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Assembly limited in ability to address increasing cost of living - Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has appealed to other parties to support increased fiscal autonomy for the Assembly.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"The local economy as is most of the developed world is experiencing severe economic conditions. While it is understandable that people direct their demands for solutions at local politicians, it needs to be recognised that the assembly has very little power to address a global economic recession.

"The Assembly unlike other governments has no tax varying powers. The amount of finance available to the Department of Finance is determined by the British Treasury. Even when the British Exchequer brings in special measures to assist people experiencing difficulties in Britain it normally does not apply to the North.

"I put a motion to the Assembly shortly after restoration that the Assembly should seek maximum fiscal autonomy from London. Unfortunately other parties did not support the Sinn Féin motion.

"I believe that if we are to be in a position to develop local solutions to local difficulties then we must take control of as much power in the local assembly as possible. I also believe that it's clear that our economic future lies in creating an all- island economy based on the needs of the peoples of Ireland.

"Not surprisingly, fiscal decisions taken by the British Chancellor are taken on the basis of what is best for the economy of the island of Britain. We are only peripheral to the decision making process in Britain and the sooner politicians here wake-up to that fact the sooner we will be able to take control of our own political and economic futures. Only then will we have the ability to create local solutions to the problems affecting our unique circumstances."

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has appealed to other parties to support increased fiscal autonomy for the Assembly.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"The local economy as is most of the developed world is experiencing severe economic conditions. While it is understandable that people direct their demands for solutions at local politicians, it needs to be recognised that the assembly has very little power to address a global economic recession.

"The Assembly unlike other governments has no tax varying powers. The amount of finance available to the Department of Finance is determined by the British Treasury. Even when the British Exchequer brings in special measures to assist people experiencing difficulties in Britain it normally does not apply to the North.

"I put a motion to the Assembly shortly after restoration that the Assembly should seek maximum fiscal autonomy from London. Unfortunately other parties did not support the Sinn Féin motion.

"I believe that if we are to be in a position to develop local solutions to local difficulties then we must take control of as much power in the local assembly as possible. I also believe that it's clear that our economic future lies in creating an all- island economy based on the needs of the peoples of Ireland.

"Not surprisingly, fiscal decisions taken by the British Chancellor are taken on the basis of what is best for the economy of the island of Britain. We are only peripheral to the decision making process in Britain and the sooner politicians here wake-up to that fact the sooner we will be able to take control of our own political and economic futures. Only then will we have the ability to create local solutions to the problems affecting our unique circumstances." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Mickey Brady, Cathal Boylan and Conor Murphy are joining forces with Breast Cancer Campaign for its award winning fundraising event, wear it pink, on Friday 31 October 2008.

This year's theme is 'dare to wear' and all three MLAs are urging residents young and old to get their craziest pink outfits on.

Taking part in wear it pink couldn't be easier. Whether you are in an office, at school, or simply popping to the shops, on 31 October donate £2 and wear an item of pink, the more daring the better! Your donation will allow Campaign to continue funding innovative world class research across the UK.

Conor Murphy MP MLA said

"Every year nearly 1,100 women in the North are diagnosed with breast cancer. Like many others, I know people who have lost friends and family members to breast cancer. Sinn Féin would like to encourage everyone in Newry & Armagh and throughout Ireland to support wear it pink on October 31, to raise valuable funds for breast cancer research." ENDS

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Sinn Féin DSD spokesperson and MLA for North Belfast, Carál Ní Chuilín, has slammed the Department for Social Development for treating the elected representatives who sit on the DSD scrutiny committee with absolute contempt. This follows the failure of the DSD Minister, Margaret Ritchie, to present the September estimates detailing the expenditure for the coming quarter.

Speaking today Ms ní Chuilín said:

"The September estimates, which detail the financial agenda and the way forward for the coming quarter, were to be presented to the DSD committee today for scrutiny. The lead civil servant came to the meeting and informed us that this would not be happening.

"The Committee was informed that what was given to us in June, four months ago, was sufficient. This is not the way that scrutiny committees are meant to operate. We cannot properly evaluate, nor feedback to, the department when we do not have the information that should have been presented.

"Effectively, this is the DSD lead civil servants, under Margaret Ritchie, preventing elected representatives, , from taking part in DSD business and doing the job they were elected to do. This is not open, transparent and accountable government.

"Sinn Féin will be taking this further in the coming days to show clearly that this sort of contemptuous behaviour cannot, nor should not, be tolerated." CRÍOCH

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Commenting on the High Court ruling in favour of pharmacies in the drugs payment dispute, Sinn Fein Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

"This ruling exposes the failure of Government to clear the obstacles to direct talks between the HSE and the pharmacists' representative body, the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, on the new contract for the General Medical Services Scheme. It is at the negotiating table and in the Oireachtas that this issue should be resolved, not through the courts.

"The Government has repeatedly claimed that the Competition Act prevents negotiations on this contract between the HSE and the IPU yet it has done nothing to address this alleged legal obstacle. Now a court has ruled that the HSE's actions in altering fees paid to pharmacists represented a breach of contract.

"This is a mess of the Government's making and it must sort the matter out. It must ensure that GMS patients receive the medication they need, that the health service gets value for money and that pharmacists can work under a fair contract.

"This ruling may have implications for dentists who are also in dispute with the HSE over their refusal to negotiate directly on a new GMS contract for their services. Thousands of medical card holders have been denied dental treatment as a result of that dispute." ENDS

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"I heard nothing from the Energy regulator at today's meeting that would inspire confidence in having the interests of consumers protected" - Jennifer McCann MLA

Following today's meeting of the Assembly's Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment which heard evidence from the Utility Regulator on the recent Price increases in gas and electricity, Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast and Deputy Chairperson of Committee Jennifer McCann expressed concern that a body which is supposed to represent the interests of consumers could agree to such a price hike.

Speaking after the meeting Ms McCann said:

"I heard nothing from the Energy regulator at today's meeting that would inspire confidence in having the interests of consumers protected. He gave no reasonable justification as to why consumers have to pick up the running costs of energy companies.

The situation is dire with almost half the population now living in fuel poverty. I believe a number of short term measures are required to off set a major crisis around the issue.

Given the levels of profits being acquired by private energy companies who have monopolised the energy market here, there needs to be a level of corporate social responsibility to ensure that a percentage of that profit is put into a relief fund to help alleviate the financial difficulties people are facing this winter.

There is also an onus on all the party leaders to press Gordon Brown in the upcoming meetings to release to the executive the £40m pound that has been raised by the British exchequer due to the recent price hikes in energy costs here.

In the longer term we need to take an innovative look at developing a sustainable all Island energy market including the use of renewables. We need a viable energy strategy for the future.

For now though we need to ensure that people are in a financially secure position to buy fuel and food."

Ends

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Closer working with the Children's Commissioner ensures children remain a top priority, says Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly MLA.

The Junior Ministers, Gerry Kelly and Jeffrey Donaldson, today chaired the fourth Ministerial Sub-Committee on Children and Young People at which the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, gave a presentation on her organisation's priorities. These included protection, play and leisure and emotional health and well being.

Gerry Kelly said:

"This sub-committee provides an opportunity to address priority cross-cutting issues in a joined-up way and demonstrates the Executive's commitment to improving the lives of all children.

"As ministers with particular responsibility for children and young people we are fully committed to securing and prioritising their rights. We welcome this presentation from Patricia Lewsley and her views on how we can work closely together to deliver for our children and young people." ENDS

Notes to Editors

The Sub-Committee is jointly chaired by the two OFMDFM Junior Ministers and all departmental Ministers are members.

The key priorities for the Ministerial Sub-Committee on Children and Young People are:

  • A holistic and comprehensive approach to child poverty.
  • A comprehensive early years strategy that focuses on the development and wellbeing of each child, including affordable access to high quality early years provision for families living in areas of disadvantage and poverty in urban and rural areas.
  • Provision for vulnerable young people, including those in care settings, those engaged in anti-social behaviour and those in contact with the criminal justice system; promotion of good mental health and early intervention in addressing mental health issues as they arise; provision of care for children with autism, learning, physical and sensory disabilities including respite and community provision.
  • Safeguarding, including support for parents, families and carers.
  • Provision for children with special educational needs in mainstream and special schools, including transitions to adulthood and the provision of appropriate health and social care interventions.
  • Provision of school buses, road safety and transport issues.

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Sinn Féin Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, today revisited Edmund Rice College in Glengormley to open the new Technology and Design block.

Speaking at the event the Minister said:

"I initially visited Edmund Rice College back in May 2007 to cut the first sod in preparation for the construction of the new Technology and Design block. It is an honour to be back here today to see this project now completed and open the new Brother Quinlan building.

"We are all well aware of how important Technology and Design is in today's global economy. Knowledge and skills in technology are key drivers of innovation and change making it an important area of the curriculum. It is essential that in order to develop these skills we provide accommodation to reflect modern industry and the world of work.

"The funding of some £1.4million for the new building was provided through my department's Specialist Accommodation programme which was specifically set up to address the deficiencies in Science, Technology & Design and ICT accommodation. I know these excellent new facilities will help the young people here at Edmund Rice to develop the skills needed in today's modern world, enabling them to achieve their full potential.

"I would like to congratulate the Principal Kevin Gough and everyone involved in the planning and construction of the new building and in helping make this project such a success." ENDS

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Mitchel McLaughlin congratulates Paralympics Gold Medalist, Michael McKillop

Mitchel MCLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has congratulated Paralympic Gold Medalist, Michael McKillop on his outstanding achievement at the Games in Beijing.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"This is an outstanding achievement by Michael. Not only has he won Gold and set a new world record at Beijing but he has become the first para-athlete to break the two minute barrier in this event. I send my warmest congratulations to Michael and his coach and father Paddy who also must feel justifiably proud not just of his son's success but of the important part he played in preparing Michael for this tremendous achievement."

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McLaughlin congratulates Edmund Rice on the opening of its new Technology and Design block

Offering his congratulations to the Principal Kevin Gough, pupils and Staff of Edmund Rice College, Glengormley on the official opening by Education Minister Cáitríona Ruane, of their new Technology and Design block, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) said:

"Unfortunately due to Assembly commitments I was unable to attend the opening today but I send wholehearted congratulations and support for the future to the Principal Kevin Gough, all the pupils and staff.

"Technology and Design skills are increasingly important to building a sustainable economy in the global situation in which we now have to operate. I welcome the importance that Edmund Rice obviously places on ensuring that its students are well prepared and equipped to take advantage of the opportunities now presented in the sphere of Technology and Design. Modern educational facilities are essential if we are to get the best out of our young people and provide them with the skills required to achieve a secure future.

"Development of quality Technology and Design skills will make a significant contribution to future economic stability. For this pivotal sector to grow it is imperative that we encourage young people to select these subjects so that we can make the island of Ireland a centre of excellence in Technology development and Design. I am confident that Edmund Rice can set the trend. I am sure that as a result of this facility that many of its students will go on to secure successful and lucrative careers at the forefront of industry." ENDS

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Minister gives community heating the cold shoulder

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has hit out after the Social Development Minister revealed that community heating schemes would not be considered as part of the Fuel Poverty Taskforce's remit.

"I wrote to the Minister for Social Development Margaret Ritchie calling for the Fuel Poverty Taskforce, which was established by her Department, to consider the benefits of community heating schemes," Ms. Anderson said.

"These schemes are used widely in Scandanavia and work by creating a distribution network which distributes heat from a central location to homes within any given district.

"A community heating scheme in the Hutchestown area of Glasgow led to a massive drop in each home's annual heating bill which fell from an average of £700 a year to around £182 a year.

"Can you imagine the impact that would have in the current climate where people are literally being forced to choose between heating or eating?

"I was extremely disappointed at the Minister's response which stated that the taskforce would only be pursuing short-term measures and community heating would not be considered as it is a longer-term solution.

"I would urge the Minister to reconsider that position and give due regard to all potential measures to alleviate fuel poverty. Otherwise, we will continue to face the same problems every single year.

"For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to pursue every possible avenue in order to address this crisis. That includes modern community heating and our proposal to source low-cost domestic heating oil from Venezuala. The Venzualans are keen to explore the possibility of entering into an arrangement with the Executive and I hope that all parties will back up their concern on fuel poverty by supporting initiatives such as these.

"In the meantime, I would urge everyone to take advantage of the financial assistance which is already in place to make their homes more energy efficient. More information on this can be obtained by calling the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012."

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South Dublin Sinn Féin representative Shaun Tracey has echoed calls from Labour Party Leader Eamon Gilmore for the Government to announce a date for the by-election in Dublin South following the death of Séamus Brennan in July.

Speaking today Mr. Tracey said, "There should be no stalling on the by-election for Dublin South. The people of this constituency are entitled to fair representation and should be facilitated with a by-election at the earliest opportunity.

"The Government's current hardships must not be allowed to act as an obstacle to the by-election." ENDS

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MLA for Upper Bann John O'Dowd has criticised the lack of action in pursuing river polluters in the area of Portadown. This follows a third fish kill, this time in Ballybay River at Corcrain, as a result of pollution .

Speaking today John O Dowd said:

"This is the third such fish kill in the area in recent weeks the second in this river. As yet we don't hear of any adequate explanation why these actions occurred. If it is found that the pollution was as a result of negligence then resolute action needs to be taken against those responsible.

"This particular fish kill in the Ballybay River was close to a nature reserve and natural wetland and could have had even more serious consequences has the pollutant seeped into these systems.

"There are not sufficient deterrents enacted to discourage any polluter from taking their responsibilities seriously and to stop the releasing waste into the environment.

"The cost of clear up of such actions is high in both time and resources to local authorities. This cost should be added to any penalty in order to put a help stop any river polluters and to protect our environment and its unique habitats. This will be one of the strongest ways of curtailing river pollution." CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly has called on men here, young and old, to get involved in tackling men's health issues.

He told a seminar that the only way to make real improvements in the health and life expectancy of men was to get them directly involved in health issues.

"In this modern age with its focus on health there is still a reluctance to discuss men's health," the Minister told the "Nowhere Man" health seminar.

"Men can be guilty of adopting an approach to seeking medical help which does them few favours and many die from illnesses due to the fact that they seek help too late.

"Through a number of initiatives being promoted through our Programme for Government we are seeking to improve the general well being of all our people and not least among men.

"It is important that we identify the issues that affect men only and we believe this is best achieved through input from men, particularly to the Men's Action Plan that is being developed at present," the Minister added.

Mr Kelly said the Action Plan would be a key tool in delivering the aims and objectives of the Executive's Gender Equality Strategy and that all departments would play a role in making a real difference to men's lives.

"There is still much to do and this will involve health professionals, academics and other experts, and most importantly men themselves. The only way to successfully tackle the issues affecting men is to involve them at every stage of the process so that we can develop appropriate strategies," he said.

The seminar, organised by Men's Action Network, the Men's Project (Parents Advice Centre) and Youth Action, brought together key policy-makers, service providers and researchers to look at the health needs of local men.

They heard that:

  • the life expectancy is much lower for men than for women;
  • many men die from illnesses because they seek treatment too late; depression is a significant but hidden issue for many males; and
  • there are high-suicide rates among males and stress-related illness is on the increase.

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Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has said indigenous communities should embrace our increasingly diverse society from a position of confidence, rather than insecurity.

"We need to concentrate on all that our social, economic and political lives stand to gain. We in the indigenous communities can have a massive impact on fostering integration in choosing to actively embrace and welcome change and diversity."

Presenting the key note address at the inaugural National Integration Debate in Dublin, Ms Ruane called on people both North and South to remember our own population's long history of emigration. The minister also highlighted the importance of ensuring transparent processes were in place to help immigrants have confidence that they would be dealt with fairly.

"Generations of Irish people have, in difficult circumstances, succeeded in building their own homes and families in communities around the world and helped fashion many great nations. We must learn from these experiences as we now welcome new families and individuals into our society. We must support families who want to come to Ireland and not separate parents and children.

"Our schools in the North have welcomed newcomer children from more than 30 countries. My own department is committed to supporting children for whom English is not their first language by providing funding so they can integrate easier and enjoy their new school."

The minister emphasised the economic contribution of migrant workers throughout Ireland and the essential role which they now play in the island economy. Ms Ruane also recognised the work done by the non-governmental sector and the importance of valuing existing and new cultural values.

"Those who remain unconvinced by the arguments for pursuing a diverse and integrated society need only look at the economic evidence. Many of our employers now depend on migrant workers to fill labour and skills gaps.

"We also must recognise the important role the non-governmental sector provides for newcomers to Ireland, giving advice and assistance across a wide range of key issues.

"An intercultural strategy requires that cultural life is valued. This means we must have sensitivity and openness to the otherness and newness in the cultural norms and practices of new communities in Ireland. Equally it means that the cultural richness of Ireland, An Gaeilge, dance, literature, the visual arts, are cherished and shared."

The National Integration debate, an initiative of Metro Eireann was sponsored by An Post, the Republic's Office of the Minister for Integration and Amarach Consulting. The debate programme was also supported by a national opinion survey which sought to gain independent public insights on the issues of integration.

It is intended that the debate, which will be held annually, will contribute to combating discrimination and building a multicultural society.

Notes to Editors

Metro Éireann is Ireland's first and only multicultural newspaper set up by two journalists, Chinedu Onyejelem and Abel Ugba in April 2000. Published weekly by Metro Publishing and Consultancy Limited, Metro Éireann is the primary source of news and information in Ireland's fast-growing immigrant and ethnic communities. Apart from supplying up-to-date news and analysis, Metro Éireann has become a forum for inter-cultural communication, showcasing the rich cultural diversity of Ireland.

Further information on the National Integration Debate can be found by contacting Chinedu Onyejelem at Metro Éireann Tel: 00 353 86 8523397 or email [email protected].

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WELCOME FOR INTERIM FINDINGS OF REGISTRY OF DELIBERATE SELF HARM - O'NEILL

Sinn Féin MLA and Vice-Chair of the Assembly Health Committee Michelle O'Neil has welcomed the publication of interim findings from the Registry of Deliberate Self Harm.

Ms O'Neill said,

"The registry was launched in 2007 on an all-Ireland basis and is in operation at three hospitals in the Western Health and Social Services Board area as part of all Island co-operation on the prevention of suicide.

The findings of the registry are particularly relevant and poignant on this, world suicide prevention day. Hopefully this study will give us a greater insight and a better understanding of the reasons why people engage in self harm and how best the health and social services can provide practical help and assistance for them. In practical terms this study should go some way in developing better and more suitable policies to deal with suicide and self harm.

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Responding to today’s publication of the governments post Lisbon Treaty research document Sinn Fein Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has called on the government to now knuckle down and prepare the groundwork for the October EU summit.

 

The Dublin MEP said:

 

“Today’s research document tells us what we have known since the Irish people rejected the Lisbon Treaty three months ago. Throughout the Lisbon Treaty campaign Sinn Féin stated time and time again that Ireland’s place is in Europe. Today’s report shows the majority of the Irish share our view.

 

“However the Lisbon debate was never about Ireland being in or out of Europe. It was and must continue to be about the social, political and economic implications of the Treaty content for Ireland, the EU and the developing world.

 

“The loss of a commissioner, the erosion of Ireland’s neutrality, the undermining of workers rights and declining democracy between the EU and its member states have all been cited as key reasons why the people said no to Lisbon. Again this is nothing new. Time and time again in polls, media analysis and public debate these concerns were relayed to the government.

 

“It is time now for the government to knuckle down and prepare the ground work for Octobers EU summit. Sinn Fein has already published a document that outlines in detail how the Irish government can address these concerns when it enters into a renegotiation process with our EU partners.

 

“Minister Martin has today claimed that the government fully respects the vote of the Irish people. If this be the case then the government must publicly acknowledge once and for all that there can be no re-run of the Lisbon Treaty.” ENDS

 

 

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Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has said that Irish Medium Education is a vital contributor to our education system.

Speaking on Monday at the Irish Medium Education Convention in the Clarion Hotel in Dublin, the minister said:

"There is much excellent work being done across the Irish medium education sector, work that I would like to see continued and expanded. By working on an all-Ireland basis, we can learn from each other and share best practice in the interests of pupils. The North of Ireland has a particularly dynamic Irish medium sector and we have a lot to offer.

"Children can benefit greatly from learning another language; it can improve confidence, self-esteem and motivation to learn. I have introduced the Primary Languages Programme across the North of Ireland where pupils can learn Spanish or Irish through skilled tutors who work alongside classroom assistants and teachers. The programme has been embraced by over 280 schools and I intend to expand the initiative even further. By getting these chances in early life, we are teaching our children that there are many opportunities and possibilities available to them.

"This conference focuses on immersion education, something which I am very passionate about. There are many advantages to immersion education and it is proven to be the most effective way of learning the Irish language through maximum exposure to it.

"I am currently considering a review of Irish medium education in the North. This review will play an important part in ensuring that Irish medium education is fully and appropriately supported as an integral part of the education system in all schools; primary, post-primary, English and Irish medium. I will be making the recommendations of the report public in the future and look forward to using it as the starting point for an engaging debate on this important issue." ENDS

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Tá ráite ag an Aire Oideachais Caitríona Ruane gur gné ríthábhachtach dár gcóras oideachais í an Ghaelscolaíocht.

Ag labhairt di Dé Luain ag Comhdháil ar an Ghaelscolaíocht a bhí ar siúl in Óstán Clarion i mBaile Átha Cliath, dúirt an tAire:

"Tá cuid mhór oibre suntasaigh á déanamh in earnáil na Gaelscolaíochta, agus ba mhaith liom go leanfar leis an obair seo agus go gcuirfear léi. Trína bheith ag obair ar bhonn uile-Éireann, tig linn foghlaim óna chéile agus dea-chleachtas a chomhroinnt chun leasa na ndaltaí ar fad. Tá earnáil fhuinniúil Gaelscolaíochta i dTuaisceart na hÉireann agus tá cuid mhór le tairiscint againn.

"Tig le páistí tairbhe mhór a bhaint as foghlaim teanga eile; tig léi muinín, féinmheas agus inspreagadh chun foghlama a fheabhsú. Thug mé isteach Clár Teangacha Bunscoile ar fud Thuaisceart na hÉireann trínar féidir le daltaí Spáinnis nó Gaeilge a fhoghlaim ó oidí oilte a bhíonn ag obair taobh le cúintóirí ranga agus le múinteoirí. Ghlac breis agus 280 scoil leis an chlár agus tá sé beartaithe agam an tionscnamh a leathnú agus a fhorbairt. Trí na deiseanna seo a thabhairt go luath i saol na bpáistí, táimid ag cur in iúl dóibh go bhfuil cuid mhór deiseanna agus féidearthachtaí ann dóibh.

"Díríonn an chomhdháil seo ar thumoideachas, rud a bhfuil mé paiseanta faoi. Tá cuid mhór buntáistí a bhaineann le tumoideachas agus tá fianaise ann gurb é an bealach is éifeachtaí le Gaeilge a fhoghlaim tríd an mhéid is mó teagmhála is féidir."

Dúirt an tAire fosta: "Ta mé ag déanamh machnamh faoi láthair ar athbhreithniú ar an Ghaelscolaíocht sa Tuaisceart. Beidh ról tábhachtach ag an athbhreithniú seo i gcinntiú go dtugtar tacaíocht iomlán agus chuí don Ghaelscolaíocht mar chuid lárnach den chóras oideachais i ngach scoil; bunscoileanna, iarbhunscoileanna, scoileanna Béarla agus Gaelscoileanna. Cuirfidh mé moltaí na tuairisce in iúl don phobal uair éigin amach anseo agus tá mé ag súil lena úsáid mar thúsphointe do dhíospóireacht shuimiúl ar an cheist thábhachtach seo." Críoch

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Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has welcomed the launch by Education Minister Cáitríona Ruane of the Electoral Office's 'Schools Initiative' aimed at getting young people to register to vote.

Raymond McCartney said:

"Most decisions taken by politicians have some form of effect on young people. I believe that as many young people as possible should have the opportunity to decide who the politicians who make those decisions are.

"I would strongly encourage every young person approaching or having reached the age to vote to take advantage of this Electoral Office initiative. This programme will allow students to realise the importance of having their voices heard at the heart of government and to make a difference to and influence their future.

"I hope that as the programme is rolled out it will also encourage more of our youth and particularly young women to become actively involved in political life. I believe that with more young people involved in politics that we will achieve a more dynamic, vibrant and progressive political system here." ENDS

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