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Spokesperson for the No Water Charges campaign Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has rejected the promotion of water charges by UCD Professor Frank Condrey today. Ó Snodaigh argued that water meters are not about protecting the environment rather their purpose is to bail out the banks.

Ó Snodaigh said, “The fairest way to charge people for water is through the general tax system. Water meters and charges are not about conservation or the cost of production.

“The government’s own figures clearly indicate that the public distribution network is the principle source of waste rather than the householder and investment in active leak management at that infrastructural level would more than pay for itself.

“The sole purpose of water charges is to make up the revenue shortfall arising from the bank bailout.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin are set to review their policy on the Irish Language and hope to submit a new document to the party’s Ard Fheis in Belfast in 2011.

The party’s Irish Language coordinator Gearóid Ó hEara said;

“in the planned document we hope to discuss a range of issues, from Gaeltacht affairs, Education, Public, Legal and Justice services, the Media, the Irish speaking community and Gaelú Shinn Féin. We will also be discussing the restructuring of Foras na Gaeilge, Plean 2030 and an Irish Language Act for the North.

We are seeking input from the Irish speaking community throughout the country and are organising a series of meetings to facilitate this.

The first meeting will be in Belfast on the 11th November at 7:30pm in An Chultúrlann.

Groups and individuals with an interest in this important matter are welcome to attend.” CRÍOCH

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Tá Sinn Féin ag déanamh athbhreithniú ar a chuid polasaithe Gaeilge agus ag brath ar doiciméid úr a chur roimh Ard Fheis an pháirtí i mBéal Feirste, i Mí Feabhra 2011.

Dúirt comhordaitheoir Gaeilge an pháirtí Gearóid Ó hEara;

“Ins an doiciméid a bhfuil beartaithe againn pléitear cúrsaí Gaeltachta, Oideachais, Réimsí Poiblí agus Dlí, Cearta, na Meáin Cumarsáide, Pobal na Gaeilge agus Gaelú Shinn Féin. Chomh maith leis sin beidh muid ag plé athstruchturú Foras na Gaeilge, Plean 2030 agus Acht na Gaeilge sa Tuaisceart.

Ba mhaith linn tuairimí ginearálta a chluinstin ó phobal na Gaeilge fríd an tír agus beidh muid ag reáchtáil sraith cruinnithe poiblí leis na hábhair seo a phlé agus ais-chothú a fháil.

Beidh an chéad ceann de na cruinnithe seo i mBéal Feirste, ins an Cultúrlann, ar 7.30 ar an 11ú Samhain 2010.

Tá fáilte roimh grúpaí agus daoine a bhfuil suim acu san ábhar tábhachtach seo freastal ar an chruinniú.” CRÍOCH

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Speaking ahead of tonight’s EU leaders’ summit Mary Lou McDonald has criticised Taoiseach Brian Cowen for agreeing to the Commission’s budget deficit reduction deadline of 2014 noting.

Ms McDonald said, “Europe’s insistence that Ireland reduce its deficit from 32% to 3% in just four years is bonkers. Germany and France broke the Stability and Growth Pact during the boom years so how on earth can political leaders or institutions credibly expect any member state to deliver such a mammoth fiscal correction in the current crisis.

“Fine Gael and Labour’s support of the 2014 deadline yet again illustrates the cosy consensus of self-interest that has emerged amongst the political establishment. Agreeing to a deadline you accept cannot be met is also of course deeply dishonest.”

The Sinn Féin Vice President said: “As always the devil is in the detail and what lies behind the 2014 deadline is deeply worrying. It appears that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now structuring EU member states fiscal policies. Top of tonight’s agenda will be a call from the German’s to change existing EU treaties to make permanent a financial crisis mechanism for euro member states. Naturally there is a catch. The German Chancellor, with the support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, wants the voting rights of any member state to be suspended if they breach EU budget rules.

“Sinn Féin will next week publish its budget 2011 proposals within which we set out an honest and realistic timeline to reduce the budget deficit by 2016. The 2014 deadline may suit Berlin’s balance sheet but surely even the EU Apparatchik’s must realise that any correction that stifles growth will deepen Ireland’s crisis.

“Also up for discussion will be the EU Commission’s ‘Single Market Act’ unveiled this week. It contains 50 or so proposals, including the Commission’s Directive for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) across the EU. The government with the support of Fine Gael and Labour has already surrendered any hope of growth in the Irish economy by agreeing to the EU’s 2014 deadline so how can we have any confidence that any of the three main political parties will not do the same when the EU finally enforces it’s plan to enforce a CCCTB on member states?” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that those in the Western Health Board/HSE who were culpable in the Roscommon abuse case must be held to account. He said it would be unacceptable if those responsible are still working in the health or social care services. He called on the Government to proceed with the constitutional referendum on children.

