Sinn Féin MLA for East Antrim Oliver McMullan has called for a greater focus to be placed on the long term drainage plans for the Mid Glens area. This follows flooding in the town of Carnlough following heavy rainfall.
Speaking today Mr McMullan said:
“The recent difficulties of flooding that the residents of Carnlough had to endure came as no surprise to anyone.
“I have been calling for the drainage council to rescind their decision of not allowing a designation line in the Cranny River in Carnlough
“I’ve asked the River Agency to set up a meeting to discuss this issue and other issues concerning recent flooding in in Carnlough area and the mid glens including Cushendall, Glenarriff and Cushendun.
“Whilst credit has got to be given to River Agency and the local Cushendall Fire Service to the speedy response to my request on Sunday night help with the pumps and sandbags this discussion needs to be centered on how we can focus more so on the longterm drainage in this area.”
Yesterday over £100k worth of ecstasy tablets were discovered following a car being stopped in Stockmans Lane while earlier in the week over £230,000 of cocaine and ecstasy tablets were recovered following a car being stopped on the Grosvenor Road.
“Combining the ongoing work of the PSNI in removing these drugs supply routes along with education programmes for our young people is the key to eradicating drug misuse. By showing people the damage that taking or dealing drugs can cause we can help them to make informed choices.”
Speaking after attending a rally in support of James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown today Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams accused the government of following the Fianna Fáil doctrine of cutting public health services.
Mr Adams said:
“A 20% cut is planned for James Connolly Hospital while at the same time the Government is preparing to handover €700 million for an unsecured Anglo bond. This handover should be stopped and the money invested in the necessary public services.
“This would be totally unacceptable if it affected just one hospital but it reflects the public hospital services across the state.
“People were promised change in the last election and that’s what they voted for but instead what they have got is more of the same. This Fine Gael/Labour Government is following the Fianna Fáil doctrine of cutting public hospital services.” ENDS
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on housing and transport Dessie Ellis TD has expressed his deep disappointment that HomeBond, the company which has refused to provide cover to houses affected by the Pyrite scandal has declined an invitation to appear before an Oireachtas Committee.
The Committee is investigating the damage caused to houses by the use of pyrite in their construction.
Deputy Ellis said:
“This is totally unacceptable.
“HomeBond have done themselves a serious disservice by declining this invitation and failing to explain their decision which has left many families in a dire situation.
“I am calling on them to review this decision and come before the Committee to discuss this very serious issue. This has caused great hurt, concern and uncertainty in many people’s lives and we must get to the bottom of it and bring about a solution. HomeBond need to respect these people and the Committee and account for themselves.
“I will continue to work with families and keep in contact with resident groups to make sure that this issue is not forgotten and that those who are suffering because of it get justice.”
Sinn Féin President and TD for Louth and East Meath Gerry Adams has described the news that three patients and an unspecified number of staff in Our Lady of Lourdes Drogheda are to be screened for TB as deeply worrying.
This follows news that a patient with TB was on a trolley in the Emergency Department of Lourdes for five days.
Teachta Adams said:
“The overcrowding situation in Drogheda hospital has been a source of very serious concern for some time. With party colleague Peadar Toibin TD and Dr Ruairi Hanley, I have called on HIQA to carry out a full, public investigation of the Emergency Department and publish the findings. HIQA has refused.
“The fact is that these patients and staff were exposed in the Emergency Department of Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda.
“This week Drogheda hospital has for three days topped the list of hospitals in the state with the number of patients waiting on trolleys.
“It is inevitable that with ill patients waiting sometimes for days in the Emergency Department, that cross contamination will take place.
“The measures taken thus far by the hospital management have not worked.
“The waiting lists are still the same and the threat to patients is very real.
“I intend raising this issue with the Minister and HIQA needs to initiate the full, public investigation of the Emergency Department that has been asked for and to publish the findings.” ENDS
Commenting on today’s statement by ETA Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said:
“I welcome the decisive and positive terms of ETA’s response to Monday’s ‘Declaration’ in Donostia-San Sebastian by the International Conference group.
“Following our deliberations the International Group expressed the opinion that ‘it is possible to end, the last armed confrontation in Europe’.
“We called upon ETA to “make a public declaration of the definitive cessation of all armed action and to request talks with the governments of Spain and France to address exclusively the consequences of the conflict.
“I believe that their statement today meets that requirement and I would urge the governments of Spain and France to welcome it and agree to talks exclusively to deal with the consequences of the conflict.
“These next steps should be about promoting reconciliation, addressing the issue of victims and recognising that a serious effort has to be made to heal personal and social wounds.
“There are other issues which will need to be addressed and which can act as confidence-building measures within the process.
“For example, among these are the issue of prisoners and of demilitarising the environment and of respecting and acknowledging the democratic rights of all political parties and treating them as equals.
“At a time when Batasuna is banned and leaders like Arnaldo Otegi, who is totally committed in my view to peace, are imprisoned, the use of confidence-building measures by the Spanish state is very important.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has described the meeting between the party and the Troika as “a useful and frank discussion”.
Mr Adams was accompanied at the meeting by party Vice President Mary Lou McDonald.
“The Sinn Féin delegation outlined to the Troika our view that the so-called bailout was a bad deal for the Irish people, but we made it clear that our argument was with the Irish government. It, and not the troika, has the responsibility to represent and defend Irish taxpayers and Irish citizens.
“We raised among other issues the sell-off of state assets, the absence of any job stimulus package and the handover of Irish taxpayers’ money to the unguaranteed bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank.
“Following the meeting we are reconfirmed in our view that not one cent of Irish taxpayers’ money should be paid in to the toxic Anglo Irish. This is a decision that the government alone is taking. These are unguaranteed bondholders and this is not part of the memorandum agreement.”
Mr Adams also said that today’s meeting was the beginning of a process of engagement and that Sinn Féin hope to continue these discussions with the troika in the time ahead.
Speaking in the Dáil today on Keane report on distressed mortgages Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said there is huge moral obligation on the state to move heaven and earth to help those who, through no fault of their own, have been plunged into mortgage slavery. Deputy Ó Caoláin said instead what the Government has come up with is half-hearted, milk-and-water measures or no action at all.
Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s address follows:
“There is a mortgage crisis in Ireland and no-one can see clearly where or when it is going to come to an end.
“One thing is certain, if it is not addressed comprehensively, effectively and very soon, many more people are going to be forced into poverty and homelessness. We will see more repossessions of homes. We will see more families forced to make the choice between paying the mortgage and buying food or essential medication.
“Throughout this country families are looking forward to the festive season not with anticipation but with trepidation.
“We have now, for tens of thousands of families, what can only be called mortgage slavery. Houses and apartments purchased at grossly inflated Celtic Tiger prices are now in negative equity but the purchasers are chained to massive mortgages that swallow up their incomes.
“The consequences for individuals and families are devastating. The consequences for the wider economy and society are deeply damaging as disposable income disappears into the black hole of mortgage debt.
“This is a direct result of the deliberate inflation of the property bubble by Government and the free-for-all unregulated market in land, property development, construction and loans which prevailed in that era of madness known as the Celtic Tiger. Many people were taken in and understandably so. It seemed that for tens of thousands of young people the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get on the so-called property ladder had come and they grabbed it with both hands. The regulators who should have protected them were negligent in the extreme.
“Given that background there is a huge moral obligation on the State to move heaven and earth to support those who, through no fault of their own, have been plunged into mortgage slavery. Instead, what do we find? We find half-hearted milk-and-water measures or no action at all.
“The Keane Report is a bitter disappointment. Once again it’s a cringing approach to the banks, a genuflection to the board-rooms where many of the grossly over-paid culprits are still in positions of power.
“The Report rules out increasing mortgage supplement. It rules out extending mortgage interest relief. A legally empowered personal debt management agency is ruled out. There is nothing to protect mortgage holders from ECB interest rate rises. In fact, there is little or nothing to protect mortgage holders at all.
“Yet the Fine Gael/Labour Programme for Government tells us that on 25th February 2011 “a democratic revolution took place in Ireland”. It speaks of “a new hope” that “a new Government guided by the needs of the many rather than the greed of the few can make a real positive difference in their lives”. I presume these stirring words were inserted by the Labour drafters. But these words turn to dust when you see what precious little hope is offered to people in mortgage slavery today.
“It is not for lack of positive and constructive proposals from many quarters to address this crisis. The new Government invited such proposals but has paid scant attention to them.
“From the beginning we in Sinn Féin have called for thorough and radical measures. This was reaffirmed at our party’s Ard Fheis last month in Belfast when we pointed to the rapidly growing number of mortgage holders in distress and the serious impact of mortgage distress on families, local economies and the financial stability of the country.
We called unanimously for the establishment of independent statutory distressed mortgage resolution processes in both jurisdictions in Ireland, the purpose of which would be to:
• reach a legally binding resolution of mortgage distress on a case by case basis
• protect the family home through a variety of measures including loss sharing, shared equity and transferring tenure type to social renting
• enable those unable to remain in the family home to downsize or transfer to more sustainable mortgage arrangements via short sales or property/mortgage swaps
• protect the taxpayer by ensuring that mortgage lenders and inter-bank commercial lenders share a portion of the burden involved in the problem of mortgage distress
• implement the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations on the reform of the bankruptcy laws to enable people to have a fresh start if formal bankruptcy is the only way of addressing their mortgage distress.
“These are real and concrete and far-reaching proposals. Of course to introduce and implement them would require “an unprecedented level of political resolve” and “strong, resolute leadership”. Are the Fine Gael and Labour members familiar with those words? They should be. Again, they are taken from their own Programme for Government.
But the Government doesn’t have to begin by implementing the Sinn Féin proposals. They could at least start to implement their own commitments in the Programme for Government. Let me remind them what they were:
• Increase mortgage interest relief to 30% for First Time Buyers in 2004-08
• Introduce a two year moratorium on repossessions of modest family homes where a family makes an honest effort to pay their mortgage.
• Fast-track personal bankruptcy reform
• Convert the Money Advice and Budgeting Service into a strengthened Personal Debt Management Agency with strong legal powers
• Make greater use of Mortgage Interest Supplement to support families who cannot meet their mortgage payments.
“Why has no action been taken to implement any of these commitments?
“Do the Members opposite realise the scale of the crisis?
“Financial Regulator figures show that 55, 763 mortgages were in arrears for more than 90 days at the end of June 2011.
“69,837 residential mortgages are categorised as restructured including interest-only payment plans. Of these 30,442 are also in arrears.
“95,158 residential mortgages in all are in arrears of over 90 days or have been restructured. This represents 12% of residential mortgage holders in some form of mortgage distress.
“Rent supplement claims have increased from 63,658 to 96,809.
“Mortgage interest supplement claims have increased from 5,212 to an incredible 18,564.
“And nearly 100,000 families are on social housing waiting lists, twice the number in 2008.
“This is not just a mortgage crisis, it is a full-blown housing crisis.
“If the Government introduces effective measures to address this crisis and support families and individuals then we will fully support them. If they fail to do so we will continue to pursue them until they take the urgent and extensive action that is now so desperately needed.”
Speaking in advance of a meeting with Troika officials today in the Department of Finance, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the current EU/IMF deal was a bad deal for the Irish people.
Deputy Adams said Sinn Féin had warned against the deal, highlighting the fact the Irish people could not afford it and that a better deal was possible and should have been negotiated by the new government elected in February.
The Sinn Féin leader and the party's Vice President Mary Lou McDonald said they intended to raise a number of issues with the officials today including the payment of private bondholders in Anglo, the sale of state assets and the need to create jobs.
Deputy Adams said:
“We do not believe this deal is a good deal for Ireland. The Irish people cannot afford it. The government had an opportunity following their election in February to negotiate a new deal, something they claimed they would do in their election promises. Instead they tinkered around the edges.
“We are raising a number of important issues with the Troika officials today. Firstly we want to discuss the government's decision to handover almost €2 billion in Irish taxpayers' money to unguaranteed bondholders in Anglo by January, with more to be paid in the coming years. This is a government choice, it is not in the Memorandum of Understanding but has severe implications for the state's debt level and our people.
“Secondly we want to discuss the government's attempts to privatise state assets. This is a commitment in the programme for government which Fine Gael and Labour have attempted to lay at the Troika's door. The MoU does not explicitly say that state assets have to be privatised, but that they are to be reviewed and that there is to be consultation with a view to possible privatisations. We want to know why the government decided on a €2 billion figure, what it intends to sell off and where the Troika stand on this issue.
“Thirdly, we will put it to the Troika that remaining states wealth reserves in the NPRF, alongside investment from the European Investment Bank, must be used to fund a job creation programme. We have said from the start that the way out of this crisis is through jobs and growth and that the MoU and the Government are frustrating this growth.
“Ireland needs investment to recover and it is Sinn Féin's position that the money in the NPRF, alongside funds from the EIB should be used to do this. We will put all these issues to the Troika today.”
Speaking in the Dáil today on the Report by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Mortgage Arrears, Sinn Féin TD for Laois-Offaly Deputy Brian Stanley said that the “report will be nothing but a deep disappointment to the 100,000 families in serious mortgage distress.”
The Spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government said;
“This report does not provide anything close to a comprehensive solution to the issue of mortgage distress. That is what is needed to solve the mortgage crisis. The main proposal within this document is to leave those in mortgage distress at the mercy of the banks and saddled with decades of unsustainable debt which they will probably never be able to repay.
“People waited to see if this Government were going to provide them with the solutions that they said they would, and have been giving nothing but a tokenistic, minimalist response that won’t do anything to address their mortgage distress.
“It is actually astonishing that three reports were produced over two years and the main conclusion is, after all that has gone on in this country, to leave fixing this problem to the banks. Fine Gael and Labour are clearly happy to pick up where Fianna Fail has left off. There is a better way than this.
“Sinn Féin has long argued for a strengthened Distressed Mortgage Resolution Process, with a stronger code of conduct for mortgage lenders. This process must be backed up with an independent Distressed Mortgage Resolution Board to ensure that decisions taken by lenders represent an appropriate response to mortgage distress.
“Where such a response is to be found wanting the Board must have the legal powers to enforce the right solutions and penalise the lenders for failing to act in an appropriate manor. Mortgage lenders must absorb a significant portion of the losses on the value of mortgage.
“We do not believe that the taxpayer should foot the bill for the mortgage crisis. Nor do we believe that it is necessary for the taxpayer to further compensate banks for the loss in value of their residential mortgage loan books. There is sufficient capital in the banks at present to absorb a significant proportion of these losses.
“The priority of this Government should maintaining the family home; providing appropriate alternatives; ensuring debt sustainability; and sharing the burden fairly to provide the basis for a solution to the causes of the mortgage crisis that is both fair and sustainable for borrowers, lenders and the taxpayer.”
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on the environment and TD for Laois-Offaly Brian Stanley yesterday raised the issue of the future of Bord na Móna and cutaway bogs during a Priority Question to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte.
Deputy Stanley raised concerns over the future of the bogs when the Minister said that no decision had yet been made in relation to the future of Bord na Móna assets. He specifically asked the Minister what plans the he had for cutaway bogs in the midlands.
Stanley also referred to the massive potential that existed in harnessing Irelands wind and wave energy resources and asked the Minister whether the proposed New Era, which may involve the amalgamation of Bord na Móna and Coillte would be involved in their development. The Minister said that it would not.
Deputy Stanley said:
“Many people are concerned over the future of the bogs. We have already seen the removal of turbary rights from traditional users of the bog and I would be concerned at the implications of any Government decision regarding the future of Bord na Móna. The properties owned by Bord na Móna must continue to be used for the benefit of the people.”
The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is currently seeking a dynamic individual for the position of Chairperson of Libraries NI.
Sinn Féin Policing Spokesperson Gerry Kelly said the fact that the Ombudsman’s Office had to withdraw part of a statement released after the damning Spotlight programme, revealed another example of the ineptitude of Al Hutchinson’s leadership.
“The claim in relation to the Criminal Justice Inspectorate adds to the growing reality that under Al Hutchinson’s leadership the integrity of the office is continuing to be undermined.“If Al Hutchinson wishes to prevent further damage to the office then he needs to go now. Continuing to hang on by a loose thread will only make it more difficult for the Ombudsman’s Office to recover from this series of operational failures.”
Sinn Féin Junior Minister, Martina Anderson has called on Magee University Campus to prepare a solid business case for increased student numbers in anticipation of the Strategic Outline Case (SOC) being accepted by the Department Finance & Personnel (DFP).
Martina Anderson said:
“It is my understanding that University of Ulster has submitted an SOC to the Department of Employment and Learning in relation to the expansion of Student numbers at Magee Campus in line with DFP requirements prior to moving forward with a full business case. DEL has approved it and sent it to DFP.
“Following approval by DFP of the Strategic Outline Case a full Business Case would then be required at which stage a detailed needs assessment would be undertaken to fully demonstrate need prior to fully developing and evaluating a range of options.
“I believe that a number of queries were raised by DFP concerning the original SOC some of which were dealt with by the University and others by DEL.
“I would urge Magee to begin to develop a strong business case now in anticipation that the queries raised by DFP are resolved and should additional resources become available to increase student places the University can move immediately to secure them for Magee.
Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd has challenged the British Secretary of State Owen Patterson to reveal the truth and hold a full public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
Speaking after a meeting with Patterson, the Sinn Féin MLA said that not only was the decision to refuse a public inquiry the wrong one but that the treatment of the Finucane family showed a total lack of respect by the British Government.
John O’Dowd said:
“The refusal of the British Government to honour the Weston Park agreement and to establish an inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane is a diabolical decision and I let Owen Patterson know how strongly that feeling is.
“The Finucane family have shown great dignity and determination over the last 22 years and I have no doubt their campaign for an inquiry will continue.Owen Patterson and the British Government have not only insulted the Finucane family but they have also I’m sure, steeled the resolve of the Finucane family to continue their search for the truth.”
Speaking today in the Seanad on a private members motion on the issue of barracks closures, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly said the government argument that it is has no choice but to close the barracks is untrue.
Senator Reilly said:
“How dare the Government condemn any person for standing shoulder to shoulder with their local communities’; for representing their friends, colleagues and neighbours? I went to school with families of soldiers, I socialise with them, I play sports with them. We in Sinn Féin are not the ones playing politics with people’s lives under the pretext that it is the final dictat of the troika.
“The Dáil debate on this issue was dominated by the narrative that Ireland has no choices. That is untrue. The Government is free to adjust the terms of the bailout agreement on condition that the final outcome remains the fiscal adjustment to which the agreement commits Ireland.
“Was it not the Minister’s party who campaigned and got elected on a mandate of ‘we will renegotiate’, ‘we will get a better deal?’
“On the issue of costs and savings, there is no economic gain from closing barracks like in Cavan. What does Minister Howlin have to say in relation to his comprehensive spending review when you look at the costs of paying extra travelling allowances to approximately 600 people for up to nine months, or the substantial capital investments that will be needed in other barracks to accommodate those who are dislocated, or the substantial security and maintenance bill for the closed sites?
“If you look at Dún Úi Neill Barracks in Cavan and its location – already the recession in the private sector has left its mark with empty retail sites littering the Dublin road and now this Government wants to close this state of the art facility, hitting the area a final knock out blow.
“That doesn’t sound like savings to me or the best possible return for the country. Not least when the reality is that no financial gain could be made from the sale of a barracks or a closed barracks in the current property market.
“A further displacement by soldiers and their families with all that entails is grossly unfair and may force some to leave. Is the dole queue their only future? What will a serving member who is already in negative equity do? The towns involved are the towns where people bought homes for record prices during the boom. But will there be a bail out of these men and women and their families?
“Shutting these barracks is not the answer. And the rouse of savings, of no alternatives and of appeasing the troika will not wash.” ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Peadar Tóibín TD, speaking during the Dáil debate on Aviva redundancies this afternoon, demanded, that the government provide personnel and resources to Aviva staff and their union, Unite, to thoroughly scrutinise the company’s business pan with a view to saving as many jobs as possible.
Deputy Toibín said, “This has been a slow motion catastrophe, 950 staff lost their jobs and 300 will have their jobs outsourced. These job loses will mean a loss of €36 million in wages to the economy and potentially €19 million in increased in the social welfare bill. The staff have been in limbo for weeks now and still many do not know their fate.
“Aviva is one of the largest insurers in the state, it’s profitable both internationally and in Ireland. The government's Pontius Pilot approach is unacceptable in this situation. The government must now take up the fight to save as many jobs as possible. The government must make officials from the Department of Finance available to Aviva and Unite, the representing union, to allow for a full analysis of the business plan and save as many jobs as possible.
“Immediate savings can be made. From the top heavy management structure within the business, to the complete burden of the Aviva Stadium being placed on the Irish operation, debts from the European operation, to the upward only rent being paid on Aviva’s trophy office block which was entered into at the height of the boom to the reform of the rates charges to all business, to reform of the energy sector which could lessen the burden and save jobs.” ENDS