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Commenting on the launch of a PUP document, ‘Transforming the Legacy’ on the issue of Reconciliation and Truth, Sinn Fein Assembly member Mitchel McLaughlin said:

“For many years now we have been calling for all political parties and other interested groups to put their ideas for dealing with the legacy of the conflict and the building of a process of reconciliation onto the table.

“The PUP has today made their contribution to that discussion and I look forward to studying the document in some detail and engaging with them on it.

“On an initial reading the commitment to inclusivity as part of the discourse as we move forward is welcome. Likewise the acknowledgement that there can be no hierarchy of victims in any future process and the need for sensitivity are positive indications.

“The reality is to date that many within political unionism and indeed the two governments have run away from this issue. What is needed is fresh thinking and the PUP are clearly trying to play a role in that with today’s document.

“It would be my hope that this document from the PUP will lead to others within unionism beginning to engage sensibly in this area. The notion that we can simply ignore the needs of victims or the need for a process of genuine reconciliation and hope that the political process will succeed regardless is not tenable.” 

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the government should admit austerity has failed and use October’s budget to reverse the damage done.

Speaking today in response to media speculation that middle income taxpayers will get significant relief in the budget Deputy Doherty said;

“It is bizarre to hear of Fine Gael and Labour sources talking about lower and middle income families needing a break when they have championed and implemented the austerity programme that has targeted those very people.

“If this signals a u-turn of the austerity programme then I welcome that u-turn. The fact is that austerity has failed and the government should admit it.

“Unemployment is at 14%, the same as it was on day one of this government, and emigration is still at record levels. We are still in recession and the life has been strangled out of the domestic economy.

“This year and next will see a host of new austerity measures. The Family Home Tax and water charges will weigh on lower and middle-income families the most.

“There is still time for these new austerity taxes to be dropped. This is a government still wedded to austerity and still committed to another €3.1 billion of austerity in October's budget.

“This year’s budget needs to be about a total change in direction. It should bring an end to austerity as the preferred policy and a move to a better and fairer budget.

“I hope that is the case and that the government will move to Sinn Féin’s position on austerity as they have on the need for a stimulus.

“The first step must be an admission that austerity has failed.”

ENDS

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Responding to today’s government job creation announcement, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise Jobs and Innovation, Peadar Tóibín TD, said:

“We have another promise to create jobs. This one comes two years after FG/Lab promised 100,000 net new jobs in the economy by 2016.

“Yet the truth is that growth has been far too slow for job creation to make any real dent in unemployment figures. The government has refused to step into the stimulus breech left behind by an investment-starved private sector.

“Nearing the halfway point of what’s becoming Ireland’s lost decade, emigration remains the only significant threat to unemployment levels Today tens of thousands of businesses are holding on by their fingertips due to stagnant demand, credit distress and cost.

“Almost 5,000 highly paid and skilled jobs in the industrial sector have been lost and the vast majority of new jobs created have been part time.

“Ideas such as start-up funds, capital investment funds, R&D funds, staff training and collaboration are important and can be improved upon but are nothing new.

“The enterprise support sector for small business, the County Enterprise Boards have been in limbo since 2008. The state itself through regressive rates and utilities is one of the largest cost centres for small business.

“Spinning, while real businesses struggle, will only create further cynicism.
Sinn Féin is driven by the desire to see employment growth happen and we would willing support any policy that will achieve it.

“Indeed we have submitted a 62-page detailed Jobs Plan to the Minister’s office in the last six months. It is becoming clear that the government will have to take on board our stimulus, cost reduction and enterprise reform proposals. The question is, how much more damage will they do to the economy before it happens?
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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said Mícheál Martin’s attack on her party today is electorally motivated and ridiculous in the extreme.

Speaking in response to Mícheál Martin today Deputy McDonald said;

“Mícheál Martin seems to think that all the men and women of 1916 joined Fianna Fáil and would be supportive of the party today.  This is ridiculous in the extreme.

“The veterans of 1916 ended up in a variety of parties and groups including Sinn Féin, Labour and Fianna Fáil.

“One thing we can be sure of is that none of them would have had any truck with the Fianna Fáil style of corruption and cronyism that sunk the economy and led to the current round of attacks on low and middle income earners.

“The reality is that Mícheál’s attack on Sinn Féin is yet another electorally motivated attack in which he is trying to reclaim the name of republicanism which Fianna Fáil long since abandoned.

“His party has no interest in the north other than using it as a political football in the electoral contest with Sinn Féin in southern elections.

“If Mícheál Martin is serious about Fianna Fáil’s republicanism he should support Sinn Féin’s demand for a border poll rather than attacking genuine republicans and their efforts to re-unify the country.”

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Damning verdict in Savita case - Ó Caoláin
Commenting on the verdict in the inquest on the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, Sinn Féin health & children spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, said:
"I take this opportunity again to extend deepest sympathy to Praveen Halappanavar and all the relatives and friends of Savita.

"There is no doubt that, even within the limited scope of an inquest, today's outcome, based on the evidence presented, is most damning and has far-reaching implications.

"Savita was sadly let down by the healthcare system. The nine recommendations adopted by the jury arise directly from very serious shortcomings that were made clear in evidence during the inquest.

"The recommendation on the need for far clearer guidelines on the appropriateness and timing of termination to save the life of the mother, is especially important. Such guidelines, in tandem with legislation in line with the X case, need to be advanced as speedily as possible.

"The other recommendations regarding management of sepsis, communications between hospital staff and the proper recording of patient care are also extremely important.

"Health Minister James Reilly needs to act immediately to have all the recommendations of the inquest implemented." ENDS

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Speaking at a protest meeting outside Leinster House today, Sinn Fein TD Sandra McLellan called on the minister for children and youth affairs, Francis Fitzgerald TD, to reverse cuts to the City of Dublin Youth Service Board.
She said: “While youth workers live in fear of losing their jobs, and young people are denied important and often essential services in their own neighbourhoods, the Minister’s response is to commission yet another report.
“If she proceeds with the proposed cuts it will lead to a diminished service for young people and job losses.
“For a minister to announce that she is going to cut funding at a time of rising unemployment, when ordinary communities are suffering and young people are struggling to make their way in the world, just makes no sense.
“Young people in Finglas and Ballyfermot were not the cause of this recession and they should not be expected to pay for it.
“Austerity and youth services do not go together.
“Sinn Fein is committed to this issue and we are 100 per cent behind the campaign to reverse the cuts.”
ENDS

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Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, has criticised the new insolvency guidelines. He said the guidelines leave the final say with the banks.
Deputy Doherty said :
"There is nothing in these guidelines to offer much hope to the tens of thousands struggling to pay their mortgages. Once more, the government has sided with the banks and not the people.
“These guidelines are a bankers' solution to people's problems, to a societal problem.
“They condemn people to live for years hand to mouth because the banks have been so irresponsible with lending and so unresponsive to reasonable restructurings.
“Yet, once again the banks are rewarded and protected. Once more they have the final say.
“This week we see these bankers' guidelines and next week we will see the government moving to allow a greater number of repossessions through a Dáil Bill. We know too that they are to allow more harrassment of borrowers.
“It is now as clear as day that the government's answer to the mortgage crisis is the same as the bankers' answer- to squeeze every last penny out of people and even move to allow repossessions.
“The banks' veto must be removed. That means amending the Personal Insolvency Act to remove their veto and not facilitating repossessions of the family home.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has welcomed the Conflict Resolution Centre at Long Kesh being given planning permission.

The Foyle MLA said:

“This is a decisive step forward for the transformation of the Long Kesh site. The site has already seen many thousands of visitors since it closed as a prison and the building of a Conflict Resolution Centre on the site will add to that appeal.

“Republicans obviously think of the many people who have been imprisoned there and of course the prisoners struggle for political status. Others, including those who worked there, also have their story to tell.

“The site has a unique history and one that will clearly appeal to a lot of visitors. The centre should become a venue for assisting in peace-building in other conflicts around the world and also a resource for those researching the Irish Peace Process.

“Sinn Féin have pushed to have the Long Kesh site developed in order to maximise the economic, historic and reconciliation potential of the site.

“Sinn Féin are for celebrating diversity and the Long Kesh site is one that has a history that is different to many of us. Respecting each other and each other’s history is essential as we move further away from conflict.”

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Speaking following reports that the government plans to introduce automatic inclusion for people in private pension schemes on the back of OECD proposals leaked today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection, Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh totally rejected the idea, saying that “people cannot afford to pay any more.”

The Dublin South Central TD said;

“Sinn Féin totally rejects this proposal which has come from a group of OECD officials. It completely fails to take account that the majority of workers are already paying in to a pension scheme through their PRSI contributions.

“People cannot afford to pay anymore. Between pay cuts, and households where a partner has lost a job and the cost of mortgages going up, there is no more money. A further payment of 15% out of their wages will be catastrophic. Low and middle income earners can’t be expected to give anymore. How does the Government expect them to live? It is entirely out of touch with reality.

“The government wasted the Pension Reserve Fund. An easier way to increase the social insurance fund is to reduce or eliminate tax relief on private pensions. If the Government did their job and got people back to work they would find it easier to fund the pension system.

“Minister Joan Burton needs to shelve the OECD report on pensions and wake up to the reality that people have nothing left to give.”

ENDS

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Speaking today in the Dáil on the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Bill, Sinn Féin spokesperson on justice, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD said that the scourge of organised criminality in Ireland was devastating many disadvantaged communities and costing the exchequer hundreds of millions of euro each year.

He praised the efforts of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and called for the finances or assets seized from certain categories of criminals such as drug dealers to be ring-fenced and reinvested in the most affected communities and into Drugs Task Forces.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:  “For too long, many of our communities have been scourged by organised criminality and criminal gangs.

“Over the years we have had instances where governments have been slow to tackle this and unwittingly allowed criminals to operate all too easily.

“We look at Dublin in the 80s in the throes of a massive drug epidemic, Limerick, a city where people were afraid to even visit so oft was it referred to as ‘stab city’ and the spate of gangland killings on our streets here in Dublin and elsewhere that are on-going”.

He continued: “The Exchequer is losing €861 million annually because of illegal black market activity and theft.

“Last year Retail Ireland reported that 12% of all diesel sold in Ireland is illegal, 19 oil laundries have been detected and closed and 690,000 litres of oil have been seized. These are massive figures which are having a serious effect on our economy and also hurting the communities in which they are taking place.  Almost 25% of the Irish cigarette market is sourced from the black market. In 2011, 109 million illegal cigarettes, with a value of €45.9 million, were seized.
This scourge must be tackled head on.”

He concluded: “I commend the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) on their significant successes. CAB is a vital instrument in combatting gangs going after what these people hold most dearly, their money.

“The Criminal Assets Bureau has now seized more than €133million of illicit profits from criminal activity since its foundation in 1996, according to its latest figures. This is very much welcomed but Sinn Féin would like to see some changes to how this money is used.

“My party has made a number of attempts to bring forward a Private Members Bill which would ensure that the money seized is ring fenced and reinvested in, the communities worst affected by this type of activity.

“It should be pumped into Drugs Task Forces and community projects supporting communities worst affected by these criminal gangs.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann has welcomed today's launch by Colin Neighbourhood Project (CNP) of their public consultation on plans for the future of the Colin Town Centre.

The West Belfast MLA said:

“I welcome today's launch of the CNP's public consultation report regarding their plans for the future of the Colin Town Centre.

"Today's launch is an important staging post in reviving Colin's local economy and in recognising the economic and social needs of the people of this area." 

"I would like to commend the CNP for their diligent approach in moving the town centre plan forward to this point and thank the Executive ministers for their ongoing support for the project and attending today's launch.”

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 Leagan Gaeilge Thíos – Irish Version Follows

Although he welcomes the announcement that the reviews into sexual abuse allegations against the former head of Cumann na bhFiann, Dónall Ó Lubhlaí, have been extended to the Department of Education and Skills and the Health Service Executive, Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh says that, in his opinion, this is not enough.

In answering a question put down by Ó Clochartaigh in the Seanad last night, Minister of State John Perry, on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence, expressed his ‘sympathy with all those who have been affected’, saying ‘we all regret greatly the dreadful experiences they endured’. The Minister continued by saying ‘it is incumbent on any organisation which may have been used by a person to facilitate their evil deeds to examine carefully how this may have occurred and make sure that its procedures will not allow it to recur’. He confirmed that the Garda Commissioner, the Department of Education and Skills and the HSE are conducting internal reviews on foot of a direction from the Department of Justice.  

The Galway West Senator believes, however, that this review must be broadened. “Firstly, I believe we need an independent inquiry mechanism. Unfortunately, our history in this country,  of State organisations reviewing themselves is not great and that is what is happening in this case. It is not enough, for example, that the Gárdaí are reviewing their own actions, when there may have been serious shortcomings in how they conducted their own business”, he says.  

“Other people also have questions to answer. The former Minister for the Gaeltacht, Éamon Ó Cuív, said on TG4 that he and Department of the Gaeltacht officials had been given information in the 1990’s about allegations of abuse, there were also people in State, voluntary and other organisations, who worked and supported projects of Ó Lubhlaí’s and we must ascertain if they had any knowledge of abuse and whether they acted appropriately  if they had any suspicions?”, according to the Sinn Féin Senator.

“It is reported that a court case taken against Ó Lubhlaí fell in 1992 because certain pieces of evidence were not available and because of the delays by the State in bringing the case to court. We must have clarification as to whether that is true, what role the DPP and Attorney General’s offices had in that process and whether there were any difficulties in those offices which impeded the procedures of law and justice in this case at the time, or at any other time”, says Ó Clochartaigh.

“It has also come to light that Dónall Ó Lubhlaí had recently been visiting schools to promote a book he had written. Does the Department of Education, or any other individual in a position of authority, have any questions to answer with regard to allowing someone who has had serious allegations of sexual abuse against them access to mix with children in this way?”, asks Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.  

“Finally, the Ministers statement is a good first step. I particularly welcome the support extended to the victims in this case, because it is essential that the appropriate health & counselling supports are made available to them at this very difficult time in their lives. It is also imperative that people have full confidence in the investigative process so that they are comfortable coming forward with any information they may have in relation to assaults against them, or other people. There may also be people now who knew, or had dealings with Donall Ó Lubhlaí over the years, who realise they have information which may shed light on these cases, who didn’t appreciate the relevance of the information heretofore, but do now due to the allegations which have come into the public domain recently and I urge them to come forward at this stage to the appropriate authorities with any information they have”, says the Sinn Féin Senator.

“The truth must come out as to what really happened in this case and we must clarify whether the State was remiss, or not, in any way so we can ensure as much as is possible that this may never happen again”, says Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

ENDS

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Caithfear athbhreithnithe ar chás Uí Lubhlaí a leathnú – Ó Clochartaigh

Cé go bhfáiltíonn an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh roimh an scéala go bhfuil na hathbhreithnithe maidir leis na líomhaintí faoi ionsaithe gnéis ó iar-cheannasai Chumann na bhFiann, Dónall Ó Lubhlaí, le leathnú go dtí an Roinn Oideachais & Scileanna agus Feidhmeannas na Seirbhíse Sláinte, ní leor sin dar leis.

I bhfreagra ar cheist a chuir Ó Clochartaigh sa tSeanad aréir, léirigh an tAire Stáit, John Perry, ar son an tAire Dlí agus Cirt, ‘a chomhbhrón leo sin ar fad ar cuireadh isteach orthu agus an méid a d’fhulaing siad’. Dúirt an tAire go raibh ‘dualgas ar eagraíocht ar bith a bhí úsáidte chun a gcuid gníomhartha oilc a chuir chun cinn, imscrúdú a dhéanamh orthu féin féachaint cén chaoi ar tharla sé agus cinntiú nach bhféadfadh a leithéad tarlú arís’. Dhearbhaigh an tAire go bhfuil Coimisinéir na nGárdaí, an Roinn Oideachais & Scileanna agus an FSS i mbun athbhreithnithe inmheánacha faoi seo, mar thoradh ar threoir uaidh.

“Sílimse go gcaithfear an t-athbhreithniú seo a leathnú. I dtosach, measaim go mbeidh gá le fiosrúchán neamhspleách. Faraor, sa Stát seo níl stair ró-mhaith againn d’eagrais stáit ag déanamh athbhreithniú orthu féin agus sin atá iarrtha sa chás seo. Ní leor, mar shampla, go mbeadh na Gárdaí ag déanamh athbhreithniú ar na Gárdai, dar liom, nuair a d’fhéadfadh lochtanna a bheith ar an gcaoi ar iompar siad iad féin”, a deir Seanadóir Ghaillimh Thiar.

“Tá ceisteanna le freagairt ag dreamanna eile chomh maith. Thug an tIar Aire Gaeltachta, Éamon Ó Cuív, le fios ar TG4 go raibh eolas áirithe tugtha dó féin agus Feidhmeannaigh i Roinn na Gaeltachta sna 90aí faoi ionsaithe a déanadh orthu, bhí daoine a bhí ag obair agus ag tacú le tograí Uí Lubhlaí in eagrais Stáit & deonacha eile agus caithfear ceist a chuir an raibh fhios acu sin aon rud, nó ar fheidhmigh siad mar is cóir má bhí aon amhras orthu?”, dar le Seanadóir Shinn Féin.

“Thit cás cúirte in éadan Uí Lubhlaí sna cuirteanna i 1992, a thuairiscítear, de bharr fianaise nach raibh ar fáil agus moilleadóireacht ó thaobh an Stát de. Ní mhór soiléiriú cén chaoi ar tharla sé sin, cén ról a bhí ag Stiúrthóir na nIonchúiseamh Poiblí agus Oifig an Ard Aighne sa gcás agus an raibh deacrachtaí anseo nár chuidigh leis an bpróiséis dlí agus cirt ag an am sin, nó ag aon am eile”, a deir Ó Clochartaigh.

“Is cosúil freisin, go raibh Dónall Ó Lubhlaí ag dul isteach i scoileanna le tamall anuas ag díol leabhair a bhí scríofa aige. An bhfuil aon cheisteanna le freagairt ag an Roinn Oideachais, nó aon duine eile i ról údarásach,  maidir le deis a thabhairt do dhuine a raibh na liomhaintí tromchúiseacha seo curtha ina leith, a bheith ag meascadh le páistí ar an gcaoi seo?”,  a deir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

“Ar deireadh, is céim maith chun tosaigh ráiteas an Aire. Fáiltím ach go h-áirithe roimh an tacaíocht a léirigh sé do na h-íospartaigh sa chás seo, mar tá sé ríthábhachtach go mbeadh cóir leighis agus comhairleoireachta le fáil dóibh ag an am fíor dheacair seo ina saoil. Ní mhór freisin go mbeadh muinín iomlán ag daoine as an bpróiséas iniúchta, le go mbeidh siad sásta teacht chun cinn le pé eolas eile atá acu maidir le h-ionsaithe a déanadh orthu féin, nó ar aon duine eile. Seans freisin go mbeidh daoine eile a raibh aithne, nó teagmháil acu le Dónall Ó Lubhlaí anuas tríd na blianta, a mbeadh eolas ábharach acu faoi na cásanna seo, nar thuig an tábhacht a bhain leis an t-eolas ag an am, ach a thuigeann anois de bharr na líomhaintí atá tagtha chun solais agus impím orthu sin chomh maith labhairt leis na húdaráis cuí”, a deir Seanadóir Shinn Féin.

“Caithfidh muid an fhírinne a fháil faoi gach ar thit amach sa chás seo agus cinntiú nach raibh faillí ar bith déanta ag an Stát agus oiread cosaint agus gur féidir a thabhairt nach dtarlóidh sé arís”, a deir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

CRÍOCH

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Gabhaim buíochas le gach Teachta a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht seo aréir agus anocht. Céim eile chun tosaigh atá ann, céim eile i dtreo cothrom na féinne do na mná a d’fhulaing inár nospidéal.

I sincerely thank all Deputies who have participated in this debate last night and tonight.

In nearly 16 years in this House I have never seen such a large attendance of visitors for any debate. And the vast majority of the visitors were women who survived the horrific symphysiotomy operation. These are brave and determined and dignified women and we salute them all.

The Dáil will not divide on this Bill tonight. That is an important step forward. As I said at the outset of the debate, more than once in the past the survivors of symphysiotomy have left Leinster House disappointed and disillusioned. That will not be the case tonight.

I welcome the decision of the Government and Health Minister James Reilly to agree to accept this Bill.

In announcing this acceptance in his speech last night the Minister said he wished to give a strong message to the women involved that he intends to help them get closure to this matter in the fairest way possible. That too is welcome.

In the course of his contribution, Minister Reilly said it is difficult to understand why the practice of symphysiotomy persisted when caesarean section was so safe in the latter half of the 20th century and that as a doctor he deeply regretted that.

It is indeed difficult to understand, but we need to try to understand. We are dealing here with an era when doctors were always right and were never questioned, as one of our speakers at yesterday’s Oireachtas members’ briefing pointed out.

There was a mindset among an important cohort of doctors in our maternity hospitals that their interpretation of Roman Catholic doctrine was correct and that the bodies of women must be subservient to that doctrine.

These clinicians were bolstered in that mindset by the unaccountable authority with which their profession was endowed at that time. And that type of authority has only been successfully challenged in very recent times as the Michael Neary scandal and others have demonstrated.

It is important for the Minister and for everyone to understand that context in order to understand the enormity of what happened to these women, why it happened and why the State’s response needs to be whole-hearted in ensuring justice and truth.

I regret that the Minister’s speech, while welcome in accepting the Bill, also indicated that in addressing the next required steps, the Government will be less than whole-hearted. He stated that the Government is committed to dealing sensitively with the issue so that it can be brought to “an appropriate and fair conclusion”.

The question is this: Who decides appropriate and who decides fair - and fair for whom?

The Minister claimed that there are serious flaws in the Bill. What serious flaws? He did not identify them. He should spell them out. It is already known that we have had some of the finest legal minds in this State check over the Bill’s construction. It is carefully based on the precedent in the child sex abuse amendment of this same Statute.

It is not that this Bill is flawed; it is the absence of political will to accommodate the wishes of the greater number of the survivors.

That said, if this legislation does have any flaws or weaknesses, then let us address them at Committee Stage.

The Minister referred to services that have been put in place for the women by the HSE. This list includes very little that the vast majority of the women are not already entitled to. They are almost all in their 70s and 80s and Ellen O’Brien was here last night and she is 91. They are entitled to their medical cards anyway. This is not a special entitlement now for most of the survivors.

The Minister’s claim that the HSE is pro-active in assisting the women is not borne out by many of the women’s accounts of their experiences.

In addressing the core of the Bill itself the Minister stated that it raises significant policy and legal issues which have wide-ranging implications. Again, these were not spelt out. With a clear precedent in 2000, where were these so-called significant policy and legal issues then?

The Minister was quite right in saying that the State has a duty to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice and a fair balance between the rights of plaintiffs and defendants. But where is the fair balance when the plaintiffs , through no fault of their own, are entirely excluded from seeking legal redress in the courts?

We say - allow these women access to the courts and then let the courts decide, based on the evidence presented.

When I heard the following phrase in the Minister’s speech I saw a dense fog descending: “…legal advice indicates that lifting the Statute bar raises very complex issues that require broader consideration on a cross-departmental basis”.

That is a formula for delay and obfuscation if ever I heard one. It is a Sir Humphrey formula of words for doing as little as possible. It is not acceptable.

The Minister spoke of the aim of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology programme to improve healthcare choice for women. That is laudable but general. The specific purpose of this Bill is to provide resolution choices for the women survivors of symphysiotomy.

The Minister said the Government is not persuaded that lifting the bar on the Statute of Limitations will resolve the problems facing the women who wish to bring their cases before the courts. Eminent legal advice says otherwise. Why not let the courts decide?

Regrettably that statement from the Minister demonstrates a refusal to commit to facilitate the passage of this Bill through its further stages, even though he said he accepts the Bill.

I must emphasise that there is no-one encouraging these women to bring actions that may have little success, as the Minister suggested. There is no-one leading them by the nose. This route is their clearly stated wish. There are steps that can be taken, by agreement, that would limit legal costs. All it takes is to sit down and talk this through with the women’s representatives and legal advisors. Will the Minister and his advisors undertake to do this?

And remember, most importantly, it is the failure of Governments, not just historically, but in recent years and up to the present, to ensure justice and truth for these women, that makes the legal route the preferred option of most of them. It is not long since the Minister himself , in this chamber, contested the description of symphysiotomy as a barbaric practice. That is undeniable now.

Having passed Second Stage, this Bill, under Dáil Standing Order 118, is automatically referred to the Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. It must not be shelved. We will be pressing for the Committee to schedule Committee Stage at the earliest opportunity.

In conclusion I again thank all who have participated. I pay tribute to all the survivors and I look forward to them completing their journey towards truth and justice. We all have positive role to play in assisting them to complete that long and difficult trek. Let none of us fail them.

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I would like to commend my colleague Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin for introducing this Private Members Bill, and the Government parties for deciding not to oppose it.

Introduction of this legislation follows on from the work of the All-Party Oireachtas Support Group for Victims of Symphysiotomy which has had cross-party and non-party support and participation. Unanimous party support for the Bill is a good day’s work for politics.

I would like to join my colleagues in urging the Government to make every effort to ensure this legislation passes through the Dáil and Seanad with speed. Survivors do not have time on their side.

It is important to acknowledge the women who experienced this harrowing procedure who are no longer with us. My thoughts are with them all.

There is of course an irony that this legislation provides for a window of opportunity for women - who endured this barbaric procedure when in the care of public hospitals - to seek their justice through the courts.

By setting aside the Statute of Limitations for victims of symphysiotomy for one year the women can now pursue their cases and this is of course to be welcomed. This is a right they have fought long and hard for. It is a right they deserve.

I only wish that the justice they deserve could be delivered without having to engage with another layer of state bureaucracy – the courts. Of course I also wish this horrific act had never been imposed on their vulnerable bodies in the first instance.

As a mother it is truly difficult for me to comprehend how any medical practitioner could damage a woman’s body in such a brutal manner. The birth of a child is such a precious experience - but for that experience to include the physical holding down of a woman, screaming, as her pelvis is severed with a surgical saw is incomprehensible to me. Yet this is exactly what happened. Pelvises were broken, sometimes the women were conscious, sometimes they were not.

This cruel, brutal procedure was imposed on somewhere in the region of 1,500 woman without their consent over the course of a 50 year period. Many were discharged from hospital without even knowing what had actually been done to their bodies. These heroic women have lived with disabilities and illnesses their entire lives directly attributable to this procedure – symphysiotomy.

Last year the Supreme Court upheld a High Court judgment which found in favour of Olivia Kearney, a symphysiotomy survivor. The court described the procedure which was carried out on Olivia, after she gave birth to her only son by caesarean section when she was just 18 years of age, as wrong, even by the standards of the time. Mr Justice John MacMenamin described it as unfathomable by today’s standards and even by those of 1969. Olivia did not even know the procedure had been inflicted on her until thirty three years later. She suffered thirty three years of chronic pain with no answers.

Our fight for gender equality today is informed by injustices such as these of the past. Perpetrated against women because in the eyes of a conservative establishment our purpose was limited to the home and the bearing and rearing of children.

It is incumbent on every member in this house, and indeed the Seanad, to ensure this legislation is enacted as a matter of urgency so that these brave women can receive the justice they’ve fought so hard for.

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The Assembly’s Committee for Enterprise, Trade & Investment will tomorrow (Thursday) hear from representatives of the main mobile phone companies, including O2, Vodafone, Everything Everywhere (T-Mobile & Orange) and 3 network on roaming charges, coverage caps and the roll-out of 4G technology.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, the Deputy Chair of the Committee and Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan said:

"The Enterprise Committee recently took evidence from Ofcom on the issue of roaming charges following the publication of its latest Telecommunications Market Report in July 2012.

“That report indicated that consumers in border areas were paying up to £300 a year in inadvertent roaming charges and that around £11 million was being lost to the local economy as a result.

"It is unacceptable that companies such as O2, Vodafone and 3 network, which operate across the island of Ireland, continue to impose unacceptable roaming charges on unsuspecting consumers.

“These excessive premiums are simply profiteering as there is no additional operating costs incurred by the companies, as the majority of consumers roam onto a network that is owned by the same parent company as the home network provider.

"I will be seeking to very clearly send the operators a message that it is time they stopped ripping consumers off when it comes to roaming charges.

“This will also be a good opportunity for the committee to find out more about the planned roll-out of 4G technology across the north and the impact it will have on access to mobile phone and high-speed broadband coverage, particularly in rural communities, many of which currently have no access at present.

“The committee will also want to question the operators on any future planned infrastructure improvements and what efforts they are making to tap into the £150 Mobile Infrastructure Project, which is specifically there to deal with mobile blackspots.”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said the party has organised white line/black flag commemorations this evening to give people the chance to remember the hunger strikers and those killed through shoot to kill and collusion.

The West Belfast MP said:

“The vigils from 5pm to 5.30pm are to give people an opportunity to mark with dignity and respect the hunger strikers and those killed through British state collusion and shoot-to-kill.

“People can with dignity and respect commemorate their loved ones, friends and neighbours who’s vision will live long after those that assisted in inflicting pain on our community and country are gone.”

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Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD today voiced her party’s opposition to the National Lottery Bill.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Minister Howlin has introduced a new legislative framework for the operation of the National Lottery. Whilst technically the government is not selling off the lottery, it is in fact doing so for all intents and purposes. It is all the more worrying that we have yet to set eyes on the proposed new 20 year licence.

“The government is radically changing the ethos of the lottery from one of public interest to a ‘for profit model’.

“Following the passing of this legislation the minister will no longer have any involvement in the national lottery company, will not hold shares in the company on behalf of citizens nor will she or he appoint its directors.

“The Bill establishes the office of a new National Lottery Regulator office creating an unnecessary layer of public administration facilitating the new for profit model.

“Government spin on the new lottery bill has focussed on the upfront payment they hope to secure from extending the licence to 20 years. We are told part of the upfront payment will go towards paying for the new National Children’s Hospital.

“If Fine Gael and Labour were serious about the Children’s Hospital project they would pay for it out of real capital expenditure and not the effective sale of a valuable state asset.

“Matching investment monies could be secured from the European Investment Bank or from the private pension sector.

“There is also the reality that the new private operator is not going to fork out hundreds of millions of euro in an upfront payment for the good of their health. Brendan Howlin has provided no legislative guarantees that the current levels of good causes funding will be maintained or that increased profits will benefit local communities.

“Local retailers also remain unsure if current sales margin of 6% will be at least maintained.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community and local government, Brian Stanley TD has accused the government of, “abandoning vulnerable communities to climate change in Ireland and in Africa.”
Speaking at the Dáil Environment Committee following presentations from the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, Kenyan Climate Justice Women Champions and Pastoral Women’s Council of Tanzania, Stanley said: “Today’s presentations were vital and gave us the opportunity to hear at first hand the effects of climate change in Africa. The consequences of climate change are being felt worst by those who did not cause it.
“The government’s light touch approach, letting the different sectors to set and reach targets will not work. It is only wishful thinking.
“It is vital that the forthcoming climate change bill has targets. This is the only way we will avoid a carbon cliff and further destruction in Africa. We have to meet our legally binding reduction in carbon emission targets for 2020 and a further 85% reduction in by 2050.
“Recognising Ireland’s agricultural sector will be critical. The government must ensure that the mitigation for agriculture and forestry is accurately measured by the EU and the UN.
“Unfortunately for Irish people, but in particular for African communities the government will not now be introducing the Climate Change Bill until 2014. This was confirmed with the publication of the Legislative Programme. The government are effectively abandoning whole communities to the drastic effects of climate change.
“Climate change must be priority for this government. The climate change bill must be introduced immediately.”
ends

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina has joined the European Alzheimer’s Alliance at the EU Parliament.

Martina Anderson said:

“I was pleased to accept the invitation to join the Alzheimer’s Alliance at the European Parliament. As someone with first-hand knowledge of what it is like to care for a family member – my mother-who is a sufferer of this debilitating condition I appreciate the work of the Alliance in bringing a focus to bear on its widespread occurrence.

“As a member of  the Committee dealing with Public Health at the EU Parliament I will take every opportunity to highlight the needs of those suffering  from Alzheimer’s and the predicament that those caring for them  find themselves in. I believe that much more public funds needs to be invested in research into conditions such as Alzheimer’s and I will be calling on the EU to do more to help in the search for appropriate treatment and cure.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Martin Ferris TD has called for immediate measures to be taken to address the fodder crisis that is severely impacting on farmers due to rainfall last Summer and the bad weather of the past number of months.

Deputy Ferris said;

“I am disappointed with the response of the Minister for State when this was raised yesterday. He urged that farmers contact their local Teagasc advisors in relation to how to cope with a lack of feed.

“That is not good enough. Farmers do not have sufficient fodder, nor in many cases do they have the money or the credit to buy in feed.

“I would therefore strongly urge that the Minister release funds at his disposal as an emergency measure to avert what is an extremely serious situation.”

ENDS

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