Health Committee Chairperson Michelle Gildernew has said the report into abuse at Lissue Children’s Hospital in Lisburn and Foster Green Hospital in South Belfast raises more questions than answers.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of the Health Committee in the Assembly in which Michelle has called for the Minister to be present, the Fermanagh/South Tyrone MP said:
“This report makes disturbing reading and questions need to be asked of the Minister and the Health Department. Vulnerable children within our society were abused and possibly scarred for life by those who had been entrusted with their welfare.
“I will be asking why this report’s recommendations were not implemented and what files were withheld from those conducting the review. What we also need to find out is why there was such secrecy surrounding it and that no prosecutions followed its completion even after the police got a copy of it.“I intend to get some answers to these questions at today’s Health Committee meeting. The implementation of the recommendations is crucial if we are to ensure that vulnerable children under care do not face such appalling abuse again.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has accused the government of being prepared to introduce unacceptable treaty change giving Europe greater fiscal control over Irish affairs, without giving the people the opportunity to vote on this crucial issue.
Mr. Adams said:
“On 30 September in Warsaw the Taoiseach ruled out treaty change as part of efforts to solve the Euro crisis. On 10 October he reiterated this position.
“However last Sunday the Taoiseach and other EU leaders agreed to treaty change.
“This morning during Leaders Questions the Taoiseach said he had no problem with limited treaty change and refused to give the people their right to vote on this issue through a referendum.
“He also refused to facilitate a Dáil sitting next Tuesday to allow for a debate on the issue of the government handing €700 million over to unguaranteed bondholders.
“The Taoiseach claimed that this payout of money was as a result of the Anglo promissory notes agreed by the previous Fianna Fáil government and washed his hands of being able to do anything about it.
“This is not the case. The Anglo promissory notes are a separate matter to the pay out of bondholders. The last Government placed €31billion of promissory notes in Anglo & Irish Nationwide last year with a promise to pay €3.1 billion into the banks every year for the next ten years.
“The Taoiseach could tear up these notes and his finance minister has stated that he is attempting to negotiate the non-payment of the notes with the ECB.
“The €700 million being paid out on November 2nd is a payment to private bondholders being undertaken by Anglo with the permission of the Government.
“This is a matter which falls within this government’s control. The bond is unguaranteed. It is a bond that should not be paid. Not paying the bond is not the same as defaulting on the promissory note. The Taoiseach does not seem to understand this.”
Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has written to Government Ministers urging them to put in place an Emergency Relief Fund to assist people whose homes were damaged or destroyed during the recent prolonged spell of torrential rain.
Deputy Crowe, who on Tuesday visited the victims of flood damage living in his constituency, said hundreds of families have been left in despair by damage caused to their property.
He said: “The torrential rain that affected many parts of the East Coast over the past 48 hours resulted in serious flooding to hundreds of homes in Tallaght and the wider Dublin South West area.
“I visited homes whose interiors have been badly damaged by floodwater. Essential household items such as furniture, electrical equipment, flooring, heating boilers and oil tanks have been destroyed or rendered useless. Many families, including people who are elderly, infirm and physically disabled have been left distraught at the destruction left in the wake of last Monday night’s floods.
“The mental anguish caused as a result of losing irreplaceable personal family processions is difficult to contemplate and to make matters worse, the financial constraints placed on people have left many without essential household insurance and facing losses with no prospect of receiving compensation.
“I have urged the Government to immediately implement an Emergency Relief Fund to help anyone whose property has been damaged as a result of the wet weather. Lessons must be learnt and efforts made to help areas that have flooded in the past so they are made less vulnerable to prolonged periods of heavy rain. In Tallaght for example, parts of housing estates in places such as Knockmore have for decades been affected by flooding yet nothing meaningful has been done to address the situation.
“I am also concerned that Dublin City Council was the only local government authority that enacted an emergency response and people do not understand why this was not replicated in other Council areas. It is an issue that must be reviewed immediately and a multi-agency approach needs to be put in place for dealing with this type of crisis.
“We have not even reached the end of October yet severe wet weather has already caused havoc to many Irish households, at a time when people are already finding it almost impossible to cope. The Government must make the necessary funding available to implement schemes that can prevent a reoccurrence of the flooding and this should include improvements to drainage systems, river culverts and flood alleviation projects. People who have lost property and who are without insurance must be provided with financial assistance.” ENDS
Officials from the Departments of Social Protection and from Environment, Community and Local Government are appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education this morning at 9.30 to discuss the rates of transfer from the Rent Supplement Scheme to the Rental Accommodation Scheme.
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social Protection and Committee member Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said rent supplement is being used as a weapon in the war on welfare recipients. He called for NAMA properties to be used to double the rate of transfer off rent supplement.
Speaking at the Committee Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“Both rent supplement and RAS constitute a significant and ongoing transfer of public funds into the pockets of private landlords. Given current unemployment projections this situation is unsustainable and undesirable.
“Despite an average rate of transfer off the scheme of just over 5,000 claimants per year since 2005 the number of long-term rent supplement recipients has actually doubled. The government must now at least double the annual targets for transfer off rent supplement if we are to make any dent in spending at all.
“More of the same, public money for private landlords whether via rent supplement or RAS, is what I would expect from the developers and speculators’ party Fianna Fáil. It’s not what voters expected the Labour party to deliver. Social welfare spending on rent must be reformed. It is being used as a weapon in the war on welfare recipients is being waged. There are more cost-effective options open to government that both protect families who are struggling to afford accommodation and make long-term economic sense.
“If the government was to bring forward legislation releasing 10,000 NAMA properties onto housing waiting lists next year this would save approximately €51.6 million on rent supplement spending and raise approximately €15 million in differential rents in addition. So a total benefit to the exchequer of €66.6 million could accrue.
“This money could be ring-fenced to initially make the NAMA properties ready for tenancy and subsequently to purchase further houses from the vacant housing stock each year.” ENDS
Speaking during a Dáil debate on the Central Bank (Supervision & Enforcement) Bill, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD welcomed the protection of whistleblowers within the legislation but noted concern about the absence of any compulsion on the Central Bank to act on information provided.
Deputy McDonald said:
“Whistleblowers provide a vital function in exposing breaches not only of law but of good practice in public and corporate life. We need to ensure the fullest protection for those brave men and women who are willing to expose bad practice.
“I am pleased that the Bill protects whistleblowers from civil liability and victimisation. I am also pleased that this protection extends not only to employers who are implicated in the detail of information provided, but also those outside the employer/employee relationship.
“The Bill also goes even further, providing a mandatory regime for those with senior or important functions within financial service providers. There should always be a compulsion to disclose any information relating to breaches of law or good practice, particularly for those holding senior management positions.
“One concern I do have is the absence of any compulsion on the Central Bank to act on information provided by whistleblowers.
“While I understand that it is not possible to act on any individual piece of information provided, the experience of many whistleblowers under the previous regulatory regime suggests that some form of obligation to act should be inserted into the Bill.”
Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the health services face one of the worst winters ever if further health cuts are imposed by the Fine Gael/Labour Government.
Speaking in a Dáil debate on hospital services, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“We are facing into what may be one of the worst ever winters in our health services.
“If the Fine Gael/Labour Government does not act in accordance with the commitments it gave to the electorate prior to the General Election, then the situation at hospitals across the State will deteriorate rapidly.
“There are now over 1,900 public beds closed in our hospitals. The Minister for Health James Reilly is in denial about this reality.
“The situation in the North-East is extremely serious. The INMO has pointed out that 842 patients spent time on trolleys in the Emergency Department (ED) at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda in September 2011. That is compared to 331 in September 2010 – an increase of 154 per cent. The INMO states that this situation will deteriorate even further in the coming months as the winter period is traditionally worse in Emergency Departments nationwide.
“Pressure on the Lourdes and on Cavan General Hospital has been greatly increased by the so-called hospital reconfiguration process in the North-East – the removal of services and downgrading of services in other hospitals.
“This downgrading process totally contradicts the Minister’s supposed strategy of giving smaller hospitals and primary care a greater role. The hours of the Minor Injury Unit at Monaghan General Hospital have been cut. The Rapid Response vehicle has been removed from the ambulance service covering County Monaghan and North Louth. Services have been taken away from the Louth County Hospital in Dundalk and from Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan.
“These services must be restored. Nothing less is acceptable.”
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that no amount of bluster by Seán Gallagher will hide the reality that, despite previous statements to the contrary, he organized a secret Fianna Fáil fundraiser in Dundalk in 2008 and received a cheque for €5,000 from at least one individual who attended.
Mary Lou McDonald said:
“Last week Seán Gallagher denied that he had received money in connection with a Fianna Fáil fundraiser at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk in 2008. Last night on live television under pressure from Martin McGuinness he was forced to change his story.
“It has been confirmed today by a number of sources that the cheque was collected and passed on to Fianna Fáil in advance of the event.
“The sequence of events in this story is that this man gave a cheque to Seán Gallagher in advance of a Fianna Fáil fundraiser at the Crowne Plaza. He attended the secret fundraiser at Seán Gallagher’s request where there were present between 30 and 35 big business people and property developers.
“No amount of bluster by Seán Gallagher will obscure these facts. The Irish people have had enough of cronyism, golden circles and the ‘brown envelope’ culture. Sean Gallagher is cut from the same cloth as a Fianna Fáil leadership mired in that culture. More than ever it is very clear that the choice in this election is between those representing the failed politics of the establishment and Martin McGuinness who represents a break with the politics of the past and a new beginning for Ireland.” ENDS
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on education, Seán Crowe TD has today called on the government to “protect education and stop the handover of taxpayers’ money to the bondholders”.
Deputy Crowe called on all those who are opposed to education cuts to make their voices heard and tell the government to stop the payment of €700 million to an unsecured senior bondholder in Anglo Irish Bank on November 2.
Speaking from Leinster House Deputy Crowe said:
“It is nothing short of a scandal that cuts to the education system are taking place at a time when the government continues to hand over billions of taxpayers’ money to unguaranteed, unsecured senior bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank.
“In just over a week on November 2 the government will hand over €700 million of the peoples’ money to one such bondholder in Anglo Irish.
“Meanwhile our education system is buckling under the pressure of cuts. Over 200 Special Needs Assistants have been axed, students have had their grant slashed, parents are struggling to cope with rising costs of going to school and our school buildings are still in crisis.
“The loss of SNAs means some of our most vulnerable children are being denied the opportunity to fulfil their potential at school. By taking away such essential support within the classroom setting, children with learning and physical difficulties are finding it impossible to cope and the concept of intergrating children into mainstream education is being badly undermined. Clearly, our education system is failing our young people who are in most need of help and support.
“Instead of paying off unnamed bondholders the government could and should be using the €700 million to protect the education system.
“With this money the government could:
• Build 100 schools at a cost of €300 million and refurbish 75 more at a cost of €50 million in the next three years
• Fund a central book-buying scheme for all school children at a cost of €60 million
• Reverse changes to the non-adjacent rate of grant which has impacted on 25,000 students and their families at a cost of €43 million
• Return the over 200 SNAs cut in the last budget at a cost of €6 million
“Clearly there are alternatives. We can protect our education system if the political will exists. Handing over this money to the bondholders is a political choice.
“We in Sinn Féin are calling on the government to ‘Stop the Handover’ and we are asking people to join us in this campaign. We are asking people to lobby their local TDs and ask them to protect frontline education services. We also have a petition which we are asking people to sign.
“People power can stop this handover. Make your voices heard.”
The ‘Stop the Cuts in Education’ petition can be found at the following link http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/opposesnacuts/
de Brún calls on EU to grasp opportunity for peace
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún called on the European Parliament to grasp the opportunity for peace in the Basque Country following the public declaration of the definitive cessation of armed action by ETA.
The full text of Ms de Brúns speech is as follows:
"On 17th October, an important international conference took place in the Basque Country in which the participants, including Kofi Annan, Gerry Adams, Bertie Ahern and Gro Harlem Bruntland, called on ETA make a public declaration of the definitive cessation of all armed action and to request talks with the governments of Spain and France to address exclusively the consequences of the conflict.
"On 20th October, ETA did precisely this.
"The European Parliament should welcome and encourage this positive development.
"The international conference in the Basque Country also called on the governments of Spain and France to welcome such a statement and agree to talks to deal with the consequences of the conflict. I hope that they will do so.
"I also hope that people in the Basque country will have the right to vote for candidates and political parties of their choice.
"The onus is on all political leaders and others to grasp this opportunity." ENDS
"Ar 17 Deireadh Fómhair, tharla comhdháil thábhachtach idirnáisiúnta i dTír na mBascach inar iarr na rannpháirtithe, Kofi Annan, Gerry Adams, Bertie Ahern agus Gro Harlem Bruntland ina measc, ar ÉITE chun fógairt phoiblí a thabhairt go gcuirfear deireadh deifnídeach le gach gníomh armtha agus chun cainteanna a iarraidh le rialtais na Spáinne agus na Fraince le tabhairt faoi iarmhairtí na coimhlinte amháin.
"Ar 20 Deireadh Fómhair, ba é sin go díreach an rud a rinne ÉITE.
"Is é an t-idirphlé an dúshraith ar a dtógfaí aon dul chun cinn. Agus tá sé ríthábhachtach go cruthófar na coinníollacha inar féidir le hidirphlé tarlú.
"Ba chóir do bParlaimint na hEorpa, fáilte a chur roimh an fhorbairt dhearfach seo agus í a spreagadh.
"D'iarr an chomhdháil idirnáisiúnta i dTír na mBascach ar na rialtais sa Spáinn agus sa Fhrainc chomh maith fáilte a chur roimh a leithéid de ráiteas agus aontú ar chainteanna chun déileáil le hiarmhairtí na coimhlinte. Tá súil agam go ndéanfaidh siad mar a iarradh orthu.
"Tá súil agam chomh maith go mbeidh an ceart ag muintir Thír na mBascach chun vótáil d’iarrthóirí agus do pháirtithe polaitiúla dá rogha féin.
"Tá an fhreagracht ar gach ceannaire polaitiúil agus ar dhaoine eile chun an deis seo a thapú." CRIOCH
Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill will meet with flooding victims from West Tyrone in Beragh tonight at the request of Pat Doherty MP, MLA (West Tyrone).
Mr Doherty said:
“This flooding is not a one off situation, it’s a recurring one that needs to be addressed. I have therefore requested that Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill meet with those residents affected every time we have unusually heavy rainfalls. I know that the residents will welcome the fact that she has agreed to meet them in Beragh tonight.“I will also be meeting with the Rivers Agency this afternoon to brief them on the extent of the flooding and to listen to its proposals for addressing the problem. I will be requesting that Rivers Agency also send representatives to this evening’s meeting with the residents to answer their questions and explain how they intend to prevent any recurrence of this problem.
Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called for emergency accommodation to be made available for homeless people in the face of further flooding throughout the country.
Deputy Ellis said:
“Last night we saw huge flooding throughout the country and especially in my own city of Dublin. I spent many hours last night helping local people deal with the effects of the flooding on their homes. These people are facing a lot of difficulty but they continue to have a roof over their heads.
“There has been a 26% increase in rough sleepers in Dublin in recent times. The people who now are sleeping in alleys and doorways are facing dreadful damp and cold conditions. We are in danger of fatalities from exposure and illnesses from these conditions.
“The city council, local authorities elsewhere and the Department of Environment must ensure that emergency accommodation is put in place to get these people off the streets and into safe and warm conditions.
“Dublin Simon recently stated that they are operating at full capacity and still not meeting the needs of all the homeless people in Dublin. We cannot allow this very vulnerable group to be left out on the streets to freeze. The local authorities and the State must act now.”
Sinn Féin Public accounts Committee (PAC) Chairperson, Paul Maskey MP, MLA (West Belfast) has welcomed the Audit Office Report into Financial Auditing and Reporting covering the 2010-11 accounts of Government Departments and other public sector bodies (excluding the health and social care sector – dealt with in a separate report to be published on 6 December 2011).
Paul Maskey stated:
“I welcome the conclusions in the Report that the overall standard of financial reporting across central government remains high; however a number of accounts (6 out of 19 or 31%) received qualified audit opinions and therefore this requires attention and improvement for the next period.
"Although the overall standard of reporting across central government is generally high there remains some serious shortcomings across all Departments. It is vital, particularly in these challenging economic times, that Departments ensure that they spend taxpayers’ money appropriately and with the necessary approvals in place.
"It is with this in mind that I’m sure my colleagues on PAC will be keen to study and discuss this report at the earliest opportunity”. CRÍOCH/END
Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff said that the big story coming from the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly gathering taking place in the Brighton Hotel is the amount of elected representatives from the two islands who called for a full public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
“The big story coming out of here today is not the non-appