Speaking today at the National Ploughing Championships the Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Martin Ferris has called for a “robust engagement on CAP reform by Irish negotiators.”
Deputy Ferris said:
“Ireland’s presidency of the EU, beginning in January next year, provides a massive opportunity for an agreement on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. The agricultural industry is of immense importance to the Irish economy. It provides jobs for the economy through farming itself, and also through manufacturing and transport. Therefore, it is of vital importance that Ireland gets a good deal from CAP negotiations.
“The current economic crisis that is gripping Europe, coupled with the crippling austerity measures being imposed throughout the EU member states may see a delay in the progress of CAP reform talks. CAP negotiations are likely to be divisive, with each member state pushing for an agreement that best suits their own economies. That is why it is essential that there is as much progress made as possible on the CAP reform talks made during Ireland’s presidency. We must not let the advantages that this gives us slip away.
“It is time for Ireland to take an assertive stand in its relationship with Europe. The Presidency of the EU should be used as an opportunity for proper engagement and a movement to work towards a more democratic Europe. Ireland must use this opportunity to push for a Europe that invests in its people and a Europe that cares for the wellbeing and living standards of all. This approach should also be applied to the negotiations on CAP reform.
“The Minister for Agriculture must push for a policy that provides enough to keep as many farmers on the land as possible. CAP reform should ensure that all farmers are able to attain an equitable standard of living, while environmental concerns are also addressed. A degree of flexibility must be afforded to farmers in terms of environmental options. CAP reform must be linked with poverty reductions, and a sustainable future should be provided to all. It is essential that disadvantaged areas are protected during any CAP negotiations. Ireland, through the influence of its presidency of the EU, must ensure that there is a fair deal for Irish farmers from the CAP reform negotiations.
“Sinn Féin has outlined a series of proposals on what we believe are the core issues of CAP reform. These range from the CAP budget itself to how funding should be distributed fairly to all farmers. Sinn Féin has also put a significant focus on using the functions of CAP to encourage as many young people, and new entrants, to become involved in agriculture as possible. Farming has the potential to provide a serious level of rejuvenation into rural areas and to reverse the tide of joblessness and emigration.”
Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said that heart patients and their families will be pleased with the support of the Assembly following today’s motion on Paediatric Services.
Addressing the Assembly today as Chair of the Health Committee, Sue Ramsey proposed a motion calling on the minister to both reassure parents of future paediatric services and to explore an all-island solution to the issue.
Following the motion being passed with the unanimous support of the Assembly, Sue Ramsey said:
“The Health Committee brought the motion to the Assembly calling on the Minister to fully explore an all-island solution with Dublin so that patients could avail of vital heart services on the island of Ireland.
“Sending patients to England for surgery would only place additional strain on the health budget and cause undue stress to families and patients.
“It is good news that there is complete support in the Assembly for an all-island solution to be explored and that the minister will initiate that.
“The option of a first class all-island service providing the necessary care and treatment for children with serious heart problems is a goal that can not be shunned for party political reasons.”
Speaking in response to the Central Bank projections released today Mary Lou McDonald said:
“The Central Bank projects that it will take another five years after 2015 for the economy to meet its Austerity Treaty deficit target of 0.5%. What the report does not say is the level of additional adjustment that will be required to meet this target.
“The Central Bank seems to have very optimistic growth projections for the period from 2016. In the absence of such high growth rates the only way these targets can be met is with more tax hikes and spending cuts.
“Sinn Féin argued throughout the referendum campaign that the Austerity Treaty targets would lead to more austerity post 2015. There is nothing in today’s report that alters our view on this matter.”
Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has hit out at reports that the publication of a report commissioned by the Higher Educational Authority has been delayed.
Speaking in the Seanad today, the Waterford Senator stated that the report needed to be published to allow it to be examined and its contents debated.
“I am concerned at reports that the publication of this HEA report has been shelved. Clearly this is a significant report, carried out by renowned international experts, and needs to be considered at length. We do not necessarily agree with all the recommendations which have been speculated upon in the media today, but the findings should be published in order that the contents of the report may be debated and examined.
