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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the Housing Miscellaneous Provision Bill in Leinster House this evening. However, Deputy Ó Snodaigh was critical of omissions in the Bill which he said are both regrettable and unnecessary.

He said, "Sinn Féin welcomes this housing bill which presents the opportunity to make a positive contribution to improving housing services in this state – however, there are a number of omissions from the Bill which we believe are both regrettable and unnecessary, and that leave the bill wanting in many respects.

"One of the key areas that the Bill fails to deal with is that of homelessness. It is disappointing to see a Bill published only a month after the publication of the strategy on homelessness, neglects to deal with that particular issue.

"We in Sinn Féin believe that homelessness is the most acute denial of housing rights in our society. The fact that the government cannot bring themselves to propose an adequate legislative definition of homelessness in this Bill, let alone keep to their own commitments to actually combat it, is an indictment of an appalling government which has no regard for those people who sleep in the doorways of our streets and in the back lanes of the shops and restaurants which the infamous bankers and many government ministers and members frequent.

"We also have a huge reservation regarding the new proposed definition of social housing which will now include dwellings under the Rental Accommodation Scheme. It is our view that the Rental Accommodation Scheme does indeed have a role in addressing social housing problems. But it is also our firm view that the provision of social housing, funded by central government, via the local authorities must absolutely be the central element in any successful housing strategy. Once a person is renting through RAS they are effectively ‘housed’ according to the local authority. Why should the tax payer continue to subsidise the private landlord through this scheme when it would make far more sense for the state to provide those in need with social housing accommodation." ENDS


Sinn Féin west Belfast MLA’s Jennifer McCann (deputy Chair of the Enterprise Trade and Investment Committee) and Paul Maskey (Chair of the Public Accounts Committee), joined with Chair of Belfast City Council’s Development Committee Cllr Michael Browne in visiting protesting Visteon workers this evening.

There they met with workers and Trade Union representatives.

Speaking after the meeting Ms McCann said,

“I want, on behalf of Sinn Fein, to extend solidarity to the staff from Visteon who are understandably concerned with their redundancies given the long years of service they have given to this company and the community.

Sinn Féin has been liaising closely with the management of Visteon in Britain and in Belfast, and with the local workforce. Our goal throughout has been to retain much needed local employment and defend the rights of the Visteon workers.

This decision by Visteon is an outrageous move and will have a very negative impact on the economy and community of this part of Belfast. Sinn Féin will continue to pro-actively support staff in securing the best deal possible for them at this difficult time.” CRÍOCH

NOTES TO EDITORS/NEWSDESK: Sinn Féin President and west Belfast MP Gerry Adams will visit the protesting workers at 9:30am tomorrow alongside west Belfast Sinn Féin MLA’s Jennifer McCann and Paul Maskey


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the proposal for an extra £6 million for the Less Favoured Areas Compensatory Allowances Scheme (LFACA).   The MEP also welcomed the resolution of the contaminated animal feed issue.   Ms de Brún was speaking from Brussels after the Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew confirmed that farmers in Less Favourable Areas (LFA) would be paid £3.3million as arrears in respect of the current and previous years as a result of the movement in exchange rates from when the rates were set in the Rural Development Programme.    Farmers do not need to apply for these arrears as they will be paid automatically.   Ms de Brún said:   “The announcement today will put extra money into the hands of every farmer in Less Favourable Areas immediately.   “This is a real boost for hill farmers and the specific challenges they face.   “I also think that the proposals for a fixed rate in 2009 will provide the level of certainty that is needed for those working in these difficult farming conditions.”   The proposal is to increase the rate for farmers in disadvantaged areas to whichever is the greater of the sterling equivalent of €25 or £22. For the 2009 claim year, that will result in a payment of £23.81 per hectare. To maintain the differential for severely disadvantaged areas, the proposal is for a fixed rate for 2009 and any subsequent claim years of £44 per hectare.   The effect of the Minister’s proposals for the 2009 claim year would be an overall increase in expenditure of £2.65million.   Commenting on the progress in resolving the contaminated animal feed issue Ms de Brún added:   “I welcome the agreement achieved to date, with all herd owners now agreeing to participate in the voluntary cull, and the rendering and disposal of the affected cattle with hardship payments expected to be issued in April.   “I also welcome confirmation of progress on providing financial assistance for the fishing industry during this current economic downturn.” CRÍOCH


Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams has expressed his “deep disappointment at the decision by Visteon to close its plant in Belfast.”   Mr. Adams said:   “Sinn Féin has been liaising closely with the management of Visteon in Britain and in Belfast, and with the local workforce. Our goal throughout has been to retain much needed local employment and defend the rights of the Visteon workers.   On Saturday morning I spoke by phone with Steve Gawne, Visteon’s UK Managing Director and in the course of recent years, I have consistently argued that the Belfast plant of Visteon (formerly of Ford) should be treated as a special case.   The global economic downturn has had an adverse impact on the automotive industry. Sinn Fein understands that at the start of this year, Visteon UK embarked on a viability assessment of its three remaining plants, including Belfast.   During this period, Sinn Féin knows that Invest NI met twice with Visteon about the Belfast plant.  (23rd February and 19th March 09).   I have submitted priority written questions in the Assembly to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment about the role of Invest NI and what measures it took to protect the 200 jobs in the Visteon plant.   We need to be convinced that Invest NI and Visteon exhausted all available options to keep this plant open.   There are also questions which will be asked in Irish America. Ford are directly implicated in the future of the Belfast plant, as its sole customer and former owner. If the local workforce is to be told that the plant no longer has a future, Sinn Féin will insist that the management of Ford explain this fate.”     Notes to editors   ·         There are more than 200 employees on site at Visteon Belfast. The plant manufactures products solely for its parent company Ford. Visteon ‘spun off’ from Ford in 2000, and agreements were made about terms and conditions by Ford with Visteon for those employees who transferred over. ·         Gerry Adams visited the Belfast plant in December 2005 and convened discussions in July 2006 which were aimed at brokering a plan which both ·         The New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson has also visited the Belfast plant. The New York City Comptroller owns $3.5m shares in Visteon and $41.2m shares in Ford. He has previously written to the two companies at Gerry Adams request to raise concerns and has visited the Belfast plant. ·         In the last three years, it has been rumoured at various stages that Visteon were going to wind down the product lines and relocate manufacturing to outside Europe. Documents have been uncovered which reveal a desire by Ford and Visteon to wind down the Belfast plant as far back as 3 years ago. ·         Over the same time, Visteon has sold the whole Belfast plant to Alburn, a property development company. Subsequently, they have leased sections of the site back from Alburn. ·         However, it that Visteon was also in receipt of public money from Invest NI for Research and Development of product lines at Belfast. It is understood that the agreement which would have governed the allocation of the investment to Visteon’s Belfast plant would have included a commitment from the company to future manufacturing on-site. ·         It has also been reported that Ford entered an agreement since last summer to cover losses from Visteon plants. The American government recently agreed a federal aid package for to support the automotive industry in its country. However, Ford has stated that it has not sought this federal aid. ·         It is understood that Visteon Corporation in USA recently threatened to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and it is known that the value of shares in Visteon Corporation have been falling in recent weeks. ·         In January 2009, Visteon UK began a viability assessment of its three plants, including the Belfast plant. The Board of Directors of Visteon UK sent a report to the Visteon corporation last Friday stating that their assessment was that Visteon UK was not viable and to continue operating, would require aid.


Sinn Féin representative Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has welcomed Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey's announcement of the panel of inquiry into the outbreak of C difficile in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust hospitals between 16 June 2007 and 31 August 2008.

Mitchel McLaughlin said: “Having initially resisted the call for a public inquiry I welcome the Health Minister's change of heart and his setting up of a panel of inquiry into the outbreak of C difficile in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust area. This hospital acquired infection resulted in dozens of deaths and devastating trauma for families who lost loved ones and for those who survived this outbreak.   "While the families will have to wait 12 months to find out the results of the inquiry at least it will provide some comfort that they now have the prospect of finding out just how exactly their loved ones contracted this infection. The terms of reference as the Minister has acknowledged must be wide-ranging and have unfettered access to all individuals and records as required.

“The families who suffered as a result of the outbreak - those who lost loved ones and those who survived - must at the end of the inquiry be satisfied that no stone was left unturned in investigarting the source or causes of the infection. The inquiry must also restore public confidence in the health service in general." ENDS


Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as "appalling" the decision by the Minister for Health & Children and the Health Service Executive to renege on their commitment to develop the Cystic Fibrosis Unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin to the standard required to save the lives of CF patients.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Minister Harney and the HSE, in an appalling decision, have reneged on their commitment to CF patients to develop the unit at St. Vincent’s. This facility should have been fully developed long before now and its delay has cost lives.

