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Responding to the announcement of 1800 job losses at Ulster Bank Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty called on the government to work closely with the executive in the North to minimise to ensure that those made redundant return to the workforce as soon as possible.

Deputy Doherty said;

“This is a devastating blow to workers. Ulster Bank has 214 branches across the island, 79 in the north and 135 in the south. It is unclear how many of these branches will face closures.

“What is clear to anyone listening to the Anglo tapes is the cavalier attitude and callous disregard that senior bankers have to the public and the funds under their control. The actions of these senior bankers have led to massive job losses and branch closures.

“It is clear that the government and the executive in the North must work together to minimise job losses and branch closures and to ensure that those made redundant return to the workforce as soon as possible. An All-Ireland approach to banking and regulation is a necessity.

“Lastly there is a need for the senior managers in these banks that have been bailed out by either the British or Irish government to be fully held to account for the mess they have created.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has welcomed today’s publication of the Constitutional Convention’s report recommending marriage equality.

Deputy McDonald said;

“Last April the Constitutional Convention delegates delivered a decisive vote of 79% in favour of amending the constitution to provide for marriage equality.

“As today’s report notes, over one thousand submissions lodged by citizens, advocacy groups and representative organisations were considered by the convention.

“The government must now consider the convention’s recommendation and provide a response within four months.

“Last month Labour leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he expects a referendum on marriage equality in 2014.

“Marriage equality will make a real difference to same sex couples and of course their children by providing equal legal protections for these families.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has called on the HSE to reinstate funding for Art Assist Technology, a health treatment which saves lives, limbs and money.

Speaking this afternoon Senator Ó Clochartaigh said;

“The HSE discontinued funding for the Art Assist Technolgy subject to a HIQA review saying there wasn’t enough evidence the treatment worked.

“Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon Mr Sherif Sultan, based in Galway Clinic, did a presentation in Leinster House on the issue a couple of months ago.

“He claims to have had great success with the treatment and was disappointed that HSE funding was cut subject to review.

“The HIQA report shows that ‘despite some promising results on the effect of intermittent pneumatic compression in people with severe peripheral arterial disease who are not suitable for revascularisation, further high quality studies are required to reliably demonstrate its effectiveness.’

“The report states that ‘no serious adverse events’ from using the technology were found and one study of a small number of patients shows treatment may be associated with limb salvage, wound healing and pain management.

“It is obvious that certain clinicians are happy to use this technology and that they believe it has an extremely beneficial impact on the patient’s wellbeing while saving huge amounts of money for the health service in the longer term.

“This could be compared to the use of trial drugs in the treatment of cancer which is accepted medical practice and has got a lot of media lately.

“Therefore, I am calling on the Minister for Health and the HSE to allow the use of and fund such technology in Ireland as part of an ongoing programme which would also help in the collation of the empirical data needed to confirm the efficacy of the treatment as HIQA have outlined.”

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Tá Seanadóir Shinn Féin Trevor Ó Clochartaigh ag iarraidh ar Fheidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte (FSS) an maoniú don dteicneolaíocht Art Assist a thabhairt ar ais láithreach, cóir leighis a shábhálann beatha, géaga agus airgead.

Ag labhairt dó tráthnóna, deir an Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh;

“Chuir an FSS deireadh leis an maoiniú don dteicneolaíocht Art Assist fad is a bhí athbhreithniú dhá dhéanamh ag HIQA mar go ndúradar nach raibh dothain cruthúnas ann go n-oibríonn an chóir leighis.

“Rinne an Máinlia Comhairleach Soithíoch agus Ion-soithíoch an tUasal Sherif Sultan, atá lonnaithe i nGaillimh cur i láthair ar an ábhar seo i dTeach Laighean cúpla mí ó shoin.

“Tá toradh iontach ag an gcur chuige seo dár leis agus bhí an-díomá air gur ghearr an FSS an maoiniu faoi réir athbhreithnithe.

“Léiríonn athbhreithniú HIQA 'in ainneoin roinnt torthaí dearfacha ar thionchar an comhbhrú neomatach eadrannach ar dhaoine le drochghalair artaireach forimeallach in othair nach bhfeileann athshoithíochú dóibh, go bhfuil gá le tuilleadh triailacha d'ardchaighdeán chun a éifeacht a léiriú go cinnte.'

“Deir an tuairisc nach bhfuil 'aon drochthoradh dáíríre' ó bheith ag úsáid an teicneolaíocht agus léirigh staidéar amháin ar líon bheag othair go bhféadfadh an cóir leighis seo a bheith bainteach le slánú géaga, cneasú créachtaí agus bainistiú pian.

“Tá sé soiléír go bhfuil dochtúirí áírithe breá sásta an teicneolaíocht seo a úsáid agus go gcreideann siad go mbíonn toradh iontach dearfach aige ar shláinte othair chomh maith le ualach mór airgid a shábháíl don seirbhís sláinte sa bhfadtéarma chomh maith.

“D'fhéadfaí seo a chuir i gcomparáid leis an gcleachtas atá ann chun drugaí trialacha a úsáid le dul i ngleic le hailse, cleachtas a bhfuil cuid mhaith cainte faoi le déanaí.

“Dá bhrí sin tá mé ag impí ar an Aire Sláinte agus an FSS cead a thabhairt chun an teicneolaíocht seo a úsáid agus maoiniú a thabhairt dá réir, mar chuid de chlár leanúnach taighde a chuideodh chun an eolas uilíoch a theastaíonn le éifeachtúlacht an chóir leigheas seo a dheimhniú, mar atá iarrtha ag HIQA.”

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During Leader’s Questions in the Dáil today the Taoiseach acknowledged under questioning from the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD that there are tapes of conversations in banks other than Anglo Irish.
The Taoiseach also revealed that the Minister for Finance is writing to the banks tomorrow asking that they ensure that any tapes in their possession are kept safe.
The Sinn Féin president expressed surprise that the Minister for Finance is only writing to the banks tomorrow asking that they ensure that these tapes are held secure for a future inquiry.
He said: “It’s been five years since the banking crisis and several years since the gardaí took possession of the Anglo tapes. The government has known of the existence of the Anglo tapes at least since the first was published, almost two weeks ago.
“But only now is the Minister for Finance taking action. This is evidence of the dismal way in which the government has handled this crisis from the outset.”
Speaking after Leader’s Questions, Gerry Adams TD said:
“It is clear that the on-going revelations from the Anglo tapes continue to disturb and outrage citizens.
“Much of the focus around the tapes has been on who within the Fianna Fáil government met with the bankers and what can they tell us of the events of September 2008.
“Last week I asked Deputy Martin, who was then a senior figure in the cabinet, to make a statement to the Dáil setting out which Fianna Fáil government ministers met the bankers. There has still been no response to that from the Fianna Fáil leadership.
Last week the Taoiseach also said that there were no files of any value in the Department of the Taoiseach. Today I asked him about the files in the Department of Finance and the Central Bank and can these files shed more light on what happened?
He declined to answer. ends

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Speaking in the EU Parliament this morning, on the review of the Irish Presidency of the EU, Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson, said that it could not be described as a success but rather a missed opportunity to show Leadership in Europe.

Martina Anderson said:

“The one area where I would commend its leadership is on the issue of Tobacco Products Directive in becoming the first EU Member state to bring forward proposals for introduction of100% standardised packaging.

“Unfortunately, this is in contrast to its lack of leadership in other areas. For instance the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s misleading behaviour in the Multi Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations was an embarrassment.

“The substance of the final proposed MFF agreement is equally disappointing. It represents continued austerity. Its immediate impact will be a 6% cut to the EU budget for 2014 - the first time the EU budget has been cut in 56 years and it occurred under the Irish Presidency.

“Austerity most certainly isn’t working for Ireland and it won’t work for the rest of Europe.

“The Irish presidency also failed to achieve extending the Syrian Arms embargo and failed to have the issue of domestic violence put on the agenda. While an Taoiseach challenged my assertion that they haven't put domestic violence on the agenda, the fact remains that after six months of his presidency they have still not signed, never mind ratified, the European Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence

“The Duff report on practical arrangements for the holding of the European elections in 2014 is another example of the Irish government’s lack of leadership when it failed to defend its allocation of EU seats. The refusal to fight to retain the present number of seats in the 26 county State was a disgrace and showed contempt for the Irish peoples’ right to maximum representation in Europe.

“A major difficulty which the Duff Report creates is the need to redraw constituency boundaries. This gives incumbents an unfair advantage, which of course suits the parties of government, who want to do everything to minimise their inevitable losses next year. It makes it problematic for other political parties like mine to choose candidates without knowing the geographical nature of the constituencies.

“In a further display of disdain for Irish citizens, Fine Gael MEP, Mairead McGuinness – a senior member of an Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s party- remarked while I was speaking today - ‘you may be wearing green today but its only on the outside’. This was a clear inference that she did not recognise my Irish birthright. This was a disgraceful smear not just on my Irishness, but shows an arrogant contempt for Irish citizens with whom she has a political disagreement.

“This is all the more contemptible given that an Taoiseach –her Party Leader - didn't lift a finger to defend the Irish allocation of MEPs while holding the EU Council Presidency. If subjected to the same level of assessment as those young people doing the leaving cert, I’m afraid the Irish Presidency (and the Irish government) fails the leadership test."

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Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has welcomed Minister Rabbitte’s announcement of the Nationwide Broadband Mapping Project.

Deputy Colreavy said the programme must demand full cooperation from private operators to ensure that every citizen in the country has access to adequate broadband provision.

Deputy Colreavy said:

“It is the duty of this government to ensure that every home in the country has access to broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps.

“Currently Ireland has the lowest level of high-speed broadband in the European Union, and for a country that is aiming to be the best small country in the world in which to do business, this is not acceptable.

“While the private sector plans to rollout broadband to a significant part of the country, there are still many areas which could potentially lose out.

“Therefore, an adequate mapping programme that examines every town and village in the state must be initiated.

“Equality demands that many pockets of the country, in areas such Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal which previously have had limited access to broadband, have access to at least 30Mbps, in common with the rest of the country.

“The mapping programme must demand full cooperation from private operators and they must comply with the Nationwide Broadband Mapping Project to ensure that every citizen in the country has access to adequate broadband provision.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann said a report by the British Housing Federation shows what impact the introduction of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ could have in the North.

The West Belfast MLA and party spokesperson on housing said:

“The report states that rent arrears have soared in some areas and houses in many estates in England are lying empty because people won’t move into them.

“Sinn Féin’s vow to block the bedroom tax at the Assembly has been proven to be the common sense option when we see the evidence emerging in Britain.

“At the Ard Fheis Martin McGuinness clearly stated Sinn Féin would employ a petition of concern if the bedroom tax was brought before the Assembly, effectively blocking it.

“The profile of housing in the North is completely different from the South/East of England where this model was designed and therefore the impact on local people could actually be even worse than what we are seeing currently in Britain.

“We in Sinn Féin have said that if this is introduced in the North it will devastate many communities. This tax is wrong as it hits at those most in need.

“Sinn Féin have met with other political parties and many groups to build a consensus to deal with this and many other problems people will face as a result of proposed welfare cuts.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on environment, community and local government, Brian Stanley TD, has welcomed the start of four days of hearings on the government’s climate change bill before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment. The first hearing is today.
Deputy Stanley said:
“Sinn Féin is ready to play a full part in these hearings and will evaluate the presentations against our own Climate Change Bill 2013, which we produced earlier this year. This is a valuable opportunity to question and debate with international experts and stakeholders.
“Sinn Féin will continue to highlight the need for an all-Ireland approach to tackling climate change, the need for science-based emission targets in the government bill, the establishment of an independent climate change commission, legally binding five-year carbon budgets and accountability to the Dáil.”
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Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said it is extremely concerning that there are allegations of malpractice around procurement issues in the Northern Health Trust

The West Belfast MLA and Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee said:

“This is not the first time that whistle blowers have uncovered evidence of malpractice and I am pleased to see them and their evidence being taken seriously and investigated

“It is important that people working in the public sector feel able to come forward and voice their concerns when they witness procedures not being properly followed and public money is being mishandled.

“We have been here too many times before. The department should ensure that all its systems are fit for purpose and doesn’t wait until a problem presents itself before rigorously enforcing proper procedures.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Economy, Conor Murphy MP has accused Assembly Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson of attempting to cloud the discussion on fiscal autonomy by substituting ‘assumptions and apportionments’ for fiscal accuracy.

Conor Murphy said:

“Sammy Wilson should remember that as Finance Minister he has a responsibility to provide financially accurate answers to members’questions on the Economy. He is not there to cloud the issue based on partisan political commentary.

“We all know that Sammy is a unionist and wants to justify the North’s continued connection with Britain. But if he is secure in his belief that this is the best option for all the people here then why is he afraid to seek accurate revenue and expenditure figures that could support his contention.

“Sammy Wilson’s resort to ridicule and derision of requests for facts and figures serves only to expose the weakness of his assertion that we are irretrievably linked to the British Exchequer.

“Mr Wilson insists that the methodology used to produce his figures is identical to those used for Scotland and that they are international standards for the compiling of statistics and have to be adhered to and are subject to a degree of rigour and international scrutiny. He fails to add that when Scotland launched a robust challenge to this methodology it was admitted by British Economists producing the figures that the report 'was designed to maintain the Union and score (points) over all opponents'.

“Sammy Wilson’s own Department of Finance has repeatedly stated that its figures ‘are not intended to provide an exact figure of individual revenue items’ and are produced: “on the basis of high level assumptions and apportionment factors.”

“British government sources have also admitted that they cannot provide an accurate assessment of the deficit – if there is one - for the north. Therefore it’s time that Mr Wilson desisted from using this disinformation and ‘assumptions and apportionment’ as a comfort blanket to reassure him that the union is safe.

“NI Statistics and Research Agency’s (NISRA), John Bradley and Tom Healey from the Nevin Institute among other prominent economists have all called for improvements in how these calculations are made. While DFP claim that improving the samples would cost too much, Scotland has a full framework for economic data, the North has no independent methodology to provide accurate information.

“Figures produced by DFP are not recognised by anyone outside the Department while Scottish diligence and determination has made tremendous progress and their figures are accepted by the British Office of National Statistics, while Sammy’s are not.

“It’s time Sammy got past ‘assumptions and apportionment’ and demanded proper statistics along with real fiscal powers that would allow us to grow our economy”.

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson addressing the EU Parliament in Brussels this evening informed members of the ramifications of adoption of the Special Advisors (SPAD) Bill introduced in the Assembly recently by Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) Leader, Jim Allister

Martina Anderson said:

“Last month the North of Ireland reverted to the politics of exclusion by passing legislation barring politically motivated former-prisoners from taking on the role of advisers to Executive Ministers.”

Declaring a personal interest in this issue Ms Anderson continued:


”As a result of the introduction of this regressive legislation my husband, Paul Kavanagh, an former prisoner who served 15 years imprisonment as a consequence of the political conflict in the North of Ireland will be the first person directly effected by this Bill. But it will debar all former prisoners imprisoned for more than five years from holding these posts in the future.

“Paul Kavanagh, has been a Political Advisor to the Joint First Minister, Martin McGuiness MLA for 5 years, but on passage of this Bill will face termination of his employment.

“Despite the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) providing for the employment and re-integration of former prisoners, the SDLP in its refusal to oppose anti-Agreement unionists allowed them to reintroduce the politics of exclusion in the North of Ireland, imposing a retrospective punishment in breach of Article 7 of the ECHR on politically motivated former prisoners.

”It was discrimination and laws such as this which were the catalyst for the conflict in Ireland in the first place.

“If we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past we cannot allow bad laws to take hold. I therefore call on the Irish government, as a co-equal signatory to the GFA – an International Treaty between two sovereign States - to support legal challenges to this discriminatory law.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on workers’ rights, David Cullinane, has welcomed the election of Mandate general secretary, John Douglas, as president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“John Douglas has been a strong advocate for working people, particularly low-paid workers. He has stood against the failed austerity policies which have caused such hardship for working people.
“No doubt he will be strong voice for social and economic justice and for the rights workers in his new role as president of ICTU.”
ends

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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has said that he is disappointed that the Parades Commission has failed to listen to the residents of Carnlough over the proposed 12th of July parade.

 Mr. McMullan said,

 “I have been calling for months for dialogue between the Loyal Orders and local residents in order to find an accommodation over the forthcoming Twelfth parade.

 “I am therefore deeply disappointed that the Loyal Orders have been rewarded with a parade without any restrictions without talking to anyone, the residents, PSNI or the Parade Commission.

“The local residents are obviously very upset at the prospect of a major parade being imposed on their village for an entire day without any restrictions whatsoever resulting on many becoming prisoners in their own home.

“I will now be meeting with local residents to see what can be done in order to lessen the impact of this parade on the local community and look at avenues of appeal to the Parades Commission.”  

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Sinn Fein MLA Chris Hazzard has congratulated Caitriona Ruane for being selected as Politician of the Year at the Pride Awards on Friday night.

 Mr Hazzard said,

 "I would like to congratulate my colleague Caitriona Ruane for winning the award as Pride Politician of the year as there is no one more deserving.

 "Caitriona has fought hard for equality for everyone and has been particularly strong on the issue of marriage equality that effects the gay community.

"It is important that we all support equality in all aspects of life for every citizen and Caitriona has been exemplary throughout her career, not only as a politician in standing up for the rights of minorities.

"I know that Caitriona will be honoured by the acknowledgement that her work has been recognised although I am certain it is not her motivation in pursuing the equality agenda.

 "Sinn Féin will continue our campaign for marriage equality so that all couples who are married enjoy equal legal and other rights that people take for granted".

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Speaking from the Short Strand area this evening Cllr Niall Ó Donnghaile said;

"I am thankful that tonight's parade passed off peacefully. I want to commend the dignity and resolve of those residents along the Albertbridge Road who held a peaceful protest this evening. 

A substantial amount of work and engagement has been ongoing in the Short Strand area to ensure a peaceful night for all. 

I would thank also those community and youth leaders locally who provided substantial diversionary events for children and young people.

 The reality however is that this community had to endure yet another massive policing operation to facilitate a parade organised by people who continue to refuse to engage with the Short Strand residents.

 It is important to remember that the only homes on this stretch of the Albertbridge Road are on the nationalist side and it makes no sense to have such a large volume of supporters along this route of the parade only to antagonise residents who live there.

 I witnessed a number of breaches of the Parades Commission determination at tonight's parade including the display of numerous paramilitary flags.

 I would once again call on the Loyal Orders to follow the lead of those residents from opposite sides of the interface in east Belfast who sat down and met last week following several nights of tension. This work isn't and will not be easy but it is the only way forward."

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has welcomed the commitment from Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson to the committee of the Office of First and Deputy First Minister that monies will be ring fenced for the completion of the A5.

 Mr. McCartney said,

“At the committee meeting of the OFMDFM, First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness stated that monies in the next round of funding will be ring fenced for the completion of the A5.

 “The A5 has temporarily been delayed so the present funding was in danger of being lost back to the British Exchequer.  It was agreed that these monies rather than being returned would be used for other projects in the present round of funding.

 “There was a fear that this would lead to the A5 losing its funding altogether. The decision by the First and Deputy First Minister to ring fence money will ensure the project will proceed as soon as the hold up is resolved and create confidence in the region.

 “This is good news for the entire North West region in that the road will open up a gateway that will attract inward investment, cut journey times to Dublin and increase safety on this route.”

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Sinn Fein finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, has said it is more important than ever that mortgage holders know their entitlements and understand their contracts.
Deputy Doherty said:
“From today the Central Bank’s new Code of Conduct on Mortgages kicks in. This change in the Code favours banks over mortgage holders and allows them greater scope to place more demands on struggling homeowners.
It is more important than ever that mortgage holders know and understand their rights and their contracts.
For example, today it has emerged that many people on fixed mortgages for the last five years are entitled now to switch to a tracker mortgage. The banks must be prompt and open in bringing this to the attention of those who could benefit.
People need to know that if they are struggling to pay their mortgage that they are not alone. Almost one in four of mortgage holders is in mortgage distress and many more are skipping other bills to make sure they do not fall into arrears.
The government has unfortunately sided with the banks and the new Code which applies from today goes hand-in-hand with the reversal of the Dunne Judgment which protected the Family Home which is due to pass through the Dáil this week. The government’s strategy is clear: let the banks off the leash regardless of the social and economic impact.”
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Sinn Fein MEP, Martina Anderson has voiced strong opposition to the appointment of any serving MEPs as EU Ombudsman. Ms Anderson was commenting when it became known that the two largest groups in the Parliament were proposing members of their respective groupings as nominees for the position.

Martina Anderson said:

“I was dismayed to learn of the decision by the two major blocks in the EU Parliament to put forward the names of their own groups as nominees for the position of EU Ombudsman. While I do not wish to make any aspersions regarding any individual’s ability I do have serious reservations about those who are serving MEPs - some for multiple terms - with strong partisan political records, being put forward for what should be a politically neutral position.

“As a strong advocate of the need for the services of an Ombudsman that can act independently I believe that the holder of the Office should have no political baggage that could be used to undermine any decisions s/he has to take.

“Article 9.2 of the Ombudsman's Statute states that "When taking up his duties, the Ombudsman shall give a solemn undertaking [...] that he will perform his duties with complete independence and impartiality." How would this be possible if the person appointed has  fixed political affiliations?

“It is my opinion that the obvious person meeting the criteria laid down in statute is Emily O Reilly – presently the Ombudsman in the South of Ireland. She has experience, reputation and ability to bring the independence and transparency required to this important position.

“I would urge all MEPS but particularly my fellow Irish MEPS to lobby their respective blocks in the Parliament to keep this position free from the influence of political allegiances and vote for Emily O’Reilly as an independent, impartial Ombudsman.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on foreign affairs, trade and diaspora, Séan Crowe TD, has welcomed Croatia’s accession to the EU today.
Deputy Crowe said:
“I would like to congratulate Croatia on joining the EU today and warmly welcome them into the union. Croatia is now the 28th member of the EU.
“This comes 10 years after they started the accession process and just under 20 years since the end of its war and eventual separation from the Yugoslavia.
“It is a difficult time for the EU due to high unemployment and low growth, and Croatia’s owns economy has for the past four years either been in recession or stagnant.
“The target of the EU needs to be on assisting the unemployed, the disadvantaged, and improving the living standards of people in its 28 countries.
“The EU must focus on investment and growth, not the current policies of austerity and cutbacks.”
ENDS

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