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Bairbre de Brún MEP has called on the EU to ensure adequate climate finance for developing countries following a report that the ‘early start’ funding in the Copenhagen Accord could fall short of what was promised at that time.

Ms de Brún has said that any failure to provide adequate ‘early start’ funding will not only increase the risk for developing countries in their effort to deal with climate change but will send damaging signals about the EUs commitment in advance of the UN talks in Bonn and in Cancún.

According to a Council report, ‘a comprehensive set of statistics for climate financing is clearly needed’.

Ms de Brún said:

“We urgently need clarity on the level of climate funding and the source of the funding as well as the administration and distribution. Any lack of clarity will damage both the efforts of developing countries and the atmosphere for negotiating a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal on tackling climate change.

“Climate change is being caused mainly by the richer countries and the very poor and vulnerable countries who suffer most have not contributed to the problem at all.

“If the 30 billion dollars which industrialised countries were to provide between 2010 and 2010 cannot be mobilised, what hope is there that the larger sum of 100 billion dollars to be provided by 2020 will materialise? If the EU does not clearly show that it will pay its share what hope is there that other industrialised countries will step up to the mark?

“The EU must demonstrate sufficient clarity and transparency about its fast track financing pledges and reports that members states through the Council have still left a significant amount to be allocated are very worrying indeed.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams and a delegation, including Fra McCann MLA, Councillor Marie Cush and representatives from the west Belfast Community Safety Forum, this morning met senior PSNI officers in Parliament Buildings, including Alastair Finlay, ACC Belfast region of the PSNI; Mark Hamilton, PSNI chief Supt for North & West Belfast; and
Emma Mooney, PSNI chief inspector for west Belfast, to discuss the recent murder of Seamus Fox and the PSNI response to this.

Gerry Adams asked for this meeting with the PSNI in order to review recent developments in the aftermath of Seamus Fox’s murder and to discuss the development of a policing strategy to curtail violent crime and counter anti-social hotspots in west Belfast. Also on the agenda was the decision by the PSNI to scrap the auto-crime unit.

Speaking afterward Mr. Adams described the meeting as “a very frank but very good meeting”. Mr. Adams said:

“The context of the meeting is around the ongoing effort to get civic and community policing embedded in the new policing dispensation and delivering for citizens.

West Belfast is a lawful place. The vast majority of west Belfast people get on about their lives, look after their neighbours and are good constructive citizens.

There are, as there are throughout the city, criminal elements and there is anti-social crime.

This came to a climax recently with the savage murder of Seamus Fox.

So, in our discussion with the PSNI we dealt with the issue of hotspots, including in areas like St. James, Beechmount, Lower Suffolk and Colin areas and parts of the lower Falls.

We want the PSNI to work with us, with community organisations, with the Probationary Service, with the PPS to ensure that there is a joined up integrated approach.

We are also concerned about the lack of consultation around the scrapping of the Auto Crime Unit and the redeployment of that team.

There is also a concern at the lack of funding going into some of these areas and I have sought a meeting with the Justice Minister to discuss this issue.

The meeting was a very frank but good meeting. We have set out a detailed programme of work to follow through over the next month. And we will be meeting in this format again shortly after that.

We want to see a joined up approach for dealing with these very serious issues and this rolled out across the city.

This will see more police officers on the street but they must be working in tandem with the local community.” CRÍOCH


Note to Editor:

The west Belfast Community Safety Forum, which was formed two years ago, has a very good strategy for dealing with crime.

Last year the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, the independent oversights body, commended the work of the Forum and its strategy and action plan as the template for how hotspots and anti-community problems should be tackled.

On Wednesday 25th November 2009, the report of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate was ‘laid before’ the British parliament by the British Secretary of State, and the following day the report was released to the public. That report is extremely positive and highlights the comparative successes and strengths of the Forum, by contrast to existing community safety arrangements and projects promoted by the Council and NIO.

Some of the key conclusions of that report were as follows:
- “on the basis of the evidence examined Inspectors’ assessment is the that the WBCSF has made a positive contribution to the delivery of a safer community in west Belfast.” (para.4.1)
- “…the levels of success delivered by the Forum was always going to come with a price tag..” (para.4.2)
- “Inspectors assess lessons can be learned from the experience of the WBCSF that can be used effectively elsewhere.” (para.4.3)
- “several of the agencies…were prepared to declare to Inspectors their preference was for how the WBCSF conducts itself and that it was, in their view, a much more effective body.”(para 4.4)
- “Inspectors understand that the Forum has helped to create the space where difficult questions can be asked…”(para 4.8)
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However thus far the Forum and its strategy have been denied the funding and resources to make it work.

Sinn Féin has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister for Justice to discuss this issue.
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In April 2010, Seamus Fox was murdered on his way home. He passed a gang which had started a fire at the bridge on Suffolk Road. The incident had already been reported to the PSNI at Woodbourne by community safety wardens deployed in the area on the same night that Seamus Fox was murdered. The wardens had been told that the PSNI would respond. They never did, despite the fact that there were available patrols. One person has been charged with Mr Fox murder and another member of the gang is providing evidence / witness testimony against his peer.

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Speaking today after the announcement by pharmaceutical firm Pfizer that it is to cut 785 jobs at its Irish operations, Sinn Féin Spokesperson the Enterprise, Trade and Employment Arthur Morgan said the absence of a concrete job creation package is crippling our economic recovery.

Deputy Morgan said:

“We have been told time and time again that pharmaceuticals will be integral in the development of Ireland’s smart economy, yet the Government have failed to capitalise on this high-end industry which has the potential to create employment for thousands of skilled people across this State.

“While Pfizer are cutting jobs globally, this has dealt another crippling blow to the Irish labour market, where there are no prospects of alternative employment.

“The Government and its Ministers are quick to get a photo taken when there are any new job announcements, but they are consistently absent from the cold-face where people are losing their jobs.

“The Government is failing the people of this State and the absence of a concrete job creation package is crippling our economic recovery.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has welcomed a commitment from Green Party Senator Dan Boyle that his party will not stand over a cut in the old age pension. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Green Party should stand over this promise even if it means bringing down the Government.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Since entering Government in 2007 the Green Party has missed plenty of opportunities to make a stand on issues of principle such as the cut in special needs teachers and the cut to dole payments.

“However I welcome today’s commitment from Dan Boyle that his party will not support any proposal to cut the state pension following a refusal from Eamon Ó Cúiv to rule out such a scenario just last week.

“The Green Party should resist any pressure from the Government partners in Fianna Fáil and stand over Dan Boyle’s promise even if this means bringing down the Government.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan has called on the Government to bring forward legislation to protect whistleblowers who report illegal and unacceptable practices in the workplace. Deputy Morgan said the enactment of such legislation is vital to ensure that many of the corruption and malpractices that led to the current economic crisis are stamped out once and for all.

Speaking today Deputy Morgan said:

“There are many cases where information which is in the public interest is not revealed because individual workers justifiably fear penalisation by their employer in the absence of measures to protect them if they make such disclosures. Those workers who come forward despite the lack of protection must be commended.

“The enactment of legislation to protect employees and others who blow the whistle on illegal or other unacceptable practices is long overdue. We have seen enough cases where the absence of such legislation allowed illegal and unacceptable practices to continue unchecked – we are footing the Bill for this now.

“The enactment of such legislation is vital to ensure that many of the corruption and malpractices that led to the current economic crisis are stamped out once and for all.

“In other states whistle blowers have played a vital role in ensuring the public interest is upheld. Frequently it is only through whistle blowing that this information can come to light and can be addressed before real damage is done.

“Would the corruption in planning which was endemic in Dublin in particular have persisted as long as it did leaving us with a legacy of poorly planned sprawling estates and colossal Tribunal bills? Would we be sustaining a zombie bank through billions of euros of taxpayers money had employees been empowered through legislation to come forward?

“This Government can no longer hide behind the apron of private interests who act against the public good. We need to empower employees, we need to protect them and we need to bring forward legislation as a matter of priority.” ENDS

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The Cathaoirleach of Monaghan Town Council, Cllr. Seán Conlon, speaking at the 36th anniversary commemoration of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, has called on the Irish Government to restore funding to Justice for the Forgotten, which it ended last year.

Cllr. Conlon (Sinn Féin) was speaking at the wreath-laying ceremony in Talbot St. marking the death on 17 May 1974 of 33 people in Dublin and Monaghan in the bombing which is believed to have been carried out by British forces in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

He said:
“It is with great regret that we note the decision of the current Government to end funding for Justice for the Forgotten. This is a totally unacceptable decision. I take this opportunity to call on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern to immediately restore funding so that Justice for the Forgotten can continue to work with and on behalf of the families in the search for truth and justice. I make this call on behalf of Monaghan Town Council which passed a motion urging the restoration of funding at its April meeting.

“It seems that An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, in particular, has demonstrated little interest and less activity in this key legacy issue of the conflict. He needs to consider the facts.

“This was the biggest loss of life in a single day during the conflict. This tragedy and related attacks involving collusion were the most direct experience of the conflict by people in the 26 Counties. Survivors and victims on all sides need to be central to the ongoing development of the Peace Process and to the establishment of truth and justice. The British government bears direct responsibility.”

Full speech follows:

On my own behalf, on behalf of Monaghan Town Council and on behalf of all the people of the Town and the County of Monaghan I extend our sincerest sympathy and solidarity to the survivors and the bereaved on this, the 36th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

On 17th May 1974 and in the harrowing days that followed, the people of Dublin and of Monaghan were united in grief after the terrible tragedy which visited our communities. Here in Dublin 26 people were killed in Talbot St., Parnell Street and South Leinster St., while in my home town of Monaghan seven people were killed.

No-one who has not experienced such tragedy and grief can fully realise the pain and loss of the survivors and the bereaved. We can only continue to sympathise with them and support them and do all in our power to help establish justice and truth.

Today’s ceremony is both in remembrance of those who died and also in solidarity with the living whose quest for justice and truth continues.

I commend Justice for the Forgotten for your great work over the years in highlighting the plight of those who died and those left behind by the tragedy of 17 May 1974. For years until the founding of Justice for the Forgotten this was indeed a largely forgotten tragedy, except of course by the families and by those who looked behind the veil of censorship and ignorance that existed in Ireland at that time.

The families were shamefully neglected by the State as represented by successive Governments. Nothing was done to pursue the investigation which was closed down within weeks of the atrocity. Nothing was done to challenge the British government which, through collusion, bore ultimate responsibility for these deaths. Nothing was done to assist the families in their great need.

Nothing was done until the establishment of Justice for the Forgotten. You maintained the pressure and ensured that the tragedy was finally recognised for what it was by the Government and by the Oireachtas. Your primary demand for a public inquiry was not acceded to, as it should have been, but the investigations commissioned by the Oireachtas were significant and served to keep the spotlight on the tragedy and its consequences for families.

It is with great regret therefore, that we note the decision of the current Government to end funding for Justice for the Forgotten. This is a totally unacceptable decision. I take this opportunity to call on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern to immediately restore funding so that Justice for the Forgotten can continue to work with and on behalf of the families in the search for truth and justice. I make this call on behalf of Monaghan Town Council which passed a motion urging the restoration of funding at its April meeting.

It seems that An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, in particular, has demonstrated little interest and less activity in this key legacy issue of the conflict. He needs to consider the facts.

This was the biggest loss of life in a single day during the conflict. This tragedy and related attacks involving collusion were the most direct experience of the conflict by people in the 26 Counties. Survivors and victims on all sides need to be central to the ongoing development of the Peace Process and to the establishment of truth and justice. The British government bears direct responsibility.

My colleague Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has repeatedly called on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen in the Dáil to take a pro-active approach with the British government. In particular, we have called for the Taoiseach to press the British government on the all-party motion passed by the Dáil in July 2008 which called on the British government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents held by the British Government relating to the atrocities that occurred in this jurisdiction and which were inquired into by Judge Barron.

I again call on the Taoiseach to take a pro-active approach with the new British government. And I emphasise the importance of restoring funding to Justice for the Forgotten.

In conclusion I thank you for the invitation to participate in this ceremony and I offer my continuing solidarity and sympathy. END

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has revealed that at least 40,000 letters from the National Cervical Screening Programme to women entitled to a free smear test have been returned unopened because they are wrongly addressed or that the women have moved. That means at least 40,000 women never received their letter of invites, and many thousands more letters were probably never returned to sender – the National Cervical Screening Programme.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh has called on Health Minister Mary Harney to ensure that each and every woman entitled to a smear test is contacted and that the database is as accurate as possible. The volume of returned letters would suggest that the database is totally inaccurate.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

 “There are at least 40,000 letters that have been returned to the National Cervical Screening Programme in March and April of this year which should have been informing the women named on the letters of their entitlement to a free cervical smear test.  That means that there are possibly 40,000 women out there who have not been screened.

 “The Minister needs to take urgent action to ensure that each and every one of these women is contacted and informed of their entitlement to a test.  Obviously the database being used by the National Cervical Screening Programme needs to be updated urgently and the Minister must ensure that this happens.

“There are obviously questions as to how the database was put together and who was in charge of ensuring it was updated and maintained. And there is the question of €50,000 or so going to waste in posting inaccurately addressed letters of invites.

"These letters could be a matter of life or death for some women, in that they may prompt them to go for the free cervical cancer smear test. I would encourage all women to avail of this free test.” ENDS

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Speaking in Dublin today where he attended a meeting of the party’s Ard Comhairle, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that the government has failed the people and that what was needed was a radical republican political agenda, based on citizens rights.

Gerry Adams said:

“Following a very successful election campaign for Sinn Féin we are now planning ahead for the North’s Assembly elections and discussing how best to promote the party’s progressive political agenda here in the South.

“The Taoiseach has commented in recent days about Fianna Fáil’s role in contributing to the economic and banking crisis and has claimed that there were no warnings from the political opposition about the property bubble.
“However, the truth is that Sinn Féin repeatedly raised this issue in the Dáil.

“The government, for its own electoral reasons, and because of the vested interests which it sought to protect, chose to disregard this.

“The government has failed the people.

“It is clear that a radical republican political agenda based on citizens rights is needed now more than ever.
“The government’s most recent refusal to hold overdue by-elections because they fear the result, leaving constituencies unrepresented, is shameful. So is the refusal to accept responsibility for the current economic crisis.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee Jennifer McCann has expressed concern and disappointment that Invest NI have refused to fund a loan financing company which helps Social Economy Enterprises,

Ms McCann who sits on the Enterprise Trade & Investment Committee said,

"The Ulster Community Foundation Trust (UCIT) is an organisation that lends money to Social Economy Enterprises, who themselves generate local employment opportunities and community regeneration particularly in areas of disadvantage and need.

“The Minister for Enterprise Trade & Investment, and other Ministers in the Executive have continually praised the Social Economy Enterprise Sector and recognised the contribution it makes to the economy here.

“It can be extremely difficult for the sector to access and secure loans from ordinary financial institutions like banks so UCIT operate a loan fund which helps the social enterprises develop and grow.

UCIT had made an application to Invest NI earlier this year for additional funding to invest in their successful loan scheme which many had availed of.Invest Ni has turned down the proposal.

“This is a very disappointing decision as it will effect peoples jobs and any future development of certain Social Economy enterprises.

“Once again we hear on the one hand the sector being praised by ministers yet on the other no financial investment from a government body to help this particular sector develop in a competitive market in times of recession."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has revealed that a Sinn Féin delegation, including Caral Ní Chuilin MLA; John O Dowd MLA; Paul Maskey MLA; and Raymond McCartney MLA is visiting Maghaberry today.

 

Mr. Adams said:

 

“The situation in Maghaberry is giving cause for serious concern.

 

I have spoken to the Minister of Justice David Forde on this matter and raised my concerns with him. And I intend meeting him again on this.

 

Prisoners have rights which must be protected.  They are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.

 

The delegation visiting Maghaberry will report back to our Assembly group.

 

I am also inviting relatives of prisoners and their organisations to meet with us to discuss this issue.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has revealed that a Sinn Féin delegation, including Caral Ní Chuilin MLA; John O Dowd MLA; Paul Maskey MLA; and Raymond McCartney MLA is visiting Maghaberry today.

 

Mr. Adams said:

 

“The situation in Maghaberry is giving cause for serious concern.

 

I have spoken to the Minister of Justice David Forde on this matter and raised my concerns with him. And I intend meeting him again on this.

 

Prisoners have rights which must be protected.  They are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.

 

The delegation visiting Maghaberry will report back to our Assembly group.

