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Sinn Féin Donegal Senator Pearse Doherty has today said that Minister John Gormley can and should exclude Granny Flats from the Second Home levy. Following an exchange with John Gormley on the Granny Flat exclusion amendment tabled by Senator Doherty the Environment Minister accepted that he would have to reconsider the issue and has gone to the Attorney General to seek advice. Minister Gormley is due to return to the Seanad this evening to clarify the matter.

Senator Doherty said:

“Speaking to my Granny Flat Amendment to the Second Home levy in the Seanad yesterday I impressed upon the Minister Gormley the need to exempt granny flats from the levy. He can and should make this decision, particularly in the context that there is broad political support for this amendment.

“Penalising families for providing a home to an elderly relative or to their own children makes no sense and is just plain wrong. The provision of this very particular type of accommodation by families saves the public finances a great deal of money. It also tackles the isolation and insecurity felt by family members in rural areas who would otherwise live on their own.

“That this government is now seeking to penalise a son or daughter financially for building a place for their mother or father in their later years is morally bankrupt and economically unfounded. When dealing with legislation Ministers and members need to remember that we are debating real issues that affect real people.

“Sinn Féin has commended Minister Gormley on the Bill but penalising the elderly, and their children who have built granny flats so that they can provide the necessary care and support for their parents goes totally against the spirit of the legislation.

“The Minister is due back in the Seanad this evening to clarify the issue. Mr. Gormley needs to realise that this is a major issue for rural Ireland. He cannot come back to the house hiding behind the Attorney General’s coat tails. The government can and must exclude granny flats from the Second Home levy.” ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed the Environment Committee’s decision to support his proposal to move forward with a Private Members Bill to introduce a Plastic Bag Levy.

Mr McKay said

“I would like to welcome the Environment Committee’s decision to support my proposal to bring forward legislation that would see the introduction of a Plastic Bag Levy in the north.

“I intend to bring this Bill to the floor of the Assembly later this year and consult with the general public.

“Plastic bags are an eyesore on our landscape and in the north there are an estimated 1 billion bags a year in use at any one time.

“If we don’t tackle excess waste like plastic bags in our wastestream we will have to pay hefty European fines in the next few years. Already retailers spend £80million per year on providing plastic bags to customers so there are clearly economic and environmental benefits to a plastic bag levy.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin chief whip in the Assembly, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA has stated that the recall of the Assembly is essential in order to question the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson on the June Monitoring rounds and the current budget allocations.

Speaking today Ms Ní Chuilin said:

“The previous Finance Minister, Nigel Dodds has failed to bring forward the June Monitoring Round outcomes for consideration by the Executive in time to be debated by the Assembly

“What each department is allocated as a result of this financial monitoring round is essential not just for ministerial members to know what their spend may be but also for each and every MLA in order to have the opportunity to ratify any re-allocation of funds to priority projects.

“This information is crucial to the work that we all do in the Assembly and on its committees and not to have the opportunity to debate the outcomes and question the effects of these decisions given the current economic crisis and departmental shortfalls is extremely poor practice.  

“How Nigel Dodds let this slip so close to recess is beyond me and most other parties will be asking the same question which Sammy Wilson will now have to answer.

“Sinn Féin saw no other option but to call for an emergency sitting of the Assembly in order to redress this situation and this will now happen on Tuesday of next week.”

Note to editor:

The motion reads:

We the undersigned Members, request the Speaker to summon the Assembly to meet at 10.30am on Tuesday 7 July 2009 for the purpose of debating the motion set out below; and to allow the Minister of Finance and Personnel to make a statement under Standing Order 18A on Public Expenditure: June 2009/10

Motion:      PUBLIC EXPENDITURE: JUNE 2009/10

That this Assembly calls on the Minister of Finance and Personnel to make a statement under Standing Order 18A on Public Expenditure: June 2009/10

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD this morning moved a Dáil motion calling for the writ to be moved for the by-election in Donegal South West. Deputy Ó Caoláin said there is a special obligation on the Government to hold the by-election at the earliest opportunity as it was their European election strategy which created the vacancy.

He said, “I move the motion in the name of the Sinn Féin Deputies for the holding of the by-election in Donegal South West to fill the vacancy created by the election of Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher to the European Parliament. This by-election should be held now so that the people of Donegal South West can have their full representation in the Dáil and so that the representative they elect can take his or her place here on the resumption of the Dáil in the autumn.

“There is a special obligation on the Government to hold this by-election since it created the vacancy. Fianna Fáil’s EU election strategy for the North and West constituency fell asunder when their candidate and MEP Seán Ó Neachtain pulled the plug on them at the last minute. They were forced to draft in Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher as both a proven vote-getter and a Donegal representative with the view to thwarting the challenge of Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.

“If the Government refuses to accept this motion today it will be rightly concluded that the prospect of Sinn Féin electoral success in County Donegal was again a determining factor because Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty would be a front-runner in this by-election.

“But it will be for the people to decide who represents them in Donegal South West. Our system is flawed in that only the Government can give the people that opportunity and trigger the process of calling a by-election to fill a vacancy that arises during the Dáil term. That should change and there should be a constitutional obligation for a by-election to be held within a set period after the vacancy arises. It should not be determined by what is politically expedient for the party or parties in office at the time.

“I have no doubt that the last thing this Government wants to do is to face the people again after their drubbing at the local and European elections. Yesterday the Taoiseach announced the latest disastrous unemployment figures and actually tried to put a positive spin on them by saying that the rate of increase was slower since January. Who does he think he’s fooling?

“The Taoiseach should let the people of Donegal South West decide. Let the Government put before the people their record. It might compel the Government at last to come up with some attempt at a coherent strategy for the retention and creation of jobs, something they have failed to produce so far, even though we are in the depths of the worst unemployment crisis we have ever experienced.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has this morning launched a set of concrete proposals to deal with serious crime ahead of the debate on the Criminal Justice Amendment Bill which will be debated in the Dáil tomorrow. Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the measures included in the Bill will not have any serious impact on tackling crime while they pose a serious threat to our common law justice system.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “With the package of measures included in the Criminal Justice Amendment Bill Justice Minister Dermot Ahern is attempting to portray the Government as being tough on crime. What the Minister is actually introducing is a set of proposals which will have no affect on serious crime but which pose a serious threat to our justice system including the right to trial by jury.

“The Government is trying to rush this legislation through in advance of the summer recess thwarting the debate in a manner which will rule out any prospect of proper scrutiny of the specific proposals contained in the Bill.

“The fact is that jury trials are not the problem. Statistics show that juries have not been reluctant to convict when a solid case is put in front of them. What is required is the measures to help Gardaí build solid cases such as the surveillance measures currently being introduced and a range of practical and effective protections for witnesses.

“The Government has also failed to provide any evidence to back up their claim that jury intimidation is a major problem. However, practical measures for the protection of jurors should be introduced.

“Sufficient legislation already exists to tackle serious crime. What is required now is action rather than yet another publicity driven piece of legislation.

“Among the measures Sinn Féin wants to see taken is the introduction of practical measures to protect jurors and witnesses, effective use of the measures included in the Surveillance Act, a guarantee of the future of the successful Dial to Stop Drug Dealing initiative, enhanced Garda visibility and increased funding for the Garda Drug Squads.

“These are all practical measures which, if introduced, would have an immediate impact in the fight against crime.” ENDS

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Farming Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has highlighted the issue of farm safety to farmers and appealed for increased safety at this time of the year.

Discussing her concerns the Minister said: “With the children now off for their summer holidays, combined with a busy time on the farm, I would encourage everyone to adopt a safety first approach. I would also like to highlight the assistance available from my Department to help farm families increase their safety around the farm.

“Farms can be very dangerous places at peak times over the summer and I appeal to the rural population to increase safety precautions on-farm and ensure that particularly young children are at a safe distance from equipment or physical farming activities at all times.

“I would particularly like to highlight the training offered by CAFRE on safe tractor driving, telescopic handlers, manual handling and pesticide application. In addition to these courses DARD’s Veterinary Service, over the coming months, will highlight ways to reduce the risks associated with cattle handling. Anyone seeking further advice on cattle handling facilities should contact their local Divisional Veterinary Office.

“The advice of the Health and Safety Executive is vital at this time of the year and I urge everyone involved in farming to heed and follow their potentially life-saving guidance.”

Supporting the Minister’s appeal, Health & Safety Executive (HSENI) Board Member and sheep farmer Crosby Cleland said: “It is a sad but true fact that farming has a very poor safety record. Everyone should get behind the efforts made by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) to promote farm safety. I would particularly ask you to find out about and support two particular campaigns being run by HSENI, one aimed at older farmers known as “Older, Wiser, Safer?”, and one aimed at young children known as “Be Aware Kids”.

”I urge all farmers to be particularly vigilant at this time of year when harvesting silage and when working with livestock. Taking simple steps can prevent you, your family or your employees from being injured or even killed. So please ensure that all your machinery and tractors are well maintained. Train and supervise all our young farmers. Provide a safe play area for young children and try to persuade the older farmer that he may need help to do something, or indeed, that it may be safer to leave it to someone a bit younger.”

The Minister concluded by emphasising: ‘’I don’t want any family to go through the heartbreak of having a child killed or injured this summer, please take care to avoid danger.’’

Further information on courses at CAFRE can be found at the attached web link www.cafre.ac.uk or by contacting the Short Course Administration Team at 028 9442 6704. If you would like advice from HSENI or would like more information on their campaigns call HSENI on freephone 0800 0320 121, or visit its website at www.hseni.gov.uk.”

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Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has this evening sharply criticised the Green Party during a Seanad debate on unemployment noting, “tonight’s motion put forward by the Green’s is a shameful and inappropriate backslapping exercise that ignores Ireland’s soaring unemployment which today stands at 11.9%.”

The Donegal Senator said:

“It appears that the Green’s will quite literally say anything to convince themselves that remaining in this failed government is the right move. Despite unemployment soaring month on month this government has yet to deliver a jobs retention and creation package. If you step back for just a minute and consider this fact it is amazing to me that Green Senators Deirdre de Burca and Dan Boyle have the brass neck to show up in the Seanad never mind proffer up this excuse of a motion.

“If the ESRI predications hold true half a million people could be facing unemployment in 2010, in the last week alone 881 job losses have been announced or implemented throughout the state. With such a rapid increase in the need for Social Welfare it is clear that announcing taskforces on developing the Smart Economy and stimulating employment is not sufficient. Time is running out so we need to see delivery not more empty chatter from the Greens and Fianna Fáil.

“Gordon Brown recently launched a plan for “Building Britain’s future” with an emphasis on the education, training and job creation for young people. Realising the detrimental effects of essentially losing a generation to unemployment, the British government has set out a number of proposals to stem the trend of unemployment among the younger generations of society. Governments throughout Europe are pushing through similar measures to stimulate their economies in an effort to stem the tide of unemployment. The Green’s need cop on, step up or once and for all step down.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has welcomed the announcement in the Dáil this afternoon from Minister of State at the Department of Health John Moloney that the new Central Mental Hospital will not be co-located at the site of the proposed super prison at Thornton Hall.

Speaking after Minister Moloney made the announcement Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“I welcome the announcement from Minister Moloney that the new Central Mental Hospital will not now be co-located at the site of the proposed Super Prison at Thornton Hall. The proposal to locate the hospital at this site was an insult to people with mental illness and their families and was typical of this Government’s attitude to the mental health sector. The Government has wasted valuable time and money on this totally ill-conceived project which met the opposition of the entire mental health sector.

“If the Government had listened in the first place the co-location at Thornton Hall would never have been proposed. The Government should finally listen now and redevelop the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum where great improvements have been made in recent years.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Economic spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD was today appointed by the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment to draw up a report for the committee on ‘What is required to expand employment in the agri-food sector’.

Speaking following the committee meeting Morgan said:

“The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment today appointed me as rapporteur for the committee in drawing up a report on ‘What is required to expand in the employment agri-food sector’. As unemployment hits record levels it is crucial that this committee plays its part in bringing forward concrete proposals regarding the steps that need to be taken to create new jobs.

“It is time to move beyond generalised proposals in relation to job creation. We need to be looking at a number of key sectors in detail and bringing forward strategies to create jobs in these sectors. The government is failing badly in this regard as the 413,000 now out of work know only too well.

“The agri-food sector is one of the potential growth sectors in the economy. It is clear that with the right interventions and support jobs can be created in this sector. Expanding this sector of the economy will also ensure that there is market for the produce of our farmers and fishermen.

“Processing food here rather than exporting raw materials will also add more value to our economy. We need to be exploiting our clean green image and developing new products for a changing market. We need to be introducing more research and development and using new technologies to enable this sector to expand.

“It is my intention to consult widely and take submissions from those involved in the sector over the summer. This is something I am particularly interested in, not least because of my own background in running a family enterprise in the fish processing sector. It is my intention to present this report to the Enterprise and Employment Committee in the autumn.” ENDS

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South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has said that the erecting of flags in the Ballynafeigh area is divisive and will have a negative impact on community relations in the area. He also stated that a number of residents have contacted him to highlight their concerns that the PSNI have entered into an agreement with loyalists in relation to the flags issue in this area.

Alex Maskey MLA said,
"My office has been contacted by a number of Ballynafeigh residents unhappy with the erecting of flags in the area which took place this week. Much is made of the idea that Ballynafeigh is a ‘shared community’, however, it is my belief that the erecting of these flags is divisive in this community and sets back community relations in the area.

“Local residents that have contacted my office are sick and tired of the flags being erected every year. What is causing further anger is that residents observed the PSNI stand back and watch as these flags were put up. Indeed, many have indicated to me that they believe that there is an agreement between the PSNI and loyalists in relation to the erection of these flags in this area.

"The erection of these flags is divisive and serves to intimidate local nationalists. Much is made of the idea that Ballynafeigh is a ‘shared space’; if this idea of a ‘shared space’ is become a reality then those that erect these flags should desist from doing so”.
CRÍOCH

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Speaking today as live register figures showed that unemployment has risen to 10.9% Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD accused the Government of delaying and procrastinating in securing action to get the country back to work.

Deputy Morgan said, “Today’s live register figures are extremely worrying. Not only do they highlight the grave crisis facing this country, but they also exemplify the ignorance of the Government in taking positive action to stem the haemorrhaging of jobs and creating new employment opportunities.

“If the sum total of the action that has been taken by the Government since April is the announcement of a Taskforce to advise on how to stimulate employment, the country is in dire trouble. We need action, we need jobs, we need leadership – we do not need Fianna Fáil pledging action, we need Government capable of action.

“In March 2009 Sinn Féin published an action plan ‘Getting Ireland Back to Work’ and we put forward 80 concrete and attainable proposals urgently required for job retention and job creation. Two months later and as the Dáil is about to rise for the summer recess nothing has been done. Rather than take aboard or consult the resources available to them, the government has delayed and procrastinated in securing action that will get, and keep, the Irish people in employment.

“Brian Cowen, Mary Coughlan and Brian Lenihan may be ignorant in bliss that their jobs will be waiting for them after the summer recess, but how many ordinary Irish people will be able to say the same. This Government’s mantra appears to be see no employment, hear no employment, speak no employment.” ENDS

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Local Sinn Féin representative, Daithí Doolan speaking from a picket at the Department of the Environment in Dublin, has called on the Minister to ensure the reinstatement of cleaning staff after a new contract cleaner failed to live up to an agreement to re-employ them.

Doolan said, “Minister Gormley needs to intervene in this dispute immediately. There was a clear agreement when Schorman Contract Cleaners won the contract from Eco Facilities Management that they would retain the existing staff working in the Department buildings.  

“Today, as Schorman was due to take over the contract, workers received a letter informing them that they would not be taken on by the company.  This action by Schorman is scandalous and must be reversed.  

“The Minister must respond immediately by ensuring that Schorman are left in no doubt that the retention of the contract is dependant on retaining the existing staff.

“I would also call for all future tenders for such contracts be only given to companies that recognise trade unions.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the decision to change EU guidelines on 'knobbly' fruit and vegetables and said that it will benefit both farmers and shoppers. July the 1st is the date on which the EU marketing standards for 26 types of produce will be scrapped.

Ms de Brún said:


"Today’s decision to allow for the sale of certain types of misshapen fruit and vegetables in Europe is a victory for commonsense.


"This will mean that local farmers can bring more of their produce to market and it will also hopefully mean that consumers see a drop in price. Nearly 20% of produce was rejected as it didn’t meet the guidelines. This was a ridiculous situation.


"It will also cut down on the present situation of considerable food waste, where farmers produce perfectly good, nutritious food but then cannot get this food onto supermarket shelves because its appearance doesn't meet marketing standards. The situation up until today made no sense whatsoever, particularly in view of economic hardship, and a high level of obesity among our young people." ENDS

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Sinn Féin International Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Government to demand the release of two Irish citizens and others who were yesterday kidnapped by the Israeli Navy while on a humanitarian mission to Gaza. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the actions of the Israeli’s amounted to piracy and called on the Government to seek the end of all preferential trade agreements in light of their ongoing human rights abuses.

Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “The Government must demand the immediate release of the Irish citizens and others aboard the Spirit of Humanity which was on its way to deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged people of Gaza and which yesterday fell victim to piracy by the Israeli Navy in international waters.

“The Government must also demand the return of the confiscated humanitarian aid that was on board including medicine, toys, olive trees and cement which had been cleared by the Customs of our EU neighbour Cyprus. The boat must be released and allowed it proceed on its way.

“And, in light of the Israeli blockade on Gaza and its ongoing human rights abuses, the Government should seek an end to all preferential trading agreements with Israel.” ENDS

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Ag labhairt do inniu i ndiaidh tuilleadh eolais ag teacht chun tosaigh fán “Acadamh Ultaise” dúirt Barra Mac Giolla Dhuibh;

“Níl fadhb ar bith agamsa leis an Aire nó an Roinn ag caitheamh airgid ar chúrsaí cultúrtha d’aon ghrúpa sa Tuaisceart. Ach tá dhá fadhb anseo leis an droch-cleachtas go dtí seo.

níor chóir go raibh airgead ar an taobh le togra ar bith mura bhfuil éileamh agus áiseanna ann sa chéad dul síos. Ní fiú airgead a mholadh nach féidir caitheamh agus ansin go mbeadh an t-airgead nach gcaitear ag dul ar ais chuig Westminster.
Mar Gaelgóir ní féidir liom seasamh siar agus ligin don nós seo leanúint, go gcaithfear déileáil le Gaeilge agus Ultais mar dhá theanga ar an leibhéal céanna. Níl siad ar chomh chéim. Shínigh Rialtais na Breataine suas don Chairt Eorpach 8 mbliana ó shin agus tá an Cairt soiléir ar an cheist seo – nach bhfuil cead ag rialtais ná údarás déileáil le teangacha ar bhonn pingin ar phingin. Caithfear déileáil leo ar bhonn a riachtanais fhéin.

“Dar le eagrais Gaeilge, tá na mílte ranganna Gaeilge in achan cheantar, in achan sráidbhaile fud fan na hÉireann. Tá na mílte paistí ag freastal ar Ghaelscoileanna agus níos mó na riamh ag foghlaim Gaeilge ar scoileanna Bhéarla.

Níl sé ceart na cóir déileáil le teanga ar bith ach ar bhonn a cuid éilimh agus a cuid riachtanais féin.

Beidh mé ag caint leis an Aire nua agus ag súil nach dtitfidh seisean isteach ar droch-nósmhaireacht seo.” CRÍOCH

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For Immediate Release:
 
North Antrim MLA and Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson Daithí McKay will be making a presentation to the Environment Committee tomorrow morning on his proposal to introduce a Plastic Bag Levy in the North. 
 
Mr McKay is currently putting together a Primary Legislation Private Members Bill on the matter.
 
Mr McKay said:

"A Plastic Bag levy is a simple but effective way of addressing the problem of Plastic Bag Litter.  Nearly 460million plastic bags go to landfill in the north each year and the public do see the need to address this unsightly problem.
 
"Last year the Assembly backed a Sinn Féin motion supporting the introduction of a Plastic Bag Levy and I feel there is no reason why we couldn't push this matter forward and introduce the necessary legislation"   CRIOCH.

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Sinn Féin Coleraine Councillor, Billy Leonard has commented on the statement made by the by Evelyn McDaid regarding the Coleraine Orange Order Parade on the 1st of July stating:

 

“Evelyn McDaid has been very brave since her husband was brutally murdered in Coleraine.

 

She has also been very principled and despite the horrendous context she has looked to the greater good of the community. I am therefore not surprised that she has made her appeal for this parade to pass off peacefully.

 

I am sure there will be many who agree with her call and it focuses minds to ensure that sectarianism doesn’t win through. This area must get passed this parade and indeed all other events this summer to build the sort of community that is not constantly in tension.” ENDS

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Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has presented the awards and congratulated the students at the recent Annual Awards ceremony at CAFRE’s Greenmount Campus.

This year 330 students graduated from courses in agriculture, agricultural engineering, horticulture and rural and countryside management.

Speaking at the ceremony the Minister said: “I am pleased to attend the Awards Ceremony at Greenmount and celebrate the students’ achievements. It is a great occasion and I congratulate all our students and recognise their hard work in achieving their awards. Once again the CAFRE students have proven themselves in a league of their own. This year's examination results have been outstanding across all courses at CAFRE. The quality of our graduates is excellent and they are highly regarded across the industry.

“I believe that well trained, competent and innovative people like you are the future of our industry and will help us to remain competitive in the global marketplace. You now have a sound foundation in technical and business skills that will make a difference to our industry. I look forward to working with you all in developing our industry in the future.”

The Minister also highlighted the importance of the land-based sector to the local economy. She said: “Down through the years there have been many challenges facing our industry. Indeed, the challenges faced by the industry and the rural communities today in the current economic climate are extremely difficult. The land-based sector is critical to the well-being of our economy; a key role of my Department is to support the industry and to encourage its growth and development with a strong market focus”.

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Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights spokesperson Foyle MLA Martina Anderson has welcomed the launch of a new information booklet by the Consumers Council entitled ‘Access to Air Travel’

The new guide informs passengers of the type and level of assistance they are entitled to at the airport. The Consumer Council has been given the responsibility to promote this service in the North which will see them deal with enquiries and handle passenger complaints by the Department of Transport

The guide was launched by The Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy MP, MLA at Belfast City Airport on Tuesday 30th June

Martina Anderson said


“There have been some horror stories in the press in the last few years about the way some airlines have treated disabled passengers so its very important that airlines and airports improve their level of service .Its equally important that passengers know the type and level of assistance they are entitled to at airports.


“Under European law passengers with a disability or reduced mobility have improved rights at all EU airports. Those passengers need to know that they are entitled to assistance throughout their journey, from booking their flight; check in, boarding and leaving their destination airport


The Consumer Council has produced the ‘Access to Air Travel’ guide to highlight the assistance passengers can expect and information on how to complain if something should go wrong. Passengers who feel they could benefit from assistance at the airport can get a free copy of the booklet by contacting the Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022.


Ends

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Sinn Féin Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn who has just returned from Gaza has described the Israeli government’s decision to board and hijack a peace boat en-route to Gaza carrying medical aid as contemptible. Councillor MacLochlainn added; “The piracy of the Israeli Navy in boarding the boat in international waters and towing it towards Israel is yet another astounding example of just how beyond reproach this administration believes it is.” A previous boat Free Gaza the Dignity was rammed in December on another humanitarian trip after Israel launched its renewed military offensive against the Palestinian people in Gaza.


Councillor MacLochlainn said:


“The passengers and crew of the ‘Spirit of Humanity’ boat are peace activists and human rights workers from 11 countries.

"Even before Israel’s military attack throughout Christmas and the New Year, over half of Gaza was without electricity because of Israel’s refusal to allow fuel into the city. Israel’s ongoing blockade of fuel, food and medical supplies had brought the city to its knees clearly softening the city up for its ferocious attack which destroyed the city and left thousands dead and wounded.

“Israel needs to understand there are political and economic consequences for its crimes against Gaza and its people, and European leaders need to step up and make their voice heard. Slowly starving an entire nation, blocking medical, humanitarian and reconstruction aid is contrary to international law and human rights and needs to be opposed. If nothing else this should be another signal to European leaders to immediately end all EU-Israeli trade agreements.

“European leaders need to demand the immediate release of those aboard the Spirit of Humanity and Israel's adherence to all UN Resolutions on the region. Just last week Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin noted, ‘Some key issues relating to Gaza remain to be dealt with. The humanitarian crisis is ongoing and is altogether unacceptable in terms of the failure to open up crossings and allow the free flow of aid.’ The time for rehetoric is long past it is now time governments acted.

“In the absence of Israel ceasing it human rights violations against Gaza and political leader’s refusal to toughen up their stance and move from words to action it has been left to civilian activists like those aboard the Spirit of Humanity to get aid to the city.”

"I call on the Irish government and on other EU states to demand the release of Irish and other citizens illegally arrested in international waters, that the confiscated humanitarian aid on board, (medicine, toys, olive trees and cement) which had been cleared by the customs of another EU country, Cyprus, be returned and that the boat be released and allowed proceed on its way.”


END

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