He said:

“The children in the Roscommon case were victims not only of horrific abuse and neglect by their parents but also gross negligence on the part of the Western Health Board (now the HSE) over a 14-year period.

“It is almost beyond belief that from 1989 until 2004 the voices of these abused children were ignored by people charged by the State with the identification of vulnerable children and with intervention if they were in danger.

“The report on this case will be without purpose unless the culpable people in the Western Health Board/HSE are brought to account. Are any of them, especially the most negligent social workers and their management, still working in the health or social care services? That would be totally unacceptable.

“The HSE earlier this year confirmed that no senior management figures in Dublin were disciplined in any way for the neglect exposed in the HIQA report on foster care services. Will it be the same in this case?

“The Government must proceed with the promised constitutional referendum to strengthen the rights of children.

“While constitutional change will not, in itself, prevent such abuses occurring again, it is an essential foundation on which better protection for children will be built.

“In the Roscommon case the State placed the rights of the family before those of the children – even though ‘family’ in this case had ceased to have any meaning and had been degraded to such an extent that it was only the site of gross abuse and neglect of six innocent children.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Paul Maskey is this afternoon at the scene of a car crash in Andersonstown following a high speed car chase involving the PSNI’s Auto Crime Team.

Commenting after the pursued car crashed into a black taxi on the Andytown Road Mr Maskey said;

“it is not yet fully clear what happened here this afternoon, if this car was stolen or being used as a runaround; we are waiting for confirmation at this stage.

What is clear though is that it is down to the quick actions of the black taxi man, whose vehicle was hit by the car, that his passengers weren’t seriously injured.

The actions of the driver of the car are to be totally condemned – he has brought carnage to a busy thoroughfare in the middle of the afternoon during the midterm break. It is by sheer luck that we aren’t dealing with fatalities this afternoon.

It is vital that the Ombudsman’s Office immediately begins a process of investigating the actions of those PSNI officers in pursuit of this vehicle to ensure they adhered completely to protocol.

My thoughts are with those people injured today as a result of this incident.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, speaking in the Dáil today during the debate on the economy said his party’s pre-budget submission, to be launched next Monday, has identified funding to keep all existing social welfare schemes and benefits in place with their rates holding at current levels.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Many constituents have contacted me, urging me to make a commitment to protect the poorest. My party and I have made that commitment. I would urge the government to do the same. And I would advise those Fianna Fáil deputies who have signed up to protect the poorest (Deputies John Browne, Michael Kitt, Michael Moynihan, Eamon Scanlon and Beverley Flynn) - the public will be watching you come Budget day. It’s very easy to put your name on a petition, it’s meaningless unless you vote the right way.

“If the government, Fine Gael and Labour persist in their determination to reduce the deficit to 3% by 2014, cutting €15 billion from the economy to do so they will impoverish thousands of thousands of families.

“Sinn Féin rejects the consensus of cuts. Sinn Féin rejects the government’s approach to economic recovery.

“In stark contrast to the government, Fine Gael and Labour, increased funding for social welfare is an integral part of Sinn Féin’s approach to economic recovery. Social welfare recipients spend their income and as such this form of public spending acts as a much needed stimulus for the real economy and involves a significant employment kick-back.

“I can confirm today that Sinn Féin have sourced the funding to keep all existing social welfare schemes and benefits in place with their rates holding at current levels. We have also found the funding necessary to re-instate the Christmas Payment and to introduce refundable tax credits which will benefit lower paid workers and significantly enhance the progressivity of the tax system. Full details and costings will be included in our Pre-budget submission which we will publish next Monday.

“Government policymaking seems to work from the assumption that spending can be cut without depressing activity and the tax revenues that flow from it. Likewise it is assumed that cutting welfare payment levels will produce savings-even as the numbers entitled to welfare payments rise.

“The Governments fiscal contraction is unaffordable and it is this fiscal position that will remain a growth-sapping one, with potentially disastrous consequences.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty has called for an end to the policy of keeping donations to political parties in the six counties secret. Mr Doherty has also called for the current threshold of £7500 for reportable donations to be lowered to £500. The demands are contained in the Sinn Féin submission to the British Government’s consultation which is examining whether or not to keep political donations secret.

Mr Doherty said:

“Each year Sinn Fein publishes the party’s financial statements for both the North and the South. We do this in line with party policy on the issue and in the interests of transparency and openness.

“Like all organisations political parties need sufficient income to cover their expenditure. The general public understands that fundraising and donations are part and parcel of generating that income.

