Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD calls on the government to study in detail the recommendations of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement in relation to white collar crime. These were reiterated in the annual report of the ODCE for 2010 published this week.
Commenting on this report Deputy O’Brien said:
“ There is an urgent need to publish legislation which will introduce mechanisms such as plea bargaining and immunity programmes, where necessary, in return for real and meaningful disclosure of corporate gangsterism.
“This could have the same impact on the Irish corporate mafia as the witness protection scheme had on the US mafia. It could deal with the omertà type silences of the ten 'reluctant' witnesses in the Anglo Irish Bank investigation. The weakest link breaks the entire chain.
“We need to ensure that we get the measures right in the ‘white collar’ Criminal Justice Bill going through the Dáil at the minute so that we have another effective weapon in combating corporate wrongdoing.
“Sinn Féin reiterates the absolute requirement for the promised legislation to give protection to whistleblowers, willing to open the lid on the murky depths of corporate misconduct in Irish life.
“None of this will have any impact though if the state doesn’t adequately resource those who need to investigate such crimes. The report of the ODCE tells the usual tale of a capacity limited by a lack of resources; it stated that ‘the availability of garda resources for ODCE criminal investigations was severely reduced by the Anglo work’.
“Nobody has to be told of the damage, suffering and financial harm caused to ordinary people by white collar crime and commercial greed.
“Sinn Féin calls for immediate legislative action and resources to ensure we tackle corporate criminality and replace this with an ethos of accountability and sound sustainable enterprise.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor of Derry Kevin Campbell has stated today that those behind exploding a bomb at a house in Brandywell last night need to realise that the community does not want these type of attacks to occur and that they need to stop.
Speaking today Kevin Campbell said:
"While it is not yet known what group or individual may have been responsible for leaving this device, what is known, is that it was detonated in a built up area and caused damage to a number homes just off the Lecky Road and could have caused serious injury to anyone in the vicinity of the blast at that time .
It’s just sheer luck that several young children sleeping in their beds weren’t injured after shrapnel went through a number of windows of homes adjacent to the site of the bomb."I am making it clear to those responsible that the people of Derry do not want this and those behind it need to stop. Those behind this bomb attack need to consider their actions. In detonating this device they have shown no regard for the wider Brandywell community
Raising educational standards and delivering improved outcomes for young people is a top priority.
That was the message from Education Minister, John O’Dowd, as he addressed the the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Annual Conference.
Speaking at the event in Belfast, the Minister said: “Since becoming Education Minister I have been keen to engage with educational partners across the spectrum. I welcome the opportunity to meet with the ATL as representatives of the classroom practitioners who play such a pivotal role in our education system.“A top priority for me during my term of office will be raising standards and delivering improved outcomes for young people. Education plays a central role in the development of a modern and prosperous society and economy. Many of our young people do well at school and achieve good results. Last week, for example, figures were released which showed continued improvement in the achievement of our school leavers at GCSE and A-Level. We should rightly celebrate that success and I pay tribute to the work of the teachers who have helped make it possible. But the figures were also a reminder, if one were needed, of the major disparities entrenched within our system.
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD has hit out at Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore’s "diplomatic initiative", branding it a “charade”.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:
“When the Government’s "Diplomatic Initiative" was announced in conjunction with the ECB/ EU/ IMF Memorandum of Understanding, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamonn Gilmore outlined what he called a “coordinated diplomatic drive by Ireland to win political support for the discussions we are having with the European Central Bank”.
“This was a pledge from the Tánaiste to embark on a drive to gain support for a better deal for the Irish people. In his own words, he was going to ‘put it right’.
“Conversely, however, comments made in the Dáil today by Minister of State for Europe Lucinda Creighton confirm that the focus of this Diplomatic Initiative focus is to deliver a different message – the one sent out by the Taoiseach in recent days that “we will pay our debts”.
“This weak message reinforces the ECB-driven narrative that the Irish people as a whole were reckless and feckless. Is the Tánaiste's project, which he launched with great fanfare on April 3rd, anything more than a PR exercise? The question has to be asked. What has the Tánaiste achieved since the launch of this project? What concrete objectives have been achieved? The only outward sign of work done has been giving meaningless prep talks to Ambassadors, Diplomats, and delivering a weak message that Ireland is a good country? At this crisis point in our nation’s history, Ireland needs so much more than this".
“It is clear that this Government has no real strategy to stand up for the interests of the Irish people in Europe.
“Respected international opinion, such as that of Nobel Prize winning economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, have heavily criticised the crippling impact of the ECB/ EU/ IMF austerity programme on the Irish economy and people. The Irish Government needs to utilise the immense reputation of these economists and many others domestically and internationally to support Ireland’s call for a better, fairer deal. We are not with friends and indeed advocates. However, judging from the comments of Minister Creighton today, the government would prefer to dismiss these opinions, continue to be the obedient ‘partner’ in an unequal union, and pay up".
Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has challenged the minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to adopt a more flexible approach to Community Employment Scheme workers in unemployment blackspots.
The scheme has come under the spotlight recently due to concerns regarding the strict limitation on working for longer than three years on such a scheme.
Addressing the Minister the Galway West Senator stated that this approach failed to recognise valuable contributions made by these workers to their local communities.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:
“The logic doesn’t stack up. This creates a revolving door scenario where people in employment are taken out of jobs and put on the dole after a determined period without regard to the benefit to themselves or indeed the benefit to their community.
“My fellow Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane highlighted earlier today the unemployment crisis we face nationally. The wisdom of such an approach in the midst of such a crisis is questionable. The purpose of the FÁS CE schemes is to prepare people for work but at present due to failings of previous administrations these participants don’t have any meaningful employment to take up.
The Senator specifically called on the minister to direct FÁS to use the leniency which was previously shown in areas of high unemployment.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh also highlighted the plight of those not on the live register such as self-employed and under employed and asked the minister to put measures in place which will assist them in their road back to employment.
“I do welcome the announcement of the rollout of the TUS programme, but I would call on the Minister to put in place an additional 10,000 CE Schemes in line with the Sinn Féin proposals. This would not only be of great benefit to such projects in Galway and Connemara, but could also play a significant role in the effort to combat the unemployment crisis.”
Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has accused the government of implementing “the failed banking policy of the previous government” following this week’s approval by the European Commission of the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee (ELG). The ELG makes the taxpayer liable for any losses of the €110.6 billion in liabilities held by the six banks covered by the scheme.
Deputy Doherty said:
“This week the European Commission approved the extension of the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee for the next six months. This is the blanket guarantee that makes the taxpayer liable for any losses to the €110.6 billion of liabilities held by the 6 covered banks, including Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.
“Minister for Finance Michael Noonan described the extension as necessary to facilitate the restructuring of the banking system.
“What the Minister failed to say is that this guarantee was the primary reason why interest rates on Irish government bonds spiralled out of control last year, as the markets were increasingly concerned about the States ability to honour the guarantee. It is also the principle reason why the Government remains dependant on the diktats of the EU, ECB and IMF.
“The only way the government can return to the international bond markets is by ending the blanket guarantee and return the toxic debts of the developers back to the banks.
“When the European Commission approved the extension of the Guarantee in June 2010 the then Labour Finance spokesperson Joan Burton attacked the decision and criticised the Government for having ‘no exit strategy’.
“In a week of Labour party U-Turns this is clearly the most damming. Not only have the Government no exit-strategy from this disastrous guarantee, but they are clearly committed to implementing the failed banking policy of the previous government.”
Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson, Deputy Seán Crowe has concerns that up to 327,000 children in Ireland are either obese or overweight.
Deputy Crowe continued: “According to Dr Donal O’Shea, a consultant endocrinologist at St Columcille’s Hospital in Dublin, 20% of Irish children are obese or overweight and we will face a US style epidemic if the Government does not act immediately.
“Parents must do everything possible to ensure their children are not putting their health at risk through poor diets and lack of exercise.
“There are numerous barriers preventing children from adopting healthy lifestyles and the importance of having a balanced diet and regular exercise cannot be overstated. Schools and Third Level Institutions need to be proactive on this matter and introduce measures such as banning soft drink dispensing machines and junk food on their campuses.
“To compound matters further, television and other mass media advertising of unhealthy sugar rich foods and drinks can adversely influence children and young people when making lifestyle choices. It is our view that this type of advertising needs to be limited and regulated in a way similar to the promotion of alcohol and tobacco products.
“Greater focus needs to be placed in encouraging sports and after hours activities in schools and this must be combined with healthy eating programmes so that children are at least able to eat one health meal per day.
“In the North of Ireland, my party colleague Caitríona Ruane, in her role as Education Minister, funded the GAA and IFI for coaching programmes that were delivered to 33,000 children in 551 primary schools. These type of schemes can go some way to addressing the rising levels of obesity in children and should be an integral part of the school curriculum.
“Sinn Féin shares the concerns of health professionals and health user groups about the increasing prevalence of obesity in children and young people. We believe that there is a need for an All-Ireland Taskforce to implement an effective and comprehensive strategy to deal with this increasing health problem and the education of our young people can make a real difference.” ENDS
The Minister said: “Key to the success of DARD Direct is the establishment and development of a unified approach with admin and technical staff working in
partnership to meet customer needs. This is supported by the refurbishment of customer-facing facilities to support farm businesses accessing the services they require.”
The Minister added: “I am aware that through the recent Single Farm Payment process over 1,000 customers accessed advice and support through the Dungannon office which is just one example of how DARD Direct is delivering, and will continue to deliver real benefits for farmers and rural dwellers across the north.”
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for the No Water Charges campaign Aengus Ó Snodaigh has hit out at Government proposals to implement two new stealth taxes in the form of water and property charges.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said these charges will cause even more pain to families who are already struggling to cope.
Speaking from Leinster House today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Despite the grand speeches from the Labour Party and Fine Gael before the elections promising change and fairness, we now know that water charges will be introduced along with a new household charge.
“Hundred of thousands of people are realising this week that they are being hit with yet another financial burden. Many of these people are already struggling to cope with huge cuts to public services, rising costs and unemployment.
“They are also the very same people who are footing the bill for this Government’s decision to pump yet more billions into the failed banking system. They are now being asked to take greater pain in the form of these two new stealth taxes.
“Sinn Féin is fundamentally opposed to the imposition of these charges.
“For our part we will continue to fight against these unjust measures in the Dáil, the Seanad, in council chambers and on the ground.
“We have pinpointed how money could and should be raised through reform of the taxation system, elimination of waste in the public sector and through investing in jobs.
“The measures proposed by Government will achieve nothing only to impoverish yet more hard-pressed people.”
Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly has today called for a debate in the Seanad on country of origin labelling and the need to discuss the issue of substantial transformation.
Senator Reilly said:
“We are all aware of the breakout of EColi and the many deaths and hundreds of incidences of HCU that it has caused in Europe.
“While country of origin labelling is a requirement for beef, fruit and vegetables, it is not for pigmeat, poultry or sheepmeat.
“We should not have to wait for a food crisis to occur and I would ask that the Minister for Health and Minister for Agriculture come into the Seanad to discuss country of origin labelling and substantial transformation, which is not distinguished by the tariff nomenclature.
Speaking afterwards Senator Reilly said:
“Food labelling is the key source of information by which the consumer can determine which food to buy. Therefore food labelling must serve its primary purpose of informing the consumer. Consumers have a right to clear and understandable information on their food products and to know the origin of the food products that they are consuming.
“The absence of definitive country of origin labelling means that many food products are able to masquerade as products of another origin, which leads not only to misinformation for the consumer but also to potential health risks.
“We have seen too many products being passed off as Irish because of ‘substantial transformation’ and this is a particular problem in relation to poultry, too much of which comes from sources which do not have the same quality and traceability requirements that are imposed on Irish producers.
“Compulsory country of origin labelling will be clearly in the interest of producers, distributors, consumers and the marketing of produce globally.
“Only when there is complete transparency in the food production system will we be able to mitigate against food crises and health risks. That is why I am calling on the Minister for Health and the Minister for Agriculture to examine this issue in serious detail.”
Speaking this morning at the Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee meeting , Mr Flanagan said:
“The possible transfer of Corporation Tax powers to the Assembly has largely been welcomed by the business sector at, however such an eventuality should not be viewed as a panacea for all our economic woes. It must be considered only as one piece of the recovery jig-saw.
“In conjunction with a reduction in corporation tax, there needs to be a focus on a job creation strategy that will ensure people are adequately skilled for future opportunities. Just last week, the University of Cork announced details of the world’s first degree on Cloud Computing. This is an area of huge economic potential and is the type of project that we need pay attention to and investigate the possibility of introducing similar courses here or if we can benefit in some way by perhaps developing close contacts with other Universities throughout Ireland.
“Owen Patterson was in Enniskillen earlier this week speaking with the local business community; whilst there he received a wide range of views on corporation tax. As a representative for a rural constituency, I will work to ensure that any potential reduction in corporation tax will have a beneficial effect for those indigenous businesses in my constituency as well as the Foreign Direct Investors based largely around Greater Belfast.“We need to see meaningful plans to ensure the ‘trickle down opportunities for low skilled and inactive’ sections of our society are available. We also need to see tangible benefits West of the Bann and a reduction in the gap in earnings between the richest and poorest in our society.”
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Michelle Gildernew has welcomed the new stroke awareness campaign launched today by the Public Health Agency.
Ms Gildernew said,
“Over 1300 people take a stroke every year many of them left with disabilities that lessens the quality of their life. However if a stroke is caught quick enough the amount of damage done can be minimised.
“The campaign launched today is the latest in an attempt to raise public awareness on how to identify when someone is suffering a stroke and what to do if it is happening go someone.
“Most people believe that strokes only affect older people but the facts are that many younger people are now suffering strokes as well. I would urge people not only to take notice of the ad and how to recognise if someone is having a stroke but to realise the type of lifestyle that can put you in the highest danger of having a stroke and change it if you need to.
Sinn Féin Deputy Chair of the Assembly's Justice Committee, Raymond McCartney MLA has reiterated his previous call on British Secretary of State Owen Patterson to recind his decision to revoke the licence of Marian Price.
Speaking this evening Mr. McCartney said;
“ The revoking of Marian Price's licence is completely unacceptable.
“The move by Owen Patterson amounts to detention without trial; this runs contrary to natural justice. The Justice system must be human rights based and the revoking of Marian Price’s licence is totally unacceptable.
“Sinn Féin raised our concerns on this issue with the British Secretary of State at the time of Marian Price's arrest and will continue to do so in the interests of justice and the human rights of the individual.”
Responding to the latest live register figures published yesterday, Sinn Féin group leader in the Seanad Senator David Cullinane stated that there is an urgent need for a debate on the matter of unemployment and that the growth in the figures represented a ‘national emergency’.
Speaking in the Seanad Senator Cullinane called for a full debate on unemployment and the need for a comprehensive job creation plan.
Senator Cullinane said:
“Specifically, I want to ask the leader for a debate on the massive unemployment in this state which surely is a national emergency.
“We need to focus on proper job creation proposals, dealing with youth unemployment, underemployment, self-employment, and those who do not qualify for social welfare payments who are not accounted in the live register figures.
“We also need to deal with the burning issue of emigration and the 100,000 people who have already left the country.'
“The release of the latest live register figures saw a rise of 2,600 workers bringing the amount of people on the live register up to 443,000, and the rate up to 14.8%.
“The release of the latest live register figures highlight in very stark terms the inadequacy of this government’s response to the unemployment crisis. It’s rather unsatisfactory that the figures corresponding to the month of the much heralded ‘jobs initiative’ shows that the government needs to consider a more thorough and concerted jobs initiative.
“The politics of austerity isn’t working, investment in jobs is the only way we can kick-start the economy.’
“We in Sinn Féin have brought forward a number of proposals to reduce the unemployment crisis, which the government would do well to consider, including using €2 from the National Pension Reserve fund to fast track labour intensive infrastructure projects, such as school and hospital building programmes, and developing transport and broadband infrastructure.
“We would also argue for a €500 million family stimulus package, funded through additional tax revenue, which is aimed at reversing some of the difficulties placed on families by social welfare cuts, and to kick start consumer spending.”.
Speaking after the vote on the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill Sinn Féin’s Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD said, “It is nearly three months since the new government signalled its intent to set up the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
“It is Sinn Féin’s view that the new Department as outlined in the Bill is inadequate in terms of its commitment to real public sector reform. Sinn Féin has also questioned the autonomy in real terms of Minister Howlin’s position as the department, its staff and much of his decision making powers remain under the thumb of the Department of Finance.
“I welcome the fact that the Minister can now be held accountable to the Dáil on the crucial matters of public expenditure and reform.
“A focus on public service reform is necessary and welcome however the issue of resourcing is a critical component of any serious reform agenda.
“The ultimate measure of any reform within the public sector will be the experience of citizens seeking and accessing services and it is Sinn Féin’s intention to hold the Minister and his Department to account on this matter.
“The reform agenda must not be used as a cover for the running down or privatising public services.” ENDS
Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has urged people to be vigilant after what appears to be a sexually motivated attack on a woman in the Tallaght area.
Deputy Crowe said “A woman has been attacked in the Tallaght area in what appears to have been a particularly brutal and sexually motivated assault.
“I would appeal to members of the public to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the Gardaí.
“Anyone who has information about these incidents should obviously bring it to the Gardaí immediately.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien was today shocked at the 400% increase in queries to the Free Legal Advice Centres surrounding personal debt issues over the last three years.
Deputy O’Brien said:
“This highlights the worry, distress and personal economic nightmare that exists for too many people in our society at the minute.
“The Government must move swiftly to update the legislation that relates to personal debt resolution and provide the necessary resources.
“I have to commend the trojan work being carried out by the Free Legal Advice Centres. This experience at the frontline of dealing with people’s personal debt nightmares adds serious credibility to their calls for a comprehensive ‘dynamic debt settlement system’ and a standardised ‘Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process’.
“Sinn Féin calls on the Minister for Justice to swiftly introduce the promised Personal insolvency Bill. We require a personal insolvency system akin to the Individual Voluntary Arrangements made available in recent years in England or to the type of repayment schemes that exist elsewhere in Europe.
“It is vital that we introduce a non-judicial debt resolution system to save the cost and the personal stigma of the process being carried out publicly in the courts, and most importantly to deal with this problem in a humane way which offers people a future at the other end of it.
“In addition Sinn Féin reiterates our call for greater resources to be made available to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service which are working to facilitate people in these situations. We should explore making financial and credit institutions foot some of the funding that is required by MABS.
“Sinn Féin would also draw attention to the large percentage of calls being made to FLAC around employment law, particularly in relation to redundancies and dismissals. We need to ensure vigilance in protecting the rights of workers during these troubled economic times.” ENDS
“I was glad to be able to update people on progress to date, and in particular on the position regarding direct payments, LFA areas, the EU CAP budget, the functioning of the food chain, support for small farmers and for young farmers and rural development funding.
"We also discussed specific issues concerning the representation of women and young people in rural areas, and funding for regional and rural organisations", Bairbre said."Rural dwellers have a range of issues which need focused attention, including those of community transport and childcare provision, and the groups I met today are hopeful that new DARD Minister Michelle O'Neill will carry forward the good work done on these issues by her predecessor Michelle Gildernew."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Tourism and Sport, Sandra McLellan, has lambasted Minister Leo Varadkar and his Junior Minister Michael Ring for carrying on the Fianna Fáil tradition of avoiding their responsibilities by hiding behind a litany of quangos.
Deputy McLellan was speaking after both Ministers refused to answer questions in the Dáil today on issues relating to their portfolios.
Speaking today Deputy McLellan said:
"It appears that some members of this Government have picked up the habits of the previous one by deferring direct questions stating that they only have responsibility for policy and overall funding.
“This situation is outrageous. It makes a mockery of the supposed powers of scrutiny of the Dáil. To have a Minister whose sole responsibility is to sign cheques would appear to me to be a complete waste of money.
“It is unacceptable to claim that this is a system they have inherited, or that Dáil Committees can hold the quangos to account. Ministers Varadkar and Ring should take a leaf out of their Minister for Health's book and start to take responsibility for all aspects of their portfolio. They should stop passing the buck and start delivering value for the taxpayer."
Sinn Féin President and TD for Louth and East Meath Gerry Adams this evening secured an adjournment debate in the Dáil on Vodafone’s decision to sack over 130 workers and move the jobs to India and Egypt.
Mr. Adams called on the government to take urgent and decisive action to ensure that as many of these jobs as possible are protected and to ensure than any workers who do lose their jobs receive their redundancy entitlements.
Mr. Adams said:
“Minister, Vodafone says it intends sacking over 130 workers and moving those jobs to Egypt and India.
“This behaviour comes at a time when 443,400 citizens are unemployed. The highest level this year.
“Vodafone clearly have no loyalty to Irish people.
“No doubt, and the Minister might want to clarify this, they have received public funds and tax exemptions.
“Vodafone’s profits since it came here have been €2.2 billion. €120m last year.
“So, it takes public monies, makes huge profits and then moves on.
“This is the unacceptable face of globalisation.
“And the government must review this type of operation.
“I met with representatives of the Communication Workers Union.
“Their briefing included a minute of a meeting with Vodafone.
“The Union asked regarding the jobs in Rigney Dolphin which supplies employees to Vodafone:
Q What will happen to Rigney Dolphin employees who are losing jobs - will they be redeployed in Vodafone?
Q What will be the terms of redundancy for Rigney Dolphin employees?
A This is nothing to do with Vodafone, it is a matter for Rigney Dolphin
Q Does Vodafone accept that they have a responsibility to Rigney Dolphin employees working in Vodafone?
A Vodafone only has a responsibility to the business contract between Rigney Dolphin and Vodafone
Q The Union requests that Vodafone postpone this decision to enable all parties to engage in discussions with a view to finding alternatives that will save jobs
Q Can Vodafone guarantee the Union that further work/jobs will not be outsourced?
Q What are the cost savings involved in off shoring these jobs?
A Don’t know
“This needs a decisive Government response and it needs it now.
“Minister what is your Government going to do to ensure that as many of these jobs as possible are protected and to ensure than any workers who do lose their jobs receive their redundancy entitlements?”