“I would be particularly disappointed were the Government to disregard yet another expert report suggesting a university for the South East, given that the expert group may recommend a national technological university with a campus in Waterford.
“Numerous review groups, expert groups and reports have highlighted the obvious educational and economic benefits of a University in Waterford. Waterford City is the only Gateway City without a University, and the South East is an area which has suffered in recent years with significant job losses and lack of investment.
“While a technological university may not be all of what the South East has sought, and it may not be in the top tier of universities in the State, it would clearly represent a step forward.
“The location of a University in Waterford would have a significant impact on the economic development of the region, and the funding, and autonomy this would bring would lift the region.
“It’s vital that the Minister takes on board these latest recommendations, and acts on them. The south east has waited long enough.”
Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams is in New York for the eighth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).
Last night Mr Adams attended the Heads of State reception. Afterward he spoke at an event organised by the Irish Echo to celebrate and honour the work of Irish Americans within the trade union movement.
The Sinn Féin leader described the CGI as an “exceptional and pioneering initiative by President Clinton which has raised billions of dollars and created hundreds of unique health, education, economic and business partnerships that have helped almost 400 million people in the developing world”.
Today the CGI will be addressed by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and later by US President Barack Obama.
Speaking at the Irish Echo event last night Gerry Adams said:
“The Irish in America, as well as elsewhere around the world - in Canada, in Britain and Australia - have played a significant role in building the trade union movement.
“The importance of and the role of trade unions in defending the rights of working people cannot be overstated. This is especially true at this time when in the midst of a world-wide economic recession there are those arguing for strategies and policies that are about cutting wages and sacking and undermining workers’ rights and protections.
“These conservative and right wing elements see the recession as an opportunity to increase profits irrespective of the social and human cost.
“The trade union movement has to be in the frontline battling that strategy.
“Every day trade unionists confront and combat inequality.
“Every day anti-union laws are advocated.
“Every day trade unionists strategise and plan and campaign to ensure their members have decent health care and insurance; safe working conditions; decent wages and security from exploitation.
“Today in many places there are laws defining and protecting workers rights.
“But there is still a battle to be won in many parts of the world to introduce legislative protections for workers.
“Everywhere workers’ rights have to be constantly defended.
“That is the primary role of the trade union movement.”
The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has today attended the National Ploughing Championships in New Ross Co. Wexford.
Speaking as he met with the public, rural stakeholders and representatives of the agricultural sector, Mr McGuinness said:
“I wish to commend the organisers of the National Ploughing Championships which each year acts as a showcase for all that rural Ireland has to offer. There is a community spirit and way of life that is unique to rural Ireland. This community spirit is clearly on show here in New Ross.
“Rural communities have been at the receiving end of a plethora of cutbacks and stealth taxes at the hands of the Fine Gael/Labour government. Unemployment is soaring. Scores of young men and women are leaving their homes to go abroad in search of work. Public services in rural areas have been decimated. The household and septic tank charges have put even more pressure on already struggling families. Despite all this it is clear that rural communities have come out fighting and Sinn Féin is committed to standing with them in their fight.
“Over the past number of months Sinn Féin has been engaging in our ‘Love Rural Ireland’ campaign. This is first and foremost a campaign of opposition to the unfair hand that rural communities have been dealt, but also this campaign looks at the potential that rural Ireland has to offer in terms of developing and rejuvenating the economy.
“We believe that sustainable rural economies that can offer employment to young people can be built. We believe that the emigration that blighted past generations should not be the future for our children. We believe that rural communities deserve better and that there should be an all-Ireland approach to the revitalisation of rural economies.
“Rural Ireland can be an engine for change and an engine for recovery. Robust proposals are needed to unlock the potential that exists in rural communities. Sinn Féin will be delivering our proposals in the coming months as a culmination of our campaign.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald will move a motion in the Dáil this evening in support of the women and girls of the Magdalene Laundries.
The motion will be debated in the Dáil this evening and voted on after further debate tomorrow evening.
Deputy McDonald is available to the media today at 2pm at the Siopa at Leinster House.
For more information contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has affirmed her support for full use of the tough penalties introduced by the Welfare of Animals Act 2011 for animal welfare abuses.
The 2011 Act has significantly increased the maximum penalties for animal welfare offences from three months’ imprisonment and / or a £5,000 fine to two years’ imprisonment and / or an unlimited fine. The Court can also disqualify any person convicted of an animal welfare offence from keeping an animal.
Responding to a motion in the Assembly requesting the full use of the new extended sentences for deliberate and severe animal cruelty, Minister O’Neill said:
“I am totally committed to protecting and safeguarding animal welfare. I believe that the new tough penalties introduced by the 2011 Act will be a strong deterrent to thugs who would carry out such barbaric welfare abuses as the recent Cody case.
“I support the full use of the extended sentences available for serious animal welfare offences to include longer periods of imprisonment to ensure that perpetrators receive a punishment that fits the crime.
“I intend to meet the Minister of Justice to ensure that the Courts are encouraged to make full use of the range of penalties available for animal welfare offences and in horrific cases like the Cody case to apply the maximum penalties possible.
“I am pleased to note that in one of the first cases the PSNI has recently secured a successful prosecution at Downpatrick Magistrates’ Court where a defendant was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog under the 2011 Act. The defendant was fined £250 and prohibited from keeping animals for five years.”
The Minister concluded: “The public should be in no doubt that causing unnecessary suffering, including deliberate acts of cruelty to domestic pets, will not be tolerated and that the perpetrators will be punished.”
Anyone who has a concern about animal welfare should contact their local DARD Direct Office in respect of farmed animals or their local Council Animal Welfare Officer in respect of domestic pets and horses.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Dessie Ellis TD has blasted the announcement of further fare increases in Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Iarnróid Éireann as another in a series of critical blows to public transport.
He made his comments following the announcement that fares will go up between 2.5 and 10 per cent despite the Minister for Transport admitting earlier this year that fare increases were hurting services like Dublin Bus as people sought other options.
Deputy Ellis continued;
“Public transport has been under funded in this state for a very long time and certainly never treated as the incredibly important public service that it is.
“Busses and trains carry far more people, more efficiently and faster than private transport when given the right planning and funding. A good system of busses can create a hub of business in urban centres and improve our competitiveness. Instead the government is implementing a policy it freely admits is bad for public transport. What is bad for public transport is bad for our economy.
“Fare increases will further turn people off public transport which is seen as expensive and lacking the benefits seen in other European cities. Too many working people in urban centres or commuter towns are opting for private transport because the services of Bus Éireann, Iarnróid Éireann and Dublin Bus are being run down and made unattractive by government policy.
“We need to make public transport more affordable at the point of delivery. One measure is to further incentivise the use of prepaid bus tickets and expand the flexibility of these tickets. We also need to look at other fare models from similarly sized cities where public transport is nearly always the first option in built up areas.
“Cutting funding and forcing the dwindling passengers to foot more of the bill might look good on the department’s budget plan but it will lead to serious problems in the future and damage our ability to build lasting economic prosperity.”
Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew will travel to Brighton today to address a fringe event hosted by Baroness Harris of Richmond at the Lib/Dem annual Conference tomorrow Tuesday 25th September.
Michelle Gildernew will be reminding the Lib/Dems – sister Party of Alliance here in the North – of their culpability as partners in the British Coalition for the devastating effect of their austerity policies on our economy.
Before leaving for Brighton Ms Gildernew said:
“I will be reminding the Lib/Dems – sister Party of Alliance- that they cannot avoid their responsibility for broken promises and obligations under agreements made with the Parties in the North of Ireland.
“As part of the coalition government with the Tories, the Lib Dems acquiescence in the failure to deliver on election promises to prioritise the rebalancing of the North’s economy, compounded by the imposition of a £4billion cut in the block grant cannot be ignored.
“Nick Clegg’s Conference pledge to target the rich with new taxes, when judged against his subservient performance in government so far will not inspire those in society who are suffering under the swingeing cuts programme of the government of which he is a central player.
“If the Lib/Dems are serious about wanting to build a more equitable society then they should make it clear that the welfare reform agenda - which Sinn Féin is totally opposed to – will not proceed to implementation in its present form.
“They also need to make it clear that the interference in the justice system and imprisonment by dicktat, in the North by British Secretaries of State is unacceptable and the continuing imprisonment of Marian Price, Gerry McGeough and Martin Corey should end immediately."
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson speaking from the all-Ireland Ploughing Championships in New Ross, Wexford has voiced concerns regarding the future of CAP funding and the issue of direct payments.
Martina Anderson said:
“This year has been a difficult one for our farmers which calls for an assurance that there will be no reduction in the CAP budget or any threat to the direct payments regime which would have devastating repercussions for the agriculture sector here. Any reduction in CAP payments will further discourage young people from commitment to working the land.
“Whist we continue to demand higher quality products and more efficiency from our farmers it is incomprehensible to think we can achieve these outcomes by further reducing farm income. Farmers in the North of Ireland are already operating at a disadvantage to their counterparts in both the South and in England through higher overheads and lower product prices.
“Although Sinn Féin would be the first to point out the many areas where the EU wastes money, the CAP is not one of them.
“Although the Cypriot Presidency’s efforts to achieve consensus on the EU budget, or Multiannual Financial Programme (MFF), are still under discussion, there is no agreement amongst the member states regarding the future size of the budget. There is a special meeting scheduled at the end of November between the EU Heads of State in order to discuss this. We must ensure that a healthy CAP budget is top of the agenda.
“If we are to secure the future of our agri-food sector it is imperative that all Irish MEP’s, North and South oppose and lobby against any downward tampering with the CAP budget or with the direct payment regime as the general discussion seems to be leaning towards reduction in many of the main areas.
“Preserving our agri-food sector is an imperative and its future should not be up for debate. I call on an Taoiseach to use his influence in the run-up to the Irish Presidency of the EU in June to reason with those member states pressing for cuts in this area."
Commenting on remarks by Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan regarding an interview in the Sunday Telegraph in which Dolours Price repeats allegations she previously made against Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, the party’s Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said:
“Gerry Adams, who is currently in the United States to attend The Clinton Global Initiative at the invitation of President Bill Clinton, has rejected again, as he has consistently rejected, the allegations contained in The Sunday Telegraph interview.
“I think it is interesting that Fine Gael would use the statements of an opponent of the peace process in an attempt to undermine the leader of Sinn Féin. By her own admission Dolours Price thinks that the Peace Process should be undermined, should be destroyed.
“The remarks attributed to Charlie Flanagan are a very obvious attempt by Fine Gael to distract from its own difficulties in government in particular the clear dysfunction in the Health Dept led by Fine Gael Minister James Reilly.”
Sinn Fein's Deputy Aengus O'Snodaigh, today joined with trade unionists and members of Sinn Fein to support the plight of the Tipperary Water workers at the Ballyfermot plant.
Speaking in Ballyfermot earlier Deputy O'Snodaigh said, "Workers at this plant have suffered enough. I was shocked when the work practises at the plant were brought to my attention.
"Unilateral cuts in pay, temporary staff brought in to undermine the workforce and finally forced redundancies. Staff have taken an eight percent cut in pay over three years and 13 staff were made redundant in December last only to be replaced by temporary workers.
"Yet Tipperary Water had a turnover of €243m last year. These work practices are unacceptable. Sinn Fein, along with SIPTU, joined this morning's protest. We fully support these workers. We will be joining the workers in their protest again tomorrow morning and I intend to raise the issue in the Dáil tomorrow. Companies like Tipperary Water are using the current economic climate to force down pay and conditions. It wrong, it is confrontational and it will be opposed."
Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said the statement earlier today from the Orange Order regarding the Ulster Covenant parade was an attempt to deflect away from the need for face-to-face discussions with the Carrickhill residents group.
Gerry Kelly said:
“In this statement the Orange Order have said that they had no objection to talking to representatives of the Carrickhill residents group. Then even by their own rationale there is nothing to prevent them entering those discussions even at this late stage.
“The Order are trying to narrow this argument down to St Patrick’s Church when in fact what happened there on 12th July and 25th August is a manifestation of the sectarian abuse the residents of Carrickhill suffer from on an ongoing basis with over 30 parades loyal Order parades passing their homes each year.
“The only quiet conversations that have taken place over the last few days have been unionists talking to themselves. They have then come out together against dialogue.
“If mutual respect is to be shown then those who file for the parade and those who file for a protest need to sit down in face-to-face discussions to find a resolution.”
Sinn Fein TD Peadar Toibin responding to news that Bank of Ireland has hiked its interest rate by half a percentage point said the move is guaranteed to push some mortgage owners over the edge, potentially taking people who are just meeting their mortgages into the volatile mortgage distress category.
Tóibín said the Government’s inability to make banks understand their debt to the Irish people was their biggest failure to date.
Deputy Toibin said:
“Early this morning, people began to receive letters from Bank of Ireland, with no prior warning, telling them their rate had increased by half a percentage point. For a €200,000 mortgage this equates to roughly €50 per month. That’s an additional €600 per year for people to find.
“People are struggling out there. They are struggling because politicians, banks and property speculators sold this state down the river and left ordinary people to pick up the tab. We have thousands of people in mortgage distress and this size of increase is the thing that will push some people over the edge, from those who are just about meeting their mortgage to those who are in mortgage distress. If the banks want to push people to the point where they can't pay any of their mortgage, they are going the right way about it.
“This Government has sat on its hands throughout this mortgage crisis, as the Moody’s report last week pointed out. Their reactions have been ineffectual and disproportionate to the size of the crisis.
“When the banks were in crisis, this Government and Fianna Fáil found the €64 billion needed to bail them out. When citizens are in crisis, the Government holds up its hands and says it can do nothing.
“It puts the demands of international bank bondholders over the needs and rights of ordinary Irish citizens. It’s inability to make banks understand their debt to the Irish people is the Government’s biggest failure to date.
“The ECB is lending at .75% and yet Bank of Ireland told customers today that the cost of lending had gone up. We need the Government to intervene with the banks on interest hikes.”
Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe attended the start of National Literacy Awareness Week in the Vocational Education Office in Tallaght yesterday where the publication of Literacy and Numeracy Difficulties in the Workplace was launched.
Deputy Crowe said the report was an important piece of research that illustrates a direct link between literacy and numeracy skills and an individual’s earnings.
Deputy Seán Crowe said;
“There is something fundamentally wrong when children can spend years at school yet still reach adulthood not being able to read, write or add up simple sums.
“Many people often hide their problem especially in the workplace where they fear ridicule or worse.
“It would also seem that these basic skills deficits follow the individual into the work place and impact on their wages.
“The Literacy and Numeracy Difficulties in the Workplace report highlights that certain workplaces, including wholesale, retail and transport as having the highest amount of individuals saying they are experiencing problems.
“The ground breaking report makes a direct link to an individual’s income and their lack of literacy and numeracy. Literacy difficulties were found to reduce an individual’s earnings by 4.6% for men and a whopping 6.3% for women.
“The obvious conclusion from this report is that it is in the interest of society and the economy for anyone with literacy and numeracy difficulties to improve their skills and their income.
“Supports are available in the workplace and in a community setting for anyone that needs help and, as this report highlights, it is in the interest of everyone to take advantage of these literacy and numeracy programmes.”
Sinn Féin MLA who is also the chair of the Health Committee today accepted a petition of over 16,000 names calling for the retention of paediatric cardiac care services at the RVH.
Speaking today Ms Ramsey said:
“On behalf of the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety I am delighted to accept this petition.
“The future of paediatric cardiac surgery is a very serious issue and will impact many, many people.
“The Health Committee has brought a motion to the Assembly calling on the Minister to fully explore an all-island solution with Dublin.
““Instead of sending patients to England for surgery, placing additional strain on the health budget while causing undue stress to families and patients who have to travel, the Minister should be examining the option of a first class all Ireland service providing the necessary care and treatment for children with serious heart problems.
“This petition, containing over 16,000 names, has now been given to the Minister and I am supporting the message contained in it – keep paediatric cardiac care services at the RVH.”
East Derry Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín said Unionists know that there is no comparison between the antics of the Loyal Order parades past St Patrick’s Church and that of a republican commemoration in Dungiven.
Cathal Ó hOisín said:
“Unionists, instead of facing up to and tackling the sectarianism on display outside St Patrick’s Church, are attempting to divert attention with reference to a republican parade in Dungiven.
“There is no comparison between the republican commemoration and the sectarian behaviour by Loyal Order parades outside St Patrick’s.
“In Dungiven there was no parade determination because there had been dialogue with all concerned prior to the parade.
“There were no objections to the parade. There was no stopping outside the church to play sectarian tunes. There was no drunken supporters or bandsmen hurling abuse at residents. And contrary to reports there was no church service or mother and toddler group happening during the parade, as confirmed by the church minister.
“Indeed the Reverend David McBeth of the Church of Ireland has already stated that there is good relationships in the town and that there has been no issue with parades.
“The reality is that Dungiven is very near 100% nationalist yet the two parades that normally take place each year are a republican one and a Loyal Order parade.
“If the Loyal Orders followed the example set by Dungiven, then perhaps we would no longer have issues with the few remaining contentious parades or the recent sectarianism witnessed at St Patrick’s Church.”
Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Youth Affairs Senator Kathryn Reilly has said Minister Burton’s vague talk on a youth jobs guarantee is not enough at this time.
Senator Reilly was responding to reports that a Youth Jobs Guarantee would be launched during the Irish Presidency of the EU next year.
“Minister Burton’s vague talk of a Youth Jobs Guarantee smacks of opportunism and talk where action is needed. The fact remains that this government has been entirely inactive on a youth jobs plan as called for by Sinn Féin. In the entire 126 pages of the government’s jobs action plan young people are mentioned only twice. That is the true measure of how much emphasis this government puts on finding jobs for our young people.
“Now we hear of a plan to use the Irish Presidency to launch a youth jobs guarantee. The last time we heard of EU action on youth jobs was when President Barroso announced he was sending an action team to Ireland. The result we now know of that was very little because Ireland has already spent its structural funds allocation.
“We can only hope that this time action will result. Another press release is not what the thousand people a week emigrating need. The inability of Minister Burton to state how much this will cost and how it will be delivered can only promote scepticism among young people.”
Reilly, the youngest member of the Oireachtas, continued:
“Sinn Fein would support an ambitious and practical action plan on youth jobs but there is no evidence that this announcement by Minister Burton heralds any such action. A recent ILO report on the possibility of a youth jobs guarantee put the cost of a jobs action plan in Ireland at 435€ million.
“The European Parliament has called for 10% of the European Social Fund to be made available for such a scheme. During the period 2007-2013, €375 million was received by Ireland through the ESF.
“So how does Minister Burton propose this gap be made up when her government is hell bent on austerity? I will this week be calling on the Minister to come to Seanad Éireann to present the details of this plan and to prove that there is any substance at all to her press announcement.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA and Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee Sue Ramsey has welcomed the reinstatement of the Book and Uniform Allowance for Nursing and Midwifery Students.
Sue Ramsey said:
“Sinn Féin were critical when this was withdrawn and it is welcome news that the minister will continue to fund students trainees this year.
“Cuts to bursaries for student nurses would have a detrimental affect on the numbers of students entering the profession.
“There is a shortage of experienced nurses and midwifes across the medical profession and that is why it is crucial that students enrolling are given as much support as possible.
“The financial saving of roughly £700,000 per year would have been minuscule in comparison to wages paid to senior management.
“The minister should now direct his attention to the reform of the senior management rather than attempting to take money of the most vulnerable people in the health service.
“It is crucial for the
long-term excellent service provided in our hospitals and clinics across the
North that students are attracted to the nursing profession.”