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Michelle O’Neill has been named the new leader of Sinn Féin in the North.

Please watch and share this exclusive interview below which tells a bit of her life story as a mother of two from a small village in County Tyrone, her work in politics and in the Executive, standing up for equality, respect and integrity in government and continuing the work that Martin McGuinness has done stretching himself for peace and reconciliation.

You can view a biography of Michelle O’Neill here


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Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD this morning described the final lump sum payment and pension pot for departing Department of An Taoiseach Secretary General Dermot McCarthy as completely inappropriate and scandalously high.

Speaking ahead of today’s Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis Clár launch Deputy McDonald said:

“Secretary General Dermot McCarthy’s parting pay off from the Department of the Taoiseach is yet another example of the inappropriate pay levels enjoyed by the highest ranking civil servants. This Government like Fianna Fáil before them continues to support scandalously high salaries for senior civil and public servants.

“Contrast Dermot McCarthy’s sky high 713,000 euro retirement package to the on-going recruitment embargo on desperately needed special needs assistants, gardaí, social and healthcare workers and we can see exactly where this Government’s priorities lie.

“Since the economic crisis began Sinn Féin has called for all public and civil service pay to be capped at 100,000 euro per year. This generous salary of three times the average wage is an appropriate level of pay for any civil servant paid out of the public purse.” ENDS

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THE leader of the Sinn Féin group on Dublin City Council, Councillor Larry O’Toole, has called for the implementation by Council management of the decision of the City Council on Monday night to oppose the privatisation of the capital’s household bin collection service.
 
At its monthly meeting last night (Monday 5th September), Dublin City Council adopted a Sinn Féin motion which said that the Council “in fulfilment of our public service responsibility to the citizens of Dublin and of our duty as an employer to our workforce, will retain as a council function the waste collection service and will oppose its privatisation”

Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O’Toole said:

“The democratically-elected representatives of the people of Dublin have now voted against the privatisation of the household refuse collection service.

“Council management should implement this decision.

“This is a key Council service and if it is ended householders will have to pay private providers. There will be no protection for those currently holding waivers and many householders will face increased costs.

“Workers in these private firms have poorer pay and working conditions than Council staff currently employed to deliver this service.

“There is a special responsibility on the Labour Party members of the Council to see that this Council decision is implemented. Indeed, some of their members voted for the Sinn Féin motion. Labour is in Government and so can help ensure both at Council and at Government level that this democratic decision is carried out.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, responding to the latest report on debt projections from the Economic and Social Research Institute, has criticised the body for consistently failing to acknowledge the need for a stimulus for the Irish economy.

Doherty said the body and the government need to keep their hands off the NPRF and that their ’jobless recovery' was a contradiction in terms.

Doherty said:

“The ESRI believes that pure calculations on paper can bring the Irish economy to recovery. It has proved over the last week of pronouncements that its function is to cheer-lead government and EU/IMF policy, rather than provide objective analysis. In its latest submission, it appears to advocate writing down government debt by using virtually all of the state's liquid assets, and I am concerned that that includes the remaining NPRF reserves, as implied in point 4 of their key assumptions.

“Sinn Féin believes a portion of those assets should be used for a jobs package that would help to stimulate the economy to recovery. The ESRI believes, along with the government and the EU/IMF that we can cut our way to recovery. They do not mention debt reduction via growing the labour force and growing the economy. In failing to do so they are failing the 'social' aspect of their own name.

“There can be no jobless recovery. If we pay off all our debts as the ESRI claims we can, and do not stimulate enterprise, we will be left in 2014 with an unemployment legacy which will continue the cycle of falling tax revenues and a huge social welfare burden. To ignore this fact is poor economics and shows extremely bad social responsibility.

“I challenge the ESRI to examine the prospect of stimulus and suggest funding options for this route, particularly in light of their recent submission which appears to suggest wiping out any remaining state assets. The NPRF remaining reserves will be key to funding this stimulus in my mind. No more of this fund should be wasted on either banks or repaying state debt caused by banks.”

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Sinn Féin’s education spokesperson, Deputy Seán Crowe, has criticised third level institutions and landlords of purpose-built accommodation for charging students three months' rent in addition to a deposit at the start of the first college term.

Deputy Crowe was speaking after being contacted by a number of irate parents who are struggling to meet an initial payment of €2,500 or more at the start of the first college term, to cover their children’s rent and deposit fees.

Deputy Crowe said: “In these difficult times more families are struggling to make ends meet. It is unfair that many third level institutions and landlords charge students three months’ rent to cover the first college term. This is on top of the deposit and is hard to justify, particularly at a time when college fees are rising.

“This excessive fee is putting a huge strain on many low and middle income earning families. It is an issue that education minister Rúairi Quinn must address.

“Additionally, many landlords refuse to return the deposits of student tenants. Recent research by the USI found that without any justification, 40% of students had their deposit withheld and over 60% have had over €200 unfairly taken off their deposit.

“The deposit paid to cover potential damage to student accommodation is usually over the top anyway. In respect of campus accommodation, college authorities have many other ways of dealing with vandalism, including expelling students if they are found to have behaved inappropriately.

“This excessive charge on students seeking rental accommodation must be brought to an end as it is creating yet another barrier to low and middle income families accessing to third level education.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has called on Ombudsman Al Hutchinson to resign without delay. The party’s Policing & Justice spokesperson was speaking after the release of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate report.



Mr Kelly said:



“This is the third critical report into the Ombudsman’s Office and it is an indictment of the leadership that Al Hutchinson has shown,” said the North Belfast MLA.

“Sinn Féin believe in the Ombudsman’s Office and that it is a crucial mechanism to make sure we have accountable policing. However with the independence of the office being yet again called into question the credibility of that office is at rock bottom.

“The buck stops with Al Hutchinson and for public confidence in the Ombudsman’s Office to be repaired, he needs to go and go now. Any delay in his resignation, as he seems to be proposing, will only cause more damage to the office and the publics’ confidence in it.

“Only his immediate resignation followed by the implementation of recommendations made by Nuala O’Loan in 2007 will suffice.” Críoch/end

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called for cuts to the public health services to be stopped after the latest Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) figures show that there are now 1,947 public hospital beds closed.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“These INMO figures are truly shocking and confirm the damage done to our public health services in recent years by savage cutbacks. These cuts were imposed by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government and are being continued by the Fine Gael/Labour Party Government.

“The direct result of the cuts, including the recruitment embargo, is nearly 2000 public beds closed and patients facing overcrowding, longer waiting lists and less safe hospitals. The cuts have also led to the worst August figures in five years for patients waiting on trolleys.

“New Health Minister James Reilly has not reopened a single hospital bed closed by his predecessors; in fact on his watch the closures have continued.

“There must be no more health cutbacks if we are to avoid complete melt-down in our public health services. A programme of bed re-opening should be commenced and the recruitment embargo lifted.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Tourism and Sport, Sandra McLellan, has congratulated today’s All-Ireland winning hurlers from Kilkenny and Galway.

Speaking after watching the two finals the Cork East TD said:

“I want to extend my congratulations to the victorious Kilkenny senior and Galway minor hurling teams on their success today.

“Kilkenny’s achievement is remarkable. To come back after last year’s defeat to win their thirty-third title in such an intense display is a fantastic result for Brian Cody and his team. Eight All-Ireland winners medals for Shefflin, Brennan, Hickey, and Cody himself as manager, speaks volumes about the quality of this Kilkenny team over the last decade and more.”

“Likewise for Mattie Murphy’s charges in Galway. The success of underage hurling under Mattie’s tutelage continues unabated.” ENDS

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LABOUR PARTY members of Dublin City Council have been urged by their Sinn Féin colleagues to join them on Monday in voting down a proposal to privatise the capital’s waste collection service.

The privatisation of the public service is being proposed by the City Manager but Sinn Féin and some other councillors are opposing the move.

Sinn Féin Council Group Leader Larry O’Toole said that once the waste service is privatised it’s almost certain there will be no way back into public control.

He said:

“If waste collection is privatised then people will be at the mercy of commercial companies whose priority is profit rather than a good service for the public.

“Bin charges will just rise and rise.”

Councillor O’Toole added:

“This is an issue of protecting public services and Labour councillors – indeed all the councillors – need to stand up at the Dublin City Council meeting on Monday and vote against privatisation.”

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Following questioning from Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD during today’s Oireachtas Finance Committee meeting with the Governor of the Central Bank, Patrick Honohan admitted that there were “opportunities missed” during the negotiation of the EU/IMF austerity deal because it was “done quickly”. He also defended his role in “wrong-footing” the then Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

Speaking after the meeting Deputy Doherty said:

“It was important to challenge Central Bank Governor Patrick Hononan today on his role during the EU/IMF negotiations last December. I specifically asked him if he regretted his decision to speak publicly on Irish radio when the Government was negotiating with the EU and IMF and whether his intervention had a negative impact on those negotiations.

“The Governor’s clarification today that there were ‘opportunities missed’ because the deal was ‘done quickly’ and that he ‘wrong-footed’ the then Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

“Sinn Féin remains convinced that there was a better way to handle the crisis in December 2010 than seeking support from the EU and IMF.

“At the time we were concerned that Governor Hononan’s public intervention was motivated by his membership of the European Central Bank rather than by his responsibilities to the Irish people.

“On hearing Governor Honohan today I am firmly of the view that this was the case. There is now a need for the Government to assert that his priority must always be to serve the Irish people first when conflicts of interest arise in his functions.” ENDS

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Speaking following exchanges with the governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan at the Oireachtas Finance Committee today Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said “more serious action is required to deal with mortgage distress than that proposed by the Central Bank governor.”

Deputy Doherty said

“Some of Patrick Honohan’s comments are a welcome step in the right direction. However I do not agree with his view that this issue should be left to the banks. Despite his calls for banks to do more and to act faster to assist those in mortgage distress, it is clear that this is not happening.

“It is Sinn Féin’s view that an independent Distressed Mortgage Resolution Board should be established, equipped with adequate resources and legal powers deal with mortgage distress on a case-by-case basis. This body would seek to reach agreement between borrowers and lenders.

“In the first instance the body should aim to assist the mortgage holders maintain their primary family residence. However for those families will do not wish to remain in the family home or where such an option would not be financially sustainable a range of other options must be available.

“Government policy in this area must be driven by a commitment to burden sharing by mortgage holders, mortgage lenders and inter-bank commercial lenders. Sinn Féin will be launching a detailed series of proposals next week. We believe that the government must act urgently to address the needs of the 100,000 families currently in mortgage distress and prevent thousands more falling into a similar situation.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady has called on Nelson McCausland to put the same effort into distributing unpaid benefit as he does into penalising the most deprived in our society.

Mr Brady stated,

“There is up to £350 million of unpaid benefits in the North and more needs to be done to ensure that people are getting their entitlement before we start to push individuals and families into severe debt by stopping their entire benefits.

“It would be more beneficial for the DHSS to become more efficient and ensure that people on benefit get their full entitlement and help those on benefit back to work through help and retraining.

“The stereotype of people living a life of luxury on benefits is untrue. More and more people are finding it impossible to live on benefits as the cost of living has risen drastically over the past few years and while I accept that there are a few who fiddle the system the vast majority of people on benefits do not wish to be there and would accept employment in the morning.

“Rather than penalise people on benefits it would be more prudent to give more opportunities to people on how they could subsidise their benefit while finding their way back into work.

“Mr McCausland needs to state whether he is purely on a cost cutting exercise or is he concerned about some of the most disadvantaged in our society getting proper benefit.

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Workers’ Rights Senator David Cullinane has today challenged the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation’s proposals to drive down wages of agency workers.

Senator Cullinane said, “The proposals of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation are another attempt to undermine the pay and conditions of workers.

“The National Implementation Body recommended that the Department of Finance and trade unions should engage on a new public service-wide deal that would conform with the EU directive on agency workers. This directive, to come into effect in December, states that agency workers should receive equal treatment to full-time staff.

“The minister claims that the derogation from this directive is in the interest of job creation and making the Irish economy more competitive. The truth is this government has failed miserably to stand over its commitment in May to create 100,000 jobs by 2015. In fact since the government's Jobs Initiative was launched unemployment increase by 30,000 with 980 jobs being lost per week. Minister Bruton is now attempting to shift the blame for this onto agency workers.

“The Minister would be better off taking initiatives to create real, sustainable jobs. Attacking agency workers, and driving down wages will further deflate an already flagging economy and have a negative effect on the retail and services sector. His actions will also create deep division within the work place as agency workers will be seen as under cutting permanent employees’ pay and conditions.

“In light of recent undermining of the Joint Labour Committees, today’s revelations will be a further embarrassment to the Minister’s coalition partners. Sinn Féin intends to raise our objections directly with the Minister and will be meeting with trade unions to see how we can work together to ensure the cabinet rejects these proposals.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on young people, Senator Kathryn Reilly, speaking today about the 88,000 people under the age of 25 on the live register, said the policies of the government are failing young people, their families and their communities.

Senator Reilly said:

“There are 88,000 people under the age of 25 on the live register. This is an outrage and does not even include the figures for youth emigration. Our educated and skilled young people are leaving in their droves. Families, communities and the country are losing a generation. These are the very people who, given the opportunity, would provide the foundation for economic growth.

“Since this government came to power youth unemployment has increased by 8.34%. The policies of the government are failing our young people, failing us all.

“It is an insult that high paid ministers talk about unemployment being a lifestyle choice, when the only choice facing our young people is the dole or the boat.

“Sinn Féin has advocated investment in our young people and the economy. We have put forward plans to invest in jobs, education and training.

“Unlike our young people this government has choices to make. It can continue with the failed policies of cutting public services and paying billions to failed speculators or it can invest in our young people and economy.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin has said that this term of the new Policing Board will be a defining period for the organisational transformation of the PSNI into a civic policing service.

Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane said:

“Relatives of the McGurks bar bombing attended the first public meeting of the Policing Board today. Legal representatives for the Loughinisland families were there also. What the PSNI must recognise, and Sinn Féin articulated at today’s meeting, is that this is not about policing the past. This is about policing in the present. The questions which have arisen about the PSNI handling of the Police Ombudsman reports into McGurks bar bombing and the Loughinisland massacre are current.

As a result of flawed Ombudsman Reports and the PSNI role in them, public confidence in the decision-making and policy-making of those at the top of the PSNI is being impacted adversely. The PSNI chief constable must recognise that, and co-operate with the Policing Board to rejuvenate public confidence in present policing structures.

Pat Sheehan said:

“This summer has seen a number of bad policing operations. The Policing Board established today that the PSNI fired 338 plastic bullets over the summer months. In addition there were a series of raids and arrests in nationalist areas carried out as part of intelligence-led operations. All of these were carried out in the full glare of publicity.

There was nothing intelligent about the way certain sections of the PSNI conducted themselves during the summer. There was nothing proportionate about the culture of policing which sees 338 plastic bullets fired in a society where there have been so many fatalities in the past, as a result of the use of such weapons by police officers. This contrasted sharply with the approach of the police in England to far more violent and sustained street disorder there.

Sinn Féin seeks to represent the rights and entitlements of all citizens. The vast majority want partnership with an effective community policing service. The PSNI cannot afford to alienate those who want to work with them. That was the message we gave to the PSNI Chief Constable at today’s meeting of the Policing Board.”

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Jonathan O’Brien, the Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson warned today of serious consequences if a lot of the gardaí elegible for retirement leave the force before next February to protect their pension rights.

Deputy O’Brien was commenting on the leaked internal garda report into the potential results of the retirements:

“The possible retirement of around 1,200 gardaí by next February would lead to a disastrous loss of capacity for the force. This problem is exacerbated by the government’s ban on garda recruitment as part of its deal with the EU/IMF.

“There would be a huge resourcing problem across An Garda Síochána: stations would be understaffed, some would have no permanent sergeant and specialist drugs, organised crime and fraud units would be set to lose experienced gardaí, with no replacements in sight.

“The Minister for Justice needs to offer solutions to this staffing problem; a problem, I can assure him, criminals will have no difficulty in exploiting.”

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Speaking today after the Dáil Finance Committee met the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said “the government has given up on the domestic economy”.

The Donegal South West TD accused the government of “foolishly putting all its eggs in the basket of export-led growth rather than investing in rebuilding the domestic economy.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“Both the ERSI and the government have announced that they are revising downwards their economic growth predictions for 2011 and 2012.

“Sinn Féin has consistently argued that the consensus for cuts being pursued by Fine Gael and Labour, and supported by Fianna Fáil, will delay social and economic recovery and is the reason hundreds of thousands of families are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

“Today the minister acknowledged that the government would have to revise downwards its growth projections for 2012. This is the second time it has been forced to do this, confirming what Sinn Féin has said all along, that economic growth cannot be achieved on the back of savage austerity.

“Meanwhile the government, just like its predecessors, tells us that the path to recovery rests in domestic austerity and export-led growth.

“It is clear that the government has abandoned the domestic economy and with it, the hope of reducing unemployment.

“It has foolishly put all of its eggs in the basket of export-led growth at a time when the global economy looks set to contract. Economists and government bodies in the US and Europe are bracing themselves for a second recession.

“The government needs to change its economic policy and start to invest in the domestic economy. It should do this by investing in jobs and by making those who have most pay more while protecting those he have least.

“Unfortunately, listening to Michael Noonan at the Finance Committee today, there seems to be little chance of this happening. Instead he looks set to return to the Dáil in October with a package of spending cuts and tax increases that will depress the economy and force more families into real financial hardship.” ENDS

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Speaking today following exchanges with the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty called on the government to establish a distressed mortgage resolution body with statutory powers.

The Donegal South West TD said that only such a body, equipped with appropriate powers and policies would be able to tackle the growing mortgage distress crisis.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The latest figures from the Financial Regulator on the mortgage crisis are truly shocking. At the end of June there were almost 100,000 households in serious mortgage distress. This means that nearly 700 families a week are falling into arrears now.

“This figure does not include those struggling to pay their mortgage at a time of rising prices and increasing government charges and at risk of falling into distress.

“Statements from the Minister for Finance this week demonstrate that the government does not appreciate the urgency of the situation and the need for firm government action.

“It is Sinn Féin’s view that the government must move to create a new, time-limited, distressed mortgage resolution body. Such a body would be an independent arbitrator tasked with reaching resolution agreements for those in mortgage distress. While such agreements between lenders and borrowers should be on the basis of joint agreement, the resolution body should have the power to impose agreements.

“The remit of the body would be to assess each case of mortgage distress on its individual merits and recommend sustainable resolutions. Three principles would underpin a range of options available to the resolution body.

“In the first instance, to assist the mortgage holder maintain their primary family residence. Options to achieve this would include reductions in the size of the mortgage, which may be accompanied by mortgage lenders taking an equity share of the home.

“However for those families who do not wish to remain in the family home or where such an option would not be financially sustainable a range of other options would be available, including short selling, trade ups, trade downs and social and voluntary housing.

“Finally, underlying these two principles will be a commitment to burden-sharing by mortgage holders, mortgage lenders and inter-bank commercial lenders. Sinn Féin’s proposals will not only require mortgage lenders to absorb a significant portion of the losses on the value of mortgage. We also propose inter-bank lenders should absorb their share of the losses.

“Our proposals will deal with issues such as the impact of overall household debt on mortgage distress and the need for ‘fresh start’ reform of our bankruptcy laws.

“The full detail of Sinn Féin’s proposals will be launched next week. However we believe that the government must act urgently if they are to address the needs of the 100,000 families currently in mortgage distress and prevent thousands more falling into a similar situation.”

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Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín has slammed the ESRI's accelerated austerity policy.

Deputy Tóibín said that ESRI was recommending a more rightwing approach to the economy than even the government, paving the way for Minister Noonan to hurt working people even more with the next budget.

Deputy Tóibín said:

“Let's be clear - the ESRI has got economic forecasting hopelessly and dangerously wrong in the years preceding this deep recession.

“The Irish economy has already gone through some of the harshest austerity cuts ever seen in a western economy, leading to the crash.

“Nearly half a million are unemployed, up to 50,000 a year are emigrating and hundreds of thousands of people are being forced into poverty. The economy is cut to the bone. Any further cuts will have severe and long lasting effects.

“The health, the education and the living standards of a whole generation are being severely attacked. All this is happening on the basis of an ideological bias within this government and organisations such as the ERSI. The people making these recommendations are insulated from the disastrous effects of their policy pronouncements by their high salaries.

“Our government’s refusal to make the rich pay is out of step internationally and is the real problem. Progressive taxes must be marginally increased on those earning over €100,000 instead of the proliferation of flat taxes that attack the poor in society.

“To get the domestic economy growing there must be a focus on stimulating and investing in the economy. The national debt of the last generation was paid for through economic growth.

“The ESRI suggests that the money saved by a reduced interest rate, allowed by the EU after Greece forced renegotiation, should be used to write down the deficit faster.

“This ignores the fact that no matter how quickly we write down the domestic deficit, we are still carrying a debt burden level that is crippling the state's finances because we have taken on all of the private banking debts.

“Private debt must also be restructured. It cannot be paid for by strangling the economy, closing hospital services or reducing educational services.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has called on the Justice Minister David Ford to support the Consumers Council’s call for lower insurance by moving insurance disputes from County Courts into Petty Sessions.


Mr Boylan stated,


“The cost of dealing with these insurance cases through County Courts compared to Petty Sessions courts is astronomical due to the use of barristers and other legal representation needed in a County Court and these legal costs are helping to maintain high insurance premiums in the North


“In Britain all insurances claims are dealt through the Petty Sessions Court and this is reflected in cheaper insurance premiums in Britain.


“Overall drivers in the North of Ireland are paying an average of £300 more than their counterparts in the Britain and I will be supporting the Consumer Council in addressing the inequalities offered to drivers in the North.

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Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson Deputy Seán Crowe has welcomed the announcement that the Department of Education will examine how €15 million in grants allocated annually to schools to run book-rental schemes is being spent.

The grant is worth €11 for each primary school pupil and €24 for second-level students. An additional €10 and €15 per child is offered at primary and second-level, respectively, for schools that cater for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Deputy Crowe continued: “I understand that Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has asked his officials to find out which schools operate book rental schemes.

“If implemented properly rental schemes can significantly reduce school costs. Recent surveys have shown that the costs of text books are becoming too expensive for many low and middle income families.

“The Department of Education should use well-run book-rental schemes as a template that can be applied throughout the primary and secondary school sectors." ENDS

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