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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on natural resources Martin Ferris TD, has said that a media report based on a leak from the McCarthy Group on State Assets confirms fears over the future of Coillte and Bord na Mona. According to a piece by Brendan Keenan in today’s Irish Independent the report will recommend a sale of forestry and peat and the establishment of a new company to ‘manage’ the land after the peat and timber are sold off. The Programme for Government is committed to merging the two companies as a new bio energy entity.

Deputy Ferris said:

“I will be raising this on the Order of Business tomorrow afternoon and I also expect to receive replies to several questions I have tabled on the possible sale of Coillte and Bord na Mona and on the contents of the McCarthy report.

“The new Government has said that it will be guided on its sale of €2 billion of state assets by the report. I am calling on them to honour their explicit promises during the election that Coillte would not be sold off.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education John O’Dowd MLA, commenting on today’s report into Educational Underachievement, with particular emphasis on the underachievement of Protestant boys from socially deprived, working class areas.

Mr O’Dowd who attended the launch at the Stormont Hotel later this afternoon said;

“While the findings of this report are deeply concerning in reality they will come as no surprise to those working within the Education and Training sector.

For some years now Sinn Féin has been highlighting the fact that working class protestant boys are the demographic most failed by the educational arrangements which Unionist representatives have fought vehemently to retain.

Sinn Féin is about bringing real change to our education system, about cherishing all of our children equally. That is why under the leadership of Martin McGuinness and Caitríona Ruane we put an end to the discriminatory 11+ exam and are driving the agenda of ‘every school a good school’.

This report highlights the very broad factors that impact directly upon the educational and vocational development of our young people, it recognises that our education system alone cannot solve all of these problems. Sinn Féin has also acknowledged this fact and have been actively developing cross-departmental approaches to the social, psychological and economic well being of our young people.

These figures are a wake up call for those politicians who continue to, for narrow political ends, bury their heads in the sand, when it comes to the realities faced by our communities. The old regime has failed the overwhelming majority of children and young people. For example, the DUP brought Academic selection to the talks table at St Andrews in 2007, and refused to share power with their nationalist and republican neighbours unless the British Government capitulated to the DUP demand that Selection be retained on the statute books.

To date the DUP have not publicly acknowledged on whose behalf such a demand was made, the evidence shows it certainly was not on behalf of the thousand of working class protestant children turned away from grammar schools every year and who are failing to enter university education.” CRÍOCH

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has unveiled an action plan which sets out a vision for the development of rural areas throughout the north over the next 10 years.

The Executive’s Rural White Paper action plan was developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including Government Departments. When implemented, it will make a positive contribution towards service provision in rural areas.

The action plan examines the challenges currently being face by rural areas and identifies innovative ways to target limited resources for the betterment and sustainable development of the countryside. The actions identified will address a wide range of issues including provision of access to services, poverty and isolation, business support, education and training.

Speaking at the launch of a twelve week consultation on the plan, the Minister said: “This action plan is one of the most ambitious pieces of work aimed at supporting rural dwellers ever undertaken in the north. For the first time we have a single document highlighting the actions which each government department will take to support rural communities. This clearly demonstrates that departments and Ministers are taking rural issues and the rights of rural communities seriously and are committed to ensuring a fair deal for them.

“The fact that the initiative will be taken forward across government is a demonstration that there is an Executive commitment to improve the lives of rural dwellers.”

Paying tribute to the work undertaken in its development, the Minister continued: “The Rural White Paper action plan is the culmination of a lot of hard work by stakeholders and government and I would like to pay tribute to everyone involved in it. It has been a privilege to lead on it with agreement of the Executive and I am confident that, when implemented, it will bring about meaningful and lasting improvements in the quality of life of those living and working in our countryside. "

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Sinn Féin’s newly strengthened Dáil team of fourteen TDs will tomorrow travel to Stormont for a series of meetings with the party MLAs.

The meetings will focus on advancing the all-Ireland agenda and mapping out a series of areas of joint work between the Sinn Féin teams in Leinster House and Stormont.

Speaking today in advance of the meeting, Sinn Féin Assembly group leader John O’Dowd said:

“Tomorrows meeting will see 41 Sinn Féin TDs and MLAs gather in Stormont for the first time since the recent Southern election. This first meeting will focus primarily on advancing the united Ireland and all-Ireland political agenda.

“No other political party on this island has the depth and geographical spread of Sinn Féin elected representatives. We are the only party with a strategy and a team to deliver all-Ireland political change.

“Others talk about the all-Ireland agenda. Sinn Féin is the all-Ireland agenda in action.” ENDS

EDITORS NOTE: The all-Ireland Sinn Féin team led by party President Gerry Adams will be available to speak to the media tomorrow (Monday 21st March) at 3.30pm in the foyer in Stormont and after on the main steps for a photo call.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD who is in Washington today for a series of St. Patrick’s Day events, including the Speakers lunch with President Obama and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and the White House event this evening, has welcomed President Obama’s decision to visit Ireland in May.

The Sinn Fein leader said:

“Successive US governments have contributed significantly to the peace process in Ireland. The Obama administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has been an important part of this.

"I am sure that the Irish people will demonstrate their appreciation of this when President Obama visits in May.” ENDS

 Note to Editor:

Gerry Adams held a meeting with the Congressional Friends of Ireland group this morning and met with senior State department officials. Their discussions covered issues such as collusion and the Pat Finucane case; the Ballymurphy Massacre; 50/50 recruitment to the PSNI; the recent general election and the economic crisis in the south of Ireland.

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Dublin Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has called for the establishment of a 1916 Quarter encompassing the GPO and the historic buildings on Moore Street 10 - 25 and for a Ceathrú Gaelteachta to develop the Irish language in the city.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the global interest in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day is evidence of the potential for our tourism industry if the Government is prepared to invest in it.

He said:

“Sinn Féin is calling for the establishment of a 1916 Quarter in the city by developing and maintaining a new cultural quarter encompassing the GPO and the historic buildings on Moore Street. This quarter would then be a base for historical and cultural tourism in the city.

“And we also want to see the establishment of a Ceathrú Gaelteachta to develop the Irish language in the city. Services for Irish speakers and learners could be concentrated on this area to create a critical mass and a new hub for economic activity and employment.

“The global interest in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day is evidence of the potential for our tourism industry if the Government is prepared to invest in it.
“Our Ministers across the globe tomorrow must focus on building important trade links but they should also be in a position to promote Ireland as a tourist destination and we feel developments such as the 1916 quarter and An Ceathrú Gaelteachta in Dublin could go a long way in attracting visitors from abroad.” ENDS

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Speaking this afternoon in advance of the annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Sinn Féin’s TD for Dublin South West Sean Crowe said he was hopeful that the Obama administration would review the US immigration policies and has called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to raise the issue directly with President Obama during his visit to the US this week. Deputy Crowe was previously part of an All Party Dáil delegation that lobbied Capital Hill, Congress and Presidential election runners.

Seán Crowe said:

“I am hopeful that the Obama administration will review the existing immigration policies regarding undocumented persons in the United States.

“This number of undocumented includes a large number of Irish –born. Like all undocumented persons of all nationalities, their lives are uncertain, living in the shadows with their families, under precarious and sometimes dangerous circumstances.


“It would be to the huge benefit of the US as well as the undocumented individuals to regulate their status so that they become even greater contributors to the American system. The Irish undocumented are no burden on the state and contribute economically, socially, culturally to the American way of life.

"The present immigration system, if introduced in the past, would have meant that many leading Irish/American and even former President's would not have been eligible for office.

"The Obama administration need to urgently address this issue. They need to be creative on the issue of legalising the Irish and introduce a pathway to citizenship for all our undocumented.

“I am calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to raise the important issue of the undocumented Irish directly with President Obama and build on the goodwill evident today on his St. Patrick’s Day trip to the United States .” ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh will tomorrow make the case for a cultural 1916 quarter in Dublin encompassing the GPO and the historic buildings 14 to 17 Moore Street, which includes the final headquarters of the 1916 leaders.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh will make the case on St Patrick’s Day to highlight the tourism potential for such a quarter.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh will address the media from 16 Moore Street tomorrow morning at 11am.

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For immediate release 16th March 2011

Government must prioritise protection and development of Irish language – Tóibín

Speaking today to mark Seachtain na Gaeilge Sinn Féin TD for Meath-West, Peadar Tóibín, said the government must prioritise the protection and development of the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities.

“Over the course of the last few years we have seen the erosion of the primacy of Irish in Gaeltacht areas and calls from some quarters for Irish to be dropped as a compulsory subject in schools.

“What we need to see is adequate funding for Irish-medium education right through from primary to third-level, with syllabus reform to make it more communicative. We in Sinn Féin also support the development of an Irish-medium teacher training college based in the Gaeltacht.”

Speaking on the importance of Gaeltacht communities to the rural economy, Deputy Tóibín said:

“Gaeltacht communities are a very important part of the real economy. €50 million a year is generated locally through the 25,000 students who attend Irish colleges in these areas. Any attempt to remove Irish as a compulsory subject would have adverse effects on the rural economy.

“Sinn Féin is committed to the full implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language including the recommendations made by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Sport, Community, Equality and Gaeltacht affairs.”

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Sinn Féin Health and Children Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has welcomed the statement from Health Minister James Reilly that he is to abolish the prescription charge for medical card patients.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“I welcome the Health Minister’s indication of his intention to abolish the prescription charges imposed on medical card patients by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government.

“I would urge the Minister to dispense with these charges as soon as possible. There are major savings to be made on the state’s drugs bill and it is these that should be pursued now that the unjust imposition on medical card patients is to go.” ENDS

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North Kerry/West Limerick TD Martin Ferris has said described today’s meeting with potential investors in the Global Pharmaceutical Centre of Excellence in Tralee as extremely positive and he said that the prospects of nearly 300 jobs being created in the first phase of the project looked very good. Deputy Ferris attended today’s meeting with a delegation of investors from the United States and Europe.

Deputy Ferris said:
“Today’s meeting was extremely positive. I believe the prospects of the creation of almost 300 jobs in the first phase of the project look very good. Today’s meeting comes after of months of hard work by those who want to bring this project to the county. We haven’t seen a jobs announcement of this scale in many a year and it is a great tribute to Rory Doyle and his colleagues that they have taken this idea so far in such a short time.

“I hope that today’s meeting and the visit over the last 2 days will now build momentum behind the project.

“There has been a fair bit of scepticism and that’s understandable because of the scale of it. However I think now that people see something real happening that everybody will row in behind it" ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said Ministers Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin must defend ordinary people in their meeting with IMF chief Ajai Chopra today.

Speaking in Dublin today Deputy McDonald said:

“The Government has talked tough on the issue of corporation tax with our European partners. Today they must match that rhetoric with a strong defence of ordinary people on issues such as water and property taxes and spending cuts that affect low and middle income earners.

“The Government must show some bottle when it comes to issues that affect ordinary people such as water and property taxes and spending cuts that affect low and average income earners.

“The IMF deal and its cutback agenda will cause untold hardship and must be challenged. Rather than going into today’s meeting to agree a common platform the Ministers must be championing the rights of the ordinary people who voted them into power just a couple of weeks ago.

“Ultimately the deal should be put before the people in a referendum. This would strengthen the hand of the Government and would also be the democratic way forward.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on workers rights, Martin Ferris TD, has strongly criticised the decision to charge a former Dublin dock worker over his involvement in a picket during a 2009 dispute. 63 year old Gerard McDonnell is to appear in court this morning charged with an offence under the Maritime Safety Act . McDonnell was one of a group of dock workers who took part in a ‘floating picket’ at the port during an eight month long strike.


Deputy Ferris said:

“The fact that this charge has been processed, apparently not at the behest of the company involved in the dispute, augurs badly for the manner in which the state may treat people involved in legitimate industrial action. No one was injured in the incident, and indeed the men involved themselves were most at risk. The dispute was later settled.

“I would hope that this charge is not proceeded with as it would potentially impose a heavy penalty on Mr. McDonnell. I would also hope that we are not going to see more such heavy handed use of criminal legislation against workers engaged in legitimate actions to safeguard their jobs and conditions of employment.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on workers rights, Martin Ferris TD, has strongly criticised the decision to charge a former Dublin dock worker over his involvement in a picket during a 2009 dispute. 63 year old Gerard McDonnell is to appear in court this morning charged with an offence under the Maritime Safety Act . McDonnell was one of a group of dock workers who took part in a ‘floating picket’ at the port during an eight month long strike.


Deputy Ferris said:

“The fact that this charge has been processed, apparently not at the behest of the company involved in the dispute, augurs badly for the manner in which the state may treat people involved in legitimate industrial action. No one was injured in the incident, and indeed the men involved themselves were most at risk. The dispute was later settled.

“I would hope that this charge is not proceeded with as it would potentially impose a heavy penalty on Mr. McDonnell. I would also hope that we are not going to see more such heavy handed use of criminal legislation against workers engaged in legitimate actions to safeguard their jobs and conditions of employment.” ENDS

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Speaking this evening on the motion for the Programme for Government Sinn Féin’s TD for Cork East Sandra McLellan said that it was her intention to put forward proposals that are credible, to stand up for what is right for the ordinary person and make this Government work for the people, not for vested interests.


“As a woman with a family I am acutely aware of the fact that not only are women totally underrepresented in politics but also that we have borne the brunt of cutbacks and austerity measures foisted upon us by the previous Government. Last week marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and it is in that spirit that I am making a commitment to use my time as a TD stand up for women and to drive forward issues that are relevant to women in Ireland today.

“This political system is totally out of date and removed from the ordinary person. We need to put people-power back on the agenda. We need to make sure that this government works for the people and not for vested interests.

“The politics of cronyism is alive and well. Our political system is dominated by middle-aged, middle-class men in suits working for other middle-aged, middle-class men in suits. We need real and radical reform to bring politics back to what it is supposed to be – a system that works for the people and is run by the people.

“People the length and breadth of this state are suffering. Unemployment is sky-rocketing. 100,000 people will be forced to emigrate in the next two years in search of work.

“In my own constituency unemployment is growing rapidly. Towns like Youghal, Mallow, Mitchelstown and Cobh are ghosts of what they once were. Whether it is Titex in Youghal or the beet factory in Mallow, jobs are being haemorrhaged left right and centre and urgent action needs to be taken.

“This new Government must make the creation and retention of jobs its number one priority. The Programme for Government is quite vague in this regard and in truth does not offer much hope for the hundreds of thousands who have found themselves out of work and struggling to cope with rising costs.

“We in Sinn Féin have put forward our proposals for job creation and I am asking Fine Gael and Labour in particular to take these proposals on board. Our fully costed proposals have the potential to create 160,000 jobs. We would do this through a variety of measures including investing in a jobs stimulus fund, unleashing the potential of growth sectors such as agri-food and constructing essential infrastructure.

“We have shown that there are solutions and there are ways to get Ireland working.

“The people have put their faith in this new Government to get the economy back on track, to make a change. However change will not be achieved through a change of faces. Real change can only be achieved through policies which work for the people.

“Fine Gael’s flawed policies of cuts; privatisation and attacks on the public sector are reminiscent of the very worst of Fianna Fáil’s disastrous tenure in Government. The Labour Party unfortunately is now part of that coalition for cuts.

“We in Sinn Féin have pledged to use our position in opposition to hold the Government to account and we will do so as we have done in the past. We will provide a voice for those who have been let down by the political elite and we will continue to put forward our radical alternative and to stand up for the people.” ENDS

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Speaking this evening against the Programme for Government, the newly elected Sinn Féin TD for Donegal North East Padraig MacLochlainn said that the people who voted in their masses in the February election had done so with hope in their heart and in the belief that they were voting for change, not delivering more of the same.

He said:

“The Fine Gael and Labour parties campaigned on something very different to what is in the Programme for Government. They did not campaign on the platform of implementing Fianna Fail’s four year plan. They did not campaign under the promise of not reversing the cuts, of upholding the Universal Social Charge, or of increasing student fees.

“Our people and our communities have been scourged by the failure of those in political power to do what was right by them. They need their faith restored not shattered.

“Sinn Féin’s plan contrasts with the FG/Labour Programme for Government in its totality. Our plan is about separating the banking debt from the sovereign debt and standing up for Ireland in real terms. It is about stimulus. It means cutting the wages of high paid civil servants and asking the wealthy to pay their fair share.

“Interest reduction does not go nearly far enough and the issue of defending the corporation tax is a false battle. Intelligent people know that these are simply distractions.

“The real battle is the challenge to our European partners to do what is right, to do what is fair; to do the decent thing and not force ordinary working families to foot the bill for reckless gamblers in financial institutions.

“The Programme for Government is not a template for success; it is a template for more of the same. And it will shatter the hopes of our people, the hope for change.

“I implore you and your colleagues in Government to not pursue this direction and instead to deliver a real republic, a real revolution for change. It is what they deserve.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has announced that Sinn Féin will be standing four candidates in the Seanad elections.

The candidates are Eoin Ó Broin on the National University of Ireland panel David Cullinane on the Labour Panel, Kathryn Reilly on the Industry panel and Commerce panel and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh on the Agriculture panel.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

“Sinn Féin believes that the Seanad as it currently stands needs to be abolished and any party representative elected to the Seanad will work for that.

“We have an excellent team of four candidates and each of them has very chance of success.

“I wish them all the best of luck in their campaigns and look forward to working with them in the future.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin TD for Dublin North West Dessie Ellis this evening raised concerns over the proposed sale of up to €2 billion in state assets by the new Government. Deputy Ellis was speaking during a debate on the new Programme for Government.

Deputy Ellis said: “One of the planks of the IMF plan as we have seen in Greece has been the wholesale sell off of state assets. I note with deep concern that in this Programme for Government the Labour Party have apparently signed up to Fine Gael’s plan for the sell off of ‘non-strategic’ state assets. Of course they provide no detail on what precisely are non-strategic assets. However I have no doubt that this is a plan for Privatisation.

“The programme for government states that they will sell off up to €2 billion of state assets. Given that the most recent figure that I have seen for the value of the public entities under review by the McCarthy group was €10 billion that gives some indication of the scale of what we are talking about here.

“The programme also states that the government will be guided in relation to any sale by the McCarthy report. Given that this report, which is due to be presented imminently, is widely expected to recommend a large scale sale of state assets, that is not much of a comfort to those who make use of the services of ESB and Bord Gais or to their employees.

“Professor McCarthy is also likely again to recommend the sale of Coillte in whole or in part. So despite the programmes commitment to merge Coillte and Bord na Mona, the 7% of this state’s land under Coillte’s control is by no means safe.” ENDS

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Speaking today after new figures showed that unemployment has risen to 14.7% Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín called for the jobs fund to be urgently set up and sufficiently resourced.

He said:

“Unemployment has rocketed to 14.7% which is the highest level since 1994. The unemployment crisis has now turned to a pandemic. The time for talking has passed. This Government needs to actively ensure jobs are protected and created.

“Given how serious the situation is, the fact that the jobs plan has been kicked down the road in the Programme for Government for 100 days is outrageous. Unemployment is a severe and immediate ailment affecting nearly half a million Irish people. They cannot not be expected to sit and wait while this government review, fudge and dither.

“Either the government has a plan or it does not. The real test of this Government will be whether they can foster the conditions to create jobs, curb emigration and take people from the clasp of long-term unemployment.

“Fine Gael and Labour have previous on this issue. The last time unemployment became this rampant was the last time these parties were in Government. The Programme for Government was high on aspiration for tackling unemployment but scarce on detail. The jobs fund needs to be set up urgently, re-sourced sufficiently and implemented now.

“Reviews won’t take people off the dole. The immediate implementation of a real enterprise policy will.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, speaking in the Dáil debate on the Programme for Government, stated that the insurance-based model of healthcare in the Fine Gael-Labour Programme is “highly problematic” and is in deep trouble in the Netherlands.

He said:

“The policy changes proposed in the Health section of this Programme are very far-reaching. Unfortunately, the Programme raises as many questions as it answers on the approach of the new Government to healthcare.

“The Programme appears to be a compromise between the insurance-based models put forward by Fine Gael and Labour. The commitment in the Programme is to developing a universal, single-tier health service which guarantees access to medical care based on need, not income.

“That is a fundamental principle, one that Sinn Féin has long advocated. It is our strong view that such a health service can be delivered equitably and efficiently only on the basis of public provision, funded from fair taxation and with an end to the State subsidisation of the private healthcare industry.

“The insurance-based model which is the centre-piece of healthcare in this Programme for Government is highly problematic. Experience from other countries, including the Netherlands on which Fine Gael bases its approach, points to the danger of insurance companies being given an undue role in determining the level of care received by health service users.

“In the Netherlands today the insurance-based system has run into huge problems with half a million people uninsured or defaulting on health insurance payments. Private health insurance companies are finding ways to circumvent the ban on ‘risk selection’. The Universal Health Insurance basic package in the Netherlands is €1194 per person. Employers deduct a further 6.9% of income. The average cost of health insurance per household is estimated at around €5000.

“41% of people surveyed in the Netherlands say that the quality of the health system has worsened since the introduction of Universal Health Insurance in 2006, while only 8% indicated that it had improved.

“The Government may argue that this Programme is a compromise and that it does not fully adopt the Dutch system. But the problems with insurance-based systems have been well identified and this Programme does nothing to allay those concerns. On the contrary, it is quite alarming that the healthcare section of this Programme contains no costings, apart from those for the limited initial extension of free GP care.

“When Fine Gael initially published its Fair Care plan it promised to provide further details, including costings, but this has not been done. When are we going to see those detailed figures and projections? It certainly cannot be argued that Fine Gael lacked the resources to provide the necessary expertise to elaborate on its policy given the enormous sums of money that the party has obviously spent on the General Election.

“Let it be said that many of the aspirations and proposals in the Health section of the Programme are commendable. I include the extension of free GP care to all, within this Government’s term of office. That is a very big commitment. We are told that the extension of free GP care to certain categories of patients in the first two years will cost €32 million. But what happens after that? Presumably the promised extension to all within the lifetime of this Government will be dependent on the negotiation of a new GP contract.

“We are told that all of this will be transitional, until the introduction of Universal Health Insurance by 2016.

“But what happens in the meantime? Will the Fianna Fáil/Green Party health cuts be reversed? Will the recruitment embargo in the health services be lifted? Will the payment for working student nurses be fully restored?

“I welcome the commitment to compensate the women excluded from the Lourdes Hospital Redress Scheme. But what about the issue of symphysiotomy? Will there be an inquiry?”

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