Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly has called for urgent reform of the pension system. The call was made during a Seanad debate on the recently released OECD report on the Irish pension system.
Senator Reilly said:
“The OECD report confirms once again what we have known for a long time. The pension system in this state is in crisis.
“One in ten pensioners live at risk of poverty. If the state pension was removed 88% of pensioners would live in poverty.
“Just half of the current workforce is covered by private and occupational pensions. Many of these schemes, particularly defined benefit schemes, are in deficit. Some are close to collapse.
“Our pension protection system is almost non-existent, as we saw recently in the Waterford Crystal Case. The regulation of the private pension industry is still a major problem.
“The centre piece of government pensions policy continues to be wasteful and unfair tax breaks.
“This system is broken. We urgently need radical pension reform.
“The state pension must be increased to 40% of average industrial earnings and universalised to ensure that no pensioner lives in poverty.
“We need a mandatory public pension system for all workers not in private schemes to ensure that people have a real chance to provide the additional savings needed to give them some measure of comfort in their later years.
“We need an end to the grossly wasteful and unfair pension tax relief system.
“And we need tighter regulation of private pension funds to limit the levels of risk involved, reign in excessive charges and ensure adequate protection.
“This is a tall order, but now is the time for government to act.”
Martina Anderson said:
“I was pleased to accept the invitation recently to join the Alzheimer’s Alliance at the European Parliament. As someone with first-hand knowledge of what it is like to care for a family member – my mother who is sufferer of this debilitating condition - I appreciate the work of the Alliance in bringing a focus to bear on its widespread occurrence.
“As a member of the Committee dealing with Public Health at the EU Parliament I will take every opportunity to highlight the needs of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and the predicament that those caring for them find themselves in. Conditions such as Alzheimer's do not recognise borders therefore there is an onus on Europe to provide leadership in research development. I believe that Regional governments could also do much more. I will be doing all that I can to encourage the EU to do more to help in the search for an appropriate treatment and cure.”
Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has welcomed the government’s decision not to oppose the Seanad Reform Bill 2013. He has called on the government to follow the logic of this decision, to cancel the referendum, and refer the matter to the Constitutional Convention.
The legislation, which was proposed by Senators Fearghal Quinn and Katherine Zappone, is intended to open up the Seanad to universal franchise and reform its functions.
Speaking today from Leinster House, Senator Cullinane said;
“I welcome the government’s decision to support the Seanad Reform Bill today. It creates an opportunity to further debate and consideration of this issue.
“The government’s entire approach to the future of the Seanad has been opportunistic and ill thought out. Sinn Féin believes that the Seanad as currently constituted is deeply undemocratic and elitist.
“However, simple abolition, without even allowing the opportunity to discuss considering reform is foolhardy.
“We have continually argued that the question of the future of the Seanad needs to be referred to the constitutional convention.
“This should have been done from the outset, but it is not yet too late, and there are two open remit sessions left at the end of the convention which can consider the question. This is the appropriate place to consider whether we need a second chamber, what is the purpose of a second chamber, and what role could a second chamber usefully fulfil.
“It is interesting that the government was concerned by the possibility that a number of its Senators might break the whip on this matter. It is to be regretted that it is on an issue of self-interest, and their own self-preservation, that they were considering it, rather than on cuts to child benefit, the Budget or the Family Home tax or any other issue which affected ordinary people.”
Senator Cullinane also highlighted the fact that the Seanad was currently being left effectively idle, due to a lack of government legislation.
“The leader of the Seanad, Senator Maurice Cummins yesterday indicated that the office of the Attorney General was struggling due to lack of resources.
“Senator Cummins told the Seanad that there had been considerable pressure on the office in recent times and that there has been a knock-on effect in the drafting of legislation. If there is no Bill ready, I cannot bring it before the House.
“If there is a resource issue in the Attorney General’s office then that needs to be resolved. There is no end of areas where there is a need for legislation, including in reforming direct provision, legislating for collective bargaining, and reform of Employment Rights bodies.
“It is unacceptable that the Seanad would be left effectively idle, due to a lack of resources in the Attorney General’s office when there are such significant issues to deal with.”
Speaking in the Dáil tonight during a private members bill on the fifteenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin TD for Cork East, Sandra McLellan said:
“On this the 15th anniversary of the Agreement there can be little doubt but that Equality legislation, the Equality Commission and Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act have in the intervening years done a lot to end the discrimination that was in many respects the driving force behind the origins conflict.
“However, to date, the people of the north of Ireland are still waiting for the much promised Bill of Rights.
“This is particularly worrying when one considers recent figures which show a startling increase in deprivation and child poverty in large urban areas across the north.
“Indeed this is a time, when both the British and Irish governments should be actively defending the agreement, and not blocking or introducing measures that work against both the aspirations and spirit of the GFA.
“The UK government’s plan for welfare reform is a prime example of policy measures that will have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable in the north.
“Sinn Féin welcomes the fact that the Agreement has essentially brought peace to the island of Ireland.”
"However we would call on both the Irish and British governments to fulfil their obligations under the agreement and we urge them not to introduce measures that push people who are already struggling further into poverty.
"Thus while Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act is a crucial building block in ensuring justice and fairness, nonetheless a society that aspires to any notion of equality must have at its very core real and meaningful policies that deliver economic justice to all of its people."
May 14th, 2013 - Gerry Adams TD
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking this evening during the party’s PMB on the Good Friday Agreement warned that the British government is “seriously undermining the work of the Executive and of the political institutions”.
Teachta Adams cautioned that the “Executive’s ability to demonstrate that peace can deliver real economic change is being damaged by the British government’s significant cuts” to social welfare, the block grant and the investment package announced at St. Andrew’s seven years ago.
The Sinn Féin leader described the Good Friday Agreement as “a defining moment in recent Irish history” which for the first time since partition “brought peace, stability and hope, and the opportunity for a better future for the people of this island”.
He said: “Once the political institutions were stabilised and the hard issues of policing and weapons dealt with the government here took its eye off the issue. The British Tory/Lib Dem government has also not honoured commitments as it should have.
“Consequently, there are a number of outstanding issues arising from the Good Friday Agreement, including a Bill of Rights for the north; an all-island Charter of Rights; the establishment of the North-South Consultative Forum; and the introduction of an Acht na Gaeilge (Irish language Act).
“The British Government has also failed to act on its Weston Park commitment to hold an independent inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. At the same time the securocrats continue to abuse human rights, most clearly in the continued detention of Marian Price and Martin Corey.
"Both governments have also failed to address the need for a victim centred truth and reconciliation process.
“But the greatest threat to the Agreement at this time comes from the British government.
“The decisions taken by Mr Cameron and his colleagues are seriously undermining the Good Friday Agreement and the political institutions.”
Gerry Adams pointed out that “all of the parties agreed to a significant peace dividend and investment of £18 billion at St Andrews. One of the first actions of the current British government was to renege on this commitment.
“The next action of the British government was to cut the block grant by £4 billion.
“The British Government has also refused to devolve powers on corporation tax.
"Now the Tory/Lib Dem government, in pursuit of austerity, is seeking to impose £1 billion of welfare cuts that will take millions out of the local economy and hurt disadvantaged and vulnerable families.
“This is unacceptable and Martin McGuinness recently told the British Prime Minister this very directly.
“The British government is seriously undermining the work of the Executive and of the political institutions.
“The Executive has achieved much, including £8 billion of investment and the creation of thousands of jobs through inward investment. Today Allstate announced that it will create 650 jobs in the north. That’s good work by the Executive.
“But the Executive’s ability to demonstrate that peace can deliver real economic change is being seriously damaged by the British government’s significant cuts. It must be challenged on this.
“The Irish government is a co-equal guarantor with the British government in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements.
“The government needs to urgently intervene and challenge this foolish and short-sighted approach by the British government.
“It needs a strategy to keep London to its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and to remove the threat to the Executive and institutions created by its cuts agenda.”
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD called on the British government to release Marian Price and Martin Corey and he urged the Irish government to raise these cases directly with the British.
Teachta Adams said: “Marian Price has been in detention for 2 years and should be released immediately.
“She is a seriously-ill woman who has spent the majority of her time in detention in isolation. She is being held without charge or trial or due process.
“Marian’s condition has also deteriorated in the last week. She has serious problems with her immune system and is at heightened risk of infection. Consequently, she has been moved back to the City Hospital.
“The Irish government should seek her release. I understand the parole board is due to make a decision on her case shortly. Marian Price, like Martin Corey should be released.”
Speaking in the Dáil this evening during topical issues, Sinn Fein TD for Cork East Sandra McLellan said: “The death of young Vakaris Martinaltis is almost beyond belief.
“As a mother it must be absolutely shocking to find that your child has fallen out of a window and that he is seriously injured. The initial shock must then be magnified many times over by the realisation that no ambulance is available to take your child to hospital.
“The unreliable nature of the emergency services in my constituency of Cork East is now having profound consequences for children and adults who have serious injuries or illness.
“The situation has reached a crisis point and simply put, lives are now at risk as a result.
“In March of this year Minister Reilly gave an undertaking that response times would improve as a result of more effective rostering and improved training. However the recent incidents prove that this is simply not the case.
“The people of Midleton are entitled to better. They deserve to know that if they or their children have an accident or become ill that an ambulance is available to take them to hospital.
“Not just in Cork East but right across the country people are entitled to an emergency service that is both reliable and dependable.
“I call on the Minister to conduct as a matter of urgency a review of how the reconfiguration of the ambulance and emergency services actually works for people and communities. The evidence to date would suggest that there are serious problems with the service and that people are suffering and /or dying as a result.”
Sinn Féin MLA for North Antim and party spokesperson on Finance, Daithí McKay has stated that the Finance Ministers refusal to investigate Sinn Féin Proposals surrounding the harmonisation of fuel duty across the island of Ireland will cost local people money.
Speaking today Mr McKay said:
“Sinn Féin have placed proposals in front of the Minister for Finance calling for a proper assessment to be carried out into the economic impact of the harmonisation of fuel duty across the island of Ireland as a mechanism to deliver real and tangible savings.
“The proposals could deliver extra revenue which would be accrued through the reduction in losses in trade to southern counties. It would also in the long term help stabilise local economies along the border corridor allowing for greater sustainability in economic growth.
“This would help offset any potential loss which the lowering of the northern level of fuel duty would present to the British Exchequer. Despite this the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has indicated that he has no interest in making any movement to investigate these possible savings or indeed open a negotiation with the British treasury.
“He has clearly set his face against three areas of taxation that could make a real and immediate difference to the local economy, generate revenue and aid local people. His refusal to do so will cost local people money.
“He and his party are tied to an ideological and dogmatic position which, instead of delivering for local people, will automatically oppose anything that contains either a cross border solution to building the economy or indeed challenges the British exchequer.
“Sinn Fein are the only party that are bringing forward proposals would see a reduction in the cost of fuel to consumers, households and SME's. Other parties must now take these issues more seriously."
Waterford Senator David Cullinane has given a guarded welcome to the publication of the Higgins Report, saying it represents some positive development, but that concerns remain about long term future of Waterford Regional Hospital.
Senator Cullinane was speaking from Leinster House today, where he noted that while some concerns remained, people power had been successful in safeguarding services.
“I believe that the report been published by the cabinet today, which was long overdue, can be given a guarded welcome.
“The report effectively recommends the breakup of the existing South East Hospital network, aligning Wexford and Kilkenny Hospitals with various Dublin Hospitals and Waterford Regional Hospital with Cork University Hospital.
“However, we have obtained a commitment to make Waterford a university teaching hospital, a commitment to 24/7 cardiology services and retention of tertiary services.
“Since I broke this news several months ago, there has been a large focus nationally on the future of the Regional Hospital.
“I believe that a combination of people power from campaigners and the work of politicians in government and opposition has made a considerable difference to the outcome.
“We haven’t got the best possible solution, but government has been forced through pressure to see difficulties with the breakup and mitigate against them.
“Our core concern throughout was the protection of tertiary services at the hospital, and in particular, cardiology, trauma care and cancer care.”
“I very much welcome the commitment to retain these, as well as the designation of the hospital as a teaching hospital, and the commitment to ensure 24/7 cardiology services.
“However, real concerns exist in relation to the breakup of the region, and what this will mean for patient care.
“We need to secure and lockdown clinical pathways from Wexford and Kilkenny hospitals to WRH. Any leak of patients to hospitals in Dublin could undermine services WRH and it would have a negative effect on patient care and safety.
