he was equally frank that the British government will back the democratic wishes of the people whether ‘to remain part of the United Kingdom, as is my strong wish…or whether it’s to be part of a united Ireland’.
Later when he was privately challenged in my presence on this by the leader of the UUP the British Prime Minister stuck by this position. This is a stark contrast to Margaret Thatcher’s claim that the north is as British as Finchley!
It is also evidence of the potential for fundamental change that the Good Friday Agreement has created. Sinn Féin is for a new type of republic on this island – a republic which embraces all citizens – a republic in which unionists would not be the tiny 1% minority in a British state as they currently are.
I said at the beginning of my remarks that the debate around Irish unity is about the future.
There is an opportunity now, after generations of failure, to build something new and exciting and progressive.
I invite you to continue this journey with us.
Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey said that the DUP plan to charge people £50 to attend a Health Workshop at their party conference next week raises serious concerns.
“The idea that you have people paying to have their opinions heard by a government minister is absolutely ridiculous. In my opinion it is ethically and politically unacceptable.
“We are striving in the North to having a democratic, accessible and open form of government, not a pay-per-view version of it. This is introducing the Galway Tent style of activity into politics here, something which led to the downfall of Fianna Fail and symbolised corruption in politics.
“A Minister should be available to meet anyone when it is possible without putting a price-tag on it. The review of the health service should also be open to all submissions and not at the cost of £50 a head nor at a party political conference.”
Tallaght-based Sinn Fein T, Seán Crowe, responding to media reports that education minister and Labour TD, Ruairí Quinn proposes to cut grants
for masters degrees, said it sends a clear message to people on lower incomes that post graduate degrees are not for them.
The Sinn Féin education spokesperson said:
"The average fees for masters degrees are now in excess of €6000. Many universities are developing such degrees to cover the shortfall in government funding for higher education.
"There is limited prospect of university scholarships or fee reductions on these programmes. Even with a local authority grant a student will still need to raise up to €10,000 to cover living costs while studying at postgraduate level.
"Meanwhile, employers are highlighting a shortage post-graduate qualifications in many areas.
"This is a disgraceful position for any education minister, but for a Labour minister it is simply appalling."
Speaking following the publication the annual reports of the Prison Visiting Committees throughout the state, Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien, welcomed their publication, but said he was dismayed to see that Fine Gael was carrying on the previous government’s practice of publishing bad news stories on a Friday afternoon when the media were less likely to pick up on them. He called on the government to improve prison conditions as a matter of urgency.
The Cork North Central TD said:
“The reports paint a picture of draconian, Victorian conditions that have a seriously negative impact on the lives of prisoners. Cork prison has particularly degrading conditions with ‘efforts being made to solve “slopping out” by introducing a new “slopping out” vessel,’ according to the report. No person should be slopping out in this day and age. People are being kept in conditions that no right-thinking individual would think was fit for an animal.
“The report of the Visiting Committee to Mountjoy Prison makes for particularly grim reading, with the issue of overcrowding not being addressed adequately. The minister’s plans set out in the capital allocation to the Department of Justice will do nothing to address Mountjoy’s practice of putting eight prisoners in to a cell designed for four with no sanitation facilities and nothing but mattresses on the floor.
“Prisoners are in 23-hour lock-up as a result of petty squabbles, in clear breach of their rights. Prison policy should not be constructed on what is easiest for management of the prison because the Minister will not resource it properly. Prisoners are real people. They are not just numbers.
“Mental health services are particularly lacking in prisons. I am asking the minister to examine this as a matter of urgency. If he is committed to continue to force prisoners to live in these inhumane and degrading conditions that will have a hugely detrimental effect on their mental health, then he must provide them with the correct mental health services and supports that they require.”
Reiterating his party's stance on third level fees, Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD, said today:
"Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday was entirely disingenuous in seeking to cloud the issue of his party’s betrayal of election pledges by referring to student fees in the North. Indeed it is pathetic that the leader of the Irish Labour Party would use a British Tory position on student fees in this way.
"For the record, Sinn Féin opposed, tooth and nail, the introduction of students fees by the British Government and by the previous UUP/SDLP led administration. We have consistently opposed them in the Executive at every opportunity.
"Earlier this year with others we succeeded in imposing a cap on students fees for those studying in the north including for students from the rest of the island.
"Of course the Tánaiste is fully aware of all of this and of the fact that in the North, unlike in this state, the local administration does not have fiscal powers. Indeed it is ironic that at a time when Sinn Féin in the north is attempting to wrest such powers from London, Mr Gilmore’s party is acquiescing in a position where Irish economic and fiscal powers are given away to the EU and IMF.
"Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, TD, and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore should now honour Labour’s pre-election pledge that there will be no increase in fees or cuts to the maintenance grant. Sinn Féin also rejects any attempt by the Government to abolish support for postgraduate students or cuts to student supports."
Sinn Fein TD for Donegal South West, Pearse Doherty, has welcomed the decision taken by the North South Ministerial Council not to axe the A5 despite the Irish government decision to defer up to 80% of its funding for the project.
Deputy Doherty said:
“Today’s news that the A5 will proceed is great news for the people and the local economy of the North West. The decision by the North South Ministerial Council will ensure that this project goes ahead.
“The news will come as a great relief to local people who were fearful that the project would not go ahead following the decision by Fine Gael and Labour to defer the funding. The decision by Fine Gael and Labour was reckless, was in break of the St Andrews Agreement and put the future of this road in jeopardy.
“Much of the credit for today’s decision must go to the Northern Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA and his departmental colleague Sinn Féin MLA for Derry Martina Anderson who kept in constant contact with myself and my Donegal colleague Padraig MacLoughlinn over recent weeks.
“A new time frame and funding agreement will be in place in time for the next North South Ministerial Council meeting in June 2012.” ENDS
Sinn Féin members are protesting at Bank of Ireland branches in Dublin and Cork at the bank’s refusal to pass on interest rate decreases to mortgage holders. Over 100 protesters were at the Bank of Ireland in O’Connell Street, Dublin where they staged a sit-in.
“There are people in real trouble with their mortgages because of an economic mess that has nothing to do with them," said Dublin City councillor, Larry O'Toole. "The banks, which we have bailed out, are not even passing on the ECB’s interest rate cut,” he continued, at the O’Connell Street protest in Dublin today.
“There is widespread mortgage distress, but the government has done nothing to help people. Now, it won’t even stand up to the banks which have not passed on the interest rate cut. Today the Central Bank has confirmed that 100,000 households are in trouble with their mortgages and 100 people’s homes were repossessed in the last three months,” he said.
“The banks are defying the government and the people are paying the price. We are calling on the government to stand up for the people and on the banks to pass on the rate cut to their hard-pressed customers,” he concluded.
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has accused the Minister for Education of “incompetence” following further revelations of mismanagement of a €35million retraining programme for redundant construction workers. The Department of Education has awarded a contract to WRC Consultancy of up to €2.89million to provide ‘technical and administrative’ support to the Department in running the training programme despite the fact that none of the 9,000 eligible workers have been contacted.
Deputy Doherty said:
“Last June the Government applied for €41 million from the European Globalisation Fund to provide retraining support for 9,000 named construction workers made redundant between 2009 and 2010.
“The European Commission in October of this year approved €35 million to provide supports for almost 6,000 of these workers.
“Despite now being redundant for more than two years and having been named in the application submitted to the European Union last June, none of the 9,000 workers have been contacted by the Department.
“Now it appears that the Department of Education has awarded a contract to WRC Consultancy to the tune of up to €2.89m to provide ‘technical and administrative’ support to the Department in running a €35m European Globalisation Fund.
“While the details of what ‘technical and administrative’ support a will entail are not yet clear it is astounding that the Government has awarded this contract before contacting any of the 9,000 individuals in whose names this funding has been secured.
“The European Globalisation Fund is intended to provide tailor made training opportunities for redundant workers to complement existing provision by state agencies. The funding must be spent by June 2012. Any money that is not spent by this date must be returned to Brussels.
“Clearly the Minister for Education has his priorities all wrong. How can a contract be awarded to a private consultancy firm before the individuals who are meant to benefit from the funding have even been contacted? Not only have their training needs not been assessed for the purposes of developing the tailored made training but the Government does not even know if they are still in the country. Yet up to €2.89m is being handed out to private consultants for as yet unspecified support.
“While Ruarí Quinn inherited this mess from his predecessor he has now been in office for eight months and very little appears to have changed. His approach is nothing short of incompetent.
“The big losers in all of this will be the 9,000 named workers who have yet to be told if there is extra support for them to assist them in up-skilling and returning to employment and who may lose valuable opportunities as a result of political and departmental mismanagement.” ENDS
Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD has repeated the party’s call on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to explain how a German budget committee was in possession of a document confirming an increase in VAT rates to be announced in his government’s forthcoming budget.
“This is another example of how the sovereignty of this state has been handed over. Enda Kenny must come into the Dáil and explain how these documents are being discussed by a German budget committee before their contents have been revealed to the Oireachtas.
“Then, we hear from German sources, that the government intends to increase the VAT rate to 23%, increasing an unbearable burden on families and damaging an already depressed retail sector. There is to be a household charge, another indication that this government has lost its way and is out of touch with the realities of people’s lives.
“There are families barely able to pay their mortgages, keep their children in college and put food on the table and now they are to be expected to pay another flat tax.”
The JobBridge National Internship programme is guilty of unjustly excluding single parents and those with disabilities who are interested in taking on an internship, according to Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
The Senator challenged the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, in the Seanad today to stop discriminating against these marginalised groups and to rectify the situation immediately.
The Galway West Senator has been in contact with the Department of Social Protection, and was informed that to participate in the JobBridge scheme, applicants had to be in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance or Benefit, and that no other Social Welfare recipients are eligible.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:
“This is entirely unjust, and beggars belief in the context that the Government makes so much of trying to get people back to work. It feeds the assumption that those on the Single Parent’s Allowance and those on Disability Payments are not interested in getting experience and increasing their job prospects.
“I am aware that there are many single parents and people with disabilities out there, who are more than willing to participate in the JobBridge scheme.
“However to do so, would mean that they have to give up their Single Parents or Disability Allowance to take up Jobseekers payments, which would disadvantage them in terms of rent allowance and other secondary benefits. It would be unfair to ask this disadvantaged section of society to do that.
“We have seen in recent weeks and months that the JobBridge programme is wide open to abuse and is being exploited by many employers simply to access free labour, as we predicted. Many people are missing out on the opportunity to gain meaningful work experience on account of unscrupulous employers and gaps in the scheme which deem them ineligible. Indeed the scheme appears to have more holes than a teabag.
“The whole JobBridge scheme needs re-evaluation; it was flawed from the very beginning. It is merely a cosmetic exercise to massage the desperate unemployment figures, and to take people off the live register. While there is clearly value in giving people employment experience, this scheme has failed in many respects.
“In the meantime however, the minister needs to immediately change the qualification stipulations in order to allow Single parents and people with a disability to participate fully.” ENDS
JobBridge ag déanamh leatrom ar thuistí aonair agus daoine le míchumas – Ó Clochartaigh
Tá an scéim intéarnacht náisiúnta JobBridge claonta go míchothrom i gcoinne tuismitheoirí aonair agus daoine le míchumas a bhfuil suim acu intéarnacht a ghlacadh, dar leis an Seanadóir as Sinn Féin, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
Thug an Seanadóir dúshlán an Aire Coimirce Sóisialaí, Joan Burton, inniu sa Seanad agus dúirt léi eirí as a bheith ag déanamh leatrom ar na grúpaí mionlaigh seo agus an scéal a chuir ina cheart láithreach.
Tá teagmháil déanta ag Seanadóir Gaillimh Thiar leis an Roinn Coimirce Sóisialaí agus cuireadh in iúl dó go gur daoine a fhaigheann liúntas nó sochar dífhostaíochta amháin atá i dteideal iarratas a dhéanamh ar an scéim agus nach bhfuil daoine a fhaigheann íocaíochtaí leasa shóisialaí d’aon chineál eile incháilithe.
