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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 Senator David Cullinane has stated that the Minister for Health and Children must reject a leaked HSE report which recommended the reduction of sexual assault services, and introducing waiting lists for pregnant women and newborn infants.

The report warned that unless these measures are approved, some regional hospitals in the north east could close.

Speaking in the house yesterday, Senator Cullinane stated that the Minister needed to address the Seanad to clarify these matters.

“There have been numerous calls for the minister for Health to address this house on a number of matters, and this must be among the most crucial of them.

“The public could be forgiven for thinking there had never been an election, as we are seeing the exact same tactics as the previous government of scare tactics and leaked reports. The tricks we saw with the previous establishment, as with the McCarthy report, are being repeated now. The patients are being used as pawns. There does not have to be a decision between such essential services, and closure of hospitals.

“The crazy spectacle of HSE staff being paid for work they hadn't done is just one illustration of the waste which exists in the system. The government would be better addressing such waste rather than resorting to scare tactics.

“This report is a worrying insight in to the slash and burn philosophy which prevails in the corridors of power. The threat to Monaghan General Hospital and Louth General Hospital is equally a threat to Waterford General Hospital and to Roscommon General Hospital. If it can happen in the north east, then it can happen in the South east and in the West as well.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice Jonathan O’Brien TD has given a broad welcome to the proposed interdepartmental group which will inquire into the state involvement in the running of Magdalene Laundries.

However Deputy O’Brien expressed disappointment at the apparent delay stating “time is of the essence” for these women.

Deputy O’Brien called for an immediate apology to the survivors.

“I welcome the fact that the Government are finally taking action on this issue. It is not before time.

“I am disappointed that the inquiry falls short of that recommended by the UN Committee Against Torture. I am also disappointed that the Government did not take the opportunity to apologise to the victims.

“There is an abundance of evidence, already in existence that shows the state’s complicity in what went on in the Magdalene Laundries, where so-call “way-ward” women were incarcerated without pay in many cases for their entire lives.

“The Magdalene laundries were given direct state contracts and in some instances were used as remand centres. Many were transferred from industrial schools or were sent as court alternatives to prison. Gardaí were directly involved capturing those who managed to escape.

“As I stated before the absolute priority here must be an apology, from the state and from the religious orders who ran the institution. An apology costs nothing but is worth so much. Time is of the essence. There is no reason that this could not happen immediately.”

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O'Brien has welcomed the statement from the Department of Justice this evening on the Magdelene Laundries but said it missed the opportunity to apologise on behalf of the state to the victims.

Deputy O'Brien said:

“I welcome the establishment of the Inter Departmental committee and in particular the independent Chairperson.

“However questions still remain to be answered on whether or not the victims of the Magdelene Laundries can expect to be compensated for their ordeals and this evening's statement was a missed opportunity for the State to apologise.” ENDS

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As the government informed the Seanad today the restrictions of the IMF/EU deal means that there will be a reduction in Special Needs Education provision, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Youth Affairs Senator Kathryn Reilly said:

“Language Support Teachers provide services to those most in need. They are not niche interest on or luxury addition to existing services in our education system. They are an essential part of the Education System.

“The previous government planned to reduce the total number of language support teachers by 500 over four years. This government, that promised so much change, will now implement half these cuts by September with a loss of 250 posts.

“These changes will affect about 2,500 students, all of whom have already received two years support.

“The changes will impact, directly on children who require language support and also taken with the other education cut backs will impact on all students.

“These cut backs are a direct outworking of the EU/IMF deal. Special needs pupils are now paying for the failures of bankers and the inability of the government parties to place the needs of our children to the fore.

“Reducing the number of language support teachers from an already ailing education system is not in the interests of our children nor is it an acceptable way to balance the budget.

“I call on the Government to listen to the voice of educationalists, to listen to the advocates of children and to reconsider these cutbacks.” ENDS

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O'Neill today said that she wanted to work with her Departmental Committee to address many key issues that the agriculture sector and rural communities face.

The Minister was speaking as she attended her first Departmental Committee hearing, where she updated members on her priorities as Minister.

She said: "My Department has the potential to be a key economic driver and has a critical role to play in supporting the agri-food sector in building economic recovery. This requires partnership between government and industry and cooperation and collaboration right along the supply chain. It demands increasing development of scientific knowledge and innovative techniques and effective technological transfer to the industry. It must be built on improved knowledge and skills. These issues, and the key economic role that my Department can play, will be a central focus for me over the next few years.”

She said that one factor which will have a major influence on the future success of the agri-food sector would be the outcome of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform negotiations, and added: “I am keen to engage with the Committee to help ensure that we getting the best possible outcome from the discussions about the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. I will be putting the case forward for a strong CAP which is adequately funded. I will also be looking for a CAP that is simpler for farmers and administrators alike to implement.”

She added: “The reformed common fisheries policy is expected to be introduced in 2013. I am determined that the new policy should reduce unnecessary red tape, address the rigidity of current fish quota rules, allow for the diversity of fishing fleets across the EU, reduce fish discards and provide for greater integration of fisheries with other marine policies.”

The Minister explained that she wanted to build on the good work of her predecessor Michelle Gildernew to keep bluetongue out of the local industry and reduce Brucellosis (BR) and TB in our herds. "It is my intention to help ensure that this downward trend continues under my stewardship and that we can achieve a BR free status as soon as possible. I am determined to continue with the Fortress Ireland approach to bio security which will help ensure that a range of measures are in place to protect industry and economy from animal disease.

“I will also implement the recent legislation including the Diseases of Animals Act, the Welfare of Animals Act, Dogs (Amendment) Act and Forestry Act and I am sure the Committee will work with me on these efforts,” she said.

The Minister explained that her Department's Rural Development Programme is having a positive impact in terms of increasing the competitiveness of our local agri-food industry, protecting and enhancing the environment and improving the quality of life in rural areas. She said: "With over £27million committed so far through Letters of Offer issued this shows a significant investment in our rural communities. I am however determined to ensure that any barriers to progress delivery of additional spend in the programme are removed to enable the Programme to be as accessible to as many people as possible.”

The Minister concluded: “I am looking forward to over this Assembly term to a constructive relationship with the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. I am confident that by working together we can take advantage of many opportunities and overcome challenges that the agriculture sector and rural communities face.”

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Speaking today after the release of figures by the Department for Work and Pensions in Britain which showed that Irish people moving to live in Britain increased by 25% to 13,920 last year, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Youth Affairs Kathryn Reilly said that these figures show that more and more young people are being forced to emigrate to find work.

Senator Reilly said:

“As we hurtle towards the 100th day of this Government, the endemic problem of unemployment and emigration still remain.
“The overwhelming majority of Irish people emigrating to Britain are between the ages of 18 and 34.Young, educated, skilled people are leaving this State in their droves. These are the very people we need to drive our economic recovery.

“We have heard that our greatest export market is Britain, and today’s figures show in no uncertain terms that our greatest export is our young people. Behind these bald statistics are families and friends separated, and communities losing a generation of young people, due to an economic crisis created in bankers’ board rooms.

“Sinn Féin has set out proposals for an economic stimulus package to deliver growth, create jobs and retain essential expertise, skills and experience across Ireland.

“The government jobs initiative falls short of what is required to create jobs for our young people. Once again the Government are falling back on the safety valve of emigration to pay for their economic short comings.

“This is a price that families, communities and our country cannot afford to pay.”

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Sinn Féin MLA and party spokesperson on Housing, Fra McCann, has called for the Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland, to clarify his statement that further suspensions from development have taken place amongst Housing Associations.


Mr McCann stated,

“I am calling on the Minister to clarify his remarks to the state of the Housing Associations following the suspension of seven Associations from continuing to provide new homes

“Helm Housing was suspended several months ago from building new social homes, but no reason has been given as to why this suspension has occurred nor have we been told what is happening to the developments which were in the process of being built or those proposed to start in the near future.

“Any delay in these developments will add to the serious problem which exists in the supply of social housing.

“We are also concerned that confusion reigns in many quarters on the future of the Housing Association movement and this also needs to be clarified as a matter of urgency to deal with the serious morale problem which exists within housing sector.

"I am calling on the Minister to make a statement how he intends to deal with the current situation and what plans he has to meet the current demand for new homes.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle has echoed concerns from experts worried about a generation gap in blood donors, as figures show a 20% drop in the number of young people giving blood over the past ten years.

Ms Boyle said


“New research by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) suggests many young people are either too busy or daunted to donate. Some said they had a fear of needles and others not having enough information if they were eligible or where to go to donate .There has been a drop of nearly 60,000 thousand donors aged between 17 to 34 in the past ten years, down from 297,539 in 2001, to now 237,520.


"Blood donation is very important for the proper delivery of health care. Each year thousands of patients require blood transfusions in our hospitals, because they are undergoing surgery, recovering from cancer or have been in a serious accident. Blood transfusion is life saving and life enhancing so every effort must be made to get more people to become donors.


What this survey tells us is we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that young people know the importance of donating blood. The NHS needs 7,000 voluntary donations of blood every day to care for its patients. We need to get that message into our schools, Universities, sporting organisations and work places.

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Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has raised concerns with the Health Minister Edwin Poots about the long term future of several care homes in the North West operated by the Southern Cross and also what standby emergency provision plans are currently in place.

Those concerns come following the news that Southern Cross has announced proposals to cut 3,000 jobs out of its workforce of 44,000 staff. And that there could be possible job losses at some of its twenty-six  care homes in the North four of which are in the North West.

 

Foyle MLA  Raymond McCartney said  

 

“I felt it was very important to raise this issue directly with the Health Minister Edwin Poots. There is a lot of concern in Derry and indeed throughout the North West about jobs losses and the long term future of homes which are run by the Southern Cross group.It’s also important that the public know what standby emergency provision is  in place.

 

There is a fear that there could be 100 jobs loses at care homes in the North. Relatives of many of those who reside at these homes are very concerned about those job losses and impact that could have on the provision of care for their elderly relatives.

 

Southern Cross has said the expected cuts are to be completed by October, after a period of consultation with unions.  It’s crucial that the relatives of those who are in the care of the Southern Cross are fully informed at every stage of the process how any changes will affect their relatives.

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The Sports Minister has said that an Olympic Games qualifying tournament is to be held in Lisburn.


Lisburn Racquets Club is to host the Yonex Irish International Badminton Championship in December. Two hundred players from over 30 countries around the world will compete at the four day event to qualify for the London 2012 Games next August.

This is the second pre-qualifying event which is to take place here. The Boccia World Cup will be held at the University of Ulster from the 18 - 27 of August this year.

Speaking at Lisburn Racquets Club, Carál Ní Chuilín said: “Lisburn is getting ready to welcome badminton teams from Europe, America and Africa in December.

“Significant work has been undertaken to bring this important pre-qualifying tournament to Lisburn. I am confident that other Olympic approved facilities here in the North of Ireland will have the honour of hosting similar pre-qualifying and training events over the coming months.”

The Sports Minister also outlined the aims of the North’s Olympic Strategy: “I am pleased that our partners in sport, business, arts, education and tourism as well as central and local government are working hard to ensure that as part of the lasting legacy of having the world’s largest sporting event so close to these shores we increase participation in sports for all, especially young people. We also want to encourage community engagement and social inclusion and to secure economic benefits.”

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Coiste na nIarchimí is hosting the launch of the book “The Unlikely Secret Agent” by Ronnie Kasrils – former ANC commander and South African Government Minister.

West Belfast MP, Paul Maskey said:

"The book offers an insight into the earliest days of the armed struggle in South Africa, the workings of the embryonic ANC underground movement and its growing network of support.

"Its narrative tells of the threat posed by state agents and the betrayal of  Eleanor – Ronnie’s wife and the ‘Unlikely Secret Agent’ of the title - her imprisonment, escape and then exile.

"It really is an excellent and moving story.

"Ronnie has been a major influence on thinking within Irish Republican circles. His experience of the conflict and the ANC’s move into conflict resolution and peace process with his former enemies has been a major influence on events in Ireland."

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Bairbre de Brún MEP has said that next week's vote in the European Parliament will be a key moment in the ongoing reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Speaking from Brussels , de Brún said, "Recently the Agriculture committee voted on the Dess report on CAP reform, addressing many of the issues raised by farmers at home, including those on which I had tabled amendments.

"The vote in the Parliament next week will be hugely important in advance of the Commission draft legislative proposals, expected in October. It is far from being the last word on the issue but it is an important signal to the Commission indicating what the European Parliament expects to see.Next week’s plenary vote will therefore be a key moment in the CAP reform debate.

“The upcoming budget vote will also be vital in order to ensure adequate financing for agriculture in the future.  I will continue to fight for a proper budget for agriculture and rural development and to engage with the detail of the CAP reform proposals for the benefit of our farmers and farm families, our environment and our rural economy.

"The Dess report deals with the future of the single farm payment and also calls for protection of less-favoured-areas to stop land abandonment, a strong rural development pillar and adequate financing to ensure the future of our rural communities and agri-food industry.

"It further points up issues that need attention such the need to attract young people to farming, support for small farmers, and the importance of transparency in the food chain and a fair deal for farmers in helping deal with buyer power abuses.  It once again stresses the need to cut red tape.

"Next week’s vote will also continue the ongoing debate about the contribution of agriculture to environmental protection and combating climate change.”

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Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has announced that, as part of the events taking place to mark the 30th Anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strikes, Sinn Fein will be hosting a major half-day conference this Saturday 18th June in London, at the city’s Irish Centre in Camden.

Speakers at the event willinclude ‘Bik’ McFarlane (leader of the republican prisoners during the hunger strikes); Jennifer McCann MLA (Sinn Fein Assembly member & former republican prisoner); Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brun, (a former member of the National Anti-H Block/Armagh Committee); former Labour MP’s Tony Benn & Kevin McNamara; Roy Greenslade (writer and journalist); historian and writer Prof Christine Kineally; Ronnie Kasrils (former minister in Nelson Mandela’s ANC government), and Francis Wurtz, former French MEP, who was present at Bobby Sands’ funeral.

Mr Doherty said

“This will be a major conference, to recall and discuss one of the most significant events in recent Irish history. The hunger strike shaped the course of Irish politics. Bobby Sand’s election in Fermanagh South Tyrone in the Westminster election of April 1981, and of Kieran Doherty in Cavan Monaghan and Paddy Agnew in Louth in the June 81 general election in the south, were watershed moments. It has needed the intervening decades to understand the extent to which the courage and sacrifice of the ten men who died on hunger strike changed modern Irish history”.

Sinn Fein MLA Jennifer McCann, who will be speaking at the event said "I'm delighted to be travelling to London to take part in this conference. Thirty years have passed since the deaths of Bobby and his nine comrades, and it is great to see the interest there has been in the run-up to this event, especially from many young people who were not even born at the time. Much has changed in the period since 1981, then I was a young prisoner in Armagh Gaol, now I am the Sinn Fein chief whip in the northern Assembly, but the struggle I am in involved in now is for the same objectives as it was all those years ago.

As the political process continues to move forward, alongside the continuing debate on Irish unity, the conference comes at an important juncture as the relationship between Britain and Ireland enters a new phase”.

 

CONFERENCE: `1981-A TURNING POINT IN IRISH HISTORY’. SAT 18 JUNE, LONDON IRISH CENTRE, MURRAY STREET, LONDON NW1. 1pm-5.30pm

REGISTRATION (to cover conference costs): £5 waged £3 unwaged (payable to 1981 London Conference), BY POST: PO Box 65845, London EC1P 1LS.

OR BY EMAIL: [email protected]

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=11269777214326

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice Jonathan O’Brien has condemned today’s news that there are to be no new Gardaí recruited saying that it is the communities who will suffer the effects of this short-sighted proposal.

Deputy O’Brien said that with depleted numbers the Gardaí will be incapable of carrying out their functions properly.

Deputy O’Brien said:

“Not only are we going to suffer due to a lack of Garda numbers in the short term but as senior experienced Gardaí are lost there will be 2 year period were no new recruits are being trained and gaining the necessary experience.

“Sinn Féin has over many years campaigned for crime preventative visible Garda patrols in working class areas, for greater Garda accountability and more community policing initiatives.

“With seriously depleted numbers the Gardaí are going to be incapable of carrying out their functions properly.

“It is the communities that will suffer the effects of this short-sighted cut in Garda numbers.

“We have already heard reports of insufficient Garda resources to deal with the corporate crime infestation that has brought this sate to the brink of bankruptcy and this move will only lead to greater difficulties in this and other policing spheres.

“This doesn’t make any sense unless the Government have collectively fallen on their heads and are hoping for a ‘serious drop in crime happening in the mouth of one of the worst recessions in modern history’. Maybe they are betting on the numbers within the state dropping even further through forced emigration leading to an improvement in the ratio of Gardaí to individuals.

“The reality is this sate can’t afford not to have a sufficiently resourced and constantly renewed police force. The Government has to rescind this decision not to recruit new Gardaí for 2 years. They have to do what they promised during the election, stop snivelling, negotiate and get us off the hook of this unsustainable IMF / EU ‘deal’.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Michelle Gildernew has expressed deep concern that the number of suicides last year in the North is the highest on record.

 

Ms Gildernew stated,

 

“Last year 313 people took their own life which is a record for the North.I am extremely concerned that many of those who died were young people who came for social disadvantaged areas.

 

“This year has also seen the highest number of maternal suicides with five womentaking their own lives which is an extremelyworrying development and shows that more needs to be done to support new mothers.

 

“Areas of North and West Belfast have nearly twice the death rate through suicide as the rest of the North and young males are particularly at risk.

 

“Suicides last year accounted for now nearly six times the amount of people who died on our roads and whilethere has been a continuous campaign to bring the number of road deaths down and rightly so there has not been the same determination to that of suicide.

 

“Mental health is as important as physical health so it is important that we target this area and the reasons that cause people to give up hope and take their own lives.

 

“We need to look at ways of combating this in a way that encompasses all agencies working together rather than a piecemeal approach currently taken.

 

“I intend to raise this issue through the health committee so that resources can be directed to those areas of need in combating this problem.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has called for the harmonisation of Air Passenger Duty across the island of Ireland.

Mr Flanagan stated,

“At present the Air Passenger Duty in the North can range from £12 - £60 depending on your destination while in the South it is presently €3 for all flights with the possibility that it will be abolished all together.

“This has created an unfair advantage for airlines flying from airports in the South to the detriment of the airports in the North as the cheaper prices are more attractive to passengers especially those on trans Atlantic routes that can cost an extra £60 in Air Passenger Duty in the North.

“I am calling on the NI Affairs Committee to recommend the harmonisation of the rate in the North by following the example in the South by abolishing this tax.This would allow the airports North of the border to operate on the basis of equality and increase passenger numbers through these airports."

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Sinn Féin MLA Fra Mc Cann for West Belfast has welcomed the decision by the Housing Executive to move ahead with the demolition of Ross Street Cottages tomorrow morning.

Mr McCann stated,

“I have supported the local residents in the campaign to have the Ross Street Cottages and adjacent flats demolished and I am delighted that this campaign has now come to fruition and the demolition will now begin tomorrow.

“This area has been the center of anti-community activity in the area and having them demolished will help ease that problem.

“It is important for the regeneration of this part of the Falls Road that these flats and cottages are replaced with quality homes that will allow a beginning for the local area."

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Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has said, racism has no place in sport. His comments follow reports in the media today that Derry City Player and Libyan International Eamon Zayed suffered racist insults during a match against St Patrick’s Athletic played at Richmond Park at the weekend.

Raymond McCartney said

“Firstly I want to utterly condemn who ever were behind the reported sickening racist insults that were directed at Eamon Zayed. No sportsperson, their family and friends attending any sporting event should have to put up with racist insults.

Racism has no place in sport in Ireland .Great efforts have been made over recent years to try and eradicate it out of soccer through the “Show Racism the Red Card” project. Show Racism the Red Card is now present in Britain, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Ireland.

We need to challenge racism through providing education resources and intercultural activity which support integration. There is a need to be constantly promoting tolerance and respect across the many different cultures in Ireland.

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Speaking on the Sinn Féin anti-water charges motion which will be heard in the Dáil on Thursday, Environment Spokesperson Deputy Brian Stanley said that the government must abandon its plans to charge people for water which is a basic human right.
The Laois-Offaly TD said;
“The Sinn Féin motion opposes the proposed introduction of water charges and calls on the Government to abandon these plans. These proposed charges will only add to the huge burden of debt which already hangs over citizens’ heads. We have seen ruthless Government cuts to services, massive unemployment rates and a huge increase in the level of personal and mortgage debt. People simply cannot afford to keep paying for this Government and the previous Government’s mistakes.
“On Thursday afternoon my party will table a motion which calls on Fine Gael and Labour to abandon their plans to impose water charges on households. We are calling for the Government to stop their plans to spend between €500 million and €1 billion on the installation of water meters. This money would be put to far better use upgrading the antiquated distribution network which would more than pay for itself as well as being a much needed job creation mechanism.
“We believe that the central taxation system is the only appropriate funding mechanism for domestic water.
“This is an important motion and I am calling on both Government parties to stand true to their pre-election promises and reject these unfair regressive stealth taxes. We are calling on Labour in particular to not be party to the implementation of these charges which will place an unbearable burden on many working families.”
ENDS
Note to editors: Full text of motion below
Sinn Féin Private Members Business Motion for Wednesday 15th June, 2011
That the Dáil –
Affirms that access to water and sewerage services for domestic use is a universally recognised and basic human right
- Acknowledges that the right to water includes the right to clean and safe water, the right to equitable access to water without discrimination (including on grounds of income), and the right to freedom from contamination or arbitrary disconnection of the water supply.
- Recognises that water is a valuable resource that is expensive to treat and distribute and that everyone has a duty to conserve it;
- Believes that responsibility, including operational responsibility, for water production, treatment and distribution must remain with local authorities and within full public ownership;
- Affirms that public authorities must take effective management decisions to protect and improve water quality, and to promote and ensure water conservation and sustainability in an equitable manner consistent with the principle of progressivity.
- Rejects the creeping privatization of our most vital resource evidenced by the preferred option status of Design, Build and Operate contracts with private companies in the area of water production and treatment services;
- Alerts the government to the danger that the current policy trajectory will shortly bring us to a situation where water services are entirely in private hands leaving the Irish public vulnerable to the profiteering price hikes and water poverty that have been witnessed elsewhere in the world, and particularly in countries under strong IMF influence such as Argentina and Bolivia;
- Notes the record of privatisation of water services in other jurisdictions is abysmal demonstrating that the pursuit of such policies are not in the best interest of the people of this State;
- Notes that the introduction of metering with any form of charge for domestic users signals the end of the Irish derogation from the EU’s Water Directive which exempts only our current practice from the full cost recovery principle, the consequence of which would be much higher household water bills than those currently signalled by government
- Condemns the chronic and on-going lack of investment in our water infrastructure, especially during the time of budget surpluses, with the result that up to 58% of treated water is lost by the distribution network before it even reaches households
- Considers that the €500 million which the government intend spending on the installation of household water meters, rising to €1 billion due to the funding options being considered, would be better spent upgrading the antiquated distribution network and such investment would more than pay for itself in a relatively short time and both retain and create jobs in the local economy
- Notes that local authorities have substantial funding in the Water Services Capital Accounts which they are prevented from using due to the conditions imposed by the European Growth and Stability Pact
- Promotes the establishment of an All-Ireland Water and Sewerage Authority the purpose of which would be only to ensure that water quality and environmental standards are met and to facilitate co-operation between local authorities on the island, reduce costs and maximize efficiency, leaving the operational responsibility with local authorities
- Rejects the use of stealth taxes and other forms of regressive double-taxation.as a funding mechanism for domestic water whether said stealth taxes consist of a flat charge under any name or a flat rate charge with a meter, and
Affirms that the central taxation system is the only appropriate funding mechanism for domestic water.
Brian Stanley, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Gerry Adams, Michael Colreavy, Seán Crowe, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Mary Lou McDonald, Sandra McLellan, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Jonathan O'Brien, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Peadar Tóibín.

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Limerick Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan has again criticised the use of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to build the Limerick Tunnel after it was revealed today that €1.24 million in penalties was paid by the NRA to the Tunnel operator to cover a four month period late last year.

At more than €10,000 a day Councillor Quinlivan described the situation as shambolic and said it shows that a bad deal was achieved for Limerick motorists and for taxpayers.

City Councillor Maurice Quinlivan said: “Sinn Féin constantly warned that the tunnel would be a missed opportunity as it would unfortunately not reach its full potential because it is being tolled and built so close to the City Centre. Now we see that the NRA had paid the private operator €1.24 million in penalties to cover a 4 month period late last year. This is more than €10,000 a day. And worryingly there is no sign in the immediate future that the Tunnel will achieve the 17,000 vehicles a day needed to pass through the Shannon tunnel to avoid these penalties. My Understanding is that less than 13,000 vehicles a day are using the tunnel. The taxpayer therefore stands to lose millions over the duration of the contract.

“When the Government and the NRA signed the PPP contract to build the Shannon tunnel they agreed a penalty fee to be paid by the taxpayer if a certain number of vehicles failed to use the Shannon Tunnel on a daily basis. To avoid penalty payments 17,000 vehicles need to pass through the Shannon tunnel every day. Under the agreement the signed by the Government taxpayers maybe liable for bills of tens of millions of Euros in penalties during the lifetime of the contract. This is crazy. The tunnel, albeit an excellent piece of infrastructure, was built far too close to the City Centre and the toll too high for many motorists for it to reach its maximum potential of removing traffic from the streets of Limerick City. An opportunity to really liberate the streets of Limerick via a dramatic reduction in city traffic has been missed we are now suffering massive financial penalties.

“This road project was approved by the Government at a time when the country’s coffers were awash with monies. There was no need for the Government to have a PPP to build this project. There certainly was no need to agree a penalty clause at such a potentially huge cost to the taxpayers.

“The policy of tolling motorists has been a disaster in Dublin on the M50 and the government should not have repeated this mistake at the expense of Limerick and Clare motorists. Will we be in a similar situation in a number of years where a future government will have to buy out the Shannon Tunnel as was done with the M50 toll charges at huge expense?

“The fact that Limerick people are paying for a tunnel is in stark contrast to the situation with the toll-free Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork. However the fact that taxpayers, many of whom will never use the tunnel, will pay more than €10,000 a day in the penalties is outrageous.” CRÍOCH

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