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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Magennis has described todays road traffic accident in Dunmurray in which it is believed one person died as a terrible tragedy.

 Councillor Magennis said,

 “I was informed this morning that there has been a serious traffic accident in Dunmurray in which at least one person has lost their life.

 “This is a terrible tragedy and adds to the growing death on our roads so early into the year.

 “I would like to offer my condolences to the family of the person who has died and hope that those injured make a full recovery.

 “I would also appeal for local people to cooperate with the emergency services as they attend this accident.”

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Irish water continues to waste good money after bad. It has received €500m from the Pension Reserve Fund to install water meters, this was followed by over €200m in the recent budget only to be followed by a further allocation from the local government fund. This is all before one drop of water reaches our taps.

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The Sinn Féin candidate for the Midlands North West EU consitutency, Matt Carthy, has welcomed the decision by An Bord Pleanála to overturn permission for a proposed wind farm in Cloghan, Co. Offaly.

Commenting on the decision Carthy said:

“Today’s decision by An Bord Pleanála to overturn planning permission for a proposed wind farm in Cloghan is a victory for community campaigners who have worked tirelessly to voice concerns and opposition to the project.

“The fact that the board cited impact on the visual landscape of the area vindicates what campaigners have been saying all along about the impact that such projects could have on tourism and on the environment.

“Sinn Féin is calling on the government to introduce a moratorium on the construction of wind farms pending the framing of a full range of regulations. We are also calling for a National Wind Energy Strategy which would include planning regulations with regard to wind farms, the public consultation process that must be carried out prior to the erection of wind turbines, the sale of the energy from wind turbines and the taxation levels on wind energy.

“We want to see alternative energy sources utilised but only in conjunction with local communities that will be affected by the supporting infrastructure developments.  Furthermore the energy resources of Ireland must be used for the benefit of the Irish people and not simply developed for the private profit of multi-national investors.”

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Today’s figures are another indictment of a government which does not attach any urgency to the mortgage crisis. In the third quarter of 2013 there were over 140,000 homes in arrears

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East Derry Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has expressed his concern over the level and amount of claims made against the Department for Regional Development for damage caused to vehicles or injuries sustained due to unsatisfactory road maintenance.

 Speaking after this weeks Regional Development Committee meeting which received a briefing from Departmental officials Mr. Ó hOisín said,

 “In a recent Ministerial question it was revealed that in the last five years nearly 15,000 claims have been made against the department.

 “Of these claims 4849 were for personal injury and 10,024 for vehicle damage.

 “Whilst a large percentage of the injuries claims were unsuccessful, over 55% of the vehicle damage claims were successful. 

 “These figures I believe do not reflect the overall amount of damage to vehicles due to drivers not reporting because of the complexity of proving the onus of responsibility on the driver and the requirement to prove negligence of the Department.

 “While it is right and proper to scrutinise all the claims it is also right that motorists were not being penalised for damaged and unfinished workmanship such as raised ironworks and kerbing or roads that have fallen into disrepair.

 “The Minister Danny Kennedy must act now to ensure a programme of repair works as the money spent on claims could well be used in maintaining a safe and proper road network.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Diaspora, Seán Crowe TD, is travelling to Iran today as part of an Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee delegation.

The delegation will be in Iran for 4 days and they will meet with the various Iranian Government Ministers, including the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Minister of Agriculture, as well as The Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, the Head of the Iranian Human Rights Council, Chairperson of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, and the Chairperson of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian Parliament.

Before leaving Deputy Crowe said:

“This visit is coming at a very important time, as Iran has recently dropped its ban on importing Irish beef and the so called P5+1 countries (Britain, China, France, Russia, the US + Germany) have agreed an interim deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

“Our visit will allow us to meet some important members of Iran’s Government and Business community to discuss these and other issues of mutual interest. Iran is one of the most important economic and political actors in the region and it is important for Ireland to have open and clear lines of communication to Tehran.

“This trip comes on the back of recent visits to Iran by parliament delegations from other EU countries.

“Our trip is also important considering the decision of this Government to close the Irish Embassy in Tehran, which Eamon Gilmore initially justified by referencing low bilateral trade between Iran and Ireland.

“However much of this was due to the crippling sanctions forced on Iran by opponents of its nuclear enrichment programme.Iran, which has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has a right to develop nuclear energy for civilian and peaceful purposes.

“We now have an interim deal from the P5+1 and Iran, and significant bilateral trade opportunities and political relationships can, and should, be built between Ireland and Iran.

“I hope that this visit will begin the reestablishment of these ties and to improve Ireland’s diplomatic and economic relationship with Iran and the wider region.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has called on the British and Irish governments to “unambiguously endorse the Haass proposals” and to press the unionist parties to respond positively.  Mr. Adams also accused the unionist leaders of “failing their constituents and ignoring the clear desire by the vast majority of citizens who want to see agreement on these outstanding issues.”

Gerry Adams said: “Following the publication of the proposals from Richard Haass and Meghan O Sullivan I called for all of the parties not to fudge their response to the Haass proposals. I called for clear statements of support. 

“The response from the British and Irish governments was half-hearted, detached and ambiguous,

“Regrettably this week has seen the Ulster Unionist Party and the DUP decide not to support the proposals. 

“The difference between these two parties is purely tactical. The DUP said more work needs to be done to the proposals and called for an all-party working group to be established while the Ulster Unionist Party has rejected the Haass proposals as neither ‘viable or acceptable’.

“Two slightly different ways of Ulster Saying No! With Peter Robinson taking a slightly more nuanced position than Michael Nesbitt. 

“Irish Republicans have stretched ourselves in the negotiations and we are up for the challenge the Haass proposals contain. The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle of the Party will meet on Saturday to review the outcome of the talks process, and agree our response.

“This is a time for political leaders to lead. Unionist leaders are failing their constituents and ignoring the clear desire by the vast majority of citizens who want to see agreement on these outstanding issues.”

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East Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has expressed his concern over the long-term viability of Larne Port after it was revealed that passenger and vehicle numbers have declined significantly over the past few years.

 Mr. McMullan stated,

 “I am deeply concerned over the long term viability of Larne Port after it was revealed that passenger figures fell by 30,000 over the past year and are down by over 220,000 since 2010.

 “There is also a large downturn in the number of vehicles using the port which has halved over the same period, down to less than 190,000 in 2013.

 “If these trends were to continue then the long-term viability of the port must be called into question. 

 “As one of the major employers in the East Antrim area it is important that we secure the future of the port by making it more competitive and accessible. 

 “Larne has been a major port for many years and it is important that we look at improving the facilities and infrastructure to make it successful. 

 “It is also the main ferry terminal for the movement of livestock between here and Britain and has a dedicated facility in which animals are held before transportation.

 “While the new proposed dual carriageway from Larne to Belfast will help improve the situation we need to do more to modernise and increase efficiency at the port.

 “I will be requesting a meeting with the Port authorities to discuss what plans they have to ensure the viability of the port and how the jobs cannot only be secured but how we can expand services to create even more employment ion the area.

 “I also intend to raise it with the appropriate Ministers at the Assembly so that a focus can be put on securing the future of Larne Port.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on energy, Michael Colreavy TD, has said that electricity generated from wind must not become another valuable resource to be exported at long term loss. He was responding to newspaper reports that Eirgrid is to conduct a survey with a view to having an interconnector with France to export electricity generated from wind.

Deputy Colreavy said:

“I have already expressed concern that the Government has approved a deal to export wind generated electricity to Britain prior to this state attaining either its EU targets, or more importantly ensuring that it becomes self-sufficient in electricity generation from wind and other renewable sources.

“At present we are overwhelmingly reliant on expensive fossil fuel imports such as oil and gas and coal in order to meet our electricity needs. It therefore makes no sense to continue that while exporting wind generated electricity that could help to massively reduce that dependence and ensure lower prices for Irish consumers.

“I sincerely hope that our renewable energy resources, which are still under-developed, are not similarly undersold as have been other natural resources. We do have the potential to become a major exporter in the future but renewable energy should in the first instance be used for domestic needs rather than to assist other EU states to meet their targets. To do so would be similar to their putting the interests of European bankers ahead of the Irish people.”

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Dessie Ellis has condemned the government for attempting to misrepresent a cut to elderly housing grants as a reallocation of funds. He made his comments as Age Action, an organisation which promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people, criticised the cut.

Deputy Ellis said;

"This is a cut plain and simple. It is a well-worn tactic of this government to claim they are reallocating funds to disguise an overall cut. Funds may be reallocated but not back into housing as is so desperately needed.

“The adaptation grant scheme in Dublin had to close last summer due to lack of funds. Now they are making it harder for older people to even be eligible by raising the age to 66, raising contributions and reducing the maximum grant by a fifth.

“If the government and the Minister can't stand over their cuts then they should reconsider them. For the sake of many older people living in inappropriate conditions I hope they do."

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Sinn Féin MLA and chairperson of the Health Committee Maeve McLaughlin has said that we need a full report into why a major incident was declared in the Royal Victoria Hospital Accident and Emergency Ward on what should have been a routine evening.

 Ms. McLaughlin stated,

 “The purpose of a major incident response is to respond to exceptional circumstance like a plane crash, multi vehicle crash or other similar incident when many people need treatment at the one time.

 “We now need a full report as to why a major incident response was called to what should have been routine evening in the A&E Department.

 “It was warned when the A&E Departments were closed in Belfast City and the Mater that the A&E Department at the Royal was under resourced to cater for the extra number of patients that would present themselves at the Royal Hospital.

 “Despite professional advice that these closures would have a major knock on effect on services at the Royal the Minister forced them through.

“Since the closure the A&E Departments in the Mater and City Hospitals the Royal has been working under undue stress and Wednesday’s nights episode was I believe the point where the system collapsed.

 “It is obvious that the Minister’s strategy on A&E is in meltdown and lives are being put at risk and he must act now to reassure the public that this major incident response will not become the norm every week.

 “The Minister must now clarify the future of A&E services right across the North as we have recently seen the closure of the Downe and Lagan Valley A&E departments at weekends and early evenings adding to the existing stress on Belfast A&E Departments.” 

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has expressed concern at media reports indicating that the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) is refusing to tackle the Dáil Bar controversy and is instead seeking to duck an issue that caused widespread public anger last year.

A report in today’s Irish Examiner quoted a source close to the Committee as saying: “Nothing’s been done and nothing is planned to be done about the opening hours in the coming year.”

The Sinn Fein Leader first raised the Dáil Bar issue ten months ago, including with the Ceann Comhairle and with a number of Leinster House Committees.

His concerns were underlined by notorious incidents involving TDs under the influence of alcohol while debating important legislation.

On the night of the infamous ‘Lapgate’ incident the bar served until 5.30am as the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was discussed and voted upon. Till receipts showed that 331 alcoholic drinks were consumed by Oireachtas members on the night.

Speaking this afternoon Gerry Adams said:

“I first wrote to the Ceann Comhairle on this issue last July.

“Sean Barrett then referred it to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges of the Dáil and also the CPP of the Seanad.

“It was subsequently referred to the Joint Sub-Committee on Administration. I understand it was discussed by this committee at meetings in November and December but I have received no formal response to my letter of concern.

“It appears the defence for doing nothing is that the Dáil Bar is what they term a ‘Members’ Privilege’. This shows how totally out of touch Leinster House authorities are with how the public see this issue.

“It is an anamoly to have a bar on the premises of a workplace, open until all hours of the morning. But to have this situation in the Dáil where important legislation affecting the lives of so many citizens is being debated is disgraceful.

“The Dáil Bar should be regulated the same way as any other bar and I intend to continue to pursue this issue when the Dail resumes.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has said that SDLP MLA Joe Byrne is attempting to ride two horses over the allocation of money to the Rural Development Programme.

 Mr. McAleer said,

 “Before Christmas Joe Byrne stated that the SDLP preferred option was that Rural Development Programme money was wholly directed towards farmers rather than used in a balanced way for the entire rural community. 

 “This is the same line that the DUP took when they forced a court case to stop DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill moving monies from Pillar I to Pillar II to resource projects for the rural community.

 “However monies from Pillar II also go directly to farmers and small farmers will especially be severely impacted upon by failure to get monies transferred from Pillar I.

 “Joe Byrne has now bizarrely called on the Minister to do the opposite of what he called for pre Christmas by stating she needs to put more money into Pillar II of the Rural Development Programme.

 “It is now becoming abundantly clear that the SDLP are all over the place as they issue contradictory statements.

 “While I understand that the SDLP attempt to have at least two positions on every policy it is time that Joe Byrne categorically stated where they stand on this issue.

 “Will they again support the DUP in attempting to score a cheap political point against Sinn Féin or will they stand with us in supporting and creating sustainable rural communities.” 

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The Sinn Féin representative for the Midlands North West EU constituency, Matt Carthy, has called on the government to “wake up” to the devastating impact that the recent storms have had on the west of Ireland.

Carthy said that communities along the west coast do not have the luxury of time and that the government should apply for emergency EU funding immediately, before it is too late.

He said:

“While communities along the west coast woke up this week to find their homes, businesses and land destroyed by the recent storms, the government have yet to wake up and realise that people cannot deal with this devastation alone.

“It is an imperative that emergency funding is made available immediately for people and communities affected by storm damage. However the €45 million budgetary allocation for emergency funds clearly will not be enough. The government must apply to the European Commission for funding from the European Solidarity Fund. But they must do it immediately before it is too late.

“Communities right along the west coast do not have the luxury of time as they struggle to deal with the devastation caused by these storms themselves. Local Authorities, starved of funding, appear in many cases powerless to help.

“The government need to wake up. The time for talking about this in board rooms is running out. Communities need funding and they need it now.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has welcomed the decision by the Netherlands' largest pension fund management company to withdraw all its investments from Israel’s five largest banks because they have branches in the West Bank and/or are involved in financing construction in the settlements.

Martina Anderson said:

“I welcome the courageous decision by the Netherland’s largest pension fund PGGM who has withdrawn all its investments from Israeli Banks on the basis that settlement construction in the West Bank poses a problem from the standpoint of international law.

“The five largest Israeli banks have branches in the West Bank and/or are involved in financing construction in the settlements. The decision is liable to lead other business concerns in Europe to follow suit.

 “This laudable decision by PGGM which came into effect on January 1st is line with opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2004, stating that settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal and violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. That article states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

“In accordance with PGGM policy of “social responsibility” it concluded that it would be impossible to create a firewall between its investments in Israeli banks and the banks’ activities in the territories therefore it has decided to withdraw its investments in Israel’s Banks .

“This is the latest decision by Dutch Companies in taking determined action against Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Over recent weeks, Dutch firms have engaged in a wave of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israeli firms. Last month, the Dutch water company Vitens announced that it was suspending cooperation with Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, given the latter’s operations in West Bank settlements. A few weeks earlier, another Dutch company cancelled a contract to build a sewage treatment plant that it had signed with Jerusalem’s water company, Hagihon, because the plant was to be located over the Green Line.

“I urge other EU investors to show the same “social responsibility” as PGGM and other Dutch companies  in order to pressurise Israel to adhere to international law and the terms of dozens of UN resolutions which it has consistently ignored with impunity.”

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Sinn Féin’s EU candidate for the constituency of Ireland South, Liadh Ní Riada, has today called on the government to take the health concerns surrounding the EirGrid Grid Link project seriously.

Ní Riada stated that the Government’s messaging regarding such health concerns has been mixed, flippant and shows a real disrespect towards the affected communities.

Ms Ní Riada said:

“The health concerns surrounding the EirGrid project are very credible. However, the government has chosen to adopt quite a flippant attitude to these concerns.

“Minister Rabbitte has consistently dismissed the worries of communities while his colleague Health Minister James Reilly has aired his concerns regarding the electromagnetic fields created by power lines. The fact that two senior Ministers have completely antagonistic positions on such an important matter is, to my mind, evidence that the government has not taken these health concerns seriously at all.

“A 2005 study conducted by Oxford Professor Draper found that living within 200 metres of high-voltage power-lines increases a child’s chance of getting cancer by 69%. Earlier research shows cancer clusters associated with high voltage power-lines. People living in close proximity were found to have a higher chance of suffering from lung cancer and leukaemia.”

“This isn’t political spin. These are the results of serious academic research. Surely the government has a responsibility to treat such studies with a greater degree of respect and consideration.

“By arrogantly dismissing these concerns, the Government and EirGrid are playing fast and loose with the health of many people.

“I certainly hope that Minister Rabbitte’s dismissal is not just another case of something one does only when there is an election in view.

