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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




Latest Statements

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During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to name the bondholders who will receive payment of €1.25 billion today. When the Taoiseach said he could not name them, Deputy Adams said that his party would approach the Comptroller and Auditor General for the names.

Deputy Adams described the hand over as “scandalous”, particularly in light of the dire circumstances that ordinary people across the state find themselves now in as a result of government cuts and stealth taxes.

Commenting on the €3.1 billion promissory note due to be paid out at the end of March Deputy Adams called on the government to tell the European Central bank that the state cannot afford it.

Deputy Adams said:

“This state is carrying too much debt. Last year the government gave the banks €20 billion. At the same time there is too little investment in job creation and a whole series of new and additional stealth taxes have been introduced which are crippling low and middle income families and the poor.

“Today’s payment to unsecured, unguaranteed bondholders in the former Anglo Irish Bank is further evidence of the failure of government austerity policies.

“This morning I asked the Taoiseach to name the bondholders who will receive this payment. His response was that he could not. I have written to the Comptroller and Auditor General asking him to investigate this matter.

“To add insult to injury on the 31st of March a further €3.1 billion of taxpayers’ money will be handed over in a promissory note in continuation of Fianna Fail’s disastrous strategy of dealing with the banking crisis.

“By the time it concludes paying this promissory note the state will have spent €74.6 billion. We believe the Government should tell the European Central Bank that it cannot afford to these notes and begin serious negotiations to secure an acceptable resolution that works for Irish citizens.”

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill announced today that farmers will be provided with maps to assist them in completing their 2012 Single Application Form (SAF).

These maps, issued by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) will reflect the field boundary information also used to pre-populate the SAF but will also provide information on visible ineligible features within fields which has been gathered as part of the map improvement project.

Minister O’Neill said:

“This is a key step in the phased improvement of information being provided to farmers to assist with their SFP applications.”

Acknowledging that it has not been possible to finalise the new LPIS maps in advance of the 2012 SAF as had been originally planned, the Minister was keen to point out the benefits to farmers of the approach DARD is taking. Minister O’Neill said:

“These maps will be a very significant enhancement on the maps farmers received in early 2011 in that they will also reflect ineligible areas which have been identified by the remapping project. This will align with the field data information being provided to each claimant in their SAF application packs and so help them make their applications. It is vital, however, that claimants make their own assessment of conditions on the ground when deciding on the detail of their claim.”

The Minister said that her Department has been working hard to improve the maps provided to farmers to assist them with their area-based schemes claims. She explained:

“Given the complexity and scale of this work, with almost 750,000 fields to be assessed, it has not been possible to complete this as intended in early 2012. We have gathered over one million pieces of information concerning ineligible areas and it is important that this is provided to farmers to help them to make accurate claims. The approach I am announcing today will do this.

“A lesson learned from the experience of Paying Agencies in other regions is that it is essential that the new LPIS maps, when issued, are substantially correct (subject of course to farmer changes). It is best to invest the required time to achieve this rather than seek to meet a deadline which could risk the overall position concerning disallowance. It is more important, in my view that we focus on the delivery of the right things – maps which can drive an improvement in the accuracy of claims, rather than getting hung up on an administrative timetable.”

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today announced her Department’s response to the independent report on Single Farm Payment (SFP) Review of Decisions.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) commissioned the report to independently assess if it was administering the Single Farm Payment (SFP) Review Process to an acceptable standard.

The Minister said:

“SFP provides an important financial support for farmers and rural communities throughout the north. It is important that they have confidence in how the scheme is administered and that where there is disagreement with the Department’s decision on entitlement, that an impartial, fair, and timely review process is in place to deal with it.

“This report concludes that the current Departmental Review Process is “largely fit for purpose” but it also identifies areas where improvements could be made, and where key findings might be transferable to other DARD schemes. DARD is committed to improving its services and will continue to work with UFU and NIAPA to ensure that these changes are implemented in a manner which brings real benefits to the farming community.”

The Departmental Response is available on the DARD website at http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/publications/pubs-dard-grants-and-funding/sfpreviewofdecisions.htm. A copy of the full PWC Report can also be accessed via the same link.

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Commenting on the decision of the Ulster Council Officer Board of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to reverse its decision not to back the bid for the all-Ireland Fleadh to be hosted by Derry city, Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle Martina Anderson said:“As I have previously stated the decision as to where the all-Ireland Fleadh is staged is first and foremost one for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and its members. But the original decision of the Ulster Council Officer Board not to support the Comhaltas Dhoire bid was to say the least a surprise and disappointment. Therefore the decision taken last night to reverse that position is a great relief and most welcome."I was always confident that once in possession of all the facts and details around the Derry bid that the Officer Board would recognise the quality of the case made for the Fleadh to come to our City. I congratulate the Board on its mature refelection and reversal of its decision not to back the bid."Now that all the confusion and concerns have been addressed it is incumbent on everyone and every organisation who has the best interests of Derry and Comhaltas at heart to row in behind the bid in the coming days which will be crucial in the decision making process that hopefully will bring the 2013 Fleadh to Derry.”

