Sinn Féin Welfare Spokesperson Mickey Brady MLA has said that it is unfortunate that the ad hoc committee report into the Welfare Reform Bill did not truly reflect the evidence presented to it.
Mr. Brady stated,
“Sinn Féin campaigned for the ad-hoc committee to be set up due to our concerns on how the equality and human rights implications of the Welfare Reform Bill would impact on the most vulnerable.
“During the sitting of the committee we heard evidence from many groups representing a broad section of society. These groups included The Council for Ethnic Minorities, Disability Action, Mencap, mental health charity NIAMH, the Commissioner for Children and Young People and the Welfare Reform Group, to name a few.
“Each and every one of these groups highlighted issues that impacted on the equality and human rights of the people they represented and raised serious questions about the legality of this bill.
“The report presented to the Assembly did not reflect these opinions in a strong enough manner for Sinn Féin to support. We are determined to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected from this draconian bill, which is more an attack on the poor than British Tory claims that it’s tackling the causes of poverty.
“We will continue to oppose this bill until we are satisfied that the changes that are made will ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable people are protected.”
Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Oliver McMullan MLA has welcomed the beginning of a trial aimed at eradicating Bovine Tuberculosis from the cattle and badger population.
Mr. McMullan said,
“I welcome the progressive approach taken by the Minister of Agriculture Michelle O’Neill in not only protecting the cattle population from Bovine TB but also ensuring that healthy badgers are not unnecessarily killed.
“There have been many opinions about how we deal with this problem but many sectors have shown support for this scheme as it environmentally and animal friendly.
“In removing the scourge of Bovine TB in order to protect our cattle it is also important the we protect the native species on this island, including badgers.
“This trial which will remove and vaccinate or remove infected badgers will take place in a 100km square area between Rathfriland and Banbridge and allow the Department to gauge how practical this approach is in eradicating Bovine TB from Ireland.”
Sinn Fein MLA Maeve McLaughlin has said that it would seem the North has been asleep in comparison to the 26 Counties when it comes to drawing down EU funding.
Speaking after co-hosting an EU funding Seminar in the city last week, along with party colleague and MEP, Martina Anderson, Maeve McLaughlin said that the figures speak for themselves.
Ms McLaughlin said:
“During the last round of European Regional Development Funding the 26 counties drew down almost €500m while the North secured just €53m.
“In stark contrast to Trinity College Dublin’s drawn down of €60.7m over the last five years, Queens University secured only €22m and University of Ulster – including Magee - a mere €10m.
“But as the expert panel who informed the recent Seminar in our Ráth Mór constituency Office pointed out - there are opportunities for the City and wider Northwest Region to access and target crucial funding. The new Horizon 2020 programme which will operate from 2014 until 2020 will have in the region of €80bn available for Research and Development (R&D). It will be delivered under three main headings - R&D, Industrial Leadership and Combating Societal Challenges.
“20% of the Industrial Leadership and Combating Societal Challenges must be targeted at SME’s.
“While I accept that accessing this funding can be difficult, it is imperative that we harness the expertise and skill available to do so. The priorities are identified in the City’s ‘One plan’ and are evidence based. Derry City Council has now got its own EU Unit established to assist in the targeting and signposting of this money.
“A ‘Horizon 2020’ manager has been appointed for the North and seven contact persons will be located within the Universities in fields such as ICT, Health, Transport and Energy. One of these contact points will cater specifically for small business.
“Derry has a unique opportunity in the field of Connected Health with the link between the University, CTRIC and Project Kelvin which is not being exploited and marketed to its full potential. No other region in the North has this resource available to it.
“We should learn from the successes of Belfast’s draw down of EU funding experiences and apply them to Derry’s requirements. But this money won’t simply drop in our lap, we must organise, use the expertise available and which was identified at last week’s seminar to influence and network.”
Opportunities for legacies to be bequeathed to Derry by the City of Culture and Fleadh Cheoil na h-Éireann topped the agenda at high level discussions Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson MEP held with top Arts Council NI officials when she met Chief Executive, Roisín McDonough and Director of Strategic Development, Nick Livingston at their MacNeice House headquaters in Belfast recently.Commenting on a very positive meeting, Ms Anderson said: "I am confident that the Arts Council under Roisin McDonough's leadership, will play an important role in helping maximise all the opportunities City of Culture will present for all our arts and cultural organisations, especially those working in our most socially disadvantaged areas."Our discussions also focused on opportunities for all to engage with Culture Connects, a programme of events being currently rolled out as part of the Irish Presidency of the European Union.
During Leaders’ Question in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD challenged Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, on the issue of mortgage distress.
He referred to figures published by the Vincent de Paul Society showing that over 100,000 people had contacted it in the past year.
He referred to a middle class Dublin family where the father of four children lost his job and, having prioritised the mortgage repayments on the family home, had to appeal for help to feed his family.
Deputy Doherty said:
“Taoiseach this family would not even be counted as one of the 180,000 in mortgage distress. Not yet anyway, but they reflect the situation facing many more thousands of families who’ve skipped meals to keep payments up.”
He said Central Bank figures show115 homeowners fell into distress every day from the start of July to the end of September.
“One in four mortgage holders are in distress. That’s shocking and alarming.
Taoiseach, your government promised to prioritise those in mortgage distress.
“Two years later, the Central Bank’s chief economist claims that the Irish banks are still dragging their feet when it comes to mortgage distress. These families need real solutions not vetoes for banks.
“Taoiseach, when are you going to realise that the banks themselves aren’t going to deal with this problem? The banks are the problem.
“What is needed Taoiseach, is for the banks to pro-actively implement a policy of targeted restructuring of distressed mortgages including, where appropriate, write-downs of unsustainable mortgage debt, in order to enable people to remain in the family home
“So Taoiseach will you call on the banks to adopt such a policy?”
Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has stated that the government’s introduction of measures to give effect to water charges is regressive, and could lead to water poverty.
The Waterford Senator was speaking during the committee stage of the Water Services Bill, the first opportunity to table amendments to the Bill.
Sinn Féin submitted several amendments, including amendments to delay introduction of water charges subject to a poverty impact analysis, to propose an alternative to the Irish Water body, to exempt certain categories of people on low incomes from payment of water charges, and to stop the introduction of water charges.
Senator Cullinane’s amendments were the only amendments, as Fianna Fáil missed the deadline for submission of amendments.
“The government is totally out of touch if they think that ordinary citizens can afford to pay such charges. Most householders simply cannot afford a further utility bill. This is a further imposition on low and middle income earners, following on from the household charge, increases in VAT, the USC and the health levy, all the while the wealthiest in society are not being asked to pay their way.
“There are currently considerable incidence of fuel poverty, and energy poverty. If water charges aren’t stopped many will soon be water poor as well, and this will take its toll on people’s welfare and health.
“Domestic water charges were abolished in 1996 for a good reason. The minister is seeking to pretend that this is for environmental purposes, and claiming that there is a need to charge for water.
“Domestic users already pay for their water in this state. It is paid for through central taxation. The introduction of separate water charges is an attempt to get the public to pay for their water twice, once in their taxes and at a second time through the water meter.
“Water metering does not reduce water consumption. In England, where water metering has been in place for many years, consumption is at 158 litres per head per day, while in Dublin the Dublin Water Supply Report of 2008 showed consumption is at 148 litres per head per day. It is not necessary to bring in water charges, as we can see in the north, where there are no such charges.
“While Fianna Fáil has expressed its opposition to the provisions of the bill, the reality is they signed up to water charges in the 2010 Programme for National Recovery.
“These parties are wedded to the politics of privatisation, and of indirect, flat rate taxes. Sinn Féin is totally opposed to water charges, and will be opposing the introduction of such charges.”
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on the environment, community & local government, Brian Stanley TD has today said that the incoming Managing Director of Irish Water, John Tierney, should abandon any attempt to introduce domestic water charges.
Stanley said, “As City Manager for Dublin City Council, John Tierney is only too aware of the disastrous effect of years of government under funding for our water system. He must also realise that the introduction of domestic water charges will do little to conserve water and will do nothing to upgrade a water system not fit for purpose.
“The government is currently introducing the bill to establish Irish Water and give it powers to install water meters and to charge households for water. The idea was first introduced by Fianna Fáil in 2010 and is now being implemented by the current government.
“The introduction of water charges will mean the public will be paying three times for the water they drink. Firstly in their general taxes, secondly through this new charge and finally they will pay through the National Pension Reserve Fund which is being used to fund the installation of water meters.
“According to the European Commission the progress of the introduction of water charges is ‘slow’. Meanwhile the full roll out installation will take years. Today’s announcement is liable to appease the government’s European masters and buy some time for the on-going task of introducing water charges.
“The installation of 1.3 million water meters will prove to be costly and very inefficient. Experts, including Irish Academy of Engineers and the Local Authority Professional Officers have given estimates of up to €1.2 billion to cover the cost of the installation. Meanwhile in England private companies are still attempting to install water meters twenty years after water meters were first introduced.
“Sinn Féin has actively campaigned against water charges. The government can expect stiff resistance from householders right across this state and Sinn Féin will be standing shoulder to shoulder in that resistance.”
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Jobs Enterprise and Innovation Peadar Tóibín has warned the FG/Labour government to resist the EU's commission’s plans to ‘tighten the provision of state aid’.
Teachta Tóibín raised the issue of state aid at the Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Committee with the secretary general of the department. Peadar Tóibín stated "2013 offers this country an opportunity to reform state aid regulations that were designed at the heighted of the boom to take into consideration the vastly changed economic situation.
"We have a situation currently where whole swathes of the state are currently prohibited by the EU in providing state aid to attract foreign direct investment. This has significantly disadvantaged a large number of counties such as my own. The regulations were designed in a very different economic environment.
"Shockingly the Secretary General stated that the EU commission has indicated that rather that liberalising state aid opportunities and empowering national governments it seeks to tighten state aid and make it more difficult for governments to tackle disastrous unemployment numbers through the strategic use of state aid. The Secretary General said that ‘the EU are looking to reduce the level of state aid and the number of people that it covers.
"FG and Labour need to use the presidency of the EU to help create jobs in Ireland. If they allow the EU Commission to proceed down this route we will see Ireland lose out to other major regions throughout the world."
“As we have seen from recent events there is the need for a full debate about what we mean by equality, respect, parity of esteem or mutual understanding. Sinn Féin is up for this discussion, the question is are the other parties?”
Speaking in the Dáil this evening during statements on the murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said:
“Ba mhaith liom mo comhbhrón ó chroí a thabhairt do cairde, teaghlaigh, agus do comhghleacaithe Bleachtaire Adrian Donohoe.
“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe.
“On my own behalf and on behalf of Sinn Féin I want to express especially our solidarity and sincerest condolences to Adrian’s wife Caroline and his children Amy and Niall.
“This killing has shocked the entire community, especially in the very closely knit Cooley area in County Louth and in South Armagh.
“I didn’t know Adrian Donohoe personally but I know many people who did.
He was a valued and widely-respected member of our local community and there is a deep sense of shock and loss.
“The death of Garda Donohoe has also provoked memories of the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe and the wounding of Garda Ben O Sullivan in June 1996.
“I want to apologise to Mrs McCabe and the McCabe family, and to Garda Ben O Sullivan and to the families of other members of the state forces who were killed by republicans in the course of the conflict
“I am very sorry for the pain and loss inflicted on those families. No words of mine can remove that hurt. Dreadful events cannot be undone.
“But I want to restate that the resolve of Sinn Féin and of the majority of Irish people is to ensure that there is never ever a recurrence of conflict.
“Members of An Garda Siochána do a dangerous job. They take risks for all of us. Adrian Donohoe showed great courage when he confronted armed criminals at Lordship. He died in defence of other citizens.
“I want to appeal to anybody with any information about this crime to co-operate with the Gardaí or the PSNI.
“I hope that those responsible are speedily brought to justice.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Adrian Donohoe’s family and colleagues at this very difficult time.
“Ar dheis dé go raibh anam
Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew MP has slammed the call from the DUP for an end to the representative allowances available to Sinn Fein.
Speaking from Westminster where she is involved in briefing cross-party MP's on a number of issues including the call for a Border Poll, Michelle Gildernew said:
"This is just the latest episode in the DUP's attempts to disenfranchise the many thousands of people who voted for Sinn Fein MPs and the many thousands of others who our MPs represent.
"Sinn Féin MPs were elected on an abstentionist mandate. We continue to provide a first class constituency service for both those who vote for us and the many thousands of others in our respective constituencies who voted for other parties but whose interests we promote and represent. And we will continue to do so.
"Sinn Féin MPs do not receive salary from Westminster. Salaries are paid out of party funds.
"The party receives representative allowances of a similar scale and for the same purposes as that available to other parties with MPs.
"These funds are used to enhance the party’s capacity to represent constituents and are subject to the same audit and scrutiny arrangements as the funds which the DUP and other parties receive.
"The call by the DUP for the allocation to Sinn Féin to cease is an attempt to disenfranchise our constituents and is unacceptable.
"The DUP’s failure to act on the ending of double jobbing of MPs is a clear indicator of the hypocritical stance adopted by them and the political agenda which underpins their latest political posturing on this matter."
Sinn Féin's spokespersons on Energy in the Oireachtas, Michael Colreavy TD (Sligo/North Leitrim) & in the Assembly Phil Flanagan MLA (Fermanagh & South Tyrone) have stated that fracking must be banned across Ireland and that simply attempting to mitigate against its most negative impacts will not suffice.
Speaking after they both attended an event in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen organised by Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network, which was addressed by Dr Eilish Cleary, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Province of New Brunswick, on the impacts of fracking, they said:
"We were delighted to attend this event and welcome Dr Eilish Cleary back to Fermanagh to hear from her experience in New Brunswick.
"However, having studied her report and the recommendations it contains, it is abundantly clear that simply attempting to mitigate against the worst aspects of fracking will not suffice on the island of Ireland.
"We should not be attempting to deal with the cleanup and damage that will inevitably come if fracking goes ahead.
"Fracking needs to be banned in Ireland and Sinn Féin will continue to stand with those opposed to this dangerous method of gas exploration across the country."
The West Belfast MLA said:
“At a time when thousands of people are declaring themselves homeless, there
are serious problems with housing maintenance and the construction
industry on its knees, I am amazed there is this underspend.
“Questions need answered as to why this is the case at any time never mind in the current difficulties.
“How many construction jobs could have been provided in building
additional houses, heating appliances installed, window replacements or maintenance
problems carried out with this money.
“I will also be asking the minister if this £27 million will be lost to housing next year and if that is the case then it will be a double blow.”
Responding to news that Fianna Fáil are to proceed with a Private Members Motion on Garda cuts this week in the Dáil, Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn accused Fianna Fáil of “breath taking hypocrisy”.
He also drew attention to the call by Fianna Fáil’s current Justice spokesperson Niall Colllins back in 2010 for the outgoing president of the Garda Representative Association, Michael O’ Boyce, to be removed from the force by the then Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy, for a speech, which was not delivered, in which he planned to criticise the Government and Fianna Fáil on their programme of Garda cuts.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:
“This government is implementing Fianna Fáil’s 2010 ‘National Recovery Plan’ when it comes to Garda cuts. Fianna Fáil agreed with the Troika to cut Garda numbers from 14,500 that year to 13,500 the following year, and to 13,000 in 2014, a total drop of 10%.
“Fianna Fáil’s plan also stated that there would be €25m savings from unspecified Garda management efficiencies and €140m in overtime, allowances and transport costs, much of it within the force.
“When the Garda Representative Association spoke out against Fianna Fáil’s cuts to An Garda Síochána in late 2010, the response of the now Fianna Fáil Justice spokesperson, Niall Collins was to have them silenced. He called for the outgoing president of the Garda Representative Association, Michael O’ Boyce, to be removed from the force by the then Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy, for a speech, which was not delivered, in which he planned to criticise the then Fianna Fáil led Government on their programme of cuts.
“Two short years on and Fianna Fáil would have us believe that this was all in our imagination. Fianna Fáil may hope that the people of Ireland are all suffering from collective amnesia but I can tell them they are fooling no one.
“The reality is that if Fianna Fáil were still in government, they would be implementing these cuts as they had agreed with the Troika. They are part of the consensus for cuts and austerity with Fine Gael and Labour and no amount of publicity stunts and spin can change that.”
The West Belfast MLA said:
"Under the draft Westminster legislation the 'National Crimes Agency' (NCA) would not be accountable to the normal accountable mechanisms negotiated over the last number of years.
"Sinn Féin will continue to seek to have the legislation amended as we clearly recognise the imperative of co-operation between different agencies to combat organised crime.
"However, the primacy of the PSNI in combating organised crime, indeed all criminality, is paramount in addition to the need for all agencies to be accountable to the accountability mechanisms already put in place."
Sinn Féin’s Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD has said the sale of Coillte's harvesting rights “shouldn't even be contemplated” following today’s publication of a report by economist Peter Bacon which found that the proposed sale “cannot be justified” and that the government’s rationale “no longer stands up”.
According to the report (see link below) the State would remain liable for costs of up to €1.3 billion following a sale of harvesting rights. To cover these costs, Coillte would need to sell at €78 per square metre, which is “well above current or recent prices.”
“This report completely shatters the government’s only rationale for the sell-off of Coillte's harvesting rights. Sinn Féin has consistently called on the government not to sell off Coillte land and harvesting rights.
“The government has refused to live up to its pre-election commitment not to sell Coillte.
“However when an economist like Peter Bacon says that the sale ‘cannot be justified’ on economic grounds surely the government must listen.
“These lands belong to the people of this country and are only held in trust by Coillte. It no longer remains just a moral imperative to resist the sale, it is also an economic imperative.
“What this report says is quite simple: we cannot afford to sell these rights.”
See report at: http://www.impact.ie/files/campaigns/saveourforests/ForestryFinalReport1.pdf
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien, TD, has said the thousands of adult learners who benefit from PLC courses highlights the short-sightedness of the government’s decision to increase the pupil teacher ratio from 17:1 – 19:1 in the further education sector.
The Cork North Central TD was responding to information received from Education Minister Ruairi Quinn who in reply to a Parliamentary Question he tabled confirmed that the number of Higher Education places offered on the basis of a FETAC qualification has increased from 599 in 2001 to 3,065 in 2012.
He continued: “The decision to increase the pupil-leaving ratio in PLC and further education courses has caused teaching unions and advocacy groups considerable alarm because it represents a serious blow to adult learners.
“It is a cut that is impossible to justify as it fails to acknowledge the Irish education sector is not a one size fits all system and that PLC courses provide an important educational platform for learners as they advance to further studies in Institutes of Technology or Universities.
“The Leaving Cert examination is considered a minimum qualification in Ireland yet the majority of adults in this State do not have this certificate.
“The importance of the Further Education sector in general cannot be overstated and many learners who benefit from PLC courses are mature adults who are returning to formal education after a considerable period of time.
“This means they need specific supports to make the transition back to full-time education particularly in order to enhance their literacy and numeracy skills which are essential for their future employment prospects.
“Not only will the change in the PTR result in the loss of hundreds of teaching jobs, it will bring to an enforced end a number of specialised courses that are absolutely essential for the reskilling of adult learners through further education.
“It is a decision that greatly undermines one of the government’s key objectives which is to incentivise people into upskilling and retraining in order to enhance their employment prospects.”
Note to editors:
The PQ and reply to Deputy O’Brien’s question is as follows:
To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide in tabular form
the numbers of students, on a county basis, who progressed to higher education
courses as a result of qualifications gained from participating in post leaving
certificate courses in 2011/12..
- Jonathan O'Brien.
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 22nd January, 2013.
Reference Number: 2669/13
Minister Ruairí Quinn
The PLC programme provides an integrated general education, vocational training
and work experience programme for young people who have completed their Leaving
Certificate and adults returning to education. The specific breakdown of
numbers progressing from PLC courses to higher education requested is not
available as the Higher Education Authority does not hold data on new entrants
by previous qualification.
Recent information from the CAO shows that the number of applicants that are
offered and accept a place based on presenting a FETAC qualification has
increased significantly from 599 in 2001 to 3,065 in 2012.
The Higher Education Links Scheme which links specific further education
qualifications to reserved places in higher education institutions is being
continuously developed to improve progression opportunities from further
education to higher education in forty universities, institutes of technology
and private colleges.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community and local government, Brian Stanley TD has today publically launched Sinn Féin’s Climate Change Bill.
Deputy Stanley said: “This government has continued to hide away from its commitment to introducing a climate change bill. Two years in government and Minister Hogan has done nothing on the issue. The government has continued to duck and dive from their responsibility to respond to one of the most challenging issues facing this and future generations.
“Last week An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, tried to hide behind a spurious, no existent 'low carbon bill'.
“The Sinn Féin bill launched today is a redraft of a bill produced by the Climate Change Sub-committee in 2010. This bill was supported by the then Fine Gael spokesperson on environment Phil Hogan as well as Dinny McGinley and Simon Coveney.
“There is no reason why the government parties cannot support this bill. The effects of climate change can be seen globally and felt locally. To do nothing is not an option.
“This Climate Change bill is comprehensive and can be the cornerstone for Ireland's low carbon, sustainable economic growth.
“I will be introducing the Climate Change Bill in the Dáil on Thursday morning.”
Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD has called on Minister of Finance Michael Noonan to appear before the Dáil’s Finance Committee as soon as possible to discuss this week’s decision on the Anglo-Irish Promissory Note and its implications for Ireland.
“I have written today to the Chair and Clerk of the committee requesting that Minister Noonan be called to the committee as soon as possible. This week saw reports that the ECB had rejected preferred Ireland’s proposal on the promissory note issue.
Earlier this month we had the government spin the potential extension of the EFSF and EFSM loans as a very positive step when the reality is still unclear. Likewise last year’s slight-of-hand on the Promissory Note was nothing more than political spin.
I am now calling on Minister Noonan to appear before the Finance Committee so we can have a frank and open debate about the status of negotiations and to explain what exactly the government has achieved.
Ireland needs a write-down on its banking debt. Sinn Féin has consistently said that not a cent of the Anglo-Irish debt should be paid by the taxpayer. We want to see a sustainable deal hammered out.
The recent stories suggest that this is as far as way as ever. The public cannot be kept in the dark anymore. The Minister needs to come before the Committee and lay out the current situation and his plans to progress the issue.”