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Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan was today in Rome to address a debate on the human right to water organised by the Italian Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

‘As the author of the Right2Water European Citizens Initiative report in the European Parliament, which condemned the European Commission for ignoring the will of the citizens on water issues, I was pleased to have the opportunity to put forward the arguments in favour of EU recognition of the Human Right to Water.

‘The very first successful European Citizens Initiative, on the Right2Water managed to attract nearly two million signatures and demanded a recognition of the human right to water and an end to liberalisation of water services  demonstrating the clear importance citizens from right across Europe attach to water issues.

Unfortunately however, the European Commission has chosen to ignore the concerns of the grassroots water movement and has been utterly silent since the report was passed last September.

‘It is essential that water and social movements from across Europe continue to put the pressure on the EU to enshrine the human right to water in legislation, keep water and sanitation services out of trade deals and to stop pushing a privatisation agenda.

‘In 2011, Italy granted a referendum on water management to its citizens, and of those who voted, a staggering 96% were in favour of keeping Italian water and sanitation services in public hands. 

Whilst much more needs to be done to implement this clear signal from the Italian public, it was nevertheless an important first step which Ireland has been consistently denied. Of course Italy had at least voted in favour of water as a human right at the UN in 2010, whilst Ireland’s coalition government of Fianna Fáil and the Greens shamefully abstained.

‘Irish Water and its charges should be scrapped. The Irish government has shown its cards by not allowing a referendum on banning future privatisation of the utility and their reluctance to do so has worrying repercussions for the future of water ownership in Ireland.’

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are engaged in a phoney war and that they need come to terms with the new political reality that they can no longer control both government and opposition between them.

Speaking from Leinster House today Teachta Adams said;

“Before the general election Enda Kenny made serial announcements that Fine Gael would not be part of any government which would be beholding to any independents. Now he is doing the exact opposite.

“For their part the independents presented themselves as being opposed to the political parties. Now some of them are facilitating a charade of ‘negotiations’ with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil which is totally at odds with their anti Fine Gael and anti Fianna Fáil posturing during the election campaign.

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have the numbers to form a government. But instead of engaging in meaningful talks Fianna Fáil have protracted a phoney war with Fine Gael and seem determined to put the Dáil through another vote for Taoiseach tomorrow which cannot possibly succeed.

“Meanwhile the crisis of homelessness and the crisis in our health service and other difficulties continue and are intensifying.

“The Fianna Fáil party which wrecked the economy and Fine Gael which perpetuated the damage and forced working people to bear the brunt of their punitive policies need to make up their minds about their plans for government.

“They need to get their heads around the new political reality that for the first time in the history of the state these two parties cannot control both government and opposition between them.  There has been a seismic shift in Irish politics and they need to get their heads around that.

“If they cannot facilitate or be part of a new government, then clearly another election is the only option. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil need to accept that this is a likely consequence of their protracted play action.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Midlands North West MEP, Matt Carthy, has said that the colossal leak of more than 11.5 million financial and legal records, known as the Panama Papers, must be used as an opportunity to bring those who continue to engage in deceitful and destructive tax practices to justice.

Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament's Economic & Monetary Affairs committee stated:

"The revelation of these files raises fundamental questions about the ethics of tax havens and the role of many who champion austerity for ordinary families in their promotion.  The culpability goes beyond those who avail of havens and includes those who turn a blind eye or who provide tacit approval.

"For the past year I have been proactively involved in the ongoing EU parliament's special tax inquiry committee (TAXE) which has had the stated aim of seeking to bring transparency and accountability to European and International Taxation systems.  I have been dismayed by the serious obstruction of TAXE's work by the EU Commission, corporations and national governments all of which have refused to provide the necessary access to documentation.  This ideological opposition to certain elites paying their fair share of tax is symptomatic of the mind-set that has allowed these rich and powerful world leaders to also avoid paying their share of tax.

"The more cynical amongst us, will say that it's nothing new but scandal after scandal and an abject lack of leadership, serves only to entrench the existing sense of distrust, dismay and exasperation amongst ordinary citizens.

Carthy continued:

"The Panama Papers leaked this week expose the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders, their relatives and their associates.  As austerity measures are being forced upon countries, damaging economies and crippling families, these so called leaders are avoiding paying the very taxes needed to provide essential public services.

"In Ireland, where our health care system is in crisis, where homelessness levels are at an unprecedented levels and where the extreme inequalities between the richest in society and the rest of the population are stark, we have suffered as a result of an austerity agenda that has been pursued by a domestic and EU political consensus that has been happy to ignore wholescale tax avoidance by large corporations and wealthy individuals.

"Tax avoidance is an immense problem and it adversely impacts on people right across the global economy.  The perpetrators need to be reprimanded and the inherent injustice at the heart of global taxation needs to be tackled.

"Sinn Féin in Europe and in Ireland will continue to lead the campaign for tax transparency, and to press for the urgent reforms that are critically required".

ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness formally launched the party’s Assembly election campaign in Upper Bann in Banbridge tonight.

The party is fielding two candidates, John O’Dowd and Catherine Seeley in the May 5th electoral contest.

Tonight’s event was chaired by two newly elected TDs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire from Cork and Dubliner Louise O’Reilly. 

Martin McGuinness said increased Sinn Féin representation in the Assembly would ensure greater protection for minorities and be a radical voice of change.

Martin McGuinness said:

“On May 5th the Assembly election will help set the course of politics on the island of Ireland for another five years and beyond.  In Upper Bann Sinn Féin is standing two candidates Catherine Seeley and John O’Dowd.

“Catherine and John are highly experienced politicians with a proven track record of delivery. Working together as part of Team Sinn Féin, they have delivered millions of pounds of investment to Upper Bann.  

“They have secured social and affordable housing, new schools and youth clubs, play and sports facilities, community facilities and jobs.

“By electing two Sinn Fein MLAs on May 5th you will be strengthening your voice in the Assembly, strengthening the demand for equality and investment in Upper Bann and moving closer to achieving the Irish Republic proclaimed by the men and women who took part in the 1916 Easter Rising.

“Catherine Seeley and John O’Dowd together in the Assembly will be a formidable force for the betterment of all.”

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Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane has said it is deeply worrying that ambulance staff in Waterford are preparing to engage in Industrial action over concerns regarding patient safety. 

Deputy Cullinane said ambulance staff are raising genuine concerns regarding staff working well beyond allocated hours, working without breaks and more worryingly emergency crews assigned non-emergency work.

Speaking from Waterford, Deputy Cullinane said:

"It is deeply worrying to hear that emergency ambulance crew are being allocated non-emergency work potentially leaving no emergency cover. It is also disturbing to hear of ambulance crews being forced to work long hours with insufficient breaks.

"The implementation of the new National Emergency Operations Centre is causing logistical difficulties which could impact on patient care. In Waterford, this can result in an ambulance from Waterford or Dungarvan being dispatched to a call 30 or more miles from their area, since local ambulances are also out on calls, leaving the city and county without adequate cover.

"The Minister for Health needs to directly intervene and address the serious concerns being raised by ambulance staff. I will be raising these issues directly with the Minister."

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Tonight's Dublin City Council meeting received a pledge from more than 800 residents to help turn empty buildings into safe homes.

Speaking at this evening's Dublin City Council meeting Councillor Daithí Doolan, chair of the housing committee, said;

"This evening I received a petition from housing campaigner Erica Fleming on behalf of Uplift. Erica herself is homeless and has lead a campaign to highlight the plight of her family. 

"The petition is a commitment from over 834 Dublin residents to help Dublin City Council turn vacant buildings in Dublin City into safe homes for homeless people.

"This practical offer includes, cleaning, tiling, painting, woodwork electrical work and gardening.

"This is a very practical sign of solidarity from the good citizens of Dublin.

"Dublin faces an unprecedented housing crisis. Numbers forced into emergency accommodation are increasing on a daily basis. 

“I want to applaud Uplift for taking the initiative. I fully understand that there may be technical difficulties, I will give this my full attention and I hope to turn this solidarity into action and to turn empties houses into homes."

For further comment call Daithí 0863888152

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Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness today raised the arrest and imprisonment of Derryman Tony Taylor with British Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers.

Mr Mc Guinness said:

"I raised the case of Derryman Tony Taylor directly with the British Srcretary of State Theresa Villier today.

"The arrest and imprisonment without recourse to due process is a practice that is totally unacceptable and needs to end immediately.

"I made that position clear to Theresa Villiers today."

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Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy has said attacks on a memorial at Teebane should stop immediately. 

Speaking after the monument was attacked for a second time time in recent months, the Mid Ulster MP said; 

"These repeated attacks are wrong and must stop immediately. 

"Memorials, from whatever background or tradition, should not be targeted by anyone. 

"This is the second attack on this monument in recent months. 

"There is no place for this type of vandalism. 

"Those responsible for these attacks are not representative of the people of this area.”

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Sinn Féin's Niall Ó Donnghaile has said legislation is required to protect the rights of Irish speakers. 

Councillor Ó Donnghaile said; 

"Sinn Féin has been to the fore in calling for legislation to protect the rights and entitlements of the Irish language community. 

"We have also called for legislation which reflects the fact that growing numbers of people in society use Irish everyday, including provision for Irish to be used in the courts.

"As Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín has done tremendous work to promote the rights of Irish speakers, launching the Líofa initiative and holding a consultation on an Irish Language Act which had almost 13,000 respondents.  Those responses showed 95 per cent support for legislation for an Irish Language Act now. 

"Unionists in the Executive who are continuing to block the introduction of an Acht na Gaeilge are out of step with the views of the majority of people in the community. 

"The Irish language belongs to everyone and no one has anything to fear from legislation to protect the rights of Irish speakers. 

"This is an important human rights and equality issue and Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for Acht na Gaeilge."

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Sinn Féin candidate Grace McDermott has said it is disgraceful that the PSNI is continuing to deny full disclosure to the family of murdered Tyrone teenager Arlene Arkinson.

 Ms. McDermott said,

 “It is unacceptable that the PSNI are further adding to the anguish of the Arkinson family by delaying the inquest into Arlene’s death yet again by withholding information from her inquest.

 “The Arkinson family has been waiting over 20 years on this inquest and it’s shocking that the police have delayed proceedings yet again.

 “It is important the inquest proceeds with full disclosure from the PSNI so the family can begin to get to the truth about Arlene’s disappearance and murder.

 “The PSNI need to come back to the court on Wednesday with the relevant information so that the inquest can continue.”  

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Sinn Féin TD and Cathaoirleach of the Meath Housing Campaign Peadar Tóibín has stated ‘that while no one can condone that illegal occupation of a house, as the housing crisis escalates families are being forced into desperate actions in order to put a roof over their children’s heads’.

This comes after a Meath family occupied a Local Authority house in Navan in recent days. The family were living in accommodation that they allege was substandard and led to their child contracting pneumonia.  The family have engaged with the council over the last few months in an effort to secure an acceptable alternative but to no avail.

Deputy Tóibín said:

“There are well over 4,500 people on the housing waiting list in Meath at the moment. Last year, over 700 people presented as homeless to Meath County Council. Rents are skyrocketing in the county and rental availability is shrinking. Emergency accommodation in the county is shockingly substandard and is reducing in availability

“Indeed, people who formerly lived in the east of the county have been forced to move the west of the county and then on to Cavan and Monaghan to secure properties that they can afford. Under the government’s housing capital investment plan, only 134 new houses will be built. No new Local Authority housing stock will be completed in Meath this year and the funding delivered is only 33% of what the county needs. Meath’s housing allocation is 54% lower than the national average despite our burgeoning population.  

“It is clear that, as the crisis becomes more acute, people are being pushed to desperate measures. The trouble with this is that Local Authorities will be forced to spend more money on security for empty houses and more money trying to repossess these homes. This money will no doubt come out of the miniscule housing budget and slow the process for those who are waiting in Meath since 2008 on the Housing List. The government must get real with regards the scale of the building project and they must turn voids around quicker. They have sat on their hands for long enough.” 

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Sinn Féin TD and Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has written to the Revenue Commissioners urging a full investigation into any potential loss to the Irish State revealed by the Panama Papers. Deputy Doherty also called for legislative action on country by country reporting and the creation of a public register of beneficial owners of companies as concrete ways of fighting such avoidance and potential evasion of tax.

The Donegal TD said:

“The leaking of the ‘Panama papers’ has sent ripples through corridors of power throughout the world. The Icelandic Prime Minister is facing calls for his resignation and he is far from the only world leader implicated by this leak, along with thousands of other individuals. The involvement of the Irish Times in the collaborative journalistic work means much of this data is in Ireland.

“I have written today to the Revenue Commissioners urging them to investigate fully any potential Irish angle to this international web of avoidance. There is an overwhelming public interest in making sure the Revenue Commissioners move rapidly to investigate.

“The culture which creates the possibility of these schemes does not come about by accident. Successive Irish governments have stalled or outright blocked moves to change this culture. The mention of Anglo Irish Bank as a recommended bank in the Panama Papers shows how Ireland is a player in the avoidance system, not just a victim.

“Only some months ago in the Finance Bill, a Sinn Féin proposal to introduce country by country reporting was voted down. This measure and the creation of a public register of beneficial owners of companies are two practical ways this type of avoidance can be tackled.

“While there are international moves in this direction, the Irish government is, as usual, a reluctant passenger rather than a driver of the change.

“Ireland has had a tumultuous history with overseas accounts being used by the elite to defraud the state and we must seize this opportunity to root out those who would continue to engage in this deceitful practice. The public interest demands an immediate Revenue investigation and the bringing into the public light of as much information as possible. The Irish ‘Panama papers’ could be crucial in rooting out tax avoiders if the political will exists.” 

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Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny has said that Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin both need to realise that neither can govern without the consent and collaboration of the other.

Deputy Kenny said the delay in the formation of a government is down to both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil failing to come to terms with the new political reality that for the first time in the history of the state both parties no longer have the numbers to control both government and opposition between them.

Speaking from Leinster House today he said;

“Micheál Martin’s refusal to talk to Enda Kenny before this week’s nominations for Taoiseach shows that they are not serious about sorting this issue and are still jockeying for position.  Does Micheál Martin realistically believe that he can be elected Taoiseach this week?

“Similarly, Leo Varadkar’s tweet last night shows that they are just going through the motions and not dealing with this situation with any urgency or seriousness.

“They have an eye on the next election rather than the formation of a government that will deal with the issues facing the people.

“Both Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin need to realise that neither of them can govern without the consent and collaboration of the other.

“The delay in the formation of a new government is down to both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil failing to come to terms with the new political reality that for the first time in the history of the state both parties no longer have the numbers to control both government and opposition between them.

“There has been a seismic shift in Irish politics and these parties need to get their heads around that reality.

“While they take their time the current crises in our health and housing sectors continues with no political accountability in place.”

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has visited the construction site of her new Rivers Agency head quarters, based in Loughry College, Cookstown. 

Ms O'Neill toured the site with Peter Quinn of QMac, the local company that secured the contract, to view progress and spoke to construction staff.

Speaking at Cookstown, Minister O'Neill said,

"It's encouraging to see the progress which has taken place to date at the site of the new Rivers Agency offices on the Loughry College estate which will accommodate 85 workstations. 

"This is part of my overall decentralisation policy which will see public sector jobs being distributed across the a north. 

"Construction on site is progressing well; the site has been cleared and the steel frame for the new building has been erected. 

"I'm delighted to report that the contract is well on course for completion as scheduled."

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Sinn Féin's Michele Gildernew has condemned an arson attack on a GAA club building in Moy. 

Ms Gildernew said; 

"This arson attack on the Tír na nÓG club on Benburb Road in Moy is shocking and must be condemned. 

"Buildings at the club were extensively damaged in the fire on Sunday night. 

"This is a club at the heart of the local community and I know that local people will be shocked at what has happened. 

"Sadly this is not the first time the club has been targeted and I hope they will be able to rebuild as soon as possible. 

"I would encourage anyone with any information on this incident to bring it forward to the PSNI."

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Sinn Féin councillor Catherine Seeley has expressed sympathy to the family and friends of a young woman whose body was discovered in Lurgan on Sunday night. 

Councillor Seeley said; 

"First and foremost my thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased. 

"This tragic event has sent a wave of shock throughout the community in North Lurgan and beyond."

"It is very early for any details to be released and the PSNI should be allowed space to carry out their investigations.

"I would call on anyone with any information to contact the PSNI immediately." 

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Sinn Féin's Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has welcomed the publication of the 'Going for Growth' progress report which measures achievements made to date in developing the agri-food industry to meet the ambitious targets which have been set for 2020. 

The 'Going for Growth' strategy was launched by Minister O'Neill in 2013 and focuses on creating new job opportunities, increasing sales and accessing new markets. The latest report points to an estimated £1billion increase in turnover during the last 4 years.

Speaking after publication of the report by the Agri-Food Strategy Board, Ms O'Neill said,

"Despite very challenging global market conditions and continued pressures facing our primary producers, this progress report points to significant progress being made on securing access to 49 new export markets, increasing sales, creating 2500 new jobs, improving animal health, preparation towards establishing the new Strategic Marketing Body and the £250m Farm Business Improvement Scheme. Meeting the agreed targets provide the foundation stones to building the integrated, sustainable and profitable industry which we have a vision to create across this island.

"I'm greatly encouraged at the success of the Young Farmers level 2 qualification which has saw 3000 young farmers avail of the highly regarded CAFRE services to improve their farming efficiency, learn to benchmark, manage cash flow, develop business plans and experience the vast range of online services now available from DARD. A further 3000 farmers have enrolled on the new Business Development Groups, representing all sectors. The message couldn't be clearer that our farmers see a bright and long-term positive future ahead for the industry. 

"The Agri-Food Strategy Board should be commended for their efforts and diligence in ensuring that these targets are being met. The further 15% increase in CAFRE course uptake, obtaining Officially Brucellsis Free (OBF) status, the rolling out of compulsory BVD testing, progressing BSE negligible risk status and the establishment of the Supply Chain Forum is further sign of the progress being made to improving the reputable seal of our produce and breathing greater confidence into our local industry."

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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has described the 2016 census process as a lost opportunity for accurately documenting all of those living in Ireland. The census is set to ignore the growing homeless problem particularly those ‘rough sleepers’ living on the streets who will not be counted on April 24th.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“The census is supposedly a detailed account of everybody who is in the country on this census night of 24 April.

“We are told that the census is important in that it accounts for everybody in the country no matter where they are and the results give the government ‘the information we need now to understand what Ireland needs for the future’. So why are we not collecting vital information on Ireland’s homeless? Do we not want to understand the social and economic reasons for homelessness?

“The current structure of the census excludes so called ‘rough sleepers’. They are excluded because they are not resident in any structure on census night and won’t be included in any data collected.

“Fine Gael and Labour were, and still are, in denial about the extent of the housing and homeless crisis. With the number of homeless people in Dublin at the highest level since figures were first compiled nine years ago it is vital that we have an accurate census of Irish homelessness.

“We need to have accurate figures of those in emergency overnight accommodation as well as the rough sleepers. The census form is unchanged since 2011, and it is a missed opportunity to reflect the real Ireland of 2016.

“The Government need to accept that we are in the middle of a housing crisis and they need to declare an emergency, which necessitates an emergency response with emergency measures.

“Local authorities and homeless charities regularly do their own count but this has largely been ignored by the government and those planning services.

“The census, as currently constituted, will only give planners a partial view of Ireland on the 24 April 2016 and it is a missed opportunity.

“Sadly the rough sleepers will be ignored or airbrushed from reality just as they are ignored on day to day basis as they huddle in doorways trying to keep dry and warm in cities and towns across Ireland.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh, cathaoirleach of the party's Centenary Committee, has criticised the decision to proceed with a wall in Glasnevin Cemetery listing the fallen freedom-fighters of the 1916 Rising along with members of the British crown forces.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh is speaking at a 1916 commemorative event in London later today.

Speaking before he left he said:

"It has been claimed that this wall was constructed with all-party agreement. This is not the case Sinn Féin did not agree to this proposal as we believe it is totally inappropriate for a memorial wall to list indiscriminately together Irish freedom fighters and members of the British crown forces.

"Everyone should have the right to remember and honour their dead, whether they were Irish republicans, members of British crown forces or civilians. That is catered for already within Glasnevin Cemetery with its many and diverse memorials and graves.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has responded to reports that Michael Noonan has told independent TDs that there will be €1bn to spend on tax and spending in the next Budget.

Deputy Doherty said a PQ response from Minister Noonan just last week confirmed that there would be half a billion euro of space for the next budget.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Here we are again watching Michael Noonan inflate the money available to the next Minister for Finance in a desperate political spinning exercise. The fact is last week the Minister confirmed to me that there will be half a billion of space available for the next budget. It is time Michael Noonan learned the lesson of the election and stopped trying to spoof on the figures.

“The facts are that factoring in current government spending commitments and future demands on services from demographics there is €500 million available for next year according to the Department of Finance.

“More important is the issue of how this money will be spent.  This proposed dividing up of this €500 million by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil shows that they are two sides of the same coin, with a commitment to maintaining inequality and the profound crises we have in housing and health.

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are united in their commitment to abolishing USC for those earning up to 80,000 with Fine Gael actually committed to go further.  A 1% cut to the three USC rates applying to this level would cost in excess of half a billion euro.

“A 1% cut costing to the lower rate of USC would cost €173 million, a cut from 3% to 2% in the second rate costs €109 million and a decrease in the third rate from 5.5% to 4.5% will cost €253 million.

“These costings show that the majority if not all of our fiscal space might be eaten up with cuts to the USC rather than tackling our housing or health crises. That is before the recent speculation around public service pay and health overspend are even considered.”

ENDS

PQ Response from Minister Noonan last week:

Estimates of the fiscal space for the period 2017 to 2021 were provided in the documentation accompanying the Budget last October.  These remain the most up-to-date estimates.  On this basis, after providing for pre-committed expenditure (demographics, pay increases under the Lansdowne Road Agreement, expenditure increases as part of the Public Capital Programme), net fiscal space for 2017 was estimated at around €500 million.

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