Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Policing Board Pat Sheehan has questioned the Chief Constable as to why it took so long for the PSNI to state that the UVF were behind the shooting of Jemma McGrath.
This follows the presentation of a letter to the Policing Board today in which Matt Baggot states the UVF were responsible for the shooting over nine weeks after the incident.
Speaking today Mr Sheehan said:
“The Chief Constable Matt Baggot has at today’s’ Policing Board, over nine weeks after the shooting of Jemma McGrath, presented a letter to state that the UVF were behind this attack.
“The question everyone will be asking is why this took so long and why confuse the situation by saying that it may have been without sanction. “For the past number of years the UVF have been active in attacking the Short Strand, orchestrating violence surrounding the flag protests across the North, drug dealing and numerous shooting incidents in Belfast and Coleraine in particular. Are all these incidents “without sanction”?
“This is not members acting in an individual capacity yet we have had very few arrests for those involved in the activities of the UVF.”
Sinn Fein MLA for West Belfast, Fra McCann, has welcomed the announcement by the housing minister Nelson McCausland that a consultation is now underway to deal with the issue of anti-social tenants.
Speaking earlier Mr McCann said:
"The issue of anti-social tenants has been on that I and many others have been calling for firm action to be taken on to deal with. This ever growing problem causes disruption for communities and destroys valuable housing stock.
"Anti-social behaviour is a blight. I would ask that the minister to cast the net wider when looking for solutions to these problems and tap into good practice elsewhere including the question of vandalism which costs tens of thousands of pounds to be rectified.
"Currently there is no with no pursuance of those involved and obviously this must change."
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD commenting on criticisms of his remarks on the Smithwick report said:
“I am very conscious that at the heart of this issue are two bereaved families. I did not need reminded of this by any of my political opponents and I am concerned, as I was during the Newstalk interview, not to say anything which detracts from that or which causes any further hurt. That was never my intention.
“What I said reflects what is recorded by Justice Smithwick.
“So those who attack me are at odds with what is contained in the Smithwick report.
“It is nonsense to suggest that I was blaming the two RUC officers for their own deaths. Everyone knows the IRA was responsible. That was never in question.
“There is also no question but that the Smithwick report records serious concerns about the security arrangements for RUC officers travelling to Dundalk through South Armagh. These include the fact that information about possible IRA attacks on RUC officers crossing the border was passed to Garda Headquarters and passed by it to the RUC.
“It is a fact that RUC Officer Bob Buchanan was crossing the border on average 10 times each month and on most occasions he travelled in his own car which was ‘readily identifiable.’
“In his report Justice Smithwick records, and I quote, ‘there was a general view that the RUC crossing the border were targets’ and ‘they (referring to RUC members) were all warned in relation to that.’
“The Smithwick report records a senior Garda officer “discussing security with Superintendent Buchanan and asking him was he happy with coming up without an escort? If you want an escort, we’ll give you an escort. He said he was all right, and that was it.”
“And there are other examples of concern about the visits across the border by the RUC officers.
“Clearly, the decision to continue to travel as frequently as they did across the border, without escort, left the RUC officers open to the real possibility of attack.
“None of this distracts from the tragedy and loss of life.
“Sinn Féin supported the establishment of the Smithwick Inquiry. I co-operated with the inquiry and met Justice Smithwick and his team and number of times.
“I have concerns about the Tribunal’s conclusions given that it accepts that it found no direct evidence of collusion and then went on to claim without supporting evidence that ‘on the balance of probabilities’ there was collusion.
“Sinn Féin supports the recommendations the tribunal makes with regard to changes in policing and developing full all Ireland co-operation on policing and justice.
“There is also a need to deal with the outstanding issues of Weston Park. The Finucane Family are entitled to the same support and levels of disclosure as the Breen and Buchanan Families.
“A few weeks ago in the Dáil I asked the Taoiseach to facilitate a reasoned and rationale debate on the past. I made the point that the past must not be allowed to become an obstacle to building the peace and a harmonious and fair future for all our citizens.
“Yesterday’s contrived outburst by the Fianna Fáil leader and the pompous remarks by the Justice Minister and others illustrate the importance of such a debate. Why are they not open to discussing the proposal put by Sinn Féin for a comprehensive, victim centred, truth recovery process under the tutelage of an independent international agency?
“Could it be that partitionism and revisionism allied with party political self-interest has primacy over more important matters?”
Sinn Féin Sentator David Cullinane has stated that there is huge potential for greater North-South economic co-operation.
Senator Cullinane, who is a member of the Oireachtas Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Committee, made the comments following a meeting with the Assembley’s Enterprise, Trade and Industry in Leinster House today.
“We welcomed our sister committee from the Assembly to the Oireachtas today to discuss our common approaches to growing the economy and creating jobs. I note that this week the Taoiseach met with joint First Ministers, Martin McGuiness and Peter Robinson on separate trade missions to Japan. This reflects the reality of our interlinked and interdependent economies and labour markets.
“There is huge potential in greater co-operation between our institutions to, poll our resources, support enterprises and create employment.”
Phil Flanagan, Deputy Chairperson of Enterprise, Trade and Industry committee at the Assembly said:
“As a representative elected from a border constituency I see daily the economic impact of partition and obstacles to business and trade. It is clear that we can achieve more for enterprises along the border and across the island with greater co-ordination of economic strategy and implementation of joint policy. We need to support trade across the island and to jointly promote exports and inward investment.
“Greater co-operation makes sense and can deliver benefits to enterprises and workers. I hope that today marks a greater level of information sharing and co-operation as we jointly face the common challenge of economic growth and delivering jobs of all our people.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty T.D. has said that the decision of the Irish Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin,to resign is a damning indictment the government’s policy on the Irish language.
The government's response to this resignation has been to refute the Commissioners' criticisms. That is typical of their attitude to the language. If the Ombudsman for Children resigned tomorrow citing government obstruction to her role it would rightly be considered a scandal.
The fact that the government has adopted a dismissive approach shows how little value they place on Irish.
Speaking during Leaders Questions today, Deputy Doherty said:
“Inné d’fhógair an Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, go bhfuil sé ag éirí as a chuid dualgais i ndiaidh deich mbliain san phost.
“A Aire, seo an chéad uair ariamh, i stair an Stát seo, gur eirigh duine ag an leibhéal seo as a chuid cúraimí ar an dóigh seo.
“The announcement yesterday by the Language Commissioner that he could no longer continue in his role due to a lack of commitment from state organisations is a damning indictment of this Governments policy on the Irish language.
“Thug sé le fios go bhfuil trí ceathrú do na scéimeanna teanga atá ann le heagraíochta éagsúla stáit imithe in éag. Léirigh sé imní mhór faoi chaighdéan cuid mhaith eile acu.
“Deir sé go bhfuil eagla air go bhfuil oiread dochar déanta agus easpa muiníne sa chóras, nach féidir é a tharrtháil anois.
“Thug sé le tuiscint nach bhfuil iarracht mar is ceart dhá dhéanamh seirbhísí stáit i nGaeilge a chuir ar fáil do shaoránaigh na tíre.
“Theip ar pholasaithe earcaíochta sa státseirbhís le cinntiú go raibh dothain gaeilge ag oibrithe chun freastal ar an bpobal mar is ceart. D’athraigh sibh na rialacha agus dar leis, 'níl bealach ar bith go n-oibreoidh an chóras nua'.
“Ní fhaca sé, in imeacht 30 bliain, an oiread ísle brí agus lagmhisnigh.
“A Aire, An nglacann tu leis go bhfuil an ceart aige?
“D’fhógair sibh athbhreithniú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla dhá bhliain ó shoin agus níor tharla sin fós. Tá sibh le h-ísliú stádais a thabhairt don Choimisinéir tré comhnascadh le h-Oifig an Ombudsman.
“The Commissioner had to take the unprecedented step of resigning because this Government is totally undermining the work of his office, state organisations are ignoring their legal obligations and in two and a half years in office your Government has done untold damage to the provision of services and supports for Irish language speakers throughout the state?
“An aontaíonn tú gurb é seo an Rialtas is frith Ghaelaigh agus is measa don teanga a bhí againn ariamh? Agus, an aontaíonn tú go gcaithfidh sibh athrú treo a thabhairt i bhfianaise fógra scoir an Choimisinéir Teanga?”
MP Conor Murphy will be meeting Tory Minister David Gauke to press him on the decision to close HMRC offices in Newry, Enniskillen and Derry.
Mr Murphy said,
“Given that the job losses affect Newry, Enniskillen and Derry myself and Michelle Gildernew have contacted fellow MPs Mark Durkan and Margaret Ritchie to arrange a joint meeting with Treasury Minister David Gauke who is responsible for HMRC. The Public and Commercial Services Union which is representing the staff are supportive of this joint approach.
“The request has been submitted to Mr. Gauke and we await his reply.
“Responsibility for Revenue and Customs rests with Westminster so while it is welcome that the Assembly is debating the topic on Monday we also need to influence the decision makers at Westminster to ensure this decision is reviewed.”
Sinn Féin Assembly Member Mickey Brady also spoke of his alarm at the intention of HMRC to close its Newry branch.
“This decision became public as a fait accompli, with no discussion or thought for the 134 Newry staff this will impact on. I am concerned that there was no staff consultation and I would like to know details of HMRC protocols on matters such as this.
“This closure will affect border constituencies in a disproportionate manner and it is possible that women and part time workers will also be disproportionately affected. HMRC employs in excess of 20,000 staff, there is no reason why these redundancies could not have been absorbed by the whole organisation.
“I will be using the Assembly debate on Monday to call on HMRC to carry out an equality impact assessment and to halt these closure plans.
“HMRC must think of their staff as real people who are now left with huge financial worries over the Christmas period.”
Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has criticised the government for the way it has gone about introducing the Social Welfare and Pensions (No.2) Bill 2013.
Speaking from Leinster House today, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“This is the wrong way to do business. The government are not giving sufficient time to fully consider the Bills contents or to thoroughly investigate the alternatives that I am proposing.
“In addition, they are sitting on the Mercer report which was commissioned and paid for with public money to examine the very matters this Bill addresses. We don’t know what is in that report. It may endorse the government's approach, it may not.
“In terms of a new wind-up priority order, the new burden sharing formula doesn't go as far I want and it doesn’t even go as far as the Minister herself suggested in 2011.”
Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann praised the contribution of local women to peace building and reconciliation when she unveiled an art piece at the Victims & Survivors Service in Belfast this morning.
The West Belfast MLA said:
“I want to commend Falls Women's Centre, Shankill Women's Centre and everyone who participated in this project.
“Building peace and reconciliation needs partnership and community based projects like this involving women from the Shankill and the Falls provide a solid foundation in us all going forward.
“The relationships and new friendships forged as a result of dialogue and participation in local community based programmes are key to us all exploring our past and learning from it.
“It will help us build a solid foundation for peace and improved community relations as we move forward into a new future, based on equality, respect and tolerance."
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the government’s cut to the Single Parent tax credit is unjustifiable and can still be reversed.
Deputy Doherty was speaking as amendments to reverse or lessen the cut were voted down by government TDs:
“Once more the government has refused to budge on their cut to the Single Parent tax credit. Sinn Fein today poised a whole series of options available to the minister to mitigate the worst effects of the cut but all were rejected by this out-of-touch government.
“This cut is unjustifiable and can still be reversed. Sinn Féin will continue to oppose this measure and offer a range of alternatives in the Seanad after today’s rejection by Labour and Fine Gael to proposal to reverse or lessen the cuts.
“Minister Noonan recently told me in a reply to a parliamentary question that 14,500 people will be affected by this cut. That is at least as many children as that that will be affected.
“This cut is one of the most unjustifiable in this year’s Finance Bill and has rightly angered many single parents. Once again the government has picked on a vulnerable group and targeted them with a blunt cut.
“The cut is unjustifiable and still can be reversed or lessened. Sinn Féin has opposed this cut through ever stage of the Finance Bill and will continue to do so.”
"It is a very dark day for the Irish language that Seán Ó Cuirreáín has announced his resignation today after ten years in office." – Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh
Deir an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh gur damnú ar pholasaí Gaeilge an Rialtais atá sa bhfógra a rinne an Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin inniu, go bhfuil sé le n-eirí as a chuid dualgais, ar bhunphrionsabail.
Thug an Coimisinéir an méid seo le fios ag cruinniú den Chomhchoiste Achanaithe agus Formhaoirsiú Poiblí i dtithe an Oireachtais inniu.
Dar le Ó Clochartaigh:
“Is lá dhubh, dorcha don Ghaeilge í seo, go bhfuil Sean Ó Cuirreáin ag eirí as tar éis deich mbliana a chaitheamh sa bpost.
“Is léir gur cinneadh ar bhunphrionsabail atá i gceist agus nach ar aon chúis eile atá seo socraithe aige.
“Rinne sé cáineadh an-láidir arís ina thuarascáil bhliantiúil ar easpa dáiríreachta na n-eagras stáit i leith a gcuid dualgais faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.
“Is léir domsa nach bhfuil an tacaíocht dhá fháil ag an oifig ón Rialtas agus na h-eagrais stáit agus dá bhrí sin nach féidir leis an gCoimisinéir a chuid dualgais a chomhlíonadh mar is ceart.
“Tá an-díomá ar Shinn Féin faoi seo, ach molann muid Seán Ó Cuirreáin as an seasamh láidir seo a ghlacadh ag an am seo.
'Tá ardmheas ag Sinn Féin agus pobal na Gaeilge ar an obair atá déanta aige féin agus ag a fhoireann agus is cailliúint an-mhór é. Go bhfios dúinn, seo an chéad uair gur éirigh aon Ombudsman as i stair an stáit agus is ráiteas iontach láidir ann fein é sin.
'Is léir go bhfuil polasaí an Rialtais i leith na Gaeilge ag titim óna chéile agus tá gá le h-athbhreithniú práinneach le seo a chuir ina cheart.
'D'iarr mé go dtabharfaí Aire Stáit na Gaeltachta teacht os comhair an Chomhchoiste le seasamh an Rialtais ar an gcinneadh seo agus na h-impleachtaí a bhaineann leis a phlé.
Speaking in the Seanad today during the Labour Party’s Private Members Bill on funding for community mental health services, Sinn Féin Senator, David Cullinane said:
“Against a backdrop of continuing recession, the mental health of the population of Ireland is under severe strain.
“Research shows that unemployment and income inequality are major contributory factors to poor mental health and go some way to explaining the increase in suicide and self-harm.
“The Government has a duty to protect vulnerable people and to ensure the negative effects of the crisis are not exacerbated by a lack of services for people with poor mental health.
“I welcome todays PMB from the Labour Party and I support the call for resourcing of community mental services, increased staffing levels in the area of suicide prevention, and the acceleration of services for children and adolescents.
“However I take issue with the self- congratulatory tone of the Bill.
“In the Programme for Government, a commitment was made to “vastly improve access to modern mental health services in the community”, in line with the recommendations of the mental health policy A Vision for Change.
“The reality is that few appointments have been made since 2012 to community mental health teams.
“Of the 477 posts allocated in 2013, at 30th September 2013, only 4%of posts have been filled.
“In the context of a gap of over 1,500 staff in community mental health services there is an urgent need to fulfil the promised investment.
“Notwithstanding the country’s current economic difficulties, it is crucial that the Government’s commitment to reforming mental health does not waver.”
Speaking in the Seanad today on the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund 2014, Sinn Fein Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said:
“Horse racing receives significant public funding in Ireland.
“We accept that horse racing has a social, economic, and cultural place in Irish life that can be pointed to in justifying a positive policy stance towards the industry.
“However it is not clear that such a policy stance should extend to the provision of public funding nor, if public funding is justified, that it should dictate the level of support that is required or the means through which it should be provided.
“The main beneficiary from horse racing is betting rather than the racing industry.
“This tells us that the Government needs to address the issue of excise on betting, especially as it relates to off-course betting.
“Currently Ireland has one of the lowest rates of betting tax in the world.
“This situation is not acceptable and needs to be addressed urgently.
“In the UK, the betting industry pays an effective tax rate of 3% of turnover, three times higher than Ireland and in France legislation provides for taxation of 15% of turnover, fifteen times higher than Ireland, of which 8% is returned to the French Equine industry.
“At a minimum, future policy needs to assess carefully the public benefit that is served by state support for horse racing and the priority it should be accorded in expenditure decisions.
“Public policy also needs to take greater account of the role of horse racing in fostering and promoting gambling and in the possible social costs that may arise as a result.”
Speaking in the Seanad today on the Water Services Bill 2013, Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said:
“Let me state from the outset that the Water Services Bill (No2) 2013 is an inherently flawed and draconian document.
“The Bill takes control of water services away from local authorities and transfers it to Irish Water.
“This new company will be given power to install water meters and to charge families for the water they use.
“The Bill makes no provision for people on low incomes or for those living in poverty. In other words, under this legislation poor households will be charged the same for their water as An Taoiseach Edna Kenny.
“This is shameful and it betrays a complete and utter lack of consciousness around issues to do with environmental justice.
“Sinn Fein is against the privatization of water and against the introduction of water charges.
“The establishment of Irish Water and the imposition of water meters and water charges is at best ill thought out.
“Sinn Féin calls for the establishment of a National Water Sector Framework Team to oversee governance and capital investment in the sector.
“All the evidence suggests metering is a bad idea being enforced by a bad government that is hell bent on making ordinary families pay for the current economic disaster.
“This bill should be rejected and replaced with a proper plan for the co-ordination of water services that are fully and adequately funded by a progressive tax system.”
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien believes Education Minister Ruairí Quinn has adopted a “reckless approach” in the way he has attempted to resolve the on-going industrial dispute with the ASTI over the Haddington Road Agreement.
The Cork North Central TD said the possibility of all-out strike action by teachers, should it happen, could be attributed in no small part to the threats that were being made by the Department of Education (DES) including the discontinuing of the Substitution and Supervision (S&S) allowance.
He continued: “Minister Quinn and his Department officials are attempting to bully and coherse the ASTI into accepting the Haddington Road Agreement and this reckless approach is not only counterproductive - it is likely to lead to an escalation of the dispute that could result in strike action by teachers in the New Year.
“This is in no one’s interests, least of all the young people whose education will be badly affected by this type of disruption.
“Successive cuts in teacher’s pay and allowances have resulted in a demoralised profession and an erosion of the goodwill that is so essential to the learning environment in school classrooms.
“Yet despite this, Minister Quinn has been belligerent in his dealings with the ASTI.
“As recently as last week the Minister, in a reply to my Parliamentary Question, stated that until the ASTI agree to the terms of Haddington Road there would be no engagement with the teachers union to exam the concerns they have around Junior Cert Cycle reform.
“This is simply unacceptable as the priority has to be in ensuring the radical changes to the Junior Cert are deliverable and this means addressing the very genuine concerns of the ASTI and their membership who are absolutely essential in delivering the new curriculum.
“Instead of trying to humiliate the ASTI and its membership, Minster Quinn needs to seriously engage with teachers and do all within his power to address their grievances.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile has today said that the community in the Short Strand will be asking themselves why it has taken so long for those responsible for breaches of Parades Commission determinations to be prosecuted.
"The prosecution of a loyalist bandsman has to be looked at in the broader context in of parades in this part of East Belfast.
"The reality is that for the last number of years almost every single Parades Commission determination placed on processions passed St Matthew's Church and the Short Strand area has been ignored, flouted and breached.
"Again we hear unionist leaders commenting on the fallout from the breaches, but very little is ever said about the countless breaches that take place.
"While I welcome this prosecution being successfully sought and hope that it will have a bearing on the behaviour of participants in future parades, I have no doubt that the parishioners in the Short Strand will be asking themselves why it has taken so long for anyone to act and uphold the rule of law when it comes to breaking the law and indeed their right to live free from sectarianism.
"It must be stated that all residents in this area ask from the respective marching Orders is that they treat this community with respect. It would be a much better outcome and longer lasting, if the same Orders were to sit down with residents and agree a way forward rather than time being wasted on pursuing people through the justice system."
Sinn Féin Vice-Chair of the Enterprise Committee, Phil Flanagan MLA has said that Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton’s answers to economic questions are as unconvincing as the British Treasury figures that he blindly parrots.
Mr Flanagan said:
“The Treasury withheld the publication of figures pertaining to the amount of public expenditure attached to the north because of issues of accuracy and quality. It has stated clearly that its figures are not resource accounts. Yet Mr Hamilton repeats these figures as fact. Sinn Féin has consistently urged successive DUP Finance Ministers to challenge the figures produced by the British Treasury – but to no avail. What is the DUP afraid of? Could it be that as in other areas their insecurities may be confirmed by the facts?
“If for example, according to the 2012 Year on Year report, Whitehall civil servants spent up to £1.7 billion on Royal travel, Central administration, rail projects, museums, the British Space programme, Foreign Embassies etc, that have little relevance to the North, why should we contribute disproportionately to the benefit.
“The Finance Minister has a responsibility to the people to scrutinise all claims of expenditure on the North so that we can challenge any discrepancy in Treasury figures.
“His comments that tax payers in the north are heavily reliant on the tax from British tax payers are condescending, insulting and propagates the myth that there is no revenue generated in the North of Ireland. This is an insult to tax payers in the North
“Fiscal transfers such as the block grant are part and parcel of any economy. Contrary to what Simon Hamilton claims, these treasury figures tell us nothing about the viability of a United Ireland but everything about the limitations of the Finance Minister.
“Does the Minister deny that, elimination of duplication through integrated public services in a new agreed Ireland would reduce costs, enhance provision and ensure that the people of Ireland had democratic control over their public finances?
“It’s time the Minister demanded accurate figures from Treasury and Customs and Excise and then we can have a proper informed debate on where our future best lies.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Deputy Pearse Doherty has responded to the news that Bank of Ireland is to pay-back €1.8 billion in preference shares to the state before the end March of next year by saying that it would be better if the Government fought for historic recapitalisation.
Speaking from Leinster House, Deputy Doherty said:
“It is positive that there is any recuperation of money that this state put into Bank of Ireland. It is important to note however that the bank is paying this money early to avoid a further 25% payment to taxpayers if this transaction happened after 31st March next year.
“It’s clear the Government strategy is to recoup the current value of state shareholdings in the banks, worth approximately €11 billion. This is a far cry from the €65 billion that has been pumped into the banks to keep them alive.
“It has been our consistent view government needs to pursue historic recapitalisation of these banks with more vigour and attain the maximum benefit for Ireland. Selling shares is the easy option. Fighting for recapitalisation is a better position.
“We also need to be mindful that this is not just about getting back the money that was put in. The consequences of the banking policy meant being forced from the bond markets, a loss of our economic sovereignty, entering a Troika programme and years of austerity and mass emigration.
“I also repeat my calls made in leaders’ questions yesterday, that, following the Central Bank’s assessment of the banks’ balance sheets we now need comprehensive information of what state the banks are in. It’s unacceptable that the Central Bank has still not made a statement on this issue. We need full disclosure, particularly in relation to the health of the state-sponsored banks.”
Pointing out that the Pat Finucane Inquiry is now the only Inquiry agreed to at Weston Park that has not been held, he asked the Tánaiste if the Government would, as a matter of priority, “increase its lobby, including internationally, on the British Government to honour its commitments and establish the promised public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane?”
Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has responded to the release of the live register figures today by saying that it is clear that the jobs situation is still in crisis.
He also said that the government cannot be allowed to rely on emigration to sort out the crisis
Senator Cullinane said:
“The live register figures today show a slight reduction in the live register of 3,400 however over the same period twice that amount will have emigrated.
“It is clear that the jobs situation is still very much in crisis. Over the past month there were over 40,000 new entrants on to the live register and we have consistent levels of long-term and underemployment.
“The government cannot be allowed to rely on emigration to sort this issue out.
“It is clear that our people want to work and our enterprises battling, however there is more to be done to increase investment.”