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No alternative to dialogue and agreement , says McGuinness in major statement on 20th anniversary of IRA cessation

Delivering a keynote address in Derry on Sunday morning on the 20th anniversary of the IRA announcing “a complete cessation of military operations”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said there is a real threat to the political institutions in the North from political stagnation and the absence of progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in a keynote statement today has warned that the “political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.”


Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



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Sinn Féin’s Education spokesperson Seán Crowe, TD, has highlighted figures that show eight in ten primary school children are attending classes that are bigger than the EU average. The Department of Education figures relate to the 2010-11 school year and show that 86pc of primary pupils are in classes of 20 or more, with one in five in classes of more than 30.

Deputy Crowe said: “Most of the overcrowded classes can be found in urban areas and in commuter counties adjoining the main cities. These figures are expected to rise further after the next Budget with many schools facing chronic overcrowding.

“And despite the fact that the overall proportion of pupils in super-size classes of 30 or more fell from almost 22pc from the previous year, to 19.8pc, there were still 97,000 children in these classes.

“The Irish National Teachers Organisation rightly describes these figures as ‘shocking’ and ‘a wake-up call for parents’ in advance of the next Budget.

“Ireland’s class sizes are averaging over 24 pupils with schools that are amongst the most overcrowded in Europe.

“This has serious implications for modern teaching methods as teachers have much less time to spend on individual children. These statistics, combined with the cuts to SNAs and special language teachers show that the Irish education system is in deep trouble.

“When class numbers are lower, modern teaching methods are possible and there is more teacher time for children.

“Clearly, if we are serious about improving the standard of our children’s education then the last thing that should be done is to increase class sizes.

“Ten years ago, the government made a commitment to reduce class sizes for the under nines to less than 20 in line with international best practice. Today, only 15pc of primary pupils are in classes of less than 20 pupils and when in opposition Ruairí Quinn described the previous government’s attempt to increase class sizes as ‘an attack upon our children, the most vulnerable in our society’. He went on to say that having classes with 30 plus children makes it impossible for under-resourced primary school teachers to cherish all the children equally.

“Now that he is Education Minister, he is refusing to rule out a further increase in the pupil-teacher ratio, as a way of saving money in order to meet the terms of the EU/IMF bailout. This will worsen an already grave situation and will prevent teachers from delivering the school curriculum.” ENDS

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The Men and Womens’ Chinese National Artistic Gymnastics teams will locate their Pre-games Training Camp at Salto National Gymnastics Centre, Lisburn.

The team will train in Lisburn before the Olympic Games in London next year. Making the announcement today, Minister Ní Chuilín said: “The world number one country in gymnastics has chosen the north of Ireland to achieve their Olympic goals. This news is to be greatly welcomed.

“China is renowned for excellence in gymnastics, topping the medals table at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with 18 medals. Having the best in the world to train locally will raise the profile of the sport and the local facilities. This is something everyone can be proud of and I hope that this inspires our young people to get involved in sport.”

The Minister continued by congratulating the commitment of Sport Northern Ireland and Tony Byrne, CEO and high performance coach at Salto. She said: “There has been a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes for some time to promote venues in the north of Ireland, to national teams across the world.

“Following the visit in July by the Chinese coaches Xiong Jingbin and Jin Weiguo, hopes have been high that the national committee would agree for the teams to train here. The terrific facilities in Salto; the great relationships developed by Salto’s own coach Sun Jie; and the partnership adopted by my Department, Lisburn City Council and SportNI have resulted in the Chinese Teams’ decision to locate here.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has voted against the six legislative acts on 'economic governance' as they "completely fail to address the actual cause of the crisis, or even to recognise where we are now".

Speaking in Strasbourg Ms de Brún said:

"The six legislative acts on 'economic governance' completely fail to address the actual cause of the crisis, or even to recognise where we are now.

"The proposals will not prevent a build-up of risks to the financial system. They will give the European Commission the power to impose substantial fines on member states and to prevent progressive governments from pursuing pro-growth policies.

"The austerity policies contained in these proposals make citizens pay for the excesses of banks and other financial institutions. They force member states to implement further cuts to social expenditure, undermine employment and social rights, and risk leading to a prolonged recession.

"The proposals will enable EU-institutions to make decisions on member states' budgets, and social and economic policy priorities, with little democratic debate and even less accountability.

"For all of us interested in a more just society, this is a missed opportunity to bring forward a regime of responsible lending for banks. We need the banks to avoid the reckless behaviour of the past, but also to provide capital for investment purposes when it is needed."

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Speaking during Leaders’ Questions today the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams challenged the government on its attitude to the capping of senior bankers’ pay.

The Louth TD asked the Taoiseach to give a straight answer and rule out any possibility that the government will breach the half a million euro cap in response to a request from AIB.

Mr. Adams said:

“In response to the economic crisis and in particular the disastrous role played by the banks, a half a million cap was placed on senior bankers’ pay. Sinn Féin and others argued for a lower rate given the plight of citizens.

“In May I asked the Taoiseach about the possibility of AIB breaking this cap. At that time he acknowledged that he had rarely seen people so frustrated at the carry-on of bankers. But the Taoiseach refused to rule out the government conceding to the AIB request.

“The Minister of Finance confirmed at the weekend that AIB has now applied to the government to negotiate a salary above half a million.

“The AIB has a cheek to ask for this obscene amount of money.

“This is unacceptable and the government must tell AIB that under no circumstances will the government allow this.

“The fact is that at this time there are almost half a million citizens unemployed. Successive budgets have hit those on low and middle incomes hardest. The December budget will impose more savage cuts.

“Contrary to the government spin that it will not increase income tax or introduce cuts to social welfare, the fact is that the policies of the government is taking more and more money from wage packets in stealth taxes.

“People are still deeply frustrated and angry at the economic mess created by the bad policies of the previous government, and of this government and the golden circle of bankers and developers.

“The government must reject any effort by AIB to allow it to employ a CEO above the half a million cap.”

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Sinn Féin public expenditure and reform spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has welcomed the publication of the Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Construction Contracts Bill.

Deputy McDonald however, has said that there are questions to be answered by Minister of State Brian Hayes on the reports failure to deal with the Suspension Limit as set out in the legislation.

Deputy McDonald said:

“During a meeting with the Minister in June of this year, myself and various stakeholders from the industry outlined a number of amendments we believed needed to be made to the Construction Contracts Bill.

“In a welcome development the Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Construction Contracts Bill, published today, proposes to remove the minimum monetary thresholds for both the private and public sector. It also recommends making adjudications binding regardless of whether the dispute goes to arbitration or not. Extending the scope of the Bill to include goods and services, particularly those manufactured for a project is another positive development.

“However the Regulatory Impact Analysis does not deal with concerns raised on the Suspension Limit as currently set out in the legislation. The right to suspend work for non-payment cannot be time restricted and a limit of two weeks will not act as a sufficient deterrent for rogue employers. I have today written to Minister of State Brian Hayes asking him to clarify the Government’s position on this matter.”

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Speaking during a Dáil debate on the Insurance (Amendment) Bill Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has described the €720 million fund as “yet another bailout by the public to a toxic bank, its bondholders and a major US insurance company”.

The Insurance Bill, which is due to pass all stages in the Dáil this week proposes the imposition of a 2% levy on all non-life insurance policies in the state to pay off bond holders and other liabilities at Quinn Insurance as part of the sale of the company to Liberty Mutual and Anglo Irish Bank.

Deputy Doherty said:

“We are being told that the proposed changes to the Insurance Compensation Fund are required in order to provide €720 million to cover payments on policies to customers of Quinn Insurance in the North of Ireland and Britain.

