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Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien, TD, has expressed alarm at weekend reports of an additional €13 million in cuts to be added to the €77 million already planned for the education budget.
Deputy O’Brien responded following an admission by education minister, Ruairí Quinn TD, that his department needs to find €90m in savings next year because of extra pay-offs to retiring teachers.
“There is mounting concern that this revised upward figure,” he said, “will result in additional cuts to frontline education services in a budget that has already been stretched to breaking point.
“It seems that a serious miscalculation in the department’s estimates means there is going to be more hardship for teachers and school children.
“The minister has already stated that the Croke Park agreement prevents him from touching 80% of his department’s budget and it is an issue that he and his government colleagues must address.
“There are serious anomalies within the Department’s pay structures that are exacerbated by the protection of the more highly paid Croke Park Agreement. This is in sharp contrast to the plight of newly-qualified teachers whose wages and allowances have been cut significantly since 2011.
“As we approach December’s budget, stakeholders throughout the education sector have made clear that any additional cuts to the education budget will make it impossible to maintain the adequate delivery of the school curriculum. However, despite these warnings, I believe the minister will continue to target important services and this is likely to include an increase in the pupil teacher ratios.
"Sinn Féin's alternative budget has put forward costed proposals that show there are other alternatives to the government's slash and burn policies.
“To do so will further compound the massive difficulties facing teachers in the classroom and,” concluded Deputy O’Brien, “our children’s education will undoubtedly suffer greatly.” ends

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Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillors will tonight propose key amendments to the draft City Council Budget for 2013, designed to assist low income families and some of the most vulnerable in society.

Calling for support for the Sinn Féin amendments, Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha said:

“Once again Dublin City Council faces into a financial year with no clear idea of what exact level of government funding will be received in 2013. The unjust Household Charge has been widely boycotted across the city, yet the government is proposing to impose in 2013 a new household charge in the guise of a property tax, with no account taken of ability to pay. We do not yet know how this charge will be calculated or when it will kick in.

“Sinn Féin is proposing amendments to the Draft 2013 City Council Budget designed to provide some relief to those on low income and some of the most vulnerable in society.

“The draft budget proposes to cut the commercial rate by 1% for 2013. This follows a cut in the rate by 1% for each of the last three years. Instead we propose saving that money in 2013 and spending it on maintenance of local authority housing and on projects in local areas. We have seen cuts of over €5 million to housing maintenance since 2009 and this is an area of real need, especially given the cuts of over €18 million in the overall housing budget since 2009.

“We are proposing that the proposed spend of €1.57 million on the unwanted, unnecessary and unbuilt Poolbeg incinerator project be spent instead to increase the budget for homeless services to assist the growing numbers of homeless people in our city.

“Budgets are about making the right choices and we are also proposing that instead of increasing rents for certain categories of tenants as proposed in the draft budget, that commercial water charges be increased by 10% instead of 5%. The difference here is only €1 million but we say that this can be borne far more easily by large commercial enterprises, including giant multinationals, than by families in local authority housing. Similarly we are proposing that instead of spending €676,000 on a government project ‘The Gathering’, this money should also return to the hard-pressed housing budget.

“These are the minimum changes to the draft budget that would be acceptable to us and in the absence of these measures we cannot support it.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay said that Sammy Wilson is behaving like a direct rule minister when it comes to Public Sector Pensions.

The North Antrim MLA chairperson of the Assembly’s Finance Committee said:

“Sinn Féin first raised this issue six month ago with the Finance Minister. We made it clear to Sammy Wilson that there needed to be an Assembly process on the issue of public sector pensions.

“Since then Sammy Wilson has done nothing. Last Thursday he forced the issue onto the agenda of the Executive meeting where Martin McGuinness and John O’Dowd made it clear what the Sinn Féin position was and on that position we voted Sammy Wilson’s proposal down.

“This is a devolved issue and that is why there has to be an Assembly process. Sammy Wilson is behaving like a direct rule minister. MLAs need to do the job that they were elected to do and the Finance Minister should respect this.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has called for the Taoiseach to sack the Minister for Health, James Reilly, in light of recent revelations around the Primary Care Centre allocation scandal and his gross mismanagement of the health service.
The Sinn Féin leader called for a comprehensive review of the allocation process and the role of the minister in determining which locations were added to the list of centres.
Teachta Adams said:
“In September my party colleague Caoimhghín Ó Caolain submitted a series of FOIs to the Minister for Health seeking further information about the decisions that were taking in respect of the Primary Care programme. There has been an unprecedented delay in the minister’s response.
“The weekend revelations in the media that the minister belatedly added the two locations in his constituency to the list the evening before the announcement was made and on the basis of criteria which have yet to be adequately explained smacks of the stroke politics for which Fianna Fáil was infamous.
“The Minister for Health has no credibility on any of these issues or in the management of the health service. He is overseeing the disintegration of the health service.
“If the minister hasn’t got the good sense to resign, then he should be sacked and a thorough and comprehensive review must be undertaken of the decisions he took in respect of Primary Care Centres.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hÓisín said the Justice Minister needs to explain to people how the retention of Magilligan Prison will provide value for money and accommodate family links between prisoners, the majority of whom come from the greater Belfast area.

The East Derry MLA said:

“While the minister has to a degree removed the uncertainty around the future of Magilligan Prison, he now needs to address the matters which make it the most expensive prison in Western Europe.

“Magilligan Prison also suffers from its geography when it comes to families keeping in touch with their imprisoned relatives. The majority of prisoners there are from the greater Belfast area, which adds to these difficulties and the costs ensued.

“The minister said there are challenges within these proposals around the future of Magilligan, not least because currently it costs around £78,000 per prisoner per year. These are issues he needs to address.”

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that Health Minister James Reilly has no shred of credibility left. He said his handling of the primary care centres issue and the savage cutbacks he has imposed on health services show that he is not fit to lead.

He said:

“Health Minister James Reilly has no shred of credibility left. His handling of the primary care centre location issue has been a disaster from start to finish. The FOI revelations at the weekend confirmed that he was involved in stroke politics in the addition of locations to the list of primary care centres on the very eve of the announcement of the list last July.

“As far back as early October I sought under FOI from the Department of Health the background documentation to the selection of primary care centre locations. On 6 November the Department sought an extension to 5 December to release the information. Yet some of the material sought was released to the Irish Times last Friday. It seems we are getting a drip-feed of information to try to minimise the impact.

“This Minister has imposed savage health cutbacks, including cuts to home help and home care for some of the most needy of our people. He slashed the health Budget for 2012, resulting in these cutbacks, and is now seeking a supplementary budget. He is not fit to lead and should resign or be dismissed.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Donegal South West Pearse Doherty has expressed shock and outrage at an incident in which a mother, who called for an ambulance, was forced to drive her unconscious child to Letterkenny General Hospital in her own car with a paramedic in the back as there was only one paramedic on duty at the time.

Speaking in response to the incident Deputy Doherty said;

“I was outraged to hear that such an incident occurred last Tuesday. It is reported that an emergency call was made for an ambulance to attend to a young child, who was unconscious.

“An ambulance was dispatched with one advanced paramedic, who was driving the vehicle. At the scene, the paramedic made the clinical decision, based on the needs of the child, to travel back to the hospital in the back of a car driven by the mother of the young child.

“When I sought clarification from the HSE on this matter, it was confirmed that the advanced paramedic was indeed working on his own from 5pm to 8pm on the evening in question.

“It was explained to me that this was due to staff reporting sick and requesting force majeure leave at short notice. I would ask why alternative arrangements were not made to ensure that there were at least two paramedics available to respond to any emergencies.

“It is completely unacceptable that a mother be required to drive her child to hospital in such circumstances, in a vehicle which is not adapted to the needs of the situation, simply because there is inadequate staff to drive the ambulance.

“It is my understanding that the paramedic in question requested that two paramedics who lived nearby be contacted to assist at the scene but this request was refused. This is the effects of budget cuts and austerity on our public services. Sinn Féin has been raising this very issue with the HSE for some time now and we clearly see the impact in this case”

The Deputy concluded:

“The circumstances of this case could have been tragic and as a parent of four young children myself, the potential outcome doesn’t bear thinking about. I call on the HSE to immediately clarify how such an incident was allowed to happen, the reasons why the request to contact local paramedics was refused and to put stringent guidelines in place to ensure such an incident never occurs again.”

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Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, visited community groups in North and East Belfast on Thursday and Friday, with the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.


The All Party delegation visited the Duncairn Partnership in North Belfast, the Short Strand Community Forum and Partnership, the East Belfast Methodist Mission, the Andy Tyrie Interpretative Centre in East Belfast and the Resurgam Trust in Lisburn. They also attended the formal opening ceremony by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of the Skainos Centre in East Belfast.The Skainos event was also the first time that Martin Mc Guinness formally atttended an event in the predomately loyalist area


Speaking after the ground breaking visit Deputy Crowe said:


“This trip to visit community groups in North, South and East Belfast was very informative and I would like to thank the Committee and Senator Martin McAleese for organising the meetings.


“The visits allowed us to see the quiet and positive work that is being doing at community level in both nationalist and unionist areas, and to hear about the mechanisms that are in place to defuse sectarian and other tensions in some of these interface areas.

“Our Committee received a tremendously warm welcome in Belfast and has had a series of insightful discussions with community representatives on the ground, in which their honesty, courage and determination shone through. We heard upbeat and candid presentations on practical initiatives that have contributed so much to maintaining peace.

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“All of these areas suffer from social deprivation, a lack of services and high unemployment. It is important that they feel engaged with the political system and that politicians are listening to their many difficulties.


“The ongoing work being carried out under the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) is not threatening to any group, and is trying to create a shared space among nationalists and unionists in the north and on the island of Ireland..


“While there has been progress in the GFA’s implementation there are still large and important areas that are outstanding and need to addressed urgently

.Acknowledging the gains of recent years, our Committee is conscious of the problems that endure in these communities. Despite many years of an embedded peace process, the peace walls in interface areas across Belfast not only remain, but some are higher now than they were in 1998. Hearing firsthand the issues of unemployment, lack of educational attainment and drugs related crime from community leaders, I pointed out many of the parallels with problems faced in working class areas in many constituencies south of the border.

“I would like to personally thank all these community groups for welcoming all of us to their centres to see at first-hand the important and positive work they are doing.

I am fully committed as are my colleagues, to advancing the concerns we heard , such as improving institutional arrangements to ensure that the funding available filters down to the communities that need it most. We are also in agreement to continue our face to face engagement with those at the vanguard of promoting reconciliation, tolerance and mutual respect between loyalist and republican/nationalist communities and those many other communities experiencing difficulties across the island.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has challenged the government to assure welfare recipients that their payments would not be “pilfered at source to pay for the property tax.”

Responding to media reports that the Department of Social Protection is considering taking money from people's social welfare payments, Ó Snodaigh said:

“This is nothing short of day light robbery. People who are in receipt of welfare are some of the poorest in our communities. To take the property tax out of their payment would force many into deeper poverty. It shows just how desperate this callous government has become.

“And no amount of crocodile tears from Fianna Fáil can alter the fact that they planned to introduce a property tax in their four year plan.

“Minister Joan Burton must make a clear statement ruling out the option of taking the property tax directly out of people's welfare.”

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Commenting on leaks to the media of the report of the expert group on abortion, the Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has said:

“Much of the contents of the expert group due to be published next Tuesday have appeared in today’s newspapers.  

“This report should have been published and made available to members of the Oireachtas as soon as it was received by the Minister for Health.  The Government needs to explain why this was not done. 

“From what has been in the media it is clear that the expert group has a preference for primary legislation (over guidelines or regulations).  This comes as no surprise.

“There does need to be a discussion in the Oireachtas on the report but this cannot be used as an excuse to further delay the introduction of legislation.

“The Government needs to set out a timetable for progressing long overdue legislation on this issue through the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

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Speaking from the anti-austerity rally in Dublin this afternoon the Sinn Féin spokesperson on social protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh echoed the protestors’ calls for a fairer alternative budget.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Citizens are justifiably angry and frightened at the prospect of yet another budget which is shaping up once again to target the least well off in society. The thousands of people protesting here today reflect that anger and fear.

“It is clear that austerity is not working and that an alternative is needed.

“Despite what the government says, there is an alternative to austerity. There are political choices to be made in terms of the upcoming budget.  The Sinn Féin budget document which was launched this week puts forward a clear alternative and a clear set of choices for Fine Gael and Labour. Among our proposals are a one percent wealth tax; the standardisation of discretionary tax reliefs; a cap on the salaries of high paid civil servants and cuts to politician’s pay and expenses. We also seek to ease the burden on struggling taxpayers by proposing such policies as increasing the fuel allowance season by six weeks; reinstating home-help hours and lifting the recruitment embargo to hire 3,500 frontline staff.

“So it is clear that there are alternatives and there are choices to be made. The government can continue to target low and middle income earners or it can implement the right policies which would ensure that those who have more pay more.”

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said the plan for the development of primary care centres must be revisited and revised in a publicly accountable way in light of the revelation that Health Minister James Reilly added locations on the eve of the launch of the plan, including two in his own constituency. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The revelation that Health Minister James Reilly added locations, including two in his own constituency, to the list for development of primary care centres on the eve of the launch of the plan, further undermines his credibility. Once again this demonstrates that James Reilly's position as Health Minister is untenable.

“His own former Junior Minister Róisín Shortall accused him of 'stroke politics' and the alternation of a plan the night before the press launch certainly looks like a stroke.

“The basis for the selection of the announced list of locations for primary care centres now has no public confidence. The whole plan needs to be revisited and revised in a publicly accountable way.

“It is not only the ranking of locations that needs to be revisited. They need to set aside the bias in favour of development of primary care centres by public-private partnerships, as against development directly by the HSE. The new Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White should be tasked with coming forward with a new plan and this plan should be open to scrutiny by the Oireachtas.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane has said that the Narrow Water Bridge was granted planning permission and funded on its merits and has the ability to transform the entire area.

 Ms. Ruane said,

 “The Narrow Water Bridge has been granted funding from the Special EU Public Body as it met all the criteria, in fact I believe it has one of the highest scores for any project brought before the SEUPB.

 “It has also had planning permission granted on both sides of the border and support from the Irish Government.

 “This bridge has the support of the overwhelming majority of people in South Down and North Louth and the potential to transform the economic fortunes of that region

 “I will continue to work with all parties and agencies to ensure this project is completed for the benefit of all communities in the area”

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The Mayor of Derry Sinn Féin Councillor Kevin Campbell has congratulated all those who attended a major incident tonight at Altnagelvin Hospital.

 Mayor Campbell said,

“I would like to congratulate all those who attended the major incident tonight when a fire broke out on the roof at Altnagelvin Hospital.

“I would like to particularly pay tribute to all the Emergency Services who worked together to ensure the safety of staff and patients at the hospital.

“While the Emergency Service practice for these occasions tonight’s actions highlight their true professionalism and teamwork under real conditions.

“The Council officers who responded also need thanked for moving quickly to ensure council premises were available but fortunately these were not needed. “I have been told that while this was a major incident it was not as serious as first thought and that many patients and staff have been moved to other areas within Altnagelvin as a precaution only.

 “Tonight is not the time to get in the way of the Emergency Services as they continue their work but I intend to visit the site in the coming days to offer my personal thanks to all those involved in tonight’s operation.”

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The first meeting of the government’s constitutional convention will be held on Saturday December 1st.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking in Belfast today has urged citizens in the North to engage with the Constitutional Convention and lobby it on the issue of voting rights in Presidential elections.

The Sinn Féin leader also challenged Southern-based parties to “stop playing at being republican and united Irelanders, and start organizing in the North.’

Singling out Fianna Fáil, Mr Adams accused the Fianna Fáil leadership of “opportunistic politics and negative leadership”.

He said:

“I welcome the fact that the Dáil parties are more frequently speaking about, and raising issues relating to the North, than at any time in recent years.

“However, the recent remarks of Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin are opportunistic politics and negative leadership. Mr Martin’s comments have more to do with attacking Sinn Féin as a political rival in the South than with contributing to the Peace Process or future relations on this island.”

The Sinn Fein leader said:

“The past couple of years have been very important ones for Sinn Féin. Across the island successive elections have seen the party grow from strength to strength.

“During this time Sinn Féin’s political message has been clear, coherent and consistent.

“Whether in government in the North or opposition in the South it is about protecting public services and families on low and middle incomes; it is about fair taxes, investing in jobs, and growing the all-Ireland economy.

“Sinn Féin is the only all-island party – a united Ireland party. Others, like Fianna Fáil, have engaged in the rhetoric of republican politics and a united Ireland for decades, but have no vision or strategies or policies to advance it.

“Sinn Féin’s approach is rooted in our core republican values and our vision of a new Republic for this island. We believe in citizens and in citizens’ rights protected in legislation.

“Partition has failed the people of Ireland, North and South, the unionists and the rest of us. A new agreed Ireland based on the rights of citizens is needed.”

Constitutional Convention

“On December 1st the inaugural meeting of the Irish Government’s Constitutional Convention will take place in Dublin.

“The Fine Gael/Labour approach to constitutional reform is under-ambitious and short-sighted.

“Its proposals for the Constitutional Convention fall far short of the type of reform promised especially by Labour before entering government.

“Despite this Sinn Féin is determined to put a number of crucial issues on the agenda at the convention, including voting rights for citizens in the North and for Irish emigrants.

“During my recent visit to the USA and Canada I urged the Irish diaspora in those countries to engage with the convention and make demands of it. I also urge citizens in the north to make their voices heard on this. The Irish government is contemplating giving the vote to Irish citizens in Presidential elections outside the state but not in the north.

“This is not acceptable. Only by lobbying and raising the demand for the vote will it be possible to move the convention beyond the narrow remit it has been set by the government.

A Border Poll

“In the New year Sinn Féin will be launching our campaign to secure a border poll.

“This is a part of the Good Friday Agreement. Responding to my announcement recently Nigel Dodds of the DUP said unionists had no concerns about a border poll so I look forward to his supporting our proposition for a referendum.

“Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement there is now only a qualified, conditional claim by the British on the north and this will change when a majority of citizens vote for an end to the union.

“The Good Friday Agreement therefore provides for a border poll on Irish unity and Sinn Féin wants that poll held in the upcoming period.

“Of course, this means building support for a poll and for a vote in favour of ending partition. I believe we can do this. The economic and political dynamic for the 21st century is for greater co-operation and harmonisation. Common sense, as well as the logic of history, advocates Irish unity.

“It would reduce government costs, make for more efficient governance, create new jobs and guarantee stability and peace.

“I am convinced that it is possible to persuade a majority of citizens that this is the best way forward. That equality and unity is better.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU spokesperson Senator Kathryn Reilly has said today’s breakdown in EU negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework is a “recipe for uncertainty.”

Senator Reiilly said;

“Farmers and groups funded by the EU including those working on peace and reconciliation will be hoping a good deal can be reached as soon as possible. This uncertainty can only hamper economic recovery within the EU. Any delay in the start of the next round of funding has to be avoided.

“Hopefully, if negotiations are to continue under an Irish Presidency the government will not be afraid to stand up for Ireland’s interests particularly as regards direct payments under CAP and measures to tackle youth unemployment. The government should make sure Ireland’s priorities are not subsumed in any wider deal.

“Sinn Féin is calling for an EU budget that is fit for purpose. There are areas like militarisation and bureaucracy that can be cut but social programmes and CAP direct payments need to be protected. The added value of EU programmes cannot be sacrificed to austerity. The EU speaks about growth and job creation so for any cut to the EU budget which affects these priorities should be fiercely resisted.”

ENDS

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Commenting on the news of HIQA’s agreement to investigate the circumstances surrounding the care and treatment provided to Savita Halappanavar Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has echoed the call of Ms. Halappanavar’s husband Praveen and said nothing less than a full public inquiry will suffice.

He said:

“We now have two separate investigations looking at various aspects of the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway. Neither has the confidence of the family.

“The Minister needs to act now and initiate a full public inquiry. Nothing else will suffice.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has said the additional 250 places for Magee campus in Derry is a step forward but more needs to be done to attract yet more places in the future.

 Commenting on the announcement of 250 new places for University of Ulster Magee campus said,

 “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the campaign to increase the number of places at Magee campus especially those who travelled to meet the Minister over the past few months to emphasise upon him the need for the expansion of Magee in relation to the economic recovery in the city.

 “The announcement today by Stephen Farry that 250 extra places have been allocated to Magee campus has to be seen as a step forward in the campaign.

 “I am particularly pleased that these places will be allocated across the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects.

 “There can be no room for complacency or party politicking on this issue. We must demonstrate a strong case for Derry as a 'priority' area and Magee as a catalyst project for Derry City's 'One Plan' regeneration strategy and do so with one clear voice.

 “In the deliberations with the Minister Stephen Farry, questions were raised about the quality and scope of the business case.  As representatives and stakeholders who are calling for the expansion of Magee campus we shouldn’t be afraid of criticism and we shouldn’t be afraid to revisit are business case to see if it can be improved upon even if this means meeting with the Minister to discuss that.

“It is now time to roll up our sleeves, improve the local product and demonstrate that when we are allocated additional places that they can be accommodated.”

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Sinn Féin MLA for East Derry Cathal Ó hOisín has welcomed the increased uptake in single wind turbine applications in the greater County Derry area.

Speaking today Mr Ó hOisín said:

"Applications for single wind turbines has seen a growth in numbers. Local landowners and farmers are seeing the benefits of installing a wind turbine on their land to meet their own electrical needs and in some occasions, selling excess energy generated back to the grid.

“This is an innovative way to both cut costs on local farms and to generate income in this difficult economic climate.

“Applications in our area are growing with 135 submitted this year, an increase of 62 from the previous year.

"However there is a delay to this process with planning application not being met in the target time, although progress is being made on this.

“I would urge the Environment Minister to continue improving the speed in planning so as to ensure that the increased uptake of this renewable energy continues and increases.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Jim McVeigh said the vote in the council’s Strategic and Policy Resources Committee today on the flying of the Union Jack was an important step in making Belfast City Hall an inclusive place.

The West Belfast Councillor said:

“Sinn Féin wants to see a City Hall that is inclusive and welcoming to every citizen and every tradition.

“The Union Jack is associated with one tradition in this city and is often used to exclude and intimidate others.

“The decision of the Strategic and Policy Resources Committee today to end the policy of flying the Union Jack is an important step in making Belfast City Hall an inclusive place.”

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