Speaking at a Round Table discussion on Food fraud in Brussels Martina Anderson welcomed the proposed establishment of Member State Fraud Squad teams to combat criminal activity in the Food Processing industry.
Martina Anderson said:
“During the recent Horsemeat Scandal in one incident alone, involving a Dutch trader, 50,000 tonnes of food was declared unfit for human consumption and seized by authorities.
“I welcome the commitment by the Commission to now prioritise the fight against food fraud. Included in the May 6th proposals by the EU Commission’s Directorate General for Food and Consumers - DG Sanco, is the recommendation that Member States establish Food Fraud Squads that would allow for 'unannounced inspections' to food processors, factories and so on to combat Food Fraud.
“I believe that the Food Fraud Squads should incorporate Police, Customs and Prosecution Services backed up by the necessary resources to be effective.
“It is also proposed that if a company or an individual is caught committing food fraud, the Member State should impose tough fines which would at least equal the amount of potential profit that would have resulted from the fraud.
“As these measures are only at the proposal stage and have to be agreed by Member States and the European Parliament I will be following the proceedings with interest as they make their way through the parliament.
“I have yet to be convinced that fines equal to the amount of profit to be made from fraudulent activity will be entirely dissuasive. I personally believe that anyone falsifying ingredients in food should face fines in multiples of projected profits or prison depending on the scale of the operation.
“As the Danish Food Fraud team at the Round Table said, ‘fines must be punitive and should cost the fraudsters rather than being a 'neutral' expense’.
“In two operations carried out by EUROPOL and INTERPOL the first one involving eleven Member States and the second nineteen, 150 tonnes of counterfeit food and 100 tonnes of substandard food were seized.
“As the Representative from EUROPOL stated - food fraud is not the same as buying fake goods such as a Louis Vuitton bag! In Food Fraud the customer is unaware that they are not getting what it says on the label.
“A feasibility study on extending mandatory country of origin labelling to all types of meat used as an ingredient in food production, including pre-packed and processed meals is to be brought forward by the Commission this autumn. I will continue to advocate Country of Origin Labelling, which respects international agreements such as the Good Friday Agreement to permit foods produced in the North of Ireland to be labelled ‘Irish’ if the producers so wish. “
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has commended the work of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland which launched its pre-Budget Submission 2014 in Dublin this morning. Teachta Adams attended the launch.
Speaking afterward he said:
“I want to commend the work of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. There are 42,000 people with dementia in this state of whom just over 1,000 live in county Louth.
“There are over 50,000 carers looking after citizens with dementia. With numbers going to rise significantly as our population ages, it is vitally important that the government makes dementia a policy and political priority and puts in place a strategy to provide for early diagnosis, education and support for those with dementia and for their carers.
“Sinn Féin supports the Society’s call for the publication of a Dementia Strategy, with clearly defined leadership and lines of accountability; timely diagnosis and cost effective post-diagnostics early interventions, and a commitment to the provision of education and community based support for services for carers.
It is crucial that Budget 2014 reflect the needs of citizens with dementia and their carers. A sensible government strategy can assist all of those affected in having a good quality of life. It is clear from all of the available international best practice that a timely diagnosis and early interventions can make a real difference in peoples’ lives.”
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said the upcoming budget must give people a break from austerity.
Deputy Doherty was commenting today as the Department of Finance sent the parameters of Budget 2014 to other government departments today beginning the budget process.
“Since July 2008 €28billion has been taken from the economy in budgets or adjustments yet unemployment and emigration are still out of control. Clearly austerity is not working.
“People need a break. The cuts and taxes introduced by this government are pushing families over the edge. Many have to choose between putting food on the table and heating the family home.
“There is space in the budget arithmetic to give people a break. The government should take it.
“There are now four months to listen to constituents and groups on the ground and their concerns must be taken seriously.
“Sinn Féin will once again present a costed set of budget proposals setting out a fairer way to economic recovery and job creation which protects those already struggling and asks those who have more to pay more.”
Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD, has accused the government of failing those with mental health issues, especially young people and failing to tackle the related crisis of suicide.
Speaking this morning during Leader’s Questions in the Dáil, Teachta Adams raised the issue of a suicidal man who was turned away from a mental health unit in Roscommon last weekend because of lack of psychiatric nurses. He called for Minister Kathleen Lynch to take immediate and urgent steps to rectify the Roscommon situation.
The Sinn Féin leader also raised the related issue of suicide and called for the government to invest properly in mental health services, especially for young people, and in particular the creation of an all-island Suicide Prevention Authority.
Teachta Adams said:
“It is reported that, last weekend, a suicidal man was turned away from the acute hospital mental health unit in Roscommon. According to the PNA (Psychiatric Nurses’ Association) the unit at Roscommon does not have the required level of staff to deal with patients and the situation is at crisis point.
“This crisis has been exacerbated by the government cuts agenda and specifically the closure of St Luke's Ward in Ballinasloe.
“As many as 1,000 citizens a year – that’s three people every day – are taking their own lives across this island. Despite this suicide epidemic, suicide prevention and the Mental Health services are seriously under resourced.
“This is evident in the experience of a young girl who spent four days in A & E in Cork because of the shortage of beds in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Unit before eventually being transferred to the adult psychiatric unit.
“The Mental Health Commission prohibits such practices and the HSE accepts that it is not best practice. The report of the Mental Health Commission indicates that 106 children were admitted to adult mental health units last year, a quarter of all child admissions. This is unacceptable.
“Paul Gilligan, clinical psychologist and CEO of St Patrick’s University Hospital has said that the state is failing these young people.
“The government needs to accept that this is a national crisis. There is also a particular problem with youth suicide. In comparison to the rest of the EU this state ranks fourth highest in the suicide rate amongst 15-24 year olds. That’s one young person every 18 days dying from suicide.
“Ten years ago A Vision for Change was launched as a mental health strategy – yet it has not been implemented.
“People also voted in a referendum for children’s rights, but recent figures from the Mental Health Commission reveal that 2,056 young people were waiting to be seen and that 160 of these had been waiting between 9-12 months. I have no doubt these figures have increased.
“This is unacceptable. Immediate and urgent steps are needed to rectify the Roscommon situation and the government needs to invest sufficient funds and resources in mental health services and suicide prevention.”
Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has said that it was important to have the A5 monies secured for projects that are shovel ready rather than lose it back to the British Treasury.
Speaking at the debate in Stormont Mr. McAleer said,
"Sinn Féin introduced an amendment to ensure that monies freed up from the A5 holdup are used immediately on projects that are shovel ready and that it is an Executive rather than a departmental decision where these monies go.
"It is crucial that rather than attempting to make a cheap headline on pet projects that cannot meet the criteria of a start date before monies are returned to the British Government we use it for shovel ready ones.
"Not only will this improve infrastructure across the North but will also be a much needed boost to the construction industry.
"Sinn Féin also moved to ensure that these projects would be identified and agreed through the Executive as opposed to giving one Minister absolute control of this money. We were concerned that projects West of the Bann would again be ignored in favour of projects in the greater Belfast area.
“With the A5 designated an Executive priority it is important tat we spend this money wisely.
"Given the lacklustre approach of the local UUP to securing the A5 I wouldn't have confidence that in giving total control of these monies to their minister we would see any benefit in this area from further investment.
"I was disappointed that the SDLP were content to allow this money to be pocketed by one department and therefore exclude investment in projects like the shared educational campus at Lisanelly.”
Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has welcomed the news that 416 new jobs will be created in Larne.
Mr. McMullan said,
“The news that Japanese company Terumo BCT will create over 400 new jobs is great news for the Larne area in that it will help offset the job losses that we have suffered over the past few years.
“This investment is testament to the high caliber work force in the Larne area and show confidence in the growing health manufacturing industry in the North. Not only will this create new employment but will also boost the local economy by putting more money into peoples hands.
“The investment by Invest NI and Terumo BCT will allow for research and development to be done on this site so hopefully this will lead to more jobs in the future.
“I would also acknowledge the role that Invest NI has played in helping attract these jobs to the Larne area and call on them to continue to look at this entire region as a place of investment.
Speaking in the Dail tonight on the issue of workers’ rights Sandra McLellan, Sinn Fein TD for Cork East said:
“Ireland is out of step with other countries in that there is no requirement in law that obliges an employer to recognise a Trade Union in a specific workplace or to engage with them.
“The Labour Party before the last election gave a commitment to introduce legislation that would address these important issues.
“Indeed the Programme for Government committed to and I quote ‘reform the current law on employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining, so as to ensure compliance by the state with recent judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.’
“Thus far nothing has happened with regard to this commitment.
“On the contrary a number of forms of collective bargaining have been struck down over recent years and this includes the JLC’s in 2011, and the REA’s this year.
“Long hours, low pay, poor working conditions, and abusive and exploitative employers are still very much part of the everyday landscape of work in Ireland.
“In the Ireland of 2013 the poor are still with us, and issues to do with injustice, inequality, and the general welfare of the working class are as pressing and as relevant as they were a hundred years ago.”
Speaking in the Dail tonight on the abolition of the Seanad, the Sinn Fein TD for Cork East Sandra McLellan said;
“Right now we need more democracy, not less. Having said that I do acknowledge that there are serious problems with the Seanad.
“Abolishing the Seanad without reform of local government and reform of the Dáil needs to be seen for what it is – a cynical step by right wing conservative politicians to control and stymie opposition and a blatant and vulgar grab for power.
“But yet again it would appear that the people are to be presented with an either or scenario.
“Abolish the Seanad, or keep it as it is – and that’s the end of that.
“There is no talk of reform or indeed of the possibilities of what a reformed and reinvented Seanad could do for Irish democracy.
“Irish people need, deserve, and are entitled to have a robust and informed debate about what type of society it is that we want live in.
“In a mature democracy this is the debate we should be having.”
Commenting after a petrol bomb injured a young girl in the Short Strand this afternoon local Sinn Féin Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile said;
"I visited the young girl who was injured today and her family and spoke with the PSNI following the incident. As we head into the summer months it is vital that everyone with influence in east Belfast, whether political leaders, church leaders, community and youth workers or the PSNI themselves, play a positive role in defusing tensions.
“It is past time that communities across this part of east Belfast were allowed to live in peace without the fear of attack or the terrible tension than can hang over our neighbourhoods. I want to be very clear and unambiguous - no attacks on our communities should be qualified or justified, regardless where they emanate from. Leaders are meant to lead.
“We must do all we can to ensure a peaceful summer for everyone in east Belfast and I would make a direct appeal to parents to help us by making sure that their children aren't caught up in negative incidents at the interface; the reality is that one stupid incident can lead to a lifelong burden either for the young people themselves or the people living in the shadow of the interface walls who have to endure the fallout.
“I will work with leaders from within the unionist community at any stage, as we have done in the past, to ensure we can help achieve a safe and content community for all in east Belfast but Sinn Féin cannot do this alone, it will need the collective leadership of all political and community leaders in east Belfast."
Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has said there is an urgent need for a return to direct provision of social housing by the state.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh was speaking in the Seanad today on the Housing Amendment Bill 2013.
“Social housing is in crisis. Central and local government funding for social housing has been slashed since 2008. Almost 100,000 households are on local authority waiting lists.
“Almost the same number of households are in receipt of rent supplement which is meant to be an emergency social welfare payment for people unable to pay their rent in the private sector.
“The Department of Environment has abandoned direct provision of social housing by the state and is instead pushing private sector solutions to the housing crisis.
“These include the Rental Accommodation Scheme, the Long Term Leasing Scheme, the Applicant Sourced Housing Scheme, the Incremental Purchase Scheme and the Choice Based Letting Scheme. These have all failed.
“There is an urgent need for a new approach to social housing. We need to get back to direct provision of social housing by the state using new funding models similar to those used elsewhere in the European Union.
“Most of all, we need to get people off lists, off the streets and into long term, suitable and sustainable accommodation.”
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn has welcomed the proposal to build a new prison in Cork.
However Deputy Mac Lochlainn outlined concerns over plans to accommodate more than one prisoner in most cells in the new prison.
“The existing prison in Cork is totally unfit for purpose and plans to replace it with a new prison are to be welcomed.
“However the new prison needs to be a modern prison that meets the best international standards. Sharing of cells in prisons is an outdated and discredited practice.
“It denies prisoners of their human right to privacy when using the toilet.
“Most experts agree that the sharing of cells is only acceptable when prisons are overcrowded so there should be absolutely no need for this practice to be even considered at this stage when the prison is not even built.
“I would urge Minister Shatter to listen to the concerns of experts in this field, including the Irish Penal Reform Trust and Father Peter McVerry, and to reconsider the proposals to share cells at the new Cork prison.”
Sinn Féin EU affairs spokesperson Senator Kathryn Reilly has today welcomed the decision of the European Affairs Committee to adopt a report on the need for a Youth Guarantee to help address the youth unemployment crisis.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee report for which Senator Reilly was rapporteur will be launched in the coming weeks.
Senator Reilly said:
“Today the European Affairs Committee discussed a report on youth unemployment and the need for a Youth Guarantee, for which I was rapporteur.
“Central to the report is the need for a high quality and fully funded guarantee of employment, training, education or apprentice within four months of becoming unemployed.
“The report received a positive response from all political parties and was adopted with a number of constructive amendments from committee.
“The full report will be launched by the committee on Wednesday 3 July.
“There are 53,800 under 25s officially unemployed and many more disengaged from employment services. Despite the scale of the crisis the government has been slow to respond to the youth unemployment crisis.
“Today’s cross party call for a youth guarantee to be implemented as a matter of urgency is to be welcomed.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has welcomed the publication of the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) Follow-up Report on State Involvement in the Magdalene Laundries.
Deputy McDonald has called on Government Ministers to ensure the IHRC Follow-up Report recommendations and conclusions inform their consideration of the impending Magdalene redress scheme.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“Today’s publication of IHRCs Follow-up Report on State Involvement in the Magdalene Laundries is timely. The Justice Minister has committed to bringing Mr Justice Quirke’s redress scheme proposals to cabinet shortly, and the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) recently wrote to the Minister for Justice setting out a number of very serious concerns regarding the Magdalene Laundries Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) Report.
“UNCAT Follow-up Rapporteur Felice D Gaer notes that the IDC report did not conduct a full independent investigation into allegations of arbitrary detention, forced labour or ill-treatment despite the state receiving extensive survivor testimony in the form of reports by Justice for Magdalenes. She also states that the Inter-Departmental report lacked many elements of a prompt, independent and thorough investigation, as recommended by UNCAT in its Concluding Observations.
“The IHRC report recommends that the state should ensure that all credible allegations of abuse which involve a breach of the state’s human rights obligations should be independently investigated with defined terms of reference and statutory powers.
“The report also concludes that in the absence of the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme including in its terms of reference the treatment of persons in laundries, including Magdalene Laundries, that a statutory mechanism be established to investigate the matters advanced by Justice for Magdalenes and in appropriate cases to grant redress.
“To date the government has set its face against putting the impending Magdalene redress scheme on a statutory footing, or indeed in providing justice to women incarcerated in laundries not dealt with by the Inter-Departmental Report.
“Government Ministers must ensure the IHRC report and UNCAT concerns inform their consideration of any and all proposed redress scheme proposals.” ENDS
Féin MLA Cathal Boylan said that rural areas must be to the fore in tourism
planning. The party’s Environment spokesperson was responding after
Minister Alex Atwood's statement on tourism.
The Newry and Armagh MLA and
member of the Assembly's Environment Committee said:
The Newry and Armagh MLA said,
"While I welcome today's planning policy statement I am keen that rural communities are not forgotten.
"That is why I directly questioned the Minister about the potential of rural communities in developing business ideas under the new proposals.
"There are opportunities to fully utilise rural tourism potential including the promotion of self-catering accommodation and guest houses that can target the angling community.
"While this new planning policy will go some way to promoting and facilitating rural tourism more needs to be done to develop a proper rural tourism strategy."
Sinn Féin MLA Bronwyn McGahan while welcoming the statement from the Minister Stephen Farry on the new Steps 2 Success programme has said that the outcomes need to be better than the previous Steps to Work scheme.
Ms. McGahan stated,
“The new programme is designed to get young people who have been on benefits for over nine months the chance to experience employment and attain training that would allow them to return to full time employment.
“The previous programme Steps to Work while providing the basic principles of putting people into companies to experience employment did not provide the long term outcomes that were expected.
“The Steps to Work programme saw over 36,000 people pass through it over a four year period but over 22,000 went straight back onto benefits.
“It is important that the new Steps 2 Success programme learns the lessons and is more training and qualification focused than the previous programme.
“I have known of people who have been taken on by companies with no prospect of full time employment and received no training that would benefit them to gain meaningful employment elsewhere.
“This programme needs to be gauged by the number of people who are able to return to full time employment and I will be asking the Minister to have an evaluation process put into place so that employers do not exploit the scheme for basic cheap labour and that it is not used to massage unemployment figures.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Ciaran Archibald has expressed his thanks to all those who have wished him ‘good luck’ as he takes up the position of Chairperson of Environmental Services.
Councillor Archibald stated,
“This is the first time that Sinn Féin has held the position of Chairperson of one of the committees on Coleraine Council although we have had seats on the Council since 2004.
"I am looking forward to the challenge of this position and serving all the people of Coleraine. Being the first Sinn Fein Councillor to Chair a Committee is a privilege and is a step forward for Coleraine Borough Council.
“Not only does it shows that progress towards inclusivity is being made but that relations are improving and that by showing mutual respect for each others tradition we can all work together for the benefit of all the citizens in Coleraine and district."
Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has accused Stormont Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson of using insults and exaggeration to deflect from his inability to face economic reality.
Conor Murphy said:
“Sammy Wilson’s promotion of the union with Britain is a legitimate political position to adopt but he should do it by presenting the argument with facts and figures, not by insults and exaggeration.
“Mr Wilson’s latest foray into fantasy economics was his inflammatory and insulting accusation that the Irish government is ‘stealing UK taxes’. He then - as he regularly does – grabs figures out of the air to support his penchant for exaggeration.
“The Finance Minister’s claim that the Irish government obtained a £7.9 billion loan from Britain is way off the mark. In fact a law enacted in Westminster to give effect to the loan limited any lending to £3.2 billion (€3.76 billion), of which £2.42 billion (€2.85 billion) has so far been released and due for repayment in 2019 and 2020. A simple financial contractual transaction between two parties!
“While it is welcome that the G8 leaders will be discussing tax evasion and ‘aggressive’ avoidance in Fermanagh over the coming days, Sinn Féin has already initiated procedures to examine the tax regime in the South where Pearse Doherty TD has led the call for tax avoidance to be addressed in the Dáil by having a sub-group of the Oireachtas established to examine these issues. Sinn Féin’s position is quite clear – ALL tax avoidance loopholes should be closed.
“And if Sammy Wilson wishes to retain any credibility as a Finance Minister then he should also be demanding transparent and accurate statements of all forms of revenue generated and expenditure in the north of Ireland so that we can devise an economic strategy focused on the specific needs of this region.
“The economic package negotiated with Westminster by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson, is a welcome intervention and will assist us in developing the much-needed infrastructure which is required to stimulate economic growth. But it is no substitute for a factually based discussion on the best economic model to build financial sustainability on this island in the long term.
“No amount of political posturing can disguise the exaggerated fantasy economics promoted by Sammy Wilson in his attempts to support continued fiscal control over our affairs by a British Chancellor. Any objective analysis of British fiscal policy will expose that it is always drawn up with the selfish interests of the island of Britain at its core – any beneficial effects on the North of Ireland are only incidental. It is time we had a proper debate on the potential of constructing an island economy which would be within the control of politicians elected by and answerable to the people of this island.”
South Down MLA Chris Hazzard has welcomed confirmation from DARD Minister Michelle O'Neill that she will initiate a swift review of the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) in order to help our local fishing industry.
The Sinn Féin MLA said:
"Given the challenging times that our local fishermen have experienced in the last number of months, it is positive news that the Minister has agreed to review the current EFF process and explore ways in which this can be made more accessible for our local fishing industry.
"Bearing in mind the increasing overhead costs of fuel, fees and the age of some of our vessels, anything that helps future proof and sustain our local fishing industry is a hugely beneficial step.
"I am sure our local fleet will welcome today's announcement from Minister O'Neill which follows the establishment recently of three separate funds to help mitigate some of the challenges emanating from the reformed Common Fisheries Policy - including a Research & Development fund, a Training & Skills fund, and a 100% funded scheme for the upgrading of satellite navigation equipment.
"Finally I would also like to commend the Minister for agreeing to engage with the local banking sector in an effort to aid the flow of credit within the sector and hopefully the banks will respond in a positive and worthwhile manner."
The Assembly will tomorrow debate a Sinn Féin motion calling for greater investment in rural broadband to provide equitable broadband speed, cost and reliability.
Speaking ahead of the motion, the Deputy Chair of the Assembly’s Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee Phil Flanagan said:
“Since 2007, tens of millions of pounds of public money has rightly been invested in improving rural broadband provision across the north. However, there still remain a large number of areas where householders and businesses are unable to access even the most basic of broadband services.
“In 2013, this is unacceptable.
“The Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment (DETI), in conjunction with the Department for Agriculture & Rural Development (DARD) is currently working on a tender to award further funding to broadband providers to fill in many of these gaps.
“What now needs to happen is that all forms of technology are explored to see which can best improve the situation. While the use of fibre optics to every cabinet has been a great success for many areas, it will never deliver broadband to every property.
“By utilising the latest advancements in telecommunications technology, significant improvements can be made to the current coverage areas in a much more cost effective manner.
“The planned rollout of 4G spectrum, improvements to wireless transmitters and further developments in fibre cabling all mean that the provision of broadband can greatly improve in the coming years, but government policy needs to enhance rather than prohibit further developments.
“An assessment needs to be made as to whether we should introduce a Universal Service Obligation, so that like postal services and landline phones, broadband providers would be obligated to serve every single property, regardless of its remoteness. To date, no work has been to assess the potential cost or economic benefits of such a measure but it needs to be a central consideration as we move forward.”
The text of the motion is:
That this Assembly welcomes the investment by the Executive into improving access to high speed broadband; recognises the continuing need for improvements in broadband infrastructure in many rural areas; and calls on the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to work with local stakeholders to identify the areas that are in greatest need and to target investment into those areas to provide equitable broadband speed, cost and reliability.
Speaking in the Assembly, the West Belfast MLA and Chair of the Health Committee said:
“Endometriosis is a condition which many people know very little about, despite it affecting around one in every ten women between the ages of 25 and 45. The exact cause of the condition remains unclear, although the disease has been known of for decades.
“The disease not only causes extreme pain, but if untreated can lead to reduced fertility and indeed infertility. There is also a strong link with depression.
“While there is no cure for endometriosis the symptoms can be managed with pain relieving drugs, hormone therapies and surgery.
“Currently a single dedicated endometriosis clinic staffed by a consultant gynaecologist runs once a month in the Belfast Trust. This is not sufficient and there is a need for a multi-disciplinary team to be set up.
“This would improve waiting times for surgery, which currently can be up to 18 months. It would also allow a more holistic form of care to be provided to help women manage the condition. For example, therapies such as counselling and pain management have been shown to be effective.
In my view this sort of service should be provided in a new women and children’s hospital. We need a hospital dedicated to women’s needs, which goes much wider than maternity issues.
“Conditions such as endometriosis can have a devastating impact on women’s lives – on our sisters, our daughters, our nieces, our friends. Effective and timely treatment needs to be prioritised so that women are not suffering in silence, or without the proper support and help they deserve.” END