 

I am also inviting relatives of prisoners and their organisations to meet with us to discuss this issue.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Arthur Morgan has said Brian Cowen’s under rated acceptance of responsibility for the economic and banking crisis is an attempt to hide the true extent of his and his party’s failings.

Deputy Morgan said contrary to Brian Cowen’s claims that there were no warnings from the opposition benches in relation to the property bubble Sinn Féin repeatedly raised it in the Dáil but were ignored.

Speaking today Deputy Morgan said:

“The growth that supported Ireland’s Celtic Tiger was a mirage, as the government rode on the back of a private sector intoxicated by property revenues. The vacuum left behind when the credit flows stopped made both employment and public finances implode.

“Fianna Fáil tied their policies to electoral gains rather than proper financial and risk management. The artificial Celtic Tiger brought in the votes and so Fianna Fáil and the Taoiseach himself were happy to keep stoking these fires.

“The Taoiseach’s under-rated acceptance of responsibility for the economic and banking crisis is a veil to hide the true extent of the fault and failings of Fianna Fáil, and indeed Brian Cowen himself, in Ireland’s financial crisis, which will be revealed in the two banking reports to be published later this month.

“If the Taoiseach is so confident that there were no warnings from the opposition benches in relation to the growth of a property bubbles, he should take a look at the Dáil archives where Sinn Féin deputies are on record as warning against the dependence on property revenues. Neither Fianna Fáil nor Brian Cowen were willing to heed our warnings and now they are not willing to accept full responsibility for the crisis engulfing this State.

“Sinn Féin repeatedly tackled Ministers in relation to their failure to tackle escalating house prices, we called for the introduction of a tax on second homes to curb growing house prices where investors were pricing first time buyers out of the market, we opposed the cutting of capital gains tax on the basis that it would fuel the property bubble and make it more profitable to speculate in property than to run a business and we were ignored.

“Sinn Féin opposed unsustainable cuts in taxes and highlighted the danger in the over-dependence on taxes related to consumption and construction and the overdependence on the construction sector for employment. Sinn Féin may not have advocated the ‘in vogue’ economic policies of the Celtic Tiger, but we proposed measures that would have insulated us from one of the severest recessions this State has ever seen.” ENDS

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The Dail will next week debate a joint Labour Party/ Sinn Fein seeking the endorsement of the House for the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment on the rights of children and calling on the government to bring forward the necessary Constitutional Amendment Bill and set a date in this year for the holding of a referendum. (Copy of full motion attached)

On February 16th last the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, chaired by Deputy Mary O’Rourke, published its final report. The report contained a draft constitutional amendment concerning the acknowledgement and protection of the rights of children, the best interests of the child, the power of the state to intervene in the family, and adoption.

The report had the support of all members, but since then the government has failed to give a commitment that it will accept the draft amendment and refused to set any date for a referendum.

The Labour Party Spokesperson on Constitutional Matters and Law Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin said:

“The publication of the Report last February was the culmination of two years of work by the Committee during which it held dozens of meetings and considered submissions from scores of groups and individuals. It was probably the most comprehensive examination ever undertaken of the complex issues involved in trying to enshrine and enhance the protection of the right of children.

“One of the most encouraging aspects of the Committee’s work was the manner in which members of all parties worked in a non-partisan way to deal with the issues involved and the final report had the support of all members, representing every party in the Oireachtas.

“It is simply not acceptable that three months after its publication, the government should be claiming that it still has not considered the report and refusing to give any commitment as to when a referendum might be held. This suggests that the government – as distinct from the government Deputies and Senators who served on the Committee – is not attaching any political priority to the needs of our children. In these circumstances we feel that we therefore have to attempt to move the process forward by bringing this motion on to the floor of the Dail.”

Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson and Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

"There is a pressing need for the rights of children to be vindicated in the Constitution, in legislation and in the provision of services. The Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children completed a major body of work, making comprehensive recommendations and achieving all-party agreement on the wording of a constitutional amendment. We had every reason to expect that, long before now, the Cabinet would have signed off on a firm commitment to hold the referendum. Instead we find, after repeated questioning of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, that the Government is still sitting on the fence on this vital issue.

"The issue here is the rights and needs of children. The recent Report of the Children's Ombudsman exposed many failings in the system of child protection. We need to copper-fasten in the Constitution the rights of all children. There is no excuse for prevarication on this issue. The Government should follow the lead given by the members of the government parties on the Committee and agree to the wording and set a date for a referendum in 2010. They can do this by accepting the joint Labour/Sinn Féin motion."

ENDS

CONTACT BRENDAN HOWLIN @ 087-2314671 OR TONY HEFFERNAN (LABOUR PRESS OFFICE) @ 087-2399508
OR SHAUN TRACEY (SINN FEIN PRESS OFFICE) @ 087-7735218.


NOTICE OF MOTION

That Dail Eireann:

welcomes the Final Report of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, published on February 16th, 2010;

commends the members of the Committee for the manner in which they discharged their duties and the fact that cross-party consensus was achieved on this issue;

accepts the need for a constitutional amendment to enshrine and enhance the protection of the rights of children;

endorses the draft wording for a proposed constitutional amendment, contained in the report of the Committee;

calls on the government to bring forward the necessary Constitutional Amendment Bill and to set a date in this year for the holding of a referendum.

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Speaking in the Dail this morning Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social and Family Affairs called on the government to reverse their disproportionate cuts of 18-20 per cent made to the community and voluntary sector which will result in the loss of 5,000 jobs by end of this year.

He said:

“Not only will this seismic loss of jobs further cripple the economy, this move is going to affect society in a way that will be irreparable for years and years. To make these kinds of cuts to sectors which are already stretched beyond their means is horrifically short sighted and irresponsible. Is this government going to step in and take responsibility for the vital work that will now be lost in areas in society that need assistance most? The community and voluntary sector is being left to pick up the pieces left in the wake of Budget 2010 already. These cuts will affect our most disadvantaged communities who are dependent on basic services, supports, representation and advocacy that this sector offers.


“The cuts demonstrate a deliberate government policy to silence the voices of the disadvantaged. Local cuts must be seen against the backdrop of the debilitating cuts made at a national level to bodies such as the Human Rights Commission and Equality Authority. The Government are trying to gag all those who have rightly criticized their manifestly unfair policies.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said this Government has no moral conscience after Minister Eamon Ó Cúiv today refused to rule out a cut in the old age pension.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Today’s refusal by Minister Ó Cúiv to rule out a cut in the old age pension shows that nobody is safe from the Government’s chopping block except maybe for the multi millionaires in our society.

“It is quite obvious that those with the lowest incomes in society remain in the Government’s sights. Rather than targeting those who can actually afford to contribute more to our economy this Government would rather target old age pensioners.

“Clearly this Government has no moral conscience.” ENDS

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Speaking today, Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew, has reacted angrily to revelations by the Irish Financial Regulator that he was only able to reopen Quinn's motor insurance lines in Britain and the north once administrators put the price of cover up.

Ms Gildernew said:

"This revelation is a slap in the face for all those who work so hard throughout Quinn Insurance to make it a highly profitable and competitive business. The workforce in Quinn Insurance is highly skilled, well paid and highly motivated; the employees are amongst the key factors in the success of the company over the last number of years.

"When the initial trading restrictions were placed on Quinn Insurance, the Financial Regulator clearly stated that it was due to breaches of solvency rules, but this latest announcement will further call into question the actions of the regulator. I fully understand that the regulator needs to be completely independent, but that does not mean that he cannot be held to account and that his actions can not be questioned.

"The fact that insurance companies in Britain have long complained that the prices being set by Quinn Insurance are too low is a disgrace. Instead of trying to compete by offering similarly attractive prices, they are content to charge extortionate premiums and lobby the FSA for restrictions to be placed on Quinn Insurance.

"Having spoken with numerous Quinn workers over the last week or so, it is clear that the new pricing structure is no longer as competitive in Britain and the north as it once was. Due to the hefty price increases, the company is finding it more difficult to attract new business or even to get customers to renew their existing policies, with some being quoted twice what they paid last year. This is detrimental not only for Quinn Insurance but also for consumers as a whole."

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Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast Paul Maskey has spoken of his concerns and the concerns of the wider community that the PSNI intend to disband the unit which was established to deal with high levels of car crime in West Belfast.

Speaking today Mr Maskey said:

“The decision to axe the policing unit in West Belfast, established to tackle high levels of car crime in the area, is wrong and must be reversed

“Car crime has not been eradicated in the area and without dedicated resources to tackle it many in the community would fear that there will be a resurgence.

