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Sinn Féin budget supports fair and sustainable recovery - Pearse Doherty

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

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2015 here



“The DUP are vocal about the consequences of not implementing these Tory cuts but remain silent on the impact of these cuts which would take hundreds of millions of pounds out of the pockets of the most vulnerable and least able to pay.  These cuts would plunge more children into poverty and take money from hard-pressed working families, people on benefits and from people with disabilities." - Daithí McKay



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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has urged the new Spanish government, led by prime minister elect, Mariano Rajoy, to prioritise the embryonic peace process in the Basque country and to enter into early discussions with all of the Basque parties.
Deputy Adams said: “The historic success in the Basque country of Amaiur, the party which favours self-determination and social justice, is a vindication for those who have argued for a peace process and a democratic and peaceful resolution of the conflict which has raged for 40 years.
“The election has changed the political landscape in the Basque country and in Spain. Amaiur is now the largest party in Euskadi with seven MPs and three senators.
“It is the fifth biggest group in the Spanish Parliament which it has said it will now enter. There is a unique opportunity for political progress. Everyone has a contribution to make but the greater onus at this time must rest with the new government.”
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Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien today questioned the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter on the reports of the Prison Visiting Committee and asked the minister to respond to allegations that female prisoners in the Dóchas unit are strip-searched in front of male prison officers and to address the issue of overcrowding in prisons.
The Cork North Central TD said;
“The Dóchas prison visiting committee have stated that they have written several letters since, regarding the incident of strip-searching but all have gone unanswered.
“I have asked the minister to comment on whether this incident is still under review and, if it is when he expects an outcome of the investigation.
“The visiting committee also highlighted the manner in which the BOSS chair is being used within the prison and in particular incidents where female prisoners are required to remove clothing in the presence of male officers. This is unacceptable and a breach of human rights.
“The minister is now saying that there were no male officers present during strip searches or use of the BOSS chair. If this is the case, then why have the Prison Visiting Committee reported otherwise?
“Further to this I have questioned the minister on issues of overcrowding in prisons. Cork prison has a significant problem with cell accommodation. Chronic overcrowding and slopping out is leading to very difficult and degrading living conditions. The report of the Cork Prison Visiting Committee mentions the introduction of a ‘new slopping out vessel’. Clearly this is not going to address overcrowding and it is imperative that the minister makes effective changes, to the root of prison policy, that will actually have an impact on overcrowding.”
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Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called on the Minister for Environment to meet with the Priory Hall families.

He was speaking following meeting former residents of the complex at a protest outside Leinster House today.

Deputy Ellis continued;

“So far we have had no commitment from the Minister to meet these families and that is unacceptable. I am calling on Environment and Local Government Minister Phil Hogan to meet with the families as soon as possible and to set out how he will intervene to assist the Priory Hall residents.

“These families were failed by the state when they did not properly regulate against such scandalous building practices as were carried out by Coalport and Tom McFeeley. The least the Minister can do is to meet them and do whatever is in his power to help to rectify the situation.

“I would also echo the call of my colleague Cllr Mícheál Mac Donncha for the City Council management to withdraw its appeal to the Supreme Court of the High Court’s order to the Council to provide for the emergency accommodation needs of the Priory Hall evacuees.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Michelle Gildernew has said that a multi faceted strategies is the key to tackling the obesity problem that we are facing.

Ms. Gildernew stated,

“There is no doubt that there is a growing problem with obesity and unless this is tackled now in a multi faceted way we will face a huge cost in addressing the health repercussions in the years ahead.

“Healthy eating and exercise are core to maintaining a level of fitness but education, addressing poverty and the provision of facilities is just as or even more important in creating the conditions that will combat obesity.

“Children should be educated on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle from an early age and encouraged to put that education into practice.  However to put this into practice we need to provide play parks, recreation areas and sports centres so that people have affordable facilities to exercise.

“Obesity in areas of high deprivation is on the increase so it is important that tackling poverty is core to any strategy that will allow families to buy nutritional foods and participate in activities such as swimming and other sporting arenas.

“Breast feeding can help reduce child obesity and more should be done to encourage mothers to breastfeed. 

"The comprehensive strategy needs to consider the negative impact which television and other mass media advertising of unhealthy sugar rich foods and drinks has on children and young people when making lifestyle choices. It is our view that such advertising is limited in the same manner as has occurred with the advertising of alcohol and tobacco products"

“By giving families the knowledge on how to live a healthy lifestyle it will allow more and more people to make informed choices and this will begin to address the number of people who are now diagnosed as clinically obese."

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Speaking following the comments of the Fine Gael Mayor of Naas, Darren Scully, that he would no longer represent black Africans, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice and Equality Jonathan O’Brien TD called on the Taoiseach to make his position on this issue clear and provide assurances to the black community in Ireland that racism in any guise will not be tolerated by Fine Gael.

The Cork North-Central TD said:

“Firstly I am calling for Fine Gael Mayor of Naas, Darren Scully to apologise for his racist and insensitive comments that he would no longer represent black Africans. It is an insulting comment that will cause great pain.

“When the new Programme for Government was introduced we pointed out that the Programme promised only to “promote policies which integrate minority ethnic groups”. It was not clear what is meant by this. There was no promise to revive the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, which was dissolved by the previous government or to restore the funding that was cut to the Equality Authority and Human Rights Commission. Fine Gael and Labour are now intent on amalgamating these two bodies at a time when they are needed most.

“Racism has no place in Ireland and we need to challenge racism through provision of education resources and intercultural activity which supports integration. There is a need to constantly promote tolerance and respect across the many different cultures in Ireland.

“Sinn Féin is now calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to address this issue and provide assurances to the black community in Ireland that racism in any guise will not be tolerated by Fine Gael.”

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Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has called on Environment Minister Alex Attwood to publish his proposals on Pension Contributions that he claims wouldn’t cost a penny to implement.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

“During the course of a debate on Radio Ulster this morning Alex Attwood indicated that he had ‘Tabled’ alternative proposals to the Executive that would mitigate the effects of the British governments demand for increased public sector pension contributions. On checking with my party colleagues on the Executive they are unaware of any such proposals.

“Alex Attwood raised objections last August but has yet to bring forward any alternative proposals.  I welcome the commitment from Alex that he will bring forward the proposals that he said he has that would not cost the Executive ‘one penny’. It would be a very foolish Executive that would refuse to consider such a cost free alternative, so bring it on!

“The British government has made it clear that unless the Executive implements its demand for increased contributions it will deduct an additional £100 million per year from our block grant. Sinn Féin’s alternative would exempt those earning less than £32,000 from any additional contributions, with those above that threshold making graduated increased contributions according to pay scale.

“Sinn Féin believes that this is the best way to protect both public services and public sector workers. We have asked that the Department of Education, the largest spending Department administered by Sinn Féin to pilot a consultation process with the Unions and the public to measure support for our proposals. I welcome the acknowledgement on the same programme this morning from Bumper Graham that the Union dispute is with the Coalition government in London and not with the Executive. I hope that the Unions give serious consideration to our proposals.

“I am calling on Alex Attwood and any other Minister who may have proposals to produce them for consideration so that we can find a way forward that will minimise the impact on low paid workers and protect public services. It is not sufficient to say that you oppose the increased contributions and voice concerns about workers unless you can bring forward alternative ideas on where we can find the £100 million per year that will otherwise be lost to our block grant.

“If Alex Attwood has proposals that would resolve the situation and will not cost the Executive ‘one penny’ then it is incumbent on him to bring them forward as a matter of urgency so that we can avoid the mass disruption expected by strike action on November 30th

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Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has stated that many of the narrow sectarian attitudes exposed by a survey of Orange Order members will not surprise nationalists.

Speaking following the publication of a book which examines the attitudes of a sample of 1,500 members of the Loyal Orders Mr McKay said:

“It is clear from these findings that the Loyal Orders are insular organisations who have failed to engage in any meaningful manner and challenge the perceptions held in this book. The narrow sectarian attitudes exposed in this survey will not surprise nationalists.

“Throughout the development of the Peace Process the Loyal Orders have failed to engage proactively on issues such as contentious parades and play an active and positive role in moving our society forward.

“Instead they have brought violence onto the streets at Drumcree, Ardoyne and elsewhere. Most recently there have been proceedings taken against members for attending PSNI constable Ronan Kerr’s funeral.

“We hear on an annual basis how the 12th of July and Orangefest are open to all yet this book clearly indicates that they are not when the majority of members of those involved in such events hold sectarian and narrow perceptions of the catholic community.” Crioch

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    The impact of the British government’s Welfare Reform legislation on the chronically ill and disabled are amongst a number of concerns Sinn Féin will raise with Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland tomorrow.

Heading the Sinn Féin delegation will be Social Development Committee chairperson Alex Maskey accompanied by deputy committee chair Mickey Brady and committee member Fra McCann. 

    Speaking prior to the meeting Alex Maskey said Sinn Féin was very concerned about the negative impact some of the changes being imposed by Westminster as part of their Welfare Reform could have on people here.

    “Recent research papers by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and other academic institutions have refuted claims by the British Department of Work and Pensions and shown that some changes in the benefit system, rather than addressing poverty, will increase hardship amongst the most vulnerable,” said Alex Maskey 

    “Amongst other issues, we will be raising concerns about the reassessment process for those in presently in receipt of benefit due to incapacity. The assessment process currently underway in England has proven to be totally inefficient and is now reported to be in danger of collapse.”

    According to recent reports the company contracted to carry out the new Work Capability Assessment is declaring hundreds of thousands of people fit-for-work on the basis of a tick box questionnaire only to have that decision over turned on appeal.

    In England, the number of appeals by claimants who believe they have been incorrectly assessed has quadrupled within the last two years and is expected to reach 240,000 by the end of this year.

    “Clearly we don’t want a similar scenario unfolding here. Unfortunately one of the last decisions made by the former Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood, just before he left office, was to employ the same private company, Atos, whose record has been so controversial in Britain, to carry out the assessment process here,” said Alex Maskey.

    “Triggering so many appeals on the basis of a poor decision making process is not only costly in terms of public finance but also in terms of the unnecessary financial hardship and stress to the individual who has had their right to benefit wrongly curtailed.”

    “Sinn Féin will be asking Minister McCausland what measures he has undertaken to ensure such a fiasco that is currently being experienced in Britain, will not be repeated here.” Crioc 

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Lower earning teachers will be protected from upcoming increases in pension contributions under plans proposed by Education Minister John O’Dowd.

“The British Government has decided to increase pension contributions for public sector workers from April 2012. They intend to raise £2.8 billion by April 2015, which equates to an average increase in pension contributions of 3.2% of salary”

Mr O’Dowd said. “I am strongly opposed to their policy of increasing employee pension contributions to address the structural deficit. I do not believe that public sector pensions should be a means by which the British Government can increase its revenue especially at a time of a public sector pay freeze, increases in national insurance contributions, higher VAT and rising inflation.

“The British Government has made it clear that if the devolved administration does not implement the increase in pension contributions they will reduce the amount of money in the block grant by around £300 million over the next three years. Clearly this would result in a significant detrimental impact on the delivery of education and other front-line public services.

“The Executive has therefore committed to the principle of delivering the targeted level of savings to the cost of public sector pension schemes. However, the Executive resolved to engage with trades unions to discuss a graduated approach which would protect those at the lower end of the pay scale by seeking an enhanced contribution from those on higher salary within the public sector.

“In keeping with this approach, my Department is consulting on proposals which, if adopted, would guarantee that teachers at the lower to middle end of the pay scale would benefit from further protection over and above that announced by the British Government.

“I am also urging the teacher unions to consider variations on these options, including my Department’s proposal that there should be no increase in the contribution rate for teachers earning less than £32,000 a year, with the balance of savings being delivered through an enhanced contribution from those on higher pay bands.

“I am also prepared to consider any alternative proposals that the teacher unions or other stakeholders may bring forward.

“I remain keen to engage with the teacher unions and all other stakeholders on these proposals which I believe represent a potential way forward, given the parameters within which the Executive is required to operate.”

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