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No alternative to dialogue and agreement , says McGuinness in major statement on 20th anniversary of IRA cessation

Delivering a keynote address in Derry on Sunday morning on the 20th anniversary of the IRA announcing “a complete cessation of military operations”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said there is a real threat to the political institutions in the North from political stagnation and the absence of progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in a keynote statement today has warned that the “political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.”


Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



Latest Statements

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Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin Community Spokesperson Deputy Brian Stanley called upon the government to ensure that funding is made available to the community and voluntary sector.

The Laois-Offaly TD said;

“The Government has proposed to introduce legislation that will affect how the community sector is funded through the Dormant Accounts Fund.

“At the end of 2010 there was in the region of €158 million in the Dormant Accounts Fund, of which €62 million was by its own reckoning available for disbursement. The fund is also bringing in an additional €40-€45 million per year from dormant accounts. We have long said that monies could be allocated in multi-annual grants to give projects some security and the ability to plan ahead.

“However the community sector has been targeted disproportionately by government cuts since the commencement of the economic downturn. In 2009, when public expenditure actually increased by 6%, the then Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht had its budget cut by 8%. In 2010 the Department’s budget cut of 10% was again disproportionate considering the overall adjustment.

Community sector groups are now afraid to take a critical stance in relation to government positions because they will be penalised with withdrawals of funding. The Community Workers Co-operative is a case in point. They criticised the Local and Community Development Programme and then lost 100% of their funding. Without reinstatement of funding the Community Workers Co-operative is facing closure at the beginning of July with the loss of the CWC Staff team. This is a scandal.

“If the Government is not going to fund public services themselves then it must fund the community and voluntary sector, and not use organisation’s dependency on central Government funding to gag them with.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald TD has described Fine Gael and Labour’s decision to put Fianna Fáil at the helm of the Public Accounts Committee as ‘truly astonishing’.

Deputy McDonald, who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee, proposed Senator Shane Ross to Chair the Committee.

Speaking after the Committee’s first meeting this afternoon Deputy McDonald said:

“It is truly astonishing that after years of public chest beating against the cronyism and corruption surrounding the Fianna Fáil party the Government parties have now put the very same Fianna Fáil at the helm of the Public Accounts Committee.

“It is my strong view that as Fianna Fáil have overseen calamity in the economy and are responsible for gross misconduct of the public purse it is deeply inappropriate for the party to chair a committee whose primary responsibly is to scrutinise the public accounts.” ENDS

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Speaking today in response to reports that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will seek support from the EU and ECB to impose losses on senior un-guaranteed and unsecured bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, Sinn Fein Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said:

“Minister Noonan’s comments today are a welcome first step in addressing the massive toxic banking debt which has been imposed on the Irish taxpayer.

“Only last week in the Dail I called on the Minister to take this course of action as a first step in addressing the scale of the debt burden bearing down on the Irish people.

“However, it is not enough for Minister Noonan to seek permission from the EU and ECB to take this course of action. He should make it clear that while he would prefer their support, his intention is to impose losses on these un-guaranteed and unsecured bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.

“The next step that Minister Noonan must take is to impose losses on the remaining €13 billion of un-guaranteed unsecured senior bonds held by Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, EBS and Irish Life and Permanent.

“These senior bonds were never guaranteed by the Irish state. There is simply no justification for taxpayers’ money being used to pay these toxic debts. The state has already committed €70 billion of taxpayers’ money to bail out the banks.

“At a time when ordinary people are being forced to shoulder the burden of decisions taken by reckless politicians and bankers, there is neither an economic nor an ethical reason why Irish taxpayers’ money should be used to pay these bondholders.” ENDS

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Speaking from Leinster House today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Pádraig MacLochlainn called for the release of Basque Nationalist leader Arnaldo Otegi saying his continued imprisonment is a detrimental obstacle to peace-building in the Basque country.

Deputy MacLochlainn said:

“Arnaldo Otegi’s continued imprisonment is doing nothing to move the Basque political process forward. It is, rather, a detrimental obstacle to the building of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the region.

“Mr Otegi, who was arrested and imprisoned in October 2009, is a widely respected political figure with a clear and significant political mandate as leader of the Basque political party Sortu; a party which is committed exclusively to political and democratic means. Sortu stood in the recent elections in the Basque Country and received 20% of the vote, less than a percentage point behind PNV. It also had 123 Mayors elected.

“Arnaldo Otegi is currently in prison in the Basque Country and is due to go on trial in late June or early July. His continued imprisonment only makes the process of building a peace process in the Basque Country more difficult.

“I am calling on the Spanish Government to immediately release Mr. Otegi and to lift the ban on the Sortu political party. Mr Otegi’s release must be part of a permanent resolution to the Basque conflict.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Padraig MacLochlainn TD today met with Ernesto Sentí Darias, the Cuban Director of European Affairs at the Department of Foreign Relations.

The meeting was part of an effort by the Cuban administration to develop relations with EU member states and to set up an Oireachtas Friends of Cuba group.

Speaking at the meeting in Leinster House today Deputy MacLochlainn said:

“The key objectives for the group should be to lobby for a move away from the common EU position on Cuba, to develop full trade relations between the EU and Cuba and to lobby for an end to the US Embargo.”

Speaking after the meeting he said:

“I look forward to working with the new group in the Oireachtas and hope that we can play a constructive role in bringing about normalised relations between the people of Cuba and the rest of the world.

“This is the key issue in bringing about an end to the extreme hardships facing the Cuban people.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Sean Lynch has welcomed the announcement by Translink to freeze it fares at last year’s prices.

Mr Lynch stated,

“It is important in an effort to encourage more people on to public transport that we have an affordable pricing structure so I welcome this news today from Translink to freeze it fare structure.

“Public transport needs to be more affordable and accessible if we are to encourage people to give up on private transport which would help alleviate road congestion and help the environment.

“With the rising cost of fuel affordable public transport is essential but we also need the buses and trains running on routes and times that suit the general public.

“So while holding the pricing structure is a helpful move I would also ask Translink to look at routes and timetables that would also get more people to use the bus and train system across the North.

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The Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton today admitted that fuel allowance will be eliminated for most 65 to 67 year olds as a result of the increase in the pension age after being questioned on the matter by Sinn Féin Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh today.

During priority questions in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister if she was aware that by pushing the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill through the house this week she will be excluding 65 year olds from the fuel allowance in 2014 and subsequently 66 an 67 year olds also. He asked whether any account had been taken of the situation these older people will find themselves in from 2014.

Speaking afterwards he said: “The Minister’s response suggests that consideration is only being given to insulation and retrofitting of houses to make them more energy efficient which obviously has to happen regardless of the changes in pension age.

“However she failed to identify any measure to financially compensate older people for the absence of the fuel allowance which they will badly need in order to pay for home heating fuel.

“If we have a repeat of the weather of last winter in 2014 I have no doubt that we will see avoidable deaths occurring as a result of this government decision.” ENDS

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Commenting on the confirmation that the HSE intends to proceed with the threatened closure of 24-hour A&E services at St. Colmcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:

“The closure of 24-hour A&E at St. Colmcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown will continue the Fianna Fáil legacy of cuts to hospital services.

“The loss of this service will leave another large swathe of the country without proper access to 24-hour A&E cover. People in Co. Wicklow, especially, will be badly hit by this further cutback to our already over-stretched public hospital services.

“Health Minister James Reilly has claimed to represent change in our health system and has ordered a review of all hospital services. Yet he is presiding over continuing cuts such as this. He should intervene to prevent this closure and similar cuts threatened at other hospitals across the State.”

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Responding to the publication of the first progress report of the Croke Park Agreement Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD criticised Minister Howlin for pursuing the same cut and run policy as Fianna Fáil and the Green’s.

Deputy McDonald said:

“The real measure of successful reform within the public sector will be the experience of citizens seeking and accessing services.

“The moratorium on recruitment in the public sector is having a devastating effect on the delivery front line services.

“Approximately 1,600 public hospital beds are still closed; the HSE intends to privatise Home Help services and to reduce home help hours. Children continue to wait up to 18 months for simple but critically important hospital procedures such as an endoscopy.

“Teaching supports for children in the travelling community are to be stopped and children who have been independently accessed as having a disability will suffer a 10% cut to their teaching supports. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Sinn Féin is committed to efficient, effective and economic delivery of public services but this is not what Fine Gael and the Labour party are delivering.

“Minister Howlin continues to simply give a passing reference to the modernisation agenda contained within the Croke Park Agreement and his own departmental brief.

“Real reform and significant long term cost savings will come from full integration of services, new and improved technologies, standardisation of systems and services and significant cuts to senior management pay across the public service and semi-states – much more significant than the Government is currently proposing.

“If Minister Howlin continues to focus on job losses instead of embracing the real reform agenda all he will deliver during his tenure is a third world public service and this legacy will have a devastating effect on the State’s economic and social future.” ENDS

Videos

Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


Photos

Gerry Adams at Hungerstrike rally in Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh