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Sinn Féin budget supports fair and sustainable recovery - Pearse Doherty

Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget would repair communities, rebuild the economy and renew society. The budget lays out how Sinn Fein would abolish the local property tax and water charges and our programme for investing in disability services, health and education.

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2015 here




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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has criticised the Taoiseach Enda Kenny for introducing a statutory instrument which awards Junior Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan €17,205 annually on top of her €130,000 salary for the simple privilege of attending cabinet meetings.

Deputy Doherty said the payment, which is more than one and a half times what social welfare recipients get, is unwarranted and a kick in the teeth to the thousands of people who are struggling to make ends meet.

He said:

“Enda Kenny signed the statutory instrument on the 31st of January which also continued an allowance for the same amount for the Chief Whip Paul Kehoe.

“The extra payment attached to the position, which is €326 per week on top of her minister’s salary of €130,000 per year, is because the super junior minister attends cabinet meetings.

“This is beyond a joke. There are thousands of families across the state struggling to get by. Children are going to bed cold and to school hungry as parents struggle with bills and mortgage payments.

“This payment shows how out of touch with reality this government really is. It is a kick in the teeth to the thousands of people who are struggling to make ends meet. It should be withdrawn immediately.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has warned that the government’s planned cuts to the Community Employment scheme will have a “grievous impact on many community based projects and services across the state.”
Deputy Adams was speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday evening during a Private Members motion opposing the government’s cuts to the Community Employment Scheme during which he pointed to the “disastrous social consequences of the austerity policies of this government.”

Deputy Adams said:

“These consequences are evident every day in the cuts to essential public services; the numbers of young people leaving our shores; the cuts to DEIS schools; the slashing of school guidance counsellors; the attack on rural communities through the septic tanks debacle; stealth taxes; the crisis in our health service, and now the imposition of cuts to Community Employment schemes which will in effect see the end of many such schemes.

“At the same time the government hands over billions of taxpayers’ money to zombie banks – as much as €20 billion last year. Next month €3.1 billion – almost as much as the total cut in the budget – will be paid to Anglo-Irish.”

Deputy Adams continued:

“The attack on Community Employment Schemes is an attack on vulnerable and disadvantaged communities across the state and on the long term unemployed who are trying to get back to work.

“Community Employment Schemes provide essential services and should be protected against budget cuts.

“The savage cuts introduced in the last Budget means that CE Schemes are threatened with a massive 66% cut in their training and education grants, which means many schemes will not be able to function.

“If Labour Party TDs truly believe that these schemes play a vital role in communities in terms of providing services such as community childcare then they should support this motion.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on the environment, community & local government, Brian Stanley TD has challenged Minister Joan Burton on proposed cuts to Community Employment (CE) schemes and in particular the cuts affecting lone parents.

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Stanley said:

“Twelve months ago a lone parent with three children who was working on a CE Scheme would have received €504 per week. That income has now been cut to €297 per week.

“This government made a decision in Budget 2012 to cut CE Schemes by €41 million while at the same time increasing the budget to TÚS by €54 million. TÚS has no training and no education aspect and does not aim to bring people back into full time employment. It was a very expensive short term headline grabbing exercise. If this government was serious about supporting job creation it would invest the money in CE. CE has a proven track record in supporting people and providing essential services for our communities.

“Many Labour Party TDs were themselves involved in establishing and managing CE Schemes. These same TDs now stand over cuts which will be detrimental to the 20,000 workers in CE Schemes and the communities they serve.

“The government must rethink this slash and burn strategy. It is not more reviews we want but a total and immediate reversal of this budget cut.”

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Speaking today during a Dáil debate on the Government’s proposed cuts to community employment funding, Sinn Féin Donegal South West TD Pearse Doherty accused the government of “attacking disadvantaged communities”.

Deputy Doherty also accused Minister Joan Burton of “hiding behind the Troika and selectively quoting academic research to justify cuts to projects for the long term unemployed, older people and people with disabilities.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“The Government is proposing to cut €27.5 million from the community employment scheme budget in 2012. This is exactly the same amount of money as the Government allowed NAMA to spend on legal fees to private companies since 2010.

“Under pressure from a strong campaign Minister Burton has announced a review of the proposed cut. This is nothing more than a smoke screen to give cover to the embarrassment of Labour backbenchers faced with local anger over the cut.

“The decision to cut this funding is nothing more than an attack on disadvantaged communities. It is an attack on the long term unemployed, on older people and people with disabilities.

“In my own constituency of Donegal South West there are 68 organisations sponsoring community employment schemes. They range from the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Alzheimer Society to numerous local community associations.

“All of these projects and the wider communities they service will suffer as a result of the proposed cut.

“What is worse is that the Minister in her speech yesterday tried to hide behind the Troika, blaming them for ‘not recognising the social value of CE’. Worse still the Minister selectively quoted academic research to justify her decision to attacks community employment schemes.

“Community Employment schemes provide a valuable service to both the unemployed and to disadvantaged communities. Cutting their funding is wrong. Indeed at a time of rising unemployment and social inequality the Government should be increasing investment in community employment.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Peadar Tóibín TD today tabled an amendment to the Competition (Amendment) Bill. The amendment would mandate the government to respond to reports and recommendations from the Competition Authority. The government refused to accept the amendment and voted it down.

Deputy Tóibín stated, “Since coming to power this government has lectured our business community and workers on the need to enhance our competitiveness. In practice the government has translated this rhetoric into attacks on the low paid JLC and agency workers.

“There are anti- competitive practises in this state. They can be found across industries such as the concrete industry, within retail where multinationals exploit their dominant market position with below cost selling and within the commercial rent sector with landlords refusing to end upward only rent reviews.

“Today the Dáil was discussing the Competition Bill, and Sinn Féin proposed a modest amendment that would have mandated the Government to provide a response to reports and recommendations of the Competition Authority.

“The government refused to include this in legislation and opted to continue to ignore the Competition Authority. They have also opted to ignore suggestions from myself with regards incentivising whistle blowers, properly resourcing the authority and facilitating civil fines.

“Failure to invest resources in the Competition Authority is costing this economy and government massive amounts of money and the cost benefit case for increasing the gardaí available to the authority from two individuals is clear.

“This was an opportunity to put in place a robust authority and to demonstrate to our businesses that the government is determined to tackle anti-competitive practises that undermine growth, cost jobs and drive up prices.” ENDS

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Responding to the publication of the Finance Bill 2012, the Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the Bill “protects the wealthy and punishes low and middle income families”.

Deputy Doherty also criticised the Fine Gael/Labour Government for “protecting the rich and powerful in the same way as Fianna Fáil did in the last government.”

Deputy Doherty said the Bill will further depress the economy and impose hardship, unemployment and emigration on citizens.

Doherty said:

“Fine Gael and Labour are repeating the mistakes of Fianna Fáil. They are introducing a Finance Bill that will heap more taxes on low and middle income families while at the same time giving a tax break amounting to millions of Euros to high earners. They are doing so without any guarantee that this new tax break will result in a single job being created.

“The Finance Bill enacts in law the series of indirect tax hikes introduced by the Government in the last budget. VAT is increased, excise duties are increased and deposit interest retention tax is increased. These are all measures which hit the least well off disproportionately; which hit disposable income and consumer sentiment; and which hammer already struggling businesses. They are measures which leave us in the least likely position to emerge from economic crisis.

“There is some good news within this vastly technical bill - but it is good news for the wealthy. The Special Assignee Relief Programme announced in the Budget is set out here. It allows companies to bring in highly paid individuals from outside the state and have their tax liability on earnings between €75,000 and €500,000 written off by 30%. This is the equivalent of approximately €130,000 tax free for the high end of this bracket.

“Over the five years of the period this benefit is allowed, that individual will earn up to €650,000 tax free. It is not spelt out, nor is it believable, how one high earning individual could come to this state and create more jobs purely because of a larger tax free incentive for themselves. The Government is aware that we currently have 14% unemployment in this state and its answer is to offer tax incentives to high earners in other states to come work here. You couldn't make it up.

“In this Bill we also see the various incarnations demanded by the property investment lobbies - a reduction in stamp duty for commercial property transactions and exemptions from stamp duty for property transfers between offshore investors. What we don't see, because the Minister told us on Budget day in another embarrassing U-turn that he wouldn't be introducing it, is a review of upward only rents. These rent agreements are putting viable businesses out of operation right now. These businesses create jobs, landlords do not.

“There is a lot of detail in this Bill which my party will want to examine further, but what is abundantly clear is that this Government is repeating the mistakes of the last. This Bill protects the wealthy and punishes low and middle income families who are being bled dry in order to pay off an ever-growing banking debt.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on the environment, community & local government Brian Stanley TD is attending a national meeting of Community Employment supervisors in Portlaoise today. The meeting is being organised by SIPTU & IMPACT.

Speaking before the meeting Deputy Stanley said:

“I will be attending this afternoon’s meeting to lend my support and that of my party to the campaign against Community Employment cuts. These schemes provide essential community services which would not, or could not, be provided by the private or public sector.

“The government’s proposed cut will force many schemes to end. CE schemes were originally set up to assist the long-term unemployed in getting back to work. With over 183,000 people now long-term unemployed, CE is needed more than ever, but Minister Burton is attempting to drastically cut its funding.

“My party has tabled a Dáil motion in opposition to these cuts and we will call a vote on the motion tonight. I will be taking the opportunity at today’s meeting to urge CE Supervisors to lobby their TDs, in particular government TDs, to support our motion and to oppose cuts.

“I am calling on all TDs from all parties, who support the role Community Employment has played in their communities, to do the right thing tonight and support our motion.”

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Community Employment workers will this evening hold a protest at the Dáil ahead of a vote on a Sinn Féin motion opposing cuts to CE Schemes.

The protest is intended to call on all TDs to support the motion to ensure that vital community services are not lost.

The protest will take place at the Kildare Street Gate at Leinster House at 5pm this evening.

Sinn Féin spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh is available to talk to media at 3pm on the plinth at Leinster House.

For more information contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.

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The Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Health Minister James Reilly are trying to hide the real impact of the massive loss of staff from the health system and the resulting cuts to services.

He said the huge impact on mental health services as revealed by the Psychiatric Nurses Association is a case in point.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“We now know that nearly 4,000 people will have retired from the health services from September last to the end of this month. This is a massive loss of numbers, skills and experiences from our public health system. It has been done in an unplanned and untargeted manner and there is no contingency plan to deal with it.

“In the Dáil today the Taoiseach Enda Kenny tried to deceive the people about the impact of these staff losses and cuts. His Health Minister James Reilly is trying to do the same.

“The reality is that these are cost cutting measures and the numbers of staff and the services they provide are not going to be replaced at the same level we have seen up to now. It means reductions in front-line workers and in front-line services all round.

“The Psychiatric Nurses Association has revealed today that some 400 front-line staff are to retire from mental health services before the end of February. These services are already under massive strain. In one HSE area 17 people requested admission to in-patient mental healthcare over Christmas and all were refused, one of whom later died by suicide.

“The Taoiseach and the Minister should stop trying to deceive the public. They should recognise that these savage cuts are costing lives and they should begin the process of reversing them now.”

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