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Sinn Fein transport spokesperson, Dessie Ellis TD, has criticised the Taxi Regulation Review Report for not dealing properly with the massive oversupply of taxis which is causing, precipitating or worsening many of the other problems which plague the industry. He was speaking following an Oireachtas Committee on Transport briefing on the report.
Deputy Ellis continued:
“There is at least 22% oversupply of taxis. The report recommends pricing people out of the industry and asking people to provide letters from other employment as well as arbitrary limits on the ages of cars. All this is to make driving a taxi too expensive for many hard-working, full-time drivers as well as encouraging others to not enter the industry.
“This is a very large problem which needs to be dealt with by stopping new licences being granted and making this a full-time only industry. The oversupply of part-time taxi drivers must be dealt with directly, making it not just harder to have a taxi on the weekends and a full-time job Monday to Friday, but to make it impossible.
“Anything less will not properly address oversupply and not considerably reduce numbers other than among full-time drivers who cannot afford new costly measures introduced as they are struggling in what is their only source of income.”
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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today said she was encouraged by recent statistics on brucellosis, where the disease incidence is at its lowest level since the 1990s.

She said: “The combined efforts of the farming community in the north and my Department have clearly achieved significant progress during these difficult times. I would like to thank the vast majority of farmers who are working positively and constructively with my veterinary staff to help eradicate the disease. Indeed we are on track to achieve the target in the Programme for Government to reduce Brucellosis confirmed annual herd incidence to zero by 2014.”

Despite the downward trend Minister O’Neill cautioned against complacency. She said: “We know that brucellosis can persist silently in cattle for months or even years. It can also flare up and spread explosively.

“I and my veterinary and enforcement colleagues are still concerned that brucellosis infected material could still be out there in the country.

“With the small number of outbreaks we currently have, each one is investigated thoroughly as to source. The strain type of the Brucella bacteria is compared to every other outbreak going back to the year 2000 and DNA material is gathered from the cattle at every point in the process. Anyone found engaged in deliberately introducing the disease into herds, or any other illegal activity, will have their compensation cut and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

For the next few years the Minister said it was vital that herd keepers adhere to the testing programme that their Veterinary Offices have deemed necessary for them. She added: “It is of paramount importance that farmers continue to report every cattle abortion to their local office. We will also continue to monitor bulk milk and cattle at abattoirs. The combination of all these actions should enable us to find the last remnants of the disease.

“When we achieve eradication, and secure EU Commission recognition of our Officially Brucellosis Free status, it will be possible to scale down the brucellosis scheme. Pre-movement testing will be phased out and herd testing and will be significantly reduced. This will benefit the entire Industry. Hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later. But we cannot afford to drop our guard. That is why I am again stressing the need to report any abortions or any suspicious activity.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government Brian Stanley TD has this evening accused the government of “banana republic economics” by selling off wealth generating, profitable state assets.

Speaking in support of tonight's Sinn Féin Dáil motion opposing the sale of state assets Deputy Stanley said:

“We only have to look into the not too distant past to see history repeating itself. The sale of Eircom proved to be a disaster for both shareholders and the general public. Following four years of public investment, which saw this state become a leader in the tele-communications sector, Eircom was sold off amidst massive controversy. Now Ireland lags 5 years behind competitor countries in terms of tele-communication infrastructure.

“Earlier this month the government announced its intention to sell off  €3 billion worth of state assets. Ironically this is the same amount of money this government are committed to hand over to Anglo bondholders in March. The sale will take place despite the Labour Party's commitment in their general election manifesto not to sell off Coillte or the energy networks. So brazen a u-turn in Irish politics has not been seen in for many years.

“Sinn Féin is in good company tonight opposing the sale of ESB, Bord Gáis and Coillte. Both SIPTU and UNITE, the two biggest Irish unions, have both come out and publicly opposed the sale. These sate companies continue to provide training, employment and pay dividends to the Irish state. These three companies have paid a total of €1.97 billion to the state in dividends over the last ten years. These dividends will be no more if this fire-sale government has its way.

“Future generations will reap a sorry harvest if this coalition has its way. The sale of state assets is fundamentally and economically wrong and must be stopped at all costs.”

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Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday in support of a Sinn Féin motion urging that commercial semi-State companies remain in public ownership and be used for job creation, Cavan-Monaghan Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the plan to sell off these assets as “monstrous”.

