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Opinion piece by Martin McGuinness on current political situation in the Assembly

This is a time when the Executive parties need to stand together to defend our public services particularly in health, education and welfare. We need to stand up for the people who elect us, rather than acting in the interests of a Tory elite.

Martin McGuinness

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has commended the strides made yesterday for equality, but has highlighted the many other aspects of...




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The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs Enterprise and Employment has given its backing to a proposal to bring forward a major Jobs Action plan for the South East.

Senator David Cullinane, who proposed that the committee undertake this report, has been appointed as special Rapporteur.

The Sinn Féin Senator has welcomed the Committee’s approval to carry out the report, and noted that it is very timely.

“The current recession has exacerbated significant regional variations in investment and employment. One of the areas worst affected has been the South East, as evidenced by the 19.7% on the Live Register.

"However, thus far, and in spite of the establishment of the South East Employment Forum, we have yet to see any concrete improvement in this situation. So it is crucial that this report is not simply a light aspirational document, the report must bring forward credible, realistic proposals on how to attract investment and create employment in the South East.

"This work will build on previous documents and reports such as the South East Unemployment Action Plan, however we will also be seeking to hear the views of as wide as possible a cross section of opinion in the south east. We will be meeting with all key stakeholders throughout the region, including the business community, Trade Unions, public representatives, and ordinary citizens.

"I would anticipate that this report will be published in June 2013, and I hope that the outcome of this extensive engagement will be a report which can help be practically implemented, and which can help combat the unemployment crisis in the South East."  

The purpose of the report will be to examine the factors at play in the South East, and what the appropriate responses to it should be, with a view to applying the lessons learned to tackle unemployment throughout the rest of the country.

The South East is an area which has struggled disproportionately with unemployment in recent years, with the percentage on the live register for the south east is 19.7%, nearly 25% above the average for the state, at 14.8%.

CRÍOCH

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Tá iarrtha ag an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh ar an Aire Stáit Gaeltachta todhchaí an Choimisinéara Teanga a shoiléiriú.

Bhí urlabhraí Shinn Féin ar chúrsaí Gaeilge & Gaeltachta ag freagairt ráiteas ón Aire Dinny McGinley inné a léiríonn mian an Rialtais Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga a thógáil isteach faoi Oifig an Ombudsman. Dar leis an Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh tá an ráíteas úd tar éís an chás a dhéanamh níos doiléire agus nach cosúil go bhfuil buntáiste ar bith le fáil ag an Stát as an athrú atá molta.

“Bhí sé soiléír ón tús nach raibh an tAire tar éis dothain machnamh a dhéanamh faoi na himpleachtaí atá i gcomhnascadh an dá oifig, Níor cuireadh aon fhianaise chun cinn go mbeadh sábháilt airgid ann, ná cén chaoi a gcuirfí i gcrích é go praiticiúil.

"I ráiteas ón Aire Sinsearach, Jimmy Deenihan faoin ábhar seo, dúradh gur leanadh proiséas comhairliúchán chuimsitheach. Ach, is léir nár tógadh an bheirt imreoir is tábhachtaí isteach sa phlé seo - an Ombudsman féin, Emily O'Reilly agus an Choimisinéír Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin. Nuair a labhair mise leo le déanaí ní raibh aon duine tar éís a gcomhairle a lorg faoin gcomhnascadh agus is beag seans gur tharla comhairliúchán chuimsitheach ó shin."

"Níl muid blas ar bith níos soiléíie i ndiaidh ráíteas an Aire Stáit inné. Ba chóir dó soiléiriú an mbeidh an Choimisinéir Teanga fós neamhspleách ar an Ombudsman, nó an mbeidh smacht ag oifig an Ombudsman ar chúraimí an Choimisinéara agus comhlíonadh a chuid dualgais reachtúla. An mbeidh sé ábalta, mar shampla, fiosrúchán a dhéanamh maidir leis an Ombudsman féin agus comhlíonadh a cuid dualgais faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, mar a b'éigin dó a dhéanamh roimhe seo?"

"Tá todhchaí na fóirne eile in Oifig an Choimisinéar Teanga doiléír go maith freisin. Tuigim ón ráiteas go ndéanfar dlúthú ar an dá fhoireann. An gciallaíonn sé seo go mbeidh siad ar fad lonnaithe i mBaile Átha Cliath - agus mas ea, cé a bheidh ag tacú leis an gCoimisinéir chun seirbhís éifeachtach a chuir ar fáil ón nGaeltacht?"

"An bunlíne atá anseo ná nach ndéanann sé ciall ó thaobh na heacnamaíochta ná ó thaobh oibríochtaí di i ndáíríre. Tá an tAire Stáit & an tAire Caiteachas Poiblí ag iarraidh cuma na maitheasa a chuir ar an scéal gur athchóiriú agus feabhsú seirbhísí poiblí atá i gceist mar chuid de phroiséas Rialtais níos leithne, ach níl anseo ach cur i gcéill. Cleasaíocht atá ann ó Rialtas mí-éifeachtach atá ar a míle dícheall cur ina luí ar an bpobal go bhfuil siad ag sábháil airgead. An toradh a bheidh air ná go mbeidh siad arís eile ag lagú cur i bhfeidhm Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla agus an ról ríthabhachtach a imríonn an Coimisinéir Teanga ina leith."

