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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has strongly criticised the decision by the Government to remove one of two farming representatives from the European Economic and Social Council. Up until now two of the Irish representatives have been nominated by the IFA and the ICMSA. However, the Government decided to allocate one seat to the so-called ‘environmental pillar,’ which has chosen a member of Birdwatch Ireland to take up the position.

Deputy Ferris said: “While I have nothing against either the ‘environmental pillar’ or Birdwatch Ireland, it is difficult to comprehend how this move will help matters at a vital time for the Irish agricultural sector and the overall economy. Farming remains the most important indigenous sector and it is vital that it is represented at this level, particularly at a time when the EU is about to commence another review of the Common Agricultural Policy.

“Coming as this does in the midst of massive rural dissatisfaction over the manner in which Minister Gormley is pursuing issues relating to animal welfare, there is a suspicion that the replacement of the representative of the second largest farm organisation by an amateur bird watcher is a calculated insult to both the farm organisations and rural Ireland in general.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the economy, Arthur Morgan TD, has described reports that NAMA is not now expected to make anything like the profits predicted by the Government and could in fact make considerable losses as “deeply depressing for the taxpayer” but “unsurprising”.

Deputy Morgan said, “Reports suggest that NAMA is not going to realise anything like the Government predicted €4.8 billion in profits. Some reports even suggest it will make considerable losses. Anybody with half a brain could have and in fact did predict that being the case. The entire scheme made absolutely no sense whatsoever – unless of course you were a banking or developer crony of this prostituted Government.

“While this news is deeply depressing for the taxpayer it is not surprising.

“Like every other utterance and madcap scheme from this economically illiterate and politically bankrupt Government the NAMA project was doomed from the start.

“Sinn Féin and others warned that this would be the case. But again because of lethal mixture of ignorance and arrogance they forged ahead – ensuring their friends in high places were protected while the taxpayer was forced to pick up the bill.

“This government needs to be forced from office sooner rather than later. It needs to be removed so that we can minimise the damage that is being done to both the economy and as a consequence the social infrastructure of the state.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan said his party will resist the selling off of state enterprises, or what he called ‘the family silver’. Morgan said privatising boyant state companies which are actually returning investment for the public coffers was an agenda driven policy and would not fix the economy.

Morgan said:

“Sinn Féin will resist every and any attempt to sell off the family silver, state enterprises that are boyant and actually returning money to the Exchequer. It was not state companies that helped cause this crisis, but private banks, and history has shown that privatising services leads to a diminishment in those services. We can see from news today that it also leads to unstable working conditions, as the employees of Eircom can testify to.

“Privatising companies is an ideological agenda pursued by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for decades. Behind it is short-sighted greed and often those who benefit have close ties to the government in power.

“This Government’s approach to solving the economic crisis is flawed. Reducing the deficit over such a short period of time to meet some bizarre rule set by Europe is compounding the crisis, not fixing it. In addition they are bankrupt of ideas on how to implement their own policies. Selling off a profitable state holding is madness.”

Commenting on prospective job losses in AIB and Bank of Ireland, Deputy Morgan said:

“These banks are being entirely propped up by taxpayers’ money at this stage and we have seen no return for it. Why are workers being let go when CEOs continue to earn up to half a million euro per year? The investment in these banks, which the Government is keeping off the general government balance sheets as it pretends to close the deficit, is not working. It is time to nationalise these banks and deal with the management that have failed abysmally to run them.” ENDS

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Speaking in Dublin before a meeting of the Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle this morning, party Vice-President Mary Lou McDonald attacked the government over its failure to tackle the unemployment crisis. She said it was unacceptable that the Dáil will go on a three-month break next week while nothing has been done to tackle the jobs crisis.

Mary Lou McDonald said:

“As Ministers prepare to down tools for the next few months, unemployment is sky-rocketing. For most people the idea of the Dáil going on a break for nearly three months, while unemployment continues to soar is unacceptable.

“An extra 5,800 people have joined dole queues in the last month. There are now 444,900 people on the dole.

“There is no strategy to create jobs. This government is now trying to convince people that the economy has turned a corner, but economic growth in the absence of jobs is pointless. Despite some newspaper headlines heralding the end of the recession, the reality is that there are now more unemployed today than at any time in the history of the state.

“This week, with the media distracted by internal government wranglings over stag hunting and dog breeding, the government quietly pushed through legislation cutting social welfare entitlements.

“These cuts will cause real hardship for people who have no confidence of returning to the workforce any day soon given that nothing is being done to create jobs. Cutting public services and welfare undermines the state’s ability to make an economic recovery.

“Its time to implement the kind of job creation proposals set out by Sinn Féin over the last couple of years. We need to invest in job creation and bring forward specific strategies for potential growth sectors of the economy – sectors such as digital media, IT, agri-food, tourism and environmental technologies.

“Sinn Féin has advocated a concerted push by Government to stimulate economic growth and put in place a comprehensive job retention and creation strategy. But the Government is closing its eyes and ears to any alternative to its failed policies.” ENDS

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Speaking today following the publication of the Exchequer figures for June, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan has hit out at the Governments economic policy, saying that their actions are akin to ‘trying to get out of a hole by digging even more’. Deputy Morgan said that the Governments reliance on indirect taxes to recover the economy was the exact prescription that led to the crisis.

Deputy Morgan said:

“Despite Government insistence that the economy has turned a corner, the publication today of the exchequer register figures for June make clear that the Government are trying to get out of a hole by digging even deeper.

“A lot of Government commentary has used recovery in GDP as a vindication of government policy but today’s exchequer figures have shown that what is emerging is a two-tier economy that will lead to a renewed economic crisis.

“The Minister for Finance is pointing to increases in VAT and corporation taxes as positive but the harsh reality is that these are indirect, unreliable taxes upon which economic growth cannot be based. The Government’s reliance on indirect taxes to recover the economy was the exact prescription that led to the crisis. Their reliance on cuts is the exact kind of right-wing politics that caused the crisis. The onus should be on increasing income taxes, a project on which this Government is failing abysmally as the €300 million shortfall in June has proven.

“Deflationary policies that put too much emphasis on deficit reduction are crowding out productive expenditure on sectors including infrastructure, education and health. The bottom line is, to generate economic activity that will result in meaningful job creation and improvements in tax revenues, consumer spending needs to recover and we need to increase investment. Expenditure is down 6.2% on last year and we are seeing a decrease in tax income by 8.7%.

“The fact that taxes are 1.6% behind profile is confirmation that the Governments deflationary policies, through welfare and wage cuts for lower paid workers, are having an adverse effect on the public finances. Rampant deflation will increase the real debt for all households, businesses and the Government, making interest payments and debt repayment more burdensome.

"What is also interesting here is that these accounts make no allowance for the massive debt being incurred by NAMA which the government is keeping off the books through its SPV – a smoke and mirrors device allowed by Europe. Even if the deficit is addressed, this debt will hand over Irish people's heads for generations." ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon on the Criminal Justice ( Psychoactive Substances) Bill 2010 , Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Justice Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that the Bill which the Government has brought forward is a narrow Justice Bill which unfortunately still does not go far enough in seriously dealing with the blight that is Headshops.

He said that although the ban introduced in May was better late than never, the Government had performed disgracefully by failing to act for so long.


Ó Snodaigh said:

“The current legal provisions for responding to this threat are not up to the task. They are too slow, too cumbersome. Even since the May ban which proscribed a list of substances took effect more new drugs have been invented to replace them. Research conducted by Dr. Pierce Kavanagh of Trinity College found that just one month after the ban was introduced nine new substances mimicking illegal drugs were available in the head shops.

“Sinn Féin anticipated that this would be the case and so in April I published the first piece of legislation to comprehensively address all the psychoactive substances sold from head shops, via the internet and by home delivery into the future.

“It was and remains my strong view that an infrastructure, bringing together the experience and expertise of Scientists, the medical profession, the pharmaceutical industry, those working in the area of addiction treatment, the community and Gardaí, is needed to keep pace with the multi-million euro legal highs research and development industry.” ENDS

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Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy and Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew were on site today at Joymount in Carrickfergus to view the final stages of a joint £2million flood alleviation scheme between NI Water and Rivers Agency.

The scheme, which is due to complete this month, will reduce the risk of long-running flooding problems in the area and will provide an improved infrastructure for future development. It will also improve the water quality in a local river, the Sullatober Water.

Speaking during the visit, Minister Murphy said: “Work is progressing very well on this site and the scheme of work is now entering its final stages. Once the work is completed it will not only benefit the local community by reducing the risk of flooding in the area, but will also accommodate future development and growth.

“I would like to thank the local community and businesses for their patience while this essential work was completed.”

Minister Gildernew said: “This is an important £2million investment which will help protect a range of residential and commercial properties from flooding in the future.

“I commend both departments for their joined up approach on this project. By co-operating jointly in this scheme, we have made significant cost savings in the region of £100,000 and it has inevitably resulted in less disruption for the community.”

Rivers Agency is investing an additional £300,000 in a second phase of this scheme which will further enhance the level of flood protection in the area. This will be located upstream of the current work and is due to start later this year.

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Have your say on Lisanelly Shared Campus – Ruane

Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has encouraged people to take part in the public consultation on the Lisanelly Shared Campus in Omagh.

Speaking after the fifth meeting of the Lisanelly Shared Educational Campus Steering Group the Minister commented: “With the Lisanelly Campus we are aiming to not just construct new buildings but also build a community. In order to do this however we need the help of the public. I would encourage everyone to participate in the public consultation and help shape the future of the Lisanelly Shared Campus. With vision and foresight we have the opportunity to create something that is extraordinary and not just ordinary. A campus built on equality and excellence where future generations of children and young people learn the skills and confidence to succeed.

“This project is a priority for both me and my Department. I have been greatly impressed by the work to date from the designers. Until now the idea of a shared campus has just been a concept. However the plans presented at this meeting really show how this concept is being shaped into the buildings and facilities where the children will learn and play. What is clear is that the schools of this area, by working together, have the opportunity to access facilities that would not be deliverable on their own. These facilities also have the potential to enrich the lives of all those in the local community through their use by community groups and outside organisations.”

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Sinn Féin Policing Board Member, Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has given an initial welcome to the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Inspector’s (CJI) report into avoidable delay in our court system and the Chief Justice's report into the sentencing regime.

 

Ms Anderson said:

 

“I will study these reports and their recommendations in detail but on initial reading I would welcome their content.

“Both the PSNI and the PPS come in for particular criticism for failure to address the problems of the time it takes to progress prosecutions from charge to conclusion of process. Unfortunately neither agency seem to recognise their inefficiencies, with the PSNI accusing the PPS of not properly processing cases forwarded for prosecution and the PPS countering that the PSNI fail to complete the majority of Occurrence Management forms efficiently, creating avoidable delay in the system.

 

“The Report author states the old adage of ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ and no description could be more appropriate in relation to the lessons that need to be learned by those tasked with the administration of Justice and delivery of accountable community policing. If police officers are not capable of filling out a simple form properly in 71% of cases then how is the general public supposed to have confidence that they can carry out other areas of their duties properly and efficiently.

 

“If the PPS has not put in place an acceptable standard of information required for processing and conveyed this requirement to the PSNI then it too is part of the problem and will have to change.

 

"The Chief Justice, Declan Morgan's report and recommendations on sentencing procedure published today should be complimentary to the findings of the CJI report and together form the foundation for establishing a Criminal Justice System encompassing Policing, the Prosecution Service and the Judiciary which will build confidence in the public. ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Culture Arts and Leisure Committee, Billy Leonard, has stated that the latest bulletin from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, highlights the singular fixation that the Minister Nelson McCausland has with Ulster Scots.

Speaking today Mr Leonard said:

“The latest bulletin from Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure entitled “Public Views on Ulster-Scots Culture, Heritage and Language in Northern Ireland” highlights the singular focus that the Minister places on the promotion of Ulster Scots.

“I am quite sure that Nelson McCausland will give great weight to this bulletin and its contents.

“If the Minister, or his predecessors, had given the same amount of focus and weight into the two consultations held by the Department, that both overwhelming endorsed the need for an Irish language act, we would now not be accusing him of being partisan and fixated with Ulster Scots to the detriment of Irish.

“On a day in which Nelson McCausland appeared in front of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee with still no indication of when a language strategy would be brought forward the publication of this bulletin will be seen as a slap in the face to all those campaigning for the rights and entitlements of those who use the Irish language.

“It is note worthy that no bulletin has been released entitled “The Public Views on Irish Culture, Heritage and Language.”

“The Minister needs to remember that in his position of office he is a Minister for all, not just for those he chooses to represent.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff, who is the chair of the Culture, Arts and Leisure committee at Stormont has stated that, in his opinion, the appearance of the CAL Minister Nelson McCausland in front of the Committee today was a waste of the Committees time as it is now apparent that Nelson McCausland has no intention of bringing forward a language strategy.

Speaking today Mr McElduff said:

“The Culture Minister Nelson McCaulsand may as well have stuck his head in the door and said hello for all the substance he brought to today's session of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee.

“One thing is very obvious, and lets be clear about it, Nelson McCausland has no intention of bringing forward a language strategy for the promotion of Irish despite his obligation to do so under the St Andrews and Hillsborough agreements.

“There is now a delay of three years since his predecessor Edwin Poots said he wasn’t bringing forward Irish language legislation and would be drawing up a strategy instead and bringing it to the Executive.

“Since taking office the current Minster has used countless smokescreens, excuses and his personal notion of achieving parity between Irish and Ulster Scots which will, according to the European Committee of Experts on languages (COMEX) do nothing in the promotion and advancement of either language.

“The Human Rights Commission has also expressed serious concerns at the Ministers approach.

“In the latest round of excuses brought to the committee on the last day f this Assembly’s session was that the Department of Education and the Broadcasting sector are holding the strategy up. This is a nonsense which members of the committee rightly cut through.

“The Minister needs to stop the spurious and time-wasting arguments and get on with bringing forward a viable and realistic strategy instead of imposing his own narrow ideological stance on the policy and practice of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.”

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Speaking in the Seanad on the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which seeks to discontinue services at St. Luke’s Cancer Hospital, Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has said that Sinn Féin is totally opposed to the discontinuation of services at this hospital which has provided a first class service to cancer patients for many years and described the Bill as an ‘attack on the sick’.

Senator Doherty said:

“This Bill principally deals with the discontinuation of services at St. Luke’s cancer hospital. Over 180,000 people have signed a petition to the Dáil and Seanad appealing to representatives to vote against this cruel and drastic piece of legislation. In my opinion the Bill is little more than an attack on the sick.

“We hear much from the Government about centres of excellence. St. Luke’s has been a centre of excellence for many years yet this government, in a cynical and cruel move want to close it. In my own county we have two community hospitals in a similar situation. The Lifford and Rock hospitals have provided a first class service to the community for many years and yet they are under threat of closure.

“Many people from Donegal have a strong affinity with St. Luke’s and have been treated or had love ones treated there. We in Donegal and the North West have been let down completely by the Minister for Health and the HSE, indeed in the Government’s radiation oncology plan it is proposed that no centre of excellence will be situated north of the line from Dublin to Galway. This is nothing short of a scandal.

“Healthcare across the state is in a state of crisis. The HSE has been exposed time and time again as grossly incompetent and unfit to run a health service. The Government tries to hide behind it but central to HSE failures is the disastrous health policy of this government.

“The experience of St. Luke’s is replicated in hospitals around the country which this government wishes to downgrade or close. The Government is following a policy of over-centralisation of services and the privatisation of services. It is a policy that rewards the private health care sector with land on public hospital sites and tax breaks to develop private for profit hospitals.

“At the same time the Government wishes to close long-standing, tried and trusted facilities such as St. Luke’s. Across the country Cancer patients have been denied life-saving treatment because successive governments have failed to provide the radiation oncology facilities required.

“The Government had ample time and a booming economy to plan and budget for the provision of radiotherapy centres. The state could and should have taken the lead and provided these centres directly as public facilities open to all on the basis of need alone. Instead the government committed itself to public-private partnerships to deliver them.

“Everybody in this room has been affected by cancer in some shape or form. To withdraw services from St. Luke’s hospital represents little more than an attack on people who are suffering. It should be opposed by everyone who believes that the right to a decent health care when you are sick is inalienable. I reject this Bill outright and urge Senators to do the same.”ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and spokesperson on Welfare, Mickey Brady, has stated that the proposed phasing out of Income Support will affect those who are most in need of support and has raised concerns of the capacity of the Social Security offices to carry out such a task.


Speaking today Mr Brady said:

 

“Under the Welfare Reform bill the intention is to phase out income support. This is worrying as currently there exists no viable alternative.

 

“For the 76,000 people who will be switched from Income Support and Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) they will have to face a raft of extra complexities under ESA, in an already complex system.

 

“For example full time carers who rely on Income Support to compliment their Carers Allowance will under ESA have to undergo a work capabilty assessment. They may then have to move to Jobs Seekers Allowance on regularly or prove they are incapable of working or loose their benefits as no viable alternative exists to Income Support has been suggested.

 

“A further concern is the capacity to implement the change-over from Income Support to ESA as it will place a huge strain on Social Security staff. In an economic climate where more and more people are presenting as long term unemployed we see cuts in staff numbers pushing current staff structures to stress levels not experienced before.

 

“This shift will only exacerbate this pressure in an under resourced department in which more job cuts are expected.

 

“Essentially there is little in this new benefit to alleviate the needs of the most maginalised in our society and as things stand circumstances for those seeking benefits will only worsen under this bill.”

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Sinn Féin  MLA for Upper Bann, John O’Dowd has welcomed the determination barring the Orange Order marching from Drumcree down the Garvaghy Road and has stated that it is now time for the Orange Order to show leadership on this issue and accept that they must play their part in the peace process.  

Speaking today Mr O’Dowd said:

“It is now thirteen years since the Orange Order marched from Drumcree along the Garvaghy Road.  

“The Orange Order should accept the reality of the sitaution and play thier part in the peace process, abandoning their attempts to walk down the Garvaghy Road.

“This woud be a huge step forward not only for the people of Portadown but the all the people across the island of Ireland as a whole.

“It would be a gesture that would be seen as the Order, for the first time, playing a positive and constructive role and providing real leadership on this issue, in what are very changed times.”

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Responding to the announcement today of 100 new jobs to be created in Galway by US medical devices firm Merit Medical with a €6.7m expansion of its plant in Galway Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Arthur Morgan has welcomed the creation of new jobs but has said that the Government need to get real about the jobs crisis and put in place comprehensive job retention and creation strategies.

Deputy Morgan said:

“The announcement today of 100 new jobs in Galway by US medical devices firm Merit Medical is welcome, given the fragility of the jobs market at the moment. The further expansion of the life sciences sector in Ireland is evidence that Ireland is to the fore in terms of the quality of the workforce and that we have the human resources required for developing a thriving knowledge economy.

“The creation of 100 new jobs could not come at a better time when, in the last month alone, nearly 6,000 people have signed on. The Government cannot rely on the expansion of firms to create employment in this country. The Government need to be the drivers of change and so far their actions have been inadequate.

“What we need to see is a push by Government to stimulate economic growth and to put in place comprehensive job retention and creation strategies. Indeed, the Minister does not have far to look in terms of solutions to the jobs crisis, as Sinn Féin have put forward countless measures within the last two years that would stem the haemorrhaging of jobs and would create thousands of new ones for the people of this State.

“The Minister and the Government need to get real about the jobs crisis and crunch the numbers: 100 jobs a week will not conciliate the 6,000 additional people a month joining the Live Register. While every little helps, now is the time for grand gestures. We need to see real commitment to job creation and the Smart economy.” ENDS

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Speaking today after it was revealed that Anglo Irish bank, the nationalised State Bank, had incurred the greatest losses by any bank in the entire world, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan has said that it was a sorry indictment of where Government priorities lie and that the biggest losers were the taxpayers. Deputy Morgan also reiterated his call for a fund for the financial sector to be developed to cover events in the future, instead of turning on taxpayers.

Deputy Morgan said:

“Fianna Fáil have nationalised the losses of their banking and developer cronies and the revelation that Anglo has incurred the greatest losses by any bank in the entire world is a sorry indictment on where the Government’s priorities lie. Anglo Irish’s loss in 2009 of €15billion was far bigger than those of giant US, Japanese and German banks and the losses incurred by the Royal Bank of Scotland were a quarter of what Anglo lost last year.

