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Speaking in the EU Parliament this morning, on the review of the Irish Presidency of the EU, Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson, said that it could not be described as a success but rather a missed opportunity to show Leadership in Europe.

Martina Anderson said:

“The one area where I would commend its leadership is on the issue of Tobacco Products Directive in becoming the first EU Member state to bring forward proposals for introduction of100% standardised packaging.

“Unfortunately, this is in contrast to its lack of leadership in other areas. For instance the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s misleading behaviour in the Multi Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations was an embarrassment.

“The substance of the final proposed MFF agreement is equally disappointing. It represents continued austerity. Its immediate impact will be a 6% cut to the EU budget for 2014 - the first time the EU budget has been cut in 56 years and it occurred under the Irish Presidency.

“Austerity most certainly isn’t working for Ireland and it won’t work for the rest of Europe.

“The Irish presidency also failed to achieve extending the Syrian Arms embargo and failed to have the issue of domestic violence put on the agenda. While an Taoiseach challenged my assertion that they haven't put domestic violence on the agenda, the fact remains that after six months of his presidency they have still not signed, never mind ratified, the European Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence

“The Duff report on practical arrangements for the holding of the European elections in 2014 is another example of the Irish government’s lack of leadership when it failed to defend its allocation of EU seats. The refusal to fight to retain the present number of seats in the 26 county State was a disgrace and showed contempt for the Irish peoples’ right to maximum representation in Europe.

“A major difficulty which the Duff Report creates is the need to redraw constituency boundaries. This gives incumbents an unfair advantage, which of course suits the parties of government, who want to do everything to minimise their inevitable losses next year. It makes it problematic for other political parties like mine to choose candidates without knowing the geographical nature of the constituencies.

“In a further display of disdain for Irish citizens, Fine Gael MEP, Mairead McGuinness – a senior member of an Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s party- remarked while I was speaking today - ‘you may be wearing green today but its only on the outside’. This was a clear inference that she did not recognise my Irish birthright. This was a disgraceful smear not just on my Irishness, but shows an arrogant contempt for Irish citizens with whom she has a political disagreement.

“This is all the more contemptible given that an Taoiseach –her Party Leader - didn't lift a finger to defend the Irish allocation of MEPs while holding the EU Council Presidency. If subjected to the same level of assessment as those young people doing the leaving cert, I’m afraid the Irish Presidency (and the Irish government) fails the leadership test."

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Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has welcomed Minister Rabbitte’s announcement of the Nationwide Broadband Mapping Project.

Deputy Colreavy said the programme must demand full cooperation from private operators to ensure that every citizen in the country has access to adequate broadband provision.

Deputy Colreavy said:

“It is the duty of this government to ensure that every home in the country has access to broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps.

“Currently Ireland has the lowest level of high-speed broadband in the European Union, and for a country that is aiming to be the best small country in the world in which to do business, this is not acceptable.

“While the private sector plans to rollout broadband to a significant part of the country, there are still many areas which could potentially lose out.

“Therefore, an adequate mapping programme that examines every town and village in the state must be initiated.

“Equality demands that many pockets of the country, in areas such Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal which previously have had limited access to broadband, have access to at least 30Mbps, in common with the rest of the country.

“The mapping programme must demand full cooperation from private operators and they must comply with the Nationwide Broadband Mapping Project to ensure that every citizen in the country has access to adequate broadband provision.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann said a report by the British Housing Federation shows what impact the introduction of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ could have in the North.

The West Belfast MLA and party spokesperson on housing said:

“The report states that rent arrears have soared in some areas and houses in many estates in England are lying empty because people won’t move into them.

“Sinn Féin’s vow to block the bedroom tax at the Assembly has been proven to be the common sense option when we see the evidence emerging in Britain.

“At the Ard Fheis Martin McGuinness clearly stated Sinn Féin would employ a petition of concern if the bedroom tax was brought before the Assembly, effectively blocking it.

“The profile of housing in the North is completely different from the South/East of England where this model was designed and therefore the impact on local people could actually be even worse than what we are seeing currently in Britain.

“We in Sinn Féin have said that if this is introduced in the North it will devastate many communities. This tax is wrong as it hits at those most in need.

“Sinn Féin have met with other political parties and many groups to build a consensus to deal with this and many other problems people will face as a result of proposed welfare cuts.”

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on environment, community and local government, Brian Stanley TD, has welcomed the start of four days of hearings on the government’s climate change bill before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment. The first hearing is today.
Deputy Stanley said:
“Sinn Féin is ready to play a full part in these hearings and will evaluate the presentations against our own Climate Change Bill 2013, which we produced earlier this year. This is a valuable opportunity to question and debate with international experts and stakeholders.
“Sinn Féin will continue to highlight the need for an all-Ireland approach to tackling climate change, the need for science-based emission targets in the government bill, the establishment of an independent climate change commission, legally binding five-year carbon budgets and accountability to the Dáil.”
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Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said it is extremely concerning that there are allegations of malpractice around procurement issues in the Northern Health Trust

The West Belfast MLA and Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee said:

“This is not the first time that whistle blowers have uncovered evidence of malpractice and I am pleased to see them and their evidence being taken seriously and investigated

“It is important that people working in the public sector feel able to come forward and voice their concerns when they witness procedures not being properly followed and public money is being mishandled.

“We have been here too many times before. The department should ensure that all its systems are fit for purpose and doesn’t wait until a problem presents itself before rigorously enforcing proper procedures.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on the Economy, Conor Murphy MP has accused Assembly Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson of attempting to cloud the discussion on fiscal autonomy by substituting ‘assumptions and apportionments’ for fiscal accuracy.

Conor Murphy said:

“Sammy Wilson should remember that as Finance Minister he has a responsibility to provide financially accurate answers to members’questions on the Economy. He is not there to cloud the issue based on partisan political commentary.

“We all know that Sammy is a unionist and wants to justify the North’s continued connection with Britain. But if he is secure in his belief that this is the best option for all the people here then why is he afraid to seek accurate revenue and expenditure figures that could support his contention.

“Sammy Wilson’s resort to ridicule and derision of requests for facts and figures serves only to expose the weakness of his assertion that we are irretrievably linked to the British Exchequer.

“Mr Wilson insists that the methodology used to produce his figures is identical to those used for Scotland and that they are international standards for the compiling of statistics and have to be adhered to and are subject to a degree of rigour and international scrutiny. He fails to add that when Scotland launched a robust challenge to this methodology it was admitted by British Economists producing the figures that the report 'was designed to maintain the Union and score (points) over all opponents'.

“Sammy Wilson’s own Department of Finance has repeatedly stated that its figures ‘are not intended to provide an exact figure of individual revenue items’ and are produced: “on the basis of high level assumptions and apportionment factors.”

“British government sources have also admitted that they cannot provide an accurate assessment of the deficit – if there is one - for the north. Therefore it’s time that Mr Wilson desisted from using this disinformation and ‘assumptions and apportionment’ as a comfort blanket to reassure him that the union is safe.

“NI Statistics and Research Agency’s (NISRA), John Bradley and Tom Healey from the Nevin Institute among other prominent economists have all called for improvements in how these calculations are made. While DFP claim that improving the samples would cost too much, Scotland has a full framework for economic data, the North has no independent methodology to provide accurate information.

“Figures produced by DFP are not recognised by anyone outside the Department while Scottish diligence and determination has made tremendous progress and their figures are accepted by the British Office of National Statistics, while Sammy’s are not.

“It’s time Sammy got past ‘assumptions and apportionment’ and demanded proper statistics along with real fiscal powers that would allow us to grow our economy”.

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson addressing the EU Parliament in Brussels this evening informed members of the ramifications of adoption of the Special Advisors (SPAD) Bill introduced in the Assembly recently by Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) Leader, Jim Allister

Martina Anderson said:

“Last month the North of Ireland reverted to the politics of exclusion by passing legislation barring politically motivated former-prisoners from taking on the role of advisers to Executive Ministers.”

Declaring a personal interest in this issue Ms Anderson continued:


”As a result of the introduction of this regressive legislation my husband, Paul Kavanagh, an former prisoner who served 15 years imprisonment as a consequence of the political conflict in the North of Ireland will be the first person directly effected by this Bill. But it will debar all former prisoners imprisoned for more than five years from holding these posts in the future.

“Paul Kavanagh, has been a Political Advisor to the Joint First Minister, Martin McGuiness MLA for 5 years, but on passage of this Bill will face termination of his employment.

“Despite the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) providing for the employment and re-integration of former prisoners, the SDLP in its refusal to oppose anti-Agreement unionists allowed them to reintroduce the politics of exclusion in the North of Ireland, imposing a retrospective punishment in breach of Article 7 of the ECHR on politically motivated former prisoners.

”It was discrimination and laws such as this which were the catalyst for the conflict in Ireland in the first place.

“If we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past we cannot allow bad laws to take hold. I therefore call on the Irish government, as a co-equal signatory to the GFA – an International Treaty between two sovereign States - to support legal challenges to this discriminatory law.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on workers’ rights, David Cullinane, has welcomed the election of Mandate general secretary, John Douglas, as president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
“John Douglas has been a strong advocate for working people, particularly low-paid workers. He has stood against the failed austerity policies which have caused such hardship for working people.
“No doubt he will be strong voice for social and economic justice and for the rights workers in his new role as president of ICTU.”
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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has said that he is disappointed that the Parades Commission has failed to listen to the residents of Carnlough over the proposed 12th of July parade.

 Mr. McMullan said,

 “I have been calling for months for dialogue between the Loyal Orders and local residents in order to find an accommodation over the forthcoming Twelfth parade.

 “I am therefore deeply disappointed that the Loyal Orders have been rewarded with a parade without any restrictions without talking to anyone, the residents, PSNI or the Parade Commission.

“The local residents are obviously very upset at the prospect of a major parade being imposed on their village for an entire day without any restrictions whatsoever resulting on many becoming prisoners in their own home.

“I will now be meeting with local residents to see what can be done in order to lessen the impact of this parade on the local community and look at avenues of appeal to the Parades Commission.”  

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Sinn Fein MLA Chris Hazzard has congratulated Caitriona Ruane for being selected as Politician of the Year at the Pride Awards on Friday night.

 Mr Hazzard said,

 "I would like to congratulate my colleague Caitriona Ruane for winning the award as Pride Politician of the year as there is no one more deserving.

 "Caitriona has fought hard for equality for everyone and has been particularly strong on the issue of marriage equality that effects the gay community.

"It is important that we all support equality in all aspects of life for every citizen and Caitriona has been exemplary throughout her career, not only as a politician in standing up for the rights of minorities.

"I know that Caitriona will be honoured by the acknowledgement that her work has been recognised although I am certain it is not her motivation in pursuing the equality agenda.

 "Sinn Féin will continue our campaign for marriage equality so that all couples who are married enjoy equal legal and other rights that people take for granted".

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Speaking from the Short Strand area this evening Cllr Niall Ó Donnghaile said;

"I am thankful that tonight's parade passed off peacefully. I want to commend the dignity and resolve of those residents along the Albertbridge Road who held a peaceful protest this evening. 

A substantial amount of work and engagement has been ongoing in the Short Strand area to ensure a peaceful night for all. 

I would thank also those community and youth leaders locally who provided substantial diversionary events for children and young people.

 The reality however is that this community had to endure yet another massive policing operation to facilitate a parade organised by people who continue to refuse to engage with the Short Strand residents.

 It is important to remember that the only homes on this stretch of the Albertbridge Road are on the nationalist side and it makes no sense to have such a large volume of supporters along this route of the parade only to antagonise residents who live there.

 I witnessed a number of breaches of the Parades Commission determination at tonight's parade including the display of numerous paramilitary flags.

 I would once again call on the Loyal Orders to follow the lead of those residents from opposite sides of the interface in east Belfast who sat down and met last week following several nights of tension. This work isn't and will not be easy but it is the only way forward."

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has welcomed the commitment from Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson to the committee of the Office of First and Deputy First Minister that monies will be ring fenced for the completion of the A5.

 Mr. McCartney said,

“At the committee meeting of the OFMDFM, First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness stated that monies in the next round of funding will be ring fenced for the completion of the A5.

 “The A5 has temporarily been delayed so the present funding was in danger of being lost back to the British Exchequer.  It was agreed that these monies rather than being returned would be used for other projects in the present round of funding.

 “There was a fear that this would lead to the A5 losing its funding altogether. The decision by the First and Deputy First Minister to ring fence money will ensure the project will proceed as soon as the hold up is resolved and create confidence in the region.

 “This is good news for the entire North West region in that the road will open up a gateway that will attract inward investment, cut journey times to Dublin and increase safety on this route.”

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Sinn Fein finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, has said it is more important than ever that mortgage holders know their entitlements and understand their contracts.
Deputy Doherty said:
“From today the Central Bank’s new Code of Conduct on Mortgages kicks in. This change in the Code favours banks over mortgage holders and allows them greater scope to place more demands on struggling homeowners.
It is more important than ever that mortgage holders know and understand their rights and their contracts.
For example, today it has emerged that many people on fixed mortgages for the last five years are entitled now to switch to a tracker mortgage. The banks must be prompt and open in bringing this to the attention of those who could benefit.
People need to know that if they are struggling to pay their mortgage that they are not alone. Almost one in four of mortgage holders is in mortgage distress and many more are skipping other bills to make sure they do not fall into arrears.
The government has unfortunately sided with the banks and the new Code which applies from today goes hand-in-hand with the reversal of the Dunne Judgment which protected the Family Home which is due to pass through the Dáil this week. The government’s strategy is clear: let the banks off the leash regardless of the social and economic impact.”
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Sinn Fein MEP, Martina Anderson has voiced strong opposition to the appointment of any serving MEPs as EU Ombudsman. Ms Anderson was commenting when it became known that the two largest groups in the Parliament were proposing members of their respective groupings as nominees for the position.

Martina Anderson said:

“I was dismayed to learn of the decision by the two major blocks in the EU Parliament to put forward the names of their own groups as nominees for the position of EU Ombudsman. While I do not wish to make any aspersions regarding any individual’s ability I do have serious reservations about those who are serving MEPs - some for multiple terms - with strong partisan political records, being put forward for what should be a politically neutral position.

“As a strong advocate of the need for the services of an Ombudsman that can act independently I believe that the holder of the Office should have no political baggage that could be used to undermine any decisions s/he has to take.

“Article 9.2 of the Ombudsman's Statute states that "When taking up his duties, the Ombudsman shall give a solemn undertaking [...] that he will perform his duties with complete independence and impartiality." How would this be possible if the person appointed has  fixed political affiliations?

“It is my opinion that the obvious person meeting the criteria laid down in statute is Emily O Reilly – presently the Ombudsman in the South of Ireland. She has experience, reputation and ability to bring the independence and transparency required to this important position.

“I would urge all MEPS but particularly my fellow Irish MEPS to lobby their respective blocks in the Parliament to keep this position free from the influence of political allegiances and vote for Emily O’Reilly as an independent, impartial Ombudsman.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on foreign affairs, trade and diaspora, Séan Crowe TD, has welcomed Croatia’s accession to the EU today.
Deputy Crowe said:
“I would like to congratulate Croatia on joining the EU today and warmly welcome them into the union. Croatia is now the 28th member of the EU.
“This comes 10 years after they started the accession process and just under 20 years since the end of its war and eventual separation from the Yugoslavia.
“It is a difficult time for the EU due to high unemployment and low growth, and Croatia’s owns economy has for the past four years either been in recession or stagnant.
“The target of the EU needs to be on assisting the unemployed, the disadvantaged, and improving the living standards of people in its 28 countries.
“The EU must focus on investment and growth, not the current policies of austerity and cutbacks.”
ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Ian Milne has welcomed the announcement by Department of Finance and Personnel Sammy Wilson that £40m has now been allocated to the Magherfelt bypass.

 Mr Milne stated,

“I am delighted that the Minister has now announced £40million for the completion of the Magherfelt bypass.

 “This bypass has been in the pipeline since the 1990’s so we have waited for this day for a long time.

 “I have raised this issue with the Minister as did my predecessor Francie Molloy as we see this a major stimulant for the area.

“Not only will help alleviate traffic congestion including heavy lorries going through the town but it will also help stimulate the construction industry.

 “The project will now begin in autumn of 2014 and will provide a much need economic boost to the local community.

“I hope that this project will be the first of much needed infrastructural development that is needed in the area in order to attract inward investment and economic prosperity to the region.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said the batch of illegal drugs that are linked to the deaths of eight people need taken off the streets immediately.

The West Belfast MLA said:

“The people bringing these drugs to Ireland and those selling them are killing our people. We need these drugs taken off the streets immediately and those responsible for importing and distributing them brought before the courts.

“In addition to the police doing their work, the health authorities need to make sure that the public are aware of the dangers of these drugs.

“I would appeal to people to be vigilant and any information that they may have regarding these drugs should be passed immediately to the PSNI so that lives can be saved.” 

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Sinn Féin Justice and Equality spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn has announced that his party will be tabling the Equal Status (Amendment) Bill 2013 during its private members time on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn will launch the bill tomorrow at 2pm in the Boardroom in Buswells Hotel.

Speaking today in advance of the launch he said;

“Sinn Féin is seeking to add six new anti-discriminatory categories to the existing legislation. These are trade union membership, socio-economic background, Irish language speakers, rural dwellers and former political prisoners, both those who were released under the Good Friday Agreement and those who served time and were released before the agreement.

“Our bill seeks to introduce mandatory equality impact assessments on public bodies introducing measures that impact on these categories as well as the existing nine categories of gender, civil status, family status, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and membership of the traveller community.

“The bill, if passed into law, would ensure equality proofing of annual budgets to assess the impact on all of these categories of people.

“Over recent years vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of our society have suffered most from austerity and cutbacks. Political promises to protect them have been broken time and again. Sinn Féin believes that it is now essential to bring in robust laws that protects them and that ensures genuine equality.”

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Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, has said in an article with on-line publication www.thejournal.ie that Ireland's economy would be better if there was unity of north and south.

The party began 2013 with a conference where the party leader, Gerry Adams TD, made the call for a border poll, as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement. He said the debate should begin on the poll and the vision for a united Ireland but with the vote taking place in the lifetime of the next Assembly, which would be after 2016.

Speaking to www.thejournal.ie Pearse Doherty said: “The idea is, and the belief is, that there is a potential in an all-Ireland situation, with larger economies of scale, with a population of six-and-a-half million people, with all of the different transaction costs being eliminated, that you will actually have a better economy.”

Doherty claims the economic arguments against uniting Ireland are full of misinformation saying that the Irish State would not automatically have to replace the €10 billion subvention that the Northern executive gets from central government in London.

“If you peel back the figures, and this is something that we’ve been doing for quite a period of time, the €10 billion is made up of €6 billion that you wouldn’t actually be spending in an all-Ireland economy,” he said.

“You wouldn’t be funding the British army, you wouldn’t be funding museums in Scotland and Wales, you wouldn’t be funding other areas that are simply to do with the British establishment,” he said.ends

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Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, said today, in relation to the latest revelations from the Irish Independent about the Anglo Irish Banks' executives taped telephone conversations:

“The latest revelations beg the question that everyone is asking: why did the Fianna Fáil-Green Party government persist with bailing out bondholders when even the the executives of this bust bank, Anglo Irish, were suggesting burning them?

“Sinn Féin, at the time, was calling repeatedly for the government to step up and save the taxpayers from the burden of this debt, but was being accused of engaging in “fairytale” economics. This week the EU adopted the burning of bondholders as the default position to take when banks fail.

“The latest revelations in the Anglo tapes show that even David Drumm was preparing to burn bondholders to the tune of €9 billion, which we must remember would account for the cuts imposed on working people in three austerity budgets.

The tapes reveal that David Drumm believed he had the backing of the Central Bank and the Department of Finance to offer bondholders a 50 per cent bond buyback. They also reveal that the government-appointed new chief executive of the bank, Alan Dukes, was aware of the counsel of government advisor, Merrill Lynch to let Anglo go under.

“Really, it is time for Micheál Martin to stand up in the Dáil and explain how come while he was in cabinet, the Fianna Fáil-Green government persisted in bailing out the bondholders. And, the current government, which pledged “not another red cent” for Anglo bondholders before the election have not protected the citizens from this crisis caused by the likes of the men we hear on these tapes and those who gambled with them.”

"Fianna Fáil has been claiming for the past two years that the party has learned its lessons, but still has not come clean about the banking crisis. People are suffering for this. They deserve to know.”

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