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Sinn Féin budget supports fair and sustainable recovery - Pearse Doherty

Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget would repair communities, rebuild the economy and renew society. The budget lays out how Sinn Fein would abolish the local property tax and water charges and our programme for investing in disability services, health and education.

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2015 here



“The DUP are vocal about the consequences of not implementing these Tory cuts but remain silent on the impact of these cuts which would take hundreds of millions of pounds out of the pockets of the most vulnerable and least able to pay.  These cuts would plunge more children into poverty and take money from hard-pressed working families, people on benefits and from people with disabilities." - Daithí McKay



Nuacht

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Speaking following a meeting with Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Chief Commissioner of the NI Human Rights Commission today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Jonathan O’Brien restated the party’s opposition to the proposed merger of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority. Deputy O’Brien called on the government to ensure that the merged body continue to benefit from the equivalency of human rights provisions set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

The Cork North Central TD said:

“Firstly Sinn Féin is against any merger of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority. However if this proposed merger is to go ahead, the government must recognise that under the UN Paris Principles, the Irish and northern Human Rights Commissions hold an ‘A’ status rating, meaning that they must be appropriately mandated and financially secure so that they are enabled to conduct their work effectively. The Good Friday Agreement provided for a joint committee of the two Commissions to consider the development of a charter of rights for the island of Ireland. While the two Commissions completed a draft of the elements to be contained in the charter, there is still much work to be done. It is imperative that the new human rights and equality body is resourced and mandated adequately in order to carry on this work.

“I introduced a Bill to the Dáil to strengthen the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) following the government’s proposal of a merger with the Equality Authority. This bill would have the effect of increasing the IHRC's remit and would give it the protection and status it deserves as a crucial element of the human rights provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Sinn Féin remains opposed to the merger of the IHRC and the Equality Authority as it is merely a cover for cutbacks to two organisations that have never been adequately resourced.

“The Labour party were vocal in their opposition to a proposed merger when Fianna Fáil and the Green Party were in government and I am urging them to make their feelings known on this issue to their Fine Gael government partners. A merger would undermine the human rights provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and lead to a loss of focus and expertise.

“If the government is to live up to its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, an internationally recognised agreement, then they must ensure these institutions are protected.”

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Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill today met with representatives of the Tri-Council Fisheries Working Group to discuss a range of issues affecting the fishing industry.


The Tri-Council fisheries Working Group is made up of representatives from Ards Borough Council, Down District Council, and Newry and Mourne District Council.

Speaking after the meeting, the Minister said: “We had a very useful and full discussion about the European Commission’s proposals for fishing opportunities next year, and I appreciate the interest and support of the Tri-Council Working Group members in this matter. I assured them that I would be making a strong case to Brussels to resist the proposed cuts in the prawn and herring quotas.

“We have very robust scientific information that demonstrates that those stocks are in very good health and that they are being exploited sustainably by our fishing fleet. These issues will come to the fore at the December Fisheries Council in Brussels and between now and then I, and my officials, will work closely with the local fishing industry, to present our arguments to the Commission against quota cuts that we all agree simply cannot be justified.

“While quota is usually the main issue at this time of year I also had a good discussion with the Group about the importance of conservation measures to protect brown crab stocks in our inshore waters which are vital to the many smaller boats in the fishing fleet. I explained that my Department would be taking these views on board as part of the ongoing work to develop an Inshore Fisheries Strategy.”

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In a joint statement following media reports that the Irish government has withdrawn funding for the A5 Aughnacloy/Derry dual carriageway, Pat Doherty MP, MLA (West Tyrone) and Sinn Féin Donegal TDs, Pearse Doherty and Padraig MacLochlainn and Cavan-Monaghan TD, Caomhghín ÓCaolain have demanded a meeting with an Taoiseach to discuss the ramifications of such a decision.

 Responding to the reports Pat Doherty said:

“Media reports quoting Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson claiming that the Irish government has withdrawn financial support for the dual carriageway from Aughnacloy to Derry is very disturbing.

“Along with my colleagues in the Dáil I will be seeking an urgent meeting with an Taoiseach to impress on him and his government their commitment to this project under the terms of the St Andrew's Agreement.

“This project was the result of protracted negotiations and agreement between the governments and political parties at St Andrew's and it is incumbent on the Irish government to fulfil its responsibility under that agreement.

Padraig MacLochlainn TD continued:

 “This is just the latest indication of this government’s disdain for the Irish people and its complete subservience to the IMF/ECB. On the one hand an Taoiseach lectures the Irish people on the need to honour commitments when it comes to paying in full, unsecured Anglo bondholders but on the other seems to believe that it is okay to unilaterally derogate from an Irish government’s agreements entered into with the elected representatives of Irish citizens.

“This is unacceptable, the North West and Donegal/Derry in particular has been ignored for too long it’s time that this government delivered on its commitments.CRÍOCH

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has called on the DRD Minister to ensure that steps are taken to ensure that problems with the water network, and more specifically the disruption to the local community in the Ballymoney and Rasharkin areas are not repeated. Mr McKay said

“Within two weeks in this area we have had water cut off to households as a result of a pipe being burst and subsequently we have had a water quality scare as a result of failed tests. That is concerning to say the least and the loss of service to many NIW customers is unacceptable.

“I know that some businesses have lost trade and some were forced to close as a result of the burst pipe and the Regional Development Minister must ensure that these businesses are in some way compensated as the financial loss was due to no fault of their own. 

“My party colleague Cllr Cathal McLaughlin is currently looking into this on behalf of businesses and it should be remembered that businesses are getting it tough enough at the moment due to less money being spent in the economy and a tougher approach from banks without further pressure being exerted on them. 

“I must give credit where credit is due in one regard however. There seems to be a better approach to communications from NIW this year in terms of the use of social media and keeping customers and elected representatives up to speed and it has been useful to assess this on a small scale ahead of a possible repeat of last year’s sub-zero conditions.

"The challenge for NIW is to ensure that a high quality customer service is upheld throughout this winter and that information is accessible and up to date. A repeat of last year’s performance will not be acceptable especially given the effect that this could have on the lives of the most vulnerable in our community.

“I have put a number of questions to the Regional Development Minister in regard to the recent problems with water in Rasharkin and want an assurance from him that he will ensure that there will be no further incidents in this area as a result of this work.”

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Sinn Féin Junior Minister Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has called on the regulatory authorities in Belfast and Dublin to examine ways in which they can eliminate the problems being experienced by people sending and receiving electronic data via mobile phones. Martina Anderson said the costs of cross-border banking, roaming charges and sharing of electronic data via mobile phones is a huge issue in the North West and needs to be addressed. 

Ms Anderson explained:

""Representing a border county, I know the extreme challenges faced by individuals and businesses in both Donegal and Derry in carrying out electronic services transactions.

"The border continues to create financial inconvenciences for families and restricts businesses. It is important therefore that we seriously address the inhibitors to the use of enhanced  electronic services such as e-mail and other internet devices which are now available to for both personal and business use.

"While recent reductions to mobile roaming costs are welcome they fall well short of what is required.  Electronic communications and services have overtaken fixed-line and manual services with the knowledge economy increasingly available through mobile phones. Electronic signals do not recognise borders as experienced on a regular basis with involuntary 'roaming' charges being imposed on unsuspecting users because of a competing stronger signal from the opposite side of the border.

"Such costs are also a major barrier to doing business and creating jobs. In the present economic climate I would hope that more focus would be placed on removing any obstacle to doing business or creating jobs. Sinn Féin has always advocated an all-Ireland telecommunications market. There must be no more profiteering at the expense of people in border regions at a time when we are attempting to develop better linkages and revamp the island economy.

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Sinn Féin Social Protection spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on Minister Burton not to cut social welfare in the budget.

Speaking today as speculation mounted that €700m is to be taking out of the Social Protection Budget Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The Programme for Government contains a commitment to protect social welfare rates but there is a real fear that the government will introduce cuts by stealth. There is a danger that the government will attempt to cut €700 million from the social welfare budget by changing eligibility rules and cutting secondary benefits.

“For example thousands of carers across the country will today be in fear that their half-rate allowance will be removed. Thousands more families depending on welfare will be in fear that support for rent, fuel and school costs will be cut. I am calling on the minister and government to live up to their pre-election promises to protect the vulnerable by giving a commitment to take the incomes of social welfare recipients off the table in the budgetary process.

“Any cuts to social welfare payments will be counterproductive. Social welfare cuts ultimately means that the social welfare bill increases, because these cuts mean people have less to spend locally and the result is more job losses and longer dole queues.

“A political decision must be made to target wealth. The government should refuse to pay the promissory notes in Anglo Irish Bank and use the money to retain social welfare payments and invest in jobs to reduce the demand for welfare. I will be raising this with the government in the Dáil this evening.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has called on people to be aware of a postal scam that is circulating at present.

Mr McCartney said,

“We have been made aware of a scam involving a card being posted through the doors marked PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that people should ring a premium number 0906 6611911.

“This is a scam that originates in Belize and people who ring this number are left with a large phone bill of £315 for the call.

“If people receive this card they should contact the Royal Mail and the PSNI immediately and not phone this number under any circumstances.

“I am also calling on OFCOM to be proactive and block these scam numbers from the public domain and therefore protect the vulnerable people like the elderly.

“As Christmas is fast approaching I suspect that we will see more of these scams in different guises being sent out.  I would call on everyone to be vigilant and not to be duped by these scams.

 

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill today reminded farmers of the rule governing the activation of Single Farm Payment (SFP) entitlements.


Every farmer has to have an entitlement for each hectare of eligible land they wish to claim. The EU regulations require farmers to activate each of their SFP entitlements at least once every two years. If they are not, they may be taken from them.

Urging farmers to make sure they complied with this particular rule the Minister commented: "In these challenging economic times, it is especially important that farmers maximise their payment of SFP and take any appropriate steps to preserve their full entitlement in the future. My Department will be writing to farmers over the coming days to remind them to check that they are activating each of their SFP entitlements at least once every two years.”

The Minister added that vast majority of recipients of the reminder letter will not lose any entitlements as the Department automatically activates those entitlements which farm businesses could lose if they are not activated in 2012. She said: “When farmers receive these letters they should check their own individual circumstances and satisfy themselves that they are complying with the rule about activating their entitlements. As long as they activate enough eligible hectares, my Department will, where possible, automatically activate for them any entitlements that might be at risk in 2012.”

Farmers who do not expect to have enough eligible land to activate the entitlements not activated in 2011 may wish to consider transferring these to another farm business which could activate them in 2012.

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Fourteen Irish human rights activists still in Israel

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pádraig MacLochlainn has called on the Tánaiste to stand up to the Israeli government and demand the immediate release of 14 Irish human rights activists taken from the intercepted vessel, MV Saoirse.

The families of the 14 Irish citizens are very worried that they are still being held, despite indications that they would be released yesterday. Nothing has been heard of the arrested Irish since.

Deputy MacLochlainn today called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to make a statement in the Dáil on the issue but he refused to do so.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

"The time for diplomatic niceties has passed.

“The interception of this humanitarian vessel travelling to Gaza in international waters was an act of piracy by the Israeli naval forces at the orders of the Israeli government.

“The 14 Irish human rights activists were forcibly removed from the MV Saoirse and taken to Israel against their will.

“They have refused to sign the farcical deportation papers, on principle, as they did not enter Israel illegally. They rightly are not going to give legitimacy to Israeli military actions that defy international maritime law"

“However, the families were led to believe that their loved ones would be released yesterday and sent home to Ireland. That has not happened and the families are increasingly concerned. I have contacted An Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore's office again today and appealed to him to stand up to the Israeli government and demand their immediate release.” ENDS

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