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Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West and member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Matt Carthy, has called on Minister Simon Coveney to ensure that greater supports for Irish Dairy Farmers are put in place.  Carthy made his call as Farmers protest in Dublin today ahead of a demonstration in Brussels next week.  Carthy welcomed the Ministers recent support for an increase in the intervention price explaining that Sinn Féin had been demanding such well in advance of the abolition of quotas in April.

Carthy said:

“Since my appointment to the Agriculture & Rural Development committee I had demanded increased safety nets for Dairy farmers especially in the run-up to the abolition of quotas.  These calls fell on deaf ears as Minister Coveney and others encouraged farmers to invest huge sums of money in the promise of profit and market expansion.  This was despite the fact that every independent observer of Dairy markets warned of drastic price fluctuations.

“While it is now welcome that Minister Coveney and his European counterparts acknowledge the difficulties facing dairy farmers as a result, in part, of the abolition of milk quotas, more needs to be done practically to provide real supports to farmers as they struggle to adjust.

“Teagasc reports outline that the cost of production of a litre of milk is 25c per litre and therefore the current intervention price of 21c per is insufficient.

“Minister Coveney has belatedly called for an increase in intervention price to 25c per litre, a measure I proposed in the EP Agriculture Committee’s Milk Package Report in March but which was rejected by MEP’s including from Fine Gael’s EPP group.

“From the responses to written questions I put to Commissioner Hogan, it is quite clear that the Commission is not willing to intervene with regard to prices and ignoring the impact that price volatility has on producers, many of whom are under severe pressure to remain in the sector.

“Ministers, alongside the Commission, now need to step up to the plate, after years of encouraging farmers into the sector and massive expansion taken at great personal expense farmers must be given real supports”.

Carthy also called on Commissioner Hogan to respond positively to the suggested increase in intervention price at next Monday’s emergency meeting of Agriculture ministers in Brussels.

“Put plainly, Commissioner Hogan needs to put the survival of farmers ahead of the short term interests of markets and introduce an increase in intervention prices. Anything else at this stage would be irresponsible and would leave many farmers questioning their future in the sector.”

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Sinn Fein’s Brian Stanley TD has responded to comments made earlier by Minister Charlie Flanagan today. 

Deputy Stanley said:

“It appears that Charlie Flanagan is content  to use the current Unionists threats to the institutions in the north to attack Sinn Féin.

“The UUP’s position in the Executive has been a topic of discussion within the UUP over the past number of years and predates the current issues. 

“The actions of the UUP are all about the rivalry within unionism and nothing to do with republicanism.

“If Minister Flanagan wants to be helpful he should stop playing party politics with the institutions and agreements.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has said that the endorsement by the Ulster Unionist Executive to vote in favour of resigning from the Stormont Executive is more about attempting to achieve an electoral advantage over the DUP than any principled position.

 Mr Kelly said,

 “The decision tonight by the Ulster Unionist Executive to endorse Mike Nesbitt’s decision to resign from the Stormont Executive is not based on a principled stand.

 “This decision is based solely in attempting to gain an electoral advantage over the DUP and nothing else.

 “Tonight he has abdicated his responsibilities to the people who voted for his party and disenfranchised large swathes of Unionism.

 “The hypocrisy of the UUP can be seen in Mike Nesbitt standing shoulder to shoulder with Unionist paramilitary groups still engaged in violence, extortion and intimidation. 

 “Sinn Fein will not let Mike Nesbitt, nor anyone else for that matter, stop us from representing our electorate and we will continue to stand strong for all those people affected by the Tory cuts.

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD spoke today at the Right2Water mass rally, highlighting the government’s mistake in underestimating the strength of opposition against Irish Water.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Irish Water has been one fiasco after the other. It is going nowhere. Protesters, citizens like you and me, are going nowhere too. And this government thought with their ‘conservation grant’ and their heavy-handed legislation, that they could purchase half of us, and intimidate the other half. The fool, the fools, the fools - they have underestimated us, you and me, at their peril. Because now is our time, now is our moment. This is our country. This is our republic in the making. And we will not tolerate their arrogant, bully boy politics any longer. 

“This movement rests, in the first place, on the shoulders of every woman and man, every community that has stood up to be counted, well done - every single one of you. And we’re nearly there. The journey is nearly over. And when the next election comes - and I hope it’s sooner rather than later - let no-one be in any doubt that our demand will be an end to water charges and Irish Water and the beginning of a society based on decency, equality, fairness and full citizenship for every single one of us. That means a room over every citizens head. That means decent work. That means decent opportunities and fair taxation. 

“When Enda Kenny and Joan Burton and the others tell us that that is pie in the sky, that that can’t be done, well we say to them with one voice - just because you won’t do it, because you don’t have the heart or the gut or the conscience to do it, to do things the right way - don’t imagine that we’re all cut from the same cloth. Because when we say fairness, when we say a fair recovery, equality, an end to water charges and Irish Water - we mean it and we will deliver on it.”

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Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady has said that the death threat received by fellow MP Francie Molloy will not deter either Francie or other Sinn Féin representatives from carrying out their work.

 Mr Brady said,

 “The PSNI visited the home of Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy in the early hours of the morning and informed him of an imminent threat to his life from Unionist paramilitaries.

 “This is the latest in a line of recent threats towards our representatives and members and while Sinn Féin and Francie Molloy are taking these threats seriously it will not deter us from carrying out our work for all of the people in our constituencies.

 “I would appeal to anyone who has any information to bring it forward to the PSNI so that those who are intent in taking us backward are brought to justice.”  

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Sinn Féin victim spokesperson Chris Hazzard has described Douglas Hogg’s elevation to the British House of Lords as an insult to all those campaigning for truth about British state collusion with loyalist death squads.

 Mr Hazzard said,

 “Douglas Hogg used parliamentary privilege in 1989 to name Pat Finucane as a solicitor who was sympathetic to the IRA.  

 “His claims were without any foundation but just two weeks later Pat Finucane was murdered by a UDA gang run by British state forces.

 “Douglas Hogg never apologised to the Finucane family nor did he ever produce a shred of evidence to support his disgraceful and discredited claims.

 “British prime minister David Cameron has welched on a British government commitment made at Weston Park to hold an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. 

 “Douglas Hogg’s elevation to the British House of Lords by the Tory Government adds insult to injury for Pat Finucane’s family and for all those campaigning for the truth into British state collusion with loyalist death squads.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has said that he is aware of threats and counter threats being issued over the deaths of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan and this is only adding to the anguish of both families.

 Mr Maskey said,

 “The only way to get justice for the McGuigan and Davison families is to allow the PSNI to carry out a thorough investigation into their murders.

 “I am aware of heightened tensions in the area as rumours of threats and counter threats are circulating and these threats only add further hurt and trauma to all those involved with the families and are counter productive to any investigation.

 “This is a time for calm heads and anyone who thinks that taking the law into their own hands will resolve the situation are mistaken as they will only add to the grief of both families.

 “Political and community leaders need to show leadership to help reduce tensions within the area.

 “Every citizen is entitled to due process and it’s incumbent on all of us including the press to ensure that what we say is measured and does fuel speculation.

 “I would again appeal to anyone who has any information to bring it forward to the PSNI and allow them to bring the killers of both men to justice.”

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Cllr Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that reports today that the Cork Local Government Committee is likely to recommend a merger, are “deeply worrying”.

The Sinn Féin Candidate for Cork South Central, has said that this confirmed the worst fears of many experts, and members of the community, and felt that this would be a serious mistake for Local Government in Cork City

He said;

“Today's Evening Echo reports that the Local Government Committee met to finalise its report with Minister Alan Kelly, and that it is very likely to recommend a merger of Cork City and County Council by a slim margin of two to three.”

“I find this news deeply worrying, and I believe that such a move would be a serious mistake, with massive implications for Local Government in Cork, both City and County.

“Sinn Féin was the only party to oppose a merger in both the City and the County Councils, and we did so because we understood the considerable fears of the community on such a proposal, as well as the concerns of many experts."

“This appears to be part of the Government's desire to centralise power, having abolished town Councils last year. Clearly the status quo, with large areas of the City being within the remit of the County Council, was unsustainable. But for Cork City to thrive, it needs its own, autonomous independent and strong Local Government, and Cork City has a history of Local Government stretching back centuries.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said today that tomorrow’s UUP Executive meeting is simply a rubber-stamping exercise for Mike Nesbitt’s attempts to spook the DUP into collapsing the institutions.  

The Newry Armagh MLA also said at a time when the parties should be united to oppose swingeing Tory cuts to public services, social welfare protections and the living standards of low-paid workers we have parties acting purely out of electoral self-interest.

Conor Murphy said:

“Tomorrow’s meeting of the UUP Executive will simply be a rubber-stamping exercise for Mike Nesbitt’s bid to spook the DUP into collapsing the political institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement.

“Given that the UUP has stood shoulder to shoulder with the representatives of unionist paramilitary groups involved in extortion, drug dealing and murder, it is clear they are driven purely by electoral self interest. 

“Let me be say that Sinn Féin and our voters cannot and will not be wished away or excluded. Those days are long over.

“The real issues facing all our people are building a fair and prosperous economy and safeguarding public services and the most vulnerable against Tory austerity. It is about ensuring proper living standards for workers and families.

“At this time we need all the parties to stand for the whole community against the Tories. 

“The UUP have been silent about the outworkings of their short-sighted strategy on our public services, the economy and on all in our community.

“The public needs to hear from Mike Nesbitt what the next steps are in his ‘cunning plan’ if he gets his way and crashes the institutions.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called for the Minister for Environment to address an anomaly which has led to increases in council rents for families which have had their income cut under changes to the One Parent Family Payment (OPFP). He made his comments having been contacted by someone who, having lost their One Parent Family Payment, was reassessed and given a €80 increase in her monthly rent.

Deputy Ellis said;

"As from the obviously unjust cut which was inflicted on these families which has led to many losing hundreds of euro of vital income every month, to then increase the rent of these families, is unacceptable and must be recognised for the mistake it is and corrected.

“The government ended payment of OPFP to parents of children over seven this summer. This led to the woman I spoke to losing €80 a week of her already meagre income with which she has to support a family. 

“Due to the way rents are calculated based on income in council housing, she was reassessed and has had her rent increased by €20 per week, totalling an extra €1040 a year due to a cut in her income of over €4000. This is because the OPFP is treated as a separate income and only 50% of second incomes are considered when calculating rent.

“The complicated system of calculating rent levels is to protect people from unfair levels of rent increases when situations change for them, but in some cases it has worked in the opposite direction as a second hard blow for one parent families.

“The Minister must address this. I have contacted his office and hope that he will direct councils to review any changes they have already made and avoid further incidents of rent increases for people in similar cases.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has called for the largest possible turnout in Dublin tomorrow to demand an end to Water Charges and the abolition of Irish Water.

Gerry Adams said:

"The Fine Gael/Labour Government's water policy has been an unmitigated disaster from the outset.

"The provision of water is a human right and a key public asset.

"Fine Gael and Labour's imposition of domestic water charges, originally proposed by Fianna Fáil, represents an unfair form of double taxation on ordinary householders who have borne the brunt of the economic crash in recent years.

"Irish Water has been dogged by controversy, cronyism and the squandering of public money since it's inception. It is a toxic brand.

"Whether they simply cannot pay or refuse to pay, the reality is that the majority of households have not signed up to Irish Water. It's going nowhere.

"The Government needs to scrap water charges and abolish Irish Water. In government, Sinn Féin would do this. We would retain water services in public ownership and establish a new model of governance for our water services.

“I would encourage citizens to mobilise in huge numbers in Dublin tomorrow to demonstrate that huge opposition to water charges has not gone away but indeed has grown."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has stressed the need for pre-school children with special needs to have adequate support and resources as the new school year begins. Though the government have promised additional funding in the budget, this will not benefit those children who have been informed of drastic cuts to their early learning entitlement in recent weeks.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“Appropriate educational supports to young children with special needs is of paramount importance to assist in their social, emotional and cognitive development. Five years ago a free pre-school year was introduced, giving families an entitlement of 15 hours early learning for each child prior to their entry into primary school.

“However, this initiative has not been backed up by sufficient resources with that most vulnerable cohort, children with special needs, not getting the supports they require - whether it be in terms of access to pre-school services, or insufficient services within the pre-school setting. The government has acknowledged their failure in this regard.

“However it is galling to find out that there are children with special needs who are having their hours cut in recent weeks. These are families that have fought tooth and nail to attain the supports their children need. Though the government have promised additional funding in the upcoming budget, how will this serve families whose children, at the very age they need the best of educational support, will be denied the resources they need at such a critical time?

“I was made aware of a family in Kerry, for example, whose child will have supports cut from 15 hours to just six. The HSE told the parents that, due to increased demands on the service, they were unable to reinstate the critically needed hours for their child.

“This is a very sorry state of affairs. An interdepartmental report due to be published in September will not alleviate the stress on parents who have children with special needs that are not being met. Not least in this consideration are the children themselves who will suffer if deprived these early years vital learning supports.

“I am urging Minister Leo Varadkar to confirm if and when he intends to adequately resource the necessary supports for these vulnerable children."

ENDS

* Please note that in the case of the family in Kerry, their child has just been awarded the hours which had been taken away, on appeal. However it transpires that she will now have three different assistants on five hours each, which is highly disruptive for a child in need of routine and consistency.  

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Dublin South West representative Seán Crowe TD has described reports of up to 10,000 struggling families across Tallaght and Clondalkin being supported by St Vincent de Paul (SVP) with back-to-school cost as unprecedented but hardly surprising.

Crowe said that traditionally at this time of year with children returning to school there is huge financial pressures on parents with clearly the buzz talk of a recovery not filtering into the mind-set of these families.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“There is an unprecedented demand on the St Vincent De Paul particularly at this time of the year as more and more parents struggle and are turning the charity to meet the growing
back-to-school costs.

“As children return to school this week, the  St Vincent De Paul isexpecting to pay out over a €100,000 to assist over 10,000 hard pressed parents with the cost of fees, books, uniforms and other ancillary costs in Tallaght and the Clondalkin area.

“Many of the families are new and reflect the growing amount of cash poor individuals and family units.

“The talk of recovery and a new beginning is nonsensical and seems like a million miles away. The recovery buzz words have not filtered into the mind-set of many of these families struggling to make ends meet.

“Demands on some parents locally have been exasperated in recent weeks, as many families were left waiting for the Government’s‘back-to-school’ grant – a payment which covers a fraction of a child’s back-to-school costs.

“The Back to School Allowance is available to a small cohort of families but many complain that aside from the delay it is not fit for purpose, with the gap between the allowance and the cost of sending a child to school growing every year.

“Currently the means tested grant is available for children between 4 years - 11years is 100 euro, between 12 years – 22 years, it is 200 euro, with the stipulation that the student between the age of 18 years and 22 years has to be attending fulltime College.

“With many families already crippled by austerity measures and increased charges, the biggest worry at this time of the year is sourcing expensive new uniforms and other additional equipment to send their children to school.

“Back to School Cost continue to rise with many families relying on charities like St Vincent De Paul for additional support. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the demands are increasing rather decreasing.”

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has said that reconciliation, healing and forgiveness are needed to free society from the pain of the past.

 Speaking at a Gasyard Féile event in Derry on a panel including PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, he acknowledged the loss suffered by all sections of the community and stressed there can be no hierarchy of victimhood or humanity.

 Declan Kearney said:

  "I acknowledge without exception the loss and pain of all sides. I regret none of it can be undone. I am sorry for the pain experienced by the RUC family during the war; the suffering caused to the unionist section of our community, (the human tragedy of the Shankill Bomb, being one instance of that); and, equally for the pain of the families of IRA volunteers killed here in Derry and elsewhere during the war; as well as many nationalist civilians who were killed and injured.

 “For many years I and the Sinn Féin leadership have called for an initiative of common acknowledgement by all sides for the pain caused, as a contribution to forgiveness and healing.

 “In that spirit, I welcome George Hamilton’s remarks at the West Belfast Féile on the benefit of a collective acknowledgement of the pain caused by our past. This would indeed be a powerful expression of shared commitment that it should not happen again.

 “Embracing that challenge will require courage, and opening our minds and hearts to the need for respect, generosity, forgiveness, and trust.

 “The hurt of war still needs healed long after war’s end. Expressing remorse and regret for death and injury could help deepen mutual respect and move us all closer to a healing process. That should not be confused or devalued with seeking the repudiation of political allegiance.

 "Painful and uncomfortable compromises will need to be considered. The mechanisms proposed by the Stormont House Agreement to deal with legacy issues are the compromise to deal with our past at this time. Each mechanism must be implemented. If supported by all sides its template provides a way forward. ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said today that the unionist parties should end their sham fight and get back to the work of dealing with the real issues.

 Gerry Kelly said:

 “The unionist parties are engaged in a sham fight which is all about the electoral rivalry between the two parties.

 “This is an attempt to punish a section of a community for the actions of a few criminals. Let me be clear the days of exclusion and discrimination are over and they aren’t coming back.

 “Sinn Féin will robustly defend our electoral mandate and we won’t allow a electoral contest within unionism to deflect us from representing the people from all over this island who elect us.

 “The emerging political crisis is a distraction from the real work which needs to be done in facing up to the Tory cuts which are damaging our frontline public services.

 “They should bear in mind any action to bring down the institutions will disenfranchise all of our people, The choices for the unionists are clear.

 “They can either continue to compete with each other in pulling down the institutions or they can return to the task of defending our public services, protecting the vulnerable and delivering on a deal on the legacy of the past.”  ENDS/CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has described today’s Ulster Farmers Union conference on dairy farming at Greenmount Campus as an opportunity to co-ordinate the campaign to get dairy farmers a fair deal for their produce.

 Mr McMullan said,

 ‘We are only too aware of the crisis dairy farmers are facing and today’s conference was an opportunity to gather stock and look at ways of working our way through the present difficulties.

 “It is important that we work together as politicians, unions and farmers to get the best deal possible to return dairy farmers to profitability.

 “The attendance of the Minister today and her statement of intent regarding a meeting with EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has to be welcomed.

 “It is important that we approach the 1st of September meeting agreed that the EU intervention price needs to be changed to reflect the special needs of dairy farmers in the North.

 “The conference also outlined the various ways in which CAFRE is working in helping farmers through workshops and the Minister took time to outline details of the record Rural Development Fund secured this week.

 “As member of the DARD Committee I will continue to work with the UFU, farmers and the Department to secure the best outcomes for the agricultural industry here.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor for the Collin area, Stephen Magennis has called on the armed grouping calling itself the ONH to withdraw death threats against NIE workers in the Twinbrook area.

Speaking today Cllr Magennis said:

“The NIE are currently updating and installing new electricity meters in the Twinbrook area. This is to ensure that a fully up to date service is provided for customers as the old meters are out of warranty soon.

“However NIE workers were approached by two men claiming to be from the ONH and were told that if they continued to install these meters they would be shot and their van burnt.

“This is completely unacceptable. No workers should be under such threats. They are working to improve services for our communities and for some unknown reason a group, which has no support in the area, thinks they can issue death threats.

“Understandably the work has stopped due to these threats as employee safety is paramount. Those behind the threat need to withdraw them immediately and explain their rationale to this community.  While the threat remains local people will lose out.”

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson and TD for Dublin North West, Dessie Ellis, has called on the Minister for Environment to address the failure to provide funding for the Emerald Housing Project in Ballymun. He made his statement after it emerged that despite receiving planning permission, housing association Cluid have been refused CAS funding to provide seven units to house people with disabilities.

Deputy Ellis said;

"This is a very disappointing development that needs to be resolved as soon as possible and if that requires the intervention of the Minister for Environment, he must act swiftly.

“The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, has indicated that housing funding is available for people with disabilities. He has alluded to a prioritisation of such housing and now he needs to put his money where his mouth is. It is well and good to make statements and send out press releases, but if the funding doesn't flow to the bodies providing housing then it is meaningless.

“In the case of the Emerald Project in Gateway Crescents Sillogue, Ballymun, seven housing units secured planning permission but have been refused CAS funding from Minister Kelly’s department. Given this revelation, the Minister needs to be forthcoming in releasing funding from his department, or provide an explanation as to why funding was denied.

“The housing crisis has been most severely experienced by those who are marginalised and vulnerable and this particularly true of people living with a disability. The Emerald Project is an important but small step and if the government cannot see it through, then it speaks volumes for their ability to address the wider crisis.”

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Sinn Féin MLA said today that it was important that the public got answers about the sale of NAMA’s northern property portfolio.

 Daithí McKay was speaking after it was revealed the NCA contacted the Law Society today only minutes before its members were due to give evidence at a Stormont Committee.

 Daithí McKay said: 

 “The Finance Committee supports the investigation being carried out by the NCA into the sale of NAMA’s northern portfolio.

 “The Committee has agreed that it would not investigate any area of the sale currently under scrutiny by the NCA as part of its criminal investigation.

 “Members of the Law Society were invited to appear before the committee today but they revealed that they had been contacted by the NCA only minutes before the hearing and their ability to testify was further restricted.

 “The Committee was not made aware of this until the hearings opened and in my view that’s not the proper way to conduct business.

 “In my view the Law Society could have told us much more today without compromising the NCA investigation.

 “It is in the public interest that the Finance Committee is able to properly scrutinise the largest sell-off of property in the history of the state. The public deserve answers on the sale and there are some who would like to sweep this issue under the carpet.

 “We will continue to work with the NCA but we will be meeting them to ensure that it too does not undermine or interfere unnecessarily with the carrying out of this inquiry.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

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 Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has welcomed the decision by Education Minister John O’Dowd to increase the number of children enrolled in Scoil na Fuiseoige, Twinbrook.

 Jennifer McCann said,

 “The growth in the number of parents deciding to educate their children through the medium of the Irish language is growing year by year.

 “Scoil na Fuiseoige has provided a first-class education for children in the Twinbrook area to an extent that more parents are looking to enroll their children at the school.

 “The announcement today by Education Minister John O’Dowd that he has approved a development to increase the number of class rooms to at least seven will help facilitate that demand.

 “It will also allow the school to meet the criteria for the sustainable schools policy and I have no doubt that the school will continue to flourish in the months and years ahead.”

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