Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Latest Statements

Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP, the party's Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness, Catriona Ruane MLA, Gerry Kelly MLA, Ard Chomhairle member Councillor Joe Reilly and Michelle Gildernew MP will meet the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street tomorrow morning. The key issue under discussion will be demilitarisation and the need for an immediate accelerated programme to accomplish this. The British Prime Minister will be accompanied by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde.

Speaking tonight Sinn Fein Party Chairperson Mitchel Mclaughlin said:

"There are a number of matters which need to be resolved in the current negotiations. One of these is the key issue of demilitarisation.

"Sinn Fein has consistently argued that there is a need for an immediate and accelerated programme of demilitarisation. This is a vital part of the peace process and part of the unfinished work of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It is time for the British government to move speedily to deal with this matter. It is a critical issue for nationalist Ireland.

"Previously Mr. Blair has told us that the responsibility for demilitarisation rests with the Chief Constable. Sinn Féin is meeting him with Mr. Blair in order to press the case for an end to the military occupation in republican heartlands and to test his commitment to bring this about. There will be no discussion on policing issues at tomorrows meeting." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Equality, Human Rights and Women's spokesperson, South Down MLA Catriona Ruane has said that the British government give Human Rights Commission greater powers after the United Nations Committee against Torture called on the British government to provide the Human Rights Commission with the powers to enter places of detention.

Ms Ruane said:

"The British government should immediately comply with the recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture and provide the Human Rights Commission with the right to access prisons and other places of detention where vulnerable groups are contained.

"It has been our consistent view since the Human Rights Commission was established under the Good Friday Agreement that the lack of powers, particularly investigative powers has deliberately obstructed the Commission's work. We have argued this point on behalf of the Commission in negotiations with the British government. Without such powers vulnerable individuals and groups - such as women prisoners being held in Hydebank in unsuitable conditions that breach their rights or those in juvenile justice centres or the mentally ill - cannot be independently assessed or accessed by the Human Rights Commission.

"The fact that the UN Committee against Torture has criticised the failure of the British government to provide the Human Rights Commission with appropriate powers is a very positive and timely move. Its voice, as an international human rights watchdog should be listened to and, as a matter of urgency, fully complied with in the interests of those in our society who need their human rights protected."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEPs Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald will hold a press conference tomorrow (Monday 29th November) along with families of those killed by the British State through their policy of collusion.

The press conference will announce details of a lobbying trip to Brussels by over 70 families in early December.

The press conference will take place in the Culturlann, Falls Road at 11am.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this evening spoke to US President George Bush.

Mr. Adams said:

"I thanked President Bush for his interest. I briefed the President on Sinn Féin's two objectives in the current negotiations. These are to get the DUP on board for an agreement and to ensure that the British government's position remains faithful to the powersharing, equality based and all-Ireland institutions contained in the Good Friday Agreement.

"I told him that we may need the help of the White House to deliver these requirements.

"Irish America, the Bush administration and the previous Clinton administration have been very helpful throughout the peace process. We look forward to a continuation of the positive involvement of the US in the Irish peace process."ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for Meath Councillor Joe Reilly has described the decision to route the M3 through the Tara and Skryne valley as misguided and called for it to be overturned. He said "Even at this late stage I would call on the Department and the Minister to display some common sense and proceed with the delayed Dunshaughlin, Kells and Navan bypasses as a matter of urgency and start to deal with the traffic chaos being endured by the people of Meath and Cavan every day" Councillor Reilly is attending a protest in Dublin against the proposed route of the M3 through the Tara and Skryne valley.

Councillor Reilly said:

"No matter how much the Minister for Transport and the NRA play down the impact of the proposed routing on the archaeological heritage of the Tara-Skryne valley, the evidence contradicts these assertions. Archaeological test trenching proved that there are many more archaeological sites on the route of the proposed motorway than initially claimed. Eminent archaeological experts from Ireland and abroad have testified to the archaeological importance of the Tara/Skryne valley and have spoken about their dismay at the proposed routing of the motorway.

"The Government got itself into this mess because it did not consult adequately with local communities or elected representatives. It should have learnt by now that taking time to consult in the initial stages saves time and money in the long run. The case has been made by many of those campaigning against the proposed route of the M3 that there are viable and realistic alternatives where both infrastructure and heritage can be accommodated. The single 64 kilometre construction contract for the M3 should be broken up into a number of contracts to ensure work on the bypasses and non-contentious sections of the route would not be further affected by archaeological concerns and delays in the Dunshaughlin to Navan section. The people of Meath and Cavan should not be forced to endure the current levels of traffic congestion because of the delays to one section of the proposed motorway. The best way to address the appalling congestion problems we have heard about is to proceed immediately with the work on the bypasses.

"Commuters are irate that despite the fact that Meath County Council approved a plan for a bypass of Kells in 1999, nothing has happened to date. Public transport in County Meath is seriously underdeveloped. As well as proceeding immediately with the construction of the bypasses, the Government must commit the necessary funding for the reopening of a rail link from Dublin to Navan. Traffic congestion is inevitable in the absence of proper public transport alternatives. Navan is one of the fastest growing towns in the State and a commuter rail service is vital and would make environmental sense.

"It is proposed that this motorway should be constructed by way of public private partnership and should be tolled. The Government arbitrarily upgraded the road, which was to have been a dual carriageway, to motorway status just to apply a toll. Sinn Féin is opposed to PPPs as a method of infrastructure delivery. They do not make long-term economic sense and cost the State more in the long run. Road tolls are an additional stealth tax on motorists and the consequences of tolling this route for a person who lives in Cavan and travels to the southside of Dublin is that he will be ripped off three times - once between Cavan and Navan, a second time between Navan and Dublin and a third time by the Department's modern day highway men who are waiting to fleece him yet again on the M50 toll bridge."ENDS

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Sinn Féin will hold a Press Conference on Monday, 29 November to announce details of the party‚s alternatives to increased Bin Charges which have been included in the City Council estimates for 2005.

Sinn Fein Councillors have proposed a number of revenue raising alternatives to the deeply unpopular charges which have been increased by up to 75% in the proposed estimates.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh and Councillors Dessie Ellis and Daithi Doolan will be in attendance.

The Press Conference takes place Monday 29th November in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street at 11am.

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Sinn Féin economy spokesperson, national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has said that the latest figures on Research and Development (R&D) expenditure showing an almost 7% drop demands government led action.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"While it is welcomed to see greater investment by the universities and greater numbers of people employed in Research and Development there is no escaping the consequences of an overall 6.6% decrease in R&D expenditure.

"The fact that there is a fall of £40 million in R&D within the business sector, particularly within manufacturing should send out a very serious warning to government that there is a sustained drift away from investment in these key areas in R&D. There needs to be a coherent strategic focus on how business is supported and encouraged to invest more in R&D.

"The future economic success of the economy demands that there is greater government led action to ensure that innovation can be developed and fully realised, particularly within indigenous businesses and within the manufacturing sector.

"Government has a vital role to play in ensuring that there is a greater investment in R&D. This requires a more flexible approach to the needs to all businesses and in particular a real examination of fiscal flexibility and the potential of targeted tax breaks linked to R&D." ENDS

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Sinn Féin candidate in the upcoming uduras na gaeltachta, Grainne Mhic Géidigh, has today challenged the taoiseach to address the unemployment crisis in Donegal.

Grainne challenged the taoisecah while he was here on a visit to the county and handed him a letter of protest which drew particular attention to the fact that none of the decentralised job that were promised to the county last year will not materialise until al least 5 years time if ever.

COPY OF LETTER HANDED TO THE TAOISEACH

An Taoiseach,

We would like to protest in the strongest terms about the continual failure of the Government that you lead to tackle the jobs crisis in Donegal. It is estimated that over the last 8 years, we have lost in the region of 5,000 jobs in the textile industry alone in this county. These job losses have been felt in almost every town, village, and parish from Malin Head to Ballyshannon and from Lifford to Gweedore.

It is now six years since your colleague Mary Harney established the Donegal Employment Initiative or "Task Force" following the initial job losses at Fruit of the Loom in 1998. The Task Force report set job creation targets of 815 net gains per year for the following seven years. Those targets are now a distant memory. Since then we have seen more and more job losses in every corner of Donegal.

The unemployment rate in Donegal at 16% is around 4 times the national average. Hopelessness and despair has begun to seep in to our communities. Taoiseach, we urge you to grasp the extent of the jobs crisis in our county and show leadership and vision. We in Donegal Sinn Féin are willing to play our part in whatever strategy is agreed. What is clear, however, is that the present job creation strategies have been a dismal failure and new ideas and real action are now absolutely crucial.

It is in this light that we must further protest at your Government's acceptance of the recommendations from the Decentralisation Implementation Group that have excluded all of the three Donegal locations, Donegal Town, Buncrana, and Gweedore from the first phase of decentralisation leading into 2008. Taoiseach, this really is the final insult from your government to the people of Donegal. The whole concept of decentralisation was about moving the government departments from Dublin out in to the regions. In essence, it was about bringing government to the people and giving a leg up to regional towns through out the country. No county needs a leg up right now more than Donegal. No county feels further removed from decision making and central government than Donegal yet not one decentralised job will be coming to this county in the next 4 to 5 years. This is an utter disgrace.

We now call on you to make good on the promises and assurances of your Government and in particular by Minister Mary Coughlan and former Minister James McDaid to the people of these three communities.

Taoiseach, there are many other pressing issues that are of much importance to the people of Donegal such as increased investment in our health and education services locally but we have intentionally focussed on the desperate need for the creation of jobs in this letter. You recently proclaimed yourself to be a republican and a socialist. We welcome your new direction. Let addressing the inherent inequalities that we have had to endure in Donegal be the first opportunity to prove your credentials. We in Donegal Sinn Féin will be monitoring you very closely.

Le Dea Ghui,

Grainne Mhic Géidigh

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Sinn Féin Councillor Felix Gallagher, speaking at the launch of the party's Pre Budget Submission in Blanchardstown has said, "the Government must use this budget to stunt the growth of inequality in Ireland".

Speaking from Blanchardstown he said:

"Numerous independent reports have shown that despite the increase in the wealth of this country, inequality has consistently grown under the present Government. Children and parents of young children have borne the brunt of this inequality. The 2002 Census shows that 32% of the population of Blanchardstown are under the age of 14, compared to 23.7% nationally. In areas such as Tyrellstown and Mulhuddart this figure is as high as 50%."

Sinn Féin's Pre Budget Submission is titled "Putting Children First" and is a mechanism to alleviate hardship and promote equality. The main points of the submission are:

Increase in Child Benefit to €150 per month for the first and second child and €185.50 for third and subsequent children. Child Benefit is recognised as the single most effective social welfare measure for addressing the needs of children. Such an increase would also assist working parents with the cost of childcare.

Comprehensive package of childcare measures, budgetary and legislative, implementing the right of all children to the best care, allowing parents to care for their children full time up to one year of age and equalising women's participation in the labour market.

Immediately extend medical card qualification to all under 18. Children are suffering most from the disgracefully low-income threshold for medical card qualification.

Improve funding for primary education, including school building programmes and schemes to tackle educational disadvantage.

"A study carried out by Local Employment Service Network showed that the two greatest barriers to re-entry to the labour market in disadvantaged areas were losing the medical card for children and inability to pay for childcare. A recent report by the Sunday Business Post showed that over a third of parents pay more each month in childcare than they do in mortgage repayments. As a father of two my monthly childcare bill is over €1,200. That is almost treble my mortgage.

The development of quality childcare can be self-financing through increased tax returns from those now able to take their place in the labour market and the savings made from social welfare payments. IBEC tell us that there is a labour market shortage and indeed the Tanaiste Mary Harney has travelled the world in search of workers to come to Ireland to meet this shortage. By making childcare affordable and removing the barriers to employment we can meet this shortfall.

In conclusion Cllr Gallagher said, "after seven budgets of inequality from former Finance Minister, Charlie McCreevy, the Government must use this budget to stunt the growth of inequality in Ireland." ENDS

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Sinn Féin councillor Billy Leonard has condemned the attack on a number of Polish people in Coleraine's Anderson Park. They were assaulted and robbed of cash and credit cards.

Cllr Leonard said:

"We obviously condemn this attack whatever the motivation. If it was racial then that brings an extra and sad dimension to it. Coleraine would be joining other locations with the possibility of another worrying side to its character.

"We hope the people who were attacked recover quickly and realise that there are many people in the area who simply do not want this type of thing.

"In a week which has also seen a vicious sectarian attack in the area we must speak up and say that difference in people is not something to be attacked but something to be welcomed. It is obvious that there a few people in the area who need to learn that lesson.

"I hope that everyone else will speak up and do their bit to ensure that this does not continue." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún, speaking from Brussels today, has called for the introduction of a smoking ban in the six Counties. Ms. De Brún was reacting to the recent decision by the Scottish Parliament to introduce a smoking ban in the workplace.

Speaking from Brussels today she said:

"Following the success of the smoking ban in the 26 Counties and the recent decision by the Scottish Executive to introduce a similar ban, there is a growing realisation in the 6 Counties that such legislation would be practical and extremely beneficial to the health of all workers.

"Both myself and my colleagues, Mary Lou McDonald MEP (Dublin) and John O'Dowd MLA, Health Spokesperson, have publicly called for an all Ireland approach on this matter, and I reiterate that call today. A recent study found that 7000 people in the South have given up smoking or attempted to since the introduction of the smoking ban. This provides us with yet more evidence of the benefits of such legislation.

"The success of the smoking ban in the 26 counties and the recent decision by the Scottish Executive should provide the catalyst for such an approach in the 6 counties, for the sake of the health and well being of all our citizens.

"Direct rule Minister with responsibility for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Angela Smith should move on this speedily. All the local political parties support the right of workers to work in a smoke free environment and she must take this into account." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for North Kerry, Martin Ferris, has criticised the Health Bill and claimed that it will further undermine regional health services and destroy any democratic control over the implementation of the proposed changes to the health services. Deputy Ferris was speaking during a debate on the Health Bill in the Dáil this morning.

Deputy Ferris said: "The main flaw in this Bill is its proposal to increase the centralisation of overall administration and key services in the health sector. This will further the agenda laid down in Hanly whereby decisions will be made with no input from democratically elected representatives.

"The Bill attempts to gloss over this by proposing to establish a National Health Consultative Forum along with forums at regional level but these will have no practical role and will merely provide a thin democratic veneer over the reality of centralised dictates.

"The effect which the philosophy behind Hanly and this Bill has can already been seen in the withdrawal of services from regional hospitals. With the diminishing of local input into decisions made, many regional hospitals are also being denied facilities and improvements that have already been promised. Instead of throwing the old Health Board baby out with the bath water, the Government ought to established methods to reform them in such a manner as would have retained and expanded their democratic accountability and eliminated the red tape and misuses which reduced their effectiveness. They might also have eradicated those elements within the Boards which were a result of certain political parties trying to run them as rewards for party loyalists and to ensure political control.

"Further evidence of the concern over the health services has been signalled by IMPACT whose 25,000 members have voted to withdraw co-operation with any proposed reforms within the service unless it's members are provided with guarantees that there will be no cutbacks in services, no redundancies and no diminishing of working conditions as part of the changes to come into effect from January." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan has today indicated that the campaign to keep Bewleys open, "will be stepped up over the next few days."

Speaking in Dublin this morning Councillor Doolan said:

"Following a successful meeting in the Mansion House last night we have decided to step up the campaign on all fronts. The response to the public launch earlier this week has been great and we now call on the owners, Cambells, to build on the good will shown and give a reprieve on the closure. This will allow us vital time to attract new investors. We intend to launch a petition on line, a website, meet with businesses and politicians and I have written to the Minister for Environment Dick Roche asking him to use his powers to guarantee a future for this Dublin icon.

We will also be raising the issue at City Council as a matter for the City Development Plan, it is imperative that as this city develops that indigenous industry and outlets such a Bewleys do not suffer at the hands of major multi national brand names."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan said he was, "the campaign is determined and focused on keeping the doors of Bewleys open to the public. But if they do close we aim to have them open for business again as soon as possible." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Tourism Spokespersons, Martin Ferris TD and Philip McGuigan MLA, have welcomed the increase in tourists visiting the Six Counties and have said that it is clearly down to the work of Tourism Ireland and the marketing of Ireland as a whole.

Mr McGuigan said:

"NITB projections for 2004 show that over two million tourists will have visited the north by the end of the year. Tourism has come leaps and bounds in the past 5 years and a lot of this is down to the marketing of Ireland as a single destination.

"We believe that the north has a lot more potential to fulfil if a pragmatic and open approach to tourism is adopted.

"The continuing success of the Irish tourism industry must be enjoyed by all sections of Irish society and we would urge the industry to further develop community tourism. Events like the Gasworks Féile in Derry or Féile an Phobal in West Belfast, which is the largest community festival in Europe, have significantly contributed to the growth of the industry in the north and this must be recognised.

"As the tourism sector continues to grow we must make sure that it is used to help boost the economic potential of rural communities as well as urban areas. The increase in co-operation between the 6 and 26 Counties since the Good Friday Agreement has clearly had an impact on the growth within this industry.

"It is obvious therefore that closer integration is required if the island as a whole is to reach its full potential." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food, Martin Ferris TD, has called on the Government to ensure that there is adequate funding made available for agricultural research so that Irish farmers are equipped to cope with the changes and opportunities arising within the reformed Common Agricultural Policy. Deputy Ferris, speaking on a motion on the Estimates, again condemned the closure of the Teagasc centre at Ballinamore.

Deputy Ferris said:

"From an agricultural perspective, the most striking thing about the Estimates is the ongoing failure to adequately fund Teagasc. The cuts implemented last year have already had serious consequences for a number of research centres which have been closed down, and we can only assume that there will be more on the way.

"Last week we witnessed another consequence of this with the moving of employees from the Teagasc dairy farm at Ballinamore to Ballyhaise. Ballinamore was fulfilling an important unique role in research into farming conditions in the North West. It's closure says a lot not only about this Government's penny pinching in an important area of agricultural research, but also about it's attitude to the future of farming in disadvantaged areas.

"The closure and downgrading of other centres will have a similarly detrimental effect on the ability of Irish farmers to adapt themselves to the future. It is vital that in the new scenario created by the Single Farm Payment that Irish agriculture is resourced with the most up to date research to take advantage of the opportunities that they are being told exist.

"There is little point in the Department advising farmers that they should be moving into new production systems if the necessary research and technical information is not available. We are often reminded of the role which research and development played in the economic growth of the past decade. There are similar opportunities in agriculture and related areas so it would be disastrous if the state was at this time continue to downgrade Teagasc."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning briefed the party's Ard Chomhairle on the current state of the negotiations with the Irish and British Governments.

Mr. Adams said:

"Some time ago Sinn Féin asked the British and Irish governments to bring forward proposals bedded in the Good Friday Agreement, aimed at delivering on its commitments. We also proposed, that if rejectionist unionism did not come on board, then the governments need to proceed without them. That remains our position.

"This morning myself and Martin McGuinness updated the Ard Chomhairle on the current state of the negotiations with the Irish and British governments. Our negotiations team worked late into the night with Dublin and London officials on the points of concern which we raised with them last Wednesday, when we received the governments outline for a comprehensive agreement, and which we have been discussing with them since.

"Sinn Féin's focus has been to get a comprehensive agreement. We want to bring the DUP on board and to ensure that the two governments remain faithful to the Agreement. If we are to be successful in this endeavour then the governments have to work with the pro agreement parties and refuse to give a veto to rejectionist unionism. It also means the DUP entering government with Sinn Féin, sharing power with republicans on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

"It is particularly important to remember this at a time when the DUP has presented the two governments with a range of issues for clarification and at a time when they are still refusing to give a clear commitment to work the power sharing institutions with republicans.

"We need to see the outworking of all of this and will continue to work with the two governments in the days ahead."ENDS

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Speaking during the debate on the Book of Estimates in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD said that the Estimates "fail to properly address the persistent inequalities in Irish society".

While welcoming the "long overdue extension of the medical card qualification" to an extra 30,000 people Deputy Ó Caoláin went on to accuse the Government of cynically introducing the GP only medical cards for purely electoral purposes. "A medical card that does not cover the cost of medicines is debased coinage," he said.

Full text of speech follows:

"These Estimates cannot be understood without looking at the political background to them. They come in the wake of the Taoiseach‚s statement that he is a true republican and a true socialist. It may come as a surprise to many people that I have always regarded Fianna Fáil as a Marxist party. But the Marx they follow is not Karl - it's Groucho. Because it was Groucho Marx who once said:

"Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."

"You couldn't find a better description of Fianna Fáil's populism. They have won the admiration of politicians in Ireland and everywhere for their ability to retain political power and electoral support by being all things to all people.

"Their eye is constantly on the main chance. They always have to know what way the wind is blowing and like the politician during the French Revolution they are always likely to declare: "There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them."

"After the EU and Local Elections we had the carefully choreographed parade to the plinth by the backbenchers to lament Fianna Fail‚s worst electoral performance for decades and to blame the PDs. One Fianna Fáil Deputy said the PDs would be better called the 'Oppressive Democrats'. Another said what was needed was less PD policy. And Deputy Conor Lenihan said the Government was perceived as right wing.

"That was the first phase in Fianna Fáil‚s massive public relations exercise to try to regain support. Then we had the long drawn out Cabinet reshuffle, in which some of those same back benchers were promoted. The next phase was when the Taoiseach changed his anorak from light blue to light red. The latest phase is the Book of Estimates the Minister is asking us to approve here today.

"Taken in tandem with the populist statements by the Taoiseach, these Estimates signal the early start of the Fianna Fáil General Election campaign.

"I have stated on several occasions since last June that if the electoral success of Sinn Féin and our increased mandate at local government and EU parliament level prompted this Government to adopt some progressive measures, well and good. All the more reason for the people to support Sinn Féin in greater numbers.

"I have welcomed the long overdue widening of medical card qualification to a further 30,000 people. But that‚s still 170,000 short of what was promised before the General Election. And there are over 100,000 fewer people with medical cards than when this Government took office in 1997.

"It is very interesting to study the mindset behind the decision to create a GP-only card and to extend it to 200,000 people. That figure wasn't based on any assessment of needs. It was picked for one reason and one reason only ˆ so that this Government could go into the next General Election claiming it has delivered on its promise to extend the medical card to 200,000 people. This Government loves rhyming off figures. The numbers trip off the Ministers‚ tongues. And the priority here was to reach the magic number and hope the people forget that these are devalued medical cards.

"But the people are not fools and they know that a medical card that does not cover the cost of medicines is debased coinage. The Government is raising the monthly limit beyond which people can claim back for medicines under the Drugs Payment Scheme. So you may get free GP visits but you are going to pay more for your medicine.

"It is very significant that the biggest percentage increase in the Health estimate is the 43% rise in spending on the National Treatment Purchase Fund. While this Fund has yielded some short-term improvements in waiting times it is pouring millions of public funds into the already bloated private health business. This will receive an additional €20 million next year. In the meantime the public system is struggling to cope due to a shortage of nurses and other staff.

"This Government has re-enforced the two-tier nature of the health system and there is nothing in these Estimates or in the Health Bill to indicate any change in direction. The opposite is the case. Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for an end to health apartheid and for a public system with equal access for all based on need alone.

"I am also concerned that the allocation for Carer‚s Allowance has increased by just 2% and Child Benefit by 3%. These increases barely keep pace with inflation and offer little hope of the improvements necessary materialising in the Budget package on 1 December.

"I commend the amendment in the name of the Sinn Féin deputies. As our amendment states, these Estimates fail to properly address the persistent inequalities in Irish society brought about directly by the policies of the Government. They fail to address the vital need for a comprehensive system of childcare. They contain totally inadequate provision for local authority housing and for local government funding in general. And they renege on the commitment of the Taoiseach to the Irish people and to the international community to reach the target of 0.7% of GNP for Overseas Development Aid by 2007.

"In conclusion I would like to point people to a very interesting passage in the Minister's speech when he published these Estimates. He stated:

"If it is the case that we believe our relative prosperity can be sustained then the Estimates should reflect our ability to spend money on the less well off, the marginalised, the sick, the young, the elderly. This is an important by product of our economic growth.

"In other words, the poor and those with special needs will always be with us but we can spend a bit of money on them when times are good. I totally refute that. The whole object of government economic management should be to ensure that no-one is marginalized, that no-one is so less well off than their fellow citizens that they are below the poverty line. The object of government policy should be to ensure that the elderly, the young and the disabled are equal citizens and are fully integrated in our society and in our economy. That should not be a by-product of economic growth - it should be the purpose and the measure of economic growth and development.

"The Government hopes with these Estimates, and no doubt, with the forthcoming Budget, to erase the memory of the past seven years of Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats mismanagement. It is not about management of the economy it is about PR management.

"Yesterday the bad news about decentralisation was carefully timed to come out between the Estimates and the Budget ˆ again with the hope of playing a trick on the public memory. But the people are wise to these tricks by now.

"Ministers are deceiving themselves if they think people will so quickly forget that they were promised before the June elections that 10,300 posts would be decentralised to a host of towns around the country. The prospects of relocated jobs were being doled out like jelly babies. But it was all based on the decentralisation fraud that was the centrepiece of Minister McCreevy‚s last Budget. Once again the Government was playing the numbers game. The magic number was over 10,000 civil servants to be relocated. It was based on no research and no evaluation. And now it‚s come unstuck. These Estimates are in the same vein and the Government will be found out again.

"I urge all Deputies to reject the government motion and support the Sinn Féin amendment." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has said that the latest figures from the manufacturing sales and exports survey highlight the increasing importance of all-Ireland trade to the 6 County economy.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The provisional data from the manufacturing and exports survey indicate that there is good growth in the value of exports and that the rest of Ireland is now the most important export market for the 6 county economy.

"Exports to the south are now worth over £1 billion, a quarter of all exports. This represents an increase of nearly 12% over the past year.

"This is evidence that companies based in the 6 counties are waking up to and taking advantage of increased opportunities to build trading relationships across the island.

"Sinn Fein believe that greater co-operation, harmonisation and strategic interventions by the business and economic agencies across the island can build on this positive growth." ENDS

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Responding to comments made by DUP MEP Jim Allister concerning the allocation of EU Peace funds when he criticised the allocation of funding received by the Catholic community as being disproportionate, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún said:

" Peace funding cannot be allocated on the basis of religion or political affiliation. It must be and can only be allocated on the basis of need. The catholic, nationalist and republican community having suffered from decades of institutional and political discrimination obviously qualifies for such attention. Many working class loyalist communities qualify likewise.

" However many people are getting tired of the constant politiking about the supposed raw deal unionist communities have got since the cessations from EU Peace funding. Deprivation and poverty exist across our diverse community and the reality is that these issues can only be tackled by ensuring that people receive resources commensurate with their need. That is what was decided in the last Assembly and agreed by the two governments and by the European Commission. Sinn Féin will fight to ensure that fairness and need underpin allocation during the extension of the funds. If some needy unionist communities have not made applications for funding in the past then the question must be asked about the encouragement they received from their own political representatives.

"Mr Allister welcomed the prospect of PEACE II extension in the European Parliament this morning. I hope he will now follow through and encourage those he feels could make use of such grants to apply, as they cannot receive funds if they do not submit an application. The application process should also be simplified to help those from all working-class communities. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for all who need to get in proportion to that need. Working class communities should not be pitted against one another in this way. This runs counter to the basis of peace building and reconciliation.

" Working class loyalist areas have been let down. They have been let down by the woeful political leadership which has been provided by the unionist parties including the DUP over the years. They have also been let down by organisations like the UDA who have devastated those very communities with drugs. The very obvious social and economic problems which exist within some loyalist communities will not end until these communities are given real political leadership and they will not be cured by trying to use their problems as a further weapon against impoverished nationalist communities.." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó'Snodaigh TD has called on the Dáil to hold a minute silence to mark International Day Against Violence Against Women.

At Order of Business today, Deputy Ó Snodaigh called for the Dáil to mark International Day Against Violence Against Women "by the observation of a minute's silence at 11:00 am in memory of the 107 women murdered in Ireland since 1996 and in recognition of the ongoing pervasiveness of violence against women in Irish society."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to say:

"Nearly half of all Irish women experience some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime. Nearly one fifth of Irish women have been abused by a current or former partner, and fully one quarter of all violent crimes in our country involve a man assaulting his wife or partner. These statistics are positively horrific and demand urgent action. I am convinced that if these statistics reflected a level of violence directed against any other group it would be treated as a national emergency. Well, it is a national emergency.

"The truth is that we need more than a moment's silence once a year. What we need is to muster the collective political will to finally tackle this pervasive social problem. But the fact that the Government won't even concede one minute of parliamentary time to allow policymakers to recognise the lives lost or permanently destroyed is compeltely outrageous. They say they don't want to set a precedent, and I think that is the most callous thing I have ever heard said on this issue. I have been pursuing this ever since I was elected to office and I will continue to pursue it until it gets the public attention it deserves." ENDS

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