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Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said the Government’s priorities can clearly be seen by the fact that Seán Fitzpatrick has yet to be questioned by authorities over the concealment of €87million in secret loans while there has been a serious crackdown on social welfare fraud.

He said the Government’s cave-in to senior civil servants on pay cuts while lower paid public sector workers bear the brunt of cutbacks is another example of this Government’s prioritisation of the privileged over the less well off in society.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“The revelation that Seán Fitzpatrick has yet to be questioned by any relevant authority over his concealment of €87million in secret loans is a disgrace. Justice Minister Dermot Ahern must step in and ensure that this case is properly investigated and that Seán Fitzpatrick is thoroughly questioned.

“Considering the Government’s recent crackdown on social welfare fraud and the failure to properly investigate the actions of Seán Fitzpatrick it is clear where the Government’s priorities lie.

“The Government’s cave-in to senior civil servants on pay cuts while lower paid public sector workers bear the brunt of cutbacks is another example of this Government’s prioritisation of the privileged over the less well off in society.

“Quite clearly the Government has its priorities backwards. It seeks to protect the wealth of the privileged class while targeting the least well off sections of society to pay for the economic crisis.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on Minister Mícheál Martin to make contact with the Egyptian Government in order to ensure the safety of a number of Irish citizens who are part of a peace convoy to Palestine which has been held up by Egyptian riot police.

Egyptian authorities are refusing to allow approximately sixty aid trucks into Gaza and approximately two thousand Egyptian riot police have surrounded 450 members of the Viva Palestina peace convoy at the Egyptian port of el-Arish. Ten members of the convoy have been injured, four of them seriously.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said today:

“Members of the Viva Palestina convoy are simply attempting to get much needed medical supplies to the people of Gaza. The aggressive behaviour of the Egyptian authorities towards this peace convoy is unacceptable.

“Foreign Affairs Minister Mícheál Martin must make urgent contact with his Egyptian counterpart to ensure the safety of the Irish members of this group.” ENDS

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A Better way forward is available - Mitchel McLaughlin MLA

 

Dialogue between republicanism and Unionism has always been difficult. But it was only through dialogue that we were able to foster and develop the present peace and political process, however fragile that may be. Genuine dialogue based on respect and equality still remains critical to progress the overall situation but particularly to resolve the current difficulties threatening political stability. Because of the experience of conflict and division, all too often political opponents are viewed with suspicion.

 

Too many within political unionism seem to view the process from the point of, if nationalists want it, even if it will enhance the lives of the unionist people as well, then it is nevertheless bad for unionism. Political unionism over the years has suffered from a leadership that has fluctuated between supremacist arrogance and a fearful, inarticulate uncertainty. This instilled a fear in many Unionists that, if respective roles were ever reversed, nationalists would imitate the sectarian excesses of Unionism.

 

Republicans must deal with these fears by redoubling our efforts to communicate with the unionist constituency directly, with a reassuring message that under no circumstances will we visit upon any section of society the exclusion, domination and discrimination from which we are emerging.

 

Republicans want peace and democratic change and are convinced that, unless radical decisions are agreed with the various representatives of unionism, then we are in danger of condemning future generations to continued conflict.

 

I believe that there is a better way forward. The British Government, which is not trusted or respected by any constituency in Ireland, has been the common denominator that has subjugated and divided the people of Ireland for generations. I believe that with patience and in a spirit of mutual respect that nationalists and unionists can agree on their relationships to and with each other in peaceful co-existence on this island without the British Government setting the terms.

 

Republicanism and unionism must reach a sustainable compromise through respectful dialogue, grounded in anti-sectarianism that will move us beyond the impasse of the present into a bright future that will cherish all our people equally. To achieve that, we must explore how we can accommodate each other’s aspirations in a manner which does not demand the surrender of cultural or traditional identity. Together, we must determine the terms of our relationship to this island. What is needed is a determined, strong leadership that does not seek a selfish outcome for our respective constituencies but one which will bring real benefit to all. We must show courage and respect in our dealings with each other and in the management of the process of continued change.

 

Republicans believe that Irish unity, on the basis of equality, offers the best future for all the people of this island. Therefore it is our responsibility to spell out to unionists what sort of united Ireland we seek and to reassure the unionist people of their place in an Ireland of equals. Whilst we demand the entitlement to promote and to persuade for our vision of a United Ireland, we are also open to engage with unionism on their vision for the future. We’re willing to listen to unionism about why they believe the union is the best option. Opening up a public debate around these key issues can provide a better way forward.

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Sinn Féin north Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly this afternoon said he ‘welcomed’ the statement from the UDA, that they have decommissioned their weapons.

Mr Kelly said;

“Firstly if this statement by the UDA is verified by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning then it is a substantial move forward.

The Nationalists and Unionists populations will both be relieved that a substantial amount of guns are being taken off our streets and nationalists communities in particular would rest much easier as a result of that.

There can be no place for guns as we move forward in advancing the political process, this process has been about taking the gun out of Irish politics.” CRÍOCH

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Gerry Adams has described British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward’s remarks yesterday as “banal and silly”.
Mr Adams said,


“Shaun Woodward’s tenure here has been characterised by endlessly banal sound bites without substance. He knows the difficulties in the political process are not ‘difficulties between the DUP and SF’. They are a result of the failure of the DUP to fulfil its obligations under the terms of the Good Friday and the St Andrew’s Agreements.


These Agreements are also accords between the British and Irish governments. It is disingenuous to pass the buck for the failure to implement agreements to Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin is prepared to work through issues with the DUP and Martin McGuinness has shown remarkable leadership and patience in this endeavour.


Continued failure by the British government to face up to it’s responsibilities is unacceptable. No amount of waffle by Shaun Woodward can disguise this. The Governments should be acting on their responsibilities.


The two governments have a duty to act as guarantors of the St Andrew’s Agreement. I told Mr Woodward this yesterday. Martin McGuinness and I also urged the Taoiseach to meet with Gordon Brown on these matters” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan, responding to the release of recent Exchequer figures today, said waiting for the Department of Finance to get forecasts correct was like playing the lottery and that this inconsistency offered no security in these troubled times. Deputy Morgan added that the country was still in huge deficit and was about to embark on NAMA, which would seriously hit economic stability.

Deputy Morgan said:

“Today the Exchequer figures are up but we can see from the weakest areas – VAT and income tax, that workers are still being hit hard by this recession. That is unlikely to change in 2010 in the absence of a government strategy for saving and creating jobs.

“Over the last number of years this Department of Finance has thrown out forecasts month on month which have consistently been wrong – on this occasion they have got it right, but waiting for them to get it right is like playing the lottery and offers no security in these troubled times.

“However, we cannot avoid the real issue here. Ireland is still carrying a massive €20 billion plus deficit and 2010 is the year when the government will implement NAMA, indebting us for further billions. The government cannot claim that the economic situation is turning around when at the same time it is letting debt mount up and doing absolutely nothing to create and sustain jobs.

“The state cannot continue to limp from month to month hoping for a small glimmer of hope on the horizon. 2010 must be the year when the Irish economy is turned around and that will not happen if the government does not focus on providing employment opportunities.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called for the introduction of a special emergency payment for recipients of Fuel Allowance to help them cope with the current spell of freezing weather and the remainder of the winter.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“To assist the least well-off cope over these bitterly cold weeks I am calling on the Government to make a special emergency payment to all fuel allowance recipients.

“Many of the least well-off families and individuals will already have spent a large part of their small incomes in attempting to keep their homes heated. By now, in many cases, their entire winter budget for fuel will have been exhausted. Therefore they will need assistance to get over the current historically cold spell and to continue to heat their homes for the rest of the winter.

“I am urging the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to introduce a special payment as an emergency measure. Surveys have shown that almost 10% of households in this State experience fuel poverty. The most straightforward way to introduce such a payment would be to make it available to all current recipients of Fuel Allowance but provision should also be made for other households who are in fuel poverty.

“Given the unjust and unnecessary social welfare cuts in Budget 2010, the very least that the Government should now do is take exceptional measures to ensure that people in the least well off households do not suffer illness and perhaps death as a result of the cold.

“I would also urge all citizens to direct their thoughts, and actions where possible, at the least well off, including the homeless, those with inadequate heating, the elderly living alone, both in isolated rural Ireland and in our urban environments. They all need our assistance, however little we might have to give. Our time might be all that is required. Showing our concern in a real and practical way can bring a warm glow into the lives of others.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has described the Government’s response to the cold snap as completely inadequate. Deputy Ferris said cutbacks at local authority level are now having an effect as many thousands of people found themselves completely isolated over the Christmas period.

He said:

“Many thousands of people in rural communities have been completely isolated over the Christmas period as the cold snap made roads impassable. The Government’s response has been completely inadequate.

“Cutbacks at local authority level are now having an effect as Councils are failing to get to grips with the problem. In many counties only National roads are being gritted as resources are not available for smaller, rural roads to be maintained.

“The Government must act to get the country back up and running as soon as possible. There should be an all island approach to the sourcing of grit for the roads as both Carrickfergus and Cork are running short.

“Overall the Government must snap out of its seasonal hangover and fix our roads.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has extended his best wishes to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan after Minister Lenihan revealed details of his cancer diagnosis today. Mr. Adams went on to wish the Minister a speedy recovery.

He said:

“My thoughts at this time are with Minister Lenihan and his family. I wish him well with his treatment and hope to see him make a speedy recovery.” ENDS

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RESPONDING to comments by Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin in relation to possible cuts to the Lone Parents Allowance, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Welfare Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the Minister’s comments, coming on the back of social welfare cuts coming into affect next week, will cause panic amongst those dependent on the payment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:

“Those dependent on social welfare will see their payments and child benefit being cut from next week.  They had to make it through the Christmas period without the normal Christmas social welfare payment.  Many will have turned to moneylenders.  Now in the midst of the Christmas holidays Minister Mary Hanafin has chosen to raise the threat of removing the lone parent allowance from certain recipients. Again as we enter the new year we see the most vulnerable are at the top of the government’s target list.

“Sinn Féin has serious concerns regarding the proposals to limit the duration of the One Parent Family Payment. This represents a form of threat, targeting those who are struggling to raise children, re-educate themselves or try to get into the workforce. Twenty-three per cent of lone parents have no formal education qualification, many more left school without a leaving cert. The proposals which the Minister has been talking about fail to demonstrate how these parents and their children by will be supported in the future once their child reaches 13.

Without adequate education and childcare supports these ‘reforms’ have the potential to actually worsen the situation of those who presently rely on these supports. Rather than threatening and cutting the incomes of  those barely getting by, the Government should be ensuring that they have access to properly paid work, retraining and educational opportunities.”

 

ENDS

 

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Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle Raymond McCartney has said that the Egyptian Government must allow the international aid convoy, “Viva Palestina Convoy”, to bring humanitarian aid across the border and into Gaza.

Mr McCartney, who was recently in the Middle East as part of a Sinn Fein delegation, was speaking after it emerged that activists taking part in the convoy have began a hunger strike in protest against the stance of Egypt and to allow them to bring the aid to Gaza.

Mr McCartney said;

“Firstly my thoughts are with those men and women, currently in Jordan, who are taking part in this hunger strike, I am conscious that both Caoimhe Butterly and John Hurson from Ireland are taking part.

It is completely unacceptable that the Egyptian Government would deny the much needed medical and charitable aid to enter Gaza.

One year on from the last Israeli bombardment we see the rights of people in Gaza continued to be denied at an international level; this is totally unacceptable and must be challenged at an equal, international level.

I hope that the Egyptian Government will end their current stance and that those taking part in the Hunger Strike will be able to continue en route to Gaza, safe and healthy.” CRÍOCH

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The Sinn Féin Group leader on Dublin City Council Larry O'Toole has said that the party is opposed to the Dublin City Council budget for 2010 because it will "impose additional charges on those households least able to afford them".

Clarifying the position in the wake of the City Council's Estimates Meeting on Monday evening last, Cllr. O'Toole said: "Sinn Féin councillors on Dublin City Council worked to achieve a budget for 2010 that would preserve council services and jobs. We argued that the commercial rate should remain the same as 2009 and that no charges should be imposed on those households who benefit from the waiver of refuse charges.

“The Labour Party, Fine Gael and City Council management rejected this approach and produced a budget that imposes new charges on 40,000 households in the city who are already struggling with the impact of the Government’s budget.

"At a meeting of Dublin Sinn Féin on 17th December it was decided that if the Council Estimates contained such a charge for those on the waiver then those Estimates would be opposed by the five Sinn Féin Councillors. This position was announced publicly on 18th December.

“At the City Council Estimates meeting on Monday evening 21st December four Sinn Féin Councillors voted against the Estimates and one, Cllr. Killian Forde, voted for them. Cllr. Forde acted in breach of his mandate from the party.

"Sinn Féin's will continue to oppose these charges. We will continue to defend council services and jobs and to demand the proper funding of local democracy by central government." ENDS

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Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said last night’s Prime Time investigation into banking practices in Ireland proves that senior Fianna Fáil politicians and members of the elite golden circle were well aware of the corruption within the Irish banking sector well before the beginning of the recession last year.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the programme shines a light on the need for the main Irish banks to be nationalised and for NAMA to be scrapped.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“It is very clear from last night’s Prime Time programme that senior members of Fianna Fáil and their friends in the elite golden circle were well aware of the malpractice taking place in the Irish banking sector well before the beginning of the recession last year. It is also quite clear that they failed to act and in fact that many of them benefited from this corruption and were integral parts of it.

“These people gambled and made huge profits at the expense of Ireland’s economy. And just look at the mess they have left.

“These revelations confirm my and my party’s view that NAMA was not designed to get the economy back up and running but to take all the bad loans off the banks' books and land them squarely on the shoulders of the Irish people.

“NAMA cannot and will not solve Ireland’s banking problems. It must be scrapped. We must look now at nationalising the two main Irish banks, taking them under state control and ensuring that they are run for the benefit of the Irish people and our economy rather than for the benefit of the wealthy few and senior politicians.” ENDS

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GOVERNMENT Minister Willie O'Dea has been forced to withdraw defamatory comments that he made against Limerick City Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan in the run up to the local government elections last June.

In a newspaper interview last March Willie O'Dea made comments concerning Maurice Quinlivan which were untrue and he withdraws the defamatory statement.

The defamatory claims followed criticism of the Fianna Fáil minister by Maurice Quinlivan over revelations that six civil servants were working on constituency matters for Mr O'Dea at a total cost to taxpayers of between 165,000 to €225,000.

Defamation proceedings which were brought by Councillor Quinlivan against Willie O'Dea TD over his claims were settled in the High Court today.

The terms of the settlement saw an apology read out in the High Court whereby Willie O'Dea withdrew fully the defamatory statements made by him against Mr. Quinlivan.

Willie O'Dea apologised unreservedly to Mr. Quinlivan for the harm done to his reputation and accepted that Mr. Quinlivan is a person of exemplary character.

The Minister withdrew the misleading allegations made by him in his Affidavit to the High Court.

The settlement sees Willie O'Dea paying damages to Maurice Quinlivan and discharges Mr. Quinlivan's legal costs.

ENDS

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Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has welcomed Roads Service’s progress on investment totalling £2.8million in the Ballymoney area this year.

Speaking ahead of this afternoon’s meeting between Roads Service and Ballymoney Borough Council, Conor Murphy said: “I announced the preferred route for the proposed dualling of the A26 Frosses Road between Glarryford Crossroads and Ballycastle Fork last year. My Department is continuing to develop the design for this important road scheme in preparation for progressing the project through the necessary environmental, planning and land acquisition statutory procedures.

"These statutory procedures are expected to be published during the 2010/11 financial year. The April 2008 Department for Regional Developments (DRD) Investment Delivery Plan for Roads anticipates advertisement of the scheme to the market and completion / delivery of the scheme in the period 2013 / 2014 to 2017 / 2018.

“Already completed this year is a £327,000 scheme on the B147 Kirk Road, which improved the visibility sight splay of the Bellisle/Kirk Road junction and also the forward sight distance around a bend adjacent to the junction.

“A combined footway/cycleway has also been constructed at a cost of £100,000 on the B147 Ballinlea Road between Stranocum village and Bushvalley Primary School.

“In addition over 7.6km of carriageway have been resurfaced in asphalt in the Ballymoney area at a cost of £816,000 including 1.0km of resurfacing on the B15 Gracehill Road, Ballymoney, 1.1km on the B16 Bellaghy Road, Dunloy, and 930m on the A26 Newbridge Road at Seacon.

“A number of traffic calming measures and safety related schemes are planned on streets within the Ballymoney Council area. These measures include a recently completed scheme in the Seymour Street area, Ballymoney. The footway along Seymour Street has been upgraded, pedestrian facilities have been improved on Castle Street and the traffic signals at the junction of Main Street and Castle Street have been upgraded to improve pedestrian and cycle routes. The scheme is in support of the Connect 2 project that involves Ballymoney Borough Council, Translink and Sustrans.”

Roads Service Principal Engineer, Uel Wilson said: “Other works that are planned this financial year include the proposal to provide road markings and high friction surfacing on the Portrush Road Roundabout, Ballymoney. A pedestrian refuge island will also be installed near commercial premises on the Portrush Road to assist pedestrian movements.

“The proposed footway extension on the Bann Road from Drumreagh Presbyterian Church to the Vow Road junction is well under construction, and should be substantially completed by Christmas.

"The financial position for the next two years will depend on decisions made by The Executive. However Roads Service is still planning improvement schemes and welcomes comments from Council on its programmes."

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Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has encouraged conflict victims and victim's relatives who may be eligible for financial assistance from the Memorial Fund to ensure they apply.

£1.8 million has been made available to the Memorial Fund this week by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Ms McCann said:

"There has been an enormous toll in deaths and injuries during the conflict.

"This funding will help some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society and their families in a practical way.

"The new Victims and Survivors strategy, when fully implemented, will see a more focussed, coordinated and needs led approach to how we provide support to victims and survivors."

The payments will be distributed through several schemes currently operated by the Memorial Fund.

These are;

People over 60 who have lost a brother or sister or a child or who were injured themselves during the conflict can apply for a £250 payment to help with the cost of living, particularly winter heating costs. If you are a new applicant for this scheme, you are also entitled to an initial £200 payment upon approval by the Memorial Fund.

If you have lost a parent, a child or have been injured yourself as a result of the conflict, you can apply for a £500 respite break voucher.


If you are a registered carer or a primary carer of people injured during the conflict, you can also apply for a payment. Registered carers will need a letter from a GP to confirm they are a registered carer.


If you think you are entitled to financial assistance from any of these schemes, or if you would like further information, please contact the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund;

By phone on 028 9076 1166
By Fax on 028 9076 1144
By email at [email protected]
Or at the  Memorial Fund offices at Unit 1, Massey Avenue, Belfast, BT4 2JT

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Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, has spoken of his outrage that the Kunjumon family have finally been forced to leave the New Lodge district.

Speaking today, after a further attack on the family home at the weekend, Mr Kelly said:
“I am outraged that the Kunjumon family have been left with no alternative but to leave their family home in the New Lodge.

“Unfortunately, a small minority have constantly targeted the family, and indeed their neighbours when they came out to support them, in what can only be described as a series of racially motivated attacks.

“The local community, elected representatives, neighbours and everyone else has stood shoulder to shoulder against these attacks and the dangerous, racist actions of a few. On Saturday I attended a very special Christmas' event in North Belfast celebrating the Indian community which typifies all that is positive about inclusion and integration, and which showed in the strongest most positive terms how welcome the Indian Community are and the massive contribution they make in key areas such as the health service.

“However, the Kunjumons leaving does not end the predicament that this family finds themselves in. The will still have a mortgage and will be having to pay rent on alternative accommodation which will undoubtedly place massive financial hardship on the family.

“It is very clear that they are victims here after five years of attacks on their home. They have had little quality of life and have not had the right that we all take for grated, to feel safe in ones own home.

“The PSNI Chief Constable must sign the certificate that will allow the family to be included in the SPED scheme. What needs to happen to this family before this happens the PSNI believe the qualify for the scheme? To state that this is simply anti social behaviour is wholly unacceptable.

“I have written to the Chief Constable, Matt Baggot and the members of the Policing Board outlining our serious concerns on this case. The PSNI now need to come out publically and explain why it is possible to issue these certificates for some and not for others.

“Further to this those responsible need to be arrested and placed in front of the court’s. Anyone with information should pass it on immediately. This behaviour cannot be allowed to destroy a community. ”

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Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has raised concerns over eligibility problems around access to benefits that are being encountered by people who are originally from Derry but who now live in Donegal.


His comment follows problems where people from Derry now resident in Donegal are being told that they are not entitled to benefits as they do not satisfy Habitual Residence Conditions (HRC)

Raymond McCartney said

“I have been contacted by numerous people who are originally from Derry but who now live in Donegal and who have encountered these problems

Due to the recession many people are losing their jobs and when they go to their local benefits office they are being told that they are not entitled to benefits as they do not satisfy Habitual Residence Conditions (HRC).

HRC is when a person must reside in a state for a period of two years. However, this is contrary to the Good Friday Agreement whereby all citizens throughout the island of Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship. Therefore these people are being discriminated against on the fact that they originally came from the six counties.

The EU has previously brought infringement proceedings against the Irish government on the basis that the HRC prohibited freedom of movement and was indirectly discriminatory on the basis of nationality. However, this practice is continuing and leaving many in financial hardship.

In letters issued by the Community Welfare Services in Donegal they have given reasons for the refusal to grant benefits, which are quite simply mind boggling. One of the reasons they gave for refusal to grant benefits is that by living in a rural area people have reduced their prospects of gaining employment. In a country such as Ireland, which is predominantly rural this just doesn’t make sense. It seems that they are suggesting that if you are unemployed you must move to a city to seek work. This is something we will be clarifying with the Irish government to see if this is government policy. This excuse also fails to recognise that Donegal is Derry’s natural hinterland and commuting between the two is a very natural way of life for thousands of people.

I will be working very closely with Sinn Féin elected representatives in other border counties to tackle this issue as this has become a massive problem particularly in these difficult economic times which have led to an increase in those losing their jobs.

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Speaking from the Copenhagen climate talks after world leaders failed to produce an agreement that would effectively tackle climate change, Irish GUE/NGL MEP Bairbre de Brun criticised the myopia of the COP-15 outcome and called for reinforced determination from climate justice campaigners.

Ms de Brun said: "This document which the summit decided to 'take note of' clearly shows that the work was not done in time for Copenhagen and was not done at Copenhagen either. This lamentable lack of political leadership sends the wrong signals.

Unless people across the world now tell their leaders we need much more courage and ambition from them the chances of effectively tackling climate change are nil.

Ms de Brun said:
"It is left to Mexico at the end of 2010 to try and find the legally binding deal we should have negotiated here. We have not even given them the right tools to work with.

“The vague and badly written political declaration is a disaster for those hit hardest by climate change in the developing world. We needed ambitious targets on emissions reductions, clear sources for the substantial new finance needed and clear commitments, measures, and procedures on a range of other issues in order to limit the global increase in temperature to less than 2 degrees celsius.

Without these the future of the planet looks bleak.”

“For those who want climate justice, the tragedy and waste of this COP-15 must give way to even greater determination to see a substantial agreement struck during 2010 to avert catastrophic climate change.”

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Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has strongly criticised the Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie for her “defence of a benefits system which blatantly discriminates against young people”.
Ms. Anderson was speaking after questioning the Minister on the fact that different rates of key benefits are paid to people under the age of 25.


“I believe it is wrong and blatant discrimination that young people are being pushed into poverty and homelessness for no other reason that their age,”

Ms. Anderson commented.


“For example, a single person in a one-bedroom property who is over 25 is entitled to £77.15 Housing Benefit a week. However, someone in the exact same circumstances but who happens to be under 25 is only entitled to £41.21 a week


“Similarly, a single person aged 25 or over is entitled to £64.30 Jobseekers Allowance a week while a single person who is under 25 is only entitled to £50.95. That is a total of almost £50 a week which is being denied to under 25’s.


“Furthermore, people under 25 are not allowed to claim Working Tax Credit. This is despite the fact that Working Tax Credit is supposed to be an incentive to get people back into employment. But rather than helping the 16-25 age group back into work they are actually being penalised.


“I realise that full responsibility for the benefits system has not yet been transferred to the Assembly but the Minister should be lobbying for more control and for substantial reform in the meantime.


“However, I was extremely disappointed by her response in which she defended this inequality on the basis that under-25’s expect less and have fewer financial responsibilities.


“The minister said she does not regard this situation as age-based discrimination despite the fact that two people with identical living arrangements can be entitled to two completely different rates because of no other reason than their age.


“I believe that these benefits should be means tested not age tested and I am calling on the Minister to stop defending the indefensible and start defending our young people instead.”

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