"Ba chóir do na hAirí torthaí an phroiséas comhaurliúchán a fhoilsiú agus sonraí don airgead a spáráilfear, dar leo. Tá faitíos orm nach dtuigeann siad impleachtaí na gcinntí atá siad ag déanamh, ná an dochar fadtéarmach a dhéanfaidh sé do chearta Gaeilgeoirí."


CRÍOCH

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Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has called on the Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs to clarify as to the future of the Language Commissioner.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Irish language and Gaeltacht Affairs was responding to a statement issued by Minister Dinny McGinley TD yesterday, indicating the Government's intention to subsume An Coimisinéir Teanga into the Office of the Ombudsman. According to Senator Ó Clochartaigh, the statement has added to the uncertainty of the future of the role and that there is little benefit to the State apparent from the move.

“It was clear from the start that the Department had not put adequate thought or consideration in to the proposal to merge the two offices. There has been no evidence put forward for any potential financial savings, nor much detail as to how such a merger would work practically."

"In a statement by line Minister, Jimmy Deenihan, he also said that a comprehensive consultation into the matter had been undertaken. However, that didn't appear to have included possibly the two most important players - namely the Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly & the Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin. When I spoke to them both a little over two weeks ago they had not been consulted and I doubt a comprehensive consultation ensued with them since."

"We are no wiser on this subject after the Minister’s statement on the matter yesterday. He should clarify whether the Coimisinéir Teanga will still be independent of the Ombudsman, or if the Ombudsman's Office will have have control over how the Coimisinéir Teanga fulfils his or her functions. Will he for example, still be able to investigate the Ombudsmans Office itself in relation to breaches of the Official Languages Act, as he has had to do in the past."

"It is unclear also as to what this will mean for the remainder of the staff in the Office of the Coimisinéir Teanga. I understand from the statement that the staff will be merged with the Office of the Ombudsman. Does this mean that they will be based in Dublin - and if so, how will they be in a position to provide an effective service to the Coimisinéir Teanga?"

"The bottom line is that this move does not make economic, or operational sense. The Minister of State and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform are trying to present this as part of a process of reform and improvement in Public Bodies, but this is a pretence. It is only optics on the part of an incompetent Government desperate to give the appearance of making savings. The result will be the undermining of the Official Languages Act and the crucial role that the Language Commissioner plays in its implementation."

"The Minister should publish the outcomes of his consultation process and detail the savings he thinks he will make. I fear that they do not even understand the implications of the decision they are making, or the damage it will do to the rights of Irish language speakers in the future".

ENDS

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Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member John O’Dowd has condemned those behind this morning’s attack on a prison officer on the M1 near Lurgan.

 

The Upper Bann MLA said:

 

“This morning’s attack on the M1 has resulted in an utterly pointless death of a prison officer. It will resolve nothing either within the prisons or in wider society. It is not part of any strategy or campaign.

 

“All it has done is to plunge a family into grief. The people responsible or those who act as their political spokespeople need to explain themselves to the community.

 

“Time and again when these factions carry out violent acts we get complete silence from those who at other times are only too willing to come onto the airwaves and attack the political process.

 

“It is patently obvious that the peace process will not be derailed by incidents like this. It hasn’t in the past and it won’t in the future.

 

“That is a reality that those behind these actions need to realise and bring an end to these pointless actions.”

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Commenting on calls from Westminster for a cut to the EU budget Martina Anderson MEP said:

“Those calling for a reduction in the EU budget should concentrate on the effects of their cut and slash attitude to fiscal matters closer to home. They should realise that bureaucrats target the most vulnerable first in any budget cutbacks.

“Of course there are areas of waste in the EU Budget and they need to be tackled and eradicated. I have previously highlighted the scandalous waste of money spent moving the European Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg every month.

“Rather than reducing the budget we should be looking at ways to redirect the funds available into infrastructural and job creation programmes. We could start by cutting the outrageous salaries paid to higher-level bureaucrats.

"And let's look at why, for the 16th time, the EUs own auditing body, the European Court of Auditors, has been unable to accept the EUs annual accounts. So let's make sure that the fight against cheating and fraud is a key priority in the coming years and put that money to better use in relieving the austerity measures being imposed across Europe.

“But let’s not listen to those in Westminster calling for reductions to the EU budget that would result in cuts to farm payments, investment in much needed infrastructure, training funds for the unemployed, investment in innovation and the other positive things that are done with a large part of the EU budget. And we all know that these are the things that the bureaucrats will cut first.

“The headline seeking games being played out in Westminster diverts attention from the real issues of what public authorities can and should do to invest EU funding in jobs and growth. The knee-jerk reaction of the DUP in supporting cuts in the EU budget although not unexpected could further hamstring the Executive on top of the Tory cuts being imposed from London government."

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has described Enda Kenny’s decision not to raise the issue of Ireland’s bank debt with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today as a ‘monumental failure’. The Taoiseach made the startling revelation in a short video posted on www.merrionstreet.ie this morning.
Deputy Doherty said:
“Today An Taosieach Enda Kenny will travel to Berlin to meet with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In a video posted this morning on the Governments news service he made the startling revelation that he would not be discussing the issue of Ireland’s bank debt.
“He went further to say that this issue would be dealt with by Finance minister later in 2013, and gave the clear impression that he had no intention of raising the issue with other heads of state or government this year.
“Today’s admission by Enda Kenny’s represents a monumental failure on his part, particularly given Angela Merkel’s clear opposition to the use of the European Stability Mechanism for retrospectively recapitalising banks and her Finance Ministers belief that any meaningful talks on Irelands legacy debt will not take place until 2014.
“For Enda Kenny not to raise this crucial issue with Angela Merkel today is an abdication of his responsibilities as Taoiseach. The State’s ability to exit the Troika programme next year and return to the markets in 2014 is dependent in large part on securing a credible deal on banking debt.
“Enda Kenny needs to understand the heavy impact of the bank debt burden on ordinary people. Not only does he have a responsibility but an obligation to raise this issue at every available opportunity. His failure to even raise it at today’s meeting with Angela Merkel calls into question the seriousness of his approach to this issue. Once again it appears that the talk of securing a bank debt deal is more spin than substance.
“That Enda Kenny has decided to avoid discussing this demonstrates that his Government has no coherent plan to shift political opinion in Berlin. Now is the time for the Government to be applying maximum political pressure on those countries blocking a debt deal for Ireland.” ENDS
Note to editor: The Enda Kenny video can be viewed at http://www.merrionstreet.ie/index.php/2012/11/taoiseach-to-meet-chancellor-merkel-in-berlin-today/?cat=3

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Sinn Féin Deputy Chair of the Enterprise Committee, Phil Flanagan MLA commenting on the British Treasury position that there will be no Barnett consequentials as a result of the 4G spectrum licence, worth some£1.4 billion said:

“This is just another example of the failure of the Barnett formula to fairly distribute funds and confirms the Sinn Féin view that the local economy is losing out as a result of the lack of fiscal powers under the control of the Executive.

“Sinn Féin believes that as with the sale of any other asset the Executive should be getting a return from this auction.

“It should then be up to the Executive to decide how to invest any return whether that be on capital projects or other job creation measures, mitigating against Welfare Reform or increasing the budget for departments such as Education and Health.

“The British Treasury’s decision to retain 100% of receipts from this auction demonstrates how we are disadvantaged as a result of being tied to Whitehall decision making.

“While we are lectured incessantly about the amount of subsidy received through the Block grant, this position highlights just one more area where the British Treasury is deriving unaccounted for revenue from here which is not reflected in the calculation of the Executive’s budget. This situation shows the failure of the Barnett formula to fairly distribute funds and the need for it to be reviewed.

“The British Treasury position is unacceptable and strengthens the argument that our interests would be best served by not only having full fiscal powers transferred to the Executive but control over other areas such as telecommunications and broadcasting should also be transferred.

“I have achieved agreement from the Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee to take evidence from Ofcom on November 22nd on the 4G licensing process. I will be seeking much greater clarity from them on how this auction will take place and Sinn Féin will also be pursuing the British Government on this issue.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Oliver McMullan has urged farmers to activate their Single Farm Payments now.

 Mr. McMullan said,

 “It is important that every farmer understands the need to activate every entitlement of the Single Farm Payment as this payment is based upon every hectare as opposed to the entire farm.

 “As the rules requires each farmer to activate their entitlement every two years it is important that all farmers understand this and do this now.

 “Many farms depend upon the Single Farm Payment to make ends meet so to lose this payment would have a devastating effect upon anyone losing this benefit.

 “Anyone who is unsure should contact DARD directly or their local representative to make sure they don’t miss out on the Single Farm Payment.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard has welcomed the ‘Get the Edge’ initiative launched by the South Eastern Regional College

 Mr Hazzard Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson said,

 “It is important that all people entering the job market have as many strings to their bow as possible in order to secure the job of their choice. This new initiative has to be congratulated in that it will provide prospective employers with evidence that the applicant had relevant work experience.

“The ‘Get the Edge’ is a programme designed to allow students to get a City and Guild qualification in their field of study through a work placement in a relevant company.

 “Research has shown that students who have work experience can employment easier than those who have not so this initiative is timely as the job market is becoming more and more competitive.

 “I hope that this initiative can be expanded upon across other areas and that students make the most of their opportunity to impress prospective employers with a range of skill that allows them to enter the job market.”

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Sinn Féin the only party in the North firmly opposed to austerity - McGuinness


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Senator Kathryn Reilly, Mary Lou McDOnald TD & Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD