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Sinn Féin budget supports fair and sustainable recovery - Pearse Doherty

Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget would repair communities, rebuild the economy and renew society. The budget lays out how Sinn Fein would abolish the local property tax and water charges and our programme for investing in disability services, health and education.

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2015 here



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



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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has anyone who recklessly disposes of strategic state assets is acting treacherously.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening on a Sinn Féin motion opposing the sale of the public stake in the ESB Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Public control of strategic assets is about much more than our economic recovery in the short term. It’s about our very survival as an island nation into the future.

“As the European financial crisis deepens it is becoming an increasingly hostile and merciless place for small outlying members. The larger members are seeking to protect their own interests first a foremost. We are witnessing unilateral moves by the likes of France and Germany – at our expense these continental players are acting to protect their own banks which recklessly lent to Irish ones during boom times. Likewise, Finland’s insistence that Greece honour it’s debt to them over and above its debt to Ireland and others is another example.

“As an island nation we are different to other European nations. We have no international land borders. We have no choice but to be more self-reliant than others. We must now protect and indeed bolster our capacity to be self-reliant should the need arise.

“International commercial espionage is on the increase. We are losing Foreign Direct Investment not only to India but to our European neighbours also. During such times of crisis, economic or otherwise, our transport – sea, air, rail and road – communications and energy infrastructure are our last line of defence. Their privatization whether in part or in whole exposes us to attack in the increasingly competitive and cut-throat global environment.

“Our free market competitors can be savage and merciless in their actions. We must defend and hold what we have in terms of strategic assets. Anyone who recklessly disposes of our strategic infrastructure is acting treacherously and against the interests of the Irish people North and South.

“In terms of energy Bord na Móna, Bord Gáis and the ESB are profitable and of undeniable strategic importance. Even a partial sale would be the first step towards full privatization. The privatization of critical infrastructure both in Ireland and abroad has been an unmitigated disaster for the public. At home, Eircom was quickly asset stripped and in just a few short years post privatization Ireland plummeted down the league table of investment in broadband roll-out with very real, negative and lasting consequences for the Irish economy. In Britain, Royal Mail had to be bought back so bad was the experience of privatization and the privatization of British Rail literally cost lives so poor was the consequent maintenance of the railway lines.

“Critical infrastructure when in public hands can be deployed strategically to grow the economy. And because under a public owner the bottom line is not necessarily profit it can also be used to serve a diversity of public interests. As Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on social protection I actively opposed this government’s recent decision to cut pensioners’ fuel and energy allowances. This government made a decision to achieve savings by cutting fuel allowances under the Household Benefits Package rather than securing a bulk purchaser discount from the energy provider.

“We need to start insisting that our public services serve the public. We need to cut waste and the outrageous pay and conditions at the top. And we need to extract the very best for the public. These assets are only non-strategic if like the current government you fail to use them strategically.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the sale of part of the State’s stake in the ESB as “the worst kind of short-sighted policy that will come back to haunt our society and our economy in the years ahead”.

Speaking in support of a Sinn Féin Dáil motion opposing the privatisation and calling for investment in jobs and growth, which is being debated in the Dáil this week, Ó Caoláin said:

“The sound investment made when the ESB was established and developed has paid off handsomely over the decades. Throughout the current economic and financial crisis the ESB’s investment in infrastructure has remained high, unlike Eircom, which continues to be dogged by under-investment following its privatisation.

“We know who benefited from the fiasco that was the Eircom privatisation – the likes of Tony O’Reilly and other privateers who creamed off profits and dividends. And at what cost to Ireland?

“This State, which should be a world leader in communications infrastructure, now lags behind other EU and OECD states in terms of broadband availability per capita.

“The Fine Gael/Labour Programme for Government is committed to target up to €2 billion in sales of so-called ‘non-strategic’ State assets drawing from the recommendations of the McCarthy Review Group. This is not based on any sound economic strategy. On the contrary, it represents another step in the downgrading of our economy and a further limiting of the potential of the State to help create jobs and to bring about economic growth and recovery.

“These semi-State companies should not be privatised in part or in whole because they can play a vital role in delivering employment activation measures and training.” ENDS

Full text:

Sinn Féin Private Members Business
No privatisation of ESB
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


This is one of the most important motions to be put before the Dáil in recent years. The decision to sell off a stake in the ESB is totally wrong. It is the first step towards privatisation of this and other key strategic State assets at the diktat of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

The disastrous IMF/ECB deal so cravenly accepted by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government is now the equivalent of the old British regime at Dublin Castle, warping the Irish economy and impoverishing the Irish people for the benefit of outside interests.

It cannot be said often enough that the last General Election saw one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated against the Irish people. They rejected the Fianna Fáil/Green wreckers of the economy and gave a strong mandate to the Fine Gael and Labour parties who had been highly critical of the IMF/ECB deal.

That deal was clearly rejected by the people and armed with that mandate the new Fine Gael/Labour Government should have gone back to the IMF and the ECB and said that we cannot pay and we won’t pay, that the austerity regime is not working and that we must invest in jobs and growth instead of paying off bank bondholders.

Instead, what did Fine Gael and Labour do? They bowed the knee to the IMF and the ECB, they took up the axe left down by Fianna Fáil and the Greens and continued the savage cuts.

Tá na páirtithe sa Rialtas seo tar éis dallamullóg a chur ar an bpobal. Vótáil siad ar son polasaí amháin ach tá polasaí eile ar fad á chur i bhfeidhm anois.

Minister Deenihan has proposed to take over the Bank of Ireland in College Green, the old Irish Parliament. This is indeed ironic given the fact that the members of that Ascendancy Parliament sold it out in return for bribes from the British Government - just as the political establishment in this State sold what was left of our economic sovereignty to the IMF and the ECB, surely the greatest sell-out since the Act of Union.
Now State companies are up for grabs, with large chunks to be sold off. It is the worst kind of short-sighted policy and will come back to haunt our society and our economy in the years ahead.

I wonder what joker came up with the name ‘New ERA’ for the body to be set up to act as the agent for the sale of State assets? It started as a Fine Gael policy document in November 2009 and promised then to create 105,000 new jobs. What has happened to that promise?

At least Fine Gael stated clearly in that plan its intention to sell off State assets. It was otherwise with the Labour Party which before the General Election said it was committed to state enterprises and pledged that it would use commercial state companies as a key part of economic recovery. It said it was opposed to privatisation.

Now this Fine Gael and Labour Party Government are to set up New ERA as a non statutory body within the NTMA and it will take responsibility for the management and disposal of commercial semi states from Government departments. New ERA will also decide on dividends paid out to the State, pay levels and pension fund policies. The Government claims that any monies raised will be used for investment and job creation but we know very well that the EU/IMF Programme wants the monies to be used to pay down the debt.

As our motion states, the ESB is self-financing, has paid €1.2 billion in dividends over the last nine years and contributed €2.2 billion to the Irish economy through purchases from Irish suppliers, taxes, rates, wages and dividends in 2010.

The company is of long-term strategic importance to the State’s energy supply, in providing skilled employment, training opportunities and a variety of energy and telecommunications services and could play an extended role in the area of telecommunications by using its existing networks to address the State’s broadband deficit. We reject the Government's decision to sell off a stake in the company to private interests.

Let it not be forgotten that the ESB, like other strategic State companies, was built up when wealthy private interests were unwilling to invest in the building and development of infrastructure in this country. They preferred to invest their money abroad, just as this Government is now sending billions out of the country to pay the gambling debts of bank bondholders.
When self-government for 26 of the 32 Counties was achieved successive governments built up strong State-owned companies. The ESB, Aer Lingus, our telecommunications infrastructure, Bord na Móna and others were strategic pillars of the economy. Of course these companies must be equipped to adapt to change but what is not acceptable is the ideology which dictates that the people of this State, through their government, cannot retain any of these in public ownership, or cannot even assist them out of public funds.

The sound investment made when the ESB was established and developed has paid off handsomely over the decades. Throughout the current economic and financial crisis the ESB’s investment in infrastructure has remained high, unlike Eircom, which continues to be dogged by under-investment following its privatisation.

We know who benefited from the fiasco that was the Eircom privatisation – the likes of Tony O’Reilly and other privateers who creamed off profits and dividends. And at what cost to Ireland?

This State, which should be a world leader in communications infrastructure, now lags behind other EU and OECD states in terms of broadband availability per capita.

The Fine Gael/Labour Programme for Government is committed to target up to €2 billion in sales of so-called ‘non-strategic’ State assets drawing from the recommendations of the McCarthy Review Group. This is not based on any sound economic strategy. On the contrary, it represents another step in the downgrading of our economy and a further limiting of the potential of the State to help create jobs and to bring about economic growth and recovery.

These semi-State companies should not be privatised in part or in whole because they can play a vital role in delivering employment activation measures and training.

Over the last ten years the ESB and Bord Gáis alone have paid out nearly €2 billion in dividends. It is economic madness to start selling off these vital national assets in whole or in part. The Government defends this by asserting that this is only a partial sale of a stake in the ESB. But once the rot begins where will it end?

Molaim an rún seo do na Teachtaí uile. Iarraimíd ar an Rialtas gan dul ar aghaidh leis an díol seo agus an Bórd Soláthar Leictreachais a choinneáil go hiomlán i seilbh mhuintir na hÉireann.

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Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has this evening welcomed Minister Howlin’s decision to amend the Oireachtas Inquiries Referendum wording to include due regard to the principles of fair procedures as proposed by Deputy McDonald last week.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Following the introduction of the legislation last week Sinn Féin warned that the Government’s referendum wording could be interpreted as an attempt by the Oireachtas to position itself as the custodian of natural justice in its own investigations.

“It is on that basis that Sinn Féin felt it important to submit an amendment to the legislation last week restating the right of those brought before an inquiry of natural justice.

“From the outset we stated our support of the Government’s proposed amendment to the constitution to give the Oireachtas powers of inquiry but only on the basis that procedural fairness and the rights of the people are in no way damaged. There should be no public question mark over the integrity and fairness of the inquiry process.

“The Government’s late submission of the amendment addressing its failure to restate the right to procedural fairness whilst welcome is of course worrying. Any eleventh hour amendment suggests that the Government has not taken adequate time to engage with others and consider the referendum wording.

“The lack of time allocated to progress the legislation is also of concern. Amending the Constitution is no small matter and the necessary time should have been taken to progress the legislation in a considered manner.

“Naturally I welcome Minister Howlin’s acknowledgment in the Dáil this evening that the Government’s change to the Referendum wording was a result of Sinn Féin’s amendment submitted last week.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Poverty, Francie Molloy MLA has called on Social Development (DSD) Minister Nelson McCausland to explore how the Boiler Replacement Scheme could be extended to those most in need .

 Francie Molloy said

"This project was introduced by the DSD as part of the 'Warmer Homes' initiative for people over 60 years of age and in receipt of a pension. And will be available to 1,300 vulnerable households.

"People who meet the criteria and have boilers which are over 15 years old can apply for the grant which may be as much as £1500, to replace their old boiler. This is a very important scheme as research has found that over 70% of home heating boilers are inefficient. This leads to people having to burn more fuel to stay warm increasing significantly the cost for many people to heat their homes. At over £530 for 900 litres people can’t afford to be wasting fuel.

“In light of the recent 35% plus energy price increases I am calling on the Minister to extend this programme to those most in need.

"In addition to the fuel poverty there is also an environmental issue for boiler replacement, an important consideration given EU demands to reduce emissions."

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on the environment, Brian Stanley will today launch a petition against the proposed septic tank charges.
Deputy Stanley is attending the Ploughing Championships today and will launch the petition at the Sinn Féin tent at 3pm.
Speaking from the Ploughing Championships Deputy Stanley said:

“The current and previous governments have failed in the past to deal with the issue of septic tank maintenance and inspection and we are now left with a situation where the state could face a €40 million fine in 2015 and €2.7 million daily thereafter unless mandatory inspections are put in place.

“The Fine Gael-Labour government should not see this as yet another opportunity to pick up extra revenue but this needs a common sense approach.

“Sinn Féin is proposing that a body be established for the purpose of carrying out these inspections through the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government using a €200 million fund that would employ 20 people over ten years, including a €20 million fund to allow for upgrades and refits to septic tanks.

“Rural householders are already paying the Universal Social Charge, increased mortgage repayments, rising fuel bills, increased school transport charges and now this further expense, together with proposed property taxes and water charges, will push people over the point where they can cope.

“I am calling on everyone to come along, show your opposition to these charges and sign the Sinn Féin petition.”

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Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Poverty, Francie Molloy MLA (Mid-Ulster) has called for the issue of fuel poverty to be addressed as a matter of urgency across the board but in particular amongst our elderly population.

Speaking in the wake of a motion on the in the Assembly yesterday Mr Molloy said:
“It is ironic that a day after the Assembly debated the need to address the issue of fuel poverty that we have the announcement by Firmus Energy that it intends to increase its gas prices by a whopping 35% on October 1st.

 

“This will impact more harshly on the elderly, cancer sufferers, low-income families and the unemployed.

 

“In fact, recent research by MacMillian Cancer support showed that patients receiving treatment for cancer are twice as likely to suffer fuel poverty as are those without the disease.

 

“But fuel poverty across society here is more acute than in the rest of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, because the gas and electricity companies here do not provide a cheaper tariff for cancer patients.

 

“Neither do they provide a cheaper tariff for those on low-incomes. Again this flies in the face of the experience in Britain and the South, where social tariffs were introduced to compel energy companies to redirect some of their vast profits towards reducing bills for those least able to pay.

 

“We need to see a similar approach taken here. Recession or not, all the energy companies are still making huge profits and it is unacceptable that they are doing so when fuel poverty in the North is as high as 40%.

 

“While energy prices are higher here, wages are lower, yet social tariffs have not been introduced. 

 

“The issue of fuel poverty is one that has been persistent for the past number of years and has been exacerbated by increasing cost of living and rising unemployment.

“While the average price for 900 litres of home heating oil is £531.11, the basic rate of state pension is £102. The maths is very easy – it costs pensioners over five week’s pension for one tank of oil.

“The last two winters have been exceptionally severe. If this trend continues there is no doubt that elderly people within our society will die as a result of the cold.

“This issue is not just about the cost of fuel but about the effects that increasing fuel prices have on the entire economy of this region. Increasing fuel costs to manufacturers, retailers and services are also passed on to the consumer. Fuel poverty related illnesses also result in increased cost to our health service and cold related deaths. We need to identify ways to alleviate increasing Energy costs including the demand for the introduction of social tariffs to assist those most vulnerable in our society.CRÍOCH

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Commenting on an SDLP motion coming before the Assembly on Tuesday 20th September calling for a new draft Programme for Government (PfG), Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Conor Murphy said:
 
"Even the SDLP should know that governments plan projects and project spending a number of years in advance. To suggest that a Budget that was only approved by the Assembly a little over six months ago is no longer applicable to the present economic conditions shows that political party’s naivety in the extreme.
 
“Hokey Kokey politics may suit a party that has no coherent economic policies but suggesting that those of us committed to delivering good government to the people should adopt its approach is just not realistic.
 
“All Ministers in the Executive – including the SDLP – agreed the Budget which was then voted on and ratified by a majority in the Assembly. Within the budget process there are regular Monitoring Rounds where all unspent Departmental monies are surrendered and redistributed to those Departments most in need. Therefore there is already a mechanism built into the budget process which allows flexibility in changing circumstances.
 
As for the new draft PfG once more the SDLP is being disingenuous with its call in the full knowledge that the 2008/2011 PfG is due to expire and a new one is presently being formulated.
 
“Rather than seek cheap headlines with no substance, the SDLP would better serve the people of the North by acting responsibly as a partner in government rather than in a semi-detached manner that plays no positive role in delivering for the people.

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Enhancing all-Ireland co-operation on education is key to ensuring that all our children reach their full potential, Sinn Féin education spokesperson Daithi McKay has said.

Mr. McKay was speaking ahead of a North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) sectoral meeting on education, to be held in Armagh on Wednesday.

He commented: “I welcome the fact that Sinn Féin Education minister John O’Dowd and his Dublin counterpart Ruairi Quinn will be discussing a number of issues which are crucial to the future of education on this island and the ability of our young people to reach their full potential.

“The ongoing work of the NSMC is vitally important in helping to break down barriers and disseminate good practice throughout the island and that is particularly important within education.

“Every young person right across this island has the right to leave school with the skills and qualifications, especially in literacy and numeracy, that are crucial to their life prospects – and to the success of our economy.

“We must eradicate whatever barriers that exist towards achieving that aim and the NSMC will be exploring a number of areas, including the difficulties faced by young people in terms of accessing higher education opportunities on the other side of the border.

“The problems faced by young teachers when it comes to securing employment in the other jurisdiction will also be discussed and both Ministers will move forward to the next stage of the Joint study on Education Co-operation which will indentify practical measures to enhance North South co-operation in a way which will help us deliver the kind of world-leading education service across this island which our young people deserve.”

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West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has welcomed news that Tesco has agreed to take the new superstore on the Opportunity Omagh development on the town’s Derry Road.

The local MP said:

 "I have been engaged in ongoing negotiations with the developer for over 3 years and am confident that the decision of Tesco to locate will be a catalyst for other end users to base themselves on this site.This will result in hundreds of additional jobs across all sectors.

"Tesco's decision ushers in the real prospect of progress on the Strathroy Link Road and the knock on this will have in terms of re-connecting communities and providing a linkage into the shared educational campus at Lisanelly is hugely important for the future development of Omagh.

"This is an excellent news story, especially given the dire economic climate that we are currently in and is a huge vote of confidence in the area and proof that Omagh and west Tyrone is a place to do business in.

Council Chairperson, Sinn Féin Couincillor, Frankie Donnelly added:

 “This is a major step forward for a massively important project for Omagh. The importance of the immediate boost and jobs for our local Construction sector from this £350m project, combined with the longer term sustainable job creation and infrastructure provision are vital to ensure that Omagh continues to grow and develop as a place for our people to live and work" CRÍOCH

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