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Sinn Féin budget supports fair and sustainable recovery - Pearse Doherty

Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget would repair communities, rebuild the economy and renew society. The budget lays out how Sinn Fein would abolish the local property tax and water charges and our programme for investing in disability services, health and education.

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2015 here




Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has criticised the Government’s lack of implementation of key recommendations on a report by the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) on rural development.

 Senator Ó Clochartaigh quizzed Minister of State with responsibility for Rural Affairs, Ann Phelan on the lack of vision and inaction around rural development which has been coupled with a chronic lack of investment.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh stated:

“I raised questions with Minister Phelan about the Government's lack of implementation of the recommendations in the CEDRA report on rural development. Her speech and response were heavy on rhetoric, but very light on detail.

“I asked her in relation to job creation in rural areas, the rural town stimulus programme, the national spatial strategy, broadband development, cuts to rural transport, facilities for young people and the future role of the LEADER companies. She couldn't tell me what action is being taken on specific recommendations.

“I also noted that the €1m that has been earmarked for Rural Development in the budget is pitiful when you compare it to the €86m that Phil Hogan and the government sanctioned for consultants in Irish Water and is testimony in itself that her appointment and strategy are merely cosmetic and not a real attempt to address the pressing issues of rural communities.

“Minister Phelan also said that government policies are being rural-proofed from now on but gave no detail when questioned by me as to what method was being used and how that was being implemented. It is very difficult to have confidence in the Minister to fight the case for Rural Ireland with Cabinet colleagues when she doesn't have a clear vision of her own in this regard.”

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Speaking in the Seanad today, Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh revealed that the Irish government is being quizzed by the EU over the debacle caused by former Minister Phil Hogan's dismantling of the local development sector.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh says that the Commission have sent the Irish government a list of over 400 questions in relation to their proposed changes to the delivery of the LEADER programme, an EU initiative to support rural development projects at local level.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh stated:

“I asked Minister Phelan if she was aware of the questions being asked by the Commission of the Irish government, if she would outline those concerns to us and whether she would ask her colleague Minister Alan Kelly to reverse the changes proposed by Hogan and rectify the situation.

“The way the LEADER companies are being treated is Rural Regression as oppose to rural development. It takes the autonomy away from local stakeholders to develop projects in a way they see fit, using their expertise and local knowledge and empowering them to build their own communities. The whole process is being hijacked by local authorities starved of funding who see LEADER as a slush fund to cover the pet projects they want to develop. 

“It is ironic that Ireland are held up in Europe as a model of international best practice in LEADER delivery and that other member states are copying our present model of delivery, while this government are dismantling the sector and moving to a more centralised and less democratic model. It's disgraceful and must be reversed.

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Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has said he is appalled by Minister Alan Kelly’s announcement that he will be introducing legislation allowing landlords to deduct water charges from a tenant’s deposit.  Speaking after the Minister announced his plans for Irish Water, Senator Cullinane said:

“I am utterly appalled at the Minister’s plans to give landlords the legal right to interfere with a tenants deposit and deduct water charges.

“Private landlords should not be involved in the collection of taxes for the state – this is a draconian and worrying step by the government.

“It is particularly bizarre considering that nationally we have 90,000 families on public housing lists and a huge dependence on the private rented sector for accommodation.

“Is Minister Kelly aware that this announcement will drive people further into poverty?

“His party colleague Joan Burton has already put a very regressive cap on rent supplement which has resulted in thousands of adults and children becoming homeless.

“Virtually all independent analysis of the housing crisis calls for increased state involvement in the provision of public housing and a complete overhaul of the private rental sector giving tenants significant rights in terms of occupancy and rent in keeping with best practice in other European countries.

“The notion that a Labour minister would seek to use private landlords to collect an unfair tax from vulnerable and financially strapped tenants is simply beyond belief.

“In the current crisis the state should be distancing itself from private landlords and not getting them to do their dirty work.

“Irish people have a long history with landlords, is this courtesy of Alan Kelly, to be the latest chapter.”

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In response to the government’s announcement today on Irish Water and its insistence on introducing water charges, Sinn Féin TD, Martin Ferris said:

 “What the government is doing here is trying to get the water charges over the line and diffuse public opposition to another unpopular tax and an unpopular government

 “This is a public relations offensive and the truth is that if the government has its way, the water charges are here to stay, the water metering programme is set to continue, metered charges are on their way and there is still no right to water written into our constitution.

 “I believe the Irish people will not be fooled and that the turnout on 10 December for the water charges protest will send the message to the government again.

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Sinn Féin Whip Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister’s Alan Kelly’s decision to leave the Dáil after announcing their new plan for water charges is a disgrace.

He said the government should apologise for treating the electorate with contempt.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said;

“After delivering his announcement to the Dáil this afternoon Minister Kelly joined the Taoiseach and Tánaiste and simply walked out of the Dáil as the opposition was preparing to give its reactions.

“No doubt they were heading off to sell their plan to the media.

“This is not a new thing. Joan Burton did exactly the same thing when she introduced the Social Welfare Bill to the Dáil. She was gone out of the chamber before I got to my feet.

“And last week the Tánaiste couldn’t answer a simple question from my colleague Mary Lou McDonald on this issue yet the government was able to leak its plan to the media all weekend.

“This is a disgraceful way to treat the Dáil and the people who elect us to represent them.

“The government should issue an apology for treating the electorate with utter contempt.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has welcomed a commitment from Employment and Learning minister Stephen Farry on a cross-border learning zone for the north west. 

The Foyle MLA said; 

"I asked the minister to outline what progress has been made with ministers in Dublin on the development of a cross-border learning zone in the north west. 

"Stephen Farry said he and his officials are engaged with government ministers in Dublin on a range of issues to increase cross-border cooperation. 

"In particular he said he is working with Department of Education and Skills to prepare a joint paper on cross-border education issues. 

"This is particularly welcome as part of the wider campaign for the development of Magee and increased cooperation with other colleges across the wider north west, including Letterkenny Institute of Technology. 

"The development of a cross-border learning zone covering the wider north west region would provide more educational opportunities for all of our young people.

"Meetings are continuing between officials from both departments, north and south, and a joint paper is being prepared which will be submitted to the Assembly's permanent secretaries group next month. 

"We will continue to ensure all opportunities for greater all-Ireland co-operation on further and higher education are pursued." 

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has condemned new government plans to allow landlords to use tenants security deposits to pay for Irish Water bills. He made his comments following the announcement by Minister Alan Kelly that legislation was being prepared to allow for this to happen.

Deputy Ellis said:

"This is a major blow against the rights of tenants but also put landlords in a very difficult position.

“Security deposits paid by tenants to their landlord are supposed to be held securely in order to cover any damage caused to the property. It is not to be used for rent arrears or utility bills and landlords are often strict on this themselves. This is a disgraceful attempt to undermine those who seek to abolish water charges and it is using the rights of tenants to do it.

“For years deposit issues were the most common problem housing charities and the Private Residential Tenancies Board dealt with. Tenants are often not given their full deposit back, or have the entirety withheld illegally, due to issues between tenant and landlord which have nothing to do with the deposit and how it should operate. Recently the deposit has not been such an issue, but where it is withheld it can be a major problem for low and middle income people who are seeking new accommodation in an inflated market with very little choice. People have been made homeless due to the withholding of their deposit.

“Now the Minister who claims he wants to tackle homelessness is saying that landlords will be able to and possibly even made to take water charge bills out of deposits. Considering the government has long promised a bill which was supposed to further protect deposits from illegal misuse or withholding this is a particular slap in the face to tenants and a gives lie to the Ministers previous commitments on the issue."

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Sinn Féin candidate in the forthcoming Westminster Election for South Antrim Declan Kearney, who is also the party's national chairperson has slammed those behind anti-PSNI graffiti in Crumlin. 

Speaking today Mr Kearney said: 

"This graffiti is completely unacceptable and I condemn it outright. 

"Crumlin is a town with excellent community relations and one in which there is a good working relationship on a range of community safety issues between the PSNI and local people.

"This is an example of good civic policing. 

"Clearly those behind this graffiti have no regard for the residents of the town or those who travel to the town day and daily from the surrounding area. Crumlin is not big place but whoever is behind these menacing messages thought nothing of defacing properties throughout the town. 

"Sinn Féin will be contacting the relevant authorities to ensure that this graffiti is removed as a matter of urgency." 

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson for health Aengus Ó Snodaigh spoke in the Dáil today on a government motion concerning the water charges. Deputy Ó Snodaigh criticised the concessionary measures brought forward by the government as being regressive and certain to rise.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh stated:

“Today’s package assumes the public are fools.  It is a transparent attempt to hoodwink the public into signing up to a water charge which will inevitably rise in the future.  With the carrot of a €100 payment that will shrink or disappear altogether in time and the stick of penalties for those who fail to cough up these grossly unfair charges.  But the public are not fools.  The public do not trust this government and they will not swallow it’s spin.  

“The new water charges package is simply regressive, the charges will certainly rise after the period of the freeze has expired on 1st January 2019 (if not before) and for many even at the level announced today they are not affordable.

“Of course water has to be paid for but it should be funded through progressive taxation.  As a funding model for the delivery of water services you literally can’t get any more regressive than what this government are proposing. The principles of water conservation and ‘ability to pay’ are both entirely absent from the government’s proposals.

“The League of Credit Unions latest ‘What’s Left?’ survey shows that 483,000 people have nothing left at the end of the month after essential expenditures and bills are paid. Where does the government expect these families to magic €260 from? Does the government want them to risk homelessness by going into arrears on their mortgage or rent?

“There will be zero support to help these families when the first bills land at the beginning of April.  The cynically titled water conservation grant will not come into being until September 2015 at the absolute earliest.

“What the government who claim to have listened but have selected not to hear is “Water charges are the last straw, we can take no more, we will take no more.

“You have turned your back on your mandate. You no longer have a mandate. Scrap these charges altogether or call a General Election.”

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