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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...



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has said that Tánaiste Joan Burton’s refusal to meet with the family of Cllr Eddie Fullerton is a “disgrace”.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“Following new revelations on collusion, I had asked the Tánaiste during Leaders Questions to meet to listen to the Fullerton family’s concerns regarding the circumstances leading to his murder and the subsequent investigation by Gardaí. I have since written to the Tánaiste to seek to arrange a convenient time. I have now received a reply from the Tánaiste’s office to inform me that the Tánaiste is too busy to meet with the family. I think her excuse is a disgrace.

“In 1984, it was a Labour Minister, Liam Kavanagh, who refused to meet Cllr Eddie Fullerton in Leinster House. It appears that history is now repeating itself with the Labour Tánaiste not having the decency to afford the Fullerton family the time that they deserve.

“Despite the deep hurt caused to the family and the dismissive attitudes of state authorities, they have been relentless in their campaign for the truth. They deserve truth and respect, not further provocation and dismissal. I don’t believe that Tánaiste Burton can’t find the time to help the family get to this truth.”

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Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has accused the Irish Government of kow-towing to a right-wing ideology and of being shamefully uncritical and subservient to Brussels.

 Teachta Adams said it did not suit EU leaders, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, to have a Government in Greece which puts forward alternatives to the Austerity policies that have increased inequality in many EU states, including in Ireland.

 He said forced emigration, inequality, child poverty, a low wage economy, lack of social housing, and a lack of hospital beds is the price the Government is forcing Irish people to pay, and expects the people of Greece to pay, because Fine Gael and Labour  kow-tow to a right-wing ideology and are shamefully uncritical and subservient to Brussels.

 Speaking directly to Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil today, Teachta Adams said:

 “Taoiseach, do you accept the debt crisis in Greece is about EU elites trying to force the Government of Greece into accepting an outcome that contravenes its electoral mandate? Just like you did; you tore up your mandate, reneged on your election promises and undermined the right of people to assert democratic control over decisions which affect our lives.

“That is the big question facing all citizens of the European Union today, including Irish citizens. Do citizens have the right to assert democratic control over decisions which affect our lives? You obviously do not believe this. That is at the heart of the crisis in Greece. It is also a huge issue here.

 “That is why it does not suit you to have a Government in Greece which puts forward alternatives to the Austerity policies that have increased inequality in many EU states, including here. Your Water Charges – a Fianna Fáil idea - are part of this. So is forced emigration, inequality, child poverty, a low wage economy, the lack of social housing, the rundown of public services.

 “Minister Varadkar now admits that the Health Service needs another €1 billion euros just to meet existing demands. Will you supply this? Of course not, but you will impose the repayment of €181 billion in debt, created by the greed of the elites, on Irish people for generations to come.

 “Minister Kathleen Lynch now admits that there are simply not enough hospital beds to cater for citizens who are ill.

 “Will you accept that this is the price that you force our people to pay, and expect the people of Greece to pay, because you kow-tow to a right-wing ideology and because you are shamefully uncritical and subservient to Brussels?

“Taoiseach, the decades of corruption and economic mismanagement in Greece is the disastrous legacy of successive governments with which your Government is closely associated.

“The Government which Greek citizens rejected at the last general election was led by New Democracy, a sister party of Fine Gael in the EU parliament. The other major component of that coalition government was Pasok, the party which implemented the original Greek bailout and which is a sister party of the Irish Labour Party.

“So, the two Government parties in this state are inextricably linked to those parties which were in power in a Greece when the problems in its economy were created, as a result of corruption and a lack of regulation. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

“Did Fine Gael or Labour ever speak to their Greek counterparts about their pursuit of disastrous policies which crashed the Greek economy? And if not, doesn't your current posturing in relation to a new Greek Government which has already started to implement a programme of genuine and widespread reform of the Greek economy amount to rank hypocrisy?” 

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has said the North needs a 'new deal' to help create a fairer society. 

Mr Kearney said; 

"The fundamental sticking point, which has created the current crisis in the political process is the British government's political and economic policy. That needs to change. 

"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 as a result of Sinn Féin's conditional support for the budget. 

"The elements of a 'new deal' should include delivery of a workable budget, provision of borrowing powers to the local Executive, and the agreed transfer of fiscal powers.”

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It was announced this morning that those under 18 years with a diagnosis of cancer will be granted medical cards. Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesperson Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed this but stated that “the Government had previously refused to extend access based on medical conditions as inequitable and not feasible.”

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated;

“This announcement required the mother of a very sick eight-year-old girl to tell their story of the difficulties they experienced in accessing a medical card. Extension of access in this manner had been demanded across the state over a period of years. It seems it is only a priority now with a General Election in sight. It also creates an arbitrary cut-off for those diagnosed with cancer over the age of 18 years.

“While I certainly welcome this action from Government, it is nevertheless the case that cancer is only one group of many serious conditions. There are many other diseases that can leave young and old in very debilitating situations or that require more frequent medical interventions. The Government had previously refused to give access to medical cards based on specific conditions, but it is clear that this is what they now intend to do. The expert group which the government itself appointed and tasked to examine this issue concluded that "it is neither feasible nor desirable to list conditions in priority order for medical card eligibility. A listing approach risks inequity by diagnosis and a further fragmentation of services".

“Where now are the promises of the Government to work on better accommodating the ‘burden of illness' across all conditions in the medical card system? Today's announcement should have been accompanied by the extension of an automatic medical card to every child receiving the Domicilliary Care Allowance - the monthly social welfare payment for children with serious disabilities. That would go much further in terms of meeting the medical needs of children with a wider range of serious persistent illnesses and their families and would ensure that the burden of disease would be taken into account and not simply a disease label with which there can be a spectrum of severity.

“While those with cancer under the age of 18 years will benefit from today’s announcement, this is not an equitable way to extend access to the medical card and flies in the face of the Government’s own advice. Is this the manner in which the Minister intends to extend access even further?” concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.

 

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Sinn Féin MLA has welcomed a call from four children's commissioners for the British government to abandon its plans to cut benefits before more children are driven into poverty. 

Speaking after a joint call from the commissioners from the North and Britain, Ms McCann said; 

"Coming after a  report which showed a 3 per rise in child poverty levels here and Tory plans for a further cuts which will impact on low income households, this latest report by four children's commissioners from Britain and the North must be taken seriously.

"Families in the North of Ireland are already becoming increasingly worried about how they can afford the very basics for their children.  

"This report is disturbing as it warns that if the proposed cuts go ahead we will see child poverty levels double over the next five years.

"It clearly states the the Tory government is aware of the current and future impact of these cuts to the poorest and most vulnerable including children and yet they still continue to target those very families.

"I hope to meet with all four of the Commissioners to discuss the concerns raised in this report." 

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Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh says the Direct Provision system, which has been condemned by experts, should be scrapped, rather than reformed. The Galway West – South Mayo Sinn Féin Junior Justice spokesperson was speaking after the publication of the report of the Working Group on the Protection Process.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:

“I am concerned that a discredited, privatised, profiteering accommodation system, dreamt up by Fianna Fáil, which has no statutory basis will now be given formal status by this government. The report does not seem to acknowledge that this institutionalised, state-sponsored abuse of human rights is part of the problem and should not be part of the solution.

“Far from being ‘Another Yes Equality Moment’ as proclaimed by Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin at it’s launch, it appears that the recommendations of the working group may well increase inequality, deprive asylum seekers of fundamental human rights and leave thousands to languish in inappropriate conditions for up to five years and more.

“Although the extension of oversight to the Offices of the Ombudsman and Children’s Ombudsman is to be welcomed, the pre-Ombudsman complaints procedure needs to be completely independent and confidential if it is to have any credibility.

“I would also like to have seen recommendations for the extension of Freedom of Information legislation and HIQA oversight to the Direct Provision system. I also believe the funding of all aspects of Direct Provision should be open to full scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee as well as the Comptroller and Auditor General.

“Although proposals around  the Single Application process, which have been long awaited, are also welcome, I have concerns about the methodology being proposed for clearing the backlog and that they might not uphold fundamental internationally recognised, human rights and the status that they bring with them.

“If implemented, the findings will ensure the institutional longevity of this draconian and inhumane system and I call on the government to seek an alternative proposal which is more in fitting with international best practice in this field.”

Caithfear críoch seachas athchóiriú a dhéanamh ar an Soláthar Díreach – Ó Clochartaigh

Tá sé ráite ag an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh gur chóir deireadh a chuir, seachas athchóiriú a dhéanamh ar an gcóras Soláthar Díreach, atá cáinte ag saineolaithe.  Bhí urlabhraí sóisearach Dlí & Cirt Shinn Féin as Gaillimh Thiar- Maigh Eo theas ag labhairt ar fhoilsiú thuarascáil Grúpa Oibre an Rialtais ar an bPróiseas Tearmainn.

Deir sé:

“Tá imní orm go dtabharfaidh an rialtas seo stádas reachtúil anois do chóras mídhaonna, príobháidithe, brabasúil cóiríochta a chum Fianna Fáil. Ní fheictear dom go n-admhaíonn an tuairisc go bhfuil an mí-úsáid chearta daonna, institiúdaithe, stát-urraithe seo mar chuid lárnach den fhadhb agus nach féidir leis a bheith mar chuid den réiteach.  

“Tá sé seo i bhfad ó bheith mar ‘Léiriú eile den Tá Comhionannas’ mar a thug an tAire Stáit  Aodhán Ó Ríordáin air ag an seoladh. Feictear domsa go bhféadfadh na moltaí cur go mór leis an éagcothromaíocht, cearta bunúsacha daonna a bhaint de lucht iarrtha tearmainn agus go bhfágfar na mílte go dearóil i gcóiríocht mífheiliunach ar feadh cúig bhliana agus ós a chionn dhá bharr.  

"Cé go bhfáiltím roimh mholtaí go dtabharfar ról formhaoirsithe d’oifig an Ombudsman agus Ombudsman na Leanaí, caithfidh aon phróiseas gearáin réamh-Ombudsman a bheith iomlán neamhspleách agus faoi rún, má tá iontaoibh le bheith ag daoine as.

“Ba mhaith liom moltaí a bheith feicthe agam maidir le síneadh a chuir leis an Acht um Shaoráil Faisnéise  agus formhaoirisú HIQA chuig an gcóras Soláthar Díreach. Creidim freisin gur chóir go dtiocfadh an Soláthar Díreach faoi scáth Coiste na gCuntas Poiblí agus an tArd Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste ó thaobh scrúdaithe maoinithe di.

“Cé go bhfáiltím roimh na moltaí maidir leis an bpróiseas Iarratais Aonair ar Thearmainn, tá imní orm maidir leis an mbealach atá dhá mholadh le líon na ndaoine atá ag fanacht ar chinneadh a laghdú agus go mb’fhéidir nach mbeifear ag comhlíonadh cearta bunúsacha daonna idirnáisiúnta, ná ag bronnadh an stádas iomlán a thagann leo.

“Má chuirtear na moltaí seo i bhfeidhm, cinnteoidh sin fadsaoil an chóras Soláthar Díreach, atá neamhdhaonna agus míthrócaireach agus iarraim ar an rialtas ag an bpoinnte seo scrúdú a dhéanamh ar cur chuige difriúil ar fad, a bheadh ag lui níos fearr le cleachtais barrfeabhais cearta daonna go h-idirnáisiúnta.”

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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.

Videos

Sights and sounds from Bodenstown 2015


Photos

Mickey Brady meeting anti-austerity campaigners.