“However, like so many aspects of this story things are not that clear. It appears that assets from Quinn Insurance of more than €400 million were used as security against loans for the same value from Anglo Irish Bank for other commercial activities pursued by the company. As a result, bondholders with Anglo Irish Bank effectively have a hold on this portion of Quinn Insurance’s insurance book. Liberty Mutual, seeing this as a liability is insisting that the Government and the Insurance Compensation Funds fill the gap.

“In order for the Anglo Irish bond holders to relinquish their claim on the €400 million of assets at Quinn Insurance they have been offered a payoff of €200 million.

“Put another way €200 million of the €720 million requested by the administrator will effectively be used to pay off senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank, after the Compensation Fund monies are lodged and become part of the general assets of the company.

“No matter what sophisticated financial semantics that are used to describe this sorry affair it is hard to see it as anything other that yet another bailout by the public to a toxic bank, its bondholders and a major US insurance company.” 

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Speaking during a Seanad debate on the Road Traffic Bill, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly welcomed the legislation but said that the good work to date with regards to road safety must not be undone by government cuts.

Senator Reilly said:

“I welcome this legislation as it will promote road safety however, I am concerned that there is a possible disjoint between this legislation to enhance road safety and government policies and actions due to budget cuts.

“We in Sinn Féin are concerned that the recent and planned cuts in public services will impact directly on front line services. In particular the proposed cuts to the Gardaí are of some concern as regards road safety.

“It would be wrong for budget cuts to impact on the ability of the Gardaí to enforce the very legislation we are debating.

“It would be wrong for budget cuts to impact on the ability of the Gardaí to reduce the number of intoxicated and dangerous drivers on our roads or to remove unsafe vehicles.

“It would be wrong for budget cuts to impact on the ability of the emergency services to respond to accidents.

“It would be wrong for the proposed budget cuts to impact on the ability of casualty units to deal with major road traffic trauma.

“The government must not allow the good work of this bill to be undone by implanting further draconian spending cuts.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff is accusing the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment of not doing enough to make sure that rural communities have broadband access.

In an adjournment debate in the Assembly on Tuesday dealing specifically with the deficit of broadband access for the Greencastle community and other parts of West Tyrone, the Sinn Féin MLA said it affected a wide swathe of people within rural communities.

Barry McElduff said:

“Quite simply broadband is not reaching all the land. Everyone from students, businesses and farmers suffer from poor or no access to broadband in this part of Omagh District and that immediately puts them at a disadvantage when carrying out their daily activities. Increasing aspects of school curriculum need to be done on line, farmers are expected to process grant applications on line and businesses conduct banking, marketing and outreach all on line.

“There needs to be continued engagement with rural communities to identify black spot areas specifically affected and investment should follow to remedy the problem. I acknowledge that DETI has done some work in this area but even should one rural community be denied broadband access then that is not good enough especially when DETI often cite 100% coverage throughout the North.

“Bringing everyone up to the same quality of service will not only benefit people on the ground in their daily lives but also send out a clear message to rural communities that the Executive is prepared to stand up for them.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has called on those responsible for the bomb intercepted on the Buncrana Road, Derry yesterday to reflect on their actions and disband immediately.

Mr McCartney stated,

“I know it has been articulated many times before that there is no justification in the new political climate that has been created for any form of armed action. But if those behind this and other incidents have a logical analysis of what they hope to achieve then they have a responsibility to explain it to the people of Ireland. The vast majority of people not only in this city but across Ireland accept that the present institutions allow for all political philosophies to be pursued on an equal basis. 

“If these groups indeed have a political strategy then they should enter the political process, articulate their goals and aspirations and accept the verdict of the Irish people. Whatever political opinions these groups espouse they can be accommodated through the peaceful and democratic process that has been established. No campaign, political or otherwise can succeed by alienating the very people you claim to represent. CRÍOCH/ENDS

Videos

Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


Photos

Mary Lou McDonald and Cathal King