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

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

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


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



Latest Statements

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Derry Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson said she is delighted with the news that the 2013 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann will be coming to Derry.

Marina Anderson said:

“This is not only an historic decision with the All-Ireland Fleadh coming to the Six Counties for the first time ever but a great result for the city and county of Derry.

“There has been a lot of tremendous work done by many dedicated people to bring this successful bid and they deserve all the credit. Special thanks also goes to the timely intervention of Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson in resolving any concerns that Comhaltas had concerning the Fleadh coming to Derry.

“I’m sure this will not only be an historic Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann but also the best one ever as we celebrate the very finest in music, song, dance and much more of Irish culture.”

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O’Brien calls for examination of high levels of prison contraband seized

Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD today called on the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter TD to examine the high levels of contraband including weaponry, seized in prisons throughout the state and ensure that prisons are safe places for prisoners.

The Cork North Central TD said:
“I asked the Minister for Justice to provide me with information regarding the number of contraband items seized in prisons and the number of weapons seized from prisoners over the past number of years.
“The information which I have received is shocking, to say the least. Over the past two years, 15,076 contraband items have been confiscated including 2,787 weapons. These were homemade weapons such as pieces of perspex, sharpened toothbrushes, pool balls in socks, brush handles, water jugs and shivs.
“St Patrick’s Institution had the highest rate of weapons seizures last year, with 256 weapons confiscated.
“This is a prison which still holds 16 and 17 year olds and we have consistently said that this is an inappropriate place for children. It emphasises the urgent need to proceed with the National Children’s Detention Centre.
“The figures obtained from the minister show us that not only are Irish prisons dirty and unhygienic, overcrowded places, they are dangerous too. Mountjoy had particularly high confiscation rates in 2009 and 2010 and I welcome the drop in this figure during 2011.
“I also welcome the progress made by the Irish Prison Service in its attempts to improve security measures but I would urge the minister to turn his attention to St Patrick’s Institution as a matter of urgency.
“While there is no acceptable level of contraband seizures, a place that has had 1,625 of them over a two year period is no place for children. The figures depict dangerous places for prisoners to be in custody and dangerous places for prison staff to work in and the matter must be addressed immediately.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITOR:
Parliamentary Question Responses below.
QUESTION NO: 178

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Mr. Shatter)
by Deputy Jonathan O'Brien
for WRITTEN on Wednesday, 25th January, 2012.


* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of times and the details of, contraband items which have been thrown over the walls of, or smuggled in to each of the prisons in the State during the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Jonathan O'Brien


REPLY.
One of the major challenges in prisons today lies in preventing access to contraband items, primarily mobile phones and drugs, which for obvious reasons are viewed as highly valuable commodities among elements of the prison population.

Efforts are continually made to prevent the flow of contraband into our prisons by, for example, the installation of nets over exercise yards, vigilant observation of prisoners by staff, enhanced CCTV monitoring, the stricter control of visits, and the use of prisoner and random cell searches on a daily basis. Random searches of cells and their occupants and searching of correspondence and other items have all intercepted significant quantities of contraband in recent years. Nevertheless, the Irish Prison Service recognises that constant improvements are required in this area.

The table below illustrates the total number of items seized in each prison over this timeframe. It is important to note that a large percentage of these seizures are not directly from prisoners but are instead retrieved at entry point or before they get to the prisoner population. The type of articles seized vary considerably and include mobile phones, drugs, weapons (including improvised weapons such as pieces of perspex or shivs), phone chargers, alcohol, SIM cards, cash etc. The volume of items involved and the regularity in which seizures take place highlight the continuous attempts being made by criminal elements to access prohibited articles.
Prison Total number of items seized
Arbour Hill 9
Castlerea Prison 908
Cloverhill Prison 447
Cork Prison 514
Dochas Centre 261
Limerick Prison 1,884
Loughan House 585
Midlands Prison 1,187
Mountjoy Prison 4,784
Portlaoise Prison 385
St. Patrick's Institution 1,625
Shelton Abbey 388
Training Unit 598
Wheatfield Prison 1,501
Total 15,076


The above total includes 2,787 weapons and 3,156 drug seizures.


QUESTION NO: 179

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Mr Shatter)
by Deputy Jonathan O'Brien
for WRITTEN on Wednesday, 25th January, 2012.


* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of weapons which have been confiscated from prisoners in each of the prisons throughout the State during the past three years..

- Jonathan O'Brien


REPLY.
The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the table below.

Prison 2009 2010 2011
Arbour Hill 001
Castlerea Prison 160 171 151
Cloverhill Prison 151 73 75
Cork Prison 66 56 96
Dochas Centre 3 16 14
Limerick Prison 78 193 122
Loughan House 2 31 4
Midlands Prison 59 83 83
Mountjoy Prison 573 460 247
Portlaoise Prison 21 17 16
St. Patrick's Institution 183 278 256
Shelton Abbey 0 1 0
Training Unit 5 9 8
Wheatfield Prison 172 111 215
Total 1,473 1, 499 1,288


The mission of the Irish Prison Service is to provide safe, secure and humane custody for those placed into custody. The reduction between 2010 and 2011 is a direct consequence of the introduction of enhanced security measures which include:

• tighter control and monitoring of prison visits;
• airport style security screening of all staff and visitors coming into the prison;
• x-ray scanners to scan all coats and bags/briefcases;
• increased random searches of prisoner accommodation and it's occupants;
• stricter searching of those committed to custody and of those returning to the prison after temporary release, court and after visits.


No level of inter-prisoner violence is acceptable and every effort is made by prison staff and management to limit the scope of acts of violence. While the prison regime is designed to limit the scope of acts of violence, it is not possible to completely eliminate the possibility of such acts in prisons holding a high proportion of violent offenders without introducing a regime that would be unacceptable.
There is also a trend towards more homemade weapons being used by prisoners, for example, weapons made out of perspex, sharpened toothbrushes, a pool ball in a sock, brush handles or water jugs, since these measures were implemented.

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Tá Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, príomh aoire Shinn Féin tar éis scríobh chuig aoire an rialtas Paul Kehoe ag lorg go mbeidh lá curtha ar leathaobh le linn Seachtain na Gaeilge san oireachtas ina mbeidh iomlán nó tromlach gnó na Dála agus an Seanad agus coistí an Oireachtas as Gaeilge.

Tá Seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana idir 5-17 ú Márta agus beidh an gnó sa tsiúil san oireachtas le linn an tréimhse ar fad, rud nach mbeidh fíor.

Go dtí seo ní bhíonn ach plé/díospóireacht ar an Ghaeilge agus dúirt Ó Snodaigh gur chomhair “Lá Ghaeilge bheith ann, ar an bhonn céanna atá Lá na hEorapa a bhíonn ann i mí Bealtaine.

Dúirt Ó Snodaigh:

“Mar aon le Ceisteanna don Taoiseach, Ceisteanna na gCinnirí bheith as Gaeilge, toisc Gaeilge labhartha ag na cinnirí ar fad sa Dáil, d’fheadfaidh Cesiteanna don Aire Ealaín, Oidhreacht agus Gaeltacht bheith ar an sceideal don lá chéanna. D’fheadfaidh an Dara Staid de reachtaíocht ar bith bheith á phlé tar éis an Ord Ghnó a bhéas i nGaeilge. Agus d’fhéadfaidh impí ar teachtaí iarratais ar Gnéithe Topaiciúla bheith as Gaeilge nó faoin nGaeilge ar an lá céanna. Bheadh Gaeilgeoirí faoi bhrú na deiseanna labhartha ar fad a líonadh nó cuidiú le na foghlaimeoirí a bheadh ag iarraidh úsáid a bhaint as an méid Gaeilge atá acu. Ba léiriú seo do Pobal i gcoitinne gur féidir díospoireacht ceart a bheith ar aon gné as Gaeilge, agus nach díreach faoin Ghaeilge nó an Ghaeltacht amháin a bhíonn plé sa Dáil as Gaeilge.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Central Mary Lou McDonald has this morning called on HSE Chief Cathal Magee to launch an immediate investigation into the processing of medical and GP cards after TDs raised serious concerns about the service at yesterday’s Public Accounts Committee meeting.

The Sinn Féin Deputy Leader and Public Accounts Committee member said:

“Last year the Department of Health oversaw the centralisation of GP and medical cards processing which has resulted in unacceptable delays for citizens entitled to receive medical supports.

“Public representatives receive calls daily from very ill people and those on low incomes who despite being entitled to a medical card have to wait months before they receive their card due to unacceptable bureaucratic delays.

“Yesterday HSE management acknowledged there were problems with the system but offered little more than a review of the medical and GP application forms, this is simply not good enough.

“A series of committee members raised a catalogue of horrors with the HSE Chief and whilst our concerns were taken on board action was not guaranteed.

“The HSE Chief needs to grab the bull by the horns and launch an immediate review of the centralised system of processing cards at the Primary Care Reimbursement Service in Finglas.”

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications, Martin Ferris TD, has described as “inadequate” Minister Seán Sherlock’s statement that he will consider primary legislation to address issues of internet access and copyright, but that he still intends to sign a ministerial order governing this area.

Deputy Ferris also rejected any attempt to defer a full debate on the issue on the basis that it was taken as a topical issue in the Dáil yesterday afternoon.

Deputy Ferris said:

“Sinn Féin and other opposition parties, along with tens of thousands of concerned citizens, are still insisting on a full debate and legislation on this issue. Given the huge controversy over this and the potential damaging impact the proposed ministerial order will have, it is absolutely essential to the democratic process and the framing of proper domestic law that the Minister does not sign into law any measure until the proper legislative process is observed.

“Allowing people to vent their frustrations is no substitute for democracy. The minister’s response is totally inadequate. There must be a full debate and legislation on this issue. The people will not accept diktat.”

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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, speaking this week during a debate in the Dáil on the Water Services Bill said that a large number of people living in the Dublin area are worried about septic tank charges.
Deputy Crowe said: “It is not only rural areas that are worried about to the laws governing sceptic tank usage. Figures indicate that approximately 19,500 people living in the Dublin area use septic tanks.
“In my local authority area alone, the figure is somewhere in the region of 5,000 and the Dublin South West constituency which I represent, covers rural areas such as Bohernabreena, Glenahole, Glassamuckley and Brittas.
“Because this area provides drinking water for the city, a stringent approach is taken to planning applications to ensure there is rigours enforcement of environmental laws. Many householders are concerned about what may be coming down the line and they are seeking clarity on what impact this Water Service Bill will have on their families.
“It is difficult for people to understand why they have to pay this tax when in some cases, within yards from their home, their neighbours are linked up to the main sewerage system. They are having pay a new tax, a double standard that they cannot understand.
“No effort has been forthcoming from the Local Authority, or the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to try to bring these people into the water or sewerage schemes. I have asked Minister Hogan to explain what supports would be forthcoming so that an action plan can be put in place for those who find themselves in this situation.
“Sinn Féin fully supports the upgrading of septic tanks as ground water and the environment must be protected. This legislation however, is a knee jerk reaction to EU regulations and the threat of fines from the EU for the failure of consecutive governments to deal with this issue.
“The bill demands that any upgrading must be funded by the householder. This is unacceptable and a fund must be established to assist householders to meet the payment of any upgrade. Many households simply will not be able to pay for upgrades and they should not run the risk of being criminalised.
“Tallaght is a large urban area yet many people use a septic tank system. When I raised this matter with the local authority I have been told no funding is available. The Government must look at reconnecting people who have septic tanks onto the main’s system. Many of the people who are affected by this issue are elderly and do not have the financial means to get this work done privately.
“All of us want to ensure a top class, clean water system but we should not penalise people who, through no fault of their own, face a hefty bill to meet these new regulations. Many of the families affected by this issue in the Tallaght area do not want to be reliant on wells, chemical toilets or septic tanks. They want to be connected to a fit for purpose mains system but their plight has been largely ignored
“It is an issue the government must exam closely.”
ends

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Central Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on Dublin City Council to clarify exactly what customer details it has provided to Greyhound following the Office of the Data Protection Commission announcement that it is investigating the Council.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Sinn Féin consistently opposed the privatisation of Dublin City Council’s waste collection service and many of our reasons for doing so have come to pass.

“Since Dublin City Council transferred the service to Greyhound my constituency offices in North Strand and Cabra have been inundated with calls by residents who not only have not had their rubbish collected they were not aware of Greyhound’s contractual conditions.

“Increased charges are on the horizon, the waiver scheme may be in jeopardy, the company’s payment method is causing a problem and to rub salt into the wounds it appears the Council management may have provided information about debts owed to Greyhound Recycling and Recovery.

“Dublin City Council management need to publically clarify, as a matter of urgency, exactly what customer details it has provided to Greyhound about its 140,000 customers and if debt information was provided the Data Commissioner must ensure that Greyhound does not add this information to its customer database.”

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Speaking at today’s Public Accounts Committee Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD expressed grave concerns about the government’s failure to provide a coherent strategy to ensure critical services such as health are not decimated when up 9,000 workers retire from the public sector over the coming weeks.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Each time we ask Government Ministers what will be the real time impact of the public sector exodus over the coming weeks we are told it will all be alright on the night.

“Yet Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin admitted this week in the Dáil that he does not definitively know how many will leave the public sector by the end of February as workers availing of the grace period are required to give just one month’s notice.

“HSE Chief Cathal Magee spoke today about funding available for 400 new mental health workers but when questioned admitted to me that at least 500 current mental health workers, 389 of whom are nurses, will leave the HSE at the end of next month which will result in a net loss of 100 staff.

“The HSE has not hit its staff ceiling with 85% made up of front line workers and at least 3,500 will leave the health sector by the end of next month yet it appears there is no coherent strategy to deal with this reality not only within the HSE but across all Government Departments.

“The HSE National Service Plan for 2012 clearly states that budgetary cost reductions required and accumulated reductions in front line staff will impact increasingly on frontline services. There is no doubt this will be replicated across the State with the projected losses of 1,500 teachers, 730 from local authorities and 297 Gardaí. Up to 9,000 public sector workers are due to leave the service, the majority of whom will be from the front line and will not be replaced.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Environment, Community & Local Government Brian Stanley TD has said that the government has forced rural householders to foot the bill for their incompetence.

Deputy Stanley was speaking this afternoon after the Water Services Bill was passed by the Dáil.

Deputy Stanley said:

“This government is refusing to take any responsibility for failing to comply with an EU directive that is over 35 years old. Instead they have rushed through a piece of legislation that will force householders to foot the bill for upgrading their septic tanks to standards which have yet to be published.

“In an Orwellian twist, Minister Hogan will send an army of inspectors out into the homes of rural Ireland to inspect septic tanks. These inspectors will then assess the septic tanks against standards that as yet only exist in the minster’s imagination.

“Sinn Féin has repeatedly demanded that Minister Hogan publish the standards so we know exactly how this legislation will impact on rural households. We have also called on the minister to give us details on how he expects householders to upgrade septic tanks when families simply cannot afford to do so. Upgrading may cost anything up to €17,000. But again the minister has at best been vague and at worst dismissive of people’s financial concerns. In fact the bill contains threats of fines up to €5,000 for those who cannot comply with the upgrades.

“The passing of the Water Services Bill represents a bad day for rural Ireland. Unfortunately, in a desperate measure to avoid real debate the government guillotined the debate at every opportunity. We were forced to vote today having only been given time to debate 8 out of a total of 56 amendments. This is not democracy.

“Sinn Féin will continue to actively campaign to make sure septic tank standards are just and fair and that financial assistance will be provided to those who need it.”

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Sinn Féin MEPs final report back to the Irish people of 2014.


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Senator David Cullinane speaks to media