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Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane has said she is expecting Environmental Minister Alex Attwood at Narrow Water tomorrow to announce that planning permission has been granted for the proposed bridge.

 Ms. Ruane said,

 “I am expecting the Minister to announce tomorrow that planning permission has been granted for the Narrow Water Bridge.

“This would be wonderful news in the campaign for the construction of the bridge to connect Co. Down and Co. Louth.

 “I am also expecting Bord Pleanála to make their announcement in the next few weeks and hoping that they too will also grant permission to the project to proceed to the next stage.

 “Sinn Féin has campaigned for this bridge since its inception and only last week unveiled a banner calling for the bridge to be built.

 “I will now be looking at funders to come on board and allow this bridge to be constructed in the coming months.”

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Sinn Féin’s Agricultural spokesperson Oliver McMullan has welcomed the news that the European Commission has recognised the North’s pigs are free from Aujeszkys disease.

 Mr. McMullan said,

 “The announcement by Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill that Irish pigs North and South have been given disease free status from Aujeszkys is good for the industry.

 “Aujeszkys disease is an highly infectious disease that affects pigs and can cause production and welfare problems and it has massive trade implications for pig farmers.

 “I recently attended a meeting of pig farmers at the Ulster Farmers Union with Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson in which the produces stated it would be a great help if the Minister could get Irish pigs the all clear.

 “Todays announcement is therefore great news for the pig farming community and will allow for trade of pigs across the entire island of Ireland and a massive boost for the pig industry.”

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Sinn Fein Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD met with representatives of the Simon Community today in Leinster House to be briefed on the worsening homelessness problem in Ireland.
Speaking after the meeting Deputy Ellis said:
“Due to the financial crisis in the country especially with distressed mortgages, unemployment and cuts to social welfare the homelessness situation in Ireland is getting worse.
For many people at the moment, the only thing standing between them and homelessness is their next pay packet or social welfare contribution. Media leaks from Ministers are suggesting that Government is determined to cut back on social welfare spending and those lucky enough to be holding down a job are facing another hammering in the next budget.
“Cuts to funding for housing support, health services, probation, welfare services, and education and training services, all have major knock-on effects that contribute to homelessness. Cuts to these vital supports not only increase the possibility of homelessness, but it also prevents people from moving out of homelessness.
“Current funding levels for homelessness need to be maintained and increased.
“Following recent reports from the CSO and Focus Ireland we already know that there are around 5,000 homeless people in Ireland and 100,000 people are on various local housing waiting lists. Yet we have 230,000 vacant homes across the country.
I am calling on the Government to take immediate action on the homelessness problem in Ireland and to ensure that those who are at risk of homelessness or those trying to move out of homelessness, are given the full supports they need.”

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Sinn Fein Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD met with representatives of the Simon Community today in Leinster House to be briefed on the worsening homelessness problem in Ireland.

Speaking after the meeting Deputy Ellis said:

“Due to the financial crisis, especially with distressed mortgages, unemployment and cuts to social welfare the homelessness situation in Ireland is getting worse.

“For many people at the moment, the only thing standing between them and homelessness is their next pay packet or social welfare contribution. Media leaks from ministers are suggesting that the government is determined to cut back on social welfare spending and those lucky enough to be holding down a job are facing another hammering in the next budget.

“Cuts to funding for housing support, health services, probation, welfare services, and education and training services, all have major knock-on effects that contribute to homelessness. Cuts to these vital supports not only increase the possibility of homelessness, but it also prevents people from moving out of homelessness.

“Current funding levels for homelessness need to be increased.

“Following recent reports from the CSO and Focus Ireland we already know that there are around 5,000 homeless people in Ireland and 100,000 people are on various local housing waiting lists. Yet we have 230,000 vacant homes across the country.

“I am calling on the government to take immediate action on the homelessness problem in Ireland and to ensure that those who are at risk of homelessness or those trying to move out of homelessness, are given the full supports they need.”

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Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD, has commended the Irish Cancer Society and Action Breast Cancer, and Action Cancer for their efforts in raising awareness around the issue of breast cancer.

This morning the Sinn Féin leader and party colleague Martina Anderson MEP joined TDs and activists outside the Dáil in support of the Get the Girls campaign to highlight the issue of breast cancer and to raise money for breast cancer services and research.

Deputy Adams said:
“For over two decades October has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month around the world. The pink ribbon or the wearing of pink has become synonymous with the campaign to raise awareness of this dreadful disease.

“Over 4,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year across the island of Ireland. Around 40 of these or, one per cent, will be men. In the North, around 300 women die each year as a result of breast cancer.

“The Irish Cancer Society and Action Cancer run extensive breast screening services which have saved many lives. They have also raised significant amounts of money to improve the outcome for patients and for research.

“I want to commend all of those involved in raising awareness around breast cancer and I would urge anyone with the slightest concern to immediately contact their doctor or any of the campaign organisations, all of whom provide extensive information on their web sites.”

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Speaking in advance of the launch of UNICEF's ‘It's about You’ campaign in Ballyfermot tomorrow local Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh welcomed the initiative which aims to give children a voice in the upcoming referendum.

The UNICEF campaign is to be launched by An Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore TD, and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD tomorrow, Friday 5 October 2012, at 11am in The Base, Blackditch Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said;

“UNICEF’s ‘It's about You’ campaign is a very welcome initiative. The upcoming referendum is all about children and it’s important that they have their say in the run-up to polling day.

“I hope the campaign will encourage adults to really listen and take children and young people’s views on board. And I hope it will also help to improve voter turn-out in constituencies like this one where it has traditionally been low.

“Hopefully our children will motivate those with a vote to use it come polling day.

“The irony of today's line-up can’t be missed and I hope it doesn’t detract from the launch. It’s undoubtedly hypocritical that this campaign on children’s rights is being launched by Labour and Fine Gael government members who are, this very week, proposing to cut child benefit again.

“The Labour and Fine Gael government have already introduced a series of anti-child cuts including cuts to child benefit, the back to school allowance and supports for lone parents. I

“I know the children of my constituency and their parents would use their voice to tell the government to back off and refrain from cutting child benefit again.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD today secured the unanimous backing of the Oireachtas Health & Children Committee for his motion calling on Health Minister James Reilly not to cut to home help and home care services.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The cuts to home helps and home care services announced at the end of August were an attack on older people and other vulnerable citizens who depend on these supports. This Government claims to be supporting people in their homes and in the community, in preference to expensive residential care, yet it stands over cuts to the services that allow people to remain at home. The Oireachtas Health & Children Committee, on my proposal, has called on Minister Reilly not to proceed with these cuts. The HSE and Health Minister Reilly should listen to the voices of the most vulnerable and reverse these cruel cuts."

ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD speaking in the Dáil today following the speech by the EU Parliament President Martin Schulz called on the EU to stimulate Europe’s economics through “encouraging growth, through stimulus packages and by getting people back to work and most importantly by protecting the most vulnerable of our citizens by protecting public services.”

On the big issue of youth unemployment the Louth TD urged Europe to “go beyond fine words and to give real hope to a generation of young people without work.”

The Sinn Féin leader welcomed President Schulz’s comments on the June deal but the critical issue, around which there is disagreement, is whether this includes a lifting of the legacy of bad banking debt imposed on the Irish people by the last government.

Deputy Adams noted that President Schulz couched his remarks as his “personal opinions”.

Gerry Adams added that from the outset of the economic crisis Sinn Féin has been arguing for a write down of private bank debt. “Bank debt needs to be separated from sovereign debt. And the burden of bad banking debt, the so-called legacy issue which was foisted on the shoulders of the Irish people also needs to be removed.”

Deputy Adams said:
“In the conclusion to recent EU summits there has been much talk about a renewed focus on jobs and growth rather than austerity, but people need to see delivery on these promises.
“European leaders are failing to tackle the jobs crisis. There are 24 million citizens unemployed across the EU and in this state there are 440,000 on the Live Register.

“The scourge of emigration is once more a factor for families and communities, particularly in rural Ireland.

“So, the Eurozone urgently needs investment in jobs, particularly in the periphery states. This can be achieved by among other measures an enlarged investment fund in the European Investment Bank.

“The EU and member states need to focus on stimulating Europe’s economies, encouraging growth through stimulus packages.

“We need to get people back to work and most importantly we need to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens by protecting public services.

“Sinn Féin has long argued that the role of the ECB needs to be re-examined and it needs to fulfil the role of a lender of last resort. ‘

The Louth TD welcomed the comments of President Shulz in which he has called for the greater democratisation of EU institutions but he warned that: “there is a need in Brussels for a recognition of the fact that there is no mandate and there is no popular will in this state for a European super state – a United States if Europe.”

Concluding the Sinn Féin President said:
“In your speech today you recognised communities and citizens across the EU, and particularly our young people, are struggling with sky high levels of unemployment, emigration, under-employment. They are victims of an economic mess caused by the type of austerity policies the Commission is wedded to.

“And what citizens in Ireland and across the European Union is practical leadership.

“You talk eloquently about the need for solidarity.

“You talked about trust being required. But until there is evidence that the European institutions and the governments are focussed on creating jobs, protecting public services, and sheltering the most vulnerable from the outcomes of austerity we will see a continuation of people being alienated from these institutions.
“So a social European Union is what is required, European Union of equals, a European Union that protects our citizens, our rural communities, our young people and most especially those who are marginalised and vulnerable.”

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Sinn Féin education spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD has broadly welcomed measures announced today to reform the Junior Cert Exam but he has expressed concerns that teachers will be expected to assess their own students’ work.

Deputy O’Brien said: “The worrying fall in literacy and numeracy standards in recent years can in part be attributed to the Junior Cert and there is a general consensus that this 20-year-old exam needs to be reformed.

Education Minister Ruairí Quinn deserves credit therefore, for implementing radical changes to an exam that is of key importance to young people during their first four years at secondary school.

“I believe we need to learn from progressive, high performing education systems such as those in Finland and New Zealand where there is less emphasis on learning by rote and greater importance placed on continual assessment.

“I understand that the new revised Junior Cert exam syllabuses are to be drawn up by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and will combine traditional subjects with a number of short courses in areas such as digital media, entrepreneurship, sustainable energy and living and Chinese language and culture.

“These changes will hopefully ensure that future generations of young people leaving Irish schools are better equipped to meet the demands of an evolving workplace and global market. Reform of the Junior Cert will however be rendered meaningless unless our education system is properly resourced and this includes ensuring there are incentives for the most capable graduates to enter teaching.
“Moves to introduce standardised tests in numeracy and English reading in second year, from 2014, should improve literacy and numeracy standards that are so essential achieving an individual’s academic potential.

“I also welcome the proposals to have in place standardised tests in science related subjects, and this must be accompanied by changes in how science is taught at primary level which presently averages at one and half hours per week, or well below the OECD average.

“One of the areas I am concerned about are the plans to have teachers assessing their students’ work. This is likely to place teachers in a very difficult position both in terms of their increased work load, the time they have to teach and problems with objectivity when assessing their own student’s work.

“They will also face the added burden and pressure from parents, particularly those who have unrealistic expectations of their own children and it is an aspect of the reform proposals for the Junior Cert that must be carefully considered.

“Another issue that we will be looking at is the future status of history and geography and how they will be affected should the number of core subjects within the Junior Cert be reduced.

“I believe it would be a retrograde step to downgrade either of these subjects as they are a vital part of our school curriculum.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the Tánaiste’s confirmation that he was the senior Labour Party Minister that Health Minister James Reilly consulted about the extra primary care centres added to Roisín Shortall’s list.

Speaking after an exchange with the Tánaiste during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today Deputy McDonald said it is now crystal clear the Eamon Gilmore backed James Reilly over his own party minister from the start contrary to his claims otherwise.

Deputy McDonald said;

“Yesterday Minster Reilly claimed during his Pat Kenny interview that he consulted with senior labour ministers in relation to the location of the primary care centres.

“When I questioned the Tánaiste in the Dáil today he revealed that he was consulted by the Health Minister about the extra primary care centres. He also revealed that Roisín Shortall had come to him with her concerns about Minister Reilly before she resigned her position last week.

“It is now crystal clear that Eamon Gilmore backed Minister Reilly over his own party minister from the very beginning contrary to his own claims that he backed Roisín Shortall.

“He signed off on the extra primary care centres and voted confidence in Minister Reilly in the full knowledge of the concerns raised by his own party minister Roisín Shortall.

“Labour’s 2011 election manifesto promised to encourage and transparency in Government. It promised an end to political cronyism. So why, despite the urging of a growing number within his own party, does the Tánaiste continue to stand behind Minister Reilly and his refusal to make public the criteria used for the location of these primary care centres.” ENDS

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He was speaking after participating in the annual pre-budget discussion forum organised by the Disability Federation of Ireland in the Mansion House, Dublin today. Deputy Mac Lochlainn called for a “threshold of decency” on disability supports and a political consensus that people with disabilities would have their dignity and rights maintained and their families would not be abandoned as a result of on-going cutbacks. The Donegal North East Deputy said: “The recent imagery of citizens with profound disabilities, who protested outside Leinster House at Minister Reilly’s cuts, struck a powerful chord with the Irish people. The courage and dignity of those who braved the elements to make their stand shone a light on the reality that despite the promises of both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in the final pre-election leaders’ debate last year, their government has proceeded to enforce cut after cut on those with disabilities in this state and their families and carers. Their broken promises on disabilities are the cruellest of all. “If this government took a Kango hammer and tore up our roads, there would be uproar but that is exactly what they have been doing to support services for people with disability. “This has to stop. We need a threshold of decency. We need a political consensus that people with disabilities will have their dignity protected and rights maintained and that their families will not be abandoned.” He concluded: “Recently, nine leading disability organisations in Ireland spoke out on this scandal.

They outlined a vision for people with disabilities in Ireland and called on the government to take urgent action on three key areas: 1. Halt reductions in the basic standard of living of people with disabilities requiring welfare supports. People with disabilities are most likely to experience real poverty because on top of the recent cuts in benefit levels and new charges, they also have to continue to pay for extras required due to their disability.

2. Ensure funding for the services needed by people with disabilities. Cutting the services required by people with disabilities not only undermines their lives, it also leads to a growing public burden in terms of hospital stays and expensive care costs.

3. Publish and show leadership on an ambitious Implementation Plan for the National Disability Strategy in keeping with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where people have dignity, individual autonomy and full and effective participation in Irish society. People’s faith in Ireland’s eventual recovery depends not just on economic measures. Social protection for all people through this long, stressful period needs to be central to the Government‘s recovery plans. Government actions must address social inclusion / cohesion. Recent Government plans / cuts heighten these concerns in the run up to the Budget. Sinn Féin fully endorses their call and we call on the government to take up this challenge and honour their promises to our most vulnerable citizens. ends

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Sinn Féin Assembly member and DSD Committee Chairperson Alex Maskey has said that his party will seek the deferral of the Welfare Bill being placed before the Assembly on Tuesday

 Speaking today Mr Maskey said:

“For some months now DUP Minister Nelson McCausland has been attempting to bring forward a Bill which will mean that Tory inspired welfare cuts are imposed on people here. The Bill is flawed, comes from the austerity policies of the Tory-led coalition and is targeted at the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society.

“It is our view that the Assembly has a duty to stand up for low-income families and those on benefit who are being directly targeted by many of these measures. The fact that these measures are being brought forward by the Tory government and being imposed here is a direct consequence of the Assembly not having the necessary fiscal powers.

“Sinn Féin will be bringing forward a proposal to the Assembly on Tuesday to defer the Welfare Reform Bill until significant amendments are made to it.  We will press for fundamental changes to this Bill to ensure the maximum protections for those on benefits and in low-paid employment”

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West Tyrone MLA Declan Mc Aleer has urged farmers applying for the current tranche of the Farm Modernisation Programme to consider their applications carefully to ensure that they are awarded the maximum possible points across each of the four criteria.

According to Mr Mc Aleer  "The Farm Modernisation Programme is aimed at Farmers to enable them to update machinery, invest in modern technology or purchase equipment to make their business more efficient and sustainable.

“Applicants can gain a maximum of 115 points across four criteria including Degree of Modernisation (60 points), Succession opportunity (35 points), E-communication (10 points) and Not successful in previous tranches (10 points).

“I have spoken to a number farmers in recent weeks who were effectively ‘underselling’ themselves by omitting key information such as failing to mention that they, or other registered members of the farm business were under 40 years old on 31st January 2012.This could have resulted in such applicants missing out on 35 points in the succession opportunity category.

"Another farmer I spoke to was planning to hand in a hard copy of her application, whereas she could have gained an additional 10 points for submitting it online via the European Union funding programmes website.  Mr Mc Aleer continued

"Farmers should also be mindful the under the degree of modernisation category items of eligible equipment are segregated into 3 bands – Most modernising (60 points), Intermediate (45 points) and Least modernising (30 points).

"It is extremely important to note that the points awarded for this category will be that of the least modernising item.So, for example if a farmer applies for three items of equipment, two from band 1 (most modernising) and the other from band 3 (least modernising), the maximum score they will achieve for this category is 30 points. 

“Over 2,900 farm businesses have benefitted from the programme since 2010 and I am confident that the demand for this current round will be high.This latest tranche will see a further investment of £5.5 million in local farms and I want to make sure that farmers maximise their chances of being successful.

"The closing date for applications is 4.00pm on 19 October 2012 and if applicants need advice or information, they should call the Countryside Agri-Rural Partnership Helpline on 0845 0267 535 or drop into their local DARD office”.

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Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said that she has asked the Health Department for urgent update on the recent revelations about a senior member of the Fire Service.

The West Belfast MLA, who is also Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee said:

“There is clearly serious problems within the Fire Service, which is subject to two on-going reviews. These reviews need to be completed urgently so that problems that exist can be dealt with.

“These further revelations, while they are issues of management and do not involve the excellent service provided by the fire fighters, will obviously affect morale.

“As Chair of the Health Committee I have asked the Health Department for an update on these issues as soon a possible.

“The Fire Service provide such a valuable service that the public need reassured that these issues can be dealt with quickly.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade and the Irish Diaspora, Seán Crowe TD, yesterday met with a delegation on the worsening human rights situation in Bahrain.

The delegation included human rights lawyers Toby Cadman and Siobhan Flockton, surgeon Prof. Damian McCormack, John O'Brien of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Tara O’Grady, General Secretary of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO), and a visiting Bahraini lawyer.

Speaking after the meeting Deputy Crowe said:

“The human rights situation in Bahrain would appear to be getting worse with opposition activists being arrested and thrown into jail. Democratic protests have also been attacked and doctors who have treated the wounded have been arrested. The infringement of medical neutrality is a major human rights violation. Doctors should be able to treat any person requiring medical treatment.

“Yesterday’s delegation outlined the case of one of the medics arrested, Doctor Ali Al Ekri, who trained at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI). Just this week his appeal failed and he was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment. Dr Al Ekri and his colleagues were tortured and abused on a daily basis when they were last in custody.

“They were tortured because they treated wounded Bahrainis who were protesting at the lack of democracy and human rights in their country.

“I am calling on the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, to raise the incarceration of these medics with the Bahraini government, and with his European colleagues. The Tánaiste must press for the release of these medics, who have been brutalised and tortured in Bahraini jails.

“I am also calling on the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) to clarify its relationship with the Bahraini authorities and detail what efforts, if any, it is taking to ensure the safety of its staff and former fellows.”

ENDS

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East Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Niall Ó Donnaighle said that First Minister Peter Robinson needs to make his position clear regarding the disgraceful and sectarian behaviour of some of the loyalist bands passing St Matthews Church on Saturday.

Niall Ó Donnaighle said:

“There can be no ambiguity regarding the disgraceful scenes outside St Matthews Church on Saturday, not only by some of the bands but also supporters.

“Peter Robinson talks about how important it is that we ‘try and bind our community together’ then surely one section of that community being inflammatory, derogatory and outright sectarian to a different place of worship needs to be condemned.

“The DUP and unionist politicians in general have failed to give leadership in recent months and instead have pampered to the lowest rung of sectarianism within loyalism.

“It is well past the time that Peter Robinson, as the leader of unionism, took a stand against this sectarianism and bigotry and came out clearly against any such behaviour.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on environment, community & local government, Brian Stanley TD, has accused the government of : “abandoning whole communities to the drugs crisis”.

Speaking this evening during a Dáil debate, Deputy Stanley said:
“Whole communities were abandoned in the 1980s, in the early 1990s and now again the same communities are abandoned by this government.

“Unfortunately for these communities the drugs crisis has slipped off the government’s agenda. It has become an afterthought in the programme for government with services and resources cut to the bone.

“The evidence is there. The cut in public spending between 2008-2012 is 2.82%, but the budget for drug initiatives was slashed by 29%, with some services having cuts of up 67%.

“This has put enormous pressure on addiction services. More people are presenting with polydrug use yet the services have fewer resources and less funding. There has been a massive increase in gangland crimes.

“So far this year two more people have been shot dead than in the whole of 2011. We need a measured, mature response not the hysterical headlines seen in some of the tabloids.

“It is vital that newly appointed minister, Alex White TD reprioritise the drugs crisis. There is of course no one easy answer to the drugs crisis, but experience shows that the response must be holistic, integrated and partnership based.
“It must involve the people most affected by the problem in finding solutions that work for their communities. These solutions must be adequately resourced. This approach, once championed by Labour, has been eroded by consecutive governments, including this one.”

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North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the practise of retiring and rehiring former police members who received huge severance packages, was concealed and covered up by the PSNI for years.

The Sinn Féin policing spokesperson said:

“Sinn Féin welcomes the Audit Office’s publication of this report, which contains evidence and facts that the Chief Constable can no longer dispute or deny.

“It is a story of cronyism and jobs for the boys at the expense of the Police Service and the public interest.

“Sinn Féin, while the PSNI were refusing to admit it was happening, has been working to uncover the scandal of rehiring former police members who were given huge severance packages.

“Retiring and rehiring was rampant and this report proves it. The fact that £100m of public money has been spent makes it a scandal on an industrial scale.

“It undermines what Patten was about with more than 1000 police officers retired under Patten being rehired.

“A £44m contract was awarded without tendering and thousands of jobs filled without public advertisement.

“Those employed were not accountable to the Police Ombudsman or bound by PSNI’s Code of Ethics. Add to that the fact that some have been assigned sensitive roles in which they have a serious conflict of interest regarding historical enquiries.

“The Public Accounts Committee will hear evidence next week and I think the committee will play a crucial role in revealing more facts. This will also be the case in another part of this investigation carried forward by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, which is due to report in the coming weeks.

“There is no place for an old boys’ network in the new beginning to policing we all deserve and this is the moment of truth for the current PSNI leadership.” CRÍOCH/END

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Sinn Féin Irish language spokesperson Cathal Ó hOisín has welcomed the announcement by Education Minister John O’Dowd that funding will be made available for Irish language in the Extended Schools Programme.

 Mr. Ó hOisín stated

 “This announcement will open up schools to participate in providing Irish language classes and activities to bolster the use of the language through the Extended School programme.

 “As we see the numbers of people signing up the Liofa project launched by Department of Culture Arts and Leisure increase and the growing number of children attending Irish medium education it is important that we support those learning the language.

 “I would encourage all those schools in the present Extended School cluster to apply for funding and provide another outlet for the local community in developing the Irish Language.”

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Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Jonathan O’Brien TD, has praised the important work of the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) and its commitment to ensuring people with reading and writing difficulties have access to learning opportunities.
The Cork North Central TD was speaking after meeting today in Leinster House with John Steward, NALA’s National Adult Literacy Coordinator.
Deputy O’Brien said: “NALA provides a voice to adults wishing to improve their literacy and numeracy skills and I commend their commitment to raising standards in adult learning.
“Current government policies contain targets for raising adult literacy but as NALA points out, we also need a collective approach that ensures the implementation of a more robust plan that will ensure greater integration of literacy into further education and training. With innovative thinking and forward planning, this can be done relatively inexpensively and adult learning should be in integral part of employment training programmes.
“There also needs to be greater emphasis on improving access to adult education and training by ensuring there is enhanced awareness of what is available.
“It is important everyone is given a chance to participate fully in society and that is why organisations such as NALA need support to ensure the 25% of adults who lack adequate reading and writing skills have the chance to access education.”
“The imminent publication of the Education Training Boards Bill presents an opportunity to implement positive reforming measures however, it would be wrong if a key group should as adult learners were not represented on the board.
“This is an important aspect of the bill which we will be scrutinising whenever the legislation is published and put before the Oireachtas.”

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