“The health concerns regarding the Grid Link project cannot be marginalised. I am calling on the government to respect affected communities and treat these concerns with the seriousness that they deserve.”

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Speaking today Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Deputy Jonathan O’Brien welcomed the publication of the USI document on a vision for post-bailout Ireland and said he was keen to see a conversation develop on how we can build a better society.

The Cork North Central TD said;

“For too long, Ireland has been characterised by greed and mé féin-ism. The recession almost put a stop to it, but the government are still keen on pushing policies that exacerbate inequalities in society.

“It is heartening to see organisations such as USI developing documents such as this that will serve as good conversation-starters to discuss the type of Ireland we want to live in.

"Education has been neglected and underfunded historically in this state. Good quality education must not remain the preserve of those with the financial means to access it. 

“All organisations promoting progressive ideas about building a better Ireland and attempting to foster debate about advancing an alternative vision for how we achieve equality should be encouraged and it is for this reason that I commend the endeavours of USI in this document.”

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Sinn Féin jobs spokesperson, Senator David Cullinane, responding to today’s publication of the live register figures, said that the pace of change is too slow and that both youth and long term unemployment remain too high.

Senator Cullinane said:

“Todays live register figures show the number of ‘signing on’ continues to reduce, while this is welcome, the pace of change is too slow and youth unemployment and long term unemployment remain too high.

“At this time of year families are bidding farewell to emigrants who returned for the holidays. Over the past year 1,700 people emigrated every week. The reduction in the register must be viewed in the context of continued mass emigration. A generation is being lost and the government claims this as victory for their policies.

“The reduction in the live register has slowed to 0.1% per month and at this rate it will take 7 years to reach pre-crisis levels. That is not good enough and our people, our business and our economy deserve more.”

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Sinn Féin party whip, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, welcomed the publication today by USI of their ‘Vision for post-bailout Ireland’ document, particularly their conclusion that JobBridge is beyond repair and should be phased out.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Like Sinn Féin's own alternative budget proposals, the document challenges government policy in a range of areas from social protection and mental health to political reform and social housing. 

“It's worth highlighting the USI's conclusion that "the JobBridge scheme is beyond repair and should be phased out". I have been undertaking a series of meetings with relevant trade unions and the emerging consensus is in keeping with my original concerns - JobBridge displaces paid employment, depresses job creation, compounds underemployment and drives down wages.

“Young people and those with higher level qualifications are particularly vulnerable to exploitation under the JobBridge scheme and as such USI has valuable insight. I would urge Minister Burton to heed their advice.”

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Sinn Féin Councillors have voted against the Donegal County Council budget helping to secure its defeat and the dissolution of the council.  Speaking after the vote in the early hours of this morning Sinn Féin’s leader on the council, Councillor Mick Quinn said his party was not given a mandate to implement water charges and will not support a budget that increases taxes and reduces services for families across Donegal.

Councillor Quinn said;

“Sinn Féin will not be involved in any process that will further increase taxes and reduce services for families across Donegal.  We were not given a mandate to introduce water charges and we will not be doing Minister Hogan’s dirty work for him.

“As a result of this evening’s vote Sinn Féin, and all other councillors, will lose their salaries.  However, we did not seek election for a salary or for any personal gain.  We were elected to represent the people of Donegal and this budget is not in their best interests.  In fact it would be detrimental to the vast majority of people living in this county.

“Irish Water refused to meet with members of Donegal County Council on request from Sinn Féin, yet the company expects us to vote for the transfer to its ownership of a priceless asset which belongs to the people of this county, and in turn it plans put metres outside these people's homes and charge them for the privilege of using this infrastructure.

“The budget book as presented is full of aspirational figures and unrealisable objectives.  This same council passed a budget for 2013 which had to be revised in July 2013 and cut by €2.75m because of fantasy figures which Sinn Féin pointed out could not be realised. The same would have happened this year if this budget was passed.

“Donegal has been devastated by unemployment and emigration.  Donegal has worst infrastructure in Ireland.  Our roads are crumbling.

“We have the highest rate of unemployment in Ireland and the lowest disposable income and youth unemployment is at almost 50%.

“Sinn Féin has shown that we will stand up and be counted when tough decisions need to be made and we will be fielding a strong team of candidates to increase our representation on the council in the upcoming local elections.

“It is time to fight for the people of our county.”

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