“The biggest losers from this debacle are the taxpayers; the taxpayers whose money was spent to nationalise the piggy bank of the most corrupt people in Ireland, the people whose money was pumped into recapitalising this zombie bank and those people who will be subject to harsh budget cuts again this year.

“After lavishing loans on developers, Anglo Irish was saved by the ordinary taxpayers of this State to the tune of billions of euro. This Frankenstein bank is being kept on life support by taxpayers’ money and to cope with future losses, the Government is committed to pumping over €22billion at least into the bank. The losses incurred by the bank are a slap in the face of the taxpayer who is not seeing any productive return on their investment that has selfishly been made by the Government on their behalf.

“The case for a levy or bank tax has never been more wanting as taxpayers are forced to cover the losses of the banking sector. An insurance fund for the financial sector should be developed to cover events in the future, instead of turning on taxpayers. Given the crippling ramifications of financial crises and indeed the colossal losses incurred by the defunct Anglo Irish Bank, the banking sector needs to provide insurance themselves against future crises.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh this evening launched a campaign against the proposed introduction of water charges.

Speaking at a public meeting in the Ballyfermot Civic Centre this evening, which was also addressed by the North’s Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Sinn Féin is totally and utterly opposed to water charges and we will mount a vigorous campaign of opposition to their introduction by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government.

“We all recognise that clean water is a precious resource that costs money to produce but this is already paid for through general taxation. Introducing an extra charge is a regressive form of double taxation.

“The Government and the Green Party in particular are trying to bring in this charge in the guise that it is a measure to help preserve water. Tonight I want to put that myth to bed.

“Government officials have admitted that metering will only redcuce houshold water consumption by 16%, while up to 40% of all treated water (used by homes and businesses) is being lost through leaking pipes and poor infrastructure. Anybody seeking to preserve water would come to the logical conclusion that fixing our leaking pipes should be the first port of call rather than wasting further millions of euros fitting water meters to households.

“But of course the introduction of water charges is not about preserving water. That is just the wooden horse. What it is really about is targeting already hard pressed households for additional revenue streams for Government while businesses who already owe almost €30million in water charges to local authorities are not being pursued for payment.

“The Government should be focussed on fixing our crumbling water infrastructure while educating people about the importance of water preservation and assisting in the introduction of water saving technologies. This would not only be the most sensible approach but the best and most fair way to preserve water.

“The fact is that people already pay for water through general taxation. In this current financial atmosphere hard pressed families should not be made pay again. They didn’t create this mess and they need to be protected from the affects of it. Sinn Féin will be mounting a vigorous campaign of opposition to this regressive double tax.” ENDS

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Speaking today upon her election as mayor for County Donegal in the County House in Lifford, Sinn Féin’s Cora Harvey said that Donegal has been faced with many challenges and difficulties over the past year but that her election today signified to her hope and change for the new political year.

She said:

“We are embarking on a new political year. Many of you that voted for me did so without sharing all my views, this I believe is a significant signal of change. You have accepted me as your Cathaoirligh, so from today on I represent you and this County, regardless of political persuasion.

“My aim is to improve public confidence in Donegal Politics, in the democratic process and to make this council efficient, effective and accountable; that is my goal.

“Our County faces mass unemployment with nearly 30% of our work force on the live register, almost 1 in 3 unemployed and our young people are emigrating in their dozens. We must work together to urge the new Minister for Enterprise Batt o Keefe to stand up for Donegal and to immediately implement a job strategy.

“We must target social housing and support the implementation of the recommendations of the homeless strategy; we must eradicate homelessness in Donegal and work in partnership with the HSE in addressing the accommodation needs of those suffering from addiction.

“We need to pursue and progress the major infrastructure projects in our county to name but a few the N14/N15 A5 link and the Stranorlar By-Pass and we need to aggressively tackle the soaring litter problem and illegal dumping in our County and ensure that recent motions in relation to estate takeovers are realised. Furthermore, we need to strengthen our ties with our colleagues and neighbours in the North, we have so much to offer each other and cross border co-operation is vital for a County such as ours.” ENDS


(Full speech follows)

Cora Harvey: Acceptance Speech as Méara of County Donegal.

Elected representatives, manager, members of the Executive – directors and staff, members of the public, family and friends and members of the media.

Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom rá go bhfuil brón orm nach bhfuil a lán gaelige agam, ach tá súil agam roimh deireadh an bliain seo, go mbeidh gaelige maith agam.

I want to thank you all sincerely for joining us here today in the County House in Lifford.

Can I extend a céad míle fáilte roimh Mr. Pat Doherty, MP for West Tyrone and take this opportunity to congratulate him on his fantastic landslide in the Westminster Elections, Comhghairdeas Pat and well done.

I would also like to welcome back into the chamber Senator Pearse Doherty and acknowledge my predecessor Mr. Tony McDaid who unfortunately couldn’t be here. Also I see members from Strabane District Council, newly elected Mayor Ms Macheala Boyle and Councillor Kieran Maguire. It is a great honour to have you all here today. It is particularly touching for me as I have family roots in Strabane and my late father Jim hailed from the ‘head of the town,’ so am delighted that members of Strabane Council came to this occasion today.

I would also extend a warm welcome to my grandfather Johnny, who is approaching his 90th year. Members of the Mc Aleer, Quinn, Harvey and Gallen family, especially my mother Roseanna, Husband Brian, and children Dean-James and Naomh, and finally to members and supporters of the Sinn Féin party, I am glad you could join us today, as without you today would not be the same and actually would not have happened.

I want to take a moment now to reflect on the past year since our newly elected council was constituted and I want to wish out going Méara Mr. Brendan Byrne well in the time ahead. .

Donegal has been faced with many challenges and difficulties over the past year; furthermore the difficulties we endured were compounded by the economic downturn, which led to a huge reduction in Council funding, staff cutbacks, and ultimately a reduced service provision. We also experienced change at an executive service level, where senior experienced public servants retired, this resulted in amalgamation of services and cross cover. The public sector recruitment embargo and industrial dispute were also factors to consider.

To the members of the council who voted for me today, I want to thank you for respecting my mandate and on behalf of the people that elected me and on behalf of Sinn Féin I thank you.

This is a big day for me, for my family, for my constituents and finally for my party, because today is historic for us and indeed for you because you put me here. I believe I am the first Sinn Féin Cathaoirligh in over 90 years, the first ever female Méara and only the second female Cathaoirligh. On that note I wish to acknowledge sentiments by ex –Chairperson and County Councilor Ms Maureen Doohan for her good wishes. I also want to pay tribute today to past members of this council and more specifically to those who are no longer with us. Today we remember Councillor Eddie Fullerton, a man who tragically lost his life because of his political beliefs and because he stood up for what he believed in. Eddie served for 12 years on this council and by no means did he get it easy, it is with great honour and pride that I represent his party here today as Méara as we approach the 20th anniversary of his murder. Eddie will always be remembered by his Sinn Féin colleagues both here in Donegal and further afield and I am sure he is smiling down on us today.

Today for me signifies acceptance, hope and change. We are embarking on a new political year. Many of you that voted for me did so without sharing all my views, this I believe is a significant signal of change. You have accepted me as your Cathaoirligh, so from today on I represent you and this County, regardless of political persuasion. I am now your Cathaoirligh for the next 12 months and I sincerely hope that we can work together. I believe that we can, but if we are to work together effectively change must happen. I am young and I am still learning, you can take political advantage of that, which is your choice. I have made my decision and I have chosen to work with every elected member of this Council and I will respect your mandate. My aim is to improve public confidence in Donegal Politics, in the democratic process and to make this council efficient, effective and accountable, that is my goal and your aim will help. Since my short time in Donegal County Council I have been enlightened by the political unity that can be presented on communal projects, when we work together for the common good of our County we can make great advances and achieve great things. That is what I want to see happen more and more, surely each area will have their own projects and that must continue, that will continue.

We have a difficult job to do, we all have the same job to do and the problem is we have all been trained very differently to do that job, but that I believe can be used to our advantage rather than to our disadvantage. We have a wealth of experience and knowledge within the confines of Donegal County Council and I don’t believe that we have been utilizing these attributes to the best of our ability. We were the subject of negative media controversy over the past year, much to our own doing, we can change that image and increase public confidence and improve our public image, again colleagues I urge you to help me in this endeavor.

The year ahead economically is going to be no better than last, we have another tough year ahead, difficult decisions to make and limited resources to work with, however the show must continue, roads need to be fixed, houses needs to be allocated and water treatment must be maintained.

Our County faces mass unemployment with nearly 30% of our work force on the live register, almost 1 in 3 unemployed and our young people are emigrating in their dozens.
Small businesses are facing extinction, house repossessions are on the increase and debt is spiraling.

We must work together to urge the new Minister for Enterprise Batt o Keefe to stand up for Donegal and to immediately implement a job strategy, in the coming months I will convene a special conference aimed specifically at tackling unemployment in our county pulling together all the relevant stakeholders and I will be requesting that the IDA, Údaras na Gaeltachta and Enterprise Ireland report directly back to us on their efforts for Donegal.

We must target social housing and support the implementation of the recommendations of the homeless strategy; we must eradicate homelessness in Donegal and work in partnership with the HSE in addressing the accommodation needs of those suffering from addiction. We need to pursue and progress the major infrastructure projects in our county to name but a few the N14/N15 A5 link and the Stranorlar By-Pass. We need to aggressively tackle the soaring litter problem and illegal dumping in our County and ensure that recent motions in relation to estate takeovers are realised. Furthermore we need to strengthen our ties with our colleagues and neighbors in the North, we have so much to offer each other and cross border co-operation is vital for a County such as ours.

As I hope the year ahead is a time of change and co-operation I hope to open the office of Mayor to individual and community groups, I want to make the office of Mayor more open and more accessible. I want to encourage civic leadership and encourage active civic representation in this chamber. I intend to acknowledge the active work of volunteerism through civic award ceremonies and honor all those who make a valuable contribution to our society such as carers and youth workers. I intend to keep the spirit of ‘Donegal Live’ alive and work with the tourism bodies in promoting our towns and villages.

Ta a lán obair le déanamh again uilig an bhilian seo, ach creidim ma obríonn muid uilig le chéile, déanfaidh muid an rud ceart fa choinne Dun na nGall. I look forward to being your Méara and thank you once again for supporting me today.

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Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Education Committee, Michelle O’Neill, has put a proposal to the Assembly’s Education Committee calling for the committee to support the Department of Education’s bid to the Department of Finance and Personnel for more money for school builds.

 

Speaking today Ms O’Neill said:

 

“Both the DUP and UUP voted against a motion and stopped a letter ofsupport for extra funding from the Department of Finance going forward.

 

“The DUP and UUP members, including the Chair Mervyn Storey, had an opportunity to to offer practical support to schools awaiting a new build. They failed to do so.

 

“Mervyn Strorey is very good at grandstanding in the media and on the floor of the Assembly but when presented with practical responses to the needs of schools he has clearly failed to deliver.”

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Responding to the Victims Commissioners proposals on the issue of Truth recovery, Sinn Féin spokesperson on victims issues Francie Molloy said that their report was ‘a missed opportunity to recommend a process that respects the rights and needs of all victims and survivors’.

Mr. Molloy said:

“The British Government cannot be arbiters of a Truth Recovery process. The many victims of State violence believe that the actions and policies of the British Government must be part of any truth recovery process. Republicans have made it clear that they will be prepared to take part in a truth recovery process which is international and independent.

“We believe that the Victims and Survivors have missed an opportunity to recommend a process that will respect the rights and needs of all victims and survivors.

“The central thrust of the Commissions proposals is that there must be a political consensus including Unionist support for any truth process. In effect a political veto. Let’s be clear, the rights of victims and survivors to discover the truth cannot be set aside for such. If it had been up to the Unionist parties there would have been no Saville inquiry and the innocence of those killed that day would still be under question.

 ‘Already this morning I have had several comments from victims angry at the view expressed by the Commissioners that the ‘Recognition Payment’ was a ‘scandal’ and echoing former British Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward’s, view that it should not be introduced to appease unionism. This is wrong. All victims need to be treated equally. The ‘Recognition Payment’ was an example of this equality and needs to be introduced immediately.”

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