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Opinion piece by Martin McGuinness on current political situation in the Assembly

This is a time when the Executive parties need to stand together to defend our public services particularly in health, education and welfare. We need to stand up for the people who elect us, rather than acting in the interests of a Tory elite.

Martin McGuinness

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has commended the strides made yesterday for equality, but has highlighted the many other aspects of...




Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey said that Minister Nelson McCausland needs to take on board the concerns expressed to the department’s Committee around the Welfare Bill.

The Chair of the Social Development Committee at Stormont said:

“We have had submissions over the last couple of days from a range of organisations and every one had serious concerns about aspects of this Bill.”

The submissions over the last couple of days have come from a range of organisations and groups including the four main churches, the trade unions, the Human Rights and Equality Commissions and from the community and voluntary sector.

“As I stated before, the Social Development Committee is ensuring that there is full scrutiny of the Welfare Bill. Each of the groups and representatives that have come forward has made strong presentations against the Bill.

“Tomorrow we will be taking further representations and going by the strength of the well-prepared submissions so far, the Minister must take account of the concerns expressed about the consequences of this bill as it stands.”  

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Commenting on the news that the number of agency nurses assigned to satellite addiction centres across the Dublin Mid-Leinster region is to be halved from today Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

“These addiction services have a very important role in supporting and counselling, as well as providing information regarding infection control. As such, they are a prime example of primary care and preventative medicine in action. The early and continuing intervention they provide affords vital relief for our already over-burdened acute services and Emergency Departments.

“This is yet another example of the government’s woefully short-sighted approach to health service provision. These cuts don’t make sense – economically or medically. They should be reversed immediately.”
ENDS

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Commenting on the latest suicide of a young person who had been bullied on-line, Sinn Féin Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that the response of all relevant agencies must be stepped up. He said:
“I extend sympathy to the bereaved in this latest tragedy and to all who have been bereaved in this way. On-line bullying and bullying of young people in general is clearly a very significant and growing problem in our society. For this reason I raised it with the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald in the Dáil last week, as a Priority Question.
“I urged the Minister to engage with the Department of Health and the Department of Education and Skills on the issue of school bullying of children by children and the grave implications of this targeted abuse on mental health in youth and in later life.
“I acknowledge that the Education (Welfare) Act requires schools to have a code of conduct but the evidence suggests that the address of the issue of bullying is most often down to the individual initiative of the school principal. We need something a good deal stronger. We need to make this central to our address of this serious problem.
“All agencies need to step up their response – including schools, Government Departments and the Gardai. Their efforts must be directed at helping children and parents to address this growing problem and to help prevent further tragedies.”
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Speaking at the Cork city launch of Sinn Féin's campaign for a 'Yes' vote in the Children's Referendum, Sinn Féin spokesperson on children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, said understandable mistrust of the current government and of the State's record should not prevent people from voting 'Yes'. He said:

"With less than a fortnight to go to the Children's Referendum on 10 November it is very important that people are fully informed and that as much discussion and information as possible is made available.

"The profile of the referendum has been relatively low in the media so far. Sinn Féin takes this constitutional amendment very seriously and that is why we are mobilising our party to support a 'Yes' vote.

"There is understandable mistrust of the current Government because of its social and economic policies. There is even greater mistrust of the State's record with regard to the care and protection of children. But that in no way should prevent people from voting 'Yes' for this amendment - on the contrary, it should encourage people to go out and support this important change to the Constitution. It is designed to help prevent neglect by the State which caused so much suffering to children the past.

"We firmly believe this amendment will strengthen the legal obligation on the State and its agencies to vindicate the rights of children and to protect them as far as possible.

"It will be the responsibility of Government to deliver on these rights and Sinn Féin will hold them to account. The education, health and welfare of children will have to be given a greater priority by this and future Governments.

"We urge people to use their vote on 10 November and to vote 'Yes' for children's rights." ENDS

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Speaking following today’s finance ministers’ press conference in Farmleigh, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD said that “no clarity was provided on the issue of the state’s legacy debt”. The Donegal South West TD also said that “effectively the matter has been parked until the second half of 2013”.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Today’s press conference featuring Minister Noonan and his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schäuble, shed no new light on the issue of legacy debt.

“No clarity was provided and no new information was provided. Effectively the matter has been parked until the second half of 2013 and possibly until after the German elections in September.

“The German Finance Minister was asked on a number of occasions to state whether he believed a deal on the legacy debt was possible or desirable. On each occasion he declined to comment.

“There is no evidence of any shift in the opposition of the German government on the matter of legacy debt. Nothing said at today’s press conference contradicts the clear statement against ESM funds being used to retrospectively recapitalise banks by Angela Merkel on Friday 19 October.”

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Sinn Fein spokesperson on environment, community & local government, Brian Stanley TD today condemned the issuing of summonses by Mayo County Council for non payment of the Household Charge.

Deputy Stanley said:

“'I condemn in the strongest possible terms the bully boy tactics of Mayo County Council. This course of action will prove to be a disaster for the government. It will create outrage amongst the public. We could easily see lone parents, those in receipt of welfare and pensioners all being dragged through the courts.

“Sinn Fein has consistently opposed this charge. We have from the onset said this charge is both unjust and unworkable. The whole sorry affair has been mishandled from the start. We had the ridiculous situation earlier this week with the Local Government Management Agency mistakenly sending out tens of thousands of letters demanding payment from households who had already paid. Many of these households may now end up in court.

“The Household Charge has the potential to criminalise hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

“Mayo County Council must withdraw the summons immediately. I urge other local authorities not to go down this road of court action. It will only lead to further confrontation.”

“In conclusion Deputy Stanley said: “Minister Hogan is ultimately responsible for this disaster. He must reverse the Household Charge and reimburse those who have paid.”

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Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn has said the closure of up to 80 garda stations throughout the state before the end of the year will put community safety at risk.

Deputy Doherty said attempts by the government to spin the closures as some sort of new policing model are an insult to the communities affected.

Speaking this morning Deputy Doherty said;

“No matter how much spin the government engages in on this issue the fact of the matter is that these closures are part of the government’s cutbacks agenda.

“Attempts to spin this as some sort of new policing model are an insult to the communities affected.

“The reality is that the closure of these stations puts the safety of communities at risk as criminals and anti-social elements receive a boost of confidence in the absence of nearby garda stations.

“The idea that these stations can be replaced by twice weekly clinics beggars belief. Crime does not wait for clinics. Policing is about instant reaction in many cases and this cannot be done remotely.

“Real community policing requires the presence of community gardaí based full time in their local districts. The value of getting to know the community cannot be overstated in terms of both crime prevention and crime solving.

“Both the Irish Farmers’ Association and the Garda Representatives Association, the representatives of rural Ireland and of the vast majority of Gardaí, have rejected these station closures as they now the value of community policing.

“Sinn Féin has put forward budget proposals year after year that have shown how the deficit can be closed without targeting frontline services.”

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Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien has said this week’s protest organised by the three main Irish teaching Unions, The Association of Secondary School Teachers (ASTI), The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) is a timely warning to the government that the education sector is unable to endure any further cuts.

The Cork North Central TD was speaking after highlighting his party’s position during a debate this week in the Dáil on the economy in advance of December’s budget.

He said;

“The large protest organised on Wednesday by the ASTI, TUI and INTO served to highlight the growing opposition to the succession of cuts that have impacted across the entire education sector in recent years.

“Even during the so called boom years of the Celtic Tiger the OECD’s annual Education at a Glance report suggested that in 2007 Ireland was spending 4.7% of its income on education compared to an OECD average for that year of 5.7%.

“Since then the situation has worsened greatly and as the General Secretary of the ASTI Pat King correctly stated, there have been four successive budgets that have devastated education and now there is nothing left to take. Many others believe that education in Ireland is nearing breaking point.

“Despite these warnings, the government still intends to press ahead and slash a further €77 million from the education budget which is being gutted at a time when we need to be investing in our schools and higher level institutions.

“During a recession, most countries recognise the importance of prioritising and ring-fencing funding for education in order to produce a highly skilled and flexible workforce that is so necessary for our future economic growth and prosperity. Yet the opposite is happening with the government continuing to implement the policies of its predecessors resulting in punitive cuts being directed at a range of frontline services.

“Added to this has been the unfair targeting of newly qualified teachers, with cuts to their pay and allowances discouraging many capable candidates from choosing teaching as a career option whilst many others will be forced to immigrate.

“The progressive measures announced by Minister Quinn, such as the reform of the Junior Cert Cycle and improving literacy and numeracy standards are essential for the future of the Irish school system but they can only be realised if the necessary resources are found to implement these changes.

“As we approach December’s Budget,” concluded Deputy O’Brien, “there is little left to take from the Education budget unless the minister looks at cutting the wages of high earners, or ending the state subsidies to private fee paying schools.”

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The consultation period on the future pattern of education delivery closes today.

Area Plans focusing on post-primary provision were published by the education and library boards in July for an extended period of consultation.

Welcoming this milestone in the process, Education Minister, John O’Dowd said:

“The publication of area plans for post-primary provision marked the first step on the road to transforming our education provision here. I remain committed to raising standards and delivering a high quality education for all the pupils in our schools.” Continuing the Minister said: “Viability Audits were carried out by the boards and these showed that too many of our schools are experiencing stress in some form. This clearly indicates the need for change and the need to restructure our education system to ensure it is fit for the 21st century.”

With the consultation period ending, boards will now analyse the responses and present a report on the issues raised during the consultation along with their refined and enhanced plans to the Education Minister for consideration.

The Minister aims to conclude his deliberations in the coming months.Emphasising that this is not the end of the process, the Minister said:

“I want to assure schools, parents and communities as a whole that this is not the end of the process but rather the beginning. The area plans will be reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain fit for purpose and reflect local circumstances”

In order to make a change to the schools estate, a development proposal must be published. Development proposals are subject to the statutory consultation process giving further opportunity for communities to have their say on the future of their education system.

In conclusion, the Minister said: “I have difficult decisions to make that will not always prove popular but if we are serious about raising educational standards and opening up new opportunities for our children, then I am prepared to make those decisions. When taking these decisions my central consideration will be to benefit the children of today and the generations to come. I would like to thank all those who took time to respond to this important consultation and I look forward to hearing your views.”

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Sinn Féin the only party in the North firmly opposed to austerity - McGuinness


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Senator Kathryn Reilly, Mary Lou McDOnald TD & Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD