Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, said today’s comments from Governor Honohan that the time for passivity on mortgage arrears is past, is stating the obvious.
Deputy Doherty said: “This is a crisis of great proportions to which the government and Central Bank have been slow to respond.
“I hope today’s comments mark a new determination to force the banks into reasonable solutions and to stop the bleeding dry of those in arrears.
“Today the Central Bank published a report that showed that those struggling to pay their mortgages spend an average of 18% less in the real economy. That is, 18% being sucked out of the real economy because banks are not facing up to their responsibilities.
“Sinn Féin has always argued for societal approach to the mortgage crisis. Instead the government has treated the crisis as a banking one and ignored the economic and social side to mortgage distress, affecting one-in-four householders.
“The number in arrears doubled in the last 18 months of Fianna Fáil rule and has doubled again in two years of Fine Gael/Labour rule. In that time, the banks have not been reasonable and have been dragged kicking and screaming to agree with minor measures.
Governor Honohan’s emphasis in splitting mortgages as a solution is not a problem-free suggestion and will not suit everyone. I hope to see more details but my fear is that once again banks will have the final say,” said Deputy Doherty.
May 23rd, 2013
Bhuail toscaireacht thraspháirtí FPEanna Éireannacha, ina measc Martina Anderson, Gay Mitchell, Emer Costello agus Pat the Cope Gallagher, le Martin Schulz ar 21/5/13 chun plé a dhéanamh ar leagan Gaeilge de shuíomh gréasáin Pharlaimint na hEorpa a bheith in easnamh.
D'éist an tUachtarán leis an gcás a rinne an toscaireacht agus d'aontaigh sé tacú a thabhairt ar an cheist seo. Go praiticiúil, molfaidh sé do Bhiúró Pharlaimint na hEorpa (ar a mbeidh na Leas-Uachtaráin agus na Caestóirí) an méid sin a cheadú ag an gcéad chruinniú eile go luath i mí an Mheithimh.
Tá suíomh gréasáin Pharlaimint na hEorpa á chur ar fáil faoi láthair i 22 de 23 teanga oifigiúil an AE, iontu go léir seachas as Gaeilge. Thairis sin, tá suíomh gréasáin i nGaeilge ag gach institiúid eile san AE, lena n-áirítear an Coimisiún Eorpach agus Comhairle na nAirí.
Dúirt Martina Anderson FPE (SF / GUE):
"Tá an-áthas orm gur ghlac Uachtarán Pharlaimint na hEorpa an cinneadh tacú le leagan Gaeilge de shuíomh gréasáin na parlaiminte. Is teanga oifigiúil AE í an Ghaeilge ó 2007 i leith, tá sé iontach go bhfuil sí á cur ar chomhchéim, le comhchearta, ar deireadh le 22 teanga oifigiúil eile an AE."
Mar fhocal scoir, mhol naFeisirí Eorpacha go léir an tUachtaránSchulz go hard as a chur chuige dearfach, pragmatach.
Sinn Féin youth affairs spokesperson, Senator Kathryn Reilly, has called for “urgent action” from Government following the publication of new Eurostat figures, which show that “the youth unemployment crisis continues.”
Senator Reilly said:
“Eurostat’s latest report on regional unemployment rates makes for grim reading. Ireland is above the EU average on all indicators.
“Significantly, the levels of unemployment, long-term unemployment and youth unemployment are higher in the border, midland and western regions.
“Youth unemployment at 30.4% remains substantially higher than the EU average of 22.9%.
“Despite their rhetoric Government is just not doing enough to stem the tide of youth unemployment. It is now three months since the European Council agreed to launch an EU wide youth employment initiative. Despite this no action has yet been taken by the Irish government.
“There is talk of a pilot youth guarantee project in North Dublin. However given the scale of the crisis there is an urgent need to develop and roll out a youth guarantee state-wide as soon as possible.
“In the coming weeks, I will be bringing forward a report to the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee on the issue of a youth guarantee, the aim of which is to inform government policy of the strengths and weaknesses of similar schemes in other EU member states.
“Young people cannot wait any longer. Government inaction leads to emigration of some and hardship for many. We need urgent action now.”
Senator David Cullinane has criticised SSD Shanganagh for failing to engage properly with the workers at the South Dublin Water Treatment Plant and bringing in strikebreakers from Spain.
The workers voted for strike action in late April, before agreeing to attend two conciliation meetings at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).
The LRC meetings, brought progress on a number of issues however some of the workers’ key demands relating to shift premium payments and pay were not resolved.
Speaking today from Leinster House, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on workers’ rights said:
"Throughout this dispute, the workers at the plant have been reasonable and willing to engage. The same cannot be said for management at the plant. Following the LRC recommendations, they were prepared to lift the strike action on referral of the outstanding issues to the Labour Court for an early hearing. Unfortunately the employers have declined to take up this offer leaving the workers with little option."
"Now it seems that the employers have escalated the dispute, by bringing in strikebreakers from Spain. They are trying to avoid engaging with the workers, trying to go over their heads. This is a provocative and unacceptable tactic."
"I am calling on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown and Wicklow County Council to exert maximum pressure on the company and force them to respect the rights of their workers. This latest incident underlines that PPP companies are unaccountable and a law unto themselves, in spite of the public money being spent.”
Senator Cullinane said this highlights the need for legislation on collective bargaining.
"The company’s engagement with the workers has been poor and limited, simply because the only people forcing them to engage were the workers themselves.
"Incredibly, despite years of promises, and indeed a programme for government commitment, we have no collective bargaining, which brings us in to clear contravention of several International Labour Organisation conventions, which are legally binding on us. The government has dragged its heels long enough on this and needs to act."
Workers at the plant are employed by the agency ICDS Constructors Ltd. Shanganagh Waste Water Treatment Plant is run by SDD Shanganagh Water Treatment Ltd under the terms of a contract with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and Wicklow County Council.
The facility treats water for domestic and commercial purposes for 248,000 people living in Dublin and Wicklow. The workers voted for strike action in late April, before agreeing to attend two conciliation meetings at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social Protection Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh has today launched a Gender Recognition Bill that would provide the legal framework for transgender people to have their birth certificates amended to reflect their preferred gender identity.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“The lack of movement by the government on this issue has been disgraceful.
“It is for this reason that I've taken the initiative of publishing this Gender Recognition Bill; making progress on transgender rights shouldn't be hampered by bureaucratic hurdles.
“This is a human rights issue and this Bill if passed, would position Ireland as a leader on the world stage in terms of progressing transgender rights.
“This Bill will ensure that everyone has a right to legal recognition of their self-identified gender and be issued with official documentation, including birth certificates to recognise this.
“It is incredibly important that people are not forced to undergo any kind of surgery or be diagnosed with a mental health condition in order to have their preferred gender recognised.
“Furthermore no person should be forced to divorce their partner in order to have their gender recognised. It is an insult to expect transgender people to divorce their spouse and be diagnosed with a mental health condition in order to access a basic human right.
“The Minister Joan Burton’s Gender Recognition Advisory Group made recommendations of that nature however I have demonstrated in this legislation that those proposals are completely unnecessary. I am calling on the Minister to allow this legislation to proceed and to allow transgender people their human rights.”
Sinn Féin Irish Language Spokesperson Rosie McCorley MLA (West Belfast) has welcomed the support of the EU Parliament President, Martin Schulz for an Irish Language version of the Parliament’s website.
Rosie McCorley said:
“I am pleased that in discussions between the President of the EU Parliament Martin Schulz and a cross-party delegation of Irish MEPs including Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson and Pat the Cope Gallagher (FF), Gay Mitchell (FG) and Emer Costello (Labour) that the President pledged his support for an Irish language version of the Parliament’s website.
“President Schulz will now take forward a recommendation to the Bureau of the European Parliament for this to be approved at its next meeting in early June.
“Martina Anderson has lobbied consistently on this issue since taking up her position in 2012, continuing the work of her predecessor Bairbre de Brún.
“The European Parliament website is currently produced in 22 out of the 23 official languages of the EU, with Irish the only exception. All other EU institutions including the European Commission and Council of Ministers have a website in Irish and it is right that this situation is now being rectified.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson MEP added:
"I am delighted that the President of the European Parliament has taken this decision to support an Irish language version of the parliament's website.
“Gaeilge has been an official EU language since 2007 so it is only proper that it is finally being treated with equal rights to the other 22 official languages of the EU. I would like to thank, President Schulz for his positive and pragmatic approach to this issue.”
Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis has slammed plans to raise fares on CIÉ services again calling it part of the government’s plan to make CIÉ unviable. He made his comments as CIÉ are set to meet with the National Transport Authority to discuss another raise in fares on Bus Éireann, Iarnroid Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath.
Deputy Ellis said;
“CIÉ is running at a deficit. There is no doubt that changes need to be made to ensure that the body is as efficient in its use of its funds and public money as possible but it is an essential service to our society and economy.
“The problem is not that fares are too low. Fares have been raised on Bus Éireann, Iarnroid Éireann and Bus Átha Cliath numerous times since Fine Gael have taken power as part of a trend which has continued for many years now.
“Less people are working and this has effected CIÉ’s bottom line as less people need the service. But operating a private car has become much more expensive also with hikes in motor tax and fuel prices. This is an opportunity for CIÉ to attract new customers and to fill the void where people cannot continue to commute privately.
“Fare hikes discourage these new customers and hurt CIÉ.
“Fare increases will strengthen the argument that CIÉ is unviable as made by Minister Varadkar and aggravated by his cuts and refusal to seek a model which will see public transport adequately funded and providing a service which benefits wider society and our economy.
“Instead this Minister has chosen to focus on short term numbers and use these to wind down public transport in the state
“The value of CIÉ to our society and economy is well in excess of the funding it receives and cannot be replaced by private profit services.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has this morning described the arrest and charging of Donegal Republican John Downey and of Belfast man Michael Burns several weeks ago, as a breach by the British government of commitments it gave at Weston Park and subsequent negotiations.
Teachta Adams said:
“The arrest and charging by the British police of John Downey and the arrest and charging of Belfast man Michael Burns, is a matter of grave concern and a clear breach of commitments given by the British government at Weston Park and in subsequent negotiations.
Following the Good Friday Agreement both the British and Irish governments accepted that the issue of those defined as OTRs was an anomaly and the two governments committed to resolve the issue.
The OTRs are individuals who, if arrested and convicted, would be eligible for release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
A process was put in place to deal with outstanding cases. John Downey and Michael Burns were two of these.
Between 150-200 individuals were classed as OTRs – On-the-Runs. Some of these were individuals who had escaped from prison or jumped bail.
Most were victims of British Army and RUC harassment.
John Downey is a valued member of Sinn Féin and a long-time advocate of the Peace Process. Michael Burns is in poor health.
The decision to arrest and charge both men is malicious. It is also evidence that those British securocrats who have consistently opposed the peace process are still working to undermine it.
The arrest of John Downey and Michael Burns has caused huge anger among republicans.
For over two decades John Downey has been to the fore in promoting the peace process. As a former republican prisoner he has been involved in Cultural Diversity programmes with former loyalist prisoners.
And he participated in engagements at Corrymeela with former members of the Garda and Irish Army.
Coupled with the British government’s refusal to implement outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement these arrests provide yet more alarming evidence of David Cameron’s disregard for the Good Friday Agreement processes.
Sinn Féin has consistently raised all these matters with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste.
I wrote to the Tánaiste only yesterday and I am meeting with him today to ask the government to urgently put in place a strategy to keep the British government to its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.
Today, Peadar Tóibín TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson questioned the Jobs and Enterprise Minister on the continued revelations regarding tax avoidance by multinational corporations.
Peadar Tóibín said: “Last week in London, Google was under the spotlight for failing to pay the expected tax on profits while funnelling profits through this state. Yesterday, in Washington, Apple disclosed that one of its Irish subsidiaries held profits of $30 billion, had three directors, no employees and paid no tax in Ireland or the US. This is very different from multinationals which bring jobs to Ireland.
“Two of our most important trading partners are describing this state as a tax haven. Given the evidence this is hard to dispute. This is unfair as all our citizens and indigenous businesses are expected to contribute fully to the state.
“In facilitating tax avoidance this government is creating multinational bubble to match the previous government’s property bubble. The minister and government continue to maintain that there is not a problem. They are living in denial as our international reputation unravels.
“The government needs to come clean, did they reach an agreement or understanding that allows multinationals to avoid tax, did they market investment here on the back of these schemes and why do they continue to facilitated tax avoidance by multinationals under Irish laws.”
The first meeting of the Oireachtas all-party group on Cochlear Implant met this afternoon (Wednesday).
It was very well attended. 17 TDs and Seanadóirí took part or sent one of their staffers.
A number of others indicated their support for the campaign but were unable to attend because of other Oireachtas commitments.
The meeting was chaired by Louth TD Gerry Adams and addressed by two parents from the Happy New Ear campaign, Danielle Ryan and Amie O Connor.
The families also met Minister Lynch today.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking after the meeting said:
“I want to thank all of the TDs and Seanadóirí who attended today’s meeting and the families for briefing us on recent developments. The families are meeting Minister Lynch.
“Good progress has been made recently and a business proposal to provide bilateral cochlear implants will be presented to the Minister by Beaumont hospital in June.
“The business plan calls for €7 million capital investment and annual running costs of €4 million. This will address the 200 children who are expected to take up this opportunity.
“The business plan is based on a British model which will have the children divided into groups with the largest, Group 1, containing 65 children aged under five years. It is expected that it will take 18 months – two years to clear the back log of children.
“Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin told the meeting that the Health Committee will be holding its quarterly meeting with the Minister for Health on Thursday and that this issue is down on the agenda for discussion. He asked the other party representatives to join in the discussion in support of the children.
“The meeting acknowledged that this is a winnable campaign but that the focus must be on keeping up the pressure and delivering the funding and business plan as early as possible.”
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called on the Minister for Social Protection to clarify what her intentions are regarding the future of Child Benefit.
Speaking after the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection heard submissions from the National Women’s Council of Ireland and the End Child Poverty Coalition regarding the Mangan Report on Child Benefit.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said;
“The Government via the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton have sent out mixed messages in the last week.
“Minister Quinn has suggested that further cuts to child benefit be reinvented in an additional free pre-school year, and the Tánaiste said after that no further changes to child benefit will happen, but the Committee heard that Joan Burton has asked the Ita Mangan group to look again at their Child Benefit thresholds.
“I am urging the Minister to end the doubt and shelve the Mangan Report and recommit to her original election promises, not to cut child benefit.
“The Minister seems to be planning the introduction of a second tier of child benefit which will involve a major cut to child benefit across the board.
“Any second tier of child benefit or support should only be considered as an addition to existing benefits, not as a cut. A practical way of delivering this would be to reduce the income limits used to assess qualification for Family Income Supplement and to increase the dependent child allowance associated with other social welfare payments.”
Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, has called for RTÉ to ensure that regional services are maintained. Speaking at a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications Deputy Colreavy said:
“Regional services are of immense importance to communities outside of the Dublin region. News and current affairs from around the country deserves equal airtime on RTE, and this can only be maintained if RTE keeps open its regional studios.
“My fear in a time of financial cutbacks in RTE, regional services could be targeted in the future. I understand that RTE are relocating some of their regional services, for example to Sligo IT and Dundalk IT. I am confident that this move will retain regional services in the area for the medium term but I also stress the need to ensure their certainty for the long term.
“It is also important that TDs and Senators from outside Dublin receive a fair amount of airtime on RTE. This can only realistically be done if regional studios are made available to them, especially on weekends.
“I have received assurances from the executive of RTE that regionals services are to be maintained despite cutbacks in RTE. There can be no doubt that a public service broadcaster must facilitate and provide a service for all parts of Ireland.”
“John Downey is a member of Sinn Féin and a long time supporter of the Peace Process. The decision to arrest and charge him in relation to IRA activities in the early 1980s is vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful. It will cause anger within the Republican community.
“Clearly if John Downey had been arrested and convicted previously he would have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
“As part of the Weston Park negotiation the British Government committed to resolving the position of OTRs. John Downey received a letter from the NIO in 2007 stating that he was not wanted by the PSNI or any British Police Force. Despite travelling to England on many occasions now six years on he finds himself before the courts on these historic charges.
“This development represents bad faith and a departure from what was previously agreed by both governments.
“John Downey needs to be released and allowed to return home to his family.” ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on foreign affairs, trade, and diaspora, Seán Crowe TD, has called on the European Council, when it meets today, to propose measures to tackle tax evasion and improve tax collection efficiency throughout the EU.
He said honest Irish taxpayers need assurance that they are not propping up tax-shy multi-national global giants.
Deputy Crowe, who raised the issue with the Taoiseach in the Dáil yesterday, said:
“This topic has been discussed with multinationals in parliaments in European member States and the US, with tax evasion and Ireland being linked in more than one parliament committee hearing.
“According to Herman Van Rompuy, a staggering €1 trillion is lost to tax evasion every year in EU member states. This is seven times the entire annual budget of the EU.
“We have heard reports by the US Congress that Apple is only paying a two per cent tax rate here, well below the 12.5% statutory rate.
“Although this State has avoided being labelled a tax haven by international bodies such as the OECD, some academics and high profile economists believe that it is.
“It seems that we are operating two very different tax systems, one for big multinational corporations and a second more onerous system for smaller companies and individuals. This is not a fair system of commerce and is undoubtedly hurting our domestic economy.
“This is contributing to our stagnant economy and keeping unemployment currently at 14%.
“PAYE workers are bearing the brunt of tax increases and social spending cuts, yet wealthy influential corporations are able to escape through tax avoidance measures.
“Investments from multinational corporations in Ireland have provided much for the state in terms of job creation and payroll taxes, and these jobs need to be protected.
“All EU countries need to improve their tax collection efficiency and tackle tax evasion and fraud because it is ordinary workers and their families who are paying for the shortfall in revenue.”
Speaking in the EU Parliament at Strasbourg today Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson has criticised the EU response to the monetary crisis for being driven by blinkered ideology.
Martina Anderson said:
“Instead of changing the failed policy of austerity, we do the same thing over and over again and expert a different outcome - a definition of insanity according to Albert Einstein.
“Intensifying the obligation on member states to follow this failed ideological approach is a sure recipe for further disaster.
· Where is the investment programme needed to create jobs and grow GDP?
· Where is the write-down of toxic debt?
· Why are the public still bearing the cost of the failure of banks?
· Where is the recapitalisation of banks we were promised by the ESM?
· Where is the lender of last resort? – a role the ECB should fulfil.
The EU’s approach is the worst of all worlds - wresting economic decision-making responsibilities from countries without any transfer of wealth that might justify fiscal union only exacerbates the situation making it more difficult to navigate a course to recovery and stability.”
Speaking in Strasbourg today on the European Council - Tax Havens and Tax Evasion discussions - Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said that it is beyond time that the EU and Member States took firm action against Tax evaders and implemented strong measures to close loopholes used by Tax Avoiders.
Martina Anderson said:
“The European Council will meet tomorrow to discuss the pervasive practice among multi-national conglomerates and the superrich of using a myriad of Tax evasion and tax avoidance methods to circumvent state tax regulations.
“This must be more that a smoke and mirrors exercise as we need robust and meaningful tax regimes that ensure that these tax evaders and avoiders can no longer declare obscene profits and dividends for shareholders while the citizens of the countries where they generate these profits are being driven to despair under the draconian austerity being imposed by authorities in Brussels.
“We find ourselves in the scandalous situation – whereby during the Irish European Presidency term and at a time when the Irish government claims that the only avenue open to it in rebuilding the economy is to impose harsh fiscal policies on the population – we hear confirmation of multi-nationals like Google, Apple and Starbucks have been abusing lax tax regulations to the tune of billions of Euro.
“What is required is an action plan with commitments and loophole free regulations that will ensure that these companies abide by the State’s Tax laws and will give confidence to citizens who are fed up with fine words from governments and bureaucrats but no action to ensure compliance.
“While the EU commission appears to be prepared to take action, the EU Council seems less anxious to address this blatant rip-off of the European Taxpayer. Given that the Irish government presently holds the EU Council Presidency, it should lead by example and bring forward legislation - at least in its own jurisdiction - to close the loopholes and enforce compliance. Unless it addresses this issue the legacy of the Irish Presidency will be one of protecting the rich and punishing the poor.”
Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams this morning described the issue of suicide as “a national crisis which requires a national all-island response”.
Speaking in the Dáil this morning the Louth TD pointed out that, “every year more than 1000 citizens lose their lives to suicide across this island – in my own constituency of Louth there were 16 suicides in 2011.”
The Louth TD also welcomed the Tánaiste’s support in the Dáil this morning for greater co-operation on al all-island basis.
Teachta Adams said:
“Monday saw the publication of a report by the 3Ts (Turn the Tide of Suicide) charity ‘Suicide in Ireland 2003-08.’ It makes for grim reading.
“It found that the actual number of citizens dying by suicide each year is significantly greater than official figures. In 2011 government statistics said that 525 people died by suicide. The 3T’s report puts that figure at 722.
“The 3Ts report also reveals the startling fact that one child under 18 years of age dies by suicide every 18 days! And the Irish state has the fourth highest youth suicide rate in Europe and that rate is increasing.
“It is very clear that Government’s strategies to tackle suicide are not working. Suicide prevention is under resourced.
“The impact of suicide across the island is dreadful. When you add up the figures for 2011 we see that over 1000 citizens died that year as a consequence of suicide on this island. The figure for road deaths for the same period was 245. Despite this huge gap in deaths suicide does not secure the same level of investment and resources that is put into safety on the roads.
“The reality is that there is an island wide – national emergency – in respect of suicide and it requires an island wide national response.
“I believe that there should be an island wide independent suicide prevention agency – on the same lines as the Road Safety Authority in the south – bringing together the resources of each state under one over-arching agency to develop and oversee a strategy could reduce the numbers of suicide. I welcome the Tánaiste’s support for this in the Dáil this morning.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD this morning challenged the government on its handling of the scandal of tax avoidance by multi-national companies.
The Louth TD described the current arrangements as “one law for big corporations, developers and bankers and another for small businesses and ordinary citizens” and he pointed to the reshaping of the tax system to “allow revenue to go into people’s bank accounts and credit union accounts and wages and welfare to take unfair new taxes.”
Speaking afterward Teachta Adams said:
“On Tuesday Apple CEO Tim Cook told the US Senate investigation that for the last ten years Apple Sales Ireland paid an average corporate tax rate of just 2 per cent. In 2011 this company paid just 0.5% tax.
“A separate company, Apple Operations International, also based in Ireland, had an income of $30 billion here from 2009 to 2012. Amazingly it has paid no tax.
“I can’t imagine a local business getting away with any of this. There is clearly one law for big corporations, developers and bankers and another for small businesses and ordinary citizens.
“The hundreds of millions of lost tax revenue could have been used to get people back to work.
“Sinn Féin appreciates the fact that Apple employs 4000 people here. But the Apple companies at the centre of this controversy exist for the purpose of allowing Apple to avoid paying tax and the government is allowing the state to be used as part of a chain of cash movements for the purposes of massive tax avoidance.
“Compare this to the draconian powers given to revenue to reach into people’s bank accounts, credit union accounts, wages, welfare payments and pensions to take the unfair family home tax.
“It is also accepted that the massive corporate tax avoidance scams that are taking place hurt the developing world. Christian Aid estimates that the lives of 350,000 children could be saved each year if this kind of corporate tax avoidance was ended.”
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today affirmed her support for farmers whose incomes have been impacted by bad weather and high feed costs.
Responding to an Assembly motion on the fall in farm incomes, the Minister said: “There are a number of reasons for the fall in farm income in 2012. Most notably the cost of feed rose by £82million. In addition, production fell, because of the poor weather conditions, in a number of sectors including dairying, cereals and most field crops. There was also a weakening of the Euro against Sterling which reduced the amount of SFP by around £22million. These were the main factors and unfortunately they are factors very much out of our control. However, there are actions that can and have been taken to mitigate impacts and to build a stronger more resilient industry.”
The Minister continued:
“I have taken a number of steps to try to ease the cash-flow problems that many farmers are experiencing. These have included making earlier payments on some subsidies and with the support of the Assembly establishing a hardship scheme for those significantly affected by the snow storm at the end of March.
“I recognise there are continuing problems for our farmers due to the poor growing conditions last year, a prolonged winter and poor grass growth as a result of a late spring. This has left many farmers suffering a significant fodder shortage. Consequently, I have secured £1million from the Executive to help defray the transport costs of bringing feed in from overseas. My Officials and I will continue to work closely with the industry as we work our way through the current difficulties facing the sector.”
The Minister concluded:
“We also need to look to the longer term. The growth in world population means demand for food will be increasing. I want to help the industry position itself to take advantage of these opportunities. We need to build an industry that is not only competitive, but also more resilient in the face of market volatility and other income shocks. I am examining the proposals of the Agri-food Strategy Board and I will be seeking to work with the Board, industry as whole and with the support of the Assembly to set an agenda for growth and contribute to the building of an industry that is outward looking, self-reliant, sustainable and profitable.”
Mr Flanagan said:
"In recent weeks we have been provided with statistical information from the Utility Regulator that large business users are paying comparatively more than their competitors in most other member states in Europe pay.
"This is an unacceptable situation for our large users.
"Unfortunately, the solution being put forward by some to resolve this matter is simply to bring in a price hike for domestic customers and small businesses.
"I am concerned that this increase may be the first step in efforts to make domestic consumers and small businesses pay more to allow price reductions for large businesses.
"This is an unacceptable solution to the problem and I have sought clarity from both Power NI and the Utility Regulator that this price hike is not being implemented to subsidise the price large users pay for electricity.
"Many households and small businesses across the north cannot afford such a substantial increase in electricity prices and if it turns out that they are going to pay more in order to subside large users, then this will leave a sour taste in many people's mouths."
Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann said places, which bring children and young people together from different backgrounds help build a better future for all.
Speaking at the launch of the Fabrication Laboratories (FabLab) in North Belfast, the West Belfast MLA said:
“This is a fantastic facility where both children and inventors can turn their ideas into reality.
“Yesterday we debated the new Good Relations Strategy Together: Building a United Community in the Assembly, which will take forward a number of actions to foster better relationships based on respect, mutual understanding and trust.
“The inclusive nature of FabLab has ensured that a wide range of people from differing backgrounds can work together to build a better future for all.
“It shows how work at a local grassroots level can make a difference.”
May 21st, 2013 - Sandra McLellan TD
Speaking in the Dáil tonight on the Technical Group’s private members bill on the Eurozone crisis, Sinn Féin TD for Cork East Sandra McLellan said:
“Sinn Féin has pointed out many times that the Euro was never designed to serve and benefit the people of Europe. It was a project of the few for the few.
“We are of the view that the Euro, in terms of both its fiscal design and the political economy which underpins it, is seriously flawed.
“For example, Ireland like other countries is essentially a member of a currency system over which it has no monetary control.
“However we do need to keep in mind that while the Euro was undoubtedly a factor in the crisis, it was not the sole cause.
“This is the legacy of years of Fianna Fáil misrule, clientele-ism, corruption, and indifference.
“We now find ourselves part of a monetary system that operates in the almost sole interest of advanced capitalist accumulation and of Germany. Europe’s political elite must immediately address the democratic deficit that lies at the heart of the EU project.
“There must also be an end to the destructive and counterproductive politics of austerity. And an investment programme on the scale of the Marshall Plan and a social insurance fund to assist countries that are currently struggling.
“It is important that the politically deliberate rejection of egalitarianism is challenged, and that we begin to seriously conceive of and work towards a European Union and an Ireland, without poverty.
“This is the challenge ahead. Leaving the Euro tomorrow would not make that challenge any easier.”
Appearing before the US Senate Committee today, the leadership of Apple confirmed that a deal was agreed with the Irish Government that reduced the tax liability to two per cent has been in place for a number of years.
Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson said:
“Today at questions the Taoiseach denied that a special deal was in place for Apple and its tax liabilities. Appearing before the Senate Subcommittee hearings the leadership of Apple confirmed that a deal had been negotiated and was in place since Apple made its first investment in Ireland in the early 1980s.
“Since 2003 this has meant that Apple has paid less than two per cent corporation tax. The Taoiseach needs, as a matter of urgency, to come to the Dáil and put right the record. Through the hearings this state has been likened to a tax haven this is undermining our international reputation.”
Sinn Fein finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, announced today that the Oireachtas Finance Committee will hold hearings to discuss the issue of the low rates of effective corporation tax paid by multinational companies based in Ireland. Doherty contacted the Committee in November to request the hearing. The Donegal deputy said the findings of the US Senate Committee which described Ireland as a tax haven and found that Apple is using Ireland to not only write off its international tax bill, but has a special agreement with the Irish Government to reduce its Irish tax bill to 2%, as absolutely scandalous.
Deputy Doherty said:
"The findings by the US Senate Committee that show Apple is using Ireland to write-off its international tax bill by setting up an Irish incorporated, non-resident entity to handle 30% of its global earnings but pays tax nowhere, and the fact that Apple has a special arrangement with the Irish Government to reduce its domestic corporation tax rate to 2%, is scandalous.
The committee describes Ireland as a tax haven and that is not something this government should be ignoring or dismissing as not their problem.
"The issue of large multi-national corporations like Apple and Google not paying high effective tax rates in Ireland, or using Ireland as a vehicle to avoid paying tax internationally, is prominent in the news now but it’s something Sinn Fein has been highlighting for a period of time.
“I contacted the Oireachtas Finance Committee in November and requested hearings on this issue which are due to commence shortly. I have put a number of names of experts in the field forward to the committee and I have also proposed that we invite the Irish representatives of leading multi-national companies in Ireland in to answer questions.
“Ireland has benefitted from foreign direct investment in our economy in terms of jobs and payroll taxes. These jobs have to be protected. But our corporation tax rate is already very fair and cannot be undermined by a continual writing down of effective tax rates. Ireland is perceived as a tax haven and that is not beneficial to us in the long-term for either jobs, or tax take.
“This government continues to protest that our tax system is transparent. It is transparently flawed. Our tax code has been written for the benefit of large companies and the wealthiest in society, while SMEs and individuals are obliged to pay their tax bills in full. They cannot negotiate reduced tax bills.
“There cannot be one law for the big company and another for the small. This is what I want to get to the bottom of in the committee hearings. This is where we can shine a light on the tax structures and activities of large companies to reveal once and for all if they are playing the game fairly or they, and this government, are taking us for a ride.”
Brian Stanley TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community & local government, has today challenged Minister Hogan, “to remove the shroud of secrecy surrounding the government’s climate change bill”.
Speaking after the Dáil committee meeting on the climate change bill, Stanley said:
“So far the debate has been carried out in secret. The cabinet committee on climate change meets in secret, Minister Hogan refuses to publish the Attorney Generals advice on emission targets and the proposed expert advisory committee on climate change will not be allowed to publish reports without government permission. If we are to get public by in, these reports must be made public.
“The effects of climate change are scene globally and felt locally. This government continues to sleep walk us towards a climate disaster. I would remind Minister Hogan that there is no environmental bailout. There is no Troika, ECB or IMF waiting to assist us. I would urge the government to adopt our climate change bill and save us from environmental bankruptcy.
“The debate on climate change must be open, transparent and inclusive. The public must not only be aware but must be part of a national conversation on this most important issue. For this to work the public must buy into the process.
“At the meeting I proposed that the committee have public hearings with presentations from experts and stake holders. I suggested that an appropriate date would be Global Environmental Day on June 5th similar to the one currently taking place on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.
“Refusing to include emission targets based on secret advice is unacceptable. Minister Hogan must publish the Attorney Generals advice on emission targets. The last government published a bill with targets and the Attorney General had no problem.
“We need a climate change bill with clear targets and a process that is transparent, open and accountable.”