“Justifiable public cynicism is generated when it is perceived that political parties are not being open and transparent about their financial affairs. Vested interests being allowed to secretly contribute to political parties does a disservice to politics in general. It is a practice which needs to be brought to an end. Sinn Fein does not receive any corporate donations.

“In response to this consultation we have demanded an end to the practice of secret donations and also called for the current £7500 threshold for reportable individual donations to be lowered to £500.

“Sinn Fein and those who vote for us expect the highest standards from all of our public representatives. Regardless of the outcome of this consultation we will continue to act in an open and transparent manner with regards to our financial affairs and we would encourage the other parties to do likewise.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights, Martin Ferris TD has claimed that the Government’s austerity programme is not only designed to pay for failed bondholders and speculators but is being advised by them. He referred to the fact that the Chairperson of Goldman Sachs Peter Sutherland whose Asset Management section holds Anglo Bonds has been advising the Government on the cuts.

Deputy Ferris said: “Apart from the economic and financial issues that we have discussed here for the past few days there is the whole moral and ethical aspect of the situation.

“All of the proposed misery is being planned to benefit failed speculators among whom are the Anglo bondholders. There are websites which have published the names of these companies and there are discussion groups on the internet about it. And yet no national newspaper here has regarded it as of sufficient importance.

“While most of the bondholders are European based there are Irish connections and no doubt some of our fine patriotic and charitable tax exiles have their noses in the trough.

“More importantly perhaps is the connection between all of this and the fact that representatives of these people are advising the Government on how best to make the rest of us pay for their mess.

“Take Peter Sutherland for example. He has held various high positions in this state and on behalf of this state abroad. His views are still given a lot of credence and he was recently widely quoted in claiming that this state had an obligation to protect the Anglo Irish bondholders.

“And of course he has been advising, in a totally disinterested way of course, the Government on how they should deal with the crisis. Among his proposals has been to sell state companies. And no doubt he probably knows chaps who might be interested in buying them at a fair price.

“How many of those who referred favourably to Sir Peter’s excellent advice also referred to his own possible self interest and the interest of his friends in all of this? He is, after all, Chairperson of Goldman Sachs whose Asset Management section is a key Anglo bondholder and which incidentally made profits of more than €13 billion last year.

“If our priority is to look after people like this, then the description given on one web site of Ireland as, ‘an international welfare state for super-rich bankers’ is all too accurate.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has said the scandal of vacant Údarás na Gaeltachta premises in the Donegal Gaeltacht can be put right if the political will is there.

Senator Doherty has called on Údarás na Gaeltachta to make these units freely available to those with a viable business plan that can get people back to work.

Senator Doherty said:

“43% of all Údarás na Gaeltachta units in the Donegal Gaeltacht are lying empty, that is 60 units in total. The highest number of vacant units is the parish of Gweedore with 22. All six units in Magheraroarty are vacant as well as ten in Kilcar.

“These details show the serious lack of focus that this government has on Donegal and the Gaeltacht in addressing the unemployment crisis. The fact that Údarás na Gaeltachta were not included in the list of job creation agencies who were brought to Farmleigh to discuss the unemployment crisis just illustrates how Donegal and the Gaeltacht are little more than an after-thought to this government.

“The 60 enterprise units that are lying vacant across the Donegal Gaeltacht must be used in a positive way to kick-start employment in our county. While we all know that the government’s lack of focus on job creation and its lack of investment in basic infrastructure has resulted in huge unemployment across Donegal, the fact that these units exist must be used as a positive.

“Many of these buildings which range in scale from 40 to 2,000 square meters are ready and fit for purpose and can meet the needs of future employers in the county.

“Many people out there with viable business plans never see the project through as a result of the barriers that exist. One of these barriers is the high rental costs for premises. It makes absolutely no sense for Údarás na Gaeltachta to have 60 unused factories lying across west Donegal while those with plans to put people back to work cant do so because of the high rental costs of these same factories.

“I am calling on Údarás na Gaeltachta to make these premises freely available to anybody with a viable business plan that will get people back to work. It should be made clear to those wishing to establish businesses that these premises will be made available free of charge for the first year and reviewed thereafter. With a bit of imagination and political will we can get our county moving again.” ENDS

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Speaking today during a Dáil debate on the economy today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan said the Government’s strategy is ideologically driven rather than being based on common sense.

Deputy Morgan said:

“When we are told that the economy is shrinking significantly, that Government spending is far too high and Government borrowing becoming unsustainable, that the economy is becoming uncompetitive, that workers are being paid too much, that the minimum wage must be lowered, that social welfare rates are too high, we should know that this is not common sense – it is the agenda of an ideology that serves the interests of a small class in society.

“Sinn Fein has argued against bleeding demand from an economy that was already operating on empty when the succession of emergency budgets was being introduced in 2008/2009. This was not listened to.

“The Government’s misconceived budgetary strategy is aligned not to the productive capacity of the economy, but rather to a wholly artificial time-line imposed by the EU Commission. Tax flows from economic activity, not from cutting the economy further. When fighting against public debt we must make sure we are not killing public services.

“Let us be clear: this Government is making conscious choices on the Budget. It is declining opportunities to raise for example €1 billion in revenue through the introduction of a wealth tax. If, and when, this Government cuts social welfare it is because it has chosen to do so, and because it has chosen not to develop alternative revenue-raising tools.

“Austerity doesn’t work. The 2014 deadline cannot be met. The government’s policies are failing.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil debate on the Economy today, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said savage cuts in Budget 2011 would prevent recovery and that a better, fairer approach is possible.

He said:

“Sinn Féin stands as the real opposition in this debate.

“Deputy John Gormley’s call for talks between party leaders and all that followed served one very useful purpose – it cleared away the smokescreen of false party rivalry and exposed the alignment that exists in Irish politics.

“It is now very clear that Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, Fine Gael and the Labour Party stand together in their economic approach. They form a Consensus for Cuts.

“Sinn Féin stands apart from that Consensus for Cuts – but we do not stand alone.

“The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and its constituent unions, the community and voluntary sector, the ESRI and a range of economists have warned against the strategy of attempting to cut the budget deficit to 3% by 2014.

“Sinn Féin joins with those seeking real recovery and a fair way forward. We are convinced that there is a better way.

“We recognise that the deficit caused by the disastrous policies of the government has to be reduced. But the plan to reduce it by 2014 by imposing savage cuts to frontline services and social supports will be hugely damaging. It will further deflate the economy and worsen the recession.

“Furthermore, the approach the Government is taking in its four-year plan of frontline and capital spending cuts as well as flat, regressive taxes, is the same approach they have taken up to now – and it has not worked. Deepening the cuts will only compound the problem.

“We need a different strategy and a longer timeframe. We want a realistic deficit reduction strategy based on fair taxation system that ensures the wealthy pay their share, investing in jobs which will increase State revenue and reduce the social welfare bill and eliminating wasteful public spending.

“Our approach is based on the reality that there is wealth in this State and that 1% of the population control 20% of that wealth. If that inequality had been addressed a decade ago we would not now be in recession.

“It is possible to reduce the deficit to 3% over a longer time-frame, provide real stimulus for jobs in the short-term, raise revenue from wealth, eliminate wasteful public spending and ensure the delivery of public services, while protecting those on low income.” ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s speech follows:

27.10.10


Dáil debate on the Economy 27.10.10
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Dáil leader

Sinn Féin stands as the real opposition in this debate.

Deputy John Gormley’s call for talks between party leaders and all that followed served one very useful purpose – it cleared away the smokescreen of false party rivalry and exposed the alignment that exists in Irish politics.

It is now very clear that Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, Fine Gael and the Labour Party stand together in their economic approach. They form a Consensus for Cuts.

Sinn Féin stands apart from that Consensus for Cuts – but we do not stand alone.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and its constituent unions, the community and voluntary sector, the ESRI and a range of economists have warned against the strategy of attempting to cut the budget deficit to 3% by 2014.

Sinn Féin joins with those seeking real recovery and a fair way forward. We are convinced that there is a better way.

We recognise that the deficit caused by the disastrous policies of the government has to be reduced. But the plan to reduce it by 2014 by imposing savage cuts to frontline services and social supports will be hugely damaging. It will further deflate the economy and worsen the recession.

Furthermore, the approach the Government is taking in its four-year plan of frontline and capital spending cuts as well as flat, regressive taxes, is the same approach they have taken up to now – and it has not worked. Deepening the cuts will only compound the problem.

We need a different strategy and a longer timeframe. We want a realistic deficit reduction strategy based on:
- A fair taxation system that ensures the wealthy pay their share
- Investing in jobs which will increase State revenue and reduce the social welfare bill
- Eliminating wasteful public spending.


Our approach is based on the reality that there is wealth in this State and that 1% of the population control 20% of that wealth. If that inequality had been addressed a decade ago we would not now be in recession.

It is possible to reduce the deficit to 3% over a longer time-frame, provide real stimulus for jobs in the short-term, raise revenue from wealth, eliminate wasteful public spending and ensure the delivery of public services, while protecting those on low income.

The Minister for Health & Children has threatened cuts to our public health services of between €600 million and €1 billion. Our health services are facing devastation if this is allowed to proceed. I have no doubt that cuts to services on this scale, especially as they affect our public acute hospitals, will cost lives.

In Sinn Féin’s Pre-Budget submission we identify €600 million that can be saved in the health system without affecting patient care. Take the drugs bill for example. Tackling profiteering, waste and over-prescription and increasing the use of generic drugs can make huge savings. But what is the Government’s approach? Target the patients such as those on the medical card who have had prescription charges imposed on them.

The report of the Comptroller & Auditor General earlier this year on the National Treatment Purchase Fund exposed the waste that is involved there. It stated that of the procedures performed in public hospitals, in some cases the patient was treated privately in the same hospital where he or she had been on a public waiting list.

Even more extraordinary – and surely a conflict of interest – is that in 8.5% of treatments arranged by the NTPF the consultant referring and treating the patient is the same. So in other words you have a situation in a public hospital where a specialist can refer a patient under the NTPF to himself, thus ensuring the consultant a higher rate of remuneration for the work because it is being done so-called ‘privately’ – even though the State pays the bill. This surely exposes the folly and waste that is the NTPF.

In a reply to a Dáil Question received from the HSE last week I was told that to date a total of 296 hospital consultants have been written to by Clinical Directors/Hospital Managers regarding the need for them to address excessive levels of private practice.

These excessive levels are of course in breach of their contract. And this is only the number of consultants that hospital managements have detected. Here is another indication of the massive waste of public money involved in the two-tier public-private hospital system.

In another reply to me the HSE admits that in Carlow it is paying rent of €1,000 per day to a private landlord for a primary care centre rather than develop the centre rent-free on an existing HSE site in the town. And the reason? Purely ideological. It is because developing the centre on HSE premises would not be in line with the Government’s policy of developing all new primary care centres through public-private partnerships – even if these cost more than the fully public method.

Elimination of waste and delivery of equity and efficiency can go hand and hand and Sinn Féin has demonstrated that.

We will set out our proposals in detail in our pre-Budget submission next week and my colleague Deputy Arthur Morgan will refer to them further in his contribution to this debate.

The enormity of what has been done to this economy by the reckless policies of the past decade and a half is difficult to grasp. Yet the stark reality is that Fianna Fáil and the Greens have brought the country close to economic ruin since 2007, their so-called solutions having made the situation worse. They have introduced four successive budgets, as well as emergency measures in February 2009, and the result is as follows:

· 450,000 people are now out of work.
· 100,000 more will have emigrated by next year.
· Tax revenues have collapsed.
· Almost €90 billion between recapitalisation and NAMA has been promised to bail out the banks.
· The interest rates being paid by the Irish government on the international bond market are three times those paid by Germany.

This Government is planning a budget in December that will attack people on low incomes and devastate vital public services. The Government has decided that someone who earns €300,000 a year contributes enough but a person on the miminum wage, or someone who has lost their job and is receiving €196 a week, must survive on less. They have signed up to a four-year timeframe for deficit reduction which they know they cannot meet and which the IMF, OECD and ESRI know they won’t meet. And Fine Gael and Labour have once again followed the government’s lead – just as they did in the General Election in 2007 when they too offered to cut taxes and just as they did in the Lisbon referendum in 2009 when they promised there would be jobs if people voted yes to Lisbon.

This is not just a question of the 3% by 2014 target being too short in time – it is also about how the Government proposes to go about reaching that target. They are preparing a slash and burn approach to the economy that will cause untold damage. It will attack the least well off but it will also attack the overall economy and delay recovery.

The Consensus for Cuts parties are determined to plough on, tying this State’s future to a formula brokered with the EU Central Bank, regardless of the consequences.

It is no co-incidence that these are the same parties who campaigned for a ‘Yes’ vote in the second Lisbon Treaty referendum, having refused to implement the people’s decision to reject that Treaty when first put to them. In Lisbon 2 they urged the people to ‘Vote ‘Yes’ for Jobs’.

“Where are the jobs?” we ask as we contemplate the reality of over 450,000 people on the dole queues and emigration on the rise.

Those young people forced to emigrate, the hundreds of thousands unemployed and the people struggling on low incomes are ill-served by the capitulation of the so-called main opposition parties.

‘Slash and burn and all will be well by 2014’ - this is the new mantra and anyone who doesn’t accept it is being labelled as economically insane.

Sinn Féin was labelled as economically illiterate in 2007.

Had our policies been taken on board in 2007, and before it, we would not now be in the depths of this recession.

Alone among the political parties in this Dáil we did not call for tax cuts.

We called for Government housing policy to be based on the need for decent housing for all the people – not a policy of inflating the property bubble.

We called for wealth to be shared on the basis of a fair taxation system.

We called for the banks to serve the economy and the customer and for the unbridled greed of financial institutions to be curbed by Government.

Fianna Fáil-led Governments pursued exactly the opposite policies - driven by greed and totally devoid of any real vision for the future of the Irish people.

