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No alternative to dialogue and agreement , says McGuinness in major statement on 20th anniversary of IRA cessation

Delivering a keynote address in Derry on Sunday morning on the 20th anniversary of the IRA announcing “a complete cessation of military operations”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said there is a real threat to the political institutions in the North from political stagnation and the absence of progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in a keynote statement today has warned that the “political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.”


Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has condemned the decision to remove the Junior Minister for Housing from the Cabinet and described it as evidence that the government have no real interest in tackling the ongoing social housing crisis.

He made his comments following the announcement by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that the Housing portfolio would no longer retain the status of a ‘Super’ Junior Ministry with a seat at cabinet.

Deputy Ellis continued;

“Housing needs to be a major priority for government. In the run up to the local and European elections the government made much of its supposed efforts to tackled social housing need and high rents but now it has shown this was all rhetoric. They have removed a voice for housing from the cabinet and demoted the responsibility for housing to the role of an ordinary Junior Minister it would seem.

“We have 90,000 households on the waiting lists of our local authorities for housing including 19,400 households in Dublin City alone. We have nearly half a billion euro being paid to landlords to house nearly 100,000 households through Rent Supplement and RAS. Now we have a new Housing Assistance Payment which will sweep housing need under the rug while not providing a single new home.

“Housing need is more severe and widespread than it has been since the foundation of the state. Homelessness is rising with Inner City Help for Homeless reporting 177 rough sleepers in Dublin last night. Emergency accommodation is full and councils are spending thousands each week on hotels rooms for homeless families.

“Housing is a priority for the people. It was a major issue in the local elections in which this government got a sound beating. The government must listen to the people and the experts on housing. They have done very little in three years and now they seem to be washing their hands of the issue. Housing deserves an advocate at the Cabinet table.”

ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Brian Stanley TD has said that the newly appointed Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly TD, must perform better than his predecessor. He also questioned the suitability of former Minister Phil Hogan to be appointed as a European Commissioner. Deputy Stanley referred to Hogan’s record as Minister in relation to the establishment of Irish Water, the introduction of the Local Property Tax, and his failure to bring forward the promised legislation on climate change.

Deputy Stanley said:

“Minister Hogan has introduced some of the most unpopular legislation under the current Government. The Local Property Tax has imposed a further burden on struggling households, and he has also overseen the establishment of Irish Water and the introduction of water charges which I believe will amount to an average charge of well above the €240 forecast by the Government.

“Hogan has also failed to bring forward promised legislation on Climate Change despite that having been a central commitment in the Programme for Government.

“His record in relation to planning has been poor. Fine Gael and Labour promised to oversee a ‘democratic revolution’ in the way in which the state is run. Instead we have seen a series of appointment in recent weeks of people to state boards solely on the basis of their political loyalties. Minister Hogan has appointed 5 Fine Gael and 2 Labour former councillors to state boards in his final days in office.

“He has also attempted to frustrate any investigation into planning irregularities and has appointed as Deputy Chairperson of Bórd Pleanalá an individual who has a clear conflict of interest due to his prior role as a director of one of the main framers of controversial developments.”

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has met with Patrick Kent, the President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) to discuss concerns about issues currently affecting the red meat sector.

The meeting, which took place in Co. Wexford, provided an opportunity for the Minister and the ICSA President to discuss a number of ongoing issues which have been affecting the beef sector recently, including the introduction of penalties for out of spec animals.

Speaking after the meeting Minister O’Neill said: 

"I am very concerned about the recent difficulties experienced by farmers and the wider industry as result of falling beef prices and the penalties imposed by meat plants for out of spec animals. 

"The beef industry is an integral part of the agri-food sector on this island and it is important that we maintain dialogue on these issues which are causing such concern to the beef industry. 

" My officials and I will continue to work with our counterparts here in the South for the good of this industry. I want to see a strong, profitable red meat sector on this island for many years to come and I hope that all elements of the supply chain can continue to work together on this for the benefit of all."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Sport & Tourism, Sandra McLellan TD has called on the new Minister for Arts & Heritage& Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys to reverse the decision of her predecessor to allow Moore Street be levelled and turned it into a shopping centre.

Responding to today’s cabinet reshuffle McLellan said;

“Moore Street is the most important historic site of modern Irish history. In any other country it would preserved and celebrated. This government has failed to protect this site against the destruction of developers. The new Minister must reverse the license granted to Chartered Lands. The license is tantamount to state sponsored vandalism.

“Sinn Fein has published plans for the development of an historic quarter. The site would be centred around Moore Street, the surrounding streets and the GPO. It would serve as a major tourist attraction and provide a boost to the local economy.”

Addressing the appointment of Pascal Donaghue TD as Minister for Transport & Sport, McLellan said:

“The new Minister for Sport must release the €53m in sport's grants wrapped up in red tape. This money has yet to be released to sports clubs awarded grants. Clubs are starved of funding and to have legitimate funds buried deep in the department’s vaults is unacceptable.”

ENDS

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today announced a series of technical decisions on the implementation of CAP reform from 2015.

Minister O’Neill said: 

“Following on from my announcement last month on the remaining key policy decisions establishing the broad CAP support framework, I am today outlining my decisions on a number of detailed technical matters which will form part of the overall farm support regime from 1 January 2015. 

“These decisions were guided by the principle of ensuring a smooth and measured transition to the new Pillar I support regime and avoiding unnecessary changes where existing approaches are working successfully."

The Minister concluded: 

“Today’s announcements effectively conclude the decision making process arising from the CAP Reform agreement and attention will now focus on preparing for implementation.”

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called on the new Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe to take a new direction on public transport and row back on privatisation plans as well as prioritising delivery of the Luas Cross City and A5 projects. He made his comments following the announcement of a cabinet reshuffle by Taoiseach Enda Kenny today.

Deputy Ellis said:

“The outgoing Minister Leo Varadkar was hard working and dedicated but his direction was wrong. Minister Varadkar used his tenure to push through an agenda of privatisation and austerity which has put vital transport services and the conditions of workers at risk.

“The newly appointed Minister Donohoe must row back on this agenda. He must use his time to strengthen public transport in Ireland not undermine it. He should immediately stop plans to privatise 10% of Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus routes as well as calling a halt to the wholesale privatisation of route in Waterford. This move has endangered jobs, workers conditions as well as service quality. It is a plan based on ideology and not evidence as good policy should be. Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus have worked hard to come through the worst of the recession and now as they begin to see profitability in their future it is the job of the state to support them.

“The Minister must also now prioritise delivering Luas CrossCity and the A5 road project. He must work with Sinn Féin to support all Ireland transport routes and to challenge the cross border tariffs on hauliers. He must work with the taxi industry to continue needed reform which supports ordinary drivers. I also hope to see him progress swiftly on plans for a Rapid Transit bus service for Dublin Airport.

“The new Minister must not simply work hard but begin now to put the transport needs of the people before his party’s own ideological position.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, commenting on the appointment of Leo Varadkar as the new Health Minister, has stated that it will make no difference to the performance and delivery of services unless it comes with a fundamental change of policy.

Deputy Ó Caoláin made the statement after Leo Varadkar was announced as Minister for Health in today’s Cabinet reshuffle.

He said;

“Despite the failings of former Health Minister Reilly in terms of his management and oversight of our health services, at times further complicated by his irregular actions, the overriding problem remains this Government’s stated commitment to health care delivery underpinned by private insurance companies whose primary interest is profit.

“Healthcare driven by multiple competing private insurers striving to deliver a profit for shareholders will most certainly fail the real health needs of the Irish people. Until that policy changes and a commitment is given to a healthcare system based on need and need alone and paid for through fair and general taxation, the matter of who holds the Minister’s title will be of only marginal relevance.

“Sinn Féin’s long stated position is that healthcare should be delivered based on need. It should be free at the point of access and paid for through fair and progressive taxation. It is on these principles that we can build a truly world class service across our island.”

ENDS

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Speaking from Leinster House today, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien commented on the appointment of Jan O’Sullivan TD as Minister for Education and Skills and urged her to take a new direction in education policy.

The Cork North Central TD said;

“I look forward to working with Jan O’Sullivan as the new Minister for Education.

“However it is very clear that their predecessor Deputy Quinn made massive mistakes in the role of Education Minister including making drastic cuts to career guidance resources, not allocating appropriate levels of resources to Junior Cycle reform and not engaging with the teaching unions.

“Clearly there is a need for increased appropriate investment in education and Minister O’Sullivan must not continue the practice of bringing in underhanded cuts through amending criteria that are applied to accessing resources such as SNAs.

“Minister O’Sullivan must commit to working with the unions to reform the Junior Cycle, ensure that people are given options in further education and training and ensure that children with special educational needs are given the support they need, and no moves are made to increase the cost of attending third level for students who are already stretched to the limit.

“Ultimately what is needed is a complete change of government but I would ask Minister O’Sullivan to use the limited time the Labour Party have left in Government to make positive changes and ensure pupils and students receive the education that they deserve.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff has called on new Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan to open an Irish passport office in the North.

The West Tyrone MLA said; 

"My office in Omagh has been inundated with calls in recent weeks from people looking for assistance with Irish passport applications. 

"As well as people making new applications, I have been dealing with a number of people who have been seeking replacements for lost or out-of-date passports. 

"I know of one man who had to travel all the way to Cork to collect his passport. 

"The staff at the passport office work very hard and are always accommodating but they are under a lot of pressure, particularly at this time of year. 

"It is high time that an Irish passport office is opened in the North to deal with the huge volume of applications here. 

"I will be writing to the new Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan to call for an Irish passport office to be opened in the North. 

"There are passport offices in Dublin and Cork and another office in Belfast or Derry or Omagh would be of great assistance to applicants from all over the north of Ireland."

Videos

Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


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Mary Lou McDonald and Cathal King