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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Commenting on the HIQA Report on the tragic case of the late Savita Halappanavar, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the report demanded action on all its recommendations to ensure better care for pregnant women.

He said:

“This is the third report on the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, following the report of the coroner in the inquest in April and the HSE report in June. All have been most damning in their findings on the failure of care in the case of a young woman who lost her life in circumstances where she could well have been saved.

“HIQA has identified a number of missed opportunities which, had they been identified and acted upon, may have potentially changed the outcome of Savita’s care. These include lack of proper observation of her condition, lack of timely response to her deterioration and failure to alert an appropriately qualified clinician.

“It is extremely worrying that HIQA has found that the pathways of care and access to maternity services for ante-natal patients at the hospital were not always timely or appropriate.

“It is equally worrying that consultants on call on the labour ward were not present in the labour ward, but engaged in other clinical activities.

“The failures in record keeping are of major concern, including the evidence of retrospective entries of information two weeks after Savita’s death.

“It is vital that all the recommendations of this HIQA report, of the HSE report and of the coroner are fully implemented in order to ensure the safety of women in all our maternity hospitals.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD said today that his party stands over its proposal to maintain the 9% VAT rate for 2014 for the tourism & hospitality sector, included in its budget submission yesterday.

Doherty said that attacks by the Consensus for Cuts, in Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil, on the inclusion of the 9% rate and on the Sinn Féin budget in general is because Sinn Féin has exposed them and their austerity policies and has put forward a fairer way that is costed by the government.

He said:

“In the Sinn Féin alternative ‘A Fair Budget’ launched yesterday, we showed how next week’s budget could reduce the tax burden on ordinary families, protect public services and create jobs.

“One of the measures we included, along with a series of pro-business and pro-jobs proposals, was to extend the 9% VAT rate currently in place for the tourism and hospitality sector. This would be paid for through the mechanism that currently funds it – the pension levy.

“The levy and the 9% VAT rate have always been linked. Government Ministers know this but have mischievously attacked our budget for this measure but we stand over it and we challenge the government to follow through on their own statements of how successful the rate is, and keep it at 9% for 2014.

“When the government introduced this rate, it did so with great fanfare, telling us what a great idea it was and how many jobs it would create. Increasing this rate at a time of no economic growth and when businesses in this sector are struggling would be detrimental to any hopes of recovery.

“Since we launched our alternative budget yesterday all of the parties from the Consensus for Cuts, Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil have attacked and attempted to undermine the credibility of our proposals. This is because they are rattled. Sinn Féin has exposed them and their austerity policies for all to see.

“We have put forward a fairer way that is costed by the government and I am ready and willing to debate the measures contained in our document with any of these parties.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan responding to the death of a man in a fire in Tempo, Co Fermanagh today said:

“This is a deeply tragic event and my thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of the deceased victim, who was very well known in the local area.

“The whole community is shocked by this incident and it will take some time for people to come to terms with the news that a man has lost his life.”

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has voiced her disappointment after a vote calling for Environmental Impact Assessments to be applied to all planning involving Fracking failed to receive the necessary support.

Ms Anderson warned:

“If you value the environment be careful who you vote for in next year’s EU elections.

“In the EU Parliament in Strasbourg today I voted in favour of Environmental Impact Assessments being extended to the exploration and extraction of shale gas and was disappointed that it did not get sufficient support in the Parliament to be carried.

“This was despite the fact that over 100 local governments across Europe including in France and countries around the world like South Africa, Canada and Australia have a ban or moratorium on Fracking. There are well documented concerns that greed and the unscrupulous pursuit of profit is destroying the Environment around us.

“If we continue to ignore the damage we are doing to the environment through processes such as Fracking it won’t be too long before the Fields of Ireland go from 40 shades of Green to 50 shades of Grey.

“Fracking involves drilling at a depth below ground water level which can cause contamination to drinking water supplies as well as despoiling the countryside. There are serious concerns about the potential damage to cropland affected by contaminated ground water and to public health from polluted drinking water.

“While I believe that we should always apply the precautionary Principles when faced with evidence such as the seismic tremors caused by shale gas exploration in the North West of England, it would seem that too many MEP’s are influenced in their voting by lobbyists on behalf of multi-national exploration companies.

“It was precisely because of this cosy relationship between MEPs and lobbyists that one of the first issues I tackled on taking my place in the EU Parliament was to campaign to have the rules and regulations regarding lobbying reformed to ensure that members would act in the best interests of their constituents and not of large conglomerates.

"I will continue this campaign but I would caution the electorate to be careful who you vote for if you want to protect the environment for your children and grandchildren.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on housing and transport, Dessie Ellis TD, has called on the government to clarify its position on how it will progress with a levy to pay for Pyrite related repair work. He made his comments following a reply by the Taoiseach on the issue which raised doubts about the publication of the long awaited Pyrite Levy Bill but offered not other proposals of how the levy would be put in place.

Deputy Ellis said;

"The families affected by pyrite have been waiting a long time for this bill and the levy. They waited a long time for anything to be done to help them and thought that the setup of the Pyrite Resolution Board was the beginning of the end of their struggle but this delay does not help matters.

“I first raised the issue of Pyrite with the Minister for Environment 2 years ago this month. In September of this year I was told that the Pyrite Levy Bill would be dealt with before Christmas and that a report was to before the Cabinet. This week Enda Kenny has said he does not believe the Levy Bill is the proper way to deal with the issue.

“The people who are dealing with Pyrite tearing their homes apart deserve to know what the problems are that Enda Kenny is referring to and what he proposes to do to solve the issue. Right now, with such a lack of clarity, this seems like another blow to a group of people who have already been through a lot and fought for everything they have got so far."

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Commenting on a report by a local media outlet on the extent of medical card fraud in the North, Sinn Féin MLA and Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, Maeve McLaughlin said that sensationalist reporting of this type is unhelpful.


Maeve McLaughlin said:


“While we need to ensure that those accessing health services are in receipt of valid medical cards, painting the worst case scenario, presenting it as fact and labelling a whole section of our community as fraudsters is unhelpful.


“Even the author of the article acknowledged that the discrepancy could be explained due to other factors and therefore not included in Census figures – including death, emigration, students studying outside of the jurisdiction etc, but not being removed from the medical register. They also admit that the Department do not have Official figures and therefore use speculation by anonymous sources to justify their conclusions.


“The fact that the figures used indicate higher numbers in border counties could just as easily be explained by the higher experience of unemployment resulting in greater emigration and students from these areas who don’t live at home.


“Rather than stigmatising particular areas and sections of our community through sensationalist speculation we should concentrate on removing barriers to freedom of movement which create the conditions for abuse of the system happening at whatever level it actually exists.


“We need to move towards harmonisation of healthcare across the island where healthcare would be free at the point of delivery North and South. Removing duplication of services and pro-actively planning joint health provision with fairness, equality and access as a core principle could resolve many of these issues,”

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the refusal of Minister Reilly to ensure that all children with cancer get medical cards as most cruel, illogical and medically highly questionable.

Deputy Ó Caoláin was speaking in the Dáil this evening on a private members motion on discretionary medical cards.

During the course of the speech Deputy Ó Caoláin said successive Health Ministers including Mícheál Martin failed to address the recurring junior hospital doctors’ crisis, resulting in the industrial action taking place at hospitals across the state today.

The following is the full transcript of his speech:

Private Members Business 8/10/13 - Medical Cards
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson

It is hard to believe that this Government has actually promised in its Programme to provide free GP care for all. Its actions have all been in the opposite direction – it has increased the cost of primary care for people on medical cards by increasing prescription fees and for non-medical card holders by raising the drug payment scheme threshold. And, as this motion points out, it has reduced the number of discretionary medical cards issued.

The Government repeatedly points out that the overall number of medical cards, issued on the basis of income, has increased. That is correct but that is not an indicator of this Government’s commitment to primary care: it is, rather, an indicator of the dismal economic failure of this and the previous Government in driving masses of people down to the low levels of income which qualify for a full medical card or a GP visit-only card.

I have repeatedly raised the issue of medical card restrictions. I have done so  Health Minister James Reilly, and with junior Ministers Alex White and Kathleen Lynch, both in Dáil chamber and in Committee. I have also met and lobbied the central medical card administration in Finglas.

It speaks volumes of the lack of real planning and real substance in this Government’s plans for universal healthcare based on the private insurance model that they fell at the very first hurdle with regard to GP care. The proposal to begin the roll-out of free GP care for all with people in the Long-Term Illness Scheme has been abandoned. Why was it proposed to proceed in that way in the first place? Why was false hope given to people on this Scheme?

Let us be very clear. Sinn Féin has for long advocated GP care free at the point of delivery for all, funded by fair and reformed general taxation, the funding basis for the truly reformed universal health service that we advocate. We have long advocated also commencing free GP care with children. It seems now that the Government may be considering extending free GP care to children under 5. We have included that proposal in our alternative budget proposals published today and we hope that the Government does indeed proceed in that way, as a first step.

They are more than welcome to use any – and preferably all - of our proposals, rather than continuing with an austerity strategy that is shredding the health service, as well as other public services.

The specific focus of this motion is the discretionary medical card. We asked the Minister for Health about this matter recently. We urged him to ensure that all children diagnosed with cancer are granted, or allowed to retain, medical cards.

This matter arose because it was reported to us and, I am sure, to other Deputies, that whereas previously the granting of discretionary medical cards to children with cancer had been virtually automatic, in recent times some parents were experiencing refusal or delay. This was contrary to previous experience and to legitimate expectation.

Health Minister James Reilly, questioned on this issue by me at the Dáil Health Committee last July admitted that discretionary cards are no longer being granted to cancer patients in the same way as previously. I pointed to the irony that this Government is promising to extend free GP care to all while at the same time cutting medical cards for some of those who need them most.

Medical card assessments need to be carried out with appropriate discretion and compassion and not simply on the basis of the very low income threshold. This is clearly a requirement where applicants have life-limiting conditions, including cancer.

The HSE has claimed that there has been no change in criteria for discretionary medical cards but has also admitted that the number of people on discretionary medical cards has indeed decreased, as the figures cited in the motion demonstrate.

It does not take much imagination to see the great distress all this causes to already traumatised parents of children with cancer.

That distress for parents would be compounded by a reading of the Minister’s reply to our recent Dáil question urging him to ensure that all children with cancer get medical cards. He pointed out that other than on the grounds of income and “undue hardship” there is no provision for the automatic granting of discretionary medical cards to children with cancer – unless they are terminally ill.

That is a most cruel position. It is also illogical and medically highly questionable. In very many cases no-one can tell whether a cancer will prove terminal or not; it depends on a number of critical factors, including how the patient responds to treatment. And what parent wants to provide medical evidence that their child’s cancer is terminal in order to qualify for a discretionary medical card that is valid for six months?

This only goes to show the inequities and, indeed in some cases, the cruelties, that arise when the principle of universal care on the basis of medical need and medical need alone is not adhered to.

The reality is that Minister Reilly, like Minister Harney before him, is shredding our public health services with his regime of cuts and patients are suffering as a result.

A Budget over-run on health spending is predicted again this year. That is no surprise. We have had successive years of health cutbacks since 2007 with our public health system unable to cope.

Cuts of €781 million in Health were imposed by Minister Reilly for 2013.  

When Fine Gael & Labour cut over €750 million out of Health for 2012, on top of the €1 billion cut in 2011, we said it was unsustainable and would cause huge damage to the health services.

