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Speaking at a rally this afternoon (Saturday) in support of St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Ardee Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, called on Health Minister James Reilly not to proceed with the threatened closure of public nursing homes across the State. He said that "unbelievably" the Government is planning to close nursing homes while cutting home help hours.

Addressing the rally Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

 “I commend the people of Ardee for rallying today in support of St. Joseph’s Nursing Home. On behalf of Sinn Féin I want to pledge to you our whole-hearted support and our encouragement for your stand.

“Communities across this country are mobilizing in support of similar nursing homes, hospitals and other healthcare facilities and services which are under threat. Make no mistake; what we are witnessing today is an all-out attack on public health services. It is being carried out by this Fine Gael-Labour Government in pursuit of a failed economic policy of austerity.

“What was started by Tweedledum Fianna Fáil in the last Government is now being continued by Tweedledumber and Tweedledumbest  - Fine Gael and Labour in this Government.

“Under Fianna Fáil a billion and half euros was cut from our health services in the past two years. Under this present Government a further €750 million is being cut this year. And to their shame the prime targets for cutbacks are our older citizens.

“The HSE and Minister Reilly have claimed that public nursing homes like St. Joseph’s here in Ardee with less than 50 beds will not be viable. They now face closure. The Minister and the HSE have yet to spell out what homes they intend to close. So your rally today is very timely. Because now is the time to fire a shot across the bow of Minister Reilly and the HSE and to tell them loud and clear:

'Hands off our nursing homes!'

“If these savage cuts are allowed to go ahead then the lives of thousands of our older citizens will be disrupted. Long established community facilities such as St. Joseph’s will close.

“This Minister and the HSE claim that they want to see more care of older people in their homes – yet, unbelievably, at the same time they are cutting back the already inadequate home help hours that allow many of our older citizens to remain in their homes.

“Don’t be deceived. These cuts have nothing to do with reform. These cuts are about following a doomed economic policy of austerity that has been in place since 2008 and that has failed utterly. We have 450,000 people unemployed and growing emigration of our young people. We have zero growth and a Government that wants to tie us to a treaty that will force austerity on us for the next decade.

“If this goes on we will be back to the 1950s with our youth sent for export and our older citizens living in loneliness and fear in their twilight years.

“We must mobilize people power in communities like this the length and breadth of Ireland to fight the savage cuts and to demand a radical change in direction. The fight begins at local level where the threat is greatest – in your case here in Ardee in defence of your nursing home. I urge you to call all your elected representatives to account.

“Encourage each one of them, whatever their party, to work together in defence of this nursing home. And if this means that any of them have to break with their parliamentary party then so be it.

“In conclusion I want to commend the staff of St. Joseph’s and of all our public nursing homes for the care they provide. I want to commend staff, residents, relatives and the wider community for standing up in defence of St. Joseph’s.” 

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The Sinn Féin education spokesperson Seán Crowe TD this week attended the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) conference in Dublin.

Deputy Crowe commended the organisers of the event and said that the conference provided an opportunity for the participants to engage with education minister Ruairí Quinn on a range of issues.

Deputy Crowe said: 

“It is clear that there is wide-spread concern among teachers that continuing cuts to the primary school sector is undermining their capacity to deliver the school curriculum and ensure the children under their care receive a decent education.

“There was a silent protest inside the conference centre by principals who are very concerned that budget changes to the staffing schedule will force many small rural schools to close.

“It is wrong that the Government’s only priority seems to be to introduce cuts in order to reduce spending. Small schools are at the heart of many rural communities and alternatives to closures and amalgamations should be considered, such as the possibility of repopulating existing schools rather than forcing pupils down the route of constantly expanding larger schools.

“Forcing schools to amalgamate is bad enough, but to push ahead with this policy when little or no provision is being made by the Department to ensure new buildings are in place is a recipe for disaster.

“Any evaluation of small schools cannot be based on cost alone. Other basic criteria such as the quality of the educational experience, ensuring stable enrolment trends, the financial position of a school, accessibility and maintaining strong links with the community must all be considered.”  

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Derry Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson said she is delighted with the news that the 2013 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann will be coming to Derry.

Marina Anderson said:

“This is not only an historic decision with the All-Ireland Fleadh coming to the Six Counties for the first time ever but a great result for the city and county of Derry.

“There has been a lot of tremendous work done by many dedicated people to bring this successful bid and they deserve all the credit. Special thanks also goes to the timely intervention of Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson in resolving any concerns that Comhaltas had concerning the Fleadh coming to Derry.

“I’m sure this will not only be an historic Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann but also the best one ever as we celebrate the very finest in music, song, dance and much more of Irish culture.”

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O’Brien calls for examination of high levels of prison contraband seized

Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD today called on the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter TD to examine the high levels of contraband including weaponry, seized in prisons throughout the state and ensure that prisons are safe places for prisoners.

The Cork North Central TD said:
“I asked the Minister for Justice to provide me with information regarding the number of contraband items seized in prisons and the number of weapons seized from prisoners over the past number of years.
“The information which I have received is shocking, to say the least. Over the past two years, 15,076 contraband items have been confiscated including 2,787 weapons. These were homemade weapons such as pieces of perspex, sharpened toothbrushes, pool balls in socks, brush handles, water jugs and shivs.
“St Patrick’s Institution had the highest rate of weapons seizures last year, with 256 weapons confiscated.
“This is a prison which still holds 16 and 17 year olds and we have consistently said that this is an inappropriate place for children. It emphasises the urgent need to proceed with the National Children’s Detention Centre.
“The figures obtained from the minister show us that not only are Irish prisons dirty and unhygienic, overcrowded places, they are dangerous too. Mountjoy had particularly high confiscation rates in 2009 and 2010 and I welcome the drop in this figure during 2011.
“I also welcome the progress made by the Irish Prison Service in its attempts to improve security measures but I would urge the minister to turn his attention to St Patrick’s Institution as a matter of urgency.
“While there is no acceptable level of contraband seizures, a place that has had 1,625 of them over a two year period is no place for children. The figures depict dangerous places for prisoners to be in custody and dangerous places for prison staff to work in and the matter must be addressed immediately.”

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NOTES TO EDITOR:
Parliamentary Question Responses below.
QUESTION NO: 178

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Mr. Shatter)
by Deputy Jonathan O'Brien
for WRITTEN on Wednesday, 25th January, 2012.


* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of times and the details of, contraband items which have been thrown over the walls of, or smuggled in to each of the prisons in the State during the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Jonathan O'Brien


REPLY.
One of the major challenges in prisons today lies in preventing access to contraband items, primarily mobile phones and drugs, which for obvious reasons are viewed as highly valuable commodities among elements of the prison population.

Efforts are continually made to prevent the flow of contraband into our prisons by, for example, the installation of nets over exercise yards, vigilant observation of prisoners by staff, enhanced CCTV monitoring, the stricter control of visits, and the use of prisoner and random cell searches on a daily basis. Random searches of cells and their occupants and searching of correspondence and other items have all intercepted significant quantities of contraband in recent years. Nevertheless, the Irish Prison Service recognises that constant improvements are required in this area.

The table below illustrates the total number of items seized in each prison over this timeframe. It is important to note that a large percentage of these seizures are not directly from prisoners but are instead retrieved at entry point or before they get to the prisoner population. The type of articles seized vary considerably and include mobile phones, drugs, weapons (including improvised weapons such as pieces of perspex or shivs), phone chargers, alcohol, SIM cards, cash etc. The volume of items involved and the regularity in which seizures take place highlight the continuous attempts being made by criminal elements to access prohibited articles.
Prison Total number of items seized
Arbour Hill 9
Castlerea Prison 908
Cloverhill Prison 447
Cork Prison 514
Dochas Centre 261
Limerick Prison 1,884
Loughan House 585
Midlands Prison 1,187
Mountjoy Prison 4,784
Portlaoise Prison 385
St. Patrick's Institution 1,625
Shelton Abbey 388
Training Unit 598
Wheatfield Prison 1,501
Total 15,076


The above total includes 2,787 weapons and 3,156 drug seizures.


QUESTION NO: 179

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Mr Shatter)
by Deputy Jonathan O'Brien
for WRITTEN on Wednesday, 25th January, 2012.


* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of weapons which have been confiscated from prisoners in each of the prisons throughout the State during the past three years..

- Jonathan O'Brien


REPLY.
The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the table below.

Prison 2009 2010 2011
Arbour Hill 001
Castlerea Prison 160 171 151
Cloverhill Prison 151 73 75
Cork Prison 66 56 96
Dochas Centre 3 16 14
Limerick Prison 78 193 122
Loughan House 2 31 4
Midlands Prison 59 83 83
Mountjoy Prison 573 460 247
Portlaoise Prison 21 17 16
St. Patrick's Institution 183 278 256
Shelton Abbey 0 1 0
Training Unit 5 9 8
Wheatfield Prison 172 111 215
Total 1,473 1, 499 1,288


The mission of the Irish Prison Service is to provide safe, secure and humane custody for those placed into custody. The reduction between 2010 and 2011 is a direct consequence of the introduction of enhanced security measures which include:

• tighter control and monitoring of prison visits;
• airport style security screening of all staff and visitors coming into the prison;
• x-ray scanners to scan all coats and bags/briefcases;
• increased random searches of prisoner accommodation and it's occupants;
• stricter searching of those committed to custody and of those returning to the prison after temporary release, court and after visits.


No level of inter-prisoner violence is acceptable and every effort is made by prison staff and management to limit the scope of acts of violence. While the prison regime is designed to limit the scope of acts of violence, it is not possible to completely eliminate the possibility of such acts in prisons holding a high proportion of violent offenders without introducing a regime that would be unacceptable.
There is also a trend towards more homemade weapons being used by prisoners, for example, weapons made out of perspex, sharpened toothbrushes, a pool ball in a sock, brush handles or water jugs, since these measures were implemented.

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Tá Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, príomh aoire Shinn Féin tar éis scríobh chuig aoire an rialtas Paul Kehoe ag lorg go mbeidh lá curtha ar leathaobh le linn Seachtain na Gaeilge san oireachtas ina mbeidh iomlán nó tromlach gnó na Dála agus an Seanad agus coistí an Oireachtas as Gaeilge.

Tá Seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana idir 5-17 ú Márta agus beidh an gnó sa tsiúil san oireachtas le linn an tréimhse ar fad, rud nach mbeidh fíor.

Go dtí seo ní bhíonn ach plé/díospóireacht ar an Ghaeilge agus dúirt Ó Snodaigh gur chomhair “Lá Ghaeilge bheith ann, ar an bhonn céanna atá Lá na hEorapa a bhíonn ann i mí Bealtaine.

Dúirt Ó Snodaigh:

“Mar aon le Ceisteanna don Taoiseach, Ceisteanna na gCinnirí bheith as Gaeilge, toisc Gaeilge labhartha ag na cinnirí ar fad sa Dáil, d’fheadfaidh Cesiteanna don Aire Ealaín, Oidhreacht agus Gaeltacht bheith ar an sceideal don lá chéanna. D’fheadfaidh an Dara Staid de reachtaíocht ar bith bheith á phlé tar éis an Ord Ghnó a bhéas i nGaeilge. Agus d’fhéadfaidh impí ar teachtaí iarratais ar Gnéithe Topaiciúla bheith as Gaeilge nó faoin nGaeilge ar an lá céanna. Bheadh Gaeilgeoirí faoi bhrú na deiseanna labhartha ar fad a líonadh nó cuidiú le na foghlaimeoirí a bheadh ag iarraidh úsáid a bhaint as an méid Gaeilge atá acu. Ba léiriú seo do Pobal i gcoitinne gur féidir díospoireacht ceart a bheith ar aon gné as Gaeilge, agus nach díreach faoin Ghaeilge nó an Ghaeltacht amháin a bhíonn plé sa Dáil as Gaeilge.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Central Mary Lou McDonald has this morning called on HSE Chief Cathal Magee to launch an immediate investigation into the processing of medical and GP cards after TDs raised serious concerns about the service at yesterday’s Public Accounts Committee meeting.

The Sinn Féin Deputy Leader and Public Accounts Committee member said:

“Last year the Department of Health oversaw the centralisation of GP and medical cards processing which has resulted in unacceptable delays for citizens entitled to receive medical supports.

“Public representatives receive calls daily from very ill people and those on low incomes who despite being entitled to a medical card have to wait months before they receive their card due to unacceptable bureaucratic delays.

“Yesterday HSE management acknowledged there were problems with the system but offered little more than a review of the medical and GP application forms, this is simply not good enough.

“A series of committee members raised a catalogue of horrors with the HSE Chief and whilst our concerns were taken on board action was not guaranteed.

“The HSE Chief needs to grab the bull by the horns and launch an immediate review of the centralised system of processing cards at the Primary Care Reimbursement Service in Finglas.”

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications, Martin Ferris TD, has described as “inadequate” Minister Seán Sherlock’s statement that he will consider primary legislation to address issues of internet access and copyright, but that he still intends to sign a ministerial order governing this area.

Deputy Ferris also rejected any attempt to defer a full debate on the issue on the basis that it was taken as a topical issue in the Dáil yesterday afternoon.

Deputy Ferris said:

“Sinn Féin and other opposition parties, along with tens of thousands of concerned citizens, are still insisting on a full debate and legislation on this issue. Given the huge controversy over this and the potential damaging impact the proposed ministerial order will have, it is absolutely essential to the democratic process and the framing of proper domestic law that the Minister does not sign into law any measure until the proper legislative process is observed.

“Allowing people to vent their frustrations is no substitute for democracy. The minister’s response is totally inadequate. There must be a full debate and legislation on this issue. The people will not accept diktat.”

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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, speaking this week during a debate in the Dáil on the Water Services Bill said that a large number of people living in the Dublin area are worried about septic tank charges.
Deputy Crowe said: “It is not only rural areas that are worried about to the laws governing sceptic tank usage. Figures indicate that approximately 19,500 people living in the Dublin area use septic tanks.
“In my local authority area alone, the figure is somewhere in the region of 5,000 and the Dublin South West constituency which I represent, covers rural areas such as Bohernabreena, Glenahole, Glassamuckley and Brittas.
“Because this area provides drinking water for the city, a stringent approach is taken to planning applications to ensure there is rigours enforcement of environmental laws. Many householders are concerned about what may be coming down the line and they are seeking clarity on what impact this Water Service Bill will have on their families.
“It is difficult for people to understand why they have to pay this tax when in some cases, within yards from their home, their neighbours are linked up to the main sewerage system. They are having pay a new tax, a double standard that they cannot understand.
“No effort has been forthcoming from the Local Authority, or the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to try to bring these people into the water or sewerage schemes. I have asked Minister Hogan to explain what supports would be forthcoming so that an action plan can be put in place for those who find themselves in this situation.
“Sinn Féin fully supports the upgrading of septic tanks as ground water and the environment must be protected. This legislation however, is a knee jerk reaction to EU regulations and the threat of fines from the EU for the failure of consecutive governments to deal with this issue.
“The bill demands that any upgrading must be funded by the householder. This is unacceptable and a fund must be established to assist householders to meet the payment of any upgrade. Many households simply will not be able to pay for upgrades and they should not run the risk of being criminalised.
“Tallaght is a large urban area yet many people use a septic tank system. When I raised this matter with the local authority I have been told no funding is available. The Government must look at reconnecting people who have septic tanks onto the main’s system. Many of the people who are affected by this issue are elderly and do not have the financial means to get this work done privately.
“All of us want to ensure a top class, clean water system but we should not penalise people who, through no fault of their own, face a hefty bill to meet these new regulations. Many of the families affected by this issue in the Tallaght area do not want to be reliant on wells, chemical toilets or septic tanks. They want to be connected to a fit for purpose mains system but their plight has been largely ignored
“It is an issue the government must exam closely.”
ends

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Central Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on Dublin City Council to clarify exactly what customer details it has provided to Greyhound following the Office of the Data Protection Commission announcement that it is investigating the Council.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Sinn Féin consistently opposed the privatisation of Dublin City Council’s waste collection service and many of our reasons for doing so have come to pass.

“Since Dublin City Council transferred the service to Greyhound my constituency offices in North Strand and Cabra have been inundated with calls by residents who not only have not had their rubbish collected they were not aware of Greyhound’s contractual conditions.

“Increased charges are on the horizon, the waiver scheme may be in jeopardy, the company’s payment method is causing a problem and to rub salt into the wounds it appears the Council management may have provided information about debts owed to Greyhound Recycling and Recovery.

“Dublin City Council management need to publically clarify, as a matter of urgency, exactly what customer details it has provided to Greyhound about its 140,000 customers and if debt information was provided the Data Commissioner must ensure that Greyhound does not add this information to its customer database.”

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Speaking at today’s Public Accounts Committee Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD expressed grave concerns about the government’s failure to provide a coherent strategy to ensure critical services such as health are not decimated when up 9,000 workers retire from the public sector over the coming weeks.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Each time we ask Government Ministers what will be the real time impact of the public sector exodus over the coming weeks we are told it will all be alright on the night.

“Yet Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin admitted this week in the Dáil that he does not definitively know how many will leave the public sector by the end of February as workers availing of the grace period are required to give just one month’s notice.

“HSE Chief Cathal Magee spoke today about funding available for 400 new mental health workers but when questioned admitted to me that at least 500 current mental health workers, 389 of whom are nurses, will leave the HSE at the end of next month which will result in a net loss of 100 staff.

“The HSE has not hit its staff ceiling with 85% made up of front line workers and at least 3,500 will leave the health sector by the end of next month yet it appears there is no coherent strategy to deal with this reality not only within the HSE but across all Government Departments.

“The HSE National Service Plan for 2012 clearly states that budgetary cost reductions required and accumulated reductions in front line staff will impact increasingly on frontline services. There is no doubt this will be replicated across the State with the projected losses of 1,500 teachers, 730 from local authorities and 297 Gardaí. Up to 9,000 public sector workers are due to leave the service, the majority of whom will be from the front line and will not be replaced.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government Brian Stanley TD has said that the government has forced rural householders to foot the bill for their incompetence.

Deputy Stanley was speaking this afternoon after the Water Services Bill was passed by the Dáil.

Deputy Stanley said:

“This government is refusing to take any responsibility for failing to comply with an EU directive that is over 35 years old. Instead they have rushed through a piece of legislation that will force householders to foot the bill for upgrading their septic tanks to standards which have yet to be published.

“In an Orwellian twist, Minister Hogan will send an army of inspectors out into the homes of rural Ireland to inspect septic tanks. These inspectors will then assess the septic tanks against standards that as yet only exist in the minster’s imagination.

“Sinn Féin has repeatedly demanded that Minister Hogan publish the standards so we know exactly how this legislation will impact on rural households. We have also called on the minister to give us details on how he expects householders to upgrade septic tanks when families simply cannot afford to do so. Upgrading may cost anything up to €17,000. But again the minister has at best been vague and at worst dismissive of people’s financial concerns. In fact the bill contains threats of fines up to €5,000 for those who cannot comply with the upgrades.

“The passing of the Water Services Bill represents a bad day for rural Ireland. Unfortunately, in a desperate measure to avoid real debate the government guillotined the debate at every opportunity. We were forced to vote today having only been given time to debate 8 out of a total of 56 amendments. This is not democracy.

“Sinn Féin will continue to actively campaign to make sure septic tank standards are just and fair and that financial assistance will be provided to those who need it.”

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Responding to reports that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has attributed the economic crash in Ireland to people going mad borrowing, Sinn Fein spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn said such a fundamental misunderstanding on behalf of an Irish Taoiseach showed an appalling lack of economic knowledge.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said the statement reflected the fact that this government has no grasp of the origin of the Irish economic crisis and no clue how to fix it.

He said:

“News reports are quoting Enda Kenny at the World Economic Forum as saying that the problem with our economy was that ‘people went mad borrowing in a system that spawned greed, went out of control and led to the crash’. This is an appallingly ignorant synopsis of the crisis and falls into the usual clichéd response offered by those who want to protect the economic status quo – that we were all responsible, that we all went mad and that we caused the mess ourselves.

“The fact of the matter is that people were aggressively cajoled into borrow large sums of money during boom times to buy homes, the prices of which had been driven through the roof because of successive government policies which encouraged property speculation. This government’s policy, which also altered the tax system for the worse, is at the heart of the Irish recession, along with the flow of cheap capital into Irish banks from the European banking system.

