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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has today launched his party’s alternative budget.  Deputy Doherty said Sinn Féin’s budget would lower the tax burden on ordinary families, protect public services and invest in jobs.  He said ordinary people would be better off under Sinn Féin.

Deputy Doherty said; “The Sinn Fein budget will reduce the tax burden on ordinary families. It will protect public services and invest in jobs.

“We have identified a series of taxation and savings measures, fully costed by government departments, to reduce the deficit and pay for new spending measures.

“These include giving 1.8 million homeowners a tax rebate by abolishing the property tax, restoring the respite grant for 86,000 carers, taking 296,000 low income workers out of the USC, providing free school meals to five hundred more schools and halving the cost of school books, giving every child under five free GP care, extending the fuel allowance by three weeks, protecting the vulnerable – no more cuts to disability payments, no more cuts to Child Benefit, no more cuts to social welfare and introducing a stimulus to create thousands of jobs.

“These proposals are all fully costed by the government’s budgetary costing unit.

“The document also sets out proactive measures to assist job creation, SMEs, the agriculture sector, and people in mortgage distress. It deals with corporation tax and natural resources and also stresses our commitment to equality budgeting.

“Our adjustment is just under €2.5billion. We believe that families need to be given a break.  Austerity is not working.  The government needs to take its foot off the necks of the people.  With this document we show how people are better off under Sinn Féin.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said his party’s budget submission, launched today, shows that there is a fair way to reduce the deficit.

Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget will reduce tax on families, protect public services and invest in jobs.

Deputy Adams said;

“Austerity isn’t working.  The government’s priority in this budget should be to protect citizens rather than meeting European diktats.

 “Some 415,000 people are on the live register while 300,000 emigrated in the last four years.

“There are 49,000 people waiting for hospital treatments.  

“One in ten children are living in consistent poverty with 47% of households living on less than €100 a month after bills.

“There are 90,000 households languishing on social housing lists while 180,000 households are in mortgage distress.

“This will be the seventh austerity budget from Fianna Fáil and this government which together will have taken €30 billion out of the economy.

“People need a break.  Sinn Féin’s alternative budget reduces the tax burden on ordinary families, protects public services and invests in jobs.

“Our proposal identifies measures that will allow for a €2.453 million adjustment.

“It sets out measures to assist job creation; small and medium businesses, the agriculture sector and people in mortgage distress and it emphasis Sinn Féin’s commitment to equality budgeting.

“The government is now claiming that its adjustment will be €2.5 billion. The difference between our proposals and theirs is that Sinn Féin’s alternative achieves this is a fair and equitable way.

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Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty TD said today that the government’s campaign on the Seanad referendum “was a sorry excuse for a campaign”.

The Donegal TD said:

“Sinn Féin ran a good campaign and canvassed door-to-door around the state, leafleted and put up posters. In some places, we were the only ones out campaigning for a YES vote.

“The government, on the other hand, ran a sorry excuse for a campaign, with its leader refusing to even debate the issues on television.

“One thing was agreed, by everyone involved in this campaign, however: the Seanad, as it now stands, is not acceptable. It is elected by a tiny percentage of the people and is undemocratic.

“The referendum result does not mean that the people want to keep the Seanad as it now exists. The turnout, however, should be a cause for concern to all political leaders.

“The need for political reform goes further than the Seanad. There is a need for a root and branch reform of the Dáil and local democracy too.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has appealed to James Reilly to exercise his position, as minister for health and former IMO president, to make an eleventh hour intervention to avoid tomorrow's planned industrial action by Junior Doctors.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“James Reilly, as current minister for health and former president of the Irish Medical Organisation, is uniquely positioned in the current dispute between Junior Doctors and the HSE regarding working hours and conditions.

“I am making an appeal to him to use that position to make an eleventh hour intervention, personally, in an effort to overcome the difficulties that still remain within the negotiations and to avert the now signaled strike action by Junior Doctors scheduled to commence tomorrow.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has reacted angrily to the announcement that £18million of EU Funding under the SEUPB programme has been withdrawn on the back of the DUP reneging on a Programme for Government (PfG) commitment to construct a Peace and Reconciliation Centre on the site of the former Long Kesh Prison Camp.

Martina Anderson commented:

“While I exert every ounce of effort possible to lobby my colleague MEPs to support funding of projects here to assist the evolution from conflict to reconciliation it is galling that unionist politicians can frivolously snub substantial EU funding in order to assuage the lowest common denominator within anti-peace process unionism.

“No amount of spin or hijacking of victims feelings will camouflage the fact that Peter Robinson caved in to unionist reactionaries such as Jim Allister, the PUP and UVF elements who specialise in whipping up and playing on misinformed fears in the unionist community.

"This is not just a matter of snubbing £18million of hard won EU funding it is squandering an opportunity for what could have been the catalyst for other investment that would have created up to 5000 jobs.

"I welcome the commitment and determination by joint First Minister Martin McGuinness to retrieve this project and have the funding reinstated. That is the type of determination and leadership that unionism also needs. I will do all I can to assist this process in Europe despite the fact that I will have to do so without any assistance from the other two northern MEPs, Dianne Dodds (DUP) and Jim Nicholson (UUP).

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Speaking following the defeat of the referendum to abolish the Seanad, Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams said:

"The people have spoken and the referendum proposal has been rejected.

"The low voter turnout should be a cause of concern for all political leaders and the underlying causes analysed and addressed.

"All participants and parties involved in the referendum campaign were clear in saying that the Seanad in its current form is elitist, undemocratic and unacceptable.

"This result cannot be viewed as a vote to retain the Seanad in its present form.

"The Government must now move swiftly to refer the issue of the future of the Seanad to the Constitutional Convention.

"The need for reform, not just of the Seanad, but of the Dáil and Local Government is overwhelming and must now be a priority.

"This is what Sinn Féin will be pressing for in the immediate period ahead".

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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has aid that he is looking a meeting with the National Trust after it was revealed that the Trust have turned down several applications for tenancies due to tenants financial position.

 Mr. McMullan stated,

“Housing should be allocated on the basis of need not the financial position of the proposed tenants.  I am concerned that several people in the Glens area who have applied for homes managed by the National Trust have been refused due to the Trust’s belief that do not have sufficient finances.

 “Not only does this discriminate against families on benefits and low income but it has also major ramifications if the Minister of Environment decides to impose a National Park upon the Glens.

“If a National Park is imposed upon the Glens then many more houses will come under the control of the National Trust making it near impossible for these families to acquire a home.

 “I am calling on the National Trust to meet with me to discuss the matter and I will also be bringing this to the attention of the Minister of Environment.”

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 Sinn Féin Tyrone MLA’s Bronwyn McGahan and Declan Mc Aleer took part in a consultation on the new Rural Development Programme at a seminar in Kelly’s Inn on Thursday evening. 

 Speaking after the meeting Ms. McGahan said

 “The event, which was facilitated by DARD’s Rural Development management branch attracted representatives from over 50 rural groups to discuss the new Rural Development Programme.

 “We are in the middle of an economic recession and rural people are very anxious about the future.  The lack of jobs and forced emigration of young people was a recurring theme at the consultation.  Linked to this, the importance of affordable childcare to enable parents to avail of employment opportunities was also raised. 

 “There was a lot of debate across a wide range of areas such as the need for investment in rural businesses and the importance of reliable community transport to ease the sense of isolation that people often experience in rural areas.

 Mr Mc Aleer added

 “There was discussion around the implementation of the new programme and of the importance that lessons are learnt from the previous programme.  Participants spoke of a need to remove the burden of red tape and the importance of an efficient ‘Leader’ approach in the delivery of some of the schemes.

 “The issue of transferring funds between the pillars was also raised and this elicited a mixed reaction, some favouring it, while others feared the impact that this could have on single farm payments.  The importance of using rural funding to create strong villages was also stressed, as this is the backbone of our communities and a focal point for economic activity.

 “The consultation on the new programme is open until 5pm on Monday 21st October and I strongly advise stakeholders to take part by emailing their views to [email protected] or writing directly to Donald House.  The public consultation on pillar 1 (Single Farm Payments) is currently open until 17th January.”   

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the Parades Commission have succeeded in focusing the minds of the Loyal Orders on the need for dialogue.

Commenting as it was announced that the current Parades Commission members term would finish at the end of the year, the North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA said:

“Over the course of the past two years the Parades Commission has pursued a resolution strategy with respect to contentious parades.

“They have succeeded in focusing the minds of the Loyal Orders on the need for dialogue and accommodation and should be commended for doing so.

“While the announcement that the Parades Commission will continue for a further period is to be welcomed, the decision to reduce its composition, particularly in advance of the consideration of the parades issue at the Haass talks, is somewhat pre-emptive.

“The capacity of the Parades Commission to build upon the progress they have made in recent times should be strengthened rather than diminished.” CRÍOCH/END

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Following the awarding of the new lottery licence to An Post and Camelot Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to ensure current national lottery workers are fully briefed and balloted on LRC proposals dealing with their future terms and conditions.
 
The Dublin TD said:
 
“Following yesterday’s announcement that An Post and Camelot have been awarded the new lottery licence Minister Howlin stated that issues relating to the terms and conditions of current National Lottery staff are being addressed in a positive way in proposals from the Labour relations Commission (LRC). This will be news to the workers who have yet to be even balloted on the LRC proposals.
 
“The majority of Lottery workers are on permanent secondment from An Post and are therefore contractually bound to the company. Earlier this year the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform acknowledged An Post as the employer of the majority of the Lottery staff. However it appears the staff are not being given the option to return to An Post.
 
“Announcing the new lottery licence holder in the absence of any agreement with employees on their future is on the face of it pretty inappropriate. It’s time now for the Minister and his officials to reengage with unions to ensure the LRC proposals are put to a ballot as soon as possible.”

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Deputy Michael Colreavy, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has welcomed the move by Electric Ireland to freeze its prices until January 2014 but warned that more needs to be done to tackle fuel poverty.

"A recent report released by St Vincent de Paul showed that annual domestic energy bills have risen by €500.

"Fuel poverty is an issue that this government needs to take seriously.

"Many people, especially those most marginalised in society are putting their health and safety at risk by attempting to reduce their energy bills.

"As we approach the winter months many households will have to make difficult decisions whether to prioritise heat or other necessities.

"The government must have a frank discussion with energy companies to try and ensure that people do not suffer the harshest of the cold weather.

"There also needs to be a thorough debate on energy production and supply in Ireland and how best to utilise our renewable energy sources and offshore oil and gas to benefit Irish households."

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Deputy Seán Crowe TD, has raised the Russian government’s persecution of its Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) citizens with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Dáil.

Deputy Crowe said:

“I tabled this question in order to draw attention to what is happening in Russia and to afford an opportunity for the Dáil to put forward a unified voice in articulating our total abhorrence of how LGBT people are being treated in Russia.

“The so-called ‘Gay Propaganda Law’ which was signed into law by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on June 30, suggests that the current Russian government is not willing to respect the human rights of their LGBT citizens, and instead it wants to undermine their personal integrity and dignity.

“The posting of online videos of homophobic attacks, which are being done under the cloak of this legislation, have shown incidents of kidnap, assault and torture and serve, in their turn, to encourage more such attacks.

“I welcome the Tánaiste’s condemnation of the law and that he has made his position known to the Russian ambassador. He further stated that he is committed to pressing the issue bilaterally, and at EU and international level.

“It is important to note that this issue has an impact beyond Russia, in that reactions will influence governments in other countries who may seek to introduce similar laws.

“Human rights, such as freedom of assembly and equality regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are universal and it is important that they are respected all over the world.”

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Speaking as he attended the first day of the Global Irish Economic Forum, Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD said:

“The Global Irish Economic Forum is a very worthwhile initiative.

“There is huge potential within the Irish diaspora and a great desire by the Irish throughout the world to support, help and do whatever they can for their historic homeland.

“However, it is crucially important that the government follows up on this weekend's forum in a programmatic and strategic way in order to enhance this potential.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, has said that Finance Minister Michael Noonan is planning to inflict more austerity than necessary to reach Troika targets. During questioning this evening in the Dáil Minister Noonan said his target for next year’s deficit is “in the high 4s” lower than the 5.1% Troika target.
Deputy Doherty said:
“Despite the mutterings we have heard from the Labour Party it is clear Minister Noonan is determined to not only meet but surpass the Troika’s austerity targets. This means hundreds of millions extra in cuts and taxes than necessary.
“Sinn Fein will be proposing a more sensible adjustment which reduces the tax burden on ordinary families, protect services and invests in jobs.
“I am extremely disappointed by Minister Noonan’s comments. This government has used the Troika as a scapegoat for their cuts but today Minister Noonan has clearly signalled that he will go beyond the Troika target and impose extra cuts and taxes.
“For the last three years the government has reduced its growth forecast for 2013. Each budget has shrunk the potential for growth, but now Minister Noonan has stated his intention to step up this failing policy.
“Minister Noonan’s comments today are slap down to the Labour Party and has exposed Gilmore’s demand to go no further than the Troika targets. It is clearly Noonan’s way, not Gilmore’s way.”
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Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams TD, again has raised the issue of the Dáil Bar with Leinster House authorities.
Teachta Adams has raised the issue on several previous occasions publicly and with the Ceann Comhairle.
His concerns were subsequently underlined by several controversial incidents involving TDs under the influence of alcohol while debating important legislation in the Dáil.
The Sinn Féin Leader also drew attention to the impact of late opening hours on the working conditions of ushers and others working in Leinster House.
Teachta Adams today said:
"It is a ridiculous situation to have a bar on the premises of any workplace, open until all hours of the morning. However, to have this situation pertaining in the Dáil where important legislation affecting the lives of so many citizens is being debated is a disgrace."
Gerry Adams first wrote to the Ceann Comhairle on the issue last July. Sean
Barrett then referred the issue to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges of the Dáil and also the CPP of the Seanad.
The issue has now been referred to the Joint Sub-Committee on Administration.
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Sinn Féin’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Seán Crowe TD, met with Basque Senator Urko Aiartza Azurtza, and two political activist colleagues from the Basque Country, to discuss the increasingly aggressive attacks by the Spanish state on Basque political activists, including police raids on human rights groups and NGOs.
The delegation held numerous meeting during their visit. They met with Sinn Féin TDs and Senators, Sinn Féin members in Dublin, members of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee. They also travelled to Belfast for cross-party meetings with MLAs and other Sinn Féin organised meetings.
Deputy Seán Crowe said:
“I want to thank Urko and his two colleagues for coming to Ireland to brief Sinn Féin members and politicians.
“The actions of elements of the Spanish state are undermining the peace process in the Basque Country, and we share their concerns and outrage at these actions.
“This month, two political trials against 76 members of the Abertzale Left will start in the Spanish National Court. The charges against these activists for their political work and the determination of the Spanish state to continue with the political trials, is a clear sign that some in positions of authority want to move backwards and undermine the peace process.
“Last Monday the Spanish police arrested 18 members of Herrira, the Basque prisoners’ support group, which has played an important role in defending the human rights of Basque prisoners and in promoting a peaceful resolution of the conflict. There is cross-party outrage there at these arrests.
“Yet the Spanish state has arrested these 18 campaigners on the ludicrous grounds that ETA also supports prisoners’ rights.
“It is evident that powerful elements of the Spanish state don’t want the peace process to work and are trying to ensure its destruction with harsher laws and arbitrary political arrests.
“The Spanish state must release these activists, show some indication that it is committed to peace and democracy and that it will respect human and political rights.
“Ireland and the EU cannot stand idly by while the peace process is being undermined by arrests and a political paralysis that is preventing new initiatives.”
ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald called on the Tánaiste to deliver on his party’s promise to tackle fuel poverty and to use Budget 2014 to give some comfort to families unable to make ends meet.
The Dublin Central TD said:
“We’ve heard first hand this morning the stories of families struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills.
“According to the St. Vincent de Paul the average cost of energy bills has increased by €500 per year.
“Working families and the unemployed are simply unable to meet the spiralling costs of gas and electricity. The real life experiences are heart-breaking.
“In my own constituency of Dublin Central I’ve met young mothers who have spent months without electricity or gas. I have spoken to fathers hit by wage cuts and tax hikes who have seen their arrears spiral out of control.
“These families were forced to choose between feeding their children or paying their energy bills.
Their arrears mounted up. The sleepless nights increased.
“Government’s response has deepened the crisis for these families.
“A Labour minister cut the smokeless fuel supplement increasing costs for people living in the cities.
“A Labour minister cut the fuel allowance by six weeks wrenching €120 out of the pockets of families struggling to pay their fuel bills.
“A Labour minister sat back and did nothing as the regulator hiked up gas and electricity costs.
“So the question now is how will government use Budget 2014 to help these struggling families.
“Every year hundreds of people over the age of 65 die because of lack of adequate heat.
“One survey has shown that half of older people go without food or clothing in order to meet the costs of heating their homes.
“Labour’s 2011 election manifesto promised to tackle fuel poverty. So what will the Labour party in Government do to reign in the spiralling costs of energy and will Budget 2014 give some comfort to families unable to make ends meet.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Seanad referendum campaign director Pearse Doherty TD has made a final call on voters to come out in support of the abolition of the Seanad tomorrow.
Speaking from Leinster House today Deputy Doherty said:
“Yesterday’s vote in the Seanad was a last ditch attempt by some senators to show that the Seanad can be relevant, while also putting it up to their own party leadership over its position on the referendum.
“However, when it was important to stand up, when for instance the property tax was going through the Seanad, the Seanad did what it always does and rubber stamped the government’s bill.
“I am making a final appeal to voters to come out in huge number tomorrow to abolish the Seanad.
“We simply cannot retain an institution in this state in which 97% of the citizens have no say.”

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Sinn Féin’s party whip Aengus Ó Snodaigh accompanied party president, Gerry Adams, to a meeting today with An Taoiseach to discuss the government’s Dáil Reform proposals.
While welcoming today’s engagement, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the government, had failed to consult properly with opposition parties on how best to reform the Dáil, prior to presenting a reform package in a fait accompli manner, as it has done recently. He expressed concerns that without meaningful engagement its proposals would have only a limited impact.
He continued: “Sinn Féin has made clear its criticism of the government for failing to engage in any meaningful way with opposition parties on their plans to reform the Dáil. Instead, their priority is in rushing through changes so they can be made during the Autumn Dáil schedule.
“Today’s meeting with the Taoiseach should have taken place at an earlier date so as to allow a thorough engagement, where all of the political parties could work towards building a consensus on the proposed changes.
“The proper platform to achieve this was the Oireachtas Dáil Reform Committee where time could have been set aside to carefully consider these important matters.
“The government’s political reform proposals are hardly radically and instead amount to a tweaking of the weekly schedule. Sinn Féin has put forward a number of progressive measures that if implemented would maximise a TD’s productivity whilst maintaining effective representation at a constituency level.
“We have also presented a radical programme for more extensive political reform in our document Towards a New Republic which provides a framework that would ensure a complete overhaul of the political system in the 26 Counties.”

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Commenting on British Revenue and Customs figures released today relating to revenue raised in the North of Ireland Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson Daithí McKay said:

“Once more we have an agency of the British government involved in an exercise of economic deception regarding the extent to which the North contributes to the coffers of the British Exchequer.

“Rather than produce verifiable figures for revenue generated here, once more we have been presented with a guesstimate, based on the results of a ‘survey’ conducted across 147 households in the North.

“In recent years we have seen prosecutions here by Revenue and Customs of people accused of VAT fraud – I’m sure that the extent of this alleged fraud is not based on the results of a survey of 147 households. The Excise Agency has a full portfolio of all VAT registered businesses in the North of Ireland therefore they know exactly how much VAT is collectible; otherwise it would not be able to identify those who attempt to evade tax due. Why will it not produce audited figures based on the actual revenue collected?

“The same evasiveness applies to the level of corporation tax collected from major stores, oil companies and other businesses operating in the North but declaring their income from headquarters in Britain. There also continues to be no information forthcoming on the level of other revenue streams generated in the north.

“Just as worrying as the reluctance by Revenue to provide verifiable figures, is the fact that it and the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) use an almost identical manner of guesstimation, yet get vastly different results.

“For 2010-11 the year for which the most recent (mis)information is available from DFP it told us that Revenue and Customs generated £10.45bn in receipts from the North, yet Revenue tell us that the figure is £9.5bn, so who is right? The answer is neither. These quesstimates are a distraction from the fact that there is no accuarate information forthcoming from either on revenue generated here.

“It is long past time that both DFP and the British Government provided us with the exact figures for all revenue generated in the north. We will only know the true economic picture pertaining here by demanding full fiscal powers and taking control of our own economy. Only then will we be able to fashion policies and programmes tailored to our specific needs.”

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