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated that the EU Treaty would tie Irish governments into such policies for many years and he welcomed the opportunity for the Irish people to vote against the Treaty when the Taoiseach and Tánaiste announced the referendum, earlier in the Dáil on Tuesday.

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated:

“The commercial semi-State companies – the ESB, Bórd Gáis, Coillte, Aer Lingus – were built up over many years by the hard work of Irish people and have been key pillars of the Irish economy. They have provided the essential infrastructure without which no economy can grow. Energy, natural resources, strategic transport links – all of these are indispensable assets which should remain in public ownership.

“The succession of Fianna Fáil-led Governments from 1997 began the process of privatisation of these assets. In the case of Eircom they were responsible for a huge debacle which should have been a lesson to the present Government – indeed in opposition both Fine Gael and the Labour Party repeatedly pointed to that reckless privatisation.

“In May 2005 Sinn Féin tabled a Private Members motion opposing the privatisation of Aer Lingus. Speaking on behalf of the Labour Party, Deputy Róisín Shortall said: “The experience of the privatisation fiasco in Eircom should sound alarm bells for us all.  Deputy Shortall was also correct when she told us then:“Privatisation really is the new religion...Privatisation puts such services and assets at long-term risk and we should not just abandon them at the ideological whim of the Coalition partners.”

"Perhaps the Labour deputies would care to tell us now if the same applies to the current Coalition partners?

"I have not yet heard of any events to mark the centenary this year of the establishment of the Irish Labour Party but I wonder how the party will square its support in Government for this fire sale of State assets to private profiteers with its claim to be the successors of James Connolly and Jim Larkin?

"And what of Fine Gael? We should not be surprised at their stance as they are clearly a party of the right and have championed privatisation almost as much as the Progressive Democrats. But Fine Gael also claims the mantle of the past – in their case of Michael Collins. Do they recall what Collins wrote in ‘The Path to Freedom’?

“Ireland will provide splendid opportunities for the investment of Irish capital, and it is for the Irish people to take advantage of these opportunities. If they do not, investors and exploiters from outside will come in to reap the rich profits which are to be made.”

"I have to say that in the case of Coillte I find it especially reprehensible that the Government would even consider selling the company’s harvesting rights. Coillte is the largest land-holder in the State and while it is not – at present – proposed to sell its land, the Government is selling access to that land and to its resources. If ever there was a strategic asset our forestry and forestry land are strategic - yet here we have a plan to abandon them to private interests with very serious long-term consequences for rural Ireland and for the whole island.

"This plan to sell off the family silver is as reckless as it is unnecessary. There is an alternative and we in Sinn Féin have set it out in our motion.

"The Government should retain the people’s ownership in these companies. The full potential of the companies has yet to be realised. Instead of proceeding with its plan for wholesale privatisation the Government should establish a Semi-State Strategy Group with responsibility for delivering a strategic job creation and training project.

"All annual dividends paid to the State by the commercial semi-State could be ploughed into this jobs and training strategy, thus making a major contribution to economic recovery.

"The path the Government is following with this privatisation plan and with its other austerity measures is the road to deeper recession and long-term stagnation of the Irish economy. I am glad that the people are going to have an opportunity, as announced today by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, to give their verdict on the latest EU Treaty which, if ratified, would lock this and all future Governments for many years to come into the austerity policies that are doing so much damage to our society and to our economy.

"The people have an opportunity to stop this futile strategy in its tracks and we in Sinn Féin are determined to ensure that they do so."

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Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has welcomed the Government’s publication of the drafts heads of Whistleblower Bill and has called on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to ensure the legislation’s speedy passage to the Dáil.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Sinn Féin welcomes the publication of the drafts heads of the Whistleblowers Bill and now calls on the government to ensure the legislation progresses quickly to second stage.

“Extending the definition of employees as envisaged in the Bill to contractors, trainees and agency staff is a positive move. Sinn Féin would like to see Whistleblower protection extended to those within the public service and state agencies who report gross wastage of public funds as is currently allowed for in US legislation.

“Protecting Whistleblowers with robust legislation is an important element of a healthy democracy. Sinn Féin welcomes the publication of the draft heads of the Whistleblowers Bill and now urges the government to bring legislation to the Dáil and Seanad as a matter of urgency.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions today, Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams TD, raised the lack of transparency in the work of NAMA and pointed to senior figures within the agency who were senior members of the banking, financial and property sectors which caused that crisis.
He asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny for promised transparency, meaning that details of all non-performing loans acquired by NAMA would be available for public scrutiny on a public register, including names of creditors and the amounts paid by the taxpayer for loans.
He said 16 companies were identified by NAMA to advise them on loan sales in Europe and the US and that NAMA itself has confirmed that some of its senior management team have close links with those firms.

“The Dáil and the people should know how much NAMA has paid, with taxpayers’ money, for the property it controls,” he added, saying that the agency remains “cloaked in secrecy”, while billions of Euros worth of assets are being sold by NAMA.
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Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams TD has welcomed the announcement by the government there will be a referendum on the austerity treaty.
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Teachta Adams said: “I want to welcome the announcement. It marks another failure by the government which tried to avoid a referendum. The Tanaiste has acknowledged this and you failed and that’s a good thing. Now the people will have their say.
“Since the first drafts of this Treaty were leaked to the public last December Sinn Féin has argued that there is a democratic imperative to have a referendum.And I am glad that there is also clearly a legal case.
“I think the value of a referendum is that the people will have their say on a matter that is profound and will have long lasting importance.
“The question is: will the government accept the outcome? Are we going to have the usual re-run? Will the government phrase the question in such a way so the people will be able to have an informed debate as opposed to bullying tactics that have been used in the past?
“I think it is crucially important that the campaign be informed and informative, that the details of the Treaty and its implications for the people of this state and the island be fully discussed and debated.
“Sinn Féin welcomes the announcement but let’s be clear. It’s an austerity Treaty it will not help to regenerate the economy. On the contrary it will condemn the people, particularly those in lower and middle income brackets, to this government’s terrible austerity policy.
“It’s little wonder that Fianna Fáil supports this. Fianna Fáil, Labour and Fine Gael formed the consensus for cuts and we are going to see that replay again.
“You are the Taoiseach who has declared that you want to be able to take economic power back into this state. But with this Treaty you are taking what limited fiscal power remains in this Oireachtas and giving it to unelected and undemocratic officials in Brussels.
“So let’s have a good debate. Let’s have an informed debate. Sinn Féin is against this Treaty from what we know of it – we wait to see the question that will be put. We’re against austerity. We don’t think it’s fair. We don’t think it’s right. We don’t think it’s proper that working people have to pay the penalty for bad government and that this has to happen to pay off the golden circle, the big bankers and the bondholders and developers.
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Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty will tell British Secretary of State, Owen Paterson that the British government cannot rule out an Independent International Truth Recovery Commission when he meets him at Westminster today.

Speaking from London Pat Doherty said:

“Recent comments by Owen Patterson opposing a truth commission style approach to dealing with the legacy of the past bordered on the contemptible towards those who suffered throughout the conflict!

“I will make that clear to Mr Patterson when I meet him at Portcullis House, Westminster this afternoon. Any attempt to rule out an Independent International Truth Commission style approach to truth recovery is arrogant and completely ignores the fact that the British Government was a party to the conflict.

“Sinn Féin has put forward proposals to address truth recovery and dealing with the past insisting that any process must be victim centred and international, independent and inclusive of all participants including the two governments.

“Republicans have made it clear that we would participate in such a body. The British Government should accept that it was central to the conflict and make it clear that it would participate in such a process instead of prevaricating and attempting to portray itself as some sort of neutral referee between two warring factions. This portrayal is both dishonest and disingenuous and makes no contribution to dealing with the past on a basis of openness and transparency.

“I will also take the opportunity to challenge Mr Paterson on his government’s austerity policies and in particular its so-called Welfare Reform measures. I will be registering Sinn Féin’s continued opposition to these policies that are having a devastating effect on our communities and economy.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has branded the SDLP as a negative party who are being oppositional in the Assembly for opposition sake.

Raymond McCartney, who is Vice-Chair of the Justice Committee, said:

“The facts are that if it had been left up to the SDLP we would still have a minister from England in charge of Policing and Justice. They are being oppositional for opposition’s sake and should get real on the issue of the Justice Ministry.

“If we were to follow their logic and run d’Hondt as the Assembly currently stands then Unionists would have an extra ministry, is that what they want?

“Or perhaps they would rather some absentee British politician who would not be answerable or accountable to anyone in the North, was dictating how we deliver Policing and Justice?

"The people sent the SDLP a very clear message at the last election that their negative politics was not the way forward. Unfortunately it seems they have failed to learn that lesson."