“There may have been some people borrowing for selfish reasons. The question must be asked, why were they lent the money? Again we come back to the banks wanting to push their cheap credit supply. However the majority of borrowing by ordinary people was for house purchasing.

“This week we have had the Finance Minister claim emigration is a life-style choice. We have had the Social Welfare Minister imply unemployment is a life-style choice. And now we have the Taoiseach claiming the recession was caused by people going mad borrowing.

“And this man is speaking for and on behalf of the Irish people at an international conference.

“This remark is offensive. I believe the Taoiseach owes an explanation to the Irish people, now expected to carry the tab for the failure of his government and the last, and the banks, for these remarks.

“If the Taoiseach doesn’t know what caused this crisis then how can he possibly provide a solution? This explains why the government is ready to sign up to an austerity treaty.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann has said the Housing Executive needs to explain the rationale behind their intention to establish a Belfast City Centre housing waiting list.

The West Belfast MLA said:

“I have asked the Housing Executive what was the reason behind this change in policy and how it would impact on those already waiting on housing in areas of high demand like West and North Belfast

“Because of the severe shortage in housing in these areas, some families are doubling up in one house, which is a throwback to the 1950s.

“The Housing Executive have said that the city centre will be neutral in terms of allocation but this flies in the face of allocating on need.

“The Housing Executive have questions to answer, not least, was political pressure brought to bear to move to this position?

“The long waiting lists for housing can’t be ignored on a whim or for some political agenda. Equality and objective need has to be at the heart of any decision making process around tackling the housing waiting list.”

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Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has today met with the campaign group SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids).

Deputy Ó Snodiagh met the group as part of the consultation process for his report on the Single Working Age Payment for the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection.

Speaking after the meeting today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The Single Working Age Payment could be the single biggest change to our social welfare system in the history of the state.

“I am delighted to have been appointed rapporteur for the committee to compile a report on the consequences of amalgamating all social welfare payments into one single payment.

“I have been meeting groups that would be most affected by such a move including SPARK who have been doing great work on behalf of single parents throughout the state.

“It is important that all of those affected are afforded an opportunity to voice their opinion on such a fundamental proposal.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has again called for the release of Marian Price and Martin Corry from Maghaberry prison.

Both are being held after the British Secretary of State revoked their licences. Raymond McCartney said:

“Both Martin Corry and Marian Price are being held following the revoking of their license by the British secretary of state. This is unacceptable.

“If there is evidence against someone it should be presented and tested in a court of law. Sinn Féin have continuously raised this matter with the British Government and the Department of Justice including at meetings this week.

“We will also be making representations to the Life Sentence Review Commission when they come to examine both these cases in the coming weeks.”

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Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris TD was thrown out of the Dáil this morning during Leaders’ Questions for demanding the Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore answer questions on whether grants will be made available for remedial works to septic tanks.
Deputy Ferris said:
“The government is rushing through the legislation which will introduce septic tank charges. Fifty amendments have been tabled by all parties but the government guillotined the debate last night.
“This morning my party colleague Mary Lou McDonald challenged the Tánaiste to say whether or not there would be grant aid for people to upgrade their septic tanks. The Tánaiste refused to answer the question.
“It is absolutely shameful that the day after the government allows the hand over of €1.25 billion of taxpayers’ money to Anglo bondholders, yet another tax will be foisted on already struggling people.
“This is a bare-faced attack on rural communities and my party will fight it every step of the way.”

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Commenting on the report issued today by the Police Ombudsman into the use of Tasers by the PSNI, Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Board member Pat Sheehan said that Tasers are a lethal weapon and continued use by the PSNI will inevitably lead to someone being killed.

Mr Sheehan said:

“People will be rightly sceptical of any reports conducted by the Police Ombudsman’s Office under the leadership of Al Hutchinson. There is no community confidence in his ability to do this important job and he should go without further foot dragging.

“On the issue of Tasers it cannot be disputed that they are a lethal weapon and their continued use by the PSNI will inevitably lead to someone being killed.

“The PSNI need to be able to deal with public order incidents without resorting to lethal force, be it Tasers or plastic bullets.

“An acceptance of their use will see them used as an alternative to restraint and that is unacceptable. Those firing them do not know if the person they are targeting has a heart problem or any other illness which could heighten the chance of it being fatal.”

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has visited Holy Rosary Primary School where he officially opened a new outside play area.

Speaking during the visit, the Minister said: “I welcome the opportunity to visit Holy Rosary Primary School and unveil a plaque officially opening this newly installed play equipment.

“The pupils and parents of the school raised a substantial amount towards the cost of installing these facilities through various fund raising events and I wish to congratulate each and every one of them for this achievement. The different components chosen by the children and teachers will aid the development of motor movement skills of the pupils while also allowing them to have fun.”

Concluding the Minister said: “This school also plays an important part in the community. A Home School Association has been formed consisting of parents working with teachers to raise funds while enhancing the school community. It provides an excellent opportunity for parents to get to know the school and become active in school activities.”

The Minister also visited Oakwood School and Assessment Centre where he met with teachers and pupils. The Minister had the opportunity to view the facilities of the school and hear first-hand about the good work being undertaken there.

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Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodiagh TD has accused Minister Burton of misleading the public on cuts to CE Schemes. Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the minister’s announcement of a review of the cut before Christmas was made simply to get her own party back-benchers off her back.

He said:

“The cuts announced by this Labour Party Minister are decimating the Community Employment Scheme and attacking the communities who depend on them.

“You decided to cut the CE training and materials Budget by 66% in Budget 2012. Under severe pressure you announced a review before Christmas leading many of those affected to believe they had been saved from the cut. But that was not the case at all. The cut was made earlier this month. Do you accept that you announced the review and misled the public simply to get your own party’s back-benchers off your case?

“Do you agree that the fact that you are now conducting a review also demonstrates that you had not bothered to assess the impact this cut would have when you decided to make it?

“You also made a commitment that no CE project would be allowed to close in advance of the conclusion of the review. Rather the projects experiencing financial difficulty as a result of the 66% cut are to go cap in hand to the department and beg for some emergency funds.

“Last week an angling park for people with disabilities employing 23 people gave notice of imminent closure as a consequence of the cut. In the eleventh hour you reduced their cut from 66% to 25% until the conclusion of the review. Do you agree that this is a very shabby way to do business and to treat people?

“In the Budget you announced a cut to the Community Employment Programme of €41.5 million. You have determined to make a cut in region of €27.5 million to the training and materials funding. In essence, have you not decided on the outcome of your review before it even got underway?

“You promised that no community employment project would be let close in advance of the conclusion of the review. Will you be forcing the closure of projects afterwards?”

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Sinn Féin’s education spokesperson, Deputy Seán Crowe believes clarity is needed from the government over whether it is serious about reversing the threat of budget cuts to teaching posts in DEIS and other schools.
The Dublin South West TD was commenting after challenging education minister, Ruairí Quinn TD on the matter during a meeting of the Dáil’s Education Committee.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“In response to my questions regarding what the review into cuts to DEIS schools hoped to achieve, Minister Quinn again gave vague answers that failed to convince.
“There are serious concerns arising around the substance of the review, particularly in relation to the possible loss of 428 pre-DEIS legacy posts.
The terms of the review are unclear, causing concern that DEIS schools will be forced to compete with one another in order to retain their current staffing levels.
“I sought assurances that the review would not recommend cuts across other key services in the primary school budget but his responses did not inspire confidence that this would be the case.
“At today’s meeting, Minister Quinn came under close scrutiny and there is growing scepticism that the government is serious about protecting schools that are to the fore in tackling educational disadvantage. The growing descent amongst the government back-benchers shows just how badly the minister has handled this matter.
“The current confusion over what is happening is demoralising for teachers, parents and children. Clarity is needed and we need a clear commitment from the minister that DEIS and other schools, which have a proven track record, are protected from budget cuts.
“The minister has already admitted to making a mistake in how he has dealt with this issue. He must not make matters worse by prevaricating after making the decision to hold the review. He needs to realise the gravity of the situation and the impact these cuts will have on some of our most vulnerable children. It is their right to a decent education and a good start in life that must be the priority. Anything less is unacceptable.”

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