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Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has called on education minister Ruairí Quinn to seriously rethink proposed changes to the Supervision and Substitution Scheme agreed under the Croke Park II arrangements.

The Cork North Central TD raised the matter with Minister Quinn during Thursday’s sitting of the Dáil. He said that if the proposal is ratified then it is likely teachers will have to work many additional hours and that some primary school classes will have to double up to numbers in excess of 40 children per classroom. This is because substitution would no longer be permitted and teachers would have to cover for colleagues on certified sick leave.

He continued: “The change to S&S will mean that second level teachers would be obliged to participate in scheme without payment and will result in an increase from 37 to 49 supervision hours to cover children on lunch and recreational breaks with an additional 12 (or more if required) to cover for absent colleagues.

“In effect, this means a pay cut of up to 5.5% at Second level and the TUI estimate that the proposals will mean teachers having to provide 2 hours 15 minutes cover on a weekly basis.

“It is a measure that will have a disproportionate impact on small rural schools and it will also have implications for health and safety in classrooms, particularly for children with special educational needs as Learning Support and Resource teachers will be taken out of their posts to help with supervision.

“This is happening at a time when Irish classrooms that sizes are already among the highest of any OECD country and it can only have a detrimental impact on the capacity for teachers to deliver the school curriculum.

“Many schools have small classrooms that do not have the physical space in which to merge classes to meet this new requirement and ultimately, it is another blow to our second level education system.”
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Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD, has expressed his concern at the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.
The Sinn Féin leader has warned that without a “significant political intervention by the international community there is a real danger that the current worsening situation could return to the violent levels of recent years”.
Teachta Adams has also called for an independent international inquiry into Israel's treatment of Palestinian detainees.
Teachta Adams said:
“The death in disputed circumstances of Arafat Jaradat, who was arrested by the Israeli Army for throwing a rock and who died five days later in Megiddo Prison, has witnessed an escalation in Palestinian protests against the ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinian authorities allege that Jaradat died as a result of torture.
“The situation has been exacerbated by the shooting of two children by Israeli troops and the death today of a Palestinian protestor shot in the head two weeks ago.
“The continuing detention of over 4,500 Palestinian prisoners and their conditions of imprisonment has been the catalyst for much of the recent violence.
“It is usual for prisoners to be held in solitary confinement, some for years, and they are frequently denied visits from their family.
“Many of those being held are also kept in constant lockup with little access to fresh air or exercise.
“There is an urgent need for an independent international inquiry into Israel's treatment of Palestinian detainees.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government, Brian Stanley TD has today slammed the government for imposing water rates on households currently living in poverty.

Speaking in Leinster House Stanley said;

“The government should be ashamed of itself. Government TDs voted against my amendment to poverty proof this bill and worse again the government refused to support my amendment to give waivers for those 200,000 households now living in poverty. The Water Services Bill allows for the establishment of Irish Water and the introduction of water rates. Irish Water is nothing but a Trojan horse for the privatisation of water services in this state.

“The Current cost of water provision is €1.2 billion per annum; this will significantly increase with the proposed installation of water meters.

“In their eagerness to establish Irish Water Minister O’Dowd was unable to inform the Dáil during today’s debate on the bill, how much the charges will be, how much it will cost to install water meters or even how much money Irish Water will require to function.

“Government TDs have just given Irish Water two cheques, one with €500m written on it and the other left blank. All costs will be met by the public water charges. This is a gamble the exchequer cannot afford to take during the current economic climate. At current costs the full water charge per household would be just under €700 per annum.

“Water charges will be met with stiff resistance. Sinn Féin will work with others to ensure this campaign is broad based, popular and ultimately successful.”

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Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD asked Labour Leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore TD if he stood over his government’s decision to instruct revenue to deduct unpaid Family Home Tax from social welfare payments, wages, Bank accounts, credit union accounts.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Letters from revenue are due to land in the homes of 1.6 million householders demanding payment of a tax on their family home over the next week or so.

“This is a tax that takes no account, of ability to pay, of those in negative equity, those who paid stamp duty or the 180,000 families in mortgage distress.

“This is a tax proposed by Fianna Fáil and implemented by Fine Gael and Labour.

“There are no waivers and the exemptions are a joke.

“The Family Home Tax is a draconian piece of legislation which takes no regard of the impact it will have on families trying to put food on their table or to heat their homes.

“Fine Gael and Labour are pursuing a policy which will drive people even further into debt.

“What approach will the Labour leader take in the event of non-payment? Will government move to deduct this tax from people’s social welfare, from wages, from their Bank accounts, from their Credit Union accounts?

“Is this how out of touch the Labour party are with the reality of the lives of ordinary citizens that they resort to taking money from the credit union accounts?

“Hundreds of thousands of others in mortgage arrears, unemployed or simply struggling month to month will feel it acutely. People are already carrying a great burden which in many cases is unsustainable.

“This is clear from the mortgage arrears crisis, high rates of unemployment and extraordinary levels of emigration. On that basis how can Government justify pursuing the Family Home Tax and putting their hands into the social welfare payments, the wages, the bank accounts, the credit union accounts of those who simply can’t afford it?” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said that yet another increase in the number of mortgages in arrears shows that the government’s policy is failing.

Deputy Doherty stated:

“This latest increase must act as a wake- up call to Fine Gael and Labour.

“Some 94,488 or 11.9% of principal dwelling houses (PDH) were in arrears of over 90 days at end-December, up from 91,358 accounts (11.5 per cent) at end-September 2012 according to the Central Bank. The number in March 2011 was 49,609. This continuing increase after two years of Fine Gael and Labour government shows that their policy is failing.

“Today’s figures show that there are now 185,882 households in mortgage distress. That is 23.5% of all domestic mortgages.

“That is a shocking figure but we know this government will not exempt those in arrears from a new Family Home Tax. This can only tip those already in arrears further into distress and push those struggling to pay into arrears.

“Two years of Fine Gael and Labour government has seen the number in arrears of over 90 days nearly double. The Personal Insolvency Act will do nothing to force lenders to face reality because it leaves them with the final say.

“The government has caused much stress for many in arrears too by stating its commitment to reverse the Dunne judgment. Any such legislation must prioritise the protection of the family home.

“Sinn Féin is arguing for a new approach from government including the appointment of an independent body with the power to compel banks to come to fair deals with those struggling including where appropriate write-downs.”

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Welcoming the news of the reopening of Fortwilliam Post Office today Castle Sinn Féin's councillor Mary Ellen Campbell said:

"This breaking news that Post Office counters are to reopen the Fortwilliam branch is fantastic and in no small part down to the successful lobbying done by this community.

“Since the news of the closure I've been in touch with the Post Office stating the case for this service to be maintained and combined with the closure of the First Trust Bank, loss of the post office service was going to have a double impact.

“I am delighted for the hundreds of local people that depended on this service until recently. Of course it's our job as political representatives to highlight the interests of the community publicly but local people played a significant part in convincing Post Office Counters that we need this resource at Fortwilliam.”

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Speaking from Brussels Martina Anderson MEP pointed out that one person will be identified with Alzheimer’s in Europe every four seconds which presents a major challenge for the 21st Century to all European governments.

Addressing the Alzheimer's CEO Roundtable discussion in the European Parliament, Martina Anderson said:

“The rise in Alzheimer's disease is a global crisis and a major societal challenge for governments in the 21st century.

“An alarming statistic outlined at the meeting was that one person will be identified as suffering from the disease every 4 seconds.

“While there is a correlation between advancing age, people living longer and the rise in the incidence of Alzheimer’s, if it is left unchecked the current situation in Europe will reach epidemic proportions.Globally there are currently 36 million people with Alzheimer’s which is projected to triple by 2050.

“After Cancer it is the disease most feared, particularly by older people, although the onset of the disease is not confined to the older population. Having a mother diagnosed almost fourteen years ago my family and I can readily identify with those in a similar position and can only hope that our generation will find a cure for this debilitating disease

“The Alzheimer’s CEO Roundtable seeks to provide additional private sector collaboration to complement important efforts already underway in governments, patient groups, universities, and other communities and to catalyse new actions to accelerate the fight against Alzheimer’s. I am proud to be a member of this group which will bring a collaborative focus to the search for a cure.”

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Reacting to news of another 280 job losses Peadar Tóibín TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson for jobs, enterprise and innovation said:
“This will be a severe blow to the workers and the community around the MSD site in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow. By the IDA’s own job multiplier over 100 other local jobs will be affected.
“Yesterday we had a succession of government ministers claiming that their plan was working and the jobs crisis was turning the corner. That is not the experience of these workers or the growing number of long-term employed or emigrants.
“Six months ago the Taoiseach, speaking at the MSD sister site in Ballydine, Tipperary highlighted the signs that the economy was turning when 70 jobs had been created there. Six months later and the same company are shredding 280 jobs does the same logic ring true?
“It’s important that the needs of the workers are met. It has been reported that some of these jobs have been lost to Singapore. If this is the case the government must act to access, as a matter of urgency, the European Globalisation Fund to assist these workers back into employment.
“Questions must be asked about support this company received from state agencies and the value of that support in terms of jobs creation, retention and displacement.
“It is time for the government to face reality; the payoff to bankers has not delivered jobs or economic growth. There is a need to invest in our SME sector and to invest in job creation.”
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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights Senator David Cullinane has criticised the government for its very poor treatment of the employees of the IBRC, and called on them to stand by prior commitments given to the workers.

Senator Cullinane was speaking during the Order of Business in the Seanad today, and stated that there was an urgent need for action on this issue.

He said;

“It was clear even on the night the Irish Banking Resolution Company 2013 Bill was rushed with indecent haste through the Oireachtas, that the interests of the workers in the IBRC were given a very low priority.

“They were given little to no notice, and were very suddenly informed of this change in their employment circumstances. This disregard that was shown to the workers has been continued since then.

“Sinn Féin is concerned at the situation these workers find themselves in, and particularly those low to middle income earners, who will be wondering what the future holds for them, and how they will keep up with their bills, if they are not kept on.

“The special liquidator to the IBRC informed staff that all contracts of employment with the company are automatically terminated with immediate effect, but as the IBOA have pointed out these workers had agreements with the government in relation to the wind down of IBRC which provided for continuous employment until the bank was wound down.

“These workers are now on temporary contracts, and we hope that as many as possible will soon be transferred to Nama, and we are calling on the government and the liquidator, KPMG, to ensure that as many jobs as possible are retained.

“There was also agreements relating to redundancy, however, as these contracts have been terminated, these terms, and agreements are now gone, and workers who are laid off, face the possibility of merely getting the statutory minimum, which is scandalous, particularly in the context of the money the government has invested in the bad debts of the banks.

“The Government cannot continue to disregard these workers. The powers exist within the IBRC legislation to assist them, and they must use those powers.”

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Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has revealed that he was contacted by a senior PSNI officer last night to be informed of a real and active threat against his life from a dissident group in Derry city and told they were taking the threat seriously.

Mr McGuinness said:

“Last night I was visited at home by the PSNI who informed me of a real and active threat against me from a dissident group in Derry. They linked the threat to my condemnation of the recent attempted mortar attack in the city and other remarks made in support of the PSNI.

“Both myself and the PSNI are taking this threat seriously. However there are times when in political leadership staying silent is not an option and I will not be silenced by threats like this. I will defend the peace process from attack from whatever quarter, be it these groups or the loyalist flag protesters over recent months.

“It says much about the mentality of those controlling groups like the one behind the threat that in their warped logic threatening Irish Republicans and their families somehow advances the cause of Irish reunification.


“I am very sure of the ground I stand on. I am also very sure that it is the path shared by Republicans across this island genuinely interested in building a new agreed Ireland, Republicans who put Ireland before ego, criminality and self gain.”

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Sinn Féin TDs and Senators met today with the GAA’s Rural Depopulation Committee to deliver a presentation on Sinn Féin’s Love Rural Ireland Campaign.
Speaking after the meeting in Croke Park, Deputy Martin Ferris said:
“On behalf of Sinn Féin I welcome the formation of a Rural Depopulation Committee to tackle the problem of emigration and depopulation that many rural GAA clubs face.
“For the past year Sinn Féin has been running its Love Rural Ireland campaign to highlight problems faced in rural Ireland.
“Sinn Féin TDs and Senators have organised public meetings and consulted with local groups throughout the country. The GAA is an integral part of rural Ireland and we were delighted to hear the views of the Rural Depopulation Committee too.”
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said:
“I have witnessed many rural communities suffer from cutbacks throughout Ireland. Sinn Féin has engaged with many of these communities and heard of the suffering that has been inflicted on them, including emigration and depopulation.
“The GAA is possibly one of the organisations hardest hit by this as thousands of young people have left the country, significantly depleting their ranks.”
Deputy Sandra McLellan said:
“Sporting organisations play a massive role, especially in rural Ireland, in knitting the community together. The GAA has witnessed many of its clubs suffer from emigration and depopulation and this has a knock on-effect on communities.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin social protection spokesperson, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, said today that youth services deal with young people at risk of poverty, drug abuse, suicide, imprisonment and low educational attainment. “Cutting services to these people is illogical and a retrograde step.”
Deputy ÓSnodaigh said:
“The cuts to services may save the minister’s budget, but to invest in child services will deliver results. We will see the results of these cuts in greater disadvantage in poor communities.
“Some €2.5 million in cuts will mean local services which help all young people including those at risk of poverty and those in special circumstances, will be damaged.
“What will happen to after-school facilities, youth clubs, counselling services and other valuable assistance to young people in communities?
“These cuts will set youth services, already pared to the bone, back years. Services are suffering cuts in funding of up to 15%. There is no way to make this up and there is no point in trying to fundraise in communities already squeezed by the child benefit cut, maternity benefit cut, changes in the lone parent payments, higher Universal Social Charge, reduction in SNAs and higher pupil-teacher ratios.
“I call on the minister to consider the consequences of these cuts and to reconsider her decision. Sinn Féin has proposed an alternative way forward, by taxing high earners, introducing a wealth tax and other measures designed to protect the most vulnerable and make the rich pay.”
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Sinn Fein MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann has praised the important contribution Children in Need make to children and young people with a disability.

Speaking at an event organised by Children in Need earlier today the West Belfast MLA said:

"I want to commend those involved in the Children in Need organisation for the work they do with children and young people with disabilities.

“Today I heard at first hand the barriers and difficulties children with a disability face including support through transition, access to transport, sport and leisure facilities and bullying.

“There is a clear opportunity through the Disability Strategy for a joined-up approach to service delivery and dealing with the issues that affect those with a disability.

“No ones life chances should be limited or constrained due to their disability and programmes such as Fun & Friendship, which improve social inclusion, should be supported.

“The Disability Strategy needs to develop actions, which will drive meaningful change in the lives of people who have a disability."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has accused Fine Gael and Labour of presiding over two years of austerity and of significant hardship for citizens.

Teachta Adams said:

“In 2011 people voted for change. Instead Fine Gael and Labour broke their election promises and implemented Fianna Fáil’s policies.

“The Labour Party promised to protect the people from the most draconian of Fine Gael’s policies yet after two years household incomes are devastated by stealth taxes and cuts to wages.

“Unemployment is at 14.2%. Youth unemployment is 27.7%. Some 87,000 have emigrated in 2011 and that trend has continued.

“Companies are tearing up agreements with workers, arbitrarily paying them off or denying them wages or redundancy payments.

“On Fine Gael and Labour’s watch there have been a succession of savage cuts to wages and incomes and the introduction of new additional stealth taxes, like the household charge and family home tax; water charges; increased VAT; increased motor tax; as well as cuts to child benefit; cuts to home help hours, to the carer’s respite care grant and much more.

“Last week the government again targeted the most vulnerable in our society by scrapping the Mobility Allowance Scheme and the Motorised Transport Grant Scheme.

“Today we learned that the number of households disconnected by gas suppliers jumped by 36% in the third quarter of 2012.

“I believe the Croke Park 2 agreement will exacerbate the austerity driven agenda of this government and that working families – those on low and middle incomes – will be squeezed again. Frontline workers have been especially and unfairly targeted.

“Austerity is not working. It is the disadvantaged and low and middle income families who are bearing the burden – again.

“The leaders of Fine Gael and Labour are in no position to pat themselves on the back. They have implemented two years of austerity policies and caused significant hardship for citizens.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD today described the Taoiseach’s failure to offer up any reason for the exclusion of Summerhill from the Magdalene Redress Scheme as deeply alarming. The Dublin Central TD also raised Bethany Home with the Taoiseach in the Dáil this morning.

Deputy McDonald said:

“When asked about Summerhill last month Enda Kenny told the Dáil that this was an issue the government would consider in due course. This morning he was unable to offer up a single reason why the former laundry should continue to be excluded from the fund.

“I also raised the outstanding apology and redress for the survivors of Bethany Home with the Taoiseach who again dodged the question.

“Education Minister Ruairi Quinn recently stated that the inclusion of St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme by statutory instrument was done on the basis that it operated as a children’s home and therefore came within the scope of the legislation.

“The hurt caused by Fianna Fáil’s decision to unjustly exclude Bethany survivors from the redress scheme is now being compounded by Fine Gael and Labour in their withholding of an apology and redress.

“There is evidence in the public domain illustrating the horrific neglect of babies and children in Bethany and the state’s involvement in the home. Bethany Home was a mother and baby home, a children’s home and place of detention for Protestant women referred by the courts. State inspections of Bethany Home under the Registration of Maternity Homes Act record the horrendous neglect of children in the home.

“The government cannot continue to ignore the surviving men and women of Bethany Home.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann today opened a conference at Stranmillis College on women’s economic independence.

The conference entitled ‘Getting a Fair Share?’ was organised by the Equality Commission and focused on how gender inequalities impacted on women’s economic independence.

Speaking at the event the West Belfast MLA said:

“One of the things that affects the economic independence of many women is the availability of childcare.   It is important that the needs of children, parents and carers and those who have an interest in childcare are taken into consideration and inform our Childcare Strategy.

“Good quality and affordable childcare that is accessible to all can only enhance the economic independence of women and I am glad that work on the development and implementation of the Childcare Strategy is now underway.”

“The United Nations will shortly examine the terms of its obligations under the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). We must aim to achieve a society in which men and women are equally respected and valued as individuals and in which there is equality in terms of opportunity, rights and responsibilities."

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson has said the government’s tax on Maternity and Health and Safety Benefit (for breast feeding mothers who cannot be accommodated at work) shows why the government must introduce Equality Budgeting Impact Assessments into the budgetary process.

He was speaking as the Finance Committee discussed the Finance Bill 2013 which implements Budget 2013.

Deputy Doherty said;

“Minister Noonan said today these cuts together would save €40 million a year if implemented. Mothers in full-time employment whose employers are paid a portion of their maternity leave by their employers will now have to pay over €2,700 extra to revenue.

“This taxing of Maternity and Health and Safety Benefit coupled with the cut in Child Benefit give a clear example of why we need to move towards implementing Equality Budgeting Impact Assessments.

“Other countries operate Equality Budgeting and I am glad that Minister Noonan committed today to look at the Scottish model.

“This year’s budget is extremely regressive and fails the equality test. The government has the opportunity this week through the Finance Bill to relieve the worst effects on those on lower and middle incomes.

“Sinn Féin will push them to do so and to further commit to using Equality Budgeting Impact Assessments so that such regressive taxes will not be so easily levied in future.”

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Sinn Fein MP for Newry Armagh, Conor Murphy, will be in London this Thursday (March 7th) to host the Kurdish community's New Year celebrations in the House of Commons. He will also visit the Venezuelan embassy in London, to sign the public book of condolence for President Hugo Chavez, who died on 5 March.

Mr Murphy said:

"I'm delighted to be hosting the Newroz (New Year) celebrations in Westminster. Across London, the traditions of Newroz are kept alive by the large Kurdish community there. Each year, events such as tonight's provide a wonderful opportunity for Kurdish families and others to come together and celebrate their rich culture and heritage in a city that has offered them refuge from continuing political and cultural repression in Turkey."

 He continued,

"I would also like to emphasize the importance of the renewal of the `peace talks' and the need for a lasting solution; any such political solution must include all legitimate representatives of the Kurds, in particular Abdullah Ocalan".

 Mr Murphy who will also sign the Book of Condolences at the Venezuelan Embassy, to the family of President Hugo Chavez and the people of Venezuela on behalf of Sinn Féin said,

"I had the privilege of being in Venezuela as one of the international observers during last year's Presidential election. On behalf of Sinn Féin I extend sincere condolences to Vice-President Nicolás Maduro, to the people and government f Venezuela and to the family of President Hugo Chavez.

“President Chavez worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Venezuelan citizens. He dedicated himself to a new and radical society in Venezuela. His progressive social and economic changes took millions out of poverty. He extended free health care and rducation for all citizens and his re-election last year with a huge majority was testament to his vision. I will be extending the sympathies of Sinn Féin at the Venezuelan Embassy in London and signing the Book of Condolences on our behalf."

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Commenting on the Taoiseach’s statement during Leaders’ Questions today that he would meet with the relatives of the 1916 heroes, Sinn Fein spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Tourism and Sport, Sandra McLellan TD, said:
“I am very happy that the Taoiseach, in response to a question from Deputy Gerry Adams has agreed to meet with the relatives to discuss the future of the Moore Street Historic Quarter and the 1916 Battlefield Site.
“It is imperative that the Taoiseach is aware of the views of the 1916 Relatives Committee and that to this end he, his officials, and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs Jimmy Deenihan, meet with them without further delay.
“I would also urge the Minister to enter into direct dialogue with all of the relevant stakeholders with a view to drawing up a new plan to preserve and develop the Historic 1916 Battlefield Site.”
“I call yet again on Minister Deenihan to act as a matter of urgency to ensure the full preservation of the National Monument and to refuse permission to Chartered Land for any works on and around the National Monument site.”
“This site is a central part of our collective history and it is too important to be left in a state of abject decay as is currently the case. Its future should not be determined by the whims of a financially troubled developer. It is the duty of the state to ensure that the 1916 Battlefield Site is preserved for the people of Ireland.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokespeople on Rural Ireland Martin Ferris TD and Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh will today visit Croke Park to meet with the GAA rural depopulation committee. The meeting is part of Sinn Féin's ‘Love Rural Ireland’ campaign which has been on-going since its launch in Castlebar in March last year.

Speaking in advance of the meeting Deputy Ferris said:

“For the past twelve months my colleagues and I have been travelling the length and breadth of this state meeting people from rural communities and listening to their issues.

“Sinn Féin believes rural Ireland is facing continuous and disproportionate attacks which are undermining the social and economic infrastructure in rural communities.

“Throughout our travels one story has come up everywhere we have been and that is of GAA teams struggling to field teams in the face of mass emigration of our youth.

“We met with clubs in Leitrim, Roscommon and Donegal where they are no longer able to field teams and in some cases where the most of the players from successful teams have emigrated.

“We appreciate that many organisations with strong roots in rural communities are addressing this issue. The GAA is one of those and we are pleased to meet with the GAA rural depopulation committee today to discuss this issue with them.”

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