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Sinn Féin TDs will attend this afternoon’s protest against the cut to the minimum wage outside Leinster House. The protest which is organised by a range of trade union and other groups whose members are effected will begin at 1pm as the Dáil prepares to debate the legislation required to implement the change.

Sinn Féin Workers Rights Spokesperson Martin Ferris said:

“Myself and the other Sinn Féin TDs will be supporting this protest. We will also be speaking and voting against the Emergency Financial Bill that is being introduced this afternoon to give legislative effect to the decision to cut the minimum wage and pensions for low to middle income public servants.

“I am calling on all TDs of every party who have expressed disgust at the measure, and they include Government supporters, to vote against the bill. Let the fight against the austerity programme begin with a defeat of this attack on hundreds of thousands of the lowest paid and their dependents.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said the budget, announced yesterday, will increase the take home pay of millionaires while those on low incomes and social welfare have been forced to take cuts.

Deputy Doherty said the Universal Social Charge actually ensures a benefit for many people earning over €200,000.

He said:

“It is a sick joke that this budget ensures a tidy €22,995 profit for self employed millionaires while those on low incomes and social welfare have been forced to take cuts. Where is the fairness in that?

“Self employed millionaires will actually pay €34,931 less than they currently do as a result of the new Universal Social Charge. While being hit with €11,936 extra in income tax and PSRI they will still make a tidy profit of €22,995.

“This is a budget for the wealthy. This is a budget for the financiers and the propertied rich.

“While ordinary people have been fraught with cuts left, right and centre, many people earning in excess of €200,000 will in fact benefit from this Budget.

“The Minister spoke of burden sharing, but what is actually happening is burden off-loading.

“Someone with an income of €500,000 will get a 4% increase in their net income. At the same time someone on PAYE and earning €25,000 will be 4.3% worse off.

“Not only will these high earners benefit from increases in their incomes, but coupled with generous tax breaks, they will be making a tidy profit from the Budget.

“The Government is taking from the poor and impoverished with one hand and giving to the wealthy and well-off with the other.

“This budget was a farce. Those that could afford to pay more should have been made to pay more.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty has called on the British Secretary of State Owen Patterson to come clean on any involvement he had in brokering the latest political deal between the Tories and the UUP.

Mr Doherty said:

“Nationalists in particular and the public in general have been decidedly underwhelmed by the performance of Owen Patterson since he arrived here as British Secretary of State. Thankfully many of the decisions which affect the lives of people here have been removed from British Direct Rule Ministers.

“However Owen Patterson, as Secretary of State, does have a role to at least give the pretence of impartiality. Last year before taking office his finger prints where all over the last ill fated Tory/UUP alliance. Today we have the announcement of the latest repackaged effort.

“Given Owen Patterson’s current position it is important that he now spells out very clearly what role he played in the latest merger efforts and in the announcement made today that the local Tories have opted out of the Assembly elections.” ENDS

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Speaking in response to Budget 2011 Sinn Fein Dublin Mid West representative Eoin O Broin has branded ‘Paul Gogarty TDs claim to have protected the education budget as a bare faced lie’.

O Broin said:

‘For the last number of weeks Green Party education spokesperson Paul Gogarty TD has been running a campaign saying that he would ensure that education expenditure would be protected in Budget 2011.His campaign has included high visibility mobile bill boards.

‘However the detail of the cuts imposed on all levels of education funding is truly staggering.

‘Charges on parents with children at all levels of education will increase substantially. University fees will increase by €500 per year. Transport costs will increase from anywhere from €50 to €650 per year depending on family zise.

‘And if these unjustified charges were not enough, the budget also contains across the board cuts to vital areas of education expenditure.

‘Funding for projects aimed at tackling educational disadvantage will be cut by 60%. Funding for drugs task force related education projects will be cut by 63%. Funding for information and communication technology in schools will be cut by 80%. Capital funding for second levels schools will be cut by 20%. Other savage cuts include spending for research and development, teacher education and educational psychology services.

‘These cuts will have a devastating impact on quality of education services across the board. However they will particularly affect young people growing up in disadvantaged areas.

‘The Government could have made other decisions that would not have required cuts to vital front line educational services. They could have introduced a 1% wealth tax on individuals with net assets in excess of €1million. This would have raised more than €1billion a portion of which could have been used to ensure that education funding would not only have been protected but increased.

‘In a recession the only sensible course of action is to increase education funding and opportunities, particularly for those people currently out of work and those growing up in disadvantaged areas.

‘Paul Gogarty TDs claim to have protected education spending is a barefaced lie. He along with his Government colleagues John Curran TD and Mary Harney TD are intent on supporting a budget that is bad for the economy, bad for education and bad for our children’s future." ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil on Budget 2011, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was still not a done deal and could be defeated. He appealed to those TDs who had hitherto supported the Government to act in the national interest and to vote against the Social Welfare Bill tomorrow (Thursday). He also called on Fine Gael and Labour to pledge to reverse what he called a “cruel and savage” Budget.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

“This Budget has launched a further all-out attack on people dependent on social welfare and the slashing of the minimum wage is to follow next March.

“The result of this cruel Budget will be poverty and unemployment and social misery. The cuts to social welfare are savage and it is people on social welfare who are going to bear the brunt of this Budget.

“Jobseekers Allowance has been reduced by €8 to €188 per week for those over 25. For people between 22 and 25 years of age the rate drops by €6 per week to €144. In a Budget with no jobs strategy the Government’s message to the unemployed – and especially the young unemployed is very clear: ‘Subsist on less or emigrate.’

“In Budget 2010 the Government’s cruellest cut was to carers. People on Carer’s Allowance lost €8.50 per week and those on Carer’s Benefit lost €8.20. It’s reckoned that over 160,000 family carers provide over 3.7 million hours of care each week. On top of those heartless cuts we now have in Budget 2011 another €8 per week cut in Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit. That’s a weekly cut of €16.50 and €16.20 in the space of just over a year. It is an absolute disgrace.

“The Government has attempted to portray the tax changes in this Budget as reforming and progressive. They are nothing of the sort. There is no wealth tax. There is no new higher rate for those with individual incomes of over €100,000 per annum. In Sinn Féin’s economic recovery plan ‘There is a Better Way’ we show that such a new top rate of 48% would raise €410 million – well in excess of the €397 million the Government is slashing from social welfare for people of working age in this Budget.

“Health cuts of €765 million in 2011 will, I believe, result in bad outcomes and even the deaths of patients across the system. There are currently over 1500 beds in our public hospitals already closed due to cuts. The further cuts in this Budget will close hundreds, if not thousands more beds. If the Government had capped the salaries of public servants at €100,000 this would have saved €350 million for the State per year – nearly half of what is being cut out of the Health budget.

“We call on Fine Gael and Labour to commit to reversing these Budget cuts and rejecting the IMF-EU sell-out deal.

“For our part, we in Sinn Féin are quire clear. We have rejected the Consensus for Cuts. We have put forward a fairer, better way to real economic recovery.

“This Budget is still not a done deal. The four-year plan is not a done deal. And the IMF-EU sell-out is not completed either. If there is anyone with a shred of conscience left among those who have hitherto supported this Fianna Fáil-Green Government then now is the time for them to act in the true national interest.

“And the national interest is also the interest of the people of Tipperary and Kerry and every other county and constituency. Tomorrow the Government will try to force through the Social Welfare Bill with its savage cuts to the incomes of the most vulnerable. Let those who speak of the national interest reject this Bill, reject this Budget and reject this Government.”

FULL TEXT FOLLOWS

Budget 2011 – Statements of Party Leaders 8.12.10

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Sinn Féin Dáil leader


This is a disastrous Budget. It is an anti-people, anti-democratic Budget.
This Budget is the product of a sell-out of Irish sovereignty to the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

It is an effort by a totally discredited Government with no mandate, in its dying days, to impose a Thatcherite economic strategy on the people.
The result of this cruel strategy will be even more poverty and unemployment and social misery.

It is an attack on the mass of the people who are on low to middle incomes, with those most vulnerable to be injured the most.

The wealthy are to escape yet again. And all to bail out bank bond-holders and to do the bidding of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund.

The basis of this Budget, of the IMF/EU deal and the four-year plan is the belief that taking €15 billion out of the economy between now and 2015 will bring us out of recession.
By the Taoiseach’s own admission €15 billion has already been taken out of the economy since 2008 – and with what result? If there is growth in the economy as Minister Lenihan claimed in his Budget speech then this Budget is going to stem that growth – it will suck the oxygen out of the economy.

The recession is not over – it is continuing and it is deepening. Month after month we have consistently had over 400,000 people unemployed.
There was nothing in this Budget to sustain existing jobs and to create new jobs because this Government has no employment strategy. In desperation, it tries to portray any marginal reduction in the Live Register figures as a sign of recovery when in fact it represents the growing numbers of young people emigrating from this country.

In his Budget 2010 speech last December Minister Lenihan said we were on the road to economic recovery. “The worst is over”, he declared and “we are turning the corner”. In this Budget speech he spoke of “clear signs of hope” and “returning to growth after deep and prolonged recession”. His words are even less credible this year than they were last December.

And in this Budget speech the Minister served up a large dollop of historical revisionism. With a straight face, Minister Lenihan said that the €19 billion budget deficit was created because the Government, during the boom, was “seeking, with the full support of those opposite, to spread the benefits of the boom across every section of the population”. The reality was that the Government refused to spread the benefits of the boom across Irish society. They refused to share the wealth. Alone among the Dáil parties during the last General Election Sinn Féin was not calling for tax cuts.


The Minister said “households and businesses continue to work off the excesses of the boom”. This is to suggest that every household grew fat during the boom or, as the Minister stated last week, “we all partied”. That is a parody of the truth and an insult to hundreds of thousands of struggling families in this State.


Last year I described as reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher the Minister’s argument that the social welfare system can “trap people in joblessness”. The only thing trapping people in joblessness is this Government which has wrecked the economy and has failed to present a stimulus package to retain and create real jobs. I also warned at that time that after the Budget 2010 attacks on people on social welfare and low income that the minimum wage would be next.

Now it has come to pass. This Budget has launched a further all-out attack on people dependent on social welfare and the slashing of the minimum wage is to follow next March.

The result of this cruel Budget will be poverty and unemployment and social misery. The cuts to social welfare are savage and it is people on social welfare who are going to bear the brunt of this Budget.

Minister Lenihan tried to justify these cuts by claiming that there was low inflation. It is a pathetic effort to defend the indefensible. The very Budget that cuts social welfare also raises a whole range of costs that will be borne by people on social welfare and other low to middle income families. According to the Consumer Price Index, prices have risen by 2% in 2010.

The basic social welfare rate is being cut by €416 per annum. A couple dependent on social welfare will be down €691 per annum. Once Child Benefit cuts are added an unemployed family with three children will be down over €1,000.
Most social welfare recipients will have €8 per week or €416 per year taken out of their pockets by this Budget.

Jobseekers Allowance has been reduced by €8 to €188 per week for those over 25. For people between 22 and 25 years of age the rate drops by €6 per week to €144.

In a Budget with no jobs strategy the Government’s message to the unemployed – and especially the young unemployed is very clear: “Subsist on less or emigrate.”

In Budget 2010 the Government’s cruellest cut was to carers. People on Carer’s Allowance lost €8.50 per week and those on Carer’s Benefit lost €8.20. It’s reckoned that over 160,000 family carers provide over 3.7 million hours of care each week.

On top of those heartless cuts we now have in Budget 2011 another €8 per week cut in Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit. That’s a weekly cut of €16.50 and €16.20 in the space of just over a year. It is an absolute disgrace.

The €8 weekly cut slashes invalidity pension, one-parent family payment, disability allowance, widows’ and widowers’ pensions, disablement pension and the blind pension. As Inclusion Ireland has pointed out, these cuts are completely at variance with the National Disability Strategy, which is often cited by Government as evidence of its commitment to people with disabilities.

This is an anti-children budget and will undoubtedly increase child poverty. The €10 reduction to child benefit for first and second child, and €20 for the third child and another €10 for the fourth child will penalise poorer families the most. It is shameful.

As the European Anti-Poverty Network has pointed out, statistics released last week by the Central Statistics Office for 2009 show that levels of consistent poverty in this State rose from 4.2% in 2008 to 5.5% while the numbers unable to afford basic requirements went up by 25%. This is even before the impact of cuts in Budget 2010 - let alone this budget - are taken into account.

Cutting social welfare should be the last thing that a Government does in a time of economic difficulty. Cutting social welfare payments will have a detrimental effect on the economy and society because those payments are always returned to the economy. They are not salted away in savings or invested abroad. They are spent on rent, mortgages, food, utilities and other essentials.

Cutting welfare is a false economy, the only tangible result of which is misery for those on the receiving end. If less money is spent, the economy will contract, businesses will struggle and more jobs will be lost. More people will be reliant on social welfare. Local economies will suffer especially badly and communities struggling out of poverty and marginalisation will be pushed back.

Last month a survey conducted by Sinn Féin with 278 social welfare recipients demonstrated that families on welfare simply cannot afford to take this hit. On the current welfare rates almost 90% of those surveyed will go without something essential this Christmas be that food, home heating fuel or Christmas presents. Respondents also confirmed that more than half of welfare recipients may borrow money to see themselves through Christmas. The only stimulus in this budget is for loan sharks and money lenders.
I have said this is an anti-children Budget and this is carried through into the cuts to Education.
Education has taken a disproportionate hit. In times of recession education could and should be used as a tool for economic recovery. It should be the gateway to growth and revival. This Government’s approach is the exact opposite. Instead of investing in and growing the education sector this Government has reduced education spending year after year. It seems intent on making education a preserve of the rich. Gone are the days of free education - in are the days of under-funded schools and exorbitant fees.

There is an overall reduction of 21% in capital expenditure for education - 9% for primary schools and a whopping 20% for secondary schools.

This is inexcusable and makes a laughing stock of the Government’s claim to be building a knowledge economy. Children will continue to go to school in prefabs, rented from private concerns at exorbitant long-term costs. Classes will be unable to cope with more children and less room. A Government with a sound education strategy and a job creation strategy would have invested in school buildings, creating much-needed employment in the construction sector and providing long-term upgrading of our educational infrastructure.


The 5% cut in capitation funding for primary schools will again penalise all schools but especially the most disadvantaged which depend more on government funding. Schools are already struggling with high class sizes and limited resources.

Children and families in rural Ireland will be worst affected by the new €50 primary school transport charge. Add to that the €50 increase in the secondary school transport fee to €350 per child per year and the impact on families with children is very substantial. And rural farming families have been hit again with the €36 million reduction in the REPS scheme.

No-one can accuse the Government of lacking innovation in this Budget. They have come up with another innovative barrier to education – a new €200 per annum fee for post Leaving Cert courses.

This anti-education Government has increased third-level registration fees by €500 to €2000 and has reduced student grants. It has cut grants to secondary schools by 9% and has taken 3% from VECs.

A cruel Government has again cut support for children with special educational needs. 60% is cut from educational disadvantage funding.

All in all it is a shameful showing on the part of the Green Party which has so often boasted of its contribution to education in this Government.

Public services are being demolished by this Budget. Health cuts of €765 million in 2011 will, I believe, result in bad outcomes and even the deaths of patients across the system. There are currently over 1500 beds in our public hospitals already closed due to cuts. The further cuts in this Budget will close hundreds, if not thousands more beds.


Health Minister Harney and the HSE have slashed services in local hospitals like Monaghan, Dundalk, Navan, Nenagh, Letterkenny, Ennis and Sligo. Other hospitals are in their sights like Clonmel and Roscommon and more.

This Budget will undoubtedly see more hospital services slashed, hospitals closed and patients facing long journeys to attend centralised and over-worked hospitals.

The recruitment ban in the health services means that trained health professionals are being educated here at great cost and to the highest standard but cannot offer their talents to our hard-pressed public health services. This Budget will give thousands more young nurses and doctors a one-way ticket out of this country at huge loss to our health services and to our economy.


The €920 million cut from social protection, the €765 million cut from health and the €170 million cut from education combined come to 85% of the total €2.2 billion cuts in spending across all Government departments.

We have heard Ministers quite rightly praising local authority workers and the emergency services for their excellent work during the recent harsh weather. I join with that praise. But how many of those workers will still be in their jobs and how many of those services will be lost next winter with this Budget’s cut of 28% in funding for local authorities?

Communities will be hit badly by that cut as they will with the cut of 44% from the Rapid scheme, 15% from regeneration projects, 63% from the Drugs Task Forces education initiative, 7% from the same task forces Community Department funding and €9 million from community development projects. There is a massive 36% cut to social housing. It is a recipe for community degeneration, not regeneration.

The Government has attempted to portray the tax changes in this Budget as reforming and progressive. They are nothing of the sort. There is no wealth tax. There is no new higher rate for those with individual incomes of over €100,000 per annum. In Sinn Féin’s economic recovery plan ‘There is a Better Way’ we show that such a new top rate of 48% would raise €410 million – well in excess of the €397 million the Government is slashing from social welfare for people of working age in this Budget.

Instead this Budget brings more people on low income into the tax net and more people on middle income into the higher tax rate, as well as creating new inequities. The new Universal Social Charge may prove more regressive than the current income and health levies. At present a person earning €25,000 pays nothing on the health levy and €500 on the income levy. Under the new system in this Budget the same person earning €25,000 will pay €1,069 in the Universal Social Charge.


A single person with no children, a PAYE employee in the private sector, and PRSI contributor, with a gross income of €25,000, will see a reduction in net income of 4.6 per cent, while an individual in the same circumstances with a gross income of €175,000 will see a reduction in net income of 3.9 per cent.


The tax increases are across the board – they fail to target those who have the ability to pay. This is a big mistake and one that will be damaging for the economy and for consumer spending. They have put more low-to-middle income earners into a higher tax rate bracket.
The minimum wage drops by 12% but the Taoiseach's salary drops by less than 6%. The Taoiseach will earn 13.8 times the salary of someone on the new Minimum Wage.

I welcome the reduction in the Taoiseach’s and Ministers’ salaries and the €250,000 per annum cap on public sector pay. But it is too little too late. If the Government had capped the salaries of public servants at €100,000 this would have saved €350 million for the State per year – nearly half of what is being cut out of the Health budget.

The HSE CEO earns in excess of €300,000 a year. The heads of our semi-states earn more again. Padraig MacManus in the ESB is on over €700,000 per year. Even with the pay cut taken by the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen still earns €36,000 more than David Cameron. The Secretary General of the Department of Finance still earns more than the Permanent Secretary of the British Treasury and the CEO of An Post still earns more than the managing director of the Royal Mail.

This Government will defend international bank bondholders, but it will not defend its own citizens.

This budget will not fix the economy. It will cause poverty and hardship. It will contract the economy further. Not one cent in tax raised in this Budget nor one cent cut from public spending will be used to reduce the deficit next year. It will all go to servicing the debt incurred by the Government’s disastrous banking policy. The Taoiseach yesterday tried to claim that the deficit was totally separate from the banking black hole. It was a statement without a shred of credibility.

The charade continues that we must take these harsh measures because after years of excess we have a burgeoning deficit. We are actually being foisted with these measures because our banks and their investors took a massive gamble - and lost.

The Budget is the opening salvo of a four-year plan which is destined to fail because it is premised on policies of slash and burn which have already failed spectacularly.

If spending cuts worked, the deficit would already be reduced. The Government talks of stimulus but it does not provide the funding for it and so its growth predictions are wildly optimistic. In addition, this four-year plan ignores the growing threat to the state's very financial existence from the Government’s bank policy. This policy assumes we can and should protect banks and their investors. It assumes that there will be no more loan defaults on the banks' books. It is a policy that is bankrupting this state.

There is no real stimulus in this Budget. €200 million in ‘activation’ measures were announced but the Government slashed the capital budget which would have created jobs. The so-called activation measures are about getting people off the dole into low-paying or no-paying jobs.

Unemployment stands at over 13% and we are facing mass emigration. The depths of misery behind these statistics cannot be exaggerated.

The State is now a major owner of property - hotels, office blocks, and ghost housing estates - yet there is no statement as to how economic value might be obtained from these assets.

The austerity measures in this Budget – the increase in VAT, the increase in taxes for those on low and middle incomes, the cuts in welfare and the planned cuts to the minimum wage — will further depress the economy and cause more jobs to be lost.

Cuts to the local government budget will force cash-strapped local authorities to raise rates for businesses and service charges, hitting the public with a double whammy.

And let’s be clear: there can be no recovery if jobs aren’t created. Jobs have to be created if we are to reduce the social welfare bill. Jobs have to be created if we are to increase the tax take. Jobs have to be created if are to restore people’s standard of living and quality of life. Jobs have to be created if we are to grow this economy.

Sinn Féin has proposed a once-off transfer from the National Pension Reserve Fund of €7 billion for a jobs stimulus– equal to the investment at the beginning of the year in AIB and Bank of Ireland.
Instead this Gvernment, in agreement with the IMF and the EU, is proposing to take billions from the same Pensions Reserve Fund to put into the black hole that is the banking system.

With the right policies and the right supports jobs can be created in sectors such as agri-food, tourism, IT and green technologies.

We can have a new generation of entrepreneurs and a revitalisation of the co-operatives sector.

This Government can always find additional billions for the banks, but says it cannot find money for recovery. We have shown where it can be found.

There is no detail in the Budget on the Government’s plans for State assets, but we know what is coming. The decision to sell off State assets to fund the growing bank debt is a crime. This is a classic example of the short-sighted policies that we have come to expect from this Government. In the good times, you sold off companies like Telecom and look where that got us - a decade of poor and often non-existent broadband provision.

State companies should be kept in state ownership. We could even ask the more profitable of these companies to frontload some of their dividends to us for the next number of years to help improve the public finances.

In every country where the IMF has interfered, the modus operandi has been to strip those countries of their assets and privatize them. They are not facing much opposition from the so-called leaders of the Opposition. Fine Gael has even provided them with a blueprint in their ‘new era’ plan. Sinn Féin will resist the selling off of State assets to fund a private banking crisis and we’ll be calling on all those progressive forces who also oppose this policy to support us.
One issue that has seldom been mentioned in our current crisis is the massive asset lying off our West coast and currently being exploited for no benefit to the Irish people. I refer to the oil and gas reserves which by right belong to the Irish people and which are estimated to be worth €500 billion. These were disgracefully given away to multinational corporations by corrupt Irish Governments. It is time they were reclaimed.

Náire ort, a Aire. Beidh na mílte Éireannaigh, fir agus mná, ag fulaingt mar thoradh air an Bhuiséad seo.

Tá slí níos fearr ann. Chuir Sinn Féin an plean sin ós do chomhair ach níor éist tú. Mholamar cáin ar shaibhreas, teorainn ar ioncaim ag na ndaoine siúd ag an leibéil is airde sa seirbhís poiblí, deireadh le scannal na dtuarastal ró-ard agus na costais ag príomhfheidhmeannaigh na gcomhlachtaí stáit. Níor éist tú. In ionad cothrom na féinne sa bhuiséad seo tá tú ag cosaint na daoine ar bharr arís agus ag ionsaí na daoine ar bhun.

Cé a bheidh ag íoc as do pholasaí tubaisteach chun bancanna teipthe agus an uasal-aicme a chosaint? Na daoine a bheidh thíos leis ná teaghlaigh óga, sean-daoine, na glúine daoine óga nach mbeidh an dara rogha acu ach imeacht as an tír seo. Na banaltraí, na múinteoirí, oibrithe sna húdaráis áitiúla, na comhraiceoirí dóiteáin - beidh siad siúd thíos leis chomh maith. Mar an gcéanna na daoine atá ag braith ar leas soisialta, tuismitheoirí aonair, daoine míchumasaithe, daoine tinn.

Tá scrois déanta agat sa bhuiséad seo agus is cuma leat cén toradh a bheidh ann do ghnáthdaoine atá ag obair agus dóibh siúd nach bhfuil postanna acu.

Níl ciall ná réasún leis an bhuiséad seo. Tá tú ag déanamh ciorraithe ar ioncaim na ndaoine a chaitheann an ioncaim sin sa gheilleagar áitiúl, ag tacú le gnóanna agus ag cruthú fostaíocht.

Níl iarracht sa bhuiséad seo chun postanna a chruthú. Má cheapann tú gur féidir linn teacht as an meathlú seo le ciorraithe a chur i bhfeidhm agus gan stráitéis chun postanna a chruthú tá tú as do mheabhair. Cuireadh ciorraithe i bhfeidhm ó 2007 agus tá an meathlú níos measa anois agus tá ard-cheannas eacnamaíochta an Stáit seo díolta agaibh don IMF agus don ECB. Má tá an toil ann is féidir postanna a chruthú. Tá sé léirithe ag Sinn Féin conas is féidir é sin a dhéanamh. Ach is léir nach bhfuil an toil ag an Rialtas seo.

This Government has consistently been offered opportunities to lift this state out of crisis. Instead of taking them – Fianna Fáil and the Greens have pushed us further into crisis. Even the most right-wing commentators in this state and internationally are questioning their slavish desire to appease the bank bondholders. The Financial Times, of all vehicles, has questioned why you are so willing to sacrifice the Irish taxpayer to protect bondholders who knew exactly the sort of risk they were taking on when they bought bonds in our banks.

They contributed to and benefited from the bubble, they should be asked to take responsibility for the bust.

This banking policy is madness and the domestic finance policies pursued in this Budget will ensure that the economy collapses completely. We won’t have a cent to deal with any of the costs the State is incurring, let alone the money to run the state. The government knows this and that’s why they ran to the IMF and the EU and negotiated one of the worst deals ever done by any Government anywhere. This deal allows for a certain percentage for the banks. The rest is for all the future deficits this Government’s policies will create. What a legacy they are leaving us. And leave us they must.

People are going to suffer grievously as a result of this Budget - that much is clear. What is not clear is why this Government insisted on introducing this budget before giving up and calling a General Election. I say to them: You should have spared us all this spectacle and you should have recognised that you have no right and no mandate to do what you are doing. You are acting in contempt of the electorate and it is clear that the Irish electorate have nothing but contempt for you.
We can only hope that you are out of office very soon. It is an absolute imperative for whoever forms the next government, and those who sit in opposition to ensure this deal is abandoned, to devise a banking plan that will actually work, to reverse these ideological and irrational cuts and to introduce a strategy for real growth.

I am appealing to all the voters who are listening to proceedings here today to base the decision on how you cast your vote on what you have heard here and what you haven’t heard. Sinn Féin has been honest in our proposals. We are not appealing to people’s greed, but their sense of what is right and fair. We can’t offer everybody something. What we can offer is honesty. We can offer them economic proposals that make sense and will fix this crisis. We can offer them a new, fairer society.
In the past few weeks we have seen thousands of people brave the weather to come out and voice their opposition to this budget. In Donegal South West the people gave their verdict on this government by endorsing Sinn Féin and our alternative platform. They also rejected the so-called opposition of Fine Gael and Labour and their consensus for cuts.
The one thing we can take from this budget today is that it will hopefully act as a long overdue wake-up call to the Irish people who have had about as much as they can bear. People-power should never be underestimated and it is people power that will eventually oust this government.
We are calling on every party seeking to enter government in the next Dáil to commit to reversing the decisions made in this Budget.

When the Irish people kick this shower out it will be because of this Budget and the rest of their economic decisions.

No party entering power after the next election can claim a mandate to implement these cuts. Sinn Féin is committed to reversing these cuts and getting the IMF out of this state.

We call on Fine Gael and Labour to commit to reversing these Budget cuts and rejecting the IMF-EU sell-out deal.

I appeal especially to the Labour Party to halt before rushing headlong into a coalition with Fine Gael. It is quite clear that the Fine Gael party wants this savage Budget passed so that it doesn’t have to pass it itself early next year. Perhaps some in the Labour Party share that view but I believe that most do not. The coming General Election may well be the greatest opportunity for the left in Irish politics in a generation. Or it may be another case of Labour propping up Fine Gael yet again.

For our part, we in Sinn Féin are quire clear. We have rejected the Consensus for Cuts. We have put forward a fairer, better way to real economic recovery.

We are committed to produce a new banking strategy that puts bank debts back in the hands of the banks, not on the Irish taxpayers' shoulders. We are committed to protect the economically vulnerable and to require those who can afford it to contribute more.

This Budget is still not a done deal. The four-year plan is not a done deal. And the IMF-EU sell-out is not completed either. If there is anyone with a shred of conscience left among those who have hitherto supported this Fianna Fáil-Green Government then now is the time for them to act in the true national interest.

And the national interest is also the interest of the people of Tipperary and Kerry and every other county and constituency. Tomorrow the Government will try to force through the Social Welfare Bill with its savage cuts to the incomes of the most vulnerable. Let those who speak of the national interest reject this Bill, reject this Budget and reject this Government.

One way or another the policies behind this Budget must be defeated. This crisis has politicised people as seldom before in our history. People are becoming more conscious of people power. But ironically they also feel powerless as a Government with no mandate and no political authority turns democracy on its head and, in its dying days, tries to impose on the Irish people this savage Budget, the IMF-EU sell-out and a doomed four-year plan.

97 years ago at Christmas 1913 James Connolly asked whether the year would end with the “Fiery Cross” of struggle or the “Christmas Bells” of peace, as the Great Lockout dragged into its fifth month. He said:

“The final word still rests with those who control the money bags; and thus we learn, hard facts teaching us, that in this gross travesty of civilisation under which we live today neither soul nor brains are the equal of gold.”

We have in this State a political class that has governed by the power of gold and greed. They have brought this economy to grief as a result. Their time is over. Now is the time for true patriots to step forward and to act in the real national interest of the Irish people. CRÍOCH

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights Martin Ferris TD has said that his party will oppose a bill to be introduced tomorrow to give legislative effect to the decision to reduce the minimum wage to €7.65 per hour. Sinn Féin will also be voting against reductions in pensions for low to middle income public servants.


Deputy Ferris said:

“We are already on the record in opposition to the decision to reduce the minimum wage and will be voting accordingly.

“This attack on the 50,000 people on minimum wage and their dependents encapsulates the nature of this attack on the people of Ireland. Reducing the income of working people who are already struggling, in order to comply with the IMF programme is inexcusable. Then again, so are almost all the other measures contained in the Budget.

“I would also point out that in reducing the minimum wage that as it currently stands the Family Income Supplement will now constitute an even greater subsidy for low paying employers. Once again, this illustrates the fact that this Government in its dying days is still catering to narrow sectional interests while ordinary people are forced to pay for the incompetence and corruption of a tiny elite.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights Martin Ferris TD has said that his party will oppose a bill to be introduced tomorrow to give legislative effect to the decision to reduce the minimum wage to €7.65 per hour. Sinn Féin will also be voting against reductions in pensions for low to middle income public servants.


Deputy Ferris said:

“We are already on the record in opposition to the decision to reduce the minimum wage and will be voting accordingly.

“This attack on the 50,000 people on minimum wage and their dependents encapsulates the nature of this attack on the people of Ireland. Reducing the income of working people who are already struggling, in order to comply with the IMF programme is inexcusable. Then again, so are almost all the other measures contained in the Budget.

“I would also point out that in reducing the minimum wage that as it currently stands the Family Income Supplement will now constitute an even greater subsidy for low paying employers. Once again, this illustrates the fact that this Government in its dying days is still catering to narrow sectional interests while ordinary people are forced to pay for the incompetence and corruption of a tiny elite.” ENDS

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Giving his initial reaction to Budget 2011, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it was a savage Budget for people on social welfare and will demolish public services.

He said:

“This is a disastrous Budget. The result of this cruel Budget will be poverty and unemployment and social misery. The cuts to social welfare are savage and it is people on social welfare who are going to bear the brunt of this Budget.

“€8 per week is being taken out of the pockets of most social welfare recipients. This, together with the €10 reduction in Child Benefit for the first and second child and €20 for the third, will again hit the least well off and increase child poverty. And this is on top of the accumulated social welfare cuts in the last three budgets.

“Middle income earners are being hammered as more of them are taken into the higher tax band. But there is no new higher rate for the top earners – people earning over €100,000 per year – and no wealth tax.

“Public services are being demolished. Health cuts of €765 million in 2011 will, I believe, result in the deaths of patients. There are currently over 1500 beds in our public hospitals closed due to cuts. The cuts in this Budget will close hundreds, if not thousands more beds.

“The €920 million cut from social protection, the €765 million cut from health and the €170 million cut from education combined come to 85% of the total €2.2 billion cuts in spending across all Govt departments.

“Children, young people and families are hit again with higher charges for school transport, new charges for Post-Leaving Cert courses and a €500 increase in third-level registration fees.

“If this Government is an asylum, as Minister Gormley claims, then this Budget is the economics of the asylum. It is the product of a sell-out of Irish sovereignty to the IMF and the EU.

“The basis of this Budget, of the IMF/EU deal and the four-year plan is the belief that taking €15 billion out of the economy between now and 2015 will bring us out of recession.

“By the Taoiseach’s own admission €15 billion has already been taken out of the economy since 2008 – and with what result? The recession is continuing and it is deepening. Month after month we have consistently had over 400,000 people unemployed.

“This futile Budget is the death-rattle of the Fianna Fáil/Green Government and if it is implemented it will spell doom for the Irish economy.

“There is a better, fairer way. We reject this Budget and will go into the forthcoming General Election pledged to overturn it and to work to see the implementation of a real plan for recovery.” ENDS

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Responding to Budget 2011 Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Social Protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh deemed the Budget a hostile act against families on social welfare.

Condemning the cuts to job seeker, disability and carer social welfare rates, he said:

“The Finance Minister pointed to 'low inflation' as a justification for cutting the social welfare rates of job seekers, carers, lone parents and people with disabilities by 4% but prices for many essential goods and services such as health, education, transport and energy costs have all increased.

“The basic welfare rate is being cut by €416 per annum. A couple dependent on social welfare will be down €691. Once child benefit cuts are added an unemployed family with three children will be down over €1,000. This Budget is a hostile act against the growing number of families who are dependent on social welfare.

“A survey conducted by Sinn Féin of 278 social welfare recipients last week month clearly demonstrated that families on social welfare simply cannot afford to take this hit. On the current welfare rates almost 90% of those surveyed will go without something essential this Christmas be that food, home heating fuel or Christmas presents. Respondents also confirmed that more than half of welfare recipients may borrow money to see themselves through Christmas. The only stimulus in this budget is for loan sharks and money lenders.”

Dismissing the fuel allowance increase announced in the Budget as too little too late, he said

“This additional €40 is to go only to households that are in receipt of the fuel allowance. But the number of households experiencing fuel poverty far exceeds the number who qualify for the allowance. Eligibility for the fuel allowance is narrowly restricted. It is available only to those on long term social welfare payments. It is not available to many social welfare recipients or to the working poor. Fuel allowance is not available to those on jobseekers benefit or to those on jobs seekers allowance for less than 15 months.

“The fuel allowance scheme itself should be expanded and money raised by the Carbon Tax should be ring-fenced to address fuel poverty.

“People have lost their jobs, they are sitting at home tonight unemployed and in cold houses. Their fuel bills have increased as a result of green party and government policy and this budget does nothing to assist them. Instead they will struggle even more and face disconnections as the 4 % cut to their jobseeker payments will make their heating bills even more insurmountable.” ENDS

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Minister this budget is a disgrace. You told us last year that ‘the worst was over’. Now we hear that low and middle-income families are to be hit with more punitive taxation increases and spending cuts.

You tell us that there is hope. The only hope I see is the calling of a general election. You are sparse on the detail on cuts in your speech here today Minister, but we can see in the documentation what these cuts are and we will see them starkly in the year ahead.

€8 euro reduction for dole recipients. €10 reduction in child benefit. €180 less in tax credits. Petrol and diesel up. Rent relief to be phased out. Maternity benefit and adoptive benefit cut. €9 million in cuts for Community development projects. 5% reduction in capitation fees for student services. Reduction in student supports grants. €746 million from the health budget. Free legal aid cuts.

And you claim this is fair?

And all to pay for a failed banking strategy. The policy behind this budget is not only morally wrong – it is economic sabotage.

€6 billion is being taken out of the economy is the most damaging way.

This government has decided that someone who earns over one million euro a year contributes enough but a person on the minimum wage, or someone who has lost their job and is receiving €196 a week on social welfare, must survive on less. With this budget, you have lowered the disposable income of every spender in the real economy. The quality of their lives will deteriorate and then their local businesses will feel the squeeze. You are prolonging the cycle of recession.

I don’t know how you have the neck to even present a budget. Your government has failed the people of Ireland. You have given away our sovereignty in much the same way your colleagues gave away our natural resources in the 80s.

You have brought the IMF and the EU to our shores. They are here to help this government to protect foreign banks and bondholders. They are here for the Irish people’s tax euros, not to protect us.

What is absolutely disgusting is that when the whole country is screaming for political reform, the government is relying on the votes of two gombeen politicians demanding pet projects for their own backyard to get this budget passed. There is no room for this type of politics in Ireland anymore. We can't afford it.

During the course of writing your budget Minister, did you consider the ordinary people on the street who are suffering because of what you have done? When was the last time you took a trip up to the local social welfare office and chatted to somebody dependant on the dole? When was the last time you visited a school made entirely out of prefabs with 30 kids squashed into a classroom with one teacher?

It’s easy to talk about people as statistics Minister. You are a member of the political class, the elite. It doesn’t matter to you what effect your cuts have on the ground because you will never have to experience it. The same goes for all the right-wing economists out there who are cheering you on with your austerity measures.

You will never see a dole queue. You will never have to choose between paying the bills and buying food. You will never have to send your children off to school hungry in the morning. You will never have to emigrate.

You Minister, like all your colleagues will go off now to the Dáil bar for the evening and celebrate another budget. You will then be driven home in your ministerial car. You will take home a tidy salary every week and when you retire you and your colleagues will receive a comfortable ministerial pension for the rest of your days.

Last year you told this house that the 2010 budget was the last harsh budget that would be needed.

You have repeatedly misled the public. If spending cuts worked, then our deficit would have been reduced by now. Our public finances would be back on track.

Alternative + Banks

The clear message I want to give here today is this — there is a better way.
Sinn Féin has put forward a clear alternative, one that is based on fair taxation, eliminating waste and stimulating the economy.

Our alternative protects the most vulnerable but asks those who have more to pay more. Our alternative would see these cuts reversed. I am calling on anybody hoping to form the next government to commit to introducing a budget as soon as they are elected that overturns these cuts.

Our alternative says ‘no’ to IMF interference, ‘no’ to EU interference and ‘tough luck’ to the bondholders. You gambled, you lost. Your debt is bank debt, not sovereign debt and you now have to accept a market solution to a market problem. The Irish taxpayer is not your insurance policy.

If we proceed with this banking plan, this budget and your four-year plan is already redundant. That plan aims to adjust €15 billion from the state’s finances over 4 years – this is a figure that sits in splendid isolation to the €85 billion negotiated for the bank bail-out. We cannot afford this banking policy, we cannot afford this loan from the IMF and the EU. Most importantly we cannot afford you. We need real negotiators in there now to deal with the banks– not a red cent more should go into Irish banks until their debts are restructured whether through burning the bondholders or giving them debt for equity swaps.

The addition of that €67.5 billion to our sovereign debt will incur debt servicing of huge proportions over the coming years – amounts that we simply cannot afford. I say €67 billion, because it’s important we emphasise that €17.5 billion of this alleged bail-out is coming from our own pockets. Who decided that the figure could be lumped in with the IMF/EU loan and presented as a bail-out for the Irish people? Again we see the Fianna Fáil spin operation in all its glory – attempting to convince the Irish people that they are being helped while simultaneously shoveling billions more of their euros into banks that we have already given billions to.

Our domestic public finances can be fixed.

The crisis we are is the result of this government, through its deeply flawed banking policy, attempting to turn a banking crisis into a sovereign debt crisis. And it is being aided by our so-called partners in the EU.

Political choices

This is about political choices. It is about having the political will to put ordinary people first. That is what this government should be doing today. That is what Sinn Féin would do.

This budget will create untold hardship for hundreds of thousands of people. It will mean little hope of economic recovery in the years ahead. It is a disaster for society and for the economy. It is a disaster for young people who wanted to build their future here and it is a disaster for the families that will be left behind.

The ESRI estimates that almost 120,000 people will emigrate from Ireland by the end of next year. 90 years since the foundation of the state and Fianna Fáil is once again using emigration as a safety valve in times of rising unemployment.

These young people who are leaving our shores should be the next generation of Irish entrepreneurs, scientists, doctors and teachers. These are the people who can re-build our economy and deliver our public services. We are training nurses for four years at a cost of €90,000 per nurse to the state, and next year, 90% of new nurses will leave our shores. And our hospitals will remain understaffed.

I would ask any young person who is planning to leave —stay and change Ireland. We can get rid of this government. And we do not have to replace it with parties that pursue similar policies.

We can build a better Ireland.

You can be part of consigning the corruption and cronyism, the greed and incompetence that created this crisis to history. You can be the generation to achieve real political change, to build a sustainable economy and a fairer society.

The people of Ireland deserve better than this budget.

They deserve better than this government.

Stabilising finances

Nobody should think that we in Sinn Féin underestimate the magnitude of the problems in our public finances.

We have a structural deficit even aside from the banking crisis that must and can be addressed. It has been caused by this government steadily eroding the tax base, allowing unemployment to rise and allowing a culture of waste and excess to develop in sections of the public sector.

Latterly it has been added to by the government’s obsession with the banks and the debt servicing interest that has incurred.

We can reduce the structural deficit but it must be done hand-in-hand with a plan to grow the economy in a sustainable way.

Sinn Féin has put forward a six-year plan to reduce the deficit to within the Stablility and Growth Pact – beginning with an immediate €4.671 billion reduction of the deficit in 2011, which can be made if wasteful public spending is eliminated and the taxation system is overhauled. We have identified over €1 billion in wasteful spending and over €4 billion through making the tax system fairer. When we put forward our six-year plan, the Taoiseach excluded us from talks in government buildings. Fine Gael and Labour leapt on the four-year bandwagon and they were invited to join the consensus of cuts, which they did willingly. We said it couldn’t be done in four years and cuts would make everything worse. The EU has already extended the adjustment period to 2015 and it is widely accepted that even that is an optimistic figure. We have been proved right yet again.

If the government laid out a credible strategy to restore the Irish economy to a growth trajectory, then the bond markets would have more confidence that Ireland will be able to pay back its debts and yields will lower accordingly.

The government's strategy to date has simply focused on the deficit, without enough attention to the wider economy – which at the end of the day is the 'engine' that provides both tax revenue and contributes to overall GDP. The deficit is the result of our economic woes – not the cause. If we treat the causes – unemployment and a tax collapse, the deficit will be treated.

The four-year plan is a joke. It is an accountancy exercise with no economic impact assessment. If taking €4 billion out of the economy in 2009 brought down taxes by €7 billion, what will a €6 billion adjustment do? And it is based on the most ludicrous assumption of growth ever imagined by a government about to slash a state’s finances. Average 3% growth rates? Get real Minister. The international community is laughing at you.

Budget specifics
I want to deal now with some of the specifics of this budget. Bad economics – tax cuts, de-regulation and tax subsidies for the speculators in the boom - got us into this mess and the bad economics of this budget, with its spending cuts, slashing incomes and stealth taxes are digging the hole deeper.

Social welfare

The four-year planned had indicated that €3 billion would be taken out of the social welfare budget by 2014. Details of what this actually means have now been revealed by the Minister today.

People have lost their jobs, they are sitting at home tonight unemployed and in cold houses. This additional €40 is to go only to households that are in receipt of the fuel allowance.

The Minister pointed to 'low inflation' as a justification for cutting social welfare rates by 4% but prices for many essential goods and services have actually increased e.g. health, education, transport and energy costs have all increased.

A survey conducted by Sinn Féin of 278 social welfare recipients last week clearly demonstrates that families on social welfare simply cannot afford to take this hit. Almost 90% of those surveyed will go without essentials this Christmas, be that food, heating fuel or Christmas presents.

How are people supposed to live on this amount per week?

Cutting social welfare should be the last thing that a government does in a time of economic difficulty. Cutting social welfare payments will have a detrimental effect on the economy and society. Welfare payments are always returned back into the economy. They are not saved or invested abroad. They are spent on rent, mortgages, food, utilities and other essentials. Cutting welfare is a false economy and one that ultimately only causes misery for those on the receiving end of the policy.

If less money is spent, the economy will contract, businesses will struggle and more jobs will be lost. More people will be reliant on social welfare.

Does this make any sense?

Sinn Féin is absolutely opposed to the cuts to social welfare announced today.

We have shown where the revenue could be raised to ensure that welfare rates were protected.

It is a matter of political choices – start cutting at the top where the highest paid and the wealthy can afford to take cuts or start at the bottom, as this government has done, targeting those struggling to get by and barely surviving from day-to-day.

Any TD who votes for these cuts deserves to be kicked out at the general election.

Taxation measures
You say it is too complicated to make the tax system fairer. Why is it too complicated to reform the taxation system so that those on huge salaries contribute more, but it is not too complicated to consign the poorest to a life of scrimping, saving and poverty?

If you look at the public finances it is apparent that we have less of a spending problem and more of a tax raising and retention problem. There is ample room for overhauling the taxation system without turning us into a ‘high-tax’ economy. Sinn Féin has shown how this can be done and how €4 billion could be immediately raised and have the least negative effect on the economy.

Instead the tax changes in this budget once again target the least well off – those on the minimum wage and the low paid.

One of the biggest spins being pedalled by the Government is that we must extend the ‘tax system’ to those who don’t pay any tax. This compounds the ignorance of the Irish tax structure. Let’s set one record straight:

Ireland relies disproportionately on indirect taxation. It always has. For every €100 received by the state in direct taxes, €146 in paid in indirect taxes. These taxes disproportionately hit lower earners.

Yesterday I was asked in an interview if I thought that such a large group should not be paying any taxes. It’s easy to talk about ‘groups’. Let’s break it down. We believe that someone earning €300 a week is already paying enough tax. You’ve told us how much more you think they should pay. That now has to be absorbed into all their other bills – their rent, food, childcare, electricity. Which service do you think they’ll drop first?

These tax increases are across the board – the fail to target those who have the ability to pay. This is a big mistake and one that will be damaging for the economy and for consumer spending.
The changes in taxes and bands will be as follows based on a 10% reduction.

· The cut off point for the standard rate tax band will be reduced from €36,400 for a single person to €32,760, putting more people in the higher tax rate bracket.
· The cut off point for the standard rate tax band will be reduced from €45,400 for a one income married couple to €40,860
· The cut off point for the standard rate tax band will be reduced from €72,800 for a two income married couple to €65,520
· The cut off point for the standard rate tax band will be reduced from €40,400 for a single parent family to €36,360

The screw is being tightened once again on the lowest paid – punishing them for this government incompetence and the recklessness of the banks. But there are no increases for top earners.

Universal social charge
The decision to abolish the income levy and health levy and create a universal charge is a step back wards – this is a flat tax and this change will benefit the better off – it will be the same for everybody regardless of their ability to pay – we did not support the income levies but at least there was some progressivity in that the higher paid were subject to higher rates. This is in effect a cut for top earners while the lowest earners are brought into the tax net.

Increases in VAT
You don’t mention increases in VAT, but we know they are coming. They will push up the cost of living. They will disproportionately hits low earners and will cause chaos for businesses, particularly in border counties.

We need to start from the top down by making those who have most pay most – something that is totally alien to this government.

No wealth tax
A wealth tax should have been introduced as part of this budget. Wealth taxes have been successfully implemented in other European countries and form an essential part of a government’s revenue stream. Rather than introduce a wealth tax this government prefers to cut welfare and to drag the low paid back into the tax net.

Despite the economic collapse there is still considerable wealth in this state. The top 1% of the population of this state owns 20% of all the wealth. Our proposed wealth tax would raise a conservative estimate of €1 billion and would be in the form of a 1% income-linked tax on all assets, including property but excluding working farmlands which are worth in excess of €1 million.

There are a range of other measures you could have introduced that would have raised revenue while making the tax system fairer. You could have:

Immediately standardised all discretionary tax reliefs to raise €1.1 billion;
introduced a third tax rate of 48% on incomes in excess of €100,000 to raise €410 million;
increased Capital Gains tax to 40% to raise €240 million

Again none of these measures have been introduced.

Cuts to public spending

The cuts to public spending bear no logic. The amount being cut will be detrimental to services that are already struggling. Health and education will suffer. You should have capped the salaries of public servants at 100,000 euro. This would have saved 350 million euro for the state per year. You chose instead to make aesthetic cuts to the highest paid civil servants. The head of the HSE earns in excess of €300,000 a year. The heads of our semi-states earn more again. Padraig MacManus in the ESB, I read yesterday, is on over 700,000 per year. The Taoiseach and the rest of you Ministers earn more than most of your European counterparts and yet you have bankrupted the state.

You said very few people in the public sector earn over €250,000 but a report earlier this summer found that 66 public servants in Ireland receive more than €500,000 each including 37 judges, the head of NAMA, and the head of the NTMA.

Even with the so-called pay cuts taken by the Taoiseach and Ministers, Brian Cowen still earns €36,000 more than David Cameron; the Secretary General of the Department of Finance still earns more than the permanent secretary of the treasury and the CEO of An Post still earns more than the managing director of Royal Mail. We are still far higher than our neighbours in these areas but you made empty gestures to address this.

Our public health budget, through the successful efforts of Mary Harney, subsidises the private health care sector to the tune of billions – but not everyone can afford private health care. This is where savings could have been made Minister, if you had shown yourself to have any moral fibre.

Child Benefit
Again you have gone for flat rate reductions in child benefit. Child benefit is a payment made to every child in the state in recognition of the fact that this state does not provide free healthcare, fully-free education or free anything for children. In this state, you have to pay a doctor an average of €60 to have your six week old baby treated. If you believe Minister that there are parents out there who can afford to get by without this benefit and I am sure there are, you should have gone after their incomes via tax. You cannot justify going after the payment that is made to their child and in such a way as to hit everyone, poor and rich alike.

Health

Health spending is to be cut by over €1.4bn over the term of the four-year plan.

You want to take €746 million out next year.

The health system is already in crisis – services are being cut across the state. I have seen this firsthand. Look at Sligo and Letterkenny hospitals. Look at the distance that many patients are already forced to travel to access health services. Look at the waiting lists.

If these cuts are implemented there is no doubt but that waiting lists will lengthen. Understaffing will result in more misdiagnoses. More people will be left for days on trolleys.

These health cuts will cost lives. While waiting lists grow and patients suffer as they wait for operations there are now over 1500 beds in our public hospitals closed due to cuts. The cuts in this Budget will close hundreds, if not thousands more public hospital beds. Prescription charges have been imposed on medical card holders while drug companies continue to make vast profits.

In the past week there was an average of around 300 patients on trolleys in A&E Departments in our public hospitals.

The recruitment ban in the health services means that fully trained nurses and doctors are being educated here to the highest standard only to have to emigrate. This Budget will accelerate the brain drain from our health services.

Supporting and funding preventative health saves money – cutting funding for these services makes no sense.

Has nothing been learnt from the disastrous health cuts of the 1980s? The reality in the years ahead will be that if you can pay you will live, if you can’t you may die.

Education

Overall this is a terrible budget for education. In times of recession we need to make education the gateway to recovery. This government year after year has done the exact opposite. Cuts to the disadvantaged, school buildings, special needs and capitation grants, as well as charging fees on students. This government is intent on making education a preserve of the rich. Gone are the days of free education, in are the days of underfunded schools and exorbitant fees.

You are introducing an overall reduction of 21% in capital expenditure for education. 9% for primary schools and a whopping 20% for secondary schools. This is a scandalous situation. Children will continue to go to school in prefabs. Money will continue to be wasted by throwing rent to private prefab renters. Classes will be unable to cope with more children and less room. We could have invested in school buildings, we could have created much-needed employment in the construction sector.

A 5% cut in capitation funding for primary schools. Schools are already struggling with high class sizes and limited resources. The government are now limiting those resources even further. The capitation grant pays for the day to day running of the school, by reducing it schools will be forced to rely on families to fundraise in order to keep schools open. A 2% cut in special needs education. We have already seen special classes close down, Special Needs Assistants sacked. What happened to protecting the vulnerable?

A 9% cut in grants to secondary schools. A 3% cuts to VECs. Registration fee up to €2,000. This is tantamount to introducing tuition fees through the back door. The government purports to wanting to build a knowledge economy. The reality of this fee is that it will lead to thousands of young people literally not being able to go to college.

Absence of stimulus

Once again the Government has brought forward a budget that contains no real funding for a stimulus plan. You have rolled out minister after minister to talk about stimuli. The IDA and Enterprise Ireland have announced job creation numbers to beat the band. But nobody has spelt out how this will work or how it will be paid for. The government estimated in the four-year-plan that there would be a 0.25% net employment loss in 2011. There are almost 450,000 people unemployed now.

You and the other parties in here talk the talk of stimulus but none of you have any detail or costings to back it up.

In your mission to get within the Stability and Growth Pact, which, let’s face it, is a nonsense economic principle to begin with, you are ready to throw thousands out of work and in the process destroy businesses, lives and whole economies. Consider the terrifying facts. The Irish economy has gone through recession and entered what economists call a depression. Unemployment stands at over 13 per cent and we are facing mass emigration. The depths of misery lying behind these statistics cannot be exaggerated.

The State is now a major owner of property -hotels, office blocks, and ghost housing estates - yet there is no statement as to how economic value might be obtained from these assets.

The austerity measures in this budget – the increase in VAT, the increase in taxes for those on low and middle incomes, the cuts in welfare and the planned cuts to the minimum wage — will further depress the economy and cause more jobs to be lost.

Cuts to the local government budget, which forces cash strapped local authorities to raise rates for businesses and service charges, hitting the public with a double whammy.

And let’s be clear: there can be no recovery if jobs aren’t created. Jobs have to be created if we are to reduce the social welfare bill. Jobs have to be created if we are to increase the tax take. Jobs have to be created if are to restore people’s standard of living and quality of life. Jobs have to be created if we are to grow this economy.

Sinn Féin has proposed a once-off transfer from the National Pension Reserve Fund of €7 billion for a jobs stimulus– equal to the investment at the beginning of the year in AIB and Bank of Ireland.

Instead this government, in agreement with the IMF and the EU, is proposing to take billions from the same Pensions Reserve Fund to put into the black hole that is the banking system.

With the right policies and the right supports jobs can be created in sectors such as agri-food, tourism, IT and green technologies.

We can have a new generation of entrepreneurs and a revitalisation of the co-operatives sector.

This government can always find additional billions for the banks, but says it cannot find money for recovery. We have shown where it can be found. It is the domestic economy that is flatlining, and it is the domestic economy that the people live in day-to-day that needs attention.

Minister, you said that you were going to help the unemployed by the creation of an additional 15,000 activation places in internships and work placements. You said this will be at a cost of €200 million. But where is the money coming from and who is administering this? Minister, 15,000 places at €200 million?

You have done nothing substantial to create jobs. You’ve given us fluff and spin as usual.

Sale of state assets
Minister, there is no detail here on your plans for state assets, but we know it is coming. The decision to sell off state assets to fund the growing bank debt is a crime. This is a classic example of the shortsighted policies that we have come to expect from this government. In the good times, you sold off companies like Telecom and look where that got us. A decade of poor and often non-existent broadband provision.

State companies should be kept in state ownership. We could even ask the more profitable of these companies to frontload some of their dividends to us for the next number of years to help improve the public finances. In every country the IMF has interfered in, the modus operandi has been to strip those countries of their assets and privatize them. As it happens, they are not facing much opposition from the so-called leaders in this state. Fine Gael have even provided them with a blue print in their ‘new era’ plan. Sinn Féin will resist the selling off of the family silver to fund a private banking crisis and we’ll be calling on all those progressive forces who also oppose this policy to support us.


Capital Budget cuts
To top it all, you are making ‘savings’ from the capital budget. This is another false economy. Public investment is what is needed right now, for everybody, even the private sector’s benefit. We need to improve our infrastructure. We need to create jobs. You cannot begin to talk about stimulus while you are cutting from this section of the budget.

The 24% cut in road maintenance and improvement alone is nothing short of a scandal. Roads in areas like Donegal and other rural areas are beyond a joke. To cut funding in this manner is a disgrace. Jobs will be lost. More people will be put on the dole. This along with the 13% cut in road safety agencies will impact hugely on the safety of drivers.

A new government

The public won’t take this budget on the chin. They have forced you to call an election early, though you would have clung onto power with your fingernails for longer. They gave their assessment of your economic plans in the Donegal by-election. They will give their assessment again in the new year.

And people won’t just accept a change of faces.

Does anybody believe for one minute that Michael Noonan would be a better or fairer Finance Minister? His actions when he was Minister for Health will give you the answer to that. Fine Gael subscribe to the same economic policies as this government. It’s farcical for them to make any kind of judgement of this budget. Nobody can understand why you still claim to be two separate parties.

And it is clear that Labour will accept and implement Fine Gael polices because it has no alternative to offer. Eamon Gilmore personal ratings may still be high in the opinion polls but people are beginning to see that the emperor has no clothes.

When Joan Burton condemns this budget we should not forget that her party leader has clearly stated that in government his party would not reverse cuts introduced in this budget no matter how savage those cuts are. Their own pre-budget submission talked about lay-offs in the public service, cuts to frontline services and bringing low earners deeper into the tax net. Tell me, how does putting an extra 15,000 people on the dole contribute to economic recovery? Tell me how many construction workers will be made redundant as a result of cutting the capital budget by €1.2 billion, as the labour party proposes. How many schools will be left over-crowded and unfinished? Fine Gael’s policies are a mirror image of Fianna Fáil’s. Labour’s are incoherent, weak and illiterate.

Conclusion

Náire ort, a Aire. Beidh na mílte Éireannaigh, fir agus mná, ag fulaingt mar thoradh air seo.

Tá slí níos fearr ann. Chuir Sinn Féin an plean sin ós do chomhair ach níor éist tú. Mholamar cáin ar shaibhreas, teorainn ar ioncaim ag na ndaoine siúd ag an leibéil is airde sa seirbhís poiblí, deireadh le scannal na dtuarastal ró-ard agus na costais ag príomhfheidhmeannaigh na gcomhlachtaí stáit. Níor éist tú. In ionad cothrom na féinne sa bhuiséad seo tá tú ag cosaint na daoine ar bharr arís agus ag ionsaí na daoine ar bhun.

Cé a bheidh ag íoc as do pholasaí tubaisteach chun bancanna teipthe agus an uasal-aicme a chosaint? Na daoine a bheidh thíos leis ná teaghlaigh óga, sean-daoine, na glúine daoine óga nach mbeidh an dara rogha acu ach imeacht as an tír seo. Na banaltraí, na múinteoirí, oibrithe sna húdaráis áitiúla, na comhraiceoirí dóiteáin - beidh siad siúd thíos leis chomh maith. Mar an gcéanna na daoine atá ag braith ar leas soisialta, tuismitheoirí aonair, daoine míchumasaithe, daoine tinn.

Tá scrois déanta agat sa bhuiséad seo agus is cuma leat cén toradh a bheidh ann do ghnáthdaoine atá ag obair agus dóibh siúd nach bhfuil postanna acu.

Níl ciall ná réasún leis an bhuiséad seo. Tá tú ag déanamh ciorraithe ar ioncaim na ndaoine a chaitheann an ioncaim sin sa gheilleagar áitiúl, ag tacú le gnóanna agus ag cruthú fostaíocht.

Níl iarracht sa bhuiséad seo chun postanna a chruthú. Má cheapann tú gur féidir linn teacht as an meathlú seo le ciorraithe a chur i bhfeidhm agus gan stráitéis chun postanna a chruthú tá tú as do mheabhair. Cuireadh ciorraithe i bhfeidhm ó 2007 agus tá an meathlú níos measa anois agus tá ard-cheannas eacnamaíochta an Stáit seo díolta agaibh don IMF agus ECB. Má tá an toil ann is féidir postanna a chruthú. Tá sé léirithe ag Sinn Féin conas is féidir é sin a dhéanamh. Ach is léir nach bhfuil an toil ag an Rialtas seo.

Minister, you have consistently been offered opportunities to lift this state out of crisis. Instead of taking them – you and your government have pushed us further into crisis. You have yet to give us a rationale why. Even the most right-wing commentators in this state and internationally are questioning your slavish desire to appease the bank bondholders. The Financial Times, of all vehicles, has questioned why you are so willing to sacrifice the Irish taxpayer to protect bondholders who knew exactly the sort of risk they were taking on when they bought bonds in our banks. They contributed to and benefited from the bubble, they should be asked to take responsibility for the bust.

The worst thing is that not only is your banking policy madness, but your domestic finance policies will ensure that the economy collapses completely – so we won’t have a cent to deal with any of the costs you are incurring, let alone the money to run the state. You know this and that’s why you ran to the IMF and the EU and negotiated one of the worse deals certainly this state, and most states around the world has ever seen. Your deal allows for a certain percentage for the banks. The rest is for all the future deficits your policies will create. What a legacy you are leaving us with.

People are going to suffer as a result of this budget that much is clear. What is not clear is why this government insisted on introducing this budget before giving up and calling a general election. You should have spared us all this spectacle and you should have recognised that you have no right and no mandate to do what you are doing. You are acting in contempt of the electorate and it is clear that the Irish electorate have nothing but contempt for you.

We can only hope that you are out of office sooner rather than later. It is an absolute imperative for whoever forms the next government, and those who sit in opposition to ensure this deal is abandoned, to devise a banking plan that will actually work, to reverse these ideological and irrational cuts and to introduce a strategy for real growth.

I am appealing to all the voters who are listening to proceedings here today to base the decision on how you cast your vote on what you have heard here and what you haven’t heard. Sinn Féin has been honest in our proposals. We are not appealing to people’s greed, but their sense of what is right and fair. We can’t offer everybody something. What we can offer is honesty. We can offer them economic proposals that make sense and will fix this crisis. We can offer them a new, fairer society.

My parents like many others emigrated in the sixties to find work because the government then had turned its back on them and turned its back on Ireland. The same thing is happening again. The drop in the live register, simply put is because thousands of young people have turned their backs on Ireland because their so-called leaders have turned their backs on them.

In the past few weeks we have seen thousands of people brave the weather to come out and voice their opposition to this budget. In Donegal South West the people gave their verdict on this government by endorsing my party and our alternative platform. The also rejected the so-called opposition of Fine Gael and Labour and their consensus for cuts.

The one thing we can take from this budget today is that it will hopefully act as a long overdue wake-up call to the Irish people who have had about as much as they can bear. People-power should never be underestimated and it is people power that will eventually oust this government and kick them in the one place where it really hurts – at the polls.

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Speaking from Leinster House today Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government has no mandate to introduce today’s budget.

Mr Adams said there is a better way forward based on stimulating the economy, creating jobs, reforming the tax system and building an economy that serves citizens instead of punishing them.

He said:

“Sinn Féin will vote against the budget. This budget will be based on the IMF/EU sell-out deal and the fundamentally flawed four-year plan of Fianna Fáil and the Greens.

“We are totally opposed to the economic strategy of this government. It is punishing the least well off and depressing the economy. And all to bail out banks and bond-holders.

“Fianna Fáil and the Greens have no mandate to do what they are doing. This is a Government on its last legs yet it is trying to set the course for the economy for the next five years at least.

“There is a better way based on stimulating the economy, creating jobs, reforming the tax system and building an economy which serves citizens instead of punishing them.” ENDS

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Former Editor and Opinion writer of the Belfast Telegraph, Ed Curran recently posed the question - Could the Republic of Ireland actually afford unity - Now or ever?

I believe that it is generally accepted that a new start is needed in Ireland if we are to change our politics, our economy and our whole society for the better. We can’t do that without examining a fundamental issue – the way we govern ourselves on the island of Ireland. At present, Ireland has two states, North and South, and three governments in Dublin, Belfast and London. We have duplication in public services and two sets of currencies, tax systems, social services, laws and regulations.

There is now widespread support across the whole political and economic spectrum for integrated economic structures for the island. All the people who share this island would benefit from the creation of a vibrant, dynamic all-Ireland economy based upon:

· A single currency
· Democratic control over Irish monetary and fiscal policies
· An equitable and progressive tax regime, including a common VAT regime, a harmonised income tax and corporation tax
· A fully integrated energy, transport and ICT infrastructure to support the growth of island-wide prosperity, based on the principles of environmental sustainability, universal access and quality service
· All-Ireland regulation of public and private sector business to ensure protection of the economic interests of the people of Ireland
· All-Ireland enterprise agencies and economic planning to build a competitive and sustainable economy.

Ed Curran bases his analysis of the cost of Irish Unity on a portrayal that the North is totally dependent on a hand-out of £10bn from the British Government. However that analysis is flawed because it ignores the flow of billions in tax contributions paid by citizens in the North of Ireland through a myriad of taxes. Everyone contributes, - the employed, the unemployed, single parents and even pensioners through VAT and stealth taxes all of which are collected by the Exchequer.

The British Government routinely fails to provide easy access to ‘regional’ data on income and spending. However, an analysis of the expenditure by ‘regions’ along with a series of estimates of the revenues from the regions carried out by ‘Oxford Economics’ does succeed in shining some light on the actual subvention by the British Exchequer. The main findings of the study by Oxford Economics demonstrate that total identifiable expenditure’ for the ‘North’ was £14.1bn in 2004/05. (The study period available) This is relevant data, as ‘non-identifiable spending’ is mainly comprised of two components- debt interest payments and defence spending, neither of which would be accrued in a United Ireland.

The ‘residence-based’ revenues from the North in the same period were £10.7bn indicating a deficit of £3.4bn. Clearly the oft quoted quantum of subvention would merit much closer attention and discussion. Even this figure is probably a distortion of the actual deficit that would have to be addressed in the economy of a United Ireland because the elimination of duplication of administration and service delivery would account for a significant proportion of that differential.


In addition to those savings there are significant sources of potential wealth creation as well as huge untapped resources that would be available for development in a single island economy. A proactive job creation strategy in alternative energy, ICT and Green Technology aimed at full employment- which British economic mismanagement could never achieve here - would see tax revenues climb rapidly and welfare payments plummet. Bringing people back into work and paying taxes on their incomes and through their spending would eliminate any deficit.


Another inhibitor to economic growth is the fact that the North is not free to negotiate on its own behalf with the major trading blocs and currently depends on British Government agencies to do so. The result of this ‘gatekeeper’ function is that Britain can lock the North into a perpetual state of economic underdevelopment and dependence. These deficiencies would be eliminated in the context of a unitary state marketed globally as a single economy.


The Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful, democratic mechanism for bringing about reunification. Unity is not an issue of the past. It is a live issue of the present and the direction in which we are all ultimately heading. How best and how soon to reach that goal is the question we need to address.


The fact is that Irish Unity makes sense.

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has accused both Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy Rae of engaging in the worst kind of self serving parochial politics with their decision to support tomorrow’s budget after negotiations with the Government today.

Deputy Doherty said the terms of both agreements must be published immediately as the public from all constituencies have a right to see them.

Speaking this evening Deputy Doherty said:

“Both Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy are engaging in the worst kind of parochial politics in holding the Government to ransom over their budget vote tomorrow.

“At a time of national crisis this behaviour is ridiculously irresponsible.

“Some of the consequences of this budget, if it is passed, are that more children will go to school hungry, more families will have their homes repossessed and our sick and elderly will have less chance of survival.

“However, for their own political survival, both Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy Rae feel that this is a fair price to pay.

“The public have a right to know the exact details of both of these deals and they should be published immediately.

“This is the type of politics that should be consigned to our history. Members of the Dáil are elected to deal with national issues and should not sell out the national interest for petty parochial issues.

“All TDs should take a position on the budget based on their analysis of whether it is in the best interests of the country and not on what’s best for their own individual constituencies.

“Dáil votes should not be for sale at any price.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will be at Leinster House tomorrow for the budget debate.

Mr Adams and the party’s TDs will set out the party’s approach to the budget at a media doorstep at the Kildare Street gates at 12.15pm.

For more information contact Shaun Tracey on 0877735218.

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Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady has accused Social Security Minister Alex Attwood of giving elderly and infirm people in many areas across the north the cold shoulder over failure to allocate special 'cold weather' payments to householders in many areas.

Speaking at the Assembly today Mr Brady said;

"Temperatures in parts of the six counties have reached as low as minus 12. The Armagh Observatory has said that we have come through the coldest November in 25 years. Sinn Féin activists have been talking to people on doorsteps in areas throughout the Six Counties.

Across these areas, householders are struggling to keep their homes and their families warm. That is even more difficult for those with less money.

In areas like west Belfast for example, where more people there are in fuel poverty than anywhere else in the north, no-one in that constituency will be entitled to this cold weather payment. That makes a mockery of the system.

I would call on Alex Attwood to review his decision and urgently overhaul the system before we get deeper into this winter."
CRÍOCH

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Statement made by Gerry Adams following today’s meeting with the North and West Belfast Parades and Cultural Forum in Parliament Buildings.

“In August Sinn Féin and the Forum met to discuss parading issues. That was an important engagement.

Today’s meeting was a follow up to that conversation and was a candid and honest discussion.

We agreed today a schedule of meetings to be held between now and the marching season next year.

There are difficult issues involved but Sinn Féin believes that with dialogue and a genuine commitment a resolution can be found.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today made his final contribution in a debate in the Assembly. Today is his last day as an MLA.

Speaking in a debate on an Early Years Childrens Strategy Mr. Adams said:

“I want to speak in support of the motion and to thank the Education Committee for bringing it forward.

‘Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí’ is an Irish seanfhocal.

Cherish the young and they will flourish.

There is a wealth of reports, studies, and information to support the wisdom of this proverb and to conclusively prove the value of early years programmes for children.
This period in a child’s life is crucial in its personal, social and educational development.
Basic social skills such as learning to co-operate or to take turns and the development of an emotional vocabulary are also essential to children.

Young children need these skills if they are to develop and function effectively in social settings or in school.

There are also some children who have special needs, for example, children with Aspergers syndrome or autism, who need additional support.

The earlier these children can receive this assistance the better.

So, it is obvious that all children will benefit from early years programmes.
I therefore welcome the Departments draft Early Years Strategy.

The goal of the draft strategy and of the consultation must be to ensure the provision of the best possible services for children and their parents.

This will not be achieved by the Department of Education in isolation.

In the Shankill area of west Belfast nursery school teachers have told me that more than half of their pupils have special learning needs.

This is totally unacceptable and it is crucial that any strategy must bring together all of those providing support for families and children.

The ‘Integrating Service for Children and Young People’ is an excellent example of this approach in west Belfast under the auspices of the Task Force.
Poverty issues, child care provision and protection, and health provision are all matters that extend beyond the remit of the Department of Education, as is acknowledged in the motion.

For example, in the Colin area of west Belfast I am advised that 46% of young children are not registered with a dentist.

There is a model for co-locating services advocated by Edenderry Nursery School on the Shankill which I strongly support. It envisages family support workers, speech and language therapists and health visitors co-located with children on school sites.

This is essential in tackling the impact of poverty and disadvantage on children.
Some young children from disadvantaged families have very limited vocabularies.
When I queried this with nursery school teachers recently to my surprise I was told that this is because the telling of nursery rhymes and stories no longer happens in some families.

I have been told of young children who have coca cola in their feeding bottles.
Not only is this bad for their general health but it also causes tooth decay which apart from the obvious discomfort also affects their ability to speak clearly.

Some months ago I visited Sure Start projects.

I commend the commitment of the staff and the exceptional work they carry out on a daily basis providing help and support for families and children, particularly those who are disadvantaged.

There are many such committed professionals and voluntary and community workers active in supporting children particularly teachers and boards of governors and school staffs.

I want to commend all of them and to argue for a joined up and cohesive approach involving all those sectors and all appropriate agencies and departments.

I also want to advocate the concept of special learning zones to break the cycle of educational disadvantage and I commend this to the Minister.

I know that the Minister is very determined to construct the best Early Years strategy possible and that she is very mindful of the need for a holistic approach to achieving this. I wish her well in this work.

With your indulgence and as this is my last speech in this Assembly, in this phase of my life, I would also like to extend best wishes to my colleagues here.

I want to thank you, your colleagues and especially the Ceann Comhairle for the fair, balanced and inclusive way the business of this Assembly is conducted.
My thanks also to all of the staff, from the cleaners to the admin people, the ushers, caterers, security and the civil servants. Tá mé fíor buíoch daoibhse.

The Assembly is approaching the end of its full term. That is a remarkable achievement given the difficulties that had to be overcome, but of course a Leas Cheann Comhairle this Assembly has to be about delivering for citizens.

The island of Ireland is too small for us to be separated forever by an artificial border. Most sensible people know this and the Good Friday Agreement recognises this.
God speed the day when we will be united.

Today’s debate is an example of the issues that must be tackled if we are to improve the living conditions of citizens and particularly our children. So, good luck to you all in this important work. I commend the motion.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Fein Policing Board member Alex MLA has criticised recent comments made by the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Terry Spence of the Police Federation.

Speaking this evening Mr Maskey said;

"Firstly I would remind Matt Baggott that it is his job to implement the necessary changes which were required to policing here and secured under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The notion that moving 150 officers from frontline duty, out of communities and into guarding stations is madness.

It is particularly unacceptable when you consider Matt Baggott made the commitment to get 600 officers back on the ground dealing with the issues people are truly concerned about, crime and community safety.

I find it truly disrespectful that he decided to make the announcement at a public session of the Policing Board without consulting members first.

Everyone acknowledges that too many PSNI Officers are sitting behind desks, pushing paper. We need them on the street, serving our communities.

As for the comments from Terry Spence regarding the retention of the full-time reserve; that is an argument that has been had and merely goes to highlight further the Police Federations incessant culture of wanting more and more.

The PSNI already have enough personnel, it's past time they started using them effectively to meet the demands of the people." CRÍOCH

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Dublin Sinn Féin is to hold an Eve of Budget overnight vigil at the Dáil, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, from 7pm Monday against the Consensus for Cuts, for the suspension of the Budget and for a general election now.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh is available to speak to the media ahead of the vigil.

More details to follow.

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris TD is to demand that the Government respond to reports that a bid has been made to buy Coillte. Coillte is responsible for state forestry which covers approximately 7% of the land mass of the state. It has been reported that the International Forestry Fund has put in a bid to buy Coillte. The Fund is a joint venture between IFS Asset management and the Swiss banking and asset management corporation Helvetia Wealth. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was appointed as Chairperson of the IFF in January this year. 


Deputy Ferris said: “I intend to raise this issue on Tuesday morning on the Order of Business directly before the Budget announcement. 

“I am doing so as a token of how serious is the possibility that 7% of our land could be sold to a private corporation. It is no coincidence I think that the expression of interest follows on the McCarthy report that Coillte be either privatised or asset stripped, and the pressure on the Government to sell off state assets as part of the IMF programme. 

“This can not be allowed to happen. Our forestry and the land are key national assets. They are capable of wealth generation and cannot be allowed to be sold off as part of an auction to help bail out the banks and to please Fianna Fáil’s IMF masters. 

“I also believe that the IFF has been in contact with the Chinese investment corporation which has bought former Greek state assets. 

“I will allow others to make what they will of our former Taoiseach’s part in all of this.”

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