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An Chéad Dáil

Here is the much celebrated video shown at Sinn Féin's An Chéad Dáil event in the Mansion House Round Room on January 12, 2019. Sinn Féin former Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha wrote and presents this historic and inspiring reflection of the events of 100 years ago.


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West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Fra McCann has urged republicans to remain vigilant after another three republicans had their homes attacked overnight.

Cllr. McCann said:

"Last night the homes of three republicans were attacked in the St. James area. It appears that ball bearings were fired into the houses at around 11pm. In at least one of the cases the ball bearing passed through double glazing and entered the living room which was occupied at the time.

"It was only through good fortune that nobody was seriously injured or even killed as a result of these attacks. Let us make no mistake about this, these ball bearings are being fired from handgun type weapons and are lethal.

"Last nights attacks are the latest in a series of attacks on the homes of republicans in West Belfast in recent weeks. It is my belief that they are linked and that the information is coming directly from within the Crown Forces. I am urging republicans to remain vigilant in the time ahead." ENDS

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Last night in the Dáil, Kerry North Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris raised the need to hold a public inquiry into the issues highlighted by the Barron Report. Deputy Ferris also asked that such an inquiry would consider all allegations of British military and intelligence involvement in violent incidents within the state between 1969 and 1976. In his reply, Minister for State Brian Lenihan said that the Barron Commission would report on these in the New Year, and that the question of whether to hold a public inquiry would then be considered.

In his contribution, Deputy Ferris said: "According to the Barron Report many of the documents relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings have been "lost or destroyed". For example, the Inquiry was not able to see the security file on the Dublin bombings, and there are no files on the UVF and UDA for 1974 and 1975, while there are for all other years. According to the Report, the Commission was given no explanation for their disappearance.

"Nor are there files on the Dublin bombings of December 1 1972. They led to the introduction of the amended Offences Against the State Act, and are strongly suspected as having been carried out by British Intelligence agents. But even apart from the missing files, the Report states that "The Garda investigation failed to make full use of the information it obtained", and that " -- the Government of the day showed little interest in the bombings". Why this was so must also be the subject of an inquiry.

"It is vital that the Commission of Inquiry proceed immediately with an investigation not only into the events referred to in the Preface to the Report, but into all incidents that took place within this state from 1969 to 1976, where there is strong evidence of involvement by the British military and intelligence services. We have hints of this in the Report with references to British military personnel seen in Dublin at the time of the December 1972 bombs, and immediately prior to the May 1974 incidents. Another British officer was found in possession of weapons in Dublin on the very day of the bombings. Such an Inquiry should take place in public so that we can have a full account of what took place.

"Another issue touched on is the role of agents within the Garda Special Branch. John McCoy who was central to the Monaghan investigation is mentioned and there have been strong allegations over the years regarding his connections with the British security forces. It would also appear that former Garda Commissioner Ned Garvey was well aware of whatever contacts were taking place.

"The most damning aspect of the Report, however, is its verdict on the role of the Fine Gael Labour Coalition of the time. This was a Government that contained such upstanding defenders of law and order as Liam Cosgrave and Paddy Cooney and Paddy Donegan and of course Conor Cruise O'Brien.

"And what was their reaction to the bombings in 1974? According to the Report they made no effort to assist the investigation, and when they were told that some of those responsible had been interned they made no effort to follow up on this or to pursue those individuals after they were released a short time later. Not only that but serving members of the Gardai at the time were under the distinct impression that the Government of the day did not want the investigation to be continued. And indeed it was not.

"All of these matters require that they are made subject to a full public inquiry and some of the families have already called for this. It seems that everyone else who was party to the conflict of the past 30 years is expected to continuously apologise and explain themselves. Well, the very least that those who were responsible for ignoring the murder of dozens of people and indeed the subversion of the very institutions they claimed to cherish above all else, ought to be made do the same. It might, if nothing else, give them a break from writing nonsense in the Sunday newspapers. ENDS

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"Minister Ahern mentions the need to defend the Hague Preferences as a guarantee of extra quota, but he must surely recognise that the Preferences have not secured the Irish fisheries over the past three decades. They were never more than a compromise on the initial disastrous deal made in 1973 and until the very basis of that deal and of the Common Fisheries Policy is renegotiated, the future of Irish fishing is bleak.

"In the Dáil tomorrow I will be calling on the Government to make such a renegotiation a key issue in the Irish Presidency of the EU". ENDS

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Opposing the European Arrest Warrant Bill today, Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD echoed the warning of the Irish Human Rights Commission that the measures proposed diminish constitutional protections regarding extradition and could also violate human rights norms.

Ó Snodaigh said: "This Bill is unacceptable because it negates certain fundamental rights including the right not to be extradited for a political offence.

"The Irish Human Rights Commission have published their concerns, and have made them known to the Minister for Justice. They maintain that the EU Framework Decision giving rise to the European Arrest Warrant is based on a flawed presumption of effective and equivalent protections of accused persons' rights between EU member states. I agree with this assessment.

"The Human Rights Commission has further concluded that even with the safeguards now included, the Bill is likely to diminish constitutional protections in relation to extradition. What I find particularly disturbing is the fact that the Minister's response to their concerns has been far from adequate. What we need is proper, binding human rights-proofing of legislation in this state.

"This government should never have backed the Framework Decision in the first instance two years ago, but now it is attempting to fast-track flawed and unsupportable legislation through the Dáil with minimal debate.

"Sinn Féin has attempted to block passage of this Bill. We have submitted protest amendments, and we will also table further substantive amendments in an attempt to mitigate the Bill's worst effects.

"It is disgraceful that despite the history of controversy surrounding extradition provisions, the Government is fast-tracking this Bill in order to suppress debate and prevent any popular mobilisation against it." ENDS

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Commenting today as the DUP prepare to meet with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said that there was 'a clear onus on the two governments to ensure that the process of change is not allowed to be stalled any further'.

Mr McGuinness said:

" Sinn Féin will meet with both the Irish and British governments tomorrow in London. We will once again be raising with them the outstanding commitments which they have yet to implement, including measures on policing, demilitarisation, criminal justice, human rights and equality. We will also make it clear to them that the continued suspension of the political institutions is both unacceptable and untenable.

" In the New Year there will be a clear onus on the two governments and the pro-Agreement parties to come together and ensure that the process of change is not allowed to be stalled any further. We need to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented and implemented in full. We want to see the entire Good Friday Agreement package delivered upon. This is our focus in the time ahead." ENDS

Editors Note: The Sinn Féin Delegation will be led by Party President Gerry Adams MP and will include Martin McGuinness MP, Mary Lou McDonald, Cavan Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Sinn Féin London Representative Dodie McGuinness.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Fisheries, Martin Ferris TD has called on the Minister for the Marine Dermot Ahern to take a strong line in defence of Irish fishing interests at Wednesday's meeting of the Fisheries Council in Brussels. The EU is proposing severe cuts in quotas and allowable catches (TACs) along with further possible restrictions on fishing days. The proposals come only a short time after restrictions of 10 and 15 days were placed on Irish Sea fishermen and are a consequence of the Commission's rejection of Irish fishermen's own recovery plan.

Deputy Ferris said:

"The crisis facing Irish fishermen can hardly be underestimated. If the proposals mooted by the Commission are accepted, the situation will be further exacerbated. While I welcome the Minister's determination to oppose the proposals, I believe that he must take a far stronger line than he has done to date. Minister Ahern mentions the need to defend the Hague Preferences as a guarantee of extra quota, but he must surely recognise that the Preferences have not secured the Irish fisheries over the past three decades. They were never more than a compromise on the initial disastrous deal made in 1973 and until the very basis of that deal and of the Common Fisheries Policy is renegotiated, the future of Irish fishing is bleak. In the Dáil tomorrow I will be calling on the Government to make such a renegotiation a key issue in the Irish Presidency of the EU". ENDS

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Newry & Armagh Sinn Féin Representative Conor Murphy has accused the PSNI of 'deliberatley vandalising' homes in the South Armagh area over the past number of weeks. The latest raids came this morning when two homes were smashed into in the Belleek area.

Mr. Murphy said:

"This morning at around 6.30am I was called to a house in the Belleek area. Around 60 heavily armed and masked members of the PSNI were smashing their way into the home of a local man. They then smashed their way into the man's father's home close by.

"We are consistently being told by the PSNI Chief Hugh Orde, the SDLP and the PSNI allies in the media that we have achieved a new beginning to policing. What I witnessed in Belleek this morning and Silverbridge a number of weeks ago, when heavily armed and masked men arrived at people's homes in helicopters was no different to what people in South Armagh and elsewhere have witnessed for the last 30 years.

"Let us hear the SDLP apologists for this sort of behaviour speak up now. Let them travel to these homes and tell people that this is a new beginning to policing that we are experiencing." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly has said that figures released today showing that the PSNI had a workforce which was 91.6% Protestant, showed clearly that the failure to deliver Patten had resulted in very low figures of Catholic or nationalist recruitment to the force.

Mr. Kelly said:

"These figures demonstrate clearly that the PSNI is an overwhelmingly Protestant force. Its make up does not reflect the society it is supposed to serve.

"The result of Patten not being delivered by the British government and the behaviour of the PSNI in nationalist areas, has been the fact that the numbers of Catholics and nationalists willing to support or join the PSNI are tiny." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly group leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy, South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane and South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey today met with the SDLP as part of an programme to continue developing the pro-agreement axis.

Mr Murphy said:

"Sinn Féin met with the SDLP two weeks ago, the Alliance Party yesterday and the SDLP again today. It is part of a Sinn Féin programme to continue developing the pro-agreement axis.

"Sinn Féin are in continuing contact with both governments about the way ahead. It is essential that all parties, particularly the two governments fulfil their commitments under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The process of implementing the Agreement must continue." ENDS

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Commenting today as the DUP prepare to meet with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said that there was 'a clear onus on the two governments to ensure that the process of change is not allowed to be stalled any further'.

Mr McGuinness said:

"Sinn Féin will meet with both the Irish and British governments tomorrow in London. We will once again be raising with them the outstanding commitments which they have yet to implement, including measures on policing, demilitarisation, criminal justice, human rights and equality. We will also make it clear to them that the continued suspension of the political institutions is both unacceptable and untenable.

"In the New Year there will be a clear onus on the two governments and the pro-Agreement parties to come together and ensure that the process of change is not allowed to be stalled any further. We need to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented and implemented in full. We want to see the entire Good Friday Agreement package delivered upon. This is our focus in the time ahead." ENDS

Editors Note: The Sinn Féin Delegation will be led by Party President Gerry Adams MP and will include Martin McGuinness MP, Mary Lou McDonald, Cavan Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Sinn Féin London Representative Dodie McGuinness.

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as "totally unacceptable" the continued refusal of the British Government to publish the Report of the inquiry by Judge Cory into the murders of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and other incidences of collusion in the North. In answer to a question from Deputy Ó Caoláin in the Dáil today the Taoiseach said the British would not yet be publishing the sections of the Cory Report presented to them which deal with these incidences of collusion. He confirmed the Irish Government will publish the parts of the report presented to it, most likely this week.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Confirmation that the British government is delaying the publication of the Cory Report comes less than a week after Judge Barron exposed that government's lack of co-operation with his inquiry. Now we see the British dragging their heels on the publication of another report highlighting collusion. It is widely accepted nationally and internationally that Pat Finucane was murdered as a direct result of collusion between British intelligence and loyalist paramilitaries, including the notorious agent Brian Nelson. The Irish government should set its face against any publication of a partial or censored version of the Cory Report by the British and should demand its immediate publication in full." ENDS

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Reacting to the publication of a report into employment practices in the six counties by the Equality Commission, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Equality Caitríona Ruane said that the report showed clearly 'that much work remains to be done if the unemployment differential between Catholics and Protestants is to be closed'.

Ms Ruane said:

"This report is another reminder of the work which remains to be done to see that the unemployment differential between Catholics and Protestants is closed. It is a reminder of how much inequality remains within the core of society in the six counties.

"I think that it is also worth noting that the Castlereagh Council model so often put forward by the DUP as an example of a well run local authority employs a 93% Protestant workforce and that the PSNI currently have a 91.6% Protestant workforce.

"Sinn Féin will continue to work to ensure that both the public and private sector adopt affirmative action in order to see employment practices which do not discriminate against the Catholics population in the future." ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Michael Ferguson has demanded that the PSNI member yesterday convicted for driving a Landrover at high speed towards a group of nationalists on the Springfield Road be sacked from his job.

Mr. Ferguson said:

"This PSNI member Constable Alan Leckey was yesterday convicted of driving a Landrover at Springfield Road residents during a protest against an Orange march being forced through the area.

"It was clear from both eye witness and video evidence that it was only through good fortune that nobody was killed as a result of this individual's behaviour.

"It is clear that this individual is not an appropriate person to be policing within the nationalist community. I would now expect that he would be removed from his position within the PSNI." ENDS

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South Down MLA and Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality, Caitríona Ruane, has supported calls from Irish Women's Aid Organisations who are demanding that the Hague Convention on child abduction be amended.

Ms Ruane said: "Last week's high profile court case involving Derry mother Cara Gunn, who lost custody of her 5 year old son when a judge ruled he should stay with his father in the US, has exposed serious flaws in the Hague Convention on child abduction. Currently there are at least five Irish mothers in the North of Ireland involved in international custody battles with their foreign spouses or ex partners. They have found themselves in protracted and expensive legal battles to retain their parental rights and as Cara Gunn case proves, the odds are stacked against the mother of the child.

"I spoke with Newry grandmother Ursula Sweeney last night, whose daughter Ursula has been caught up in a bitter custody battle in Canada for her five year old child Melissa about the dreadful situation that her daughter and granddaughter find themselves in. I would like to congratulate the Sweeney family for their courage and tenacity in fighting for their daughter and granddaughter's rights over the past number of years. It is unacceptable that they have to do this alone and I am calling on people throughout the North of Ireland to support them.

"There must be an immediate review of the Hague Convention on child abduction as it is clear that this legislation is being regularly abused in mixed nationality relationships where the custody of the child is at stake. Women such as Cara and Ursula find themselves in a very vulnerable position and are unaware that they are breaking the law by returning with their child to their home country. This is usually an act of desperation on the part of the mother and is done to extract themselves from an abusive relationship. In effect, the law is abusing the mother further and it is vitally important that the circumstances surrounding the reasons for a person fleeing a country with their child be thoroughly examined and taken into account.

"Women living in foreign countries should be made aware of their rights and must not be separated from their children as a result of flawed legislation. In Cara's case Derry, and the six counties in general, was depicted as violent and dangerous and an unsuitable place to raise a child. Like must aspects of the judge's ruling it is based on a fundamentally flawed premise and Sinn Féin fully supports Cara, Ursula and the other women in their efforts to retain custody of their children. These children are Irish citizens and I will contacting the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen to stand up for the rights of Irish citizens."

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Sinn Féin Assembly Group leader Conor Murphy today led a party delegation to meet with the Vice Chair of the Electoral Commission Karamjit Singh and the local head Seamus Magee. The meeting which was held at Sinn Féin's request, discussed the recent assembly Election and the latest Electoral Commission Report.

Mr Murphy said:

"Sinn Féin yesterday met with the Electoral Office and this morning we met with the Electoral Commission. At this morning's meeting we again repeated the serious concerns we have about the current legislation upon which we fight elections and the fact that it has resulted in the disenfranchisement of over 100,000 people.

"We were demanding from the Electoral Commission much more in terms of actual specific measures which they are proposing in order to restore public confidence in the electoral system. Particularly in terms of the legislation, the rolling registration process and the length of the registration period. We also again raised the issue of difficulties in registering young people, people with learning disabilities and those living in areas of deprivation.

"The Electoral Commission has a duty to the electorate in the six counties to restore public confidence in a process which has since the initiation of the new legislation by the SDLP and Unionists been badly damaged." ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has blamed loyalists for a murder bid on a man outside the Boundary Bar in Bawnmore last night.

Mr. Kelly said:

" Last night a young man who was leaving the Boundary Bar in Bawnmore was attacked by four loyalists wielding hammers. He suffered serious head injuries and he is lucky to be alive. This was not an assault it was a sectarian murder bid carried out by loyalists.

" I am calling on unionist politicians to speak out against this sort of random sectarian attack and work with the representatives of the nationalist community in North Belfast to ensure that this type of sectarian activity is ended." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA met Chief Electoral Officer Dennis Stanley this morning in relation to difficulties surrounding the 26th November Assembly election and the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of people who were entitled to vote. Speaking after the meeting Mr. McLaughlin said:

"Nobody can have been pleased by the fact that tens of thousands of people who were entitled to vote had that right taken from them at the Assembly election. Every effort must now be made to ensure that this situation is not repeated in the European Parliament elections next June. Every influence must be used to ensure that the difficulties that led to the disenfranchisement of so many people are addressed well in advance of the next election.

"I used the opportunity of this morning's meeting to discuss Sinn Fein's concerns with regard to the registration process, the difficulties in terms of securing a postal or proxy vote and photographic identification problems.

"I also made a number of complaints with regard to the Electoral Office operation throughout the north on the day of the election and problems relating to the count operation.

"It is our intention to raise all of these matters with the NIO. Had a similar sham been exposed in any other part of the world it would have been quietly condemned by all those interested in protecting the integrity of the democratic process."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly group leader Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy announcing details of the portfolios for the new Assembly team has said that the British government's suspension of the institutions is hindering the work of MLAs and that in the immediate period ahead it is vital that elected representatives challenge direct rule ministers and ensure that no decisions are made that do not reflect the needs of people living in the six counties.

Agriculture

Gerry McHugh will retain the brief alongside Martin Ferris TD in Leinster House and Pat Doherty who heads the party's own national department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

All-Ireland

Cross-border - Barry McElduff will take responsibility for this new portfolio with responsibility for increasing cross border working across all areas.

Culture, Arts and Leisure

Francie Brolly with a particular responsibility for the development and promotion of the Irish language.

Economics

Enterprise, Trade & Investment - Michelle Gildernew

Finance & Personnel - Francie Molloy - Francie will also take charge of Sinn Fein's campaign against the introduction of Water Charges.

Tourism - Philip McGuigan will take responsibility for developing the all-Ireland tourism agenda and monitoring Tourism Ireland.

Education

Education - Davy Hyland

Employment & Learning - Michael Ferguson

Environment

Environment - Willie Clarke

Social Development - Fra McCann

Regional Development - Pat O'Rawe

Senior Citizens - Mary Nelis will take responsibility for this new cross-departmental portfolio

Equality

Office of First & Deputy First Minster - Alex Maskey will take a new overarching role with particular responsibilities in driving forward

anti-racism and anti-sectarian initiatives and also for the Review of Public Administration

Equality & Human Rights - Caitriona Ruane

Women and anti-poverty - Kathy Stanton will take responsibility for this new cross-departmental brief

Disability - Geraldine Dougan will take responsibility for this new cross-departmental party brief

Europe

European Affairs - Bairbre de Brún

Health

Health, Social Services & Public Safety - John O'Dowd

Children & Young People - Thomas O'Reilly

Policing & Justice

Policing & Justice - Gerry Kelly

Dr Dara O'Hagan will take on a new role anchoring the Economics team with specific cross-departmental responsibility for Equality, anti-poverty and all-Ireland energy policy.

Sue Ramsey will continue in her management role with the Assembly team.

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Sinn Féin Assembly group leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy speaking after meeting the Alliance Party in Stormont today has said that it is vital that all pro-Agreement parties continue to build the pro-agreement axis.

Mr Murphy said:

"Sinn Féin met with the SDLP two weeks ago and are now looking to build on that engagement by meeting all of the pro-Agreement parties. Sinn Féin proposed the construction of a pro-Agreement alliance to confront those who want to see the Good Friday Agreement wrecked. It is vital that we continue to build the pro-Agreement axis.

"Sinn Féin are in continuing contact with both governments about the way ahead. It is essential that all parties, particularly the two governments fulfil their commitments under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The process of implementing the Agreement must continue." ENDS

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Sinn Féin will tonight oppose the adoption of the Cork City Council estimates. In particular we will oppose the proposed dramatic rise in the refuse collection tax. Outlining Sinn Fein's position, Councillor Jonathan O Brien said:

"Tonight we are faced with fixing a budget for the next year, made all the more difficult by the Fianna Fail and PD parties‚ policy of under-funding of Councils. The burden is added to by a shortfall of 5 million euro to pay for benchmarking. Benchmarking was a national policy decision, which should by right come out of the national exchequer. Also thanks to the establishment parties, Councillors across the 26 counties have had powers taken from them, which would enable them to enact policies, which would be fairer and more efficient for the people they represent.

There are a number of areas in particular on which I have concerns. Principally-

1. On programme 4, Environment, the most controversial of all the programmes in terms of the budget, I have grave concerns. The total cost next year of the domestic refuse collection system will be €5.8m. This figure includes administration costs and the cost of the waiver system. Going on this figure the cost of refuse charges next year should only be €209. This figure is calculated on the basis there are 28,000 householders who are billed. Why then are we proposing a charge of €355, an increase of €78 or 28%? Considering that the wheelie bin operational costs will fall next year by nearly 70% it is even harder to justify such an increase. The 28% increase in refuse charges is huge compared to the proposed increase of 5% in commercial rates. It is easy to see who has been hit hardest in this budget. 28,000 people paying €355 gives a total income of €9.6m. Not only are people being charged this stealth charge but also they have to pay way over the actual cost, in fact €3.8m over and above the actual cost of disposing of their waste

2. Next year we propose to spend €8.95m on Housing Maintenance. This represents 34% of our total housing budget. Of this €8.95m we will spend almost €2.2m on Vacant Dwellings with a further €258 on securing our vacant dwellings. In total this is 27% of the Maintenance budget. In comparison less than 3% will be spent on repairing or improving central heating in our housing stock. This is an area where further improvement is needed. Many houses that become vacant need little or no work to be carried out on them before they are ready for re-allocation but at times these houses have been left idle for to long, only to be vandalised.

In summary Cork householders will pay a total of €22.4m in rents and refuse charges alone next year. That's 15% of the total budget. The local government fund will not even match this figure. It is all to clear who is going to suffer next year if this budget is passed. I cannot support a budget that asks the people of this City to pay more than the fair share of the wealth we created through our taxes, wealth that we see, judging by the recent budget, spent on racehorses."ENDS

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