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Sinn Féin MLA for Newry and Armagh, Mickey Brady, has serious concerns about a survey being currently carried out by the Social Development Department. 1,000 households are being asked their views on the introduction of Universal Credit, the cornerstone of the British government’s Welfare Reform agenda.

Speaking today Mr Brady said:

“I believe this consultation document paints a too rosy a picture, describing a seamless transfer to Universal Credit while failing to highlight the many difficulties Welfare Reform as a whole will present to many people. The British government has claimed that no one will lose out as a result of the transfer of a raft of benefits into a single credit but, even where entitlement stays the same, there are changes that will present difficulties.

“Payment to a single member of the household, the so called transfer from purse to wallet, will increase the dependency of many women within the family and maybe detrimental to their children. A monthly payment might be fine for those fortunate enough to command a decent salary but for those on benefit it will increase the hardship of families trying to stretch a meagre income across four weeks instead of two. There are also concerns about the heavy reliance on IT systems to administer Universal Credit, systems where the primary contact with customers will be via the internet, which maybe fine until something goes wrong.

“But this is the tip of the iceberg. If the British government’s Welfare Reform was about delivering a fairer, simpler and more transparent system we would all welcome it. Unfortunately this Tory-led government is intent upon targeting some of the poorest and most vulnerable by making welfare reform part of their austerity drive.

“This consultation process is no more than a PR exercise to solicit consent to the imposition of Tory cuts.”

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A Sinn Féin delegation of MLAs Raymond McCartney, Sean Lynch and Jennifer McCann met with Justice Minister David Ford today to discuss the on-going prison related issues.

Speaking following the meeting Vice-Chair of the Justice Committee Raymond McCartney said:

“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to finding a technological method to replace strip-searching as recommended by Anne Owens and the Prison Review Team

“The Minister said yesterday in the Assembly that significant progress had been made on finding an alternative and we welcome this but a sense of urgency needs to be applied to resolving this issue. The bottom line is that all prisoners need to be treated with dignity and respect.

“That dignity should also apply to prisoners seeking compassionate parole and we highlighted to the Minister the recent case where the prison administration refused compassionate parole for a prisoner to attend his father’s funeral.

“This is a step backwards. It was a case for compassion, something which was clearly missing from this decision.

“We also raised the cases of both Marian Price and Martin Corry who are being held following the revoking of their license by the British Secretary of State. This is unacceptable and they should be released immediately.

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on communications, Martin Ferris TD, has called on the Government to have a full debate in the Dáil on measures governing access to the internet.

He was responding to an interview with Minister Seán Sherlock yesterday which Deputy Ferris said leaves many questions to be answered regarding the implications of the legislation.


Deputy Ferris said:

“While the Minister is claiming that he needs to act in order to reflect both a recent court judgement and two EU directives, he appears to be pretty vague regarding the implications of what he is proposing. Experts in the field are taking a diametrically opposed view to that of the Minister.

“There is understandable fear among both commercial and private users of the internet that this will leave the door open to actions that would severely restrict access to information if copyright holders can secure orders preventing it being made available.

“That would not only represent a significant attack on individual freedom but also a threat to a healthy sector of the Irish economy which has attracted major international players to locate here.

“In the interests of teasing all of this out I am calling on the Government to facilitate a debate and to present legislation that will require approval by the Oireachtas prior to any enactment. That would allow a full debate with meaningful inputs from all interested parties.”

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Speaking after presenting the Taoiseach with his party’s proposals for how it believes the Euro crisis should be tackled and growth restored to the European economies, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has stated that the evidence from the “Austerity Treaty” as it is emerging is that the Taoiseach and his fellow European leaders “either don’t understand the causes of this crisis or are in denial of them”.

Speaking in the Dáil Deputy Mac Lochlainn outlined Sinn Féin’s proposals before presenting the Taoiseach with a copy of them.

He said:

“This crisis is fundamentally about the failure of the one size fits all European monetary union model. The Euro led to the strengthening of core European economies, particularly Germany with increased trade surpluses and the deployment of this boon through reckless lending by the core members state’s banks to the peripheral member states.

“In Ireland’s case, to private banks who in turn lent recklessly, eventually creating a property bubble built on cheap credit.

“This Austerity Treaty is no solution to the crisis. Sinn Féin proposes the following four approaches which, combined, we believe can start to address this crisis and restore growth.

“Investment in jobs and growth. Increasing the lending capacity of the European Investment Bank so that by working with member states on major investment projects it can help stimulate activity in the real economy.

“Cleansing the European Banking system of toxic debts through a new round of rigorous stress tests and de-leveraging followed by recapitalisation where necessary funded by the European Central Bank.

“Debt-restructuring agreements for over indebted economies involving debt-write-downs to assist them return to debt sustainability. Ending the obligation on the state to pay the Anglo Irish Promissory Note and unguaranteed senior bondholders in Anglo and other banks.
“Within existing EU treaty provisions the European Council must ensure that the European Central Bank takes all necessary action to stabilise sovereign bond interest rates and ensure market access for all member states.

“I appeal to you Taoiseach and Tánaiste to reject this treaty, which condemns the Irish people and the people of Europe to a lost decade of harsh austerity, and give them hope. Our proposals are aimed at genuinely addressing this crisis and restoring hope to our people.”

ENDS

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Speaking during a Dáil debate on the payment of €1.25billion of taxpayers money to an unsecured unguaranteed Anglo Irish Bank bondholder, due to be paid tomorrow, Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that “this payment should not be made” and called on the government to “invest in jobs and services not bankers and bondholders.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“Tomorrow the government will allow Anglo Irish Bank to hand over €1.25 billion of taxpayers money to an unsecured, unguaranteed bondholder.

“Despite repeated attempts by my party and others to have the identity of these bondholders revealed the Government continues to shield them.

“They are most likely private speculative investors – hedge funds betting on the financial markets.

“It is also highly likely that they bought this bond on the secondary market at less than face value.

“This means that tomorrow a financial speculator will receive a windfall profit from Irish tax-payers to the value of millions and millions of euro.

“The figure €1.25 billion is just over twice the total cuts to the health service announced for 2012 (€543m). It is more than 8 times the total due to be raised from the Household Charge this year (€160m). It is almost ten times the money to be cut from the education budget in 2012 (€132m).

“The Government must instruct Anglo Irish Bank not to pay this bond. It is time they invested in jobs and services rather than bankers and bondholders.’ ENDS

Full text of Pearse Doherty TD speech to Anglo bondholder debate 24.1.12

I want to commend the technical group for tabling this important motion on the Governments continued pay-out of taxpayer’s money to Anglo Irish Bank.

Tomorrow the Government will allow Anglo Irish Bank to hand over €1.25 billion of taxpayers money to an unsecured, unguaranteed bondholder.

Despite repeated attempts by my party and others to have the identity of these bondholders revealed the Government continues to shield them.

They are most likely private speculative investors - hedge funds betting on the financial markets.

It is also highly likely that they bought this bond on the secondary market at less than face value.

This means that tomorrow a financial speculator will receive a windfall profit from this tax-payer to the value of millions and millions of euro.

I am not surprised to see the Government benches, particularly the back benches empty.

Labour and Fine Gael TDs must be deeply embarrassed by their Governments actions.

After all it was only a few short weeks ago that the Government wrenched €3.8 billion from the economy in the form of spending cuts and tax hikes.

€1.25 billion equals almost two and a half times the total cuts from social welfare due to take place in 2012 (€475m). It is just over twice the total cuts to the health service announced for 2012 (€543). It is more than 8 times the total due to be raised from the Household Charge this year (€160m). It is almost ten times the money to be cut from the education budget in 2012 (€132m).

Minister Varadkar told us on Sunday that not to pay these Anglo bonds would be akin to setting off a bomb in the middle of Dublin. Well Leo, that horse has already bolted.

Your December budget has blown a hole so big in the finances of low and middle income families it will take them years to recover.

And all the while, fleecing the taxpayer and dismantling our public services Fine Gael and Labour are handing over billions of euro to Anglo bondholders.

Worse than this is the national scandal that is the Anglo Irish Promissory Note.

I have been raising this issue since early last year. Despite their promises to break with the failed banking policy of Fianna Fail and the Green Party – Fine Gael and Labour have signed up lock stock and barrel to annual payments of billions of euro from 2011 to 2031.

The first payment of €3.1bn was made on March 31st of last year. Fine Gael and Labour will pay another €3.1bn again this March, and next March and right through until their term of office ends.

While the cost of the Promissory Note itself is €30bn when one adds the capital repayments, the interest payments to Anglo and the cost of servicing the state’s debt in borrowing this sum, the final figure looks set to be in the region of €74.63 billion by the time it is paid off in 2031.

The Promissory Note represents more than 30% of our national debt. The annual payments add 3% onto our exchequer deficit. Last year the payment almost equalled the Government’s austerity adjustment.

This debt is so odious that a broad range of civil society organisations have formed a new campaign, Anglo – Not Our Debt, in order to bring a public focus on this matter. I commend the campaign and give it Sinn Fein’s full support.

The Promissory Note is not our debt. We can-not afford it. The mealy mouthed approach of the Government must end.

Rather than seeking marginal reductions on the cost of servicing the Promissory Note, the Government must declare its inability to pay and enter negotiations with our European Partners to find a resolution that is good for citizens, society and the economy, rather than bondholders, bankers and the Governor of the European Central Bank.

It is time for the Government to stop bailing out the bondholders and bankers and start investing in people, jobs and services.

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