“We have some concerns relating to the autonomy of the Hospital, and specifically the movement of control and management, from Waterford to Cork, and that needs to be guarded against.
“This report comes in the context of a health system which is greatly struggling, and a government health policy which is falling apart. Hospitals across state, and in particular regional hospitals are struggling with the same two-tier, inequitable health system that we had under Fianna Fáil with the same widespread health inequalities, the same excessive GP fees for people who do not fall below the very low medical card income qualification threshold, hospital waiting lists increasing, numerous beds lost and considerable loss of services, and staff.
“Any reform of the Health system has to be put in that context.
“The key priority for Waterford is the need to maintain services – the government’s words have to be backed up by actions.
“While we welcome the report, we remain concerned around long term viability of services at the hospital and we will be seeking further guarantees in the days ahead.”
Sinn Féin MLA Sean Lynch who is also the vice chair of the Regional Development Committee has labelled the stopping of road and street works for the G8 summit completely excessive.
Speaking today Mr Lynch said:
“The request by Road Service to stop road and street works for 11 days over the G8 summit is completely excessive.
“Such a request will delay current projects, require a rescheduling across the board and provisions would have to be made as to any possible loss of earnings to contractors and their employees.
“I can understand how perhaps areas around the International Airport and the venue for the G8 may be effected but to place a six county wide moratorium on road works cannot be justified.
“The Minster for Regional Development mustreview this decision and allow road works to continue in the vast majority of areas.”
Giving his initial reaction to the Framework for Smaller Hospitals and the report on the establishment of Hospital Groups, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD: “These reports provide more questions than answers. Communities will look to them in vain for any definite information about the fate of their hospitals. Meanwhile this Government continues to impose cuts which hit services to patients in every hospital.
“The Framework for Smaller Hospitals claims that there has been a consultation process regarding the services to be provided in smaller hospitals. The experience of communities across this State is that there has been little or no consultation and this Government, like its predecessor, has paid little heed to the needs and wishes of the users of our hospital services.
“Health Minister James Reilly himself entered office with the promise to restore emergency service to Roscommon General Hospital still on his lips and immediately reneged on it, leading to the first ‘man overboard’ for this Government.
“Communities in Monaghan, Navan, Dundalk, Ennis, Nenagh and elsewhere have heard glowing promises about the services that will be provided in place of services taken from those hospitals. In most cases these were not fulfilled. We now have more such promises. While the framework for the services in the different levels of hospitals offers some scope for development, the question is – at what hospital sites and what will be delivered? This Government is cutting funding for health and cutting services, not enhancing them.
“The grouping of hospitals is stated to be in preparation for the establishment of Hospital Trusts. This is based on the fundamentally flawed Fine Gael model of healthcare through competing private insurers. There will be real concerns at a number of hospital sites and within whole communities on this new configuration.” ENDS
Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, joined his party colleagues Martin Ferris TD and Michael Colreavy TD, to meet survivors of residential abuse who were protesting outside the Dáil at the lack of provision available in the Residential Statutory Fund.
Deputy O’Brien said: “The Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill, 2012, was passed in Leinster House last July, despite the serious concerns put forward by Sinn Féin and others that the legislation was less than adequate to meet the needs of survivors.
“When this legislation was being debated we sought to widen the eligibility of the Fund so that any survivor of a residential care home could apply for support.
“We also submitted amendments that would have led to the establishment of separate redress Boards for the women of the Magdalene Laundries and former residents of Bethany Home; the right of survivors to avail of a once-off cash payment and a date for when the Religious Congregations would have to pay the outstanding money they owe towards the fund.
“The government’s subsequent rejection of the Sinn Féin amendments has resulted in a fund that is fundamentally flawed and unable to meet the needs of survivors where less than 15,000 people will qualify for assistance.
“Sinn Féin fully supports the efforts of the Munster Survivors Support Services who understandably see the State as failing people who suffered appalling abuse when resident in residential care homes.
"The people I met today are understandably angry and frustrated at government’s refusal to take on board their concerns.”
Caption for attached photo: Sinn Féin TD’s Jonathan O’Brien, Martin Ferris and Michael Colreavy are pictured with Ollie Burke and members of the Munster Survivors Support Services LTD at their protest today outside Leinster House.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Diaspora, Seán Crowe TD, has welcomed the decision of several major clothing brands to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
Crowe raised the issue of fire and building safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories in the Dáil last week, in light of the two recent tragic incidents in Bangladeshi garment factories, which claimed the lives of over 1,100 workers.
Deputy Crowe said:
“I welcome the decision of Primark, H&M, Marks and Spencer’s, Tesco, and Inditex, which is the corporate owner of the Zara chain, and others to support and sign the Accord in Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh when it is published today. I am calling on all clothing brands with operations in Bangladesh to support this accord and sign it today.
“The accord, which was initiated by international unions and NGOs, is a binding program of fire safety reforms based on independent inspections, worker-led health and safety committees and union access to factories.
“The signatories also commit to underwrite improvements in dangerous factories and properly confront fire safety and structural problems, and the accord also importantly grants workers the right to refuse dangerous work or work in unsafe conditions.
“The Rana Plaza building collapse on April 24, which claimed over 1,100 lives, and the separate factory fire which killed 8 workers last Thursday, appalled people the world over.
“While it is important the Bangladeshi Government’s instigates reforms to improve the working conditions and rights of workers in the country, there also needs to be action from the private sector, but self-regulation wasn’t working.
“When I spoke on the issue in the Dáil last week, I drew a comparison with the Stardust tragedy in Dublin. This tragic event showed that self-regulation doesn’t work and that there is a critical need for strong regulation and a pro-active safety regime, to improve the fire and safety of buildings.
“In the Irish Government’s new development policy paper for Irish Aid they gave a strong commitment to ensure they would work toward the fulfilment of human rights, including promoting decent work, around the world. It also contained a commitment to work with Irish companies to help promote good development and human rights practice.
“The government must stick to this important commitment. Decent work and workers’ rights are a key element in improving people’s health, reducing inequality, and instigating development and building a fairer society.”
Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has said that Minister Ruairí Quinn must do more than pay “lip service” to supporting practical measures that would help reduce the cost of sending a child to school.
Deputy O’Brien said: “For a number of years now, Sinn Féin has put forward suggestions to help ease the financial burden on parents sending their children to school.
“The introduction of a mandatory code of practice for the publishers of school text books, the implementation of book lending schemes and the opportunity for parents to purchase generic school uniforms would make a major difference to hard-pressed parents.
“During a very informative presentation made last week to the Oireachtas Education Committee by advocacy groups such as Barnardos and the St Vincent de Paul, there was general agreement that more must be done to make sending a child to school more affordable.
“So while I welcome the Minister’s support for a campaign to back generic uniforms at primary school level and his efforts to tighten controls on schoolbook costs, he must go further and do all within his power to ensure school boards of managements implement practical cost-saving measures.
“This is needed to help parents who are struggling to clothe and equip their children in preparation for school.”
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has welcomed an investigation into expense claims at institutes of technology.
Deputy O’Brien was responding to the news this week that education minister, Ruairí Quinn will scrutinise possible abuses of the system at some institutes in the wake of a number of controversies in recent years.
He continued: “At a time when the education sector is struggling to function in the face of millions being cut from the budget, it is incumbent on the minister to ensure excessive expense claims are thoroughly investigated.
“In recent years it has been revealed that ITs such as Waterford spent hundreds of thousands of Euros on works of art and taxis fares as well as €18,400 on flowers and €4,200 on a charter flight for one person to travel from Waterford to Dublin.
“This is simply unacceptable, particularly at a time when increases are being made to the pupil teacher ratio across the further education sector and third level contribution fees are rising on an annual basis.
“I hope the probe into excessive claims leads to meaningful reform of the system and that those who abuse the system are brought to account for their actions.”
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the primacy of an accountable PSNI is paramount.
The North Belfast MLA and member of the Policing Board said:
"The 'National Crimes Agency' is refusing to be accountable to the normal mechanisms negotiated in the Good Friday Agreement and over the last number of years.
“We recognise the importance of co-operation between different agencies to combat organised crime and this is clearly working on a North/South basis in Ireland and between police in Ireland, Britain and in other police agencies throughout the world.
"The primacy of the PSNI in combating organised crime, indeed all criminality, is paramount. Alongside that is the need for all agencies to be accountable to the mechanisms already in place, such as the Police Ombudsman’s Office and the Policing Board.
“We can not have two tier policing in the North of Ireland. Historically when the accountability mechanisms were not in place policing powers were abused in a very extreme, political and partisan way against one section of our community. We will not return to those days.”
May 14th, 2013 - Kathryn Reilly
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Youth Affairs Kathryn Reilly has called for an urgent debate in the Seanad on the impact of austerity on young people and children. The call comes after the publication of two new reports, by the ESRI and NESC, detailing to social impact of austerity.
Senator Reilly said:
“Today two very important reports were released. The ESRI released a study of the impact of the economic crisis on younger and older people. The National Economic and Social Council released a detailed report on the social dimension of the economic crisis.
“The detail of these two documents makes for very depressing reading. They provide further evidence of the devastating impact austerity is having on people. They also demonstrate that austerity is hitting young people and children hardest.
“The NESC report confirms that 22 per cent of all households are now without any work and the report says that a quarter of all children are living in jobless households
“The ESRI report tells us that the impact of the crisis on people under the age of 45 has been dramatic, particularly when compared with the over 45s.
“Given the importance of these two reports and the issues they explore I have requested a special Seanad debate to which the report’s authors would be invited to present the key findings.
“This would be followed by a debate on the impact of the crisis and the government’s policies of austerity are having on people.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has called on the British government to honour its commitments and for the Irish government to urgently re-engage in the peace process following a succession of decisions by the British government which are seriously undermining the Good Friday Agreement and political institutions.
The Dáil will this evening debate a motion which calls on the Irish government to ensure that the British Government implements the outstanding issues from the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements at St Andrews and Hillsborough.
Sinn Féin is tabling the motion as a measure of our concern at the current state of the peace process and Good Friday Agreement.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said;
“It is now 15 years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. And while it has brought peace and stability there are still outstanding issues which remain to be implemented such as Acht na Gaeilge, the Bill of Rights for the north and an all-Ireland Charter of Rights.
“The British government has also incarcerated Marian Price and Martin Corey without trial. They should be released.
“Since coming to power the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat government has not engaged as it should in the peace process and decisions it has taken have and are seriously undermining the work of the Executive and of the Good Friday Agreement.
“The British government has reneged on the substantial Peace Dividend of £18 billion; has cut the Block Grant by £4 billion; refused to devolve powers on Corporation Tax, and is now proposing to implement significant welfare cuts that will cut a further £1 billion.
“It fails to appreciate the investment that is required for a society that is moving out of conflict.
“By its actions the British government is also targeting the most disadvantaged.
“Its decision to impose welfare cuts will remove millions of pounds from the economy as well as hurting the most vulnerable citizens.
“Sinn Féin has warned the British Prime Minister of this.
“The British government is seriously undermining the work of the Executive and of the political institutions.
“The Executive cannot sustain this level of attack by the British government.
“The British government needs to honour its commitments.
“It needs to recognise the unique situation the Executive is in and the fact that Sinn Féin will not acquiesce to this British agenda.
“The British government needs to re-engage meaningfully with the political parties in the coming days.
“The Irish government has to urgently challenge the British government’s breaches in its commitments.”
May 14th, 2013 - Michael Colreavy TD
Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will today launch the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2013.
Speaking on the bill, Deputy Colreavy said:
“This piece of legislation aims to address some key issues that have surrounded the debate on Irish natural resources for many years.
“The Corrib Gas Project has wreaked havoc and misery on the lives of communities in north Mayo. The interests of local people were bypassed in favour of big industry. This bill will seek to establish in law the need for public consultation and engagement with the local community by oil and gas companies before they are to be granted an exploratory licence.
“Fracking has been an issue of grave concern, especially in communities near the Lough Allen Basin. International experience has warned us of the potential dangers of this method of gas extraction, both on human health and on the wider environment. This legislation aims to ban unconventional methods of gas exploration and extraction.
“As Ireland aims to reduce its carbon emissions we must be mindful that renewable sources of energy are developed along with utilising our oil and gas sources. Renewable sources will become increasingly important in our energy security in coming years. Therefore it is the intention of this bill to ring-fence a section of the profits from our oil and gas for investment in renewable energy.
“Under the current licensing terms oil and gas extracted from Irish water does not have to be landed or processed in Ireland. This could result in many potential Irish jobs being lost. This legislation aims that all oil and gas found off Irish waters should be landed in the state. It also seeks to include a social clause to provide for local employment.
“However, the glaring issue remains the taxation levels from our natural resources. Under standing orders of the Dáil, I am unable to amend these in legislation. I call on Minister Pat Rabbitte to change the tax regime for oil and gas companies as recommended in a Joint Oireachtas Report on Offshore Oil and Gas. The Minister must increase the tax on small commercial discoveries to 40%, medium commercial discoveries to 60% and large commercial discoveries to 80%.
“Now is the time to rectify the licensing terms of oil and gas exploration in Ireland to help boost our economic recovery and to ensure energy security into the future.”
Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann has called for people to support Anti-Homophobia week.
Speaking following a launch of the week of events the West Belfast MLA said:
“I fully support this week of events that offer an opportunity for all of us to take a stand against homophobia. Unfortunately, despite changing attitudes and anti-discrimination laws, many lesbian, gay and bisexual people still face prejudice. More than two fifths of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people have been bullied at school on account of their sexuality.
“People should not be victimised or bullied because of their sexuality. No one should be apprehensive or reluctant to report the fact they have been bullied or victimised or abused.
“Anti-Homophobia week is an opportunity for all of us to stand up against homophobia. I encourage anyone who feels that they have suffered prejudice because of their sexuality to report it in order to help combat homophobia and to ensure that other people do not receive the same unacceptable treatment.”
The West Belfast MLA said:
“Equality and inclusion are key building blocks in the creation of a better future for all. Individually and collectively we all have a role to play in ensuring everyone has the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of life regardless of religion, ethnicity, ability, gender or sexual orientation.
“Good relations across all parts of our community are an essential ingredient of building a prosperous, peaceful and safe society, which is enriched by diversity and welcoming to all.
“The announcement last week in relation to the new good relations strategy, Together: Building a United Community, is a very positive step forward in making that become a reality.
“Our vision is a united community based on equality of opportunity, the desirability of good relations and reconciliation. One that is strengthened by its diversity, where cultural expression is celebrated and embraced and where everyone can live learn, work and socialise together, free from prejudice, hate and intolerance."
Writing in this morning’s Belfast Telegraph Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA accused the British government of ‘a failure to understand what is required in a society moving out of conflict.’
He criticized them for having ‘reneged on the Peace Dividend, cutting the Block Grant, refusing to devolve powers on Corporation Tax and now proposing to implement significant welfare cuts’.
Mr. McGuinness said ‘People rightly expect the Executive to try and deliver however it seems the British government are intent on trying to get us to operate with our hands tied behind our backs.’
He concluded, ‘The British government need to re-engage with the parties in the Executive in the coming days. They need to come to the table with a sensible economic package which will allow progress to be made. We do not want or expect blank cheques. But what we do demand is that ability to be allowed to deliver on the basis which was previously agreed.’
Full text for Mr. McGuinness article
A number of weeks ago myself and Peter Robinson met with the British Prime Minister David Cameron in Downing Street. It was one of only a handful of meetings that have taken place since the Tory/Liberal Democrats coalition came into power.
Throughout their time in government they have not been as engaged as they should have been in the peace process and have undermined the work of the Executive. They have reneged on the Peace Dividend, they cut the Block Grant, refused to devolve powers on Corporation Tax and are now proposing to implement significant welfare cuts.
At the centre of all of this is a failure to understand what is required in a society moving out of conflict. What is urgently needed is an investment package to stimulate the economy.
That is why all of the parties ensured a key outcome from the negotiations at St Andrews which led to the establishment of the current Executive and Assembly was a commitment from the then British government for a significant Peace Dividend. This was a negotiation presided over by the British and Irish governments and in conjunction with the US through their Special Envoy.
This was a recognition that society in the north was emerging from conflict and had suffered from decades of under investment during Direct Rule particularly in our infrastructure.
One of the first actions of the current British government was to renege on this commitment.
By this action itremoved from the Executive the ability to deliver a capital investment programme in key infrastructural projects which would have had the dual effect of providing much needed employment in the construction industry and bringing our roads, hospitals and schools up to the necessary standard.
The next action of the British government was to cut the Block Grant.
Within the fiscal constraints of the Executive collectively we managed to raise some additional revenue and tried to offset the worst effects of the cut to the block grant.
But this approach was clearly stretching our finances to the limit.
Now to compound this difficult situation the British government are seeking to impose welfare cuts under the guise of reform.
This will, in effect, remove millions of pounds from the economy in the north.
I find the targeting of the most vulnerable and hard working low income families by these cuts as unacceptable. I have told the British Prime Minister this very directly.
Having invested so much in this process and in these institutions I am frustrated that the British government are undermining our work to this extent.
People rightly expect the Executive to try and deliver however it seems the British government are intent on trying to get us to operate with our hands tied behind our backs.
Last week we met the British Secretary of State Teresa Villars to discuss an Economic package for the Executive. It was not a good meeting and in many ways mirrored our previous discussions with David Cameron.
This cannot continue. The Executive simply cannot sustain attack after attack from the British government undermining its ability to work effectively and deliver for the community.
It is my view that the Executive cannot sustain these three attacks on our finances.
Put simply the British government need to think again. They need to return to the commitments they have made. They need to recognise the unique situation the Executive is in and the political reality that we will not countenance the continuation of this agenda or acquiesce to it.
The British government need to re-engage with the parties in the Executive in the coming days. They need to come to the table with a sensible economic package which will allow progress to be made. We do not want or expect blank cheques. But what we do demand is that ability to be allowed to deliver on the basis which was previously agreed.ENDS
"I am pleased to hear that both management at Bus Éireann and the unions have agreed to negotiations at the LRC tonight, and I am hopeful that a resolution can be found. I believe that a resolution can be found, which is acceptable to both unions and the company, but it is important that the Company realise that any cuts to the wage bill should deal with the higher end of the pay scale at the company, not ordinary low to middle income workers."
"The government also needs to take responsibility for this situation. Bus Éireann is a publicly owned company, and Minister Varadkar has been responsible for considerable cutbacks to public transport, which have contributed to this impasse."
"He cannot continue to be a bystander, he needs to show proper leadership, and do whatever is in his power to work with the unions and the company to resolve this dispute."
Sinn Féin MLA Bronwyn McGahan has welcomed the announcement by Linden Foods in Dungannon that it will create 179 new jobs.
Ms. McGahan said,
“This is a timely boost to the confidence of the town of Dungannon in that these new jobs will inject over £2.5m into the local economy in wages alone at a time when unemployment is rising.
“The agri food industry is one of the biggest employers in the North so it is good to see this local food company announcing this large expansion and making a mark ion this sector.
“Linden Foods have established themselves as a first class producer of processed meats and this is no doubt down to the current management and staff who have shown that there is a pool of quality labour available in the area.
“I would also like to acknowledge the role of Invest NI in the creation of these jobs and ask that they maintain a focus in the creation of jobs in the area given the high levels of unemployment.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald will take part in a debate on Irish Unity in Crossmaglen tomorrow evening with representatives from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Ulster Unionist Party.
The debate is part of the People’s Referendum campaign taking place in Crossmaglen and Creggan to highlight the demand for a border poll.
Taking part will be Mary Lou McDonald, Senator Mary White of Fianna Fáil, Joe McHugh TD of Fine Gael, Irish News writer and UUP member Roy Garland and Conor Patterson, Chief Executive of Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency.
Speaking today Deputy McDonald said;
“I am very much looking forward to tomorrow evening’s debate and I want to congratulate the organisers of the People’s Referendum campaign for taking the initiative on this issue.
“The areas of Crossmaglen and Creggan are living with the reality of the border every day of their lives and they have taken this initiative to highlight the very real demand for a border poll.
“Sinn Féin has initiated the debate by calling for a border poll on Irish unity to take place within the lifetime of the next assembly and Oireachtas terms.
“The debate on Irish unity is now intensifying with demand for a border poll taking centre stage.
“There are key economic and social issues that also need to be debated such as the costs of running two competing economies and states on an island this size and the duplication of essential public service like health and education, energy and agriculture.
“I am glad to see other parties taking part in tomorrow evening’s debate and I hope to see all those who claim to support Irish unity supporting the People’s Referendum.
“Similarly I look forward to engaging with all sections of Irish society in a healthy debate on the future of Ireland.”