"The Minister’s latest pronouncement that she will look at the feasibility of using private capital to provide the unit adds insult to injury. This is a recipe for further delay and is the Minister’s knee-jerk response to every problem in the health service.

"It is a damning indictment of successive Governments that these facilities have not been provided during the past decade of economic prosperity, given that Ireland has the highest prevalence and most severe types of CF in the world and the poorest resources for CF patients in Europe.

"If this decision, described as ‘devastating and soul-destroying’ by the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland, is not reversed then patients will undoubtedly die unnecessarily.

"The promise to develop the CF Unit in St. Vincent’s and to have it fully operational by 2010 must be fulfilled. Nothing less is acceptable." ENDS


Those responsible for bomb scares have nothing to offer our communities.

Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast, Carál Ní Chuilín, has called on those responsible for a number of bomb scares and hijackings across West and North Belfast today to come forward and explain how these actions will in any shape or form advance a united Ireland.

Speaking earlier today Ms Ní Chuilín said:

“The series of bomb scares and hijackings across North and West Belfast have caused serious disruption to people going home from work or trying to get on with thier everyday life.

“Those responsible have no strategy. These actions are wrong and counterproductive to anything that our communities want.

“All that those, who have closed our off arterial routes are responsible for is causing disruption to these communities. This includes republican, nationalist and unionist communities but mainly, if you look at where these alerts are, it is republican communities that are being affected the most.

"I would like the spokespeople of those behind these alerts to come forward and explain how this will in any way achieve a united Ireland.”


Sinn Féin MLA, Jennifer McCann, has said insurance companies must be penalised if they continue to discriminate against people living in the north of Ireland. Speaking following the revelation by the Consumer Council that people locally are paying up to 84% higher that people living in Britain Ms McCann said:

“The revelation by the Consumer Council that Insurance companies are charging up to 84% higher for premiums than the same policies in Britain is shocking. This is costing the consumer up to £700 extra a year.

“Insurance companies are basically extorting people living locally.  How they can justify charging close to 100% more for policies such as home and property insurance, when if we look at the likes of crime figures, local statistics show that incidences of burglaries or criminal damage are significantly lower than in Britain?

“There is also no greater likelihood of car accidents, flooding, or any other sort of damage to property or buildings.

“This has two major effects. It leaves people short of money in times of economic hardship and it forces people to perhaps go without insurance leaving them in a high-risk position.  It’s a case of either pay this much for insurance or don’t be insured at all.

“I welcome the Consumer Council raising this issue and hope that they will be successful in bringing about the necessary changes. Insurance companies should be penalised if they continue to discriminate against people living in the north of Ireland.”


Sinn Féin Spokesperson, Pat Doherty MP, MLA (West Tyrone) will lead a Party delegation to meet  with British Minister, Paul Goggins tomorrow to raise a number of concerns around electoral registration and also the Review of Public Administration.   Speaking today Pat Doherty said:   “I am meeting with British Minister of State, Paul Goggins tomorrow to raise serious concerns at the way in which the Electoral Office is interpreting the identification requirements to register to vote.   “One of the key issues that we will raise is that of Irish citizens living abroad being denied the right to register as overseas voters in the same way that British citizens are permitted. This is a clear breach of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement which recognises the rights of both British and Irish passports holders. This is blatant discrimination against Irish Citizens from the North and party colleague Bairbre de Brún has already raised these concerns with the Irish government.   “We are concerned at the number of people who are being removed from or are finding it difficult to get on the Electoral Register because of the multiple pieces of identification being demanded by the electoral Office. Almost 200,000 people who are entitled to vote are not on the register yet the current approach of the Electoral Office is making it harder for people to register.   “We also strongly object to the implications of the Electoral Office questioning the legitimacy and right to vote of people living in larger households because it does not comply with its’ criteria for what constitutes an average family.   “In most democracies the only requirement to get on the register is that you fill out a registration form and then produce personal identification.  Instead of making it as difficult as possible for people to exercise their democratic right to vote the Electoral Office should be seeking ways in which to simplify the process.” ENDS


Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, today welcomed the statement from the Commission on Catholic Education which restates their opposition to academic selection at 11 as a means of transferring to post-primary education.

The Minister said: “The Catholic sector is clearly an important grouping within the educational landscape in the north and I welcome their contribution to the debate on the direction of post-primary transfer. Today they have once again stated their opposition to academic selection at age 11 as a means of transferring to post-primary education. I share this position.

“Importantly they also call on their schools to implement the guidance issued by the Department of Education on this matter. If this policy is followed by schools then there is no need for any breakaway entrance tests in any schools. As I have stated many times this route is a legal minefield and should be avoided. Additionally there is no possibility of the Department of Education placing itself in the position of providing a test for transfer to post-primary education without a legal framework.

“There are of course areas within the Catholic sector that have voluntarily moved away from academic selection and which operate very successful all-ability schools. Indeed it is significant that the Church chose such a school to make their announcement this morning.

“The statutory consultation process around the guidance is currently ongoing and after that is completed the Department will then issue the final policy for Transfer 2010. That process is currently well advanced and I look forward to continuing to work with the Catholic sector and others as we formulate the final guidance for issue to schools and parents in the coming weeks.”


Speaking in advance of his participation this evening (Friday, 27 March) in the Annual General Meeting of Inclusion Ireland in Monaghan, Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said that cuts to social welfare and to disability services in the forthcoming Budget must be resisted.

Deputy Ó Caoláin also described as "a recipe for disaster" the prospect of the HSE not renewing the contracts of up to 14,000 ‘temporary’ staff as highlighted by the trade union Impact.

He said:

"Our health services rely to a great degree on so-called temporary staff who are in full-time jobs that are vital to the delivery of health and personal social services. If the HSE refuses to renew these contracts we will be faced with a massive staffing crisis in an already overstretched system. The Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney must reverse any such decision."

Predicting the imposition of social welfare cuts by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government in the Budget, Deputy Ó Caoláin said there is "a better way forward."

"I believe we are going to see significant cuts in Social Welfare in the forthcoming Budget. Twice in the past month I have asked the Taoiseach in the Dáil if there would be a new Social Welfare Bill arising out of the Budget. He indicated there would be and replied in the context of so-called savings.

"In other words major cuts are on the way. This will hit people with intellectual disability and their families hard.

"The first reflex of the Government when the economy took a turn for the worst was to cut public services. It began in the autumn of 2007 when health cuts, including the recruitment embargo in the health services, were imposed.

"At the same time, as we learned this week, the Minister for Health & Children was sanctioning massive rises in the salaries on offer to recruit senior executives to the HSE. Those salaries – some of over €200,000 per annum - are still in place. Contrast that with family home carers who get little or no support and save the State untold millions every year.

"The picture is indeed bleak but we in Sinn Féin believe there are alternatives and it is possible to chart a better way forward.

"We have this week put forward comprehensive proposals for job creation and job retention. We want to see fair and progressive taxation, the closing of loopholes for wealthy tax dodgers, real efficiency in public spending and the protection of public services including health, education and support for people with disabilities."

Note: Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD is participating with other party political representatives in a Questions & Answers Panel Discussion at the Inclusion Ireland AGM, 6.30pm, Friday 27 March, Hillgrove Hotel, Monaghan town.


As leaving certificate students from across the state start their Irish oral examinations this week, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has come out to wish them good luck and to urge the Minister for Education and Science, and the Taoiseach Brian Cowen to commit to resourcing the improvement of Irish oral skills.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said, "As the seanfhocail goes, "beatha teanga í a labhairt" – the life of the language is in its speaking.

"In 1960 the Leaving Certificate Oral exam for Gaeilge was introduced. At that time it carried only one sixth of the marks. Today’s students can receive up to 25% for their béalscrúdú. This is good progress.

"Two years ago I welcomed circular 0042/2007 which plans for 40% of the marks in the 2012 Leaving Certificate and 2010 Junior Certificate to be awarded for the béalscrúdú. I welcomed the establishment of the Second Level Support Services Gaeilge team.

"However, Minister Batt O'Keefe now needs to give schools, students and teachers some clear information; What will the 2010 Junior Certificate and 2012 Leaving Certificate exams look like? What questions will be removed and what new ones will be added to the paper? How will the listening comprehension be reduced? I ask these questions so that teachers and students are made aware before the 2009/2010 school year what exam they must work towards.

"The Minister needs to publish immediately the sample exam papers. He must advise teachers as to how the 40% oral will be designed and assessed. The Minister must also give a strong commitment to broaden the support services to múinteoirí Gaeilge into the future.

"I am calling on the Minister to recognise the importance of the spoken language in schools and to ensure that teachers are sufficiently resourced and equipped to improve the oral Irish skills of students." ENDS


Sinn Féin MLA’s Michelle O’Neill, Claire McGill and Conor Murphy today attended a protest held by the trade union Unison against proposed cuts to frontline health care services. They spoke with representatives and health care workers from across the Six Counties.

Speaking this afternoon deputy Chair of the Health Committee Michelle O’Neill said,

“Today’s rally allowed Sinn Féin the opportunity to meet with grassroots health care workers from right across the north.

We share many of their concerns and acknowledge that even in the midst of the economic recession front line services must be protected.

We have committed to meet with Unison reps over the coming period to discuss these important issues further.” CRÍOCH


Sinn Féin will tomorrow (Tuesday) launch the annual campaign encouraging people to honour Ireland’s dead and wear an Easter Lily.

The Lilly will be launched by Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy in the party office at Stormont.

Speaking ahead of the event Mr Murphy said,

“Tomorrow we gather to launch this year’s campaign encouraging people to remember and honour our patriot dead. The wearing of the Easter Lily is a symbol of respect and remembrance but also of hope for the future and the realisation of the objectives of Easter 1916.

Tomorrow our Assembly team and others will come together to launch this important yearly imitative and I am honoured to be taking part.” CRÍOCH

Notes to Editors: The launch will take place on Tuesday at 12:30pm in the Sinn Féin offices at Stormont – Conor Murphy will then be available to speak to the media


Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald MEP has today described Taoiseach Brian Cowen indications on the content of next weeks emergency budget as an “entrenchment of  bad Fianna Fail policy. Fianna Fáil squandered the boom years, now we have the same policy making in reverse. Brian Cowen’s emergency budget looks set to exacerbate the recession.”

The Sinn Féin Deputy Leader said:

“Yesterday’s one to one between the media and the Taoiseach in the Sycamore Room amounted to little more than a scene setter in advance of next weeks emergency budget. People know difficult choices and tough decisions have to be made.

“The people accept that increased taxation measures need to be sought. The hundreds and thousands of workers across the country who have either lost their jobs or are feeling the brunt of substantial pay cuts are already experiencing a severe drop in their living standards.

“So let’s get real here. Instead of bringing forward a framework and strategy for growth Brian Cowen and his government have introduced a set of non-aligned short-term initiatives, many of which are counterproductive. The government’s handling of the public finances is putting economic recovery at risk. It’s that simple.

“The only way to secure the economic future of this country is to retain existing jobs and to create new ones; to create a fair and progressive taxation system; to reduce the trade deficit and to stabilise the financial sector. Next weeks emergency budget MUST include measure to start stimulating, as well as stabilising, the economy.

“The crisis in public finance must be addressed but in a manner that is fair. Sinn Féin will tomorrow put forward what we believe are fair and effective recovery proposals. The government cannot entrench its response to the recession in cuts indefinitely. Economic stimulation and growth must be a priority.” ENDS


Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has paid a visit to the 11th Ballygawley and Roscavey Bygone Farming Day at Ballygawley, County Tyrone.

The Minister was welcomed by Councillor Allan Rainey, President of the Ballygawley and Roscavey Farming Bygone Day and the Chairman James McAnenly who introduced her to fellow members and took her on a tour of the site at Clarke’s farm. During the visit she had the opportunity to speak with competitors, and view the many attractions on display for visitors. She was enthralled by the tractor building display at which three teams competed to build a tractor in the fastest time.

Acknowledging the hard work of the event organisers and the local community, the Minister said: “Our bygone heritage in rural areas is one to be cherished and events like the Ballygawley and Roscavey Bygone Farming Days are a great tribute to those who worked off the land all their lives.

“Maintaining farming traditions is a key part of our rural way of life and events like this one help keep old ways alive. It is wonderful to see so many age-old practices such as threshing and horse ploughing living on into future generations. Although it is also important to provide attractions for the whole family and this was offered through a dog show, music and model aircraft display.”

Touring the show, the Minister added: “I am sure farmers know only too well how times have changes, as the work from Bygone days was hard but enjoyable and was something of a social event with neighbours helping each other. Agricultural days are key dates in the rural community’s calendar and it’s great to see such a broad range of all ages taking part and enjoying the sights. ”


Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, highlighted the importance of strong leadership to school leaders in Belfast today.

The Minister was speaking at the second of three school improvement conferences “Leading in a changing education landscape – from policy to practice”.

After the event the Minister said: “Strong effective school leadership is a key factor in school improvement and the building block on which a successful school is built. Successful schools lead to confident, creative and articulate children and young people who are able to fulfil their potential and make the most of life’s opportunities.

“Since becoming Education Minister I have visited schools all over the north. I have met with teachers and principals and seen the good practice that is happening in our schools and classrooms. Conferences such as these enable us to identify, celebrate and share that good practice.

“Although we have much to be proud of in our education system, we must also recognise that there is no room for complacency. Far too many children are still leaving school without sufficient levels of literacy and numeracy. Raising standards is my Department’s top priority and I will shortly be publishing ‘Every School a Good School’, our new school improvement policy. This policy aims to ensure all our children have access to a high quality education, in schools and settings that are committed to excellence, equality and inclusion. It is through the hard work and dedication of governors, principals and teaching staff that this will be achieved. Excellent leadership is crucial to progress and through the leadership of people here today we will achieve an education system where there are no barriers to success and every child can set their aspirations high and achieve their ambitions.”


Sinn Fein West Tyrone MLA Claire Mc Gill heralded the U-turn by the Western Trust’s to keep Greenfield Residential Care Home open as a victory for people power.

She said, 

“Everyone is delighted for the residents, their relatives and committed the staff of Greenfield and Friday’s news was met with great joy and massive relief by all concerned.

“The case for Greenfield was overwhelming and as the campaign gathered pace it became increasingly clear that the proposal to close the Residential Care Home was fundamentally flawed on so many levels, not least because there was absolutely no alternative provision planned for the residents in the Trust’s proposals.   

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone in the community who rallied in behind the campaign to force the Trust to reverse its recommendation to close Greenfield in what has truly been a victory for people power.”  ENDS  


Huge inequalities based on religion and social status still exist in the North of Ireland according to the latest labour market statistics, Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights spokesperson Martina Anderson has said.

“The latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) which was published on Friday confirms that significant inequalities still exist within this society both between Catholics and Protestants but also increasingly between those of different social classes,” Ms. Anderson commented.

“Although the report confirms that there have been significant improvements with regards to employment equality over the past 15 years, it is clear that much more needs to be done.

"For example, over the period 1992 – 2007 there has been an increase of approx 115,000 Catholics in employment compared to an increase of around 18,000 Protestants.

“But it's important to go beyond the simple definition ‘unemployed’ as an indicator. Unemployment figures alone do not paint the full picture as they ignore a whole range of people such as those on certain benefits or training programmes who are defined as ‘economically inactive’. It is only by taking these two categories together that we will get a true reflection of who we are failing as a society.

“And when you look at the statistics in greater detail, they show that there are still twice as many Catholics (31000) who are economically inactive and who want work, as there are Protestants (15000).

“However, there are also significant shifts taking place within the two communities. For instance, while the Catholic middle class continues to grow because of more Catholics obtaining third level education and getting better jobs, working class Protestants are becoming more vulnerable to unemployment because of the demise of the industries they were traditionally employed in.

“So while the inequalities between the two communities are narrowing, we are also witnessing a high proportion of both Catholics and Protestants who are being left behind. This is borne out by the large number of unemployed and economically inactive people of both communities within the areas of highest deprivation.

“The ‘peace dividend’ has still not reached these people and that reaffirms the need for direct government intervention in these communities. This should be done through a range of measures such as ensuring maximum community benefit from regeneration schemes and the use of public procurement to create jobs and training etc.

“I welcome the latest LFS report and I welcome the confirmation that the employment gap between our communities is narrowing but these statistics also demonstrate that decisive action is required to ensure that peace delivers for all of our people.”


Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties Bairbre de Brún has expressed concern about attacks on the homes of Polish residents in Belfast yesterday and also about the city centre violence in the run up to yesterday’s football game.  Ms de Brún said,  “I am concerned at the attacks on homes of Polish residents in Belfast following yesterday’s football game. Those attacks are utterly wrong.  Polish people offer a great deal to our community and I know that people will be horrified to hear of these attacks.  “Those involved in yesterday’s trouble are in no way representative of the wider community and those from Poland who were involved in violence in the city centre do not represent the Polish community here in Ireland who contribute such a great deal to our society and to our economy.  “We must all stand together against the thuggish and reckless behaviour of those using a football match as cover for violence and destruction in the centre of Belfast.  No one should ever try to use such hooliganism to justify racially motivated attacks." CRÍOCH

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