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Some sights and sounds of the Right2Water National Assembly outside the Dáil December 10

Some of the sights and sounds of the Right2Water National Assembly outside the Dáil on December 10.  Includes Gerry Adams address to the crowd and Damien Dempsey's rendition of the ballad James Connolly

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has stated that government policy is making the richer even richer and the poor even poorer.


The passing of this motion, in conjunction with the passing of similar motions in Parliaments across the EU, is an important act of solidarity with the Palestinian people.



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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has made a decision on the future of assessment at GCSE level in the north of Ireland.

Following a 12-week consultation the Minister has decided not to follow England where, following a decision by Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, assessment of GCSEs will be taken at the end of the two-year period (known as the linear route). Instead, schools here will be free to choose between unitised GCSEs (where assessment can be taken throughout the two years) or linear GCSEs.

The Minister said: “I believe that schools are best placed to make decisions in light of what they believe is in the best interests of their pupils. For some schools, the unitised option may be the most suitable, while others may feel the linear route is more appropriate.

“Many of the views expressed during the consultation here, and in the workshops held with school leaders, acknowledged that whilst many of the issues identified in England might well exist, unitised GCSEs have only been in place here for two years in some subjects. It was therefore felt that change of this nature was too early and the decision to change by Michael Gove did not appear to have been taken on the basis of clear evidence or educational justification.”

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Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill has announced the commencement of the public consultation on new Reservoir Safety Policy proposals.

The policy proposals will be used to establish a legal and administrative regime for the management and regulation of reservoir safety. The public consultation period will
run from 12 March until 1 June 2012.

Minister O’Neill said: “Many reservoirs were designed as water storage but are also important environmental and community assets. These policies will form the basis of new legislation to provide increased protection to the public, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity from the risk of flooding from reservoirs in this region. They have been developed with the help of key stakeholders from across the public sector as well as private owners and operators.

“I want us to get this legislation right but without creating an unnecessary burden for owners and operators. I welcome comments on these proposals and I would encourage attendance at the information events which will be held during the consultation period.”

The policy proposals will support the Reservoirs Bill which is to be introduced in 2013 to ensure reservoirs are managed and operated to minimise the risk of reservoir failure.

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Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness this evening said: "There is no doubt that RTÉ should not have broadcast a tweet during the Frontline presidential debate which incorrectly claimed that Hugh Morgan would appear at a press conference the following day.
“None of this however takes way from the fact that Seán Gallagher had legitimate questions to answer. The facts are that Seán Gallagher did solicit money on behalf of Fianna Fáil and was deeply involved in the culture of money buying access to politicians. It was Seán Gallagher’s lack of clarity and credibility in relation to straight questions on these issues from myself in the course of the Frontline debate which was his undoing."

Mr. McGuinness said:
"There is no doubt that RTÉ should not have broadcast a tweet during the Frontline presidential debate which incorrectly claimed that Hugh Morgan would appear at a press conference the following day. The tweet had nothing to do with the Martin McGuinness presidential campaign and RTÉ could have checked this with any of a number of representatives of my campaign team who were present in RTÉ on the night. They didn’t do this.
“It is also clear that RTÉ was negligent in failing to broadcast a corrective tweet from the official campaign twitter account which made it clear that the Martin McGuinness campaign had made no statement on the night in relation to the Seán Gallagher and Fianna Fáil donations issue.

"None of this however takes way from the fact that Seán Gallagher had legitimate questions to answer in relation to the issue of his involvement in Fianna Fáil and fundraising for that party, questions which he had refused to fully answer in the presidential election campaign up to that point.

"It was Seán Gallagher’s lack of clarity and credibility in relation to straight questions on these issues from myself in the course of the Frontline debate which was his undoing. The facts are that Seán Gallagher did solicit money on behalf of Fianna Fáil and that in particular he was involved in soliciting money for the fundraising event at the Crowne Plaza in Dundalk. Sean Gallagher was, as I correctly pointed out, deeply involved in the culture of money buying access to politicians — a culture which the electorate had rejected at the previous general election.

"I had a duty to the electorate to put these questions to Seán Gallagher during the Frontline debate which I did. I am proud to have run in the presidential election and of the part I played in it. The electorate made up their own minds about who they wanted for president and I fully respect their democratic decision. I think all candidates and commentators should now do the same."
ENDS

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Sinn Fein's spokesperson on environment, community and local government, Brian Stanley TD, says that "the government is losing the argument for its household charge."
Deputy Stanley was responding to today’s revelations that the government will use utility companies’ records to track down people who have not paid the household charge.
He said: "Using people's utility bills shows how panicked the government has become. This is the clearest evidence yet that Minister Hogan is losing the household charge battle. It is time he binned this unfair charge."
Stanley explained, "Sinn Fein oppose this charge. The minister’s claim that local authorities will have to cut back on services if the household charge fails is a denial of responsibility. It is his charge has failed ."
Stanley said: "I intend to raise the issue of using utility companies’ records for this purpose in the Dáil on Tuesday."
ends

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Speaking in advance of tomorrow's meeting between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the British Prime Minister David Cameron, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said the Taoiseach needs to make it clear to the British that all outstanding commitments from the Good Friday, Weston Park and St Andrews Agreements need to be honoured.
Mr Adams said:
“On Monday the Taoiseach will meet with the British Prime Minister in Downing Street. It comes only days after Judge Smithwick in his interim report states very clearly that elements of the British system are deliberately withholding information from his Tribunal. This, unfortunately, has been typical of the attitude of the British state to legacy issues.
"This British Government has continually failed to honour the commitment from the intergovernmental agreement at Weston Park for an Inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
“It has refused to co-operate with the Irish authorities in the investigation into the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.
“Mr Cameron has failed even to agree to a meeting with the families of those killed in the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971 and his Government refuses their just demand for an Inquiry into that incident.
“Mr Kenny needs to tell David Cameron that this is unacceptable.
“The Taoiseach also needs to impress on the British Prime Minister the need to bring forward a timetable for the implementation of all of the outstanding aspects of the Good Friday, Weston Park and St. Andrews Agreements. This includes a Bill of Rights, an Irish Language Act and a range of other equality issues.
“Since the election of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition the British Prime Minister has detached himself from the continuing promotion and development of the peace and political processes. He has instead chosen to hide behind Owen Patterson who has consistently displayed a lack of the political skills necessary to deal with these outstanding issues. This approach needs also to change.”
ENDS

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Speaking following the Government’s responses to 50 outstanding human rights recommendations made to Ireland last year by UN member states, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice and Equality Deputy Jonathan O’Brien while there were some positives, the bulk of the report was a collection of dodgy claims, outright evasions and deliberate falsehoods.
The Cork North Central TD said;
“Sinn Féin welcomes the Government committing to sign new human rights treaties to help protect persons with disabilities and rights like health and housing in Ireland.
“However, for the most part, the Government’s response is a bit dodgy. For example, they claim they are aiming to deliver a health service based on need not income, but the proposed universal health insurance system will not actually do this.
“They make the frankly ludicrous claim that the Government’s housing policy is to “enable all households to access good quality housing appropriate to household circumstances.” Even a casual glance at the Government’s approach to housing, which prioritises home ownership, would tell you that this is not the case.
“UN member states urged the Government to incorporate children’s rights into Irish law. The Government says it will do this and amend the Constitution accordingly. But this constitutional amendment will only be concerned with children’s rights concerning adoption and guardianship. It will not enshrine broader socio-economic rights in the Constitution as the UN recommended.
It is simply not true to say that Irish law is in conformity with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and fundamentally dishonest of the Government to suggest that they have accepted many of these recommendations in full, when their plans for implementation fall far short of what is actually needed to address them.
“If the Government are genuine in these responses, which will receive official endorsement in Geneva next week, they must demonstrate their commitment by publishing an implementation plan alongside the responses to show how they will deliver on these promises.”

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITOR:
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process of the UN Human Rights Council (established in 2006), where the domestic human rights records of all 192 UN Member States are reviewed every four years.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking today in Gulladuff in south Derry and at a party conference dismissed Owen Patterson’s recent remarks on a border poll saying that the British Secretary of State “should not presume to arrogantly dictate to people here how we will conduct our affairs. Those days are over.”

The Sinn Féin leader added: “A border poll is inevitable. Mr Patterson knows this. It is only a matter of timing.”

Mr. Adams said:

“British Secretary of State Owen Patterson has dismissed the possibility of a border poll. He has also blocked an enquiry into the killing of Human Rights lawyer Pat Finucane despite this being part of an inter-governmental agreement at Weston Park. He is also blocking a Bill of Rights. And he has been less than helpful on other matters like the Irish language. And his imprisonment of Marion Price is entirely stupid and unjust.

But Mr. Patterson would not be one the most adroit or skillful British Secretaries of State to have been imposed on us. His remarks on the border poll have to be seen in this context.

