GLAC PÁIRT I GCUR CHUN TOSAIGH na hÉIREANN

Nuacht

Michelle O’Neill has been named the new leader of Sinn Féin in the North.

Please watch and share this exclusive interview below which tells a bit of her life story as a mother of two from a small village in County Tyrone, her work in politics and in the Executive, standing up for equality, respect and integrity in government and continuing the work that Martin McGuinness has done stretching himself for peace and reconciliation.

You can view a biography of Michelle O’Neill here


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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has set out his vision for the next steps in education locally.

Mr O’Dowd spoke of the requirement to prioritise the needs of children by creating a strong, sustainable network of inter-dependent schools designed to deliver a modern education service. Among the actions he has decided to take are to commission an immediate audit to identify schools which are not educationally viable, to commission an exercise to shape the future pattern of education delivery across each Board area, to set out new criteria for future capital investment, and to make the requirements of the Entitlement Framework statutory by 2013.

The Minister also emphasised that his main priority was to raise standards and tackle underachievement and inequality in our system. He described as unacceptable the gaps in achievement, especially between those pupils from disadvantaged areas and those from more affluent backgrounds

Addressing the Assembly this afternoon, the Minister spoke of the scale of the educational challenges ahead and said: “At the core of this challenge is how we plan our provision. The Bain report spelt out unambiguously that we have inherited a pattern of provision that is now unsustainable.

“We have too many schools that do not have the capacity to give children the broad and rich educational experience they deserve. Schools which, in some cases, have lost the confidence of the parents, pupils and communities they were built to serve.

“Our latest enrolment figures show that our schools have almost 85,000 spare places, that is the equivalent of more than 150 schools. A third of our 863 primary schools have fewer than 100 children enrolled and a fifth of our 217 post-primary schools have fewer than 400 pupils.

“However sustainable schools are not simply a numbers game. Schools will be measured against the six principles of the Sustainable Schools policy”

The Minister went on to highlight the work he wants taken forward, and said: “I am asking the managing authorities to conduct an immediate viability audit to identify clearly those schools which are evidencing stress now in remaining educationally viable. Key criteria will be enrolments, standards and financial viability. I have asked for this to be submitted before the end of the year along with short and long term proposals to safeguard the education of the children currently attending those schools.”

The Minister went on to outline a second piece of work the five Education and Library Boards would undertake with CCMS to plan a sustainable and affordable pattern of schools.

The Minister continued: “I am therefore commissioning them to co-ordinate a strategic exercise based on each Board area to shape the future pattern of education delivery. As part of this process there will be close consultation with the other sectors.

“It is important however that a comprehensive strategic approach covering all children’s needs is adopted within the parameters flowing from what I have set out today. I want to see the first phase of this work completed, within six months of the formal commission from my Department. This work will have an early focus on post-primary provision.”

The Minister moved on to signal how he was going to deal with the capital build programme, given the drop in available capital funding and said: “Action is needed to restructure our schools estate to ensure it is capable of meeting the needs of our children in the future, is affordable and represents the best and most effective use of tax payers’ money.

“I must be certain that we are investing our resources in the right schools. It is my intention to set out clear criteria for access to capital investment in the near future. These criteria will be founded on the Sustainable Schools policy and the requirement that any proposal is founded in an area plan agreed by the sectors and approved by my Department. Linked to this I will put in place a new explicit process for capital planning.

“In taking forward this new approach I have given careful consideration to how to deal with the remaining projects on the Investment Delivery Plan.

“I need to be assured that these projects are consistent with the overall plans for the area they are situated in.

“To have confidence in future priorities for capital investment these projects must be critically assessed as part of the area planning exercise. They can of course come forward again if, after testing against the new processes being established, they remain the highest priority in the context of the area plan and against the new criteria.

“In addition to those remaining projects on the Investment Delivery Plan, the further 100 or so projects which have been logged with the Department by School Managing Authorities will also be tested as part of the area planning exercise.

“This has not been an easy decision but I am convinced that it is the right decision. Only by doing this can I be assured that limited resources are being invested in the highest priority projects which will ensure we are building the right type of schools, in the right place and of the right size to meet the future needs of children and young people.”

Among other moves, the Minister signalled his intention to trigger the legislation to put the Entitlement Framework on a statutory basis from September 2013. To help schools complete the implementation of the Entitlement Framework requirements, the Minister has decided to phase the introduction so that the full entitlement of 24 courses on offer at Key Stage 4 and 27 courses at post 16 will be a requirement by 2015.

The Minister also commissioned a major review of the Common Funding Scheme, which allocates money to individual schools, to ensure the scheme fully supports the Department’s policy objectives, including targeting social need. The Minister plans to have a new scheme operational by 2013.

The Minister concluded: “Today I have set out a comprehensive and ambitious work programme for the months ahead. I have responded to the challenge to deliver a more sustainable and strategically planned schools estate. I have responded to the need to provide certainty about the Entitlement Framework and I have set out a clear course of action designed to deliver results.

“This next year will be a year of change in education, change designed to bring greater certainty in the longer term – for schools, for parents, and, most of all, for the young people that the education service is here to serve.”

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East Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan said it is crucial the Executive support rural businesses and promote rural areas as prime spots for the setting up of new businesses.

 

The Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson was speaking in support of a motion due before the Assembly on Tuesday calling on the Executive to increase support for rural businesses.

 

“The final draft of the Rural White Paper initiated by Michelle Gildernew when she was Agriculture Minister is due to be published shortly and it is hoped it will bring all the government departments together with a central theme of working for the benefit of rural issues.

 

“This along with current Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill’s longer term strategy for the agri-food sector will be a crucial factor in supporting rural business and creating much-needed jobs.

“We need to be pro-active in promoting not only rural businesses in general but also in attempting to attract big business to rural areas. The Councils Economic Development Plans also have a big part to play along with other statutory agencies in supporting current businesses and promoting rural sites as ideal venues for larger companies to set up.

 

“There is a large pool of workers available in rural areas and with added support, along with these programmes of work undertaken by the Executive, rural areas can be put on an equal footing with their urban neighbours.

 

“On the issue of advertising there needs to be a flexible and commonsense approach taken. Conservation is a crucial issue for rural communities but so is making a living.”

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Sinn Féin Enterprise Spokesperson, Phil Flanagan MLA (Fermanagh/South Tyrone) has welcomed the proposed abolition of airport tax on long haul flights out of Belfast.

Mr. Flanagan said: 

“Sinn Féin has strongly lobbied for an all-Ireland harmonisation of the tax regime including airport and corporation taxes. It is imperative that if we are to increase inward investment and maximise the tourist appeal from North America and elsewhere that we attract additional direct flights into Belfast International by removing travel barriers. 

“With the current the tax costing £60 per passenger out of Belfast against €3 from Dublin it has put the only direct flight between Belfast and the US in jeopardy.

“Not only will the abolition of this airport duty protect the existing US route but it will assist the International Airport in its efforts to attract other transatlantic carriers.

“I also welcome the transfer of responsibility regarding any future change in airport taxes to the Assembly. While it is a small move it nonetheless represents further progress on transfer of fiscal decision making to the Assembly. Sinn Féin will continue to work towards transfer of maximum fiscal powers away from London.

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has welcomed the proposed legislation by Environmental Minister Alex Attwood to lower the drink drive limit but called for consultation with the Irish Government to set an all Ireland limit.

Mr Boylan stated:

“The decision to lower the drink drive limit has to be welcomed by everyone concerned with road safety.

“The toll of 75 deaths and nearly 500 serious injuries over a five year period through drink driving is unacceptable and this initiative will help empower the police to tackle those who still think it is ok to drink and drive.

“I also believe that there is an opportunity to consult with the Irish Government in order to set an all Ireland limit.This would be beneficial along the border area where two different levels could cause confusion.

“The safest option is not to drink and drive at all and I would ask all drivers who have had a drink to think twice before getting behind the wheel.

“Any new measure that will reduce fatalities on our roads is to be welcomed.”

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Ar Lá Eorpach na dTeangacha labhair an feisire eorpach Bairbre de Brún faoi thábhacht an ilteangachas. Spéis i dteangacha is i bhfoghlaim teangacha a chur chun cinn i ndaoine fásta is i bpáistí, is aidhm don lá seo.

Agus í i bParlaimint na hEorpa i Strasbourg na Fraince, dúirt Iníon de Brún:

"Tá mé thar a bheith sásta bheith páirteach inniu agus Lá Eorpach na dTeangacha á chéiliúradh againn. Is pléisiúir dom bheith in ann an Ghaeilge a labhairt i bParlaimint na hEorpa agus a fhios agam go bhfuil gach rud a deirim á aistriú go comhuaineach i 22 teangacha eile.  Is pléisiúir dom chomh maith éisteacht le réimse leathan nuatheangacha eorpacha ar bhonn laethúil.

"Tacaím go láidir le cearta teanga in éirinn agus ag leibhéal AE. Ba mhaith liom an deis seo a thapú chun comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le Gaeil ó thuaidh agus 5 bliain de Raidió Fáilte, 20 bliain de Choláiste Feirste agus 40 bliain de bhunscoil Phobal Feirste á chéiliúradh. Ba mhaith liom forbairt iontach úr Cultúrlainne i mBéal Feirste a mholadh fosta.

"Tá súil agam go gcuirfidh an AE leis an méid atá déanta go dtí seo faoi ilteangachas a chur chun cinn.  Tá súil agam nach fada an lá go mbeidh cead ag Bascaigh, Catalóinigh agus muintir na Breataine Bige in an gnó a dhéanamh le hinstitúidí an AE ina dteanga féin."

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Today, on the European Day of Languages Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún MEP has spoken about the importance of linguistic diversity.

Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg on a day which celebrates multilingualism, de Brún said, "I am pleased to be a part of the EU celebrating its linguistic diversity. Modern languages provide a great insight into a culture and are a key element of understanding our European Neighbours

It is a joy to be able to speak in Irish in the European Parliament and it is wonderful to hear everything from Polish to Portuguese to on a daily basis.

I am a strong supporter of Irish language rights across Ireland I would like to take this opportunity to mention two cornerstones of the Irish language in Belfast and to congratulate Coláiste Feirste on their 20th anniversary and the Cultúrlannn on their new extension.

"Ireland has a lot to offer with regards to linguistic diversity, not only with our native languages, but with those that have become present and vibrant in our society due to immigration and now form an integral part of modern Ireland. I am delighted to be able to share this culture with my colleagues in Brussels.

I hope the EU continues its good work in the field of linguistic diversity and paves the way for Welsh, Catalan, Basque and other minority languages to also be afforded the privilege of expressing themselves in their mother tongue in the near future."

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Sinn Féin Cork East TD and party spokesperson on sport, Sandra McLellan, has congratulated the successful Cork ladies football team on their senior all-Ireland success at Croke Park on Sunday.

Speaking after watching the match

Deputy McLellan said:

“It was a fantastic game and a fantastic victory for the Cork ladies. It is a great credit to Eamon Ryan and his management team and to all the players that they had the strength and determination to come back after last years disappointment to add this title to the five in a row. Their record surely marks them amongst the best ever teams to play the game. Some of the individual performances were immense.

“It is a tremendous victory and we are all very proud of the team in Cork. We look forward to welcoming them back home this evening.”

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On Sunday Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald TD and West Belfast MP Paul Maskey will travel to Liverpool to address a number of meetings and events at the British Labour Conference. The Sinn Fein delegation will also meet key organisations of the city’s Irish community.

The party will host a fringe meeting, `Ireland and Britain – towards a new relationship’ on Sunday at 6pm, sharing a platform with Labour's Lord's spokesperson on Ireland Angela Smith, also a former Minister, and Labour MP Pamela Nash, who is part of Labour’s team in relation to the north.

Ms McDonald will also address an Agreed Ireland Forum fringe later that evening on the current economic and debt crisis.

Speaking from Dublin before leaving for Liverpool, Mary Lou McDonald said:

“We welcome the opportunity of the conference to engage with people from the British labour movement on a number of key issues of concern.

“The current economic crisis, ever deepening as we speak, highlights the urgent need for an alternative way forward. Clearly policies in Ireland and in Britain of cuts and austerity have only served to exacerbate the crisis, strangling any prospect of growth.

“The human cost is devastating lives, throwing millions into poverty and unemployment. Developing a dialogue on this is vital. The  positive huge response to Sinn Féin's approach of investment to stimulate growth as a way out of the crisis instead of attacking living standards, shows how much people want a progressive alternative way forward. This has been exemplified in the imact Martin McGuinness' candidacy for President has had. We hope to discuss our approach further in the coming days.”

Paul Maskey MP said:

“The future relationship between Britain and Ireland remains firmly on the agenda. The immense progress in recent years has to be both defended and built upon. We are hosting the fringe meeting as an opportunity to discuss some of the key issues, including Ireland’s constitutional future and the social, economic and political dynamics underpinning that.

“We will also be visiting Liverpool’s Irish Centre and other community groups within the city. We are delighted to take the opportunity of being in there to meet people and discuss issues of concern to them.”

The delegation will also attend a series of other event hosted by the Irish Embassy, the CHAMP pro-peace process group and the Labour Irish Society.

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Responding to the comments from Minister Alan Shatter regarding Martin McGuinness’ candidacy in the presidential election Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said it will be the people who will decide who is fit for office and not Alan Shatter or the Fine Gael Party.

Deputy McDonald said:

“I find it completely wrong that a government minister would interfere in the democratic process in such a manner.

“It is the people who will decide who is fit for the office of President and not Alan Shatter or the Fine Gael Party.

“Martin McGuinness is a very strong candidate and this is evidenced by the reactions of people like Alan Shatter.” ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has called on the Tourist Board to ‘take seriously’ the development of Gaelic Games as a tourism product. Mr McKay was addressing NITB officials whilst chairing the Assembly’s Enterprise Committee. Officials agreed to include Gaelic Games in programmes for visiting travel media and travel writers.
 Mr McKay said:
 “Research has already demonstrated that tourists coming to the north, including business tourists, would be interested in watching or taking part in Gaelic Games. It is of course an indigenous sport unique to this country and as such we should be maximising its potential to realise economic benefits. 
“I made it quite clear that the Tourist Board’s performance on this front has fallen far short and the issue has been ignored rather than explored in terms of possible benefits. In response to my criticisms officials have agreed to now make Gaelic Games a part of ‘fam trips’. These trips imvolve bringing in travel media and travel writers from around the world to write about here as a tourist destination.  
“This still falls far short of the work I believe is required to develop this. However I will monitor how the board moves this forward and will continue to work to develop and promote this in the months ahead. 
“If we have something which is unique to this country and which generates interest from tourists then it should of course be marketed abroad. NITB should reflect on the findings of the University of Ulster report into Gaelic Games tourism and act on it.”

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Responding to the news reports today on the eurozone report co-authored by former ECB official Jurgen Stark, which calls for countries to surrender economic powers to the European Union if they do not meet conditions on debt, Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty said the Irish government had to immediately raise the issue of the ECB attempting to intervene in the political arena with its EU counterparts.
 
Deputy Doherty said:
"When Mr Stark and his co-authors makes this statement are we to take it that it also applies to the larger Eurozone nations like France and Germany? I do not recall talk of surrendering economic power to the European Union when France and Germany were breaking the Stability and Growth Pact during the last decade.
 
"This paper was published by the ECB, though not endorsed by it, but it reflects the thinking at the heart of this institution. The ECB is a bank. It is no more acceptable for it to be dicating political decisions than it is for Irish banks to be telling our government what to do.
 
"The Irish government needs to immediately raise the issue of the ECB attempting to intervene in the political arena with its EU counterparts. This kind of incendiary statement is not helpful for resolving the euro crisis - it is just another attempt to push Europe down a path which is doomed to fail. The monetary union is fragile and must be stabilised but assuming that seizing economic control of sovereign states will be that stabilising factor is ludicrous."ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on tourism and the arts Sandra McLellan has called on the government to prioritise investment in Ireland’s cultural tourism infrastructure in order to maximise the potential of this sector of the economy.

Speaking on the National Tourism Development Authority (Amendment) Bill in the Dáil today, Deputy McLellan said:

“The area of cultural tourism continues to hold huge potential. Cultural tourism embraces the full range of experiences visitors can undertake to learn what makes a destination distinctive – its lifestyle, its heritage, its arts, its people – and the business of providing and interpreting that culture to visitors.”

“We have a very rich cultural heritage here, including megalithic tombs, Norman Castles and Viking cities. The period when this country declared its independence at the start of the last century holds a significant place in this country’s history too.”

“This government should prioritise the creation of a cultural and historical ‘Northern Quarter’ for Dublin, including Moore Street, Moore Lane and O’Rahilly Parade, and with the GPO at its heart. This whole area is rich in history and would act as a major National Monument and a fantastic attraction for visitors from home and abroad.”

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Speaking on a debate on the European Financial Stability Facility, the Sinn Féin economic spokesperson in the Seanad, Senator Kathryn Reilly said:

“The government has made much of the returning to us of a small portion of the interest we have to pay on our loans from Europe.

“However since the European Financial Stability Facility was first established our economic sovereignty has been ceded to Europe and the IMF. Fine Gael and Labour continue to implement cuts to essential public services with further austerity measures planned.

“We now have near half a million people unemployed, 20% of whom are young people. We have 40,000 people emigrating. We have tens of thousands of families struggling to pay mortgages, energy and food bills.

“The same failed policies are now being pursued across Europe. The legislation that the government has brought forward is already past its sell by date. The measures agreed in July have failed to address the problems in this state and across Europe.

“Another way is possible. There is a need for a banking solution to the banking problem. This EU wide private sector debt cannot and should not be shifted on the national balance sheet of small peripheral open economies.

“What is required is a clear view of the scale of the problem facing all the European banks, and given the inter-connectedness of the problem; a European wide solution to redress the European banking crisis including significant burden sharing.”

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Speaking at a Joint Meeting of the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane challenged the Minister of State Roisin Shorthall to do more to deal with the growing problem of addiction to prescription drugs.

Senator Cullinane expressed concern at the over-prescription of certain drugs such as benzodiazepines and the unwillingness of some GPs to engage with local and national drug strategies.

Addressing the Minister Senator Cullinane said:

“Benzodiazepines are a sedative drug which is legally available on prescription. They are prescribed to reduce anxiety, stress, encourage sleep or to relax muscles. However they can also cause short term effects such as depressing the nervous system and slowing down the body. They can lead to laziness, drowsiness and forgetfulness. They are also dangerous when taken with other drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

“A 2010 report into the use and availability of Benzo’s using data recorded by the National Drug Treatment Reporting System shows that between 2003 and 2008 the use of benzo’s has increased dramatically. In the period between 2003 and 2008 the annual number of treated cases reporting a benzo as a problem substance rose by 63%. The number of cases reporting benzo as an additional problem was much larger and increased by 59%. Between 1998 and 2007 benzos were implicated in 649 deaths by poisoning.

“These figures point to the need to act. The Minister needs to comprehensively deal with this issue by obtaining data from the HSE and examining prescription problems. I welcome the Minister’s comments that there is an issue regarding over-prescription and her commitment to establish an in-house team to engage with GPs.

“It is however important to point out that it is community based drugs programmes operating at the coal-face who are best placed to deal with these issues. It is vital that all drug users have access to services and treatment when required. This means more detox beds across the state. It is vital that funding for drugs projects is ring-fenced as any further cuts will impact on service delivery and preventative programmes.” ENDS

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The Public Record Office, in conjunction with the Open University Ireland (OUI) is encouraging people to explore their local history.

  They will be delivering a free monthly lecture series from September this year to April next year hosted at the Public Records Officer brand new state-of-the-art Headquarters in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

Commencing on 29 September 2011,the series will be delivered by Dr Janice Holmes, Dr Olwen Purdue and Dr Barry Sheen from the Open University Irelandand will examine the major themes of local history and the sources available to local historians. Staff will present examples of these sources from the archives.

DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: "This series of lectures between PRONI and the Open University are for members of the community who have not had the opportunity to benefit from Third Level Education so they will not make assumptions about attendees academic knowledge on history or politics.

“PRONI will be bringing history alive through their historical archives, whilst the Open University will be providing the historical context. Local history is very much part and parcel of who we all are, and I encourage anyone with an interest to come along and participate. The lectures are free and cover topics as varied as urban history, religion, crime, poverty and families.”



The lectures, which arefree of charge (but booking is essential), will startat 6.30pm in the Lecture Theatre of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. They will take place on the last Thursday of each month, apart from December, and will run until April 2012. The series is as follows:

29 September: What is Irish Local History?
27 October: Poverty.
24 November: Industrialisation.
26 January: Crime.
23 February: Religion.
29 March: Urban History.
26 April: Families.

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Sinn Féin MLA Michelle Gildernew said that Health Minister Edwin Poots is wrong by continuing with a life time ban against members of the gay community donating blood.

The Chair of the Health Committee said:

“This decision is wrong and Edwin Poots needs to reverse it. The minister is bringing his own prejudice into play here and has taken this decision without consultation with the Health Committee. This is just feeding into the discrimination that people from the gay, lesbian and bi-sexual community already suffer.

“It goes without saying that we need to have robust screening of blood, whoever it comes from. I don’t believe the minister’s views are shared by everyone in the DUP and this act of discrimination against people within our community, who in the end of the day are prepared to give blood which would be used to save lives, needs to be reversed immediately.”

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Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has tonight criticised the Labour party for turning its back on its own policy with regards to the semi privatisation of the ESB.

Deputy McDonald said:

“The ESB is self-financing, has paid 4.3 billion euro in taxes and dividends to the State over the last ten years and is an international leader in the energy sector.

“It can borrow substantial amounts on the markets to fund reinvestment in the company, a point of fact which makes it even harder to understand why any Government would sell off in part or in whole a stake in one of the States success stories – particularly in light of the Government’s own failure to re-enter the money markets.

“This is something Labour Minister Joan Burton acknowledged last year in an interview with Business and Finance where she said; ‘It seems to me an extraordinary proposition at a time when Ireland is doing so badly in terms of bond spreads that we would seriously want to sell into a depressed market State assets which themselves have a fund-raising capacity in terms of their own needs’.

“Minister Burton singled out the ESB for particular mention noting, ‘Given the difficulties that we are in at the moment with our bond spreads, it seems to me to be unwise to remove this strategic capacity.’

“There are other big questions to be asked as to how this fast-buck approach to selling off a stake in the ESB. The ESB committed to paying a dividend of €77 million to the Exchequer for 2010, despite reporting a pre-tax loss of €89 million.

“Does the Government really believe that such dividends will still be paid out to the State when the company is facing losses. Is the Labour party so naïve that it believes privateers’ raison d'etre is to ensure, above all other considerations, that the public purse gets its fair share of the pie?

“Extolling the virtues of the ESB and its achievements within the current ownership arrangements is all fine and well but everything will change and change absolutely if this Government sells off a stake in the company.

“Eircom has taught us that privatisation does not deliver first world infrastructure. Forfás tells us that Ireland is lagging at least three to five years behind competitor countries in terms of rolling out infrastructure capable of high speed next generation broadband.

“Serious questions have been raised across Europe on the effectiveness of policies based on liberalisation or privatisation measures in relation to investment measures. The EU has recognised this by changing its state aid rules to facilitate joint public-private investment in broadband infrastructure.

“Many European countries such as France, Germany and Belgium still retain sizable shareholdings in their national telecommunications companies for this very reason.

“Ironically it is the ESB that could best address the State’s broadband deficit through its existing infrastructure.

“Telling the people that the proceeds of the sale will be used for investment or job creation is to sell the people a pig in a poke. Even if the government secures the agreement of the troika to do so – it will be a fraction of the sale value. Real growth through job creation and a significant write down of bank debt is the only way forward.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin Environment spokesperson Brian Stanley said any sale of the government stake in the ESB will bring an end to the many valuable social projects supported by the company.

Deputy Stanley also questioned the government’s intentions for other state assets Bord na Móna and Coillte saying that both of these companies have huge potential to create badly needed jobs while addressing our energy requirements.

Speaking on a Sinn Féin motion opposing the sale of the government stake in the ESB Deputy Stanley said:

“The ESB has supported social projects that have benefited the most vulnerable in our society. Suicide projects, homelessness projects, local sports events, regional charities, research bodies and local community and parish based initiatives have all received support including in Portarlington.

“Will private interests really be happy to unquestionably extend financial support to communities and away from shareholders? The suggestion by Ministers Rabbitte and Howlin last night that they intend to find caring sharing privateers who will put the public good ahead of shareholders is the stuff of daydreams, well-intentioned but a million miles away from reality.

“Two of the other companies referred to in the McCarthy Report are Bord na Móna and Coillte. The recommendation was that Bord na Mona be sold off and that Coillte dispose of the forestry under its control.

“The Government is committed to merging them as part of New Era. However, as others have said, it will be interesting to see whether that gets off the ground given the IMF and EU hostility to the notion of public investment in job creation.

“If New Era does not proceed then the issue of what happens to Bord na Móna and Coillte will be thrown open once again.

“It is vital in my opinion that they and the land and forestry under their responsibility are retained in public ownership. In my own constituency of Laois/Offaly there are massive tracts of cutaway bog that needs to be utilised for example in the whole area of alternative energy.

“As the Government’s own proposal regarding New Era recognises, there is huge scope for the development of renewable energy sources and both Bord na Móna and Coillte could play a key role this which would have massive potential both in terms of addressing our energy requirements and creating badly needed jobs. In Laois/Offaly for example the number of unemployed is heading upwards toward 17,000 people. Utilising these resources can provide part of the solution to this.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Peadar Tóibín TD, met with Unite this afternoon to discuss the threat to 700 jobs in Aviva.

Speaking after the meeting in Leinster House, Deputy Tóibín said, “The redundancies at Aviva are in no way a done deal. A review of the operation here in Ireland commenced in February and is currently being studied by the company. Any cost cutting measures must be done in consultation with the management, the union and must involve Minister Richard Bruton.

“There is most definitely a role for the government in ensuring that the jobs are saved. Minister Bruton can not simply wash his hands and hope all will be ok. The economy simply cannot afford to lose another 700 jobs.

“Immediate government action can be taken to reduce costs. Aviva is locked into an upwardly only rent lease. This is a shackle around the neck of many businesses and needs to be addressed by the government as a matter of urgency."

“If you do the maths, 700 more people in receipt of Social Welfare will cost €14,000,000 to the tax payer a year and €26,600,000 lost in wages plus the 12.5% lost in PRSI. We simply can not afford to lose these jobs.

“I will continue to work with Unite to save these jobs and raise the issue with Minister Bruton and with An Taoiseach at every opportunity.” ENDS

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill has promised to be a strong advocate for local farmers in the forthcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Publication of the CAP reform legislative proposals from the EU Commission is expected on 12 October.

Speaking at a joint reception with Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Minister O’Neill said CAP reform will have major implications for the agricultural industry.

She said: “This reform is hugely important and I can understand the concerns of our farmers faced with an uncertain future, but I assure them I will be a strong advocate for them. Many major issues will be up for discussion and the outcome will be crucial for the agri-food industry.

“The EU Budget proposals for the period 2014 - 2020 were published back in June and although a budgetary freeze on CAP expenditure at 2013 levels was perhaps better than could have been expected a year or two ago, it still represents a significant reduction by 2020 in real terms.

“I’ll not be supporting any calls for a reduction in the EU agriculture budget and I will not support any suggestion of a longer term move to a single EU flat rate payment – there is simply no justification for this and it’s certainly not about fairness.”

The Minister explained: “Once the CAP reform legislative proposals are published next month, I will want to engage closely with stakeholders throughout the negotiations. I will be working closely with Simon Coveney on those issues where we have common interests, engaging with our MEPs to factor a ‘Team Ireland’ approach and I also intend to consult personally with the Defra Minister, and with the Ministers of the Devolved Administrations to set down my priorities.”

The joint DARD - DAFF reception at the National Ploughing Championships which this year marks its 80th anniversary, was attended by ploughing association officials from both north and south, representatives from local farming unions and rural bodies, government and agency representatives, members of the ARD committee and exhibitors on the DARD stand.

Completing a two-day visit to Ireland’s largest outdoor trade exhibition which annually attracts more than 150,000 visitors, Minister O’Neill described the event as an impressive showcase for agriculture. She said: “This is the first time I have attended the exhibition and it underlines for me the importance of the agricultural industry to our economy, both now and in the years to come. It also serves as a reminder, if ever we needed one, that we must work hard to ensure that the viability of this industry is never undermined.”

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