Dúirt Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh:
“Tá sé seo iomlán éagóireach, agus ní dhéanann sé aon chiall nuair atá an Rialtas ag déanamh an oiread sin cainte faoi daoine a mhealladh ar ais i dtreo na fostaíochta. Cuireann sé leis an meon nach bhfuil suim ag daoine ar Íocaíochtaí Tuismitheoir Aonair nó Míchumais i mbreis taithi oibre a fháil, nó a gcuid deiseanna fostaíochta a fheabhsú’.
“Tá fhios agam cuid mhaith tuismitheoirí aonair agus daoine le míchumas amuigh ansin go mba bhreá leo páirt a ghlacadh i scéim cosúil le JobBridge’, a deir an Seanadóir.
“Ach le sin a dhéanamh bheadh orthu a gcuid liúntais Tuismitheoirí Aonair nó Míchumais a thabhairt suas chun liúntais Cuardaitheoir Poist a ghlacadh, rud a d’fhágfadh níos measa as iad ó thaobh liúntas cíosa agus liúntais tánaisteacha eile. Bheadh sé míchothrom iarraidh ar an dream seo atá faoi míbhuntáiste cheana féin, sin a dhéanamh’, dar le Ó Clochartaigh.
“Tá sé feicthe againn le tamaill anuas go bhfuil go leor spás ann an scéim a mhíúsáid, agus tá sé seo ar siúl ag fostóirí mí-ionraic chun obair a fháil déanta in aisce. Tá go leor daoine ag cailleadh amach ar an deis chun taithí oibre fiúntach a fháil de bharr go bhfuil roinnt fostóirí mí-ionraic ag baint aimhleas as agus de bharr fabhtanna atá sa leagan amach chomh maith. Tá nios mó poill sa leagan amach ná a bheadh i mála tae’, dar leis an gClochartach.
“Ba cheart athbhreithniú iomlán a dhéanamh ar an scéim JobBridge; bhí sé lochtach ón tús. Níl ann ach craiceann síoda ar ghabhar, chun cuma níos fearr a chuir ar na figiúirí uafásacha dífhostaíochta agus chun uimhir na ndaoine atá ar an gclár beo a ísliú. Cé go bhfuil fiúntas le taithí oibre a thabhairt do dhaoine, tá teipthe ar an scéim seo ar chuid mhaith cúiseanna.
“Idir an dá linn áfach, caithfidh an tAire na critéir cáilíochta a athrú láithreach le cead a thabhairt do Thuismitheorí Aonair agus daoine le Míchumas páirt iomlán a ghlacadh ann.” Críoch
Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has demanded that Health Minister James Reilly call a halt to the closures across the country by the HSE of care facilities for older people.
Commenting following the announcement that 24 beds are to close at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Athy, Co. Kildare, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“The HSE is cutting a swathe through the State’s care facilities for older people.
“The latest victim of the HSE axe is St. Vincent’s Hospital in Athy with the closure of 24 beds. This follows the closure of 26 beds in the hospital in 2009.
“In the past month we have seen the closure of the 32-bed facility at Abbeyleix, 28 respite beds in Thurles/Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, 30 beds in Shaen, Co. Laois, and 89 patients displaced with the closure of St. Brigid’s Home, Crooksling, Co. Dublin.
“In the case of both Abbeyleix and St. Brigid’s the HSE had carried out extensive works on the facilities only to close them now.
“This is undoubtedly the outworking of a policy of retreat from care of older people by the HSE. Older people are being abandoned to the private sector under the flawed so-called ‘Fair Deal’ scheme.
“Health Minister James Reilly should call a halt to these closures. Failure to do so can only mean that he and his Government colleagues are following an unspoken policy of ending direct care of older people by the public health system.” ENDS
Speaking after the government produced its Public Service Reform proposals, Peadar Tóibín TD, Sinn Féín spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said:
“Everyone wants to avail of quality public services. We all recognise the need to make savings. However we are concerned that this government is starting from the wrong point.
“They have set aside the objective of delivering efficient and effective public services and started from the position of how many jobs can be lost.
“The document then fails to identify where these losses will be focused. This blunt instrument will target low paid workers, or frontline workers such as nurses, gardai and teachers and not realise savings to the excessive pays of senior civil servants.
“In addition we are concerned that the merger of the Labour Court, Labour Relations Commission, National Employment Rights Authority, Employment Appeals Tribunal and Equality Tribunal could diminish the rights of workers or impede the just settlement of cases.
“We hope that the government is not in the process of forgoing our potential future economic growth for short term savings with the ending of the National Competitiveness Council and the Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation.
“We support public sector reform to lead to the delivery of efficient and effective services to all our people. However what we have are proposals without any cohesive or comprehensive policy framework, which fails to differentiate between, low paid works, essential front line staff and excessively paid senior managers.” ENDS
Peadar Tóbín TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has again challenged the government on its lack of action to safeguard low paid workers.
Speaking today Deputy Tóibín said:
“Today I challenged the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to outline when the Government will live up to its commitment to bring forward legislation to safeguard the lowest paid workers who fall under the JLC.
“The Tánaiste would not give a commitment that this legislation would be delivered upon this year. There are 200,000 workers earning an average €18,000 who have not had a legislative basis to safeguard their pay and conditions for seven months now. The resolution of this issue is of immediate importance. Sinn Féin brought forward legislation on this issue in September. Since then our legislation has been brought to a standstill at committee stage on the promise of impending government legislation.
“It is becoming clear that Fine Gael and Labour can’t agree on the content of this legislation and delay is the only output of the government on this issue. However at the same time there has been no delay on bond holder bailout and the imposition flat taxes that disproportionately impact on the lowest paid and cut money out from the economy.
“Despite the urgency of the situation it is quite clear that the Labour Party is increasingly impotent and ineffectual in the face of Fine Gael’s Tory style desire to push down wages.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha has welcomed the decision of the High Court to order the imprisonment of Coalport Director and developer of the Priory Hall complex, Tom McFeely.
Cllr Mac Donncha called on Environment and Local Government Minister Phil Hogan to intervene to address the complex issues that have to be addressed to assist the Priory Hall residents. He also called on the City Council management to withdraw its appeal to the Supreme Court of the High Court's order to the Council to provide for the emergency accommodation needs of the Priory Hall evacuees. He said:
"I welcome the High Court decision to imprison Tom McFeely who has visited such distress on the residents of Priory Hall and such expense on the public purse.
"Clearly the issues involved in the Priory Hall situation are so complex and wide-ranging that they cannot be left to the residents themselves and Dublin City Council to resolve. Minister Hogan must intervene and help ensure that a comprehensive solution is found involving residents, the City Council and mortgage lenders.
"The Building Control report to Dublin City Council, due to have been received on 16 November, will show extensive construction problems with Priory Hall, above and beyond fire safety issues.
"I again call on Dublin City Council management to withdraw its appeal to the Supreme Court against the High Court order for it to address the accommodation needs of the Priory Hall evacuees."
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to give a report to the Dáil on his meeting with Angela Merkel including exactly what details and documents he gave to his German counterpart.
Deputy Doherty was speaking today after it was revealed that a German budget committee was yesterday presented with a document confirming an increase in the state’s VAT rate from 21% to 23%.
“The revelation from Rueters confirms that Angela Merkel really is pulling the strings.
“The increase in the VAT has already been outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding. However, having it discussed by a German budget committee undermines the Irish parliament.
“Enda Kenny needs to come into the Dáil and give a report on his meeting with Angela Merkel including exactly what details and documents her gave to his German counterpart.” ENDS
Following the publication of the government’s proposals for Public Sector Reform this afternoon Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has described the cutbacks in public sector jobs as a further attack on frontline services.
Deputy McDonald said:
“A plan for public sector reform from government is to be welcomed but what has been published today is scant on detail and deliverables. It is merely a very broad statement of intent. Naturally it is disappointing considering the government has been in place for nine months and has a whole department at its disposal to develop and progress in-depth public sector reform.
“Further cuts to public sector numbers are deeply worrying. The report commits to reducing the number of public sector workers to 282,500 by 2015, which will be a 12% drop since 2008. But the report does not tell from where these jobs will be lost. Frontline services have been decimated by the recruitment embargo and it appears crude job cuts are being applied with no concern for the experience, or indeed the skill sets that might be lost, causing further damage to service provision.
“The continuing public service recruitment embargo is deepening the crisis in our public health services. On Tuesday the Minister for State for Health Kathleen Lynch claimed that the moratorium would be breached in order to create 450 posts to implement the mental healthcare strategy 'A Vision for Change'. How is this to be reconciled with the cuts signalled in the Public Service plan? What front-line healthcare workers will be exempt from the continuing moratorium? The Public Service Plan does not tell us.
“Sinn Féin supports the rationalisation and amalgamation of state agencies however a simple cull or an ill thought out lobbing together of agencies is not the answer. In this context we will need to take some time to consider the rationalisation proposals in the document. Sinn Féin will be publishing a policy paper on state agencies in advance of the government’s review in June 2012.” ENDS
Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has announced that he has reallocated £10million / £15million / £15million into the schools budget over the next three years.
The Minister commented: “Following decisions on Budget 2010 which present major challenges for education over the period to 2014-15, my predecessor formulated a Savings Delivery Plan to realise the significant savings required. The intention was to protect frontline services as much as possible. Because of the scale of the Aggregated Schools Budget (ASB) it was impossible to protect it totally and the Savings Delivery Plan predicated savings of £27million / £85million / £114million / £180million.
“I have been conscious of the challenge this will pose for Boards of Governors under the Local Management of Schools framework. I have looked again at the ASB and have reallocated £10million / £15million / £15million into the schools budget over the next three years. I am however not relenting on exploring the scope for further savings and have asked officials to carry out a review right across the education budget with the primary focus being to deliver additional funding for the classroom to benefit our children and young people.
“I am confirming today the funding available for the Aggregated Schools Budget over the next three years. While individual school budgets for 2012/13 will not be available until early in the new year, the budgets I am announcing today will provide early confirmation to schools of their anticipated funding levels going forward. This will ensure that schools have the clarity and certitude they need to properly plan to ensure that they live within their future budget allocations. Funding authorities will now be asked by the Department to immediately engage with their schools to assess the implications. Under the Local Management of Schools framework, it will be for the Board of Governors of each school to revisit their School Development Plan and to consider and determine the action needed for them to remain within budget limits. The responsibility to rigorously monitor school spend against these plans will rest with the relevant funding authority.”
The Minister concluded: “Clearly many schools will have difficult choices to make but this early notification of future budgets should allow them to make informed decisions and plan for the future. I will continue to argue the case for further investment in the future to help alleviate pressures on the education budget.”
Speaking in the Dáil today on child protection issues, Sinn Féin justice and equality spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien said that the deaths and serious incidents concerning children outlined in the 2010 Annual Report of the National Review Panel on Serious Incidents including the Deaths of Children in Care, should be a wake-up call to government.
The Cork North Central TD said:
“This report tells us of 35 deaths and 16 serious incidents involving children in the care of the Health Service Executive or who were known to the organisation, since March last year. Suicide, murders, road traffic accidents and drug overdoses all make for very disturbing reading. These tragedies were shocking and need to be a wakeup call for everyone in this house, particularly the government. Of course the shock we feel at reading the report pales in insignificance at the devastation the families and friends of these children are going through.
“It is clear that child protection structures in this state are systematically flawed, chronically under-resourced, and lacking the robustness required of a system concerning the safety and welfare of children. There are difficulties regarding the ability of the Review Panel to manage its caseload in the timeframe required and this is something that must be addressed by the government. .
“Even the Review Panel have said in their report that the National Review Annual Report said that the timeframe was “unworkable.” This is clearly something that the ministers for children and health need to examine. The government must also commit to resourcing and implementing changes that address the high caseloads that social workers are working under.
“The Minister for Finance decides how much money is allocated to children services and I would ask the minister to think of these children when he is addressing the public expenditure budgets for the HSE and Department of Health. Substantial numbers of children are placed in the care of the state, not because of the inability of their parents or families to look after them or because there is a risk of abuse, but because their families simply cannot afford to raise them.
“Future budgetary decisions must be family-friendly so that children can remain with their families. State care is not a good place for children in Ireland but this government has the opportunity to make it better and I am calling on government to use this opportunity.”