“Car crime is not just about theft of vehicles or so called joy riding, it really is a matter of life and death. Many families have been bereaved through car crime not just in West Belfast bust also throughout the Six counties.

“The simple question must be asked is that, if something is working with a high degree of success in tackling crime why disband it?

“The model used in west Belfast should not be done away with, in fact it should be duplicated and rolled out to other car crime hotspots.”

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Speaking today following the shock announcement of the down grading of Whiteabbey A&E and relocation of cardiac services North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said.

“This announcement will come as a shock to the dedicated staff, and the wider community who depend on this health facility. The lack of consultation leading up to the decision is alarming and shows the degree of contempt that the board have for staff, Unions and patients. This decision will only serve to place further pressure on the already over burdened Antrim Area Hospital at a time when there are increasing reports of long trolley waits at A&E facilities at all of our hospitals. This announcement is not in the best interest of this community and does not in my opinion meet the duty of care to the community that is expected of the Health authorities.”

“Holding back this announcement until after the election was a cynical and cowardly act. This matter has been extremely poorly managed and flies in the face of the departments robust claims that any such move was alarmist when we previously raised this in the media.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan has lashed out at Fine Gael for their response to the recent announcements at the curtailment of sovereign fiscal powers by the EU. Morgan said Fine Gael had pushed the electorate into Lisbon along with the government and had to accept responsibility now for what the EU intends to do to member states.

He said:
"Fine Gael, captained by Enda Kenny and Richard Bruton, were proponents of the Lisbon Treaty and claimed it would not undermine the economic sovereignty of this State- that there were no provisions under which the European Union could commandeer further fiscal powers from member states. However, the European commission proposals, announced only yesterday, to peer-review national budgets, exploiting provisions of the Lisbon Treaty itself to adopt measures specific to those Member States in the euro.

"Several months on, the hypocrisy of Fine Gael and other pro- Lisbon parties in saying that the sovereignty of member state’s fiscal powers would be retained post-Lisbon has been exposed.

"Sinn Féin deputies were vocal in highlighting that Article 115A would strengthen the powers of the Commission to police what they call ‘excessive budget deficits’ by member states and would give it increased powers to limit government deficits to 3% of GDP. But we were ridiculed by Fine Gael and other pro-Lisbon campaigners. We warned that the Lisbon Treaty would not allow Ireland to deal with the economic problems facing us as increased European interference would cripple the real economy rather than help it.

"What the people of this State need to remember as we hold our breaths to see if these Commission proposals will get passed by Member States is that Fine Gael stood behind the Treaty to allow this to happen, that Fine Gael vigorously campaigned for the implementation of the Treaty that is facilitating this usurpation of national economic sovereignty and that no matter how much Enda Kenny or Richard Bruton condemn the Government for letting this happen, they are equally guilty for the loss of Irish sovereignty." ENDS

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The Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, has congratulated the Full Service Community Network (FSCN) for the success of their first year.

Speaking at an event in Belfast to showcase the various initiatives and successes, the Minister said: "The FSCN has achieved a phenomenonal amount since it first began in April 2009. Since then, many people in the Ballymurphy and Upper Springfield communities have benefitted from the wide range of services on offer.

"The services have a direct impact on the lives and well-being of those in the community and beyond. Pupils and parents can avail of counselling services and child bereavement services as well as children's song, dance and music programmes, yoga for nursery school children and story telling.

"Initiatives like this are so vitally important in the community. We have a moral obligation to ensure that we give them our full support and help them to address the needs of those who require it most. There is a direct link between social deprivation and levels of educational achievement and I am committed to narrowing the gap in attainment levels. This programme goes some way to addressing the needs of the community and allowing children to achieve their full potential.

“To achieve the aims of the Action Plan it will cost £850,000, £150,000 of which has already been provided for start-up costs to 31 March 2009. In 2009/2010, £350,000 was provided and the same amount has recently been allocated for the 2010/2011 programme.

"The FSCN requires more than educational provision if it is to continue being successful, it requires the support from sectors beyond education, such as the business and volunteering community, to develop the concept for the whole community.

“I would like to congratulate all those who have made this initiative a success and encourage you to go from strength to strength in the coming years."

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