Sinn Féin MLA Cathal O’hOisín has said the current Casement Inquiry is in danger of becoming a farce given that the previous Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, Nelson McCausland won’t step aside to give evidence.
Speaking today Mr Ó hOisín said:
“The current inquiry into the Casement Park development being conducted by the Culture Arts and Leisure Committee is in danger of becoming a farce following today’s meeting.
“The current chair, who has in my opinion a conflict of interest in this inquiry, will not step aside to give evidence.
“Nelson McCausland was the minister in charge when a Casement Park development with a capacity of 40,000 was signed off on
“He is the only substantial material witness who has not come forward to the inquiry.
“If Nelson McCausland really wanted to get to the bottom of any perceived misgivings about this development he would have no issue with stepping aside and telling this committee what exactly he knows.
“His refusal to do so speaks volumes. This isn’t about getting to the truth. This is about scoring political points.
“After today’s performance it is becoming clear that some unionists do not want the development of a first-class stadium in West Belfast.”
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney has said the British government should live up to its responsibilities to the political progress in the North and end its partisan approach towards talks.
Mr Kearney said;
"There is currently no momentum within the talks process because the British government has not involved itself in active participation and is instead trying to present itself as some sort of neutral referee.
"The British government is not a referee. It bears a direct responsibility for the current challenges facing the Executive as a result of its austerity policies.
"It is politically positioning itself to try and impose its own predetermined talks outcomes; and to justify the subsequent blame game.
"Providing a sustainable budget and economic stimulus package must be central to the current talks process.
"The question is whether the British government, and the Irish government, really want to be part of contributing to a successful talks outcome, which will empower transformational politics in the north, and ensure we are not pushed back into permanent political instability.
"The British government should step up to the mark immediately, get properly involved in the talks, and fulfil its responsibilities to guarantee political progress and a sustainable economic future in the north."
Deputy Mac Lochlainn today welcomed the Choice of Court (Hague Convention) Bill 2015 whilst highlighting the contradiction of continued partition and the lack of action on creating a judicial council. Both situations operate in opposition to the principles which underlie the Hague Convention.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy MacLochlainn said
“Whilst large companies may prefer the arbitration route, there is some indication that SMEs prefer the traditional judicial route. As such, this bill is a welcome one for SMEs that trade with partners outside the EU and may encourage SMEs that do not to explore the possibility of doing so.
“One of the biggest hurdles confronting Irish SMEs is the continuing operation of partition. The government should follow the logic of the Hague Convention on Choice of Court to encourage commercial trade by following the advice in Sinn Féin’s 2014 document on encouraging SMEs.
“The Government should be following the economic principles that underlie this bill and facilitate the numerous SMEs on this island that need to respond quickly and effectively to business opportunities on the ground without worrying about or searching for ways around the unnecessary and inefficient transaction costs associated with partition.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today launched his party’s alternative budget entitled ‘Delivering a Fair Recovery’.
Speaking at the launch Teachta Adams said Sinn Féin would put between €600 and €2,000 back into the pockets of the average worker, depending on their wage and family circumstances.
Teachta Adams said;
“In each budget Sinn Féin has offered alternatives that are costed and fair. They will promote growth.
“Fine Gael and Labour are wedded to unfair austerity policies. Workers on average wages, families, elderly and young people have paid the cost with unfair taxes, emigration and wage and welfare cuts.
“Since entering Government Fine Gael and the Labour Party have picked up where Fianna Fáil left off – targeting families and vulnerable citizens for cruel cuts and unfair taxes like water charges and the family home tax.
“Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget proposals are about delivering a Fair Recovery.
“Sinn Féin seeks to ease the burden on the average worker including the self-employed and farmers. We propose tackling unfair tax reliefs and asking the top 5% who earn the most to pay their fair share
“We would invest €1.7bn in public expenditure prioritising health, education and childcare and delivering more gardaí, nurses, midwives, and teachers. This includes investing in disability services and supports.
“We also propose an ambitious additional capital expenditure programme of €400m
“Sinn Féin would put between €600 and €2,000 back into the pockets of the average worker, depending on their wage and family circumstances.
“We would do this by abolishing the family home tax, stopping domestic water charges, removing over 100 000 workers out of the USC, expanding access to childcare, reducing the cost of healthcare, and assisting with education costs.
“We would support and encourage SMEs and entrepreneurs through the introduction of the self-employed tax credit, the provision of seed capital and other measures
"Our proposals would increase funding to build social houses and to tackle the homeless crisis.
“Workers and families will be better off with Sinn Féin. Beidh an lucht oibre agus teaghlaigh níos fearr as le Sinn Féin.
“We want a recovery that is fair and that benefits all sections of Irish society.
“The crises in health and housing are a direct result of government policy. Sinn Fein’s budget for 2016 is pursuing a very different policy, a fair policy.
“The budget proposals being launched here today are grounded firmly in the republican principles of fairness and equality for all citizens.
“I will now hand you over to a Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD who will bring us through the detail of the document.”
Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has urged rural community groups to apply now for their share of the Rural Micro Capital Grant Programme, with over £200,000 available.
The Minister was speaking as she announced the opening of the second phase of the Programme during a visit to Moneyneena & District Development Initiative in Draperstown, who were awarded £1,500 under the first phase of the Programme earlier this year.
Minister O’Neill said:
“The Rural Micro Capital Grant Programme has provided rural community and voluntary groups with the opportunity to take practical steps to modernise and update their premises and to buy vital pieces of equipment that enable them to continue to deliver services to their local rural communities.
“The first phase of the Programme has been extremely successful, with 146 rural community organisations benefitting from Micro Grants so far this year. I have seen today how the funding of £1,500 has facilitated the Monyneena & District Development Initiative in improving and promoting services to the community through something as simple as a photocopier.
“I am therefore pleased to announce that the second phase of the Rural Micro Capital Grant Programme, which is worth over £200,000, is now open for applications until noon on Friday 30 October 2015. I urge rural communities not to miss out on this funding and submit applications to the Programme as soon as possible.
”The Rural Micro Capital Grant Programme is one element of DARD’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Framework. Grants of between £200 and £1,500 are available to rural community-led, voluntary organisations towards the cost of capital equipment, improvement of a capital asset or extending the useable life of a capital asset.
Minister O’Neill added:
“While the amount awarded to each group maybe relatively low, the impact of these projects within rural communities is considerable and I would encourage rural community groups to contact their local Rural Support Network or visit the DARD website for more information on the Programme and advice on how to apply.”
Sinn Féin’s Workers Rights spokesperson David Cullinane has given a guarded welcome to Lidl’s decision to sign up to the Living Wage campaign. Speaking after the supermarket chain gave a commitment to pay its staff a minimum rate of €11.50 an hour, Senator Cullinane said:
“A pay rise for low paid staff is always welcome. But for this announcement to be meaningful Lidl must ensure staff have sufficient hours of work each week.
“The Living Wage is calculated on a weekly basis and a rise of €11.50 an hour is virtually meaningless for workers who currently have just 3 or 5 hours work a week.
“If today’s announcement is to mean anything workers must have their hours increased.
“As Mandate Trade Union has noted there is a big difference between an hourly rate and a guaranteed living weekly wage.
“The living wage is calculated on the basis of a 39 hour week (€450 per week) but if workers at Lidl or any other company don’t have enough hours then the Living Wage concept becomes meaningless.
“What workers need is decent pay and decent working conditions and these cannot be separated from each other.
“All workers should be treated with respect and dignity and employers need to recognise that work must pay.
“I urge management at Lidl to engage with Mandate Trade Union as soon as possible to make a genuine living wage a reality for its workers”.
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD said that Sinn Féin in government would increase homeless funding to tackle the emergency and also invest in housing to end the crisis in the long term. He made his comments today following the launch of the Sinn Féin Alternative Budget document ‘Delivering A Fair Recovery’, which sets out alternative measures for the government to consider for the upcoming budget.
Deputy Ellis said;
"The document we launch today is an attempt to engage the government on the options open to them for this budget. It provides costed and specific proposals which show Fine Gael and Labour that they can do things differently.
“2015 has seen the issue of homelessness come to the forefront. Homelessness had been steadily increasing under this government but this year has seen an unprecedented number of people losing their homes. Now well over 1000 children are in emergency accommodation along with their parents and many more single people. The government’s response has been an embarrassment and clearly outlines their lack of desire to really tackle the problem and help these most vulnerable people.
“The homelessness crisis has been caused by a failure to provide affordable housing which led to higher rents. The increased numbers losing their homes have been too much for under-funded homelessness services who struggle to provide sufficient beds for the night, never mind rehousing the people who use their service.
“Sinn Féin proposes that this budget prioritises the housing and homeless crisis. The document calls for an additional 300 million euro spend on housing in 2016, nearly double the commitment likely to be made by the government. This money will be used to build and refurbish more houses which will cut waiting lists, stabilise rents and allow local authorities to house people currently in homelessness.
“Sinn Féin through this document shows the government how an additional 20 million euro could be earmarked for homelessness funding which would address the current shortfall. This would help to provide additional beds, support and housing initiatives for people experiencing homeless. The document also contains details of how the government could provide an additional 5.45 million euro to women's refuges to deal with a large increase in demand for services provided for women fleeing domestic violence in the last few years as well as previous budget cuts enacted by the government.
“Homelessness supports alone will not end the crisis though. We must shift focus from providing a bed for the night to providing homes for families and single people who are now dependent on emergency accommodation. Sinn Féin has already outlined measures to use 1.25 billion euro from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund to help build thousands of social housing units. We will soon release a document further detailing plans for additional annual investment in social housing which will provide for the construction of several thousand more homes a year for those on waiting lists.
"Sinn Féin would also introduce rent regulation measures to decrease rents in the private market, limit future increases and so stop the flow of existing tenants into homelessness.
“No single policy will end homelessness or the housing crisis but with the range of measures proposed by Sinn Féin and a shift towards providing housing as Sinn Féin would do in government, we can begin to turn the tide and make the right to a home a reality."
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Defence, Seán Crowe TD, has again raised his concerns over members of the Defence Forces being prescribed the anti-malarial drug Lariam.
Crowe raised the issue during Parliamentary Questions on Defence in the Dáil today.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“I have repeatedly raised this issue as indications of Lariam’s toxic and harmful effects continue to grow.
“Lariam was developed by the US military in the 1970s and new damning research into its effects has been published.
“In October 2013, Roche, the manufacturer of Lariam, wrote to doctors in Britain warning that ‘hallucinations, psychosis, suicide, suicidal thoughts and self-endangering behaviour have been reported’ and that the drug ‘may induce potentially serious neuropsychiatric disorders.’
“The US military declared it a ‘drug of last resort’ two years ago and the US Special Forces Command has banned its use.
“The Defence Ministries in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada have either banned the use of Lariam, or use it as a last resort.
“I cannot understand why Lariam is still being subscribed to Defence Forces personal, while safer options are available. It is not the only anti-malarial drug available, yet it is possibly the least safe option available.
“This is a classic case of doctors differing while patients are harmed.
“I am calling on the Minister to urgently stop the prescription of Lariam and to fully support soldiers who have taken Lariam while serving overseas.”
Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD today set out Sinn Féin’s Budget 2016 proposals to tackle the crisis in the health system investing €383m in service delivery and over 1,900 new frontline posts.
Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin’s Budget 2016 launch the Cavan Monaghan TD said:
“It is clear for all to see that the crisis in the health system is escalating with Labour and Fine Gael offering no immediate or indeed long term solution to address wider underfunding of the health system or acute areas of need.
“Budget 2016 provides a real opportunity to invest in frontline services and address significant deficits in service delivery. Sinn Féin has identified a number of areas where we would invest in both additional staff and services that have the potential to alleviate the pressures on emergency departments, in maternity units and across the disability services. We are calling on the Government to ensure the health overspend for 2015 is dealt with in a supplementary estimate before the year end.
“The trolley crisis is not just an emergency department crisis, it is a wider symptom of the malaise that is endemic across the wider health system. It is primarily due to a lack of capacity resulting from the failure of Government to provide adequate investment for our health services.
“Sinn Féin has prioritised the provision of an additional 500 nurses to tackle the crisis in emergency departments, increasing funding for nursing home beds, home help hours and homecare packages. We would recruit 250 additional hospital consultants eradicating the significant additional cost of agency consultants which often work out twice or three times the cost of a permanent consultant.
“Ireland had the highest per capita birth rate of all EU member states in 2014 yet our maternity services remain understaffed lacking both midwives and obstetricians. Sinn Féin would recruit an additional 250 midwives and at least 50 obstetricians from our new consultant intake.
“Successive austerity budgets targeting the most vulnerable in Irish society have resulted in a reduction in services for those with a disability of between 14 to 16%. Disability affects people of all ages and their families with 565,000 people reported to have some form of disability in the last census. Sinn Féin’s budget proposals for 2016 provide for up to 600 additional occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and psychologists as well additional funding for personal assistant hours and community based services.
“We would also provide an automatic medical card for children with significant medical need arising from serious illness or disability; increase investment in dental care; increase emergency ambulance cover; increase funding for the national drugs strategy; provide for a lowering of the Drug Payment Scheme monthly limit to €132; a reduction in Drug Prescription charges of 50c; and additional staff for HIQA. Sinn Féin’s budget will deliver a fair recovery.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will launch a booklet in Derry this Friday examining collusion between British state agencies and unionist death squads.
Speaking ahead of the launch in the European constituency office, Spencer Road, Ms Anderson said;
"No one can deny the extent of collusion between British state agencies and unionist death squads and its impact on families has been truly shocking.
"Not only did British state authorities collude with unionist death squads to carry out countless murders, they then went to great lengths to cover up their activities.
"In the face of mounting evidence, widely recognised by the international community, the British government has continually placed obstacles in the way of relatives seeking access to truth and justice.
"In my role as an MEP I have highlighted collusion on the international stage, hosting relatives of victims of state violence at the European Parliament.
"This booklet highlights Britain's dirty war in Ireland and the continuing impact it is having on families and the need for the British government to live up to its international responsibilities to deal with the legacy of the past.
"Sinn Féin will continue to support relatives of victims of collusion in their campaign for truth."
Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD raised concerns over the impending sale of part of Moore St battlefield site by NAMA in Leaders’ Questions today.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Minister on April 23rd 2014 on the eve of the 98th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the government announced that through NAMA they would invest €5million in refurbishing and restoring that section of Moore Street, 14-17, which has been designated as a National Monument.
“It was basically re-announced five months later when Minister Heather Humphries announced further funding to develop a commemorative centre on this the last outpost of the GHQ of the Army of the Irish Republic in 1916, and from where they treated with the British for surrender.
“You are aware that in a short six months, the 100th anniversary of that seminal period of Irish history will occur. The families of those who led or took part in that Rising have sought for this government to take the required steps, not only to secure 14-17 Moore Street, but to protect the entire battlefield site and to faithfully restore it all as a fitting tribute to those who raised the flag of the Irish almost 100 years ago.
“Minister, given that a loan portfolio called Project Jewel owned by the developer Joe O’Reilly’s Chartered Land is being sold as we speak by NAMA, which includes that area identified as being the battlefield site, would you and the government instruct Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to issue a direction before proceeding with any sale (under Section 14 of the NAMA Act), to the board of NAMA that it safeguard not only the presently designated national monument, but also the area surrounding it?
“How would it be in the interests of the Irish people, which NAMA and your government are meant to serve, to dispose in the way NAMA currently intends of this whole site - to highest bidder? This is a site identified by the National Museum as “the most important historic site in modern Irish history”.
“Minister, you said that it should be a fitting tribute next year. I don’t see how sending bulldozers onto Moore Street would be in anyway seen as a fitting tribute.”
Speaking at the Sinn Féin Budget 2016 launch Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald outlined a range of measures in the party’s proposals that will support families and their children, begin to address the cost childcare and education and put more resources into primary and secondary schools as well as supports for children with a disability.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“Over the last four and half years Fine Gael and Labour have fundamentally undermined supports and resources for families and their children across the public system. The cost of education and childcare has risen, whilst investment in frontline resources has fallen.
“Sinn Féin’s budget proposals for 2016 set out a number of measures that will support families and their children, begin to address the cost childcare and education and put more resources into primary and secondary schools as well as supports for children with a disability.
“We would reduce primary school class sizes, reverse cuts to the provision of guidance teachers in secondary schools and increase resource hours for children with special needs. All of these measures will improve outcomes in education for children for all ages and provide additional support for children who need it most.
“In addition we would reduce the third level contribution fee by €500 giving immediate relief to families who are struggling to meet the costs associated with putting their kids through university.
“Our budget also includes a number of measures that seek to extend the access of the existing free-preschool year and to begin to address the high costs of childcare. We would extend the free pre-school year by 10 weeks and provide an additional 1,000 SNAs to ensure parents of children with a special need can access the service.
“We would introduce two weeks paternity leave and introduce an additional 6 weeks maternity benefit that can be taken by either parent at the end of the existing 26 weeks leave. We would also increase the existing Child Benefit payment by €5 per child.
“By using the fiscal space available in Budget 2016 to prioritise an ambitious programme of investment in frontline services such as education, childcare and health Sinn Féin is putting families and their children first.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty today launched the party’s Budget 2016 document entitled ‘Delivering a Fair Recovery’ setting out a significant additional investment of €1.7bn in public services and €400m in capital expenditure.
Speaking at the launch the Donegal TD said:
“Sinn Féin has today set out an ambitious programme of investment in public services and capital investment whilst easing the taxation burden on workers and families.
“In Budget 2016 Sinn Féin will invest €1.7bn in public services and an additional €400m in capital infrastructure. We will stop water charges and abolish the family home tax. Our proposals include a net tax increase of €295m.
“Sinn Féin’s budget measures prioritise fair taxation and investment in public services. We believe the five percent who earn the most should contribute more, so that the necessary investments in critical frontline services can be made to the benefit of all.
“Over €30 billion has been taken out of the Irish economy during the recession and up to two thirds of this was through cuts to public spending. It is this slash and burn approach to public services by Labour and Fine Gael, and indeed Fianna Fáil before them, that left 319 people languishing on a hospital trolley yesterday and 12% of families with kids in one urban school are homeless.
“It is clear from Fine Gael and Labour inaction that the prolonged crises in housing and health are now Government policy and they intend to do little about either in the upcoming budget.
“Rebuilding the economy and delivering the recovery to all citizens will require a significant investment in public services targeted where need is most acute. Sinn Féin Budget 2016 proposals prioritise investment in health, education and childcare. That means more teachers, doctors, nurses and midwives. We will deliver 1,000 more Gardaí for our communities and undo some of the meanest cuts to social protection imposed by this government. We will invest €300m in social housing in 2016.
“Sinn Féin’s budget proposals also include measures to support and encourage small businesses and entrepreneurship and we call for the creation of a Border Economic development Zone to harmonise trade and to maximise the return for border businesses. We will introduce a tax credit of €500 for the self-employed and farmers and reduce the cost of education to parents by reducing the third level student contribution fee by €500 and increasing Child Benefit by €5 per child.
“Citizens and businesses alike need solutions that are not only fair but will ensure stability for the long-term. Fine Gael and Labour policies in Government are creating deep divisions in Irish society and a chronic lack of funding in current and capital expenditure is holding back the real recovery.”
Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has congratulated Glenarm on being voted the most beautiful small village in the world in an international competition.
Mr McMullan said,
“Glenarm won the International Challenge (Small) category in the Communities In Bloom contest during the 2015 National Symposium and Awards Ceremonies in Canada, beating off stiff competition from several countries.
“I would like to congratulate the people of Glenarm, especially the Glenarm Regeneration Strategy group on maintaining the village to the standard that has delivered them a global award.
“Glenarm is a beautiful historic coastal village nestled in the heart of the Glens with a river, forest, a restored marina and Glenarm Castle, which included an amazing walled garden.
“The Glenarm Regeneration Strategy has brought together partners including businesses, residents and industry to transform the village.
"The work included adding limestone seating, clearing industrial spaces, tidying the cemetery and cleaning up the riverbank and walkways.
“It is now important we build upon this success and use it to promote the Glens for tourism and maximise the potential of the natural beauty on our doorstep.”
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has published legislation that would introduce a Sentencing Council in this State.
A Sentencing Council already operates in England and Wales and provides sentencing guidelines to the judiciary. This has ensured that sentences handed out for criminal offences in their courts are consistent and accountable across the board.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:
“Concern has arisen over recent years about the perceived inconsistency of sentencing in our courts. Of particular concern and controversy have been some sentences handed out for sexual offences.
“Sinn Féin has examined the Sentencing Council model in place in England and Wales for some time and we believe that this model of consistency and accountability should be introduced in this State”.
“A key strength of the Sentencing Council model is that it involves a range of key stakeholders such as victim support groups, academics, senior police officers, senior parole officers, and the wider public in the process of establishing sentencing guidelines for the judiciary.
“As members of the Judiciary are the majority members of the Sentencing Council and a senior member of the judiciary chairs the Council, they are still central to the process.
“However, the sentencing guidelines issued ensure that the judiciary must stick to the range provided for the category of offence before them. They must also clearly indicate why they have sentenced an offender within that range, taking into consideration the impact on the victim and the blameworthiness of the offender. This ensures consistency and accountability across the court system and across the State.”
“Similar to the Sentencing Council in England and Wales, the Sentencing Council we are proposing for this State would
Develop sentencing guidelines and monitor their use;
Assess the impact of guidelines on sentencing practice. It may also be required to consider the impact of policy and legislative proposals relating to sentencing, when requested by the Government; and
Promote awareness amongst the public regarding the realities of sentencing and publishing information regarding sentencing practice in our court system.
Consider the impact of sentencing decisions on victims;
Monitor the application of the guidelines, better to predict the effect of them; and
Play a greater part in promoting understanding of and increasing public confidence in, sentencing and the criminal justice system.”
Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has welcomed the decision by Lidl supermarkets to reverse their decision and include employees in the North in their pay increase to meet the Living Wage Foundations recommendations.
Mr Flanagan said,
“While Lidl has to be commended for the introduction of a Living Wage Foundation recommendation of £8.20 per hour, it was disappointing that workers employed by Lidl here were not originally included.
“A rate of £8.20 per hour is the basic rate of pay required for a worker to be able to have a decent standard of living. The poverty rate proposed by the British Tory party of £6.70 falls well short of that and the perilous situation for under 25s is absolutely scandalous.
“I welcome the decision by Lidl to now reconsider that position and bring equality to all its employees.
“As the cost of living in the North is higher than that of England, Scotland and Wales it is important that companies don’t see workers here as different to their employees in Britain.
“This u-turn by Lidl highlights the positive benefits that trade union membership can bring for workers in the private sector and I commend Unite the Union for the efforts in dealing with this issue for retail workers. I will continue to support workers and campaign for more companies to pay their workers a proper living wage.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has welcomed the launch of the second tranche of the micro rural grants scheme.
Speaking after DARD Minister Michelle O'Neill announced the funding, Ms Anderson said,
"I have met many of the recipients of the last round of funding, rolled out earlier this year and therefore I am thrilled that the Minister has announced a second round of funding this afternoon.
"Similar to the previous funding, the £1,500 available per application is intended to encourage rural community and voluntary groups to improve and develop their facilities and assets.
"Over 150 rural community organisations directly benefited from the last round of grants and having met with some of them, I have witnessed how this contributes to improved engagement for community and voluntary groups as well as rural clubs and also improves the lives of those living in rural areas.
A substitute on the European Committee on Regional Development, Ms Anderson continues,"My party colleague Michelle O'Neill has shown genuine commitment and dedication to her Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation framework, which aims to help the most vulnerable rural dwellers facing poverty and isolation.
"The Minister has really taken action to ensure the needs of those in rural areas are catered for.
"I encourage all rural community groups and clubs to take advantage of this opportunity and to get ahead in building rural communities. Those interested in applying should contact my office on Spencer Road, Derry." ENDS
Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin, has welcomed the confirmation by the European Commission that the Irish government is free to use the Youth Employment Initiative funds available to cover the cost of fees currently being paid by young people in apprenticeships. The Commission further stated that the Irish situation of forcing apprentices to pay their own education fees was unusual.
Speaking from Strasbourg, Ms Boylan said:
“The introduction by the Irish Government in the 2014 Budget of fees for apprentices has exacerbated youth unemployment in this state. It discourages young people from taking up apprenticeships in a state with 21% youth unemployment. No other Member State in the European Union imposes a tax on training.
“This fee annually brings in a mere €1.6 million to government coffers, but to individual apprentices it is crippling and is pushing many out of their apprenticeships and is deterring others from taking one up.
“The Youth Employment Initiative has reserved €68 million for Ireland. I wrote to the European Commission to ask if it would recommend that the Irish Government to use the Youth Employment Initiative funds to fill the €1.6 million gap to ensure that apprentices are not charged exorbitant fees to complete their training
“In its response to my question, the Commission has confirmed that the Irish Government’s system is unusual, saying off-the-job education in vocational schools across the EU is ‘most often’ free.
“The Commission also confirmed that the Irish Government is free to include the apprenticeship fees in its use of the Youth Employment Initiative.
“This fee should never have been introduced in the first place and I am calling on the government to axe it in this year’s budget.
“The Commission’s response demonstrates that the onus is firmly on the Irish Government to decide how to use these funds.
“It is now clear beyond doubt that funding the apprenticeship fees from the Youth Employment Initiative funds is a viable option that could make a real difference to youth unemployment in this state by removing a barrier to young people taking up apprenticeships.
“The practical impact of the government’s stance on this issue is evidenced by its approach to the housing crisis. The government appears to be unwilling to begin a programme of much needed social housing, when it does choose to react who will build these houses? Discouraging young people from taking up apprenticeships with these fees indicates the government’s lack of a joined up approach to the housing crisis.”
Sinn Féin TD and Spokesperson for Children Sandra McLellan has described the amount promised to childcare services in the capital spend plan as ‘a pittance’. The Cork East deputy has recalled the government’s desire to institute the Scandinavian model of childcare, which contrasts strongly with the level of funding committed to the area.
Deputy McLellan said:
“There would appear to be a lack of investment in childcare, given the public outcry for better facilities and access in this regard. €11 million a year in early years and youth projects is pittance when looked at from an outside perspective and demonstrates a lack of will to invest in the youth of today.
“From listening to a number of my constituents of Cork East along with a number of stakeholders, early intervention is the way forward. A proactive approach is needed; rather than the reactive one which this government seems to support. Substantial investment is needed in the youth work sector. The work that these people carry out is invaluable and they need to be supported in their endeavours. Most of these workers get by with very limited resources on a daily basis and still produce results when their hands are effectively tied.
“The €136 million being invested in our countries children is merely a token gesture over the course of the 5 years proposed. It’s quite simply a drop in the ocean when analysed and broken down. If the Government are truly serious about childcare infrastructure, and the aspirations towards the Scandinavian model, then why allocate so little?”
Speaking in the Dáil this evening, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD, said that the while the plans for additional school builds are to be welcomed, there are huge questions to be asked about the detail of it.
The Cork North Central deputy said:
“Improvements in these areas are badly needed but this Capital Investment Plan is a decent example of stroke politics that this Government said they were doing away with.
“The plan is vague on the actual detail of the plan across many departments for the very simple reason that Government Ministers want to be able to drip feed what they perceive to be good news stories in advance of the election.
“We still have thousands of students being educated in prefabs.
“Where are the schools going to go? Will it be in the constituencies of Government Ministers? It probably will, but we won’t know until next month when they conveniently announce the details of the new school build programme in the run up to a general election.
“Overall the plan is vague on detail and the same auction politics we’ve seen from Fianna Fáil, the Greens and the PDs in the past and we are of the view that a fairer recovery than this is possible.”