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Sinn Féin in government will axe the water tax – Mary Lou McDonald TD

"Sinn Féin in government will reverse water charges. These charges will only cause further hardship for families already struggling to make ends meet."

Today, Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD launched the party's vision for water services accompanied by both Brian Stanley TD and Cllr. Cathal King who is the Sinn Fein candidate for the upcoming by election in Dublin South-West.

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“The DUP are vocal about the consequences of not implementing these Tory cuts but remain silent on the impact of these cuts which would take hundreds of millions of pounds out of the pockets of the most vulnerable and least able to pay.  These cuts would plunge more children into poverty and take money from hard-pressed working families, people on benefits and from people with disabilities." - Daithí McKay



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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today led a Sinn Féin delegation, including party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Padraig MacLochlainn TD and Aengus O Snodaigh TD, in a meeting with a senior Palestinian delegation, led by Dr. Nabil Shaath, who is a leading member of Fatah, and a former Chief Negotiator and Foreign Minister and for the Palestinian Authority.

Dr. Shaath is currently involved in a round of meetings across EU states in which he is advocating support for a UN resolution in support of Palestinian statehood.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking after the meeting said:

“I reiterated Sinn Féin’s support for the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian people have the right to independence and self-determination and to a viable Palestinian state.
Sinn Féin supports the Palestinian people in their efforts to achieve statehood, based on the 1967 borders.”

The Sinn Féin leader also said:

“At this critical juncture in the difficult process of achieving a political settlement in that region there is an opportunity for the Irish government to take the lead in encouraging other European governments to support the Palestinian people.

“The Irish government should indicate now its full support for Palestinian UN Membership in the autumn.”

Mr. Adams added:

“I have visited the Middle East. I do not underestimate the difficulties in seeking to resolve the multiplicity of issues that need to be resolved, including a viable Palestinian state; Israeli occupation of Palestinian land; the siege of Gaza; the settlements; water rights; refugees; prisoners; the Separation wall and Jerusalem.

“However, with international support progress can be made.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, has urged the Government to demand an urgent and formal diplomatic meeting with the Papal Nuncio to account for the role of the Vatican in facilitating individual Irish bishops to ignore procedures designed to protect children from abuse. Commenting on the publication of the Cloyne Report, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The Cloyne Report is a shocking indictment, above all, of the Catholic Church which ignored its own guidelines and procedures designed to protect children from child abuse. What is especially shocking is that this report brings the clerical sexual abuse scandal right up to 2009.

“The Report finds that the Vatican ‘gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures which they had agreed and gave comfort and support to those who, like Monsignor O’Callaghan, dissented from the stated official Irish Church policy’.

“This is a damning indictment of the role of the Vatican. The Vatican is not just a Church bureaucracy – it is a sovereign State with which the Irish State has diplomatic relations.

“The Government should now demand an urgent and formal diplomatic meeting with the Papal Nuncio to account for the role of the Vatican in facilitating individual Irish bishops to ignore procedures designed to protect children from abuse.

“I welcome the strong response of the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to this Report. The commitment to place the Children First guidelines on a statutory basis and to legislate on the issue of soft information is very welcome.

“The Report, while commending An Garda Síochána in most cases, is also critical of their role in three cases. The Minister for Justice must ensure that the lessons of this Report are learned by the Gardai.

“As in previous Reports, Cloyne highlights the disagreement between the Office of the Minister for Children and the HSE about the extent of the powers available to the HSE in relation to extra-familial abuse of children. It is unacceptable that this situation persists and it must be addressed.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has today expressed deep disappointment at Justice Minister Alan Shatter’s attempts to avoid publishing the Magdalene Laundries inter-Departmental Committees Terms of Reference.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Last week I submitted a question to the Justice Minister asking him to publish the Magdalene Laundries inter-Departmental Committee’s terms of reference. Disappointingly the Minister has dodged the question noting only the bare bones of the Committee’s work as announced in his initial press statement.

“There should be no reason in the world for the Minister to avoid making public the Committee’s terms of reference and any attempt to withhold such fundamental details of the Committee’s work will do its Chairperson Senator McAleese a great disservice.

“The women and children incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundries were failed by the State. Their efforts to seek justice have been met with silence and secrecy. When in opposition the Minister voiced his criticism of the previous Government’s treatment of the Magdalene Survivors. Deputy Shatter is now in a position to right this wrong on behalf of the State.

“Publishing the Committee’s terms of reference will be another step in the right direction.” ENDS

Note to Editor:

QUESTION NO: 326
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Mr. Shatter)
by Deputy Mary Lou McDonald
for WRITTEN on Tuesday, 12th July, 2011.
* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will immediately publish the Magdalene Laundries inter-departmental committee terms of reference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. - Mary Lou McDonald

REPLY.
I can advise the Deputy that the inter-departmental committee is charged with establishing the facts of the State's involvement and clarifying any State interaction with the Magdalen Laundries and with producing a narrative detailing such interaction. The working arrangements of the committee will be a matter for the chairperson of the committee, Senator Martin McAleese.

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Commenting on the aftermath of the Orange Order parade being forced through Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales last night, Sinn Féin assembly member for the area Gerry Kelly said:

“The principle reason why tensions are raised here each summer is entirely down to the continuing failure of the Orange Order to sit down and enter dialogue with their neighbours. Instead they arrogantly insist on marching through communities where they are not wanted.

“The residents of Ardoyne held a dignified and peaceful protest against the unnecessary and unwanted Orange parade. There were others who decided to apply for an additional parade to enter the Crumlin Road at the same time as the Orange parade was scheduled to pass. This provided a focus for mainly young people from outside Ardoyne to travel to this area yesterday. A small number decided to engage in rioting.

“Local people are angry at the Orange Parade being forced through this community and are also angry at the fact that long after the parade had passed cars were being hijacked and damage done to people’s homes in this area.

“I have already raised with the PSNI this morning the premature use of water cannon. A small number of people were involved in the rioting. We are absolutely opposed to the use of plastic bullets in riot situations and have made this clear on many occasions. These are lethal weapons.

“It is now important that the people who live here in Ardoyne are able to get this district cleaned up and returned to normality. What we don’t need is a repeat of last night’s incidents going forward.”

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Speaking last night in the Dáil in support of a motion opposing cuts to Special Needs Assistants, Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe said the government must reverse the cuts that have impacted on children with learning and behavioural difficulties.

He continued: “The government must recognise that the loss of Special Needs Assistants in schools across this State is having a devastating impact on children who have special education and behavioural needs as well as on their families, who are struggling to cope, and on over-burdened teachers with responsibility for their learning.

“Cutting SNAs is an unacceptable way of saving a relatively small amount of money and it is an unethical policy. It is also simply not good enough that the Minister justifies the cap on SNAs by blaming his predecessors in government as he is in a position to honour Labour’s pre-election commitments to protect special education services.

“Today I will join people outside the Dáil who are demanding that the government reverses the cuts to SNAs. It is nothing short of perverse that at a time when the SNAs are being capped, it was revealed just this week that the final bill for the recent visits of the English Queen and President Obama amounted to an eye watering €36 million, almost twice as high as what was budgeted for!

“Such excessive spending cannot be justified no more than can the spending of over €100,000 on taxis fares and €130,000 on fine art at the Waterford Institute of Technology. The parents of a child with special needs would be justified in believing the government’s budget and spending priorities are exceptionally perverse and beyond comprehension.

“In the face of these figures it is high time that this government got its priorities right and ensured that it is the right of all children, regardless of their social and economic background, to receive a proper education. This cannot happen if essential cuts to SNAs continue be a central tenant of government policy.

“There are also growing fears that sharing special needs teaching hours amongst a rising number of pupils, combined with a reduction in support in resource teaching, is having the greatest impact on some of the most vulnerable sections of our community.

“The rights of children with special needs to obtain their educational needs must be a priority for this government yet to date their track record on this matter has been quite appalling.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has slammed the proposed cuts to the fuel allowance and household benefits package labelling them “scandalous and cowardly”.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said

“It is an absolute scandal that this Government is targeting the most vulnerable in our society so soon after promising to protect them. The fact that the Minister sat through a two hour Oireachtas committee meeting yesterday without so much as mentioning her impending attack on older people and the poor highlights how cowardly this government is. Indeed when I questioned her on the flagged energy price hikes she assured me that the Department would be subsuming their impact.

“The Government have announced a cut to the electricity allowance for older people of 25% in the same week that Bord Gáis have flagged a price hike of at least 10%. Likewise they are cutting the gas allowance by nearly 20% when a price hike of up to 30% has been flagged.

“I called to many darkened homes during the general election canvas last February. Older people especially were already turning their lights off because they simply could not afford to keep them on. These Government cuts will condemn many thousands of people to a bleaker and darker winter.

“If the Government wants to make savings in this area it should intervene in the market and prevent the various energy price hikes that have been flagged.

“The Programme for Government promised to maintain social welfare rates. This announcement does the opposite. This demonstrates that any promise contained in the Programme for Government that was published just 3 months ago is not worth the paper is printed on.”

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The government is incapable of tolerating dissent, and is determined to stifle any voices that disturb their cosy consensus, according to Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane.

His comments follow the visit of President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek to the Oireachtas. He addressed the Seanad this afternoon, where Sinn Féin was the sole grouping which didn’t have the opportunity to address Mr Buzek.

“The decision of the government, through the Committee on Privileges and Procedure, is absurd and makes a mockery of the Government’s supposed commitment to political reform. Sinn Féin is the second largest opposition party in the Oireachtas, yet we were denied the opportunity to speak.

“While this is at least partially related to the continued isolation and marginalisation of Sinn Féin within the Seanad, I also believe that the Government wanted to ensure that all speakers were singing off the same hymn sheet. Sinn Féin is the one major party that is fighting for the rights of ordinary Irish tax payers in Europe, and the government did not want to be embarrassed lest we strike a more challenging note.’

“The government has regularly stated its commitment to political reform, yet today, and indeed on an on-going basis, they have sought to exclude Sinn Féin’s voice despite our mandate, because we don’t fit in to their consensus. This to me shows an intolerance of dissent, and a determination to stifle oppositional voices.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation spokesperson Peadar Tóibín TD has informed the Ceann Comhairle that he will introduce an emergency bill that will strengthen the system for making Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements and will provide for their continued effective operation.

Speaking this evening, Deputy Tóibín said:

“Sinn Féin has decided to table the legislation as the government continues to dodge the issue. The Taosieach was questioned by Sinn Féin on a number of occasions today and on every occasion he refused to give any commitment to introduce legislation.

“An Taoiseach Enda Kenny claims he is unable to deal with the issue and is instead allowing Minister Richard Bruton to bring in reforms after the summer recess. This is simply not good enough.

“These employees are the lowest paid in the workforce, they can not afford to be left vulnerable while the Taoiseach takes his holidays. If the government refuses to defend and protect these workers then we will not be found wanting in doing so.

“We have spoken to a number of trade unions are we are confident that the legislation we will be proposing will deal adequately with the concerns raised by last Thursday's Court judgement.

“I will be bring the bill to the Oireachtas before the end of the week.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin leader dismissed efforts by the Taoiseach to claim that the decision on Roscommon was taken as a result of this year’s Mallow HQIA report.

Referring to the earlier 2009 Ennis HQIA report, Deputy Adams said that Fine Gael and Labour already knew from this “the HQIA position”.

The Sinn Féin leader said that “the way to deal with a hospital that is unsafe is to make it safe and to say that you have no other option demonstrates a lack of vision and imagination”.


Text of DeputyAdams’ remarks in the Dáil:
“Taoiseach, your handling of the Roscommon Hospital crisis, even here today, is an example of ‘the old ways of politics’ at their very worst.

During the election both you and the Labour leader Eamon Gilmore promised to maintain services at Roscommon Hospital.

By claiming today, and since you reversed that commitment, that the 2011 HQIA report means you have no option but to close the A&E services at Roscommon - by doing that, you compound the offence.

Because you knew the HQIA position before this.

In 2009 it recommended that, ‘smaller hospitals be re-designated for minor injuries and non-acute cases.”

And Fine Gael set their face against that recommendation and opposed it very trenchantly. And in my opinion correctly. And it is in that context Taoiseach that you made the pre-election commitment on Roscommon.

In the full knowledge of what the EQIA position is.

And yourself and Labour are now doing exactly what you accused Fianna Fáil of having done and to add insult to injury the HSE admitted that there has never been an inspection of Roscommon hospital.

So, Taoiseach the important issue – will you honour – because your promise was the right thing – will you honour your commitment to restore A&E reverse your decision to withdraw acute services from Roscommon hospital”.

In his supplementary the Sinn Féin President asked the Taoiseach to confirm whether he accepts the HQIA position on downgrading and cutting essential services to 9 other hospitals. “Can you confirm this?

And in the interest of telling the people the truth can you tell which hospitals will lose emergency services? And when will they be withdrawn? And will you not accept that what you’re doing in Roscommon is what Fianna Fáil did in Louth, in Ennis, in Nenagh and Monaghan.”

Text of Mr. Adams supplementary question:

“When Fianna Fáil used the 2009 HQIA report to justify the withdrawal of emergency services from Ennis Hospital James Reilly rightly accused the government of starving smaller hospitals of resources to make them unsafe and of then producing reports to prove this and to justify their closure.

Precisely and exactly what you have just done.

The way to deal with a hospital that is unsafe is to make it safe and to say that you have no other option demonstrates a lack of vision and imagination.

I spoke to the Roscommon Action Group and they have challenged in great detail the figures put forward by the Health Minister around various statements that he has made in the last week or so.

You say that you accept the HQIA recommendations in respect of Roscommon. They have also recommended that 9 other hospitals will be downgraded and lose essential services.

Can you confirm this?

And in the interest of telling the people the truth can you tell which hospitals will lose emergency services?

And when will they be withdrawn?

And will you not accept that what you’re doing in Roscommon is what Fianna Fáil did in Louth, in Ennis, in Nenagh and Monaghan.”

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Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


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Mary Lou McDonald TD