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Sights and sounds from Bodenstown 2015

Some sights and sounds from the Annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare on June 21, 2015. Main speaker Sinn Féin deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald TD. During the course of her speech she talked about the need for a fair economic recovery north and south; demanded the British to come clean about collusion; and expressed solidarity with the people of Greece.

Martin McGuinness speaking at Stormont said that Sinn Féin's conditional support for the budget bill will create the space to resolve outstanding issues and ensure the executive has workable and sustainable finances and see the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.


Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan of taking the side of EU elite against people...



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin MLA and vice chair of the Regional Development Committee, Sean Lynch, has slammed Danny Kennedy for hiding behind legalese as he refused to answer pertinent questions with regards his decision not to appeal the case brought against the department by Alan Lennon.

Speaking today following the Regional Development Committee Mr Lynch said:

“Danny Kennedy came before the committee today to answer pertinent question surrounding the case that Alan Lennon took against the Department of Regional Development. 

“However the Minister has decided to hide behind legalese saying that “legal professional privilege” stops him from answering certain questions in relation to this case. 

“The Minister was asked in plain terms to explain his decision not to appeal the case despite the very strong legal opinion to do so. He refused. 

“Danny Kennedy had cited before the cost to the public purse of an appeal yet today, even months after the court ruling, he was unable to provide figures to justify his reasoning. 

“His refusal to appeal has already cost the public close to a quarter of a million pounds. 

“Further to this he also refused to state why he, as Minister, also refused to appoint Alan Lennon to an arguably lesser non-executive position. 

“If the Minister was so secure in his decision, as he has previously stated,  he could waver his privilege and provide the committee and indeed the wider public with the truth on this matter. 

“As he continues to hide the questions surrounding this case continue to mount.” 

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Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams this morning questioned the Taoiseach about the redress scheme and the three month review that is being undertaken by Justice John Quirke following the state’s apology to the women survivors.

The Sinn Féin leader specifically asked the Taoiseach about the inclusion of Summerhill in Wexford and the survivors of the Bethany Home in Dublin.

Teachta Adams welcomed the Taoiseach’s commitment that the government will consider including Summerhill in the redress scheme and that the Minister for Justice is currently examining the case for the victims of Bethany Home.

Teachta Adams said:

“Yesterday the women of the Magdalene laundries heard the words of apology they needed to hear. However it is now crucial that the women are properly compensated for what was done to them.

“This needs to be done in a prompt, fair, open and transparent manner. These are women who had already had their rights trampled upon.

“The publication of the terms of reference for Mr Justice Quirke’s review pose questions that the government must answer.

“For example, the ex gratia scheme is essentially a payment without admission of liability. This is clearly at odds with the sentiment of the Taoiseach’s remarks last night and the McAleese report both of which accept that the State is liable for what happened to these women.

“The government also needs to clarify whether Mr Justice Quirke will be given statutory powers. Will there be an independent appeal mechanism for the women? And while nobody wants runaway legal fees some consideration should be given to allow some form of legal representation for those women who feel they need it.

“The government needs to make it clear that those already compensated for their ill treatment in industrial schools will not be excluded under this scheme if they were in a Magdalene Laundry. Nobody should be excluded because they were also abused in those institutions.

“The McAleese report also refers to persons resident in the UK but no mention is made of Magdalene women living in the USA or elsewhere in the world.

“And finally there is the issue of a contribution from the religious congregations who ran the Magdalene laundries.

“All of these questions require clarification by government so that the Magdalene survivors have a complete understanding of the approach being taken by the government and their rights in this new situation.”

ENDS

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Speaking from Brussels today following a public hearing on the Tobacco Products Directive, attended by a number of NGO’s as well as Florence Berteletti Kemp, Director of Smoke Free Partnership and  Luk Joossens from the Association of European Cancer Leagues,  Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said:

“As one of the Shadow Rapporteurs on the Tobacco Products Directive I will be working with members to get a strong and effective directive in place before the end of the current mandate.

“The Australian Federal government has recently announced its intention to introduce plain packaging which sets the standard that I believe the EU should follow.

“But even with a mandatory plain packaging proposal, the Directive is vulnerable to delays and attempts to weaken its provisions by the tobacco industry and its allies. Last year the former EU Health Commissioner, John Dalli was accused of involvement in corruption when a Swedish source claimed a Maltese businessman offered to sell access/influence to the Commissioner for €60million to lift the EU-wide ban on Snus - a smokeless tobacco which can presently only be sold in Sweden.

“Parliament has still not seen the EU anti-fraud agency report on Dalli and there remain questions as to why the agency has failed to allow its own supervisory committee to see the full Dalli report. I have put questions to EU Commission President, Manuel Barroso to find out what action will be taken to ensure its anti-fraud policies and internal code of conduct for staff are transparent and more effective.

 “With 70% of smokers starting before the age of 18 and over 2,000 people a year in the North of Ireland and 2,000 a day in the EU dying from tobacco related chronic diseases, this is a problem area that requires robust enforceable regulation. Industry vested interests must not be allowed to influence or dilute the actions that are required to comprehensively tackle the use of this killer product.

“After years of deliberations, the European Commission last year finally adopted proposals to revise its Tobacco Products Directive.

“The proposed legislation consists of new and strengthened rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented and sold. More specifically, it bans the use of cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) and smokeless products with character changing flavours and makes the use of large pictorial health warnings mandatory on cigarettes and RYO.

“The proposals include measures for products that were not specifically regulated so far, such as e-cigarettes and herbal products for smoking.  Chewing and nasal tobacco will also be subject to specific labelling and ingredient regulations and the existing ban on oral tobacco (snus) will be maintained.

“I support the call from the Smoke Free Partnership that standardised plain packaging for Tobacco products should be made mandatory.  Plain packaging means that all cigarette packs would look the same, packaged in a standard shape without any branding, design or logo.”

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Responding to comments from AIB Chief Executive David Duffy that the AIB is set to increase its variable interest rates on mortgages Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said the move shows the need for government intervention in the mortgage crisis.

Speaking today Deputy Doherty said;

“This week Sinn Féin used our Private Members’ time to raise the issue of the one in four mortgage holders in this state in mortgage distress.

“The same day I spoke on our motion the AIB announced it was to contact its 33,000 customers in arrears to talk to them about their situation. Yet today, they have indicated that they will soon raise their variable interest rates – a move which will affect 70,000 customers.

“The government owns nearly 100% of AIB and should intervene and let it be known unambiguously that this hike is unacceptable.

“The failure of the government to adopt a strong hand with the lenders, many owned by the State, has added to the crisis.

“The first concrete action the government must take is to revisit the Personal Insolvency Act and remove the final say from the lenders. As long as the lenders have a veto there is little reason for them to seek fair compromises.

“Sinn Féin is calling for ‘independent agreements on mortgage distress’ to be decided by ‘a mortgage restructuring panel’ appointed by the minister. This panel would be empowered to act as an arbitrator with the authorisation to impose on both parties agreements aimed at prioritising the protection of the family home. These agreements should include write-downs where necessary.

“In short, it is time for the government to get involved and get real. Today’s move by AIB shows the banks are not serious about entering into a process of finding realistic resolutions.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government Brian Stanley TD is hosting a presentation on climate change in Leinster House today.

Speaking from Leinster House today Deputy Stanley said;

“The aim of the meeting is to inform TDs, Senators and staff of the importance of supporting the climate change bill we introduced last month. Our bill is comprehensive. It contains targets in line with our international obligations, carbon budgets, accountability by An Taoiseach and the establishment of the Climate Change Commission. This will be independent of government and will prepare an assessment of the potential impact on the state of climate change and it will review on an annual basis the progress made. It will advise An Taoiseach on steps to be taken to meet agreed targets.”

Speakers making presentations at today's Climate Change presentation:

Robin Hanan, Director European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland. Effects of climate change on low income families and their communities.

Ciara Kirrane, Environmental Justice Policy Officer, Trocaire. Global effects of climate change on the world's poorest communities.

Molly Walshe, Policy & Campaigns, Friends of the Earth. What should the Climate Change Bill look like?

The presentation will take place today, Wednesday, February 20th 1-2pm AV Room in Leinster House.

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South Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has welcomed the decision today by Minister Alex Attwood to approve planning permission for a new stadium development at Windsor Park.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

"This is a magnificent regeneration opportunity for Belfast, bringing the prospect of a truly inclusive stadium with access to Boucher Road and forming part of a larger sports village development featuring a council-funded leisure complex. 

"As with Ravenhill and Casement Park, the new stadium will impact positively on the entire city of Belfast but if approached correctly could open up a new era for sport and leisure in South Belfast. 

"Belfast City Council has agreed to look favourably on proposals to include a 21st century leisure complex, replacing Olympia, as part of the Windsor development.

“I will be strongly supporting those plans, representing a significant financial investment, and asking that the proposals are expedited to meet the tight development timeline. Council funding will need to be agreed by May 2013.

"I look forward to working with the IFA to ensure the new stadium contributes to the shared sporting and community goals of Belfast in the time ahead."

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Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson has welcomed the International Parliamentary Forum on Renewable Energy and Development which will meet in Brussels on March 7th - 8th.  The 'Climate Parliament' will convene Members of Parliament from Africa, Asia and Europe in an urgent dialogue with major multilateral agencies on international cooperation to promote renewables worldwide.

Martina Anderson who is a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee (ENVI) which deals with Climate Change said:

"The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is happening too slowly to prevent changes in our climate that will affect our food production, threaten our coastal cities and lead to increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as the droughts and storms seen in many countries in recent years. The transition to renewable energy requires close cooperation at regional, national and global levels. 

"Our TDs and MPs have a key role in generating international action at the speed and scale needed.

Ms Anderson continued:

"International organisations such as the regional development banks, the European Union, UN agencies and the World Bank are investing vast sums of money in infrastructure.  But are they doing enough to promote clean energy?  As legislators, we approve the budgets that fund their work.  Members of Parliament from both donor and recipient countries need to monitor the work of those organisations on behalf of our constituents.  Elected representatives need to encourage them to give top priority to accelerating the global transition to a low carbon economy.

"To create a reliable supply of clean energy, the nations of each major world region must share their resources among themselves through cross-border trading.  In this way, everyone can be connected to the areas where solar, wind, hydro and other renewable energy sources are most abundant and local fluctuations in sun and wind can be factored in.  This requires a new level of international cooperation on energy issues.

"In the global sunbelt, where the majority of the world’s poor live, bilateral and multilateral development agencies have an important role to play in enabling access to clean energy for everyone.

"This Climate Parliament  will enable legislators to question agency heads and senior officials from the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the International Energy Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the OECD, the UN Development Programme, the UN Industrial Development Organisation, the World Bank and some major bilateral agencies about what they are doing – or not doing – to support renewable energy. 

Part of the discussion will include Members of Parliament from all three regions, and will take place in regional groups."

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Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has called for a tightening up of the legislation and regulations governing sub-prime mortgage lenders. The Kerry North/Limerick West deputy was speaking during a debate on a Sinn Féin private members’ motion on housing and mortgages.

Deputy Ferris said: “I have previously raised the fact that some of those involved in subprime lending and who are aggressively pursuing repossessions have, to say the least, dubious backgrounds.

“I have referred before to Mr Ronald Weisz of Wyse Mortgages and other companies who is not only a declared bankrupt in the United States but who also has a conviction here for illegally soliciting deposits.

“His companies operate in a legal limbo. Prior to February 2008, there was no authorisation or supervision of retail credit companies and consequently Wise Finances is neither licensed nor supervised by the Central Bank. There is clearly need to bring all such operators under legislation.

“There is also an insidious practise among Weisz and others, including legal representatives, of selling on subprime mortgages to other characters. Weisz sold on mortgages to the Home Funding Corporation which is owned by Ian Andrews, or Andrew Leaf as he was when he was convicted of corporate tax fraud of £76 million in 2005 and sentenced to 12 years in prison, later reduced on appeal.

“It is a travesty that people like Andrews and Weisz, currently co-defendants in repossession cases, should be allowed to operate in this jurisdiction.

“That is why it is important that there is new legislation to cover these people, and to regulate the whole area. With so many people falling into arrears and with the high proportion of repossession cases being taken by subprime lenders, they need to be properly licensed and regulated and proper scrutiny applied to their lending practises, and to ensuring that people who have been convicted of financial fraud are not allowed operate.”

ENDS

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Sinn Fein transport spokesperson, Dessie Ellis TD, has described the new proposed taxi regulations as “disproportionate and repugnant to our Constitution”.
He made his comments when raising the concerns of many drivers, former republican prisoners, who work as taxi drivers.
Deputy Ellis continued:
“These regulations could see many former political prisoners barred, disqualified or suspended from the industry and without a livelihood despite having worked as drivers for years without any problem.
“This state, with the backing of the people in a referendum signed up to the Good Friday Agreement which recognised the special circumstance of the conflict.
“It also recognised that those imprisoned for offences directly related to the conflict were not ordinary prisoners and should be afforded special attention to aid reintegration into society and the securing of gainful employment.
“I also believe this measure is at odds with the constitution and its recognition of an individual's right to a livelihood or property rights.
“A similar regulation was been attempted in the north of Ireland but was defeated with a former republican prisoner took a case to the High Court. If Minister Alan Kelly will not accept our points on this issue then I expect this to be the outcome again and this section of the Bill will be rendered null and void.
“I am very disappointed by the minister’s response. He completely ignored the Good Friday Agreement which his government is bound by. It is a disgraceful approach to such an important agreement and I hope he will reconsider as we continue to debate.
“Anyone convicted of an offence directly related to the conflict should, under the agreement this state signed up to be supported in getting employment, not thrown out of work as this Bill does. I recognise this government did not sign the agreement but it is time they started living up to it."
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Sights and sounds from Bodenstown 2015


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Palestinian minister Mohammad Shtayyeh addressing the hearing in Brussels.