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No alternative to dialogue and agreement , says McGuinness in major statement on 20th anniversary of IRA cessation

Delivering a keynote address in Derry on Sunday morning on the 20th anniversary of the IRA announcing “a complete cessation of military operations”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said there is a real threat to the political institutions in the North from political stagnation and the absence of progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in a keynote statement today has warned that the “political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.”


Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



Latest Statements

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as "disgraceful" the confirmation by the Taoiseach, in answer to a question from Deputy Ó Caoláin in the Dáil this morning, that the long promised constitutional referendum on children's rights will not now be held in 2011.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"It is disgraceful that this Fine Gael/Labour Coalition is to further delay the long promised and long overdue constitutional referendum on the rights of children. These parties played a key role in the Oireachtas committee which agreed a wording to strengthen the rights and protections of children in the Constitution.

"In its General Election manifesto the Labour Party stated:

The delay in proceeding with the referendum on children’s rights is unacceptable. Labour will ensure that a children’s rights referendum is urgently progressed.

"In its General Election manifesto Fine Gael stated:

As a priority Fine Gael will ensure children’s rights are strengthened through a Constitutional referendum.

"Yet the Taoiseach has now stated that there will be three referendums held in the autumn but not the referendum to protect children. The Coalition has failed on children's rights before they even reach 100 days in office. This regressive decision must be over-turned."

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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has met with the Qualifications Regulator, Roger McCune to discuss the recent discovery of errors in examination papers.

The Minister said: “I had a useful meeting with the Qualifications Regulator, Roger McCune.

“The meeting provided an opportunity for him to update me on some of the issues that have arisen in recent weeks that have affected pupils sitting examinations here and on the action that he, in conjunction with his counterparts in England and Wales, is taking to protect the interests of pupils.

“As I said last week, pupils - and their parents and teachers - have a right to expect that the examination papers provided by awarding bodies are error-free and fit for purpose.

“I want to be satisfied that all aspects of the examination process are working smoothly and the interests of candidates are kept to the fore. I have therefore asked to be kept informed of progress as the examination season concludes and during the period where exams are being marked and results being sent to candidates.”

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD this morning challenged the Taoiseach on the appalling state of the health services.

He warned that due to a lack of funding and a shortage of junior hospital doctors “the health service is probably facing its worst ever crisis. Many Accident and Emergency units are struggling to maintain 24 hour cover and are at risk of closing. Some hospitals and hospital wards are also facing closure and the future of some essential services, including the maternity and infant scheme, are under threat.”
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The Sinn Féin leader identified those hospitals at greatest risk as Drogheda, Cavan, Beaumont, Castelbar, Limerick, Letterkenny, the infirmary in Cork, Portiuncula, Tullamore, Roscommon, Portlaoise, Midwestern Regional Hospital in Limerick and Waterford.

Mr. Adams called on the Taoiseach “to take immediate action to assess what the impact on services will be on the 11 July” and he asked the Taoiseach to come back to make a statement to the House on what plans Government are putting in place to rectify this situation.

Speaking after Leaders Questions the Sinn Féin leader said:

“The Taoiseach did not answer my question. I was disappointed by the vagueness of his response and the lack of clarity and leadership that is urgently needed on this issue.

“His effort to dismiss my concerns around the shortage of junior doctors as something that arises each summer is disingenuous. The reality is that this year’s short-fall is significantly greater than ever before and the consequence of that for the Health Service will be profound.

“Our public hospitals are completely dependent on Junior Doctors.

“On July 11, following the changeover in job rotations, the number of vacant junior doctor posts will be 400.

“This will be a substantially worse situation than anything seen before and will have a devastating effect on the provision of services within the healthcare system.

“I have been told that in the Louth and Meath area there are at least 50 junior doctors less than are needed and that curtailment of emergency services and longer waiting lists will result.

“Frontline services including anaesthetics, emergency medicine and trauma paediatrics, are under so much pressure that they may not be able to maintain an emergency service.”

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Justice Committee vice-Chair, Raymond McCartney MLA (Foyle) has called for immediate action on the flaws in prison administration identified in the Ombudsman’s report on the death of a 19 year old man in custody in Hydebank Young Offenders Centre.

 

Commenting on the Ombudsman’s Report Raymond McCartney said;

 

“Firstly our thoughts are with the family of this young man following their tragic loss.

 

“The Ombudsman’s Report states that the Prison Administration needs to address the flaws in the system immediately.

 

“Failings within the prison system, including at Hydebank have been consistently exposed and highlighted by several, knowledgeable agencies including previous Prison Ombudsman’s Reports, the Coroners service, the Human Rights Commission, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, and the Independent Monitoring Board, yet recommendations remain mostly unimplemented, warnings ignored and vulnerable prisoners die as a result.

 

“This latest tragedy must act as an urgent catalyst for the Justice Minister to expedite Prison reform.”

 

“The Owers Preliminary Report points the way to deal with these sensitive issues and once completed its recommendations must be implemented as a matter of urgency. As I have said the failings in our Prison system have been highlighted by a number of reputable agencies and the last thing we need is another Report that is not acted upon.

 

“Sectional interests must not be allowed to prevent the radical change that is clearly needed in the Prison system.”

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 Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson, Daithí McKay has welcomed the fact that the Department has succeeded in its goal of achieving substantial reduction in spending on outside consultants.

 

Commenting following the publication of an Audit Office report into the use of consultants Mr McKay said:

 

“When Sinn Féin went into government at the beginning of the last term, one of our pledges was to reverse the culture of contracting Consultancy work to outside sources and reduce the pressure on the public purse.

 

“One of the major difficulties that existed in the past was the unnecessary use of outside consultants by various Departments to carry out tasks which – quite frankly – were the responsibility of the Civil Service.

 

“We believed this was an unjustifiable waste of public funds and set about dismantling this culture within our departments. You can clearly see the effectiveness of our approach within the Education Department where there has been a massive reduction in the use of outside consultants.

 

“For example, in 2007, the Education Department spent over £1m on consultants. That figure was steadily reduced over the intervening period and by last year it stood at less than £63,000.

 

“That is the kind of leadership which Sinn Féin continues to show in government and it is even more important in the current economic climate where all Departments must ensure the very best value for money where public funds are concerned. I call on all departments to follow the Sinn Féin Ministers example and work to eliminate the use of outside consultants unless there is absolutely no alternative”

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Sinn Féin MEP, Bairbre de Brún today welcomed the EU challenge to the Irish government on its handling of the Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) issue.

Speaking as the issue was debated in the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament Ms de Brún said:

"I welcome the fact that the European Parliament has the opportunity to debate the important issue of VRT.People at home have been badly affected by the way this issue has been handled and are keen to present first hand information to the EU about this.

"While all states have the right to their own taxation system, the State should not be able to seize goods worth more than the sum which is owed.

"VRT has been imposed at an unbelievable rate of 36% , and overzealous pursuit saw the seizure of cars at the roadside followed now by disproportionate legal proceedings against some of those who had bought cars across the border. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has expressed his sympathies to the family of former Senator Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly passed away in the United States on the 8th of June. He was a leading member of Saor Uladh and was elected as an abstentionist MP to the Stormont assembly for Mid Tyrone in the 1950s and was subsequently was a member of the Seanad.

Speaking in the Seanad today, Senator Cullinane said

“Liam Kelly was committed in his pursuit of Irish independence. It is fitting that this week we will have a debate on the role of the Seanad, and as part of that we will be discussing the potential it has for north-south engagement. Just under 57 years ago, in November 1954, Senator Kelly spoke in favour of a motion which proposed the rights of people from the north of Ireland to participate in the Oireachtas. Not as a gesture, but as of right. We in Sinn Féin have long argued for such a right, and will make that point again today.

“Liam Kelly said: ‘it is obviously anomalous that my right to address a House of the Oireachtas on behalf of the people in mid-Tyrone or South Armagh should depend on the goodwill or generosity of the public representatives of the Twenty-Six Counties. I appreciate, of course, and am grateful for this gesture of understanding and goodwill on their part. I claim for the people of mid-Tyrone, South Armagh and of any constituency in any part of Ireland that desires to do so the right to representation in Oireachtas Éireann.’

“I extend my condolences to the Kelly family, and in particular his wife Peggy, on Senator Kelly’s death, and I would ask the house to recognise his many decades of service to the Irish people, and to likewise express their sympathies.”

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Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has stated that the Minister for Health and Children must reject a leaked HSE report which recommended the reduction of sexual assault services, and introducing waiting lists for pregnant women and newborn infants.

The report warned that unless these measures are approved, some regional hospitals in the north east could close.

Speaking in the house yesterday, Senator Cullinane stated that the Minister needed to address the Seanad to clarify these matters.

“There have been numerous calls for the minister for Health to address this house on a number of matters, and this must be among the most crucial of them.

“The public could be forgiven for thinking there had never been an election, as we are seeing the exact same tactics as the previous government of scare tactics and leaked reports. The tricks we saw with the previous establishment, as with the McCarthy report, are being repeated now. The patients are being used as pawns. There does not have to be a decision between such essential services, and closure of hospitals.

“The crazy spectacle of HSE staff being paid for work they hadn't done is just one illustration of the waste which exists in the system. The government would be better addressing such waste rather than resorting to scare tactics.

“This report is a worrying insight in to the slash and burn philosophy which prevails in the corridors of power. The threat to Monaghan General Hospital and Louth General Hospital is equally a threat to Waterford General Hospital and to Roscommon General Hospital. If it can happen in the north east, then it can happen in the South east and in the West as well.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice Jonathan O’Brien TD has given a broad welcome to the proposed interdepartmental group which will inquire into the state involvement in the running of Magdalene Laundries.

However Deputy O’Brien expressed disappointment at the apparent delay stating “time is of the essence” for these women.

Deputy O’Brien called for an immediate apology to the survivors.

“I welcome the fact that the Government are finally taking action on this issue. It is not before time.

“I am disappointed that the inquiry falls short of that recommended by the UN Committee Against Torture. I am also disappointed that the Government did not take the opportunity to apologise to the victims.

“There is an abundance of evidence, already in existence that shows the state’s complicity in what went on in the Magdalene Laundries, where so-call “way-ward” women were incarcerated without pay in many cases for their entire lives.

“The Magdalene laundries were given direct state contracts and in some instances were used as remand centres. Many were transferred from industrial schools or were sent as court alternatives to prison. Gardaí were directly involved capturing those who managed to escape.

“As I stated before the absolute priority here must be an apology, from the state and from the religious orders who ran the institution. An apology costs nothing but is worth so much. Time is of the essence. There is no reason that this could not happen immediately.”

Videos

Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


Photos

Gerry Adams at Hungerstrike rally in Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh