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Sights and sounds from Bodenstown 2015

Some sights and sounds from the Annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare on June 21, 2015. Main speaker Sinn Féin deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald TD. During the course of her speech she talked about the need for a fair economic recovery north and south; demanded the British to come clean about collusion; and expressed solidarity with the people of Greece.

Martin McGuinness speaking at Stormont said that Sinn Féin's conditional support for the budget bill will create the space to resolve outstanding issues and ensure the executive has workable and sustainable finances and see the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.


Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan of taking the side of EU elite against people...



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Speaking in the Dáil this evening, Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said that this opportunity to revisit our approach to our Defence Forces should be availed of to commence the process of enshrining neutrality into our constitution and also address ongoing issues such as the problems presented by government reforms of the brigade structures, and the use of Lariam by the Defence Forces.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“I broadly welcome a review of Ireland’s Defence policy and a white paper on the issue. The last White Paper on Defence was released in 2000. It is a chance to outline exactly how we would like a modern, efficient, and professional Defence Force to stand by the long held Irish desire for neutrality and independence, as Sinn Féin did in our submission to the White Paper.

“I fear that this Government will use it to do the opposite, as well have seen successive Governments repeatedly undermine Ireland’s neutrality and attack the pay and entitlements of Defence Forces personnel.

 “Other problems remain in the Defence Forces. The change from a three brigade to a two brigade structure and the closure of barracks across the state has sapped the morale of the Defence Forces. However it hasn't just been the closures, it has been the entire process, the stress and strain put on personnel who often had to uproot from their communities and homes with their families to be placed somewhere else.

“Sinn Féin is opposed to the use of the anti-malarial drug, Lariam. Many serving and former soldiers who have been prescribed Lariam have experienced adverse psychological effects and experienced a serious negative impact on their health and wellbeing.

“In these volatile times, a strong commitment to Positive Neutrality in this White Paper is needed more than ever. It should not act as another Fine Gael ‘Beyond Neutrality’ document.

“Sinn Féin is committed to promoting positive Irish neutrality and independent foreign policy.

“We believe Ireland should actively work to promote conflict resolution, peaceful democratic settlements and self-determination throughout the world.” 

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Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams, has said that the recommendations of the McMahon report “do not deal with the real issues with Direct Provision”.

Teachta Adams said:

“The McMahon report is long overdue. It is a disappointing response to a very difficult humanitarian issue and to a Direct Provision system that has been widely condemned.

“Sinn Féin warned that the terms of reference given by the Government to the Working Group were very limited and could only result in piece-meal and sticking plaster recommendations. The report falls short of the fundamental and radical reform of the refugee and subsidiary protection application process.

“While some aspects of this report are welcome, the fact remains that the system is not fit for purpose. Direct Provision has been widely criticised both internationally and domestically and Sinn Féin continues to call for the system to be scrapped.

“Too many of the recommendations are non-committal and overly deferential in tackling the existing regime.

“Rather than copper fastening the human rights of asylum seekers, these recommendations may well have the opposite effect and actually undermine human rights.

“Furthermore, the fact that Minister Fitzgerald has already said that even these limited proposals may not be implemented is revealing. It is further evidence of this Government’s lack of real commitment to reform this inhumane system.” 

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'If we fail to remobilise the unity of purpose and goodwill which delivered the referendum endorsing the Good Friday Agreement, and British Government economic and political policy does not change, then we will quickly run out of road and no more political space will exist' – Declan Kearney

THE Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle's  decision to conditionally support the current budget’s passage through the Assembly in the North has created space and time. Neither should be squandered.

That, however, will depend upon the commitment of the British and Irish governments and all the local parties to prevent the current austerity crisis pushing the North into an unprecedented political crisis with serious implications for the sustainability of the political institutions and the political process itself.

The party’s Ard Chomhairle meeting heard a range of different political opinions on what decision to take.

Everyone agreed that the election of a majority Conservative Government committed to cutting £25billion from public services, jobs, child tax credits and support for the long-term sick, disabled, the poor, and elderly had changed the context within which the discussion was happening.

In the end, the Ard Chomhairle decided that Sinn Féin would give conditional support to the current budget on the basis that it remained exempt from the immediate “in year” cuts which the Conservatives are trying to force upon the Executive and whatever further cuts to public expenditure will be announced in the 8 July Budget Statement.

The alternative was to vote down this budget, thereby triggering an immediate and real political crisis with ministerial powers being usurped by civil servants or Executive powers being handed back to the British Government.

In recent months and weeks, several false narratives have been encouraged (publicly and privately) to obscure the facts and to rationalise the continuing negative status quo in the North.

Both the British and Irish governments have been saying privately that Sinn Féin wants to collapse the political institutions because of the Southern general election.

That is both preposterous and absolutely untrue – and both governments know that to be the case.

However, it is a convenient fiction behind which to disguise their own inaction and indifference to the ramifications of the huge austerity crisis facing the North. Include in that (and not unlike in Greece) their ideological hostility to the anti-austerity politics of Sinn Féin and their annoyance that Sinn Féin in government refuses to support the Conservatives’ austerity agenda.

A second false narrative being jointly promoted by the Conservatives and all unionist parties is that failure to agree the welfare component of the Stormont House Agreement is the cause of all the economic problems in the North as well as continued political instability.

That is also untrue.

The welfare impasse is a by-product of the wider austerity crisis, not the cause!

The third fiction being pumped by the Conservatives and all the unionist parties (but particularly the DUP) is that there is no alternative to austerity and there is no more money. Wrong! There is always more money – the real crux is how that money is spent and the choices which governments and political parties make.

The Conservatives and unionist parties all support using 2% of Britain's GDP on military spending. At the same time as the Conservatives plan to cut £25billion from state public expenditure before 2018, they want to spend over £23billion on replacing Trident nuclear submarines. And the local unionist parties agree with that.

Amazingly, the DUP went even further by proposing the the completion, equipping and deployment of two new aircraft carriers.

And all this while citizens are losing their homes and others live with mortgage distress. Why?

The latest figures from the British Office of National Statistics show that households in the North have the lowest incomes, on average, of any region in the British state. We already know that the standard of living is the lowest of any region in the British state or 26 Counties.

The fact is that more austerity in the North will set back the prospect of restructuring the regional economy. It could not be otherwise when the private sector is already too weak and British Government policy remains impervious to the special circumstances and needs of the North as a society emerging from conflict.

The welfare impasse does not have to hold up progress if the DUP reverts to the original agreement to maintain protections for future claimants and directs the Social Security Agency to proceed with implementation.

That doesn’t require a new negotiation.

The fundamental sticking point which has brought the political process to this crossroads is British Government political and economic policy. That needs to change. The political process will not deliver as envisaged under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement – and indeed the Executive’s Programme for Government – without a sustainable economic framework.

Most if not all sections of opinion and society in the North agree that a workable budget is needed to restructure the economy. There is broad consensus that the financial and economic resource is not available to the local Executive to ensure it can deliver its services, build infrastructure and housing, and grow the economy. That in itself becomes a source of further political instability.

Austerity is incompatible with the political compromises and governance arrangements which underpin the political process.

Unchecked, austerity will create greater inequality and reinforce existing and systemic inequalities within Northern society. It will undermine the development of a fair society and support for a potential shared future.

The trajectory set by the British Government for the regional economy will result in an estimated loss of £2.3billion to the North between 2010 and 2018. That carries with it catastrophic economic, social and political consequences.

The North needs a 'New Deal' to build a fair society going forward.

Negotiating and securing that 'New Deal' should become the focus for all political parties, the social partners and all stakeholders in civic society during this political space which has become available.

The positive and significant influence of Irish-America, the US administration and European Parliament should also be utilised.

The elements of a 'New Deal' should include delivery of a workable budget, provision of “off book” borrowing powers to the local Executive, and the agreed transfer of fiscal powers.

A 'New Deal' would equip the Executive with the tools to plan the regeneration of the regional economy with a mid- to long-term strategy and to draw upon the support and expertise of the key social partners from within the business, trades union, voluntary and academic sectors.

Such a strategy would depend upon the political parties and social partners uniting on a new economic and social agenda based upon a firm commitment to proper power sharing and partnership.

If that can be achieved, the next stage would be to commence a game-changing negotiation with the British and Irish governments.

The local parties and all social partners should meet and agree to speak with one voice.

A space has been created and the opportunity should be seized to remobilise the unity of purpose and goodwill which delivered the referendum endorsing the Good Friday Agreement. That possibility should inspire everyone.

If this does not happen, and British Government economic and political policy does not change, then we will quickly run out of road and no more political space will exist. In that context, we will all be left facing a very uncertain and unpredictable future indeed.

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Speaking in the Dáil this evening on Sinn Féin’s motion condemning the government's impending cut to lone parent supports, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on the Government, and in particular the Labour Party, to stop the planned cut to lone parent families.

The Dublin Central TD also accused the government of targeting a part of society they believe to be of no value to them when it comes to votes in the next general election.

Deputy McDonald said:

“The government, and in particular the Labour party, have earned for themselves the unenviable reputation of being anti-women and anti-child, and they don’t seem to care who knows it.

“They clearly have made a calculated decision that lone parents, like carers and other vulnerable sections of society, are inconsequential. They are a section of voters whose support they don’t really need, or so they think.

“Since taking office, the government has made eight separate cuts to payments to lone-parent families. And now in their latest measure, of the 30,000 lone parents affected, around 20,000 are to be transferredonto the new transitional job seekers allowance.

“Thousands of these struggling parents will see their income fall. More than 10,000 will have weekly payments cut by as much as €87.00 per week. The government are forcing these people into poverty, the vast majority of who are women.”

Deputy McDonald cited the high cost of childcare as a huge barrier in stopping lone parents from integrating back in to the workforce and the government would be far better tackling this issue rather than attacking lone parents directly.

“The average cost of childcare per week is €167 and it is higher in Dublin. Child care can cost as much as 52% of the take home pay of a lone parent.

“The government has said that these changes, which clearly are going to cause untold hardship on already struggling lone parents, would only take place when there was a system of safe, affordable and accessible child care in place.

“If it is the government’s goal to encourage lone parents to take up work then they would do best to stick to their promises and stop sticking it to lone parents.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has welcomed the next stage in the development of the former military site at Ballykelly.

 Mr Ó hOisín said,

 “The announcement by the Department of OFM/dFM that they are inviting potential buyers for sections of the former military site at Ballykelly is the next welcome step in developing this massive site for the local community and economic revival of the region.

 “It is clear from the statement that OFM/dFM have a strategy that will help unlock the massive potential this site holds.

 “We have already seen the beginning of the construction phase of the new DARD headquarters that is to be situated on one part of the site so developing the rest of the site will add further value to the economic regeneration of the area.

 “I will continue to work with all the relevant departments and agencies to ensure the maximum return to the local community in developing the site through categories of business, governmental, leisure and environmental projects for the benefit of the entire community.”

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Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tobín has called for a coordinated approach to develop an all-Ireland economy. 

Speaking ahead of a Sinn Féin conference, 'Building the all-Ireland economy - Ending partition', Mr Tobín said; 

"Partition is the greatest obstacle to economic growth across Ireland. It has stalled our potential for economic and social growth and limited the prosperity of our people. 

"Communities and businesses along the border pay the daily price of partition. 

"These areas suffer from the highest levels of unemployment, emigration, deprivation and stunted economic growth. 

"It makes no sense for six and a half million people to be split into two separate tax, currency and legal systems, and with two separate economies in competition with each other. 

"Combining our strength in agriculture, life sciences and across all sectors will deliver greater economic growth. 

"It is vital both administrations in Ireland work together to prioritise economic development across the island and to address the challenges facing border businesses and communities."

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Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West and Sinn Féin spokesperson on TTIP, Matt Carthy, has stated that the vote in the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee on TTIP this week proved that the decision to postpone the plenary vote previously was nothing more than a delaying tactic by the European establishment.

Carthy said:

“At the June plenary, MEPs and the European Commission became acutely aware of the level of opposition to TTIP right across Europe as over 200 amendments were tabled to the report due to come before Parliament for a vote.

“Instead of tackling the issues head on in a democratic forum and allowing the MEPs to debate and vote on the issues, the European Parliament President referred the issue back to the Trade Committee.

 “However, European Parliament rules prevented the Trade Committee from omitting any of the submitted amendments despite, no doubt, the wishes of members like Fine Gael’s Seán Kelly.  Sinn Féin predicted that this would be the case and this week’s developments have exposed the antics in plenary as nothing more than a fudge and delaying tactic.

“What all of this demonstrates is that the European Institutions have completely underestimated the strength of opposition to TTIP and are desperately scrambling to cover up that fact.

 “It also means that we have wasted an opportunity to have a debate on the issues around TTIP – the first time that TTIP was actually due to come before the European Parliament for a vote despite two years of negotiations.

“The real victim here is democracy – It has been indicated that the schedule for July plenary will not allow this vote to take place therefore it would seem that the earliest opportunity for MEPs to have a say on TTIP will be September 2015.

“ In the meantime I, and my Sinn Féin colleagues, along with hundreds of other MEPs, will continue to ensure that the real concerns of citizens in Ireland and throughout Europe are heard by EU leaders.”

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Sinn Féin Senator and Youth Affairs Spokesperson, Kathryn Reilly, today met with the European Commission in Brussels to discuss high youth unemployment levels and the worrying drop in the number of young people in employment in Ireland at the moment.

Speaking after the meeting Senator Reilly said:

“It was a very informative meeting but this process has become incredibly infuriating. For the past four years I have been raising the issue of high levels of youth unemployment in Ireland and huge drops in both the number of people in the labour force and in the number of young people working in Ireland.

“I also raised the issue of the mass emigration of young Irish citizens over the past number of years and the negative effect this has had on Irish society and the future effects it will have on the Irish economy.

“While the Commission can be understanding of such issues they do not appear to have the appetite to tackle the problem.

“The Youth Guarantee, which was heralded as the panacea to youth unemployment throughout Europe, was underfunded from the outset and discriminatory in who could participate in it, excluding young people with disabilities.

“Furthermore, I put the figures to members of the Commission regarding Ireland. A drop of 64,000 young people in the labour force since the Fine Gael and Labour government came to power, and 29,800 less young people working in Ireland for the same period.”

Senator Reilly concluded by stating:

“In no uncertain terms I warned the Commission that failure to tackle the problem of decreasing levels of youth employment in Ireland would have catastrophic effects on Irish society and the economy in the future.

“It is crucial that we move towards investing in our young people, in the creation of quality jobs in a long-term perspective.

“There has to be the realisation by the European Commission and the Irish government that immediate and intelligent investment in Ireland’s young people will reap unquantifiable rewards in future years.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has said that Fine Gael and Labour are opposing a debt write down for Greece because it would expose the failure of the Irish Government to demand the same.

Mr Adams said the real concern of the EU, IMF and ECB, and the Fine Gael/Labour government, is political and he called the Government to set aside party political concerns and support the Greek government request for more time to negotiate a fair solution to the debt crisis.

Raising the matter directly with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil this afternoon, Gerry Adams said:

“Taoiseach, the crisis around Greece is about power and punishment. The Greek government is upholding the values of solidarity and co-operation that underpinned the foundation of the European movement. They are being punished for this.

“They are standing up for Greece and the Greek people, who are being punished by hostile EU institutions, the IMF, and some EU governments, including the Irish government.

“Taoiseach, the Irish government has contributed to the current crisis. Last Monday, according to the Financial Times, Minister Noonan along with the German Finance Minister pressed for emergency financial support for Greek banks to be stopped unless capital controls were imposed.

“On Sunday Minister Noonan got his way when the ECB froze it's funding line to Greek banks.

“Last week you railed against the idea of debt write down or of debt relief for the Greek people. That’s no big surprise. You have never asked for a debt write down for the Irish people either.

“Taoiseach, you have written off hundreds of millions in debt for companies in this state, including write downs from state owned and nationalised banks.

“Greece owes this state €300 million - Denis OBrien secured that much in debt write downs from IBRC – a state owned bank. So, you believe that debt write down is ok for some but not for the people of Greece.

“Is it not true that Fine Gael and Labour oppose a write down for Greece because it would expose the failure of this government to demand the same? Will the government set aside your party political concerns and support the Greek government request for more time to negotiate a fair solution?”

Mr Adams later said that he was not surprised by the Taoiseach’s refusal to adopt a more reasonable and compassionate position toward the people of Greece:

“Taoiseach, despite your protestations, you show no empathy for the people of Greece.

“The Greek government has presented reasonable proposals to grow the economy while protecting pensioners and those on low and middle incomes. You don’t favour that.

“They called for a debt conference and a debt write-down. You are against that also.

“Why? Because you chose to impose austerity on those who can least pay for it.

“Last week you claimed that in tackling the economic crisis here that you did not increase income tax, increase VAT, or increase PRSI. That is untrue. You did raise income and consumption taxes.

“You have also introduced water charges and a property tax. You opted for forced emigration and now half a million of our citizens are scattered across the globe.

“One third of our children are living in consistent poverty. The sick and the elderly end up on trolleys instead of hospital beds. They pay the price for your austerity policies.

“The real concern of the EU, IMF and ECB, and your government, is political. The Greek government has made clear its desire to remain within the Eurozone. Is it not now time for the EU to make clear its desire to keep Greece in the Eurozone by negotiating a solution that doesn’t impose years of economic depression on the Greek people?”

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Sights and sounds from Bodenstown 2015


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