When we spoke of a Golden Circle we were derided. But such a Golden Circle existed and what we have found out since shows that we and others actually under-estimated the extent of the corruption and the avarice at the top of the ladder in this economy.

The so-called regulators were in collusion with the bankers and developers. Government ministers and top civil servants allowed it all to go on unhindered. The elite executives at the top end of the public service and the semi-states were awarded massive salaries and perks on a par with the high-flyers in the private sector. Auditing and accountancy firms played their part and profited handsomely by it.

But what has changed? In many ways, very little, and I will give one concrete example.

Loan valuation for NAMA is being carried out by Ernst and Young. Last April here in the Dáil I raised this issue with the Minister for Finance.

Ernst & Young was the auditing firm for Anglo Irish Bank when accounts were published in February 2009. That report effectively gave Anglo Irish Bank a clean bill of health, yet we now know that the 2008 year-end figures included cash that had been transferred from Permanent TSB.

We know that directors’ loans were concealed and loans were given to shareholders to buy more shares. Loans were also given to directors, senior executive members of Anglo Irish Bank, to buy more shares yet none of those matters was exposed in the end-of-year accounts presented by Ernst & Young.

KPMG is now audit co-ordinator for NAMA. KPMG audited Irish Nationwide. Its 2008 results, announced in April 2009 showed a pre-tax profit of €300 million after having set aside €500 million for bad debts. In April it was confirmed that Irish Nationwide required €2.6 billion in funds from the Exchequer, a mere 11 months after KPMG gave it a clean bill of health.

I asked the Minister for Finance at that time how did it come about that these firms got the top contracts regarding NAMA given the questionable role they played in presenting figures allegedly as facts when we now know they were nothing of the kind. I asked if those auditing and accountancy firms were being investigated for their specific roles in what some would suggest was an orchestrated cover up of the facts on those financial institutions.

The Minister replied that the questions raised by me were legitimate and that he would ask NAMA to examine what I said about the professional advice. He said the matters to which I referred are serious and will require investigation both by the accountancy bodies and the banking inquiry. Where stand those investigations now?

If the situation were not so serious it would be amusing to listen to the Taoiseach and his Ministers talking about the need for us to preserve our economic sovereignty.

Whenever we in Sinn Féin pointed to the erosion of economic sovereignty as a result of successive EU treaties we were ridiculed. But successive Governments here have abandoned economic sovereignty and have allowed international bond-holders and the European Central Bank to determine how many euros go into the pockets of the least well off in our society.

And, make no mistake, it comes down to that. Tied to a doctrine of fiscal rectitude, this Government in the last budget took €8.50 per week out of the pockets of people caring for elderly, ill or disabled relatives in the home. It cut assistance for the young unemployed in half. It took the Christmas bonus from social welfare recipients as well as cutting welfare payments across the board.

Recently the ratings agency Fitch called for more evictions in Ireland as this would enhance the reputation of the banks. This is what we had with landlord rule under the Union Jack yet it is only one step removed from what the Government is doing to the least well off. And it plans far worse in the next four budgets.

As I put it to the Minister for Finance last week, international bond-holders are now more important than the Irish people in the consideration of this Government. In May the Minister indicated he could not say who they are but I have a list of 80 possible suspects.

These include Alliance Global Investors France SA, Barclays Wealth Managers France, BlueBay Asset Management Ltd, BNP Paribas Asset Management, Brown, Shipley & Co Ltd, Crédit Suisse Asset Management, Deutsche Asset Management Investmentgesellschaft, European Credit Management Ltd, Frankfurt - Trust Investment, W&W Asset Management and WGZ Asset Bank Luxembourg.

I understand this list of 80 contains Anglo Irish Bank bondholders and the composite figure of the face value of the bonds they hold exceeds €4 billion. These are the people who should have taken the hit from the collapse of Anglo-Irish Bank, not ordinary taxpayers. But the Minister replied that many of these are also subscribers to Irish government bonds and we rely on them for the Government’s massive borrowings.

Also appearing on that list of Anglo-Irish bondholders is Goldman Sachs. – the same Goldman Sachs that advises the Government on its approach to bond-holders. Perhaps the next time Mr. Peter Sutherland, chairman of Goldman Sachs International, descends on us from the clouds to give his advice, the reporters from RTÉ and the Irish Times might ask him about this conflict of interest. In the meantime the Minister might like to address it here in his contribution.

The fact is that bond-holders invested in a bank, not a state. They should have read the disclaimer at the bottom of the bank ads – the value of your investment may go down as well as up.

The budget plan this Government is now working on has nothing to do with deficit reduction. Every cent that is cut from frontline services next year will be redirected at least ten times into the Government’s bank bailout.

If spending cuts could fix the deficit problem we would not now have a growing deficit. But we’ve already had three years of spending cuts and what’s happened – the deficit has grown.

The Government, with the support of Fine Gael and Labour, are planning a savage 4-year time frame to fix the deficit problem. We in Sinn Féin are setting out a six-year approach which could actually see the economy recover sooner.

The Consensus for Cuts believes that to grow a little, you must cut a lot. We believe that to grow at all you must invest.

The relationship between jobs and the deficit is a clear one – more people in work brings more tax in and saves on welfare payments going out. Cutting spending puts people out of work, brings the tax take down and welfare spending up – it doesn’t take a genius to work it out.

Cutting social welfare is a false economy and one that ultimately only causes misery for those on the receiving end of the policy. People on social welfare spend every cent of their income in the local economy – cut their welfare and you inflict cuts on the local economy.

Rather than targeting welfare the Government should be targeting wealth. It has been estimated that there are some 33,000 millionaires in this State. They have been the main beneficiaries of about €20 billion in tax breaks from Fianna Fáil-led Governments since 2005. These include tax relief on pensions, a myriad of property tax reliefs; reliefs on private nursing homes and hospitals; capital allowances; the PRSI ceiling; and a whole range of others.

Dr Michael Collins, a member of the Commission on Taxation, reiterated the view on October 17th this year that there are still 110 of these tax breaks in place, costing the public purse €11 billion per annum.
Even if this millionaire section of the Irish people paid just a 1% wealth tax, the Irish government could take in €1.2 billion in 2011 and every year thereafter.

Now is a time when parties of the left should be joining with trade unionists, community and voluntary organisations and other progressive voices in demanding an alternative way forward. We are calling for

· The abandonment of the unrealistic and damaging target of 3% deficit reduction by 2014
· Revenue saving and raising based on fairness and efficiency
· Stimulus measures to protect and create jobs
· Protection of vital frontline public services including health, education and social supports.

There needs to be a Consensus for Real Recovery not a conspiracy of political parties against the people.

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan has said reducing the €15billion deficit over four years through a programme of savage cuts will lead to severe hardship and will force thousands of people into poverty and debt.

Deputy Morgan said Sinn Féin advocates a better and more fair way to reduce the deficit.

Speaking this evening Deputy Morgan said:

“The €15billion figure is broadly in line with what we had expected and we have prepared our budget plans on that basis.

“To reduce the deficit by €15billion in four years through a programme of savage cuts will lead to severe hardship and force thousands of people into poverty and debt.

“Sinn Féin advocates a better and more fair way to reduce the deficit by extending the deadline to 2016, introducing a range of revenue raising measures targeted at those who can afford to pay more and investing in an economic stimulus package.

“This way we can protect the most vulnerable sections of society from economic hardships while creating jobs and stimulating economic activity.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has welcomed a Tweet from Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews which suggests a merger of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would make sense.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said such a merger would bring about a real left right divide in Irish politics and give the people a real choice based on policies rather than personalities.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Chris Andrews clearly sees the writing on the wall for his party but his suggestion that a merger with Fine Gael makes sense is on the money.

“A merger between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would bring about a real left right divide in Irish politics and give the people a real choice based on policies rather than personalities.

“For too long politics in Ireland has been based on personality rather than policy. There is little or no policy difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael yet these two parties between them have held power in Ireland since the establishment of the state.

“Hopefully one day soon they will be of one merged party on the opposition benches in the Dáil.” ENDS

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Advice groups inclusion welcomed in tackling hardship - McCann

Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast and member o the Social Development committee at Stormont, Fra McCann, has welcomed the decision by the Social Development to include local advice groups into the sub-group in order to advise him on the way forward for those in society who will be most affected by the proposed British government cuts.

Speaking earlier Mr McCann said:

“This decision comes on the back of a question that I raised with the Minister about bringing groups such as Housing Rights, Advice NI and Disability Action who work at the coal face of dealing with issues.

“We were informed at this weeks Social Development Committee that the Minister is to include these groups. This is an essential move in order to provide a comprehensive and honest assessment in regards to the severity of the slashing cuts announced by the Tory government that will impact heavily on the most vulnerable within our society.

“The projected cuts will be disastrous for those on benefits, pensioners and low income families. Further to this will a projected 36,000 job losses over the next four years as a direct result of Tory policy the amount of those who will require the safety net that benefits is meant to provide will grow massively.

“The consultation process to be developed with these groups who have the knowledge and expertise in these areas needs to happen and a strategy should be forthcoming that in some alleviates the future prospects faced by the most vulnerable in our communities.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has congratulated John Hume on winning the RTÉ compettion to identify Ireland's greatest person.

Gerry Adams said:

"I want to congratulate John on achieving this unique and singulare honour. It is a measure of the esteem in which he is held that he secured most votes. I am sure his family will be enormously proud." ENDS

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Speaking after attending a Tasc round table meeting on the economy Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan said there is a growing consensus around his party’s position that the 2014 target for cutting the budget deficit is unrealistic and unachievable.

Deputy Morgan said:

“It is quite obvious that the Government’s economic strategy is wrong. There is a growing consensus now around my party’s position that the 2014 target for cutting the budget deficit is unrealistic and unachievable.

“The Government must now go back to the EU and negotiate a new and realistic timeframe for reducing the deficit.

“The debate now needs to move on to how we reduce the deficit. Sinn Féin is the only party advocating an approach that doesn’t involve cutting vital frontline services and attacking low and middle income families.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and Executive Minister Conor Murphy has stated that the Executive should now prepare a united approach to fighting the punitive cuts being brought forward by the British government. This follows today’s Executive meeting which dealt mainly with the Comprehensive Spending Review and the affect it will have on the local economy.

Speaking earlier Mr Murphy said:

“Today’s meeting was realistic and dealt with the issues at hand.

“We put it to our Executive colleagues that there needs to be consensus when fighting these cuts. We were elected to do this and represent the citizens of the North, to deliver for them and not to acquiesce to what the British government has proposed. This would be failing our electorate gravely.

“The Tory government, though Owen Patterson, has said that they received an endorsement for their platform of cuts from the electorate and that people knew what they were voting for.

“Let us be clear. That mandate was rejected whole-heartedly at the last election in the North of Ireland with not one conservative candidate being elected. We said no then to cuts then and we are saying no now.

“We have laid out measures to grow the economy based around what was promised from the Gordon Brown. Owen Patterson stated he would honour this agreement yet £4bn has been removed from this package.

“This is a disaster for the local economy, especially the construction industry. There is no fairness in devastating one of the main sectors of the northern economy, as there is no fairness in attacking the most vulnerable in society through attacks on pensions, benefits and low-income families.

“Coming from this we need to see the political parties sitting down, bringing proposals to the table to work out a clear strategy on the best way forward.

“Sinn Féin have already released our document and there has been positive acceptance of it containing viable and workable economic proposals. Let debate these and lets have the other parties bring forward similar proposals. The initiative lies with us all here.

“The Assembly has already been recalled to debate the economic crisis and as an Executive we must follow suit. Today is the start of that process. We need to accelerate our efforts and work towards safeguarding and providing jobs in the immediate future and putting in place economic stimulants for future growth.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA this afternoon met Minster for the Gaeltacht Pat Carey in Leinster House.

Mr. Adams was accompanied by Gráinne Nic Géidigh, Sinn Féin elected member of Údaras na Gaeltachta, Aengus O Snodaigh TD, Gearoid O hEara and Marcas Mac Ruairí.

Speaking afterward Mr. Adams said:

“Today’s meeting was an opportunity for Sinn Féin to discuss in some detail with the Minister a range of issues around the Irish language and the future of the Gaeltacht.

“We had a very full and useful discussion. Among the issues we discussed were Plean 2030, the restructuring of Foras na Gaeilge and the implications of the proposed reorganisation of Údaras na Gaeilge and the future sustainability of the Gaeltacht areas.

“We also asked the Minister to ensure that the Taoiseach actively engages with the British Prime Minister on the rights of Irish speakers in the North including the right to an Acht na Gaeilge.

“The issue of the Irish language is a priority on Sinn Féin’s agenda and it’s important that political parties co-operate on the question of the promotion of Irish in-so-far as is possible.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has called for TDs salaries to be cut by 20 per cent and Ministers salaries by 40 per cent. The Sinn Féin leader has also criticised the Government and Fine Gael and the Labour Party for standing over the 2014 target date for reducing the budget deficit to 3 per cent of GDP and continuing to promote cuts to frontline services and social protections.


Speaking in Dublin this morning Mr Adams said:

“It is now clear that the 2014 target for cutting the budget deficit doesn't make sense and is unachievable. Furthermore I believe that the Government parties and Fine Gael and Labour are aware that this date can't be met.

“To stick to this date now is economic folly. To continue to promote savage cuts to public services and social protections is self defeating.

“Instead of attacking the most vulnerable citizens TDs’ and Ministers’ salaries should be cut. Sinn Féin proposes that TDs should take a 20 per cent cut and Ministers salaries should be cut by 40 per cent.”

Mr Adams added:

“SF has organised a mass rally for Dublin City Centre on December 4th in defence of low and middle income earners; of public services and the most vulnerable.” ENDS

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