They then cut a further €130 million in August 2012.  And at the end of 2012 Minister Reilly had to ask the Dáil for an additional €360 million supplementary estimate to prevent services collapsing before the end of the year. That is no way to fund and run our public health services.

As we made clear at our Alternative Budget launch today we would discontinue the futile austerity policy. We would address the deficit by redistributing the burden away from those on low and middle incomes and taking a greater contribution from the highest earners and from wealth.

This is the only approach that can prevent further cuts to health and other public services.

Look at what has happened to health over the summer.

In July we saw further restrictions on discretionary medical cards, the focus of this motion.  

We found out during the summer that hundreds of young people with severe disabilities who have finished school are to be denied the day services they need due to Coalition Government cutbacks. Cutting the allocation from almost €10 million in 2012 to €4 million in 2013 can only be described as callous in the extreme.

We had Minister Kathleen Lynch signalling that the Government intends to bring in means testing for home care and other services for older people and people with disabilities. This has been denied subsequently but in the language of the reply to me from the Minister there is wriggle room for means testing to be sneaked in by the back door.

We had the cuts to services for people with disabilities at Stewart’s Hospital in Palmerstown.

We had the decision to close the 22-bed mental health unit at St. Brigid’s, Ballinasloe.

We have had the cuts to services provided by St. Michael’s House, one of the largest providers of services to people with disabilities – over 2,000 service users.

In a Dáil reply to me Minister Reilly has stated that in 2012, 121 HSE executives earned in excess of €100,000 and between them, total remuneration, including allowances and arrears, amounted to €14.6m. He said that a high-level analysis of annualised payroll data from May 2013 indicates that at that time, the number of executives on annual remuneration in excess of €100,000 has risen to 129.

This is scandalous, particularly in light of the cuts imposed on health services, the impact of which are having a devastating effect on the lives of many thousands of vulnerable citizens on a daily basis. Frontline services, acute and community care, medical cards, disability and mental health services have all been cut while those at the very top of the HSE are rewarded time and again.

Minister Reilly has failed to deliver the level of savings possible from the State’s drugs bill. We estimate that an additional saving of over €300 million in 2014 is achievable.

The Minister and his predecessors back to Mícheál Martin have failed to address the recurring junior hospital doctors’ crisis, resulting in the industrial action which we have seen taking place at hospitals across the State today. That action was inevitable given the length of time this failure to implement the Working Time Directive has gone on. It is long past time to implement the directive in full and bring in the root and branch reform of hospital medical staffing and training that is required.

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Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has raised his party’s serious concerns with the Taoiseach about the findings of inspection reports on direct provision centres used to house asylum seekers and their families across the state.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: “The findings in these reports have to be the final nail in the coffin of the shameful direct provision system.

“I have today appealed to the Taoiseach to address this scandal in the forthcoming, updated Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill and to bring this system to an end."

He continued:  “It has been said that the treatment of the families and particularly the children in these centres is today’s version of the neglect previous generations suffered in institutions such as the Magdalene Laundries. How long can we ignore a system that leaves a family of six sleeping in a single room, emergency exits blocked and breaches in child protection as outlined in these inspection reports?

“How can we leave hundreds of families living in these centres for years on end with no right to work and with their dignity taken away? The Children’s Ombudsman, Emily Logan and the former Ombudsman, Emily O’ Reilly have spoken out against this system. It is simply wrong and shameful. It is now time for the government to act.”

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Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast Paul Maskey has welcomed the announcement that outline planning permission has been granted for a development containing housing , educational and commercial facilities on the Glenmona site in West Belfast.

Speaking today Mr Maskey said:

“This is a welcome decision. It has progressed to a stage that this scheme is now realisable.

“Work has been continuing on this project for many years now and consultation has happened involving myself, local community organisations and residents of the area.

“As a mixed development of over 34 hectares of land it will go some way to addressing the housing need within the west of the city while providing opportunities for education, job creation and tourism in terms of commercial properties, businesses, a hotel and an educational campus being included.

“This will help create many jobs in the construction stage but more importantly sustaining jobs after completion.

“We are now at a stage where I believe that further consultation is needed to ensure this becomes a first class site sensitively dealing with the long term development of this area and the community as a whole.

“We must, before moving to the next stage, ensure that the proper infrastructure such as road networks, sewage, transport and recreational areas are all adequate not just for this development but to compliment and enhance what already exists in the wider vicinity.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, speaking in the Dáil today during Leaders Questions, called on the Taoiseach to instruct the Minister for Health to get directly involved in today’s strike by hospital junior doctors; to insist that binding sanctions are put in place to ensure that hospitals abide by the working directive; and to move speedily to ensuring that the government is fully compliant with the EU working directive.

Gerry Adams said: “The government is in breach of the EU’s Working Time Directive. It is not alone in this. Micheál Martin was in breach of this EU law when he was Minister for Health, as was Mary Harney.

“This directive stipulates that junior doctors must not work more than 48 hours per week on average. It also requires junior doctors to have a minimum of 11 hours rest between shifts.

"Instead some work as many as 90 hours in a week.

“This is not just bad for doctors. Today 12,000 outpatient appointments and 3,000 operations have been cancelled as a result of the strike by junior doctors. It puts patient safety at risk.

“This is not a new EU directive. It has been in place since 2000. In 2009 the European Union criticised the Fianna Fáil Government and in 2011 it criticised your government for your failure to implement this law. Micheál Martin as Minister for Health did nothing. Mary Harney as Minister for Health did nothing.

“No doctor wants to put patient’s well-being at risk. But the failure of the government to address this issue is doing this.

“The concern by junior doctors that some hospitals will not abide by the working directive and that the government is not to be trusted on this issue is understandable The Minister for Health has a track record of breaking government commitments.

“Minister Reilly promised to abolish prescription charges for medical card holders when in opposition only to increase them when in office.

“He has failed to deliver the Programme for Government commitments on free GP care for people on the long term illness scheme or to reduce hospital waiting lists.

“There is an onus on the government to intervene and ensure that junior doctors work safe hours and that patient’s get the treatment they deserve.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has welcomed the Assembly’s backing for the Royal Mail to remain in public ownership.

The Armagh MLA was speaking after the Assembly passed the motion calling on the British government to abandon its proposals to privatise the Royal Mail.

Cathal Boylan said:

“If the privatisation of the Royal Mail service gets the go ahead then there will be a reduced service and job loses.

“Private firms will cherry-pick those areas where they can make a profit leaving other areas, specifically rural, abandoned and under-serviced.

“It will have a negative impact on employees, the services provided and will inevitably lead to branch closures, particularly in rural communities.

“This move by the British government is not about improving the service but hoping to fill a gap in the British Treasurery finances, by selling off this vital public asset.”

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Commenting on concerns made public today by the Chairperson of the Bloody Sunday Trust, Conal McFeeley, Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney (Foyle) has said that an undue delay by Tourist Minister, Arlene Foster in signing off on a funding application by Museum of Free Derry is jeopardising funding from other sources.

Raymond McCartney who is a member of the Bloody Sunday Trust said:


“This application has been with the Minister for final approval now for almost nine months. There has been no indication from NI Tourist Board (NITB) or anyone else that any criteria have not been met. In fact NITB informed my colleague Maeve McLaughlin MLA on the 26th February that the application was with the Minister awaiting only her signature. At no time did it indicate that further information was required. So what’s the delay?


“The Minister is aware of the implications that undue delay could have on other match funding applications. I would therefore urge the Minister to sign-off on this application without further delay or inform the Bloody Sunday Trust immediately of the nature of any further information required.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Maeve Mc Laughlin (Foyle) has called for increased co-operation between Invest NI (INI) and the IDA to attract inward investment to the Border Corridor counties.

Maeve McLaughlin said:


"DETI Minister, Arlene Foster, in response to a written question which I submitted on the potential savings to be made through an all-island approach to economic development and job creation highlighted the success of co-operation between INI and Enterprise Ireland in areas such as innovation and the potential for cross sectoral engagement in areas such as skills development, construction and agri-food. She also pointed to the success of InterTradeIreland with 25,000 SMEs accessing its information and advice services and 5000 businesses participating in all-Ireland programmes.


"This participation in InterTradeIreland programmes has resulted in an estimated £650 million of trade and business development, generating and supporting over 3000 jobs.

"I welcome the Minister's acknowledgement of the positive results from these all-Ireland initiatives and would reiterate my call for increased co-operation between INI and the IDA to attract much needed investment and job creation, particularly to areas of high deprivation along the Border Corridor.


"Given the size of the available travel to work employment pool and the higher than average unemployment levels in the border regions it makes sense for INI and the IDA to collaborate in efforts to attract investment to these areas.


"Such an initiative could prepare the groundwork for removal of all barriers to trade across the island and elimination of competition which is detrimental to efforts to reinvigorate the economy - North and South."

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Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin said if the Health Minister is serious about Transforming Your Care then he needs to invest more in Domiciliary Care.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and member of the Assembly’s Health Committee said:

“If the Minister is serious about the concept of reablement for our older citizens – staying at home and receiving care there - then there needs to be a review into the current level of investment in Domiciliary Care.

“The investment into Domiciliary Care needs to be adequate and how it is calculated for each area should be made public. Much has been said about the 15 minutes care packages but we need to know how these are decided and allocated for different areas.

“Consideration also needs to be given to the needs of both the older person to receive adequate care and the care worker to be able to deliver this service.

“The minister needs to take action so that a rapid strengthening of investment in Domiciliary Care is delivered.”

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View Sinn Féín's Alternative Budget 2014 in PDF Booklet format here.

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Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has welcomed the Assembly’s backing for a motion supporting reform of the US immigration system and the introduction of a pathway to citizenship for the 'undocumented' Irish in the USA.

The Speaker of the Assembly William Hay will now write to the Speaker of US House of Representatives John Boehner outlining the North’s support for immigration reform following the successful Sinn Féin motion.

The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA said:

“It is estimated that at least 70,000 Irish citizens are currently 'undocumented' in the USA but play a very important role in the economic, political, social and cultural success of that country.

"The failure of politicians in the USA to deal with this issue has affected tens of thousands of Irish emigrants, who for a variety of reasons do not hold legal residency status.

"As a result many people have been unable to return to Ireland for decades due to the fear of not being allowed back into the USA where they have now built their lives.

"There are key decisions due to be taken soon on the future of undocumented immigrants in the USA that will have profound implications for the tens of thousands of Irish living and working in the US who have no legal status.

“I am delighted that the Assembly unanimously endorsed this motion and urge all of those Congress members who have been hugely supportive of the Irish Peace Process, to work together to facilitate the passage of this important piece of legislation.”

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Speaking in Strasbourg this morning on the proposed Tobacco Products Directive Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has called for stringent regulations to combat the increasing death toll and health damage caused by these products.

Welcoming the opportunity to address the issue Martina Anderson said:


“Although the large tobacco companies and their well-resourced lobbyists can lay claim to many victories in their delaying tactics over the course of this directive we are finally at the stage of voting on this crucial legislation which could help protect generations of young people.


“It is obvious that the profit driven aims of the tobacco industry can never be reconciled with those of public health.
“It is estimated that the measures proposed by this directive would reduce after 5 years the number of people smoking by 2.4 million. It would result in a net increase of 2,243 jobs created due to increases disposable income spent on other goods and services. It would have a beneficial impact on the 20% most deprived areas in our constituencies where the rate of smoking-related deaths are double that of more affluent areas.


“Without doubt the amount of lobbying by tobacco companies reached unprecedented levels – despite some of the "goodies" sent to me by the industry to try and influence my vote, I will vote to save lives and to deliver for those constituents of mine who are anxious to see new tobacco control measures implemented – not in the vested interests of the Tobacco Industry.


“In Europe each year, the total deaths caused by road accidents, drugs, murder, suicide and accidents at work - do not come up to a fifth of those caused by tobacco. 700,000 of our constituents die every year as a result of tobacco-related diseases.


“That's 700,000 - mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and children - some of them relatives, yet, there are MEPS who still find it difficult to vote in favour of public health measures to combat these avoidable and unnecessary deaths.


“This legislation would provide necessary and effective measures to drastically reduce the number of deaths and relieve the pressures on public health resources.


“Picture and text health warnings, banning characterizing flavours like chocolate, bubble-gum and vanilla and a ban on slims will prevent such attractive gimmicks being used by the tobacco industry to get children and young people addicted to their deadly product.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann today announced a £1.6 million investment to enhance play and leisure opportunities for children and young people.

Speaking at an event organised by Playboard at the Ramada Hotel this morning the West Belfast MLA said:

“We want to achieve a much greater awareness of the value of play to emphasise that play and leisure is a vital ingredient in the development of children and through their transition to adulthood.

“This new funding will support a number of key activities, which will provide greater local access to play, and support for play at a community level.

“It is important that these activities are designed and delivered by local people and involve the views of the children themselves.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has today launched his party’s alternative budget.  Deputy Doherty said Sinn Féin’s budget would lower the tax burden on ordinary families, protect public services and invest in jobs.  He said ordinary people would be better off under Sinn Féin.

Deputy Doherty said; “The Sinn Fein budget will reduce the tax burden on ordinary families. It will protect public services and invest in jobs.

“We have identified a series of taxation and savings measures, fully costed by government departments, to reduce the deficit and pay for new spending measures.

“These include giving 1.8 million homeowners a tax rebate by abolishing the property tax, restoring the respite grant for 86,000 carers, taking 296,000 low income workers out of the USC, providing free school meals to five hundred more schools and halving the cost of school books, giving every child under five free GP care, extending the fuel allowance by three weeks, protecting the vulnerable – no more cuts to disability payments, no more cuts to Child Benefit, no more cuts to social welfare and introducing a stimulus to create thousands of jobs.

“These proposals are all fully costed by the government’s budgetary costing unit.

“The document also sets out proactive measures to assist job creation, SMEs, the agriculture sector, and people in mortgage distress. It deals with corporation tax and natural resources and also stresses our commitment to equality budgeting.

“Our adjustment is just under €2.5billion. We believe that families need to be given a break.  Austerity is not working.  The government needs to take its foot off the necks of the people.  With this document we show how people are better off under Sinn Féin.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said his party’s budget submission, launched today, shows that there is a fair way to reduce the deficit.

Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget will reduce tax on families, protect public services and invest in jobs.

Deputy Adams said;

“Austerity isn’t working.  The government’s priority in this budget should be to protect citizens rather than meeting European diktats.

 “Some 415,000 people are on the live register while 300,000 emigrated in the last four years.

“There are 49,000 people waiting for hospital treatments.  

“One in ten children are living in consistent poverty with 47% of households living on less than €100 a month after bills.

“There are 90,000 households languishing on social housing lists while 180,000 households are in mortgage distress.

“This will be the seventh austerity budget from Fianna Fáil and this government which together will have taken €30 billion out of the economy.

“People need a break.  Sinn Féin’s alternative budget reduces the tax burden on ordinary families, protects public services and invests in jobs.

“Our proposal identifies measures that will allow for a €2.453 million adjustment.

“It sets out measures to assist job creation; small and medium businesses, the agriculture sector and people in mortgage distress and it emphasis Sinn Féin’s commitment to equality budgeting.

“The government is now claiming that its adjustment will be €2.5 billion. The difference between our proposals and theirs is that Sinn Féin’s alternative achieves this is a fair and equitable way.

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