West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty says that plans to cut and privatise up to 5,900 Civil Service jobs through the so-called reform agenda "Fit for Purpose" represents the latest drive by the Direct Rule Administration to slash public expenditure in the six counties.
Mr Doherty said,
"Just like drive to impose unjust Water Charges, to increase domestic rates and to abolish industrial de-rating, this is but the latest attempt by the Direct Rule Administration to exploit the suspension in the institutions to claw back as much money as possible for the British Exchequer.
"The Direct Rule Administration is attempting to steam roll through a programme of increased revenue gathering measures along with cuts in public expenditure and a privatisation agenda regardless of the detrimental economic and social consequences for the people of the six counties.
"Fit for Purpose recommends the implementation of 2,300 direct job cuts by 2007/8. As Departments have given no details as to where these proposed cuts are to be made, it appears that this figure has been arrived at in a completely arbitrary fashion.
"There is also a recommendation to transfer another 2,600 jobs from the Water Service (DRD) and the Science Service (DARD) out of the Civil Service to new Government Company and a new non-departmental public body respectively. Members in these areas are being threatened with compulsory transfer to the new organisations with the loss of civil service employment, promotion and career opportunities. Another 1,000 Civil Servants are to be redeployed within the Civil Service. In all likelihood, there would be further major job losses and privatisation once the transfer and redeployment processes have been completed.
"All and all, the "Fit for Purpose" proposals to cut and privatise 5,900 Civil Service jobs would be disastrous- not only for those workers who find themselves in the firing line but also because of the severe impact this would have on the ability of remaining workers to deliver front line public services.
"These draconian proposals must be seen in the wider context of a Direct Rule Administration hell bent on achieving it's objective of reducing even further the British Exchequer's Block Grant to the Six Counties through the already unfair Barnett Formula.
"Therefore the proposed cuts in "Fit for Purpose" must be opposed as vigorously as the attempted imposition of Water Charges and inflated domestic rates.
"The entire community must unite to fight this Thatcherite onslaught by the Direct Rule Administration and we must demand the delivery of the much vaunted "Peace Dividend" that we were promised at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
"The people of the six counties cannot be expected to pay either directly, or through the decimation of our public services, for the British government's neglect and lack of investment in our infrastructure during the long years of Direct Rule. ENDS
Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin speaking after meeting British NIO Minster John Speller has said that since the new electoral legislation was introduced in May 2002 that almost 200,000 people have been removed from the electoral register and that this has damaged the electoral process.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"Since the new electoral legislation was introduced in May 2002 almost 200,000 people have been removed from the electoral register. This has damaged the electoral process. Year after year, in election after election increasing numbers of people, who are eligible to vote, are having their fundamental democratic rights denied.
"Sinn Féin's primary focus has been to bring about changes to the legislation that will make it easier for people to register and to reverse the downward trend. We have suggested a number of ways that this could be done. These include:
"The Electoral Office has now decided to make more registration forms available but while this is welcome it falls far short of what is required. It is clear that the pattern of decline in the numbers on the electoral register has been not been addressed by the annual registration drive or the rolling registration procedure organised by the Electoral Office. As highlighted in the recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers Report commissioned by the Electoral Office 'unless [this] is rectified, the downward trend in the Register has the potential of embedding itself structurally in the registration process'.
"Sinn Fein believe that this downward trend has been embedded in the registration process and that only legislative change will rectify the situation. The result has been discrimination on a massive scale. This is unacceptable. People's democratic rights must be restored." ENDS
Sinn Féin President, West Belfast MP Gerry Adams and local councillor Tom Hartley have condemned the attack on a Philippine couple in the Violet Street area of West Belfast.
Cllr Tom Hartley said:
"This attack is a disgrace. It has left a family very frightened.
"To the family affected I want to say that the community support you 100%. To those who carried out this attack I want to say - your actions have absolutely no support within this community.
"The ethnic minority community are part of the fabric of our society. Particularly here in West Belfast there is widespread appreciation of the contribution that the Philippine make both to the local community and importantly to the health service.
Gerry Adams said:
"This is a despicable attack.
"I call on those involved to stop immediately. I would also appeal to the wider community to defend the rights, the safety and the dignity of those members of our community who are vulnerable to such appalling attacks.
"I also know that condemning racist attacks is not enough. We need to actively work for the removal of racism from our society. This requires action as much as words. I know that Sinn Féin representatives and activists will work to tackle racism, whatever quarter it comes from." ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking after meeting officials from DARD has said that the removal of the Over Thirty Months Scheme must take place within a timeframe close to the ending of the Beef Ban.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The removal of the OTMS without the ending of the Beef Ban would cause considerable problems for the industry. Not only would there be serious problems in finding a market for this product because the Beef Ban restricts the export of beef but also because the UK restricts beef of over thirty months.
"It is also clear that while any progress in gaining regional status would have some benefits, the UK would continue to exclude our OTMS beef.
"This demands a clear plan of action to remove the Beef Ban.
"The European Food Safety Authority are fairly happy with the protocols on traceability and the testing of animals which are in place here. They are also content that the risk associated with beef from the North is about the same from other European countries.
"The biggest difficulties come from widespread criticisms of the UK testing regime, particularly from the European Food & Veterinary Office (FVO). However their report gives the North a fairly clean bill of health. Both The Food Safety Authority and the European FSA are content with our testing and monitoring.
"Yet the Department of Health believe that the risks are still too high within the UK. The Chief Medical officers have some concerns based on UK risk analysis and the testing regime. They believe that the comparative sample taken in the North compared to the amount of animals tested within the UK is too low. This means that we need to ensure that a wider sample is taken.
"To meet any concerns about the sampling it is vital that the Six Counties has the required capacity in place to test animals over thirty months.
"Clearly handing over control of the testing to the Food Safety Authority is also something which should also be looked at.
"Because of the poor compliance in the UK we will have to put our own case forward for the removal of the OTMS scheme and the lifting of the Beef ban on a regional basis. While it could take the UK anything up to 2 years before they have all the necessary measures in place I believe that we could put in place a strategy for progress within a much shorter timeframe." ENDS
The leader of the Sinn Féin grouping on Craigavon Borough Council has welcomed plans by community groups in the area to hold a protest at Craigavon Civic Centre against attempts by Unionist councillors to push through a massive £4.75 million upgrade and extension of the centre.
Commenting on these plans Mr O'Dowd said:
"With the proposed Review of Public Administration presently underway, the direct-rule minister in charge of the Review, recently advised all councils in the North not to embark upon any plans which could entail major expenditure. Obviously the logic behind that advice was based on the fact that the number of councils could well be cut from the current twenty-six down to possibly single figures.
"Now we have a situation where Unionists want to spend over four million pounds of ratepayers' money on proposed works at the Civic Centre. The bulk of this proposed expenditure is totally unnecessary. I believe the only essential work that should be carried is that in relation to disability access.
"Unionists, on the other hand, want to embark upon a course of action which will mean the Council having to borrow at least £2.75 million and sell off at least £1 million of Council-owned property.
"Even the proposed new toilet block and associated works within the Civic Centre is going to cost at least £1.3 million pounds which is extravagant to say the least. All this is coming at a time when we are already facing a potential rates rise of over 10% and I am sure that most ratepayers would question the wisdom of this additional expense." ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast and party spokesperson on poverty, Kathy Stanton, has said that the figures released today from the Save the Children indicating that over 32,000 children in the north of Ireand are living in severe poverty are extremely worrying and urgent attention is needed.
Speaking today Ms Stanton said:
"These figures indicate that the current systems for protecting children and eliminating poverty such as the NAPS, signed up to by the British Government, have failed to date. There is not enough emphasis or attention given to this vital issue and today's figures dramatically highlight this.
"To have over 32,000 children living with the effects of poverty is unacceptable and will have a severe effect both on their development and on their potential futures.
"Urgent attention is needed for those most vulnerable in our society such as families who are unemployed or single parents.
"Strategies need to address the social exclusion that can evidently occur to both parents and children who are experiencing high levels of poverty and should include, at the very least, meaningful employment and training opportunities for parents matched with substantial care provision for children in the home, in schools and in social environments.
"There is no justice in sitting by and letting our children continue to live in these severely negative conditions." ENDS
Note to Editor: Sinn Féin MEP Barbre de Brun along with the MLA for North Belfast and party spokeperson on Poverty and Development Kathy Stanton will be meeting with the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network at 12:00pm on the Tuesday the 2nd of November at the North Belfast Constituency Office at 291 Antrim Road and will be available to speak to the media at 12:30pm.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has urged the Irish government to "take immediate and urgent steps to encourage the international community to tackle head-on and effectively the humanitarian crisis in Darfur".
The Sinn Féin leader criticised the 'ineffectual response" particularly of the EU and the UN to the campaign of mass murder and terror orchestrated by the Sudanese government.
Mr. Adams said:
"For almost two years the Sudanese government, through its surrogates in the Janjaweed militia, has waged a brutal war against the people of the Darfur region. Mass murder, destruction of villages, food and livestock, and irrigation systems has been tolerated by the international community. 50,000 have died and 1.2 million people were driven from their homes and into hurriedly erected camps, ill-equipped to deal with even their basic needs.
"The UN has proven ineffectual in influencing the Sudanese government or brining an end to the behaviour of the Janjaweed. The resolutions passed by the UN reflect the economic self-interests of key members of the security council rather than the humanitarian needs of the people of Darfur.
"The Darfur crisis highlights again the need for a fundamental restructuring of the UN.
"Too often in recent years governments have violated human rights while the world stands by. The usual platitudes of shock and horror, and concern have been made but no action taken to challenge the governments involved.
"With an estimated 6-10,000 people dying each month in the Darfur region significant and urgent action is needed.
"The Irish government should use its international good standing, diplomatic resources and political influences and take the lead in pushing the international community, especially the EU and UN, toward a substantial involvement which will quickly alleviate the suffering of the people of that region." ENDS
South Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Alex Maskey has welcomed the opening of a fold for elderly Chinese people which opened in the Markets area over the weekend.
Mr Maskey said:
" This ambitious project has come about because of good work between local community representatives, the residents of the Markets, the Chinese community in Belfast and the statutory bodies.
" The opening of the new fold is an important part of developing the entire Markets district and securing the future of this small inner city community. At a time when the headlines are rightly dominated by the upsurge in racist attacks in the city this project and the manner in which it has come about should serve as an example to others.
" It is my firm belief that this partnership between the Chinese community and the local residents will grow even stronger in the coming years as another unique culture and tradition begins to influence and put its own stamp on this part of the city." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will travel to the US for six days later this week where he will meet with senior Congress members, Senators and Governors and with Irish American organisations to update them on the ongoing efforts to end the impasse in the peace process. He will also attend a number of functions organised by Friends of Sinn Féin.
Speaking prior to the trip a Sinn Féin spokesperson said:
"The US continues to be a vital component in securing the peace process and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Mr. Adams will be taking the opportunity to urge all those in the US to continue to play this important role." ENDS
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin will lead a party delegation to meet with the British Direct Rule Minister John Spellar to discuss the current situation regarding the Electoral Register.
The meeting will take place at 2pm at Castle Buildings and the delegation is available to speak to the media.
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty today said that recent moves by the DUP indicate that they appear to be moving backwards away from a deal based on power sharing, equality and respect.
Mr Doherty said:
"Last week in Castlereagh Council the DUP Deputy leader Peter Robinson sent a very clear message to all of us that the DUP have not yet made the transition from a party seeking domination and power to a party comfortable with equality and power sharing.
"This was followed up by a statement from Gregory Campbell indicating that the DUP were still locked onto their ant-Agreement agenda. The DUP claim to be democrats, yet they continue to ignore the reality that the vast majority of people on this island support the Good Friday Agreement.
"If a deal is to be done it will only be done on the basis of the framework laid out in the Good Friday Agreement. There can be no other way.
"Recent actions and comments from the DUP seem to indicate that they are backing away from such a deal, uncomfortable with the core fundamentals and principles which underpin the Agreement and the process of change which flows from it." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP joined the weekend anti-racism rally at Belfast City Hall organised by the Anti Racism Network and Chinese Welfare Association. Speaking from the event Mr Adams said that all of those in political leadership had 'a duty to stand up against the racists and the bigots who were bring terror to the ethnic minority communities in the city'.
Mr Adams said:
"On countless occasions in the past I have joined rallies in this city to demand Human Rights and Civil Rights. Today's event is no different. The ethnic minority community in this city are part of our fabric and they must be defended and protected. Their rights as citizens must be upheld and they must be allowed to live their lives in peace without the threat of racist attack or abuse.
"All of us in political leadership in this city have a duty and an obligation to stand up against the racists and the bigots who have been engaged in an organised campaign of intimidation against ethnic minority communities in this city.
"Racist attacks are unfortunately an almost daily reality and I would call on those involved to desist immediately. I would also appeal to the wider community to defend the rights, the safety and the dignity of those members of our community who are vulnerable to such appalling attacks.
"Racism extends far beyond such violent attacks. Members of ethnic minority communities experience a whole series of inequalities in our society, ranging from verbal and physical abuse to discrimination in employment, education, health provision, and public life more generally.
"Condemning racist attacks is not enough. We need to actively work for the removal of racism from our society. This requires action as much as words. It requires adequate resourcing and support for ethnic minority communities and their support groups. And it requires meaningful partnerships between all sections of society.
"Today's rally must not be the end, it must be the start of us confronting and tackling racism and sectarianism from whatever quarter. I commend the Anti-Racist Network and Chinese Welfare Association and all who have worked with them and pledge the continuing support of Sinn Féin representatives and activists to tackle the issue of racism in the time ahead." ENDS
Sinn Fein Councillor for North Belfast, Carál Ni Chuilín, has slammed the actions of the PSNI. This follows the PSNI entering the home of a woman who had died at 2am last night and questioning a son for twenty minutes in the back of a jeep about the mothers background.
Speaking today Cllr Ni Chuilín said:
"What the PSNI did today is completely inexcusable. The McNally family have just lost their mother to cancer last night and to have the PSNI enter the house and claim that it was the scene of a crime and proceed to question one of Mrs McNally's sons for twenty minutes is unbelievable.
"This is a family who will be suffering enough at this time of loss and to have the PSNI enter the family home armed with automatic rifles is surely not a practice that would happen anywhere else.
"I will be advising the McNally family to contact the office of the Police Ombudsman and their solicitors. This cannot be allowed to happen again to any other family. It also raises serious question on what is the practice and procedure of the PSNI in a so-called new beginning for policing." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Christy Burke has called on Dublin City Council to back a Sinn Féin proposal to erect a statue to the memory of legendary singer/song writer Luke Kelly. Cllr Burke said that the erection of a statue to Luke Kelly would be 'a fitting tribute to one of the city's most popular and respected sons'.
Speaking today Cllr Burke said:
"Sinn Féin has submitted a motion to the Dublin City Council calling for a monument to be erected to the memory of Luke Kelly, to be situated either in the north inner city or the docklands area. It is coming up to the 20th anniversary of the passing of Luke, and I believe that this would be a fitting tribute to one of this city's most popular and respected sons.
"I am calling on other Councillors to support this motion at the City Council meeting in November. I believe that the people of Dublin would also endorse this endeavour, we should be celebrating such a famous son, through his music and songs and a fitting monument to his lifes work."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has urged people to attend this Saturday's rally outside the City Hall protesting against the rise of racism in the city.
Speaking in advance of the rally Mr Adams said:
"It is important that people from across Belfast and beyond come out in numbers to make it clear to the racists behind the recent wave of attacks on ethnic minorities within the city that their actions are wrong and that they must stop immediately.
"The ethnic minority community in this city are part of the fabric of our society and must be defended and protected. The rights and entitlements of all citizens must be upheld and all people must be allowed to live their lives in peace without the threat of racist attack or abuse.
"All of us in political leadership in this city have a duty and an obligation to stand up against the racists and the bigots who have been engaged in an organised campaign of intimidation against ethnic minority communities in this city and elsewhere.
"This event is part of confronting and tackling racism and sectarianism from whatever quarter. I commend the Anti-Racist Network and Chinese Welfare Association and all who have worked with them and pledge the continuing support of Sinn Féin representatives and activists to tackle the issue of racism in the time ahead." ENDS
The Dáil will next week debate a motion from the Sinn Féin TDs calling on the Government to put in place comprehensive childcare services and to extend paid maternity and paternity leave for working parents. The motion also highlights the long delays being experienced by community crèches in receiving capital grants from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which is responsible for childcare.
"Childcare is clearly not a priority for Minister McDowell and should be taken out of his hands", said Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.
Publishing the motion today he said, "The Government's failure to put in place comprehensive childcare services is a cause of hardship for children and parents and a real obstacle to the development of the economy. Women are being prevented from entering the workforce, education and training and as a result our society and our economy are losing out. In fact the whole economy and its potential for further development is being undermined by the lack of childcare.
"Childcare places are in short supply and are unaffordable for many parents. The services are not properly co-ordinated and the quality of childcare varies widely. People in disadvantaged communities are especially badly effected. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is nominally responsible but this is clearly not a priority for Minister McDowell.
"Sinn Féin is calling for an immediate reversal of this Government's cutting of the Creche Supplement and VTOS childcare supports. We are also calling for extended maternity and paternity leave. We want to see a comprehensive system put in place which allows parents who wish to do so to enter the workforce, education or training and to be assured of quality care for their children."
Sinn Féin Employment and Learning Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson has said that variable deferred fees will damage access to Further Education after the announcement of the consultation on draft legislation.
Mr Ferguson said:
"This proposed legislation is based on the idea that the Higher Education System is a market place but the argument that education and investment in higher education must mirror economic production is far from universally accepted as good international. The University Campus is a learning place not a market place.
"The reality is that this draft legislation sends the clearest signal that the government has abdicated responsibility for Higher Education.
"The proposed deferral of educational costs until the student is earning a minimum will act as a barrier to higher education. Studies into the impact of fees and access to third level education from the United States, Australia, Canada and the BMA show that fees exacerbate inequalities in access, with a particular decline in the number of students from low income, rural, isolated and marginalised communities. This is unacceptable. The cost should be met, in a society committed change and equality, through a progressive taxation.
"It is clear that Queens and Ulster will apply the maximum £3000 per year from 2006. Based on this people studying for three years will face debt of over £34,000. This will create huge barriers to participation in third level education.
"This will weaken the diverse mix and quality of people able to afford to go to college, and also undermine the quality of our graduates, our research and the contribution universities and their students make to our economy and the fabric of life. It is totally unacceptable that the ability to pay would become the benchmark for accessing educational opportunity.
"Top up fees will also damage our Health service. Over the next decade staff shortages will get more serious unless we begin training more staff across all parts of our health service. We need more people from a working class background coming into the health professions not less. Rather than opening up access to our staff starved health service top up fees will discourage people from making the long-term financial commitment to our health service." ENDS
Note to Editors
The introduction of tuition fees in 1998 led to a 9.5% decrease in applications from people from socio-economic groups IV and V between 1997 and 2001 across all courses.
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has welcomed indications that the new entrants scheme will be responsive towards the needs of smaller farmers.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The department has now outlined the parameters of the New Entrants Scheme. I welcome that it appears that the scheme will be responsive to the needs of smaller farmers.
"New entrant must come up with a project, these must be viable and the lending institution will be the main decision maker in whether or not the project will be acceptable. DARD will then meet interest repayments of up £15,000 will on any loan for any farm holding with a 0.5 livestock unit.
"This means that any farmer participating in the scheme can be part-time or full-time and the income of part-time farmers can be taken into account along with their spouse. This should build greater flexibility into the scheme and with appropriate support create the scope for development of non farming economic activities.
"It is also important that any deposit taker is classified as a lending institution. His again gives greater opportunity to prospective new entrants.
"New entrants with enthusiasm and new ideas coming into the farming industry are vital not just to the industry but also to the future of our rural economy and communities. There are many challenges facing our rural communities and it is important that we do everything possible to both keep young people living in rural communities and provide good opportunities to bring even more young people and young families into the countryside." ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that money must be found to ensure that Wet Weather Payments for 2002 are made, at least to those areas that were affected the most and that have the greatest need.
Ms Gildernew said:
"It is clear that the decision on aid is close. However, it is clearly difficult to prove case as grass damage and feedstuff purchases figures have been very difficult to compile.
"As this is purely a case of direct state aid it is clear that the Department of Finance will have to find the £4 million required.
"However, it is also clear that Brussels would rather allow parts of the North assistance rather than the whole area.
"This demands that areas that were worst affected by the wet weather in 2002 and those areas in greatest need are prioritised. Yet despite the Department of Finance being sceptical about finding the required finance so long after the event, it is clear that these are commitments that must be met." ENDS
Sinn Fein National Chairperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has said that the refusal of the DUP, including its Deputy Leader, Peter Robinson, to accept power sharing on Castlereagh council last night provides absolute evidence of the need for the cross-community safeguards and the power sharing requirements of the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"Over recent weeks Sinn Fein have been involved in intensive discussions in a focussed effort to break the log-jam and see the political institutions put back in place and the outstanding aspects of the GFA implemented.
"During that period it has become increasingly clear that, contrary to some positive posturing, that the DUP remain fundamentally opposed to the power-sharing and all-Ireland core of the Good Friday Agreement. The rejectionist demands of the DUP are now the primary obstacle to a comprehensive agreement.
"Last night the DUP Deputy Leader illustrated this in his outright rejection of power sharing in Castlereagh Council. Here was an opportunity for the DUP to show some generosity and imagination. Instead we saw the domination, intolerance and exclusion which have characterised Paisleyism over the past 3 decades.
"Sinn Fein is not prepared to countenance any dilution or erosion of the Good Friday Agreement - and that remains the objective of the DUP and therein lies the explanation for the current impasse.
"The two governments need to understand that there is no middle line between the protection of the Agreement and the destruction of the Agreement which the DUP seeks. It is the responsibility of the governments to defend the core fundamentals and principles of the Agreement and to make it clear that they cannot be changed.
"If the DUP do not accept this reality then the pro-Agreement parties, including the two governments, need to move on. The DUP cannot be allowed to paralyse the process of change." ENDS