Mr. Patterson is also a supporter of the Union. That is the position of his government at this time. Sinn Féin is not naive about this. The Tory party had to be pulled kicking and squealing into the peace process.But now under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement the Tory/lib Dem government has specific obligations. Despite the foot dragging that has characterised its attitude to this agreement and other agreements so far, Sinn Féin has no intention of acquiescing to British Tory game playing.

Owen Patterson is but one of a long line of political overlords that Irish republicans have had to deal with, with great patience in the past.

Obviously there are elements of the Good Friday Agreement that Owen Patterson is unhappy about but he should not presume to arrogantly dictate to people here how we will conduct our affairs. Those days are over.

There will be a united Ireland.

By definition that will come when the people of our island have formed a cordial union of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. When a border poll is held Owen Patterson will have no vote on that issue. That is as it should be, entirely a matter for the people of Ireland.

The political landscape in the North has been transformed in recent years and there is growing support for a united Ireland. A border poll is inevitable. Mr Patterson knows this. It is only a matter of timing.

The united Ireland that Sinn Féin seeks is inclusive. All elements of society on the island of Ireland must be comfortable and secure in the system of governance that is agreed. It is essential that everyone has the fullest expression of their identity without intruding on the rights and entitlements of others. Diversity, equality and tolerance is the key to this.

Sinn Féin wants a united Ireland. Both governments are obliged to legislate for this. Like everyone else who is working for this very legitimate and logical objective Sinn Féin must demonstrate to unionists that a peaceful and prosperous future can best be achieved in a new union of the people of this island. Unionists must be persuaded that this is in their best interests.

Currently unionists remain isolated on the margins of the British political system where they make up 2 per cent of the population. In a united Ireland unionists would make up 20% of the population and be able to exercise real authority, power and influence.

Increased dialogue and engagement with the wider unionist constituency will challenge republicans. We need to engage in a full and open dialogue, including listening to unionist views, fears and apprehensions unconditionally.

It is important that every opportunity is taken to increase understanding and mutual respect. Republicans need to reach out in a real effort to heal differences and create trust with unionists.

Real reconciliation also means dealing with the legacy of conflict. That will challenge everyone — republicans, unionists and the Governments in London and Dublin. But it is essential as the process of change currently under way moves from conflict resolution to an entirely new society.

As we continue building towards a united Ireland, Sinn Féin must also offer solutions to the problems faced by citizens in the here and now.

We want a New Republic rooted in citizens rights and people centred. That also means the right to a decent quality of life, a job and social protections."

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The Sinn Féin spokesperson on jobs, enterprise and innovation Peadar Tóibín TD has said that the government’s approach to banking is failing workers and small business.

Deputy Tóibín said:

“The 2,500 job losses announced yesterday will have a devastating effect on the workers with AIB and First Trust in the North.

“These follow the 950 jobs lost at the beginning of the year in the Ulster Bank as well as the 6,000 job losses in the banking sector since 2008.

“It is clear that a restructuring of the banking sector is taking place. However this restructuring needs to be driven not only by financial concerns but also by consideration for the workers who face an uncertain future.

“The scale of the job losses in the banking sector is in many ways a result of the EU insisting on an overly rapid deleveraging from the market. This currently is the government’s primary concern. The negative side of this is also seen in the fact that 50% of small businesses are being denied credit which is freezing the domestic market.

“The government needs to change its policies to fix the real economy. It needs to put credit-flow to small business as its primary concern. This would organically allow proper levels of staff to remain in the banking system. That is not happening now. Government policy is negatively impacting across Ireland and necessitates a co-ordinated approach between the government and the northern Executive.

“There is a need also for justice for workers losing their jobs due to the actions of a few senior figures who left with enhanced packages and benefits.

“The government needs to use its position of influence to ensure a just settlement for workers is achieved and that a package of support is developed for those who choose to return to the labour market.

“The government needs to learn the lessons of the failures of previous applications to the European Globalisation Fund. A targeted project to reskill those made unemployed in the banking sector is needed as a matter of urgency.”

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“The government is preparing Teachers for export” according to Sinn Féin Senator, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. Speaking in the Seanad today, the Senator from Galway West stated that the conditions facing newly qualified teachers entering the system are unfair and inequitable and that the state is letting the millions of euros invested in their training to go to waste as most of the teachers will be forced to emigrate in order to find gainful employment.

The Sinn Féin Senator organised a briefing in the Houses of the Oireachtas on Wednesday with the INTO and the Newly Qualified Teachers Action group which represents thousands of student teachers from the four major teacher training colleges in the State. The speakers outlined that many of them will be working close to minimum wage levels if the new salaries regime proposed by the Education Minister comes in to effect. They would be working for €419 per week as newly qualified teachers, which they claim is unreasonable, and unfair.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:

“Many of these Student Teachers are planning to emigrate. Many of them are mature students, have a great deal of others qualifications, responsibilities and a good deal of experience. They simply cannot manage on what they are being offered. Teaching work is available abroad, offering salaries of up to €120,000 per annum. The government expects these highly qualified graduates to work for €24,000 per annum and they are not in a position to do so. This will also create inequalities within schools as well, as these graduates will be expected to do the same work as those on much more favourable conditions. This will undoubtedly lead to frustration and disenchantment with a knock on effect on the standard of teaching.

“The government says that education is an essential tool for economic recovery, but they are damaging that possibility with policies like this which undermine the work of the sector. TDs and Senators from all political groupings were at the briefing, and they all agreed that there is a clear need for a review of the proposals. We in Sinn Féin will be seeking a debate on this matter and will be bringing forward legislation to reverse these changes. We hope that other elected representatives will support us in that regard.”


Tá an Rialtas ag traenáil múinteoirí le heaspórtáil – Ó Clochartaigh

‘Tá an Rialtas seo ag ullmhú múinteoirí le heaspórtáil’, a deir Seanadóir Shinn Féin, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. Ag labhairt do sa Seanad inniú dúirt sé go bhfuil na hathruithe ar choinníollacha oibre atá beartaithe do mhúinteoirí nua a thagann isteach sa chóras míchothrom agus éagórach agus go bhfuil na milliúin d’infheistíocht stáit dhá chur amú mar go mbeidh air formhór na n-oidí seo dul ar imirce le fostíocht fiúntach a fháil.

D’eagraigh Seanadóir Shinn Féin cur i láthair i dTithe an Oireachtais ar an gCéadaoin ón INTO agus Grúpa Gníomhaíochta na nOidí Nua Cháilithe, a dhéanann ionadaíocht ar na mílte ábhar oidí ó cheithre choláiste ullmhúchán sa Stát. Chuir na hurlabhraithe in iúl go mbeidh cuid acu ag obair ag beagmach an íosphá náisiúnta má chuirtear an réimeas nua tuarastail atá molta ag an Aire Oideachais i bhfeidhm. Dúirt siad go mbeadh orthu oibriú ar €419 sa tseachtain mar mhúinteoirí nua-cháilithe agus go bhfuil sé seo miréasúnta agus mífhaireáilte.

“Ta cuid mhaith de na hábhar oidí seo ag pleanáil dul thar lear. Is mic léinn aibí cuid mhaith acu a bhfuil taithí, cáilíochtaí agus dualgaisí go leor eile acu. Ní féidir leo maireachtáil ar an méid atá dhá thairiscint. Tá obair múinteoireachta ar fáil thar sáile agus suas le €120,000 sa bhliain mar thuarastal’, deir an Seanadóir. ‘Tá an Rialtas anseo ag iarraidh ar na daoine ardchumais seo oibriú ar €24,000 sa bhliain agus ní féidir leo sin a dhéanamh. Cruthóidh seo éagcothromaíocht mór sna scoileanna chomh maith, mar go mbeifear ag iarraidh ar na daoine seo an obair céanna a dhéanamh lena gcomhleacaithe a bhfuil coinníollacha i bhfad níos fábharaí acu. Cruthóidh seo míshuaimhneas mór agus titifdh an caighdeán teagaisc dá bharr”, a deir Ó Clochartaigh.

“Deireann an Rialtas gurb i an oideachas ceann de na huirlisí is fearr atá againn le teacht amach as an ngéarchéim eacnamaíochta ach cuireann siad sin i mbaol le polasaithe den chineál seo a bhaineann an bonn den tionscal. Bhí Teachtaí agus Seanadoirí ag an gcur i láthair as gach grúpa polaitiúil agus d’aontaigh siad ar fad gur gá athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar na moltaí seo. Beidh Sinn Féin ag féachaint le díospóireachtaí faoi leith agus bille a rith chun na hathruithe seo a chur ar ceal agus tá súil againn go dtacóidh na hionadaithe tofa eile ar fad linn sa chás seo”, a deir an Seanadóir.

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