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Sinn Féin budget supports fair and sustainable recovery - Pearse Doherty

Sinn Fein’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said Sinn Fein’s alternative Budget would repair communities, rebuild the economy and renew society. The budget lays out how Sinn Fein would abolish the local property tax and water charges and our programme for investing in disability services, health and education.

Download Sinn Féin's Alternative Budget 2015 here




Latest Statements

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South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has expressed his serious concerns after it emerged that a man accused of child abuse related crimes had been bailed to an address in a residential area of South Belfast without the knowledge of local PSNI.

The Sinn Féin MLA said:

"I appreciate that this individual has not been convicted of anything, however, given the very graphic statements allegedly made by this man and presented to the courts by the PSNI, there should have been a stricter control of bail conditions.

"While respecting due process I am deeply concerned that the correct management procedures had not been put into place to protect children from a possible threat in the area.

"When Sinn Féin and local community representatives became aware of this situation we immediately contacted the PSNI and raised our concerns with them. The individual concerned was then moved from the address.

"I will be taking this issue up with the relevant authorities to ensure that gaps like this do not emerge in future in this area."

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Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hÓisín has called on the SDLP to stop sniping from the side-lines and to join with others in positively promoting the Irish Language.

“Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has recently launched an inspirational initiative, Líofa 2015, which, on a daily basis, is adding to the number of people learning Irish.

“Líofa has broadened the appeal of the Irish language with hundreds of people, from across the spectrum, now busy attending classes and striving to become Líofa (fluent) by 2015.

“This is in addition to, not as a replacement for, strategies and an Irish Language Act.Carál NÍ Chuilín’s commitment to the Irish Language cannot be questioned while the SDLP’s Dominic Bradley seems content to continuously look for a negative spin to anything positive on the language.

“Dominic Bradley should concentrate his energy on promoting the language among his party’s councillors who recently voted against the erection of bilingual signs in both Armagh and Derry.

“Dominic would be better engaged highlighting all that is good about the language instead of acting as a cheerleader for those who like to see nothing better than division among language enthusiasts.”

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Culture and language Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has rejected comments made that she will not resource an Irish Language Act.

The Minister said: "It is premature to state there is no money for the Irish language. It also does not capture all of the actions and the passion with which I am pursuing promoting the Irish language. To me this is not simply about a piece of legislation. It is about challenging and changing how we perceive the Irish language.

"Presently officials in my department are working to determine the scope of the draft bill and this includes likely implementation costs. Until that preparatory work is completed I am not in a position to comment on implementation costs - therefore to say that there is no cash for a law on Irish language is not correct.

"In these times of financial austerity we are all thinking about how and where we spend our money, and I am carefully considering how we can take forward this bill with the best use of available resources - but please make no mistake I am taking this forward.

"I am committed to giving the Irish language its rightful place in our society as a shared language which is very much part of our rich heritage and culture. Scots Gaelic and Welsh have been protected in legislation and I want to see the Irish language afforded the same status. "

The Minister went on to provide an update on Liofa 2015 - a campaign to promote fluency in the Irish language she launched on 5 September.

"Becoming an Irish language champion is not just about the legislation. It is also about spreading the message that Irish is a shared language and can be enjoyed by everyone. Liofa has been endorsed by people from all walks of life. This change is potentially as powerful as a new law as we are seeking to change mindsets. I make no apology that Liofa has cost just over £2,370 - it has since its launch in less than 100 days seen 790 sign on to be Liofa.There is more to come, next week I will be launching a new Liofa rural roadshow offering communities across the North of Ireland the chance to engage with the Irish language. "

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Daithí McKay has said that those that wish to continue the use of academic testing on children at the age of 11 are ‘living in the past’ and have a very simplified view of education that encourages social division.

Mr McKay was speaking after it was announced that the two bodies that hold unofficial transfer tests are to try and establish a single exam.

“At a time when some post-primary schools are phasing out academic selection and other Grammars are increasingly co-operating with non-Grammar schools to deliver the curriculum it is quite clear that the social division of children by testing belongs in the past in an outdated education system.

“Statistics clearly show that children who live in more deprived communities in the north are less likely to attend Grammar schools, that is not because they have any less academic ability than children from a more affluent area but this does demonstrate that schools involved in these tests are involved in social division not academic division. Children are complex, intelligent individuals that cannot be put into academic or vocational boxes at the age of 11, indeed they should have increased choice in post primary education of all subjects.

“The rest of the Education system is moving on with the development of a 21st century education system that is inclusive – not exclusive and the small number of schools involved in this anarchic practice should move into the modern era as well.”

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Libraries Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has welcomed a no named day motion on Community Libraries due to take place in the Assembly today.

The Minister said: “I would like to thank the members for raising this issue and I look forward to the debate in the Assembly. It is important that MLAs are afforded an opportunity to discuss the public library service.  

“I firmly believe that investment in the library service will help build a more educated society, a more skilled society and a stronger society. I am committed to ensuring, against a difficult financial backdrop, that local library services are protected as much as possible”. 

 Referring to the Review on library opening hours presently being taken forward by Libraries NI the Minister added: “At present there is a consultation on a reduction of library opening hours and I would encourage local people to engage in this consultation and to shape the future of their library services.   

“I would emphasise that nothing has been finalised by the Libraries NI Board at this stage. This Board has run several public consultations recently including the review of the library estate. In each case, in the light of the consultation responses they received, the Board have changed their final decision. Libraries NI has proved that it is an organisation that listens to people.

“As the Assembly prepare to debate this issue, I am looking forward to hearing views and listening to how we can tackle this challenge together.”

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey, himself a victim of British Agent Brian Nelson, has accused unionist politicians of living in denial over collusion and insulting the victims of the British State policy and those hundreds of families bereaved through it. Mr Maskey’s comments come after the reaction of both the UUP and DUP to the Taoiseach offering support to the Finucane family.

Mr Maskey said:

“Collusion was a very deliberate British State policy of controlling and directing the activities of the loyalist gangs. Hundreds of innocent Catholics, nationalists and republicans were killed and injured. Collusion was a policy which was about maintaining the Union, it was done on behalf of unionism, it was done in their name. At its height in the late 1980s and early 1990s unionist politicians were part of the cover-up. They led the public denials; they led the public dismissals as ‘Republican propaganda’.  Indeed many elected unionists were little more than cheerleaders for the unionist paramilitaries.

“Now years into the Peace Process political unionism is still in denial. The behaviour of the DUP and UUP at the recent NSMC berating the Taoiseach for offering support to the Finucane family smacked of hypocrisy and was a deliberate insult to the victims of collusion and those families bereaved by it. On one hand they demand that the Taoiseach implement the Weston Park Agreement on the Breen/Buchanan Inquiry but on the other hand they support the British government in running away from their similar commitment on the murder of Pat Finucane.

“Peter Robinson, Arlene Foster and Danny Kennedy need to get real. They need to stop denying the reality of collusion and the nature of the British government policy which saw hundreds of people killed. Given the very strident opposition by unionism to a Truth Commission to deal with the past and indeed to an Inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane it is a reasonable question to ask what have they got to fear from such a process.

“Republicans have long flagged up the need to deal with the past in a sensitive and sensible fashion. Political unionism needs to quickly catch up and face up to its role in giving rise to the conflict and sustaining it for so long.”

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Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness last night delivered a speech on building an all-Ireland economy at the Sinn Féin Uniting Ireland Conference in Newry.

During the course of a wide ranging address Mr McGuinness said:

“Our economic needs do not register with policy makers in London. What can have the biggest impact on our economy is the situation in the South. Our economies are interconnected and interdependent. This is not a political aspiration but a statement of economic fact. We believe that greater cooperation across Ireland will deliver more for all our people than the existing competition between our regions. “Given that economic reality Sinn Féin believes frank, open and objective discussion to develop an all Ireland plan to promote jobs, economic growth, innovation and export threatens no one’s identity and benefits us all.

“Indeed I think in recent years there has been an ever increasing willingness by unionists particularly those in business to look sensibly at greater all Ireland working which benefits us all.“The real politick of delivering proper healthcare, education and in other areas like infrastructure mean that increasingly political unionism must look to all-Ireland co-operation as a sensible way forward in delivering effective public services.

He went on to say:

“The route we take to recovery must look beyond the old economic system and to the ability of the 32 Counties to contribute to a sustainable and competitive economy. The increase in cross border trade, banking and insurance regulation and the potential of an all-Ireland energy market have demonstrated the interlinked and inter-dependent nature of economies, north and south. The private sector has moved ahead of the Dáil and the Assembly, reflecting the reality that the all Island economy makes good business sense.

“There are just over 6.4 million people on our island. Existing economic strategies north and south are targeted at high value, high cost jobs and innovation, research and development, yet we have two separate education systems and disjointed and uncoordinated third level sectors and isolated industries. This situation is bad economics, it is bad politics and it is bad for ordinary people – nationalist and unionist alike.”

Full text of Martin McGuinness’ speech:

The last five years have seen a step change in peace and politics of the north. We have completed the first, full term of an inclusive power-sharing executive, in the history of this state. 

Only this week we have published the Programme for Government and the Investment Strategy.We have faced challenges within and outside of the political process. We have met those challenges and have maintained working institutions which deliver for all our people.There remains a strong unity of purpose, across parties, to build on the achievements of the Executive and Assembly, to strengthen our relationships and build on our agreements.

In this term we face the need to deliver for all our people in the face of significant economic challenges.These challenges are global, national and regional. They are interlinked and impact on all in our community. Nationally we have the continuing fallout from the banking crisis in the South.

Two of our four banks are owned by the Irish Government. We could see in excess of £6 billion worth of assets in the North being part of NAMA. We have the continual fluctuations with exchange rates that create economic swings and roundabouts for business along the border. All of these uncertainties impact negatively on every citizen on this island.

Regionally we have the imposition of the Tory led fiscal policy on our economy without consideration as to their impact. The policies being pursued reflect the economic situation of Britain and England in particular. As our economy accounts for less that 3% of the British GDP it is not surprising that we do not register in their economic thinking. There is no support for their agenda here and yet they seek to impose it on us. They have set aside commitments given in the lead up to St. Andrews to address the legacy of underinvestment in infrastructure and conflict. This position is a disgrace.The size of the economic challenge we face is not insurmountable. The political process demonstrates that progress is always possible. 

The scale of political change achieved over the past number of years has lessons from our economic future. The first is to believe that change is possible. The second is to face up to the reality of the situation. Our economic needs do not register with policy makers in London. What can have the biggest impact on our economy is the situation in the South. Our economies are interconnected and interdependent. This is not a political aspiration but a statement of economic fact.

We believe that greater cooperation across Ireland will deliver more for all our people than the existing competition between our regions. Given that economic reality Sinn Féin believes a frank, open and objective discussion to develop an all Ireland plan to promote jobs, economic growth, innovation and export threatens no one’s identity and benefit us all. Indeed I think in recent years there has been an ever increasing willingness by unionists particularly those in business to look sensibly at greater all Ireland working which benefits us all.

The real politick of delivering proper healthcare, education and in other areas like infrastructure mean that increasingly political unionism must look to all-Ireland co-operation as a sensible way forward in delivering effective public services.Only yesterday the NSMC met in Armagh – with much of the discussion on the economy and on infrastructural developments like the A5.

The route we take to recovery must look beyond the old economic system and to the ability of the 32 Counties to contribute to a sustainable and competitive economy. The increase in cross border trade, banking and insurance regulation and the potential of an all-Ireland energy market have demonstrated the interlinked and inter-dependent nature of economies, north and south. The private sector has moved ahead of the Dáil and the Assembly, reflecting the reality that the all Island economy makes good business sense.

There are just over 6.4 million people on our island. Existing economic strategies north and south are targeted at high value, high cost jobs and innovation, research and development, yet we have two separate education systems and disjointed and uncoordinated third level sectors and isolated industries. This situation is bad economics, it is bad politics and it is bad for ordinary people – nationalist and unionist alike.

Sinn Féin is the only party that has consistently advocated for the tax varying and borrowing powers to stimulate growth and deliver social justice. We have continually called for and will support the harmonisation of Corporation Tax across the island to promote growth. We would go further and seek the power to develop flexible approach to taxation and incentives to promote economic growth, research and development and social justice.

We face considerable economic challenges and opportunities in the time ahead. All in our community expects and are entitled to have prosperity and for that prosperity to be shared. We need an economy that delivers for all. The political agreements that we have reached define a dynamic approach to relations within the north and across the island that can and do deliver for all without changing our identities or core beliefs.

We now need to build economic agreements that allow for the same dynamic and flexible approach. Agreements which recognise that the greatest economic challenge and opportunity comes on an all Ireland basis. We need to approach this issue in an imaginative and pragmatic position and look fully objectively of the benefits of greater co-operation.

We need to look beyond the immediate and into the future. People have seen the political challenges we faced and overcome. We need to believe that change is the only option. We now need the same courage and innovative thinking from all sections of our community to meet these economic challenges head on.

Over the past four years I have been centrally involved in the process of working with investors. We have delivered significant investment including were we are today. I fully understand of the needs of business, the needs of the community and the opportunities that exist.

We now need to fully realise these opportunities. To be open to new ways of working and new structures. For our part Sinn Féin has led on political progress, we will bring the same approach, the same energy and innovation to delivering an economy for all our people.

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A New Exciting Future - Uniting Ireland

I want to welcome all of you here this evening. 

Ba mhaith liom aitheantas speisialta a thabhairt d’ár gcomhordaitheoir ar Éire Aontaithe, Lucilita Bhreathnach agus an foireann a bhí ag obair leí le roinnt míonna chun na comhdhálacha seo a chuir le chéile;- ceann i mBaile Átha Cliath agus i gCorcaigh i Meitheamh, ceann i nGaillimh agus an ceann seo anocht i Newry agus beidh ceann eile sa tuaisceart i Doire in January.

This is the fifth of a series of conferences Sinn Féin has held in the last 12 months on the theme of ‘Towards a New Republic – I dtreo Poblacht Nua’.

It is our first conference in the North. Our goal is to raise awareness about the mutual benefits that Irish unity can bring to the citizens of this island. It is about encouraging a truly national and international conversation around the objective of a United Ireland, and to create open and inclusive platforms in which those with differing opinions can discuss and debate the issues.

At its core this debate is about the future. Of course, as John McCallister has reminded us, to plan for the future we have to deal with the past. Sinn Féin has never shied away from this whether on the issue of victims or on other matters.

Dealing with the past is not easy and there is little agreement at a political level about how we do this. But that should not be an obstacle to the future. Republicans, including the IRA, have acknowledged the hurt they have inflicted.

And Sinn Féin have put forward proposals to both governments, victims support groups and the other political parties, for an independent, international process for dealing with all of the issues arising from the conflict and with deference to all the victims, including victims of the British state and unionist paramilitaries, as well as the IRA.

I very much welcome John McCallister’s contribution here this evening and the presence of other unionists at this event.

Unionists are 20% of the population of this island - a real political force able to shape economic and political policy, and exercise real political power to the benefit of those they represent. They should use this power wisely.

I will resist the temptation to remind John of how this power was used unwisely and ruthlessly, though I do note that there has not been a fulsome acknowledgement, much less an apology for this abuse which benefitted neither unionist working class nor the rest of us.

The net beneficiaries were the unionist ruling class and the British establishment. Thankfully those days are gone. But they are only gone because good people made a stand and refused to accept anything less than equality. So, this journey continues. There is still a lot to be done.

Reunification is possible through reconciliation and all of us have a responsibility to deal with all the issues involved. Tonight’s discussion is part of a process for doing this. It should not stop tonight. Let’s find ways to talk about all these matters. To discuss the different possible governance arrangements - including perhaps federal arrangements - which could serve as transitional measures or as governmental systems in their own right.

Let’s talk about issues of tradition and identity; about Britishness and orange marches.
Let us also consider how we can celebrate and commemorate the many centenaries that will take place over the next decade. In their time the signing of the Ulster Covenant, or the 1913 Lockout or the Rising in 1916 were all viewed differently.
For some they were moments of heroic struggle. For others they represented a threat.
We have a collective opportunity to use these events imaginatively and in a way that encourages greater understanding and appreciation of the differing attitudes that exist.

It’s about creating a new society on this island that looks beyond partition and is inclusive and democratic and is built on equality and citizens rights. Like most political decisions the shape of partition was dictated as much by economics as by unionist objections. Before partition the north-east part of the island of Ireland was the most economically advanced. It was a net contributor to the British exchequer.
At that time Ireland exported £20.9 million in manufactured goods and £19.1 million of this came from the industries centred around Belfast.

It had the shipyards, the linen mills, the rope works, the tobacco factories and the engineering companies.

Partition also allowed for continuing British control and influence in Ireland. It defended British economic and strategic interests.

Both states created by partition have been characterised by economic failure, by emigration, by backwardness on social issues, by inequality and by the failure to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.

On an island this small partition never made sense. It created a duplication of public and private services, two sets of currencies, and two tax systems, laws and regulations. Partition also ensured that the border region became one of the most disadvantaged parts of this island with higher than average unemployment levels, poverty, poor infrastructure and little investment.

Towns like Newry on this side of the border, and Dundalk on the other, were cut off from their natural economic hinterland. Economic development was stunted.
Greater co-operation and harmonisation and unity would transform the economic and political landscape. Imagine the financial and efficiency benefits if we had one education system, health service, energy network and investment practices?
Imagine a border region not plagued by differing rates in VAT, in corporation tax, in excise duties as well as currency.

Imagine how much better off citizens would be if we put in place a comprehensive all-Ireland Economic Recovery Plan which was able to deliver prosperity and sustainable economic growth. Imagine ‘Brand Ireland’ being employed creatively to grow our exports and create jobs. All of these things are possible.

For example, without anyone giving up their position on the union it is imperative for citizens in this border region that policy makers find ways of regenerating and maximising our potential from the Boyne to the Burren, from Newgrange to the Mournes.

There is an onus on politicians at Stormont and Leinster House to co-operate and work together. Within this area we have a beautiful coastal mountainy landscape replete with history, poetry and myth from neolithic times to the present.

In this immediate area it is ridiculous that the people of the Cooley peninsula and the Mournes do not have the benefit of a bridge at Narrow Water to bring them closer and to enhance the tourism and economic potential of the area.

Sinn Féin supports this project and we are working to achieve it. It’s all about political choices and political will. Of course, what some describe as the ‘constitutional question’ is about more than economics.

There is an imperative on those who want Irish unity to engage with unionist opinion. The context for this has changed in recent years and especially with the Good Friday Agreement. In a speech to the Assembly in June the British Prime Minister David Cameron said, ‘as the Agreement makes very clear’, the constitutional future of the north does not rest in his hands or those of his government but in the hands of the people.

As a unionist Mr. Cameron made his preference clear but he was equally frank that the British government will back the democratic wishes of the people whether ‘to remain part of the United Kingdom, as is my strong wish…or whether it’s to be part of a united Ireland’.

Later when he was privately challenged in my presence on this by the leader of the UUP the British Prime Minister stuck by this position. This is a stark contrast to Margaret Thatcher’s claim that the north is as British as Finchley!

It is also evidence of the potential for fundamental change that the Good Friday Agreement has created. Sinn Féin is for a new type of republic on this island – a republic which embraces all citizens – a republic in which unionists would not be the tiny 1% minority in a British state as they currently are.

I said at the beginning of my remarks that the debate around Irish unity is about the future.

There is an opportunity now, after generations of failure, to build something new and exciting and progressive.

I invite you to continue this journey with us.

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Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey said that the DUP plan to charge people £50 to attend a Health Workshop at their party conference next week raises serious concerns.

“The idea that you have people paying to have their opinions heard by a government minister is absolutely ridiculous. In my opinion it is ethically and politically unacceptable.

“We are striving in the North to having a democratic, accessible and open form of government, not a pay-per-view version of it.  This is introducing the Galway Tent style of activity into politics here, something which led to the downfall of Fianna Fail and symbolised corruption in politics.

 “A Minister should be available to meet anyone when it is possible without putting a price-tag on it. The review of the health service should also be open to all submissions and not at the cost of £50 a head nor at a party political conference.”

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