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The Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has accused Education Minister Ruairí Quinn of “maladministration” in the running of the European Globalisation Fund for redundant construction workers.

Deputy Doherty’s comments come after it was revealed in a Parliamentary Question that only 38 of the 9,089 named construction workers in whose name an EGF funding application was secured have accessed additional supports funded by the EGF as of January 27th 2012.
Deputy Doherty said:

“In June 2010 the then Fianna Fáil government made an application to the European Globalisation Fund for a programme totalling €55 million of which €35.7m would come from the EU, to provide retraining and support for 9,089 named redundant construction workers.

“When Ruairí Quinn took office in March 2011 this funding programme was sitting in his department waiting for implementation. Crucially the funding must be spent by June 2012.

“Astonishingly it took the Minister ten months to inform the workers eligible for this support that funds were available to assist them re-enter the labour market.

“The Department of Education wrote to 8,779 of these workers on December 19th 2011. In the period from December 19th and January 27th 2012 only 452 eligible individuals contacted the EGF contact centre.

“I can reveal today that of this 452 only 38 individuals have accessed EGF funded supports up to 27th January 2012 additional to what they would have otherwise received from state agencies. A further 210 were referred on to other agencies such as FAS, VECs and County Enterprise Boards.

“While Minister Quinn may try and blame the previous Government for the maladministration of the European Globalisation Fund, the fact that this has been his responsibility for a full year means that he too is guilty of maladministration.

“While Minister Quinn was right to accuse Fianna Fáil of maladministration of this fund, eligible workers should have been informed last March that these supports were available to them. The failure of the Government to inform those eligible immediately on taking office means that tens of millions of euro will have to be returned to the European Commission. More importantly it means that workers who should have secured significant additional supports to existing provision provided by agencies such as FAS will have been denied real opportunities to improve their skills and employability.

“Given the scale of money involved and the scale of sheer incompetence the Minister must now call an independent enquiry into the operation of the European Globalisation Fund to ensure that this kind of maladministration never happens again.

“My office is receiving calls from angry workers who are only now discovering that they are eligible for this fund and had they known in 2010 or early 2011, would have made life changing decisions.”

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on housing Dessie Ellis TD has called on the government to examine repossession policies for both home owners and local authority tenants.

Deputy Ellis made his remarks following the Supreme Court ruling that Section 62 of the Housing Act which allowed local authorities to repossess homes without an independent inquiry was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Dublin North-West TD said;

“The Supreme Court has held that the law allowing local authorities to get a court order for possession of a house without an independent inquiry is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Local authorities violate tenants’ human rights if they seek to act without any court or independent inquiry into the reasons why. Clearly an independent appeals and inquiry process must now be introduced for these situations.

“This opens up further questions regarding how the Government views repossession policies, not only for local authority tenants but also for those who own their own homes. We must ensure that eviction is only used as a mechanism of last resort.

“With regard to homeowners we cannot allow a situation where people are having their homes taken from them due to the very dire economic circumstances of the country. Lenders need to take responsibility for the agreements they entered into with people and recognise that debt resolution processes, as outlined by groups like FLAC, must take place, and this is in the interests of all involved in the longer term.

“The State must act on this sooner rather than later and provide for this process to take place independently in order to ensure that we do not have families put out of their homes or being put through protracted court proceedings.”

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Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has congratulated Gael-Phobal Strabane for winning the overall prize at annual All Ireland Glór na nGael awards held in Kildare at the weekend.

Gael-Phobal Strabane is a community based organisation that promotes the Irish language in the Strabane area.

Offering her congratulations to Gael-Phobal Strabane, Carál Ní Chuilín said: “This is a tremendous achievement for the Irish language community in Strabane who through all their activities promoting the Irish language through schools, with young people and families are fully deserving of this prestigious honour.

“Is bua iontach í seo do Ghaeil Phobal an tSrath Bán agus tá sé go hiomlán tuillte acu mar bíonn siad ag cur an teanga Ghaelach chun cinn sna scoileanna agus trí gníomhaíochtaí éagsúla a dhéanamh le daoine óga agus a dteaghlaigh

“It demonstrates that once again our cultural offering not only competes but wins at the highest level. Well done Strabane.

Léiríonn sé arís go mbíonn cultúr s'againne ag baint ag an léibheal is airde. Maith sibh an tSrath Bán.”

The Minister also congratulated Conradh na Gaeilge, Bóirche Iochtar in County Down and Cumann Cultúrtha an Phobail, Belfast for winning the Ulach Trust prize and Glór na Móna in Belfast for winning the Association of Irish medium primary schools prize and An Cumann Gaelach at Queens University for winning the cross border prize at the annual awards.

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Fermanagh & South Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan said the Enterprise, Trade & Investment Minister is reaching a new low in attempting to justify imposing fracking on the community.

The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA said:

“Arlene Foster’s attempt at imposing fracking in the North has reached a new low with this ridiculous statement.

“Responding to concerns raised by Sinn Féin about the impact fracking would have on our tourism industry here, the Minister compared Ireland with Qatar.

“She put forward the argument that because Qatar is playing host to the 2022 World Cup and is aiming to host the 2020 Olympics, that gas exploration does not damage the tourist industry.

“Her complete lack of knowledge of the impact fracking will have here astounds me and what is worse, she appears not to be able to differentiate the difference in what tourists visit Qatar and rural Ireland for.

“People go to Qatar for the high life, the good weather and to experience a different culture, whereas tourists visit places like Fermanagh and Leitrim for our quiet and scenic environment, for tranquility, to sample our clean countryside and enjoy our natural environment.

“If fracking were to be imposed here, then all this would be in serious danger.

“Arlene Foster needs to realise that people will not visit Fermanagh or Leitrim to go on tours of gas exploration pads. The landscape that was once enjoyed will have been devastated forever.”

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The Sinn Féin party president will be in the Taoiseach’s constituency this coming Friday to launch the party’s Rural Ireland campaign which will focus on:

• A fair deal for rural households – no unjust charges.
• Creating job opportunities in rural Ireland.
• Protecting rural schools.
• Ensuring equal access to health services
• Combating rural isolation.

Gerry Adams will be joined by Martin Ferris TD and Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh who will soon be embarking on a consultation process across the state, the results of which will form a new plan for rural Ireland.

The campaign launch and open forum will take place at the Harlequin Hotel in Castlebar at 11am this coming Friday 2nd March.

Local stakeholders and the media are invited to attend at this time.

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Responding to the British Secretary of State, Owen Patersons comments at the week end in relation to Welfare reform, Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson on welfare Mickey Brady, said:

“To date the British Government, in bringing forward the Welfare reform bill have shown very little flexibility whether it be to lobby groups, political parties or right up their own House of Lords.

“However following Owen Patersons interview this weekend in which he stated that there is “considerable room for flexibility” on Welfare Reform.

“There are clearly issues here that would be extremely negatively impacted in terms of benefit delivery if a carbon copy of an ideologically led welfare reform bill would be imposed on the north.

“What we need to see developing is a united voice coming from the Assembly in order to work against the Tory cuts agenda. The fact that Owen Patterson has acceded the fact that there needs to be negotiation over this bill involving local politicians provides the chance now to shape this bill to protect the most vulnerable and mitigate against the most negative aspects of it.”

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Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey MLA, today joined with the Ballymurphy families at Stormont and has called for a full inquiry into the killings.

Speaking today Mr Maskey said:

“On the day the the British Secretary of State, Owen Patterson, visited Stormont the Ballymurphy families have quite rightly brought there case here in order to highlight their demands for an inquiry.

“The killing of 11 people in the Ballymurphy massacre of 1971 and the inquests that followed are both a lasting injustice which, following the findings  of the Saville inquiry into the events on Bloody Sunday, must receive similar attention.

“Following the findings of Saville the British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the actions of the British Army on that day did not define their role in Ireland. If he would meet with the families of those shot down by British soldiers in Ballymurphy he would find out how wrong he is.

“This is something that he must do. To date he has not met with the families in their search for justice. The British government know what happened. David Cameron should meet with the families as a matter of urgency.” 

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Sinn Féin Foyle MLA, Martina Anderson has said that she is somewhat encouraged about the future of Magee University Campus following an extensive meeting with University of Ulster Vice-Chancellor Richard Barnett.

Martina Anderson said:

“I met with Vice-Chancellor Richard Barnett at Magee University last week. Our discussions covered a very extensive range of subjects and the vision for the future of the Derry Campus.

“I was encouraged by what Professor Barnett had to say and the commitments and assurances that he provided on the progress of plans for both educational opportunities and infrastructural development at Magee.

“Among the assurances that Professor Barnett gave was the confirmation that all 322 additional MAsN places allocated to the University of Ulster would be located at Magee. When pressed on the possibility of developing and increasing a medical/health offering at Magee through greater partnerships with facilities such as the C-Tric and Cancer Units at Altnagelvin with the transfer of the Nursing School from Coleraine to Derry, he was non-committal but open to the idea.

“He does however, envisage research across disciplines including social work, psychology, nursing, mental health, etc. rather than the traditional separation of disciplines.  There is already a strong psychology department based at Magee, including mental health psychology, which boasts world-class researchers publishing in top academic journals.

“Professor Barnett confirmed that work is currently being carried out to profile the planned increase in numbers and expansion of Magee and what that would mean in terms of courses and research. All of this will contribute to creating and promoting a research culture in the discipline of health at Magee.

“I voiced disappointment at the removal of the History Department from Magee and received reassurances that it was their intention to have history taught through the medium of Irish as part of the Irish Department’s transfer to the Derry Campus, which means history to a certain degree would still be taught at Magee.

“I pointed out that Magee could be marketed more extensively both locally and further afield. The Vice-Chancellor conceded that this was true and that he would take it on Board. I will be monitoring progress on all the matters discussed."

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Conor Murphy MP, MLA has called for the introduction of a uniform per litre price for home heating oil.

Conor Murphy said:

“Fuel poverty is affecting a growing number of people as family incomes fail to keep pace with increasing prices. It is unacceptable that those least able to purchase home heating oil in large quantities should then suffer the added hardship of being penalised because they can only afford small amounts.

“While not wishing to diminish competition in the industry, once a price is set, then the per litre price should be the same whether a person purchases 20 litres or 200 litres.

“I call on the Minister to explore how best people on low and fixed incomes can be protected from facing penalties when accessing a range of goods and services – not only home heating oil - because of their financial status."

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Sinn Féin Vice-President, Mary Lou McDonald and West Tyrone MP and MLA, Pat Doherty will participate in a Seminar in London tomorrow Tuesday 28th February,  titled 'Economic Crisis - Lessons from Ireland.
 
Speaking before traveling to London Pat Doherty said:
 
"I look forward to listening to a range of views from differing political perspectives on how best to get on the road to economic recovery and getting people back to work. Myself and Mary Lou McDonald will be putting forward the Sinn Féin economic and job creation analysis and will listen intently to other ideas.
 
"It is obvious that austerity is not working and that it is having a devastating effect on small to medium sized business in Britain and Ireland as well as those on low and fixed income especially those on benefit. Sinn Fein has been to the forefront of challenging the austerity policies of both the Tory/Lib. Dem government in London which impact heavily on the North of Ireland and those of the Irish government which although mainly affecting residents of the 26 counties have a knock-on effect on the island economy.
 
"What is required is efficiency and targeted capital investment in infrastructure, education, the Green economy etc to tackle unemployment, increase revenue and protect the social welfare budget to assist those who are vulnerable and in need. Sinn Féin believes that the most practical method of building for recovery in Ireland is to do so on an all-Ireland basis. Through agreement on joint planning and programmes the Executive and the Oireachteas could achieve substantial efficiencies through the elimination of duplication of services. This would then free up public finances to protect frontline services in areas such as Health and Education.  
 
"I look forward to a comprehensive debate that will hopefully produce some new thinking and ideas on how we best move forward into a more stable and productive economy."

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Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has visited the Cinemobile mobile cinema in the grounds of the Belfast City Hall to launch the FILMCLUB Expansion scheme.

The expansion will see the existing scheme grow from the existing 68 participating schools to 338.

FILMCLUB is an after schools scheme that offers children and young people the opportunity to watch, debate and review the very best in cinema. Ninety local school children joined the Minister at the launch to watch a screening of the Water Horse in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.

The Minister said: “Film is a uniquely powerful medium which can introduce young people to the wider world and promote better learning.

“Making learning experiences relevant to the needs and interests of young people is often challenging. Clubs such as these help children and young people have fun while improving their social and communication skills and raising aspirations.

“Who knows we may have amongst us an Oscar star of the future just like Belfast director Terry George. Last night Terry won an Oscar in the Live Action Short Film category for his film The Shore filmed in Killough last year.

“This magnificent achievement has showcased our local film making talent on a global stage. I would like to again congratulate Terry and everyone involved. I am sure we can continue to build on this success as our Creative Industries go from strength to strength. Their achievement demonstrates the wealth of talent and experience we have in our local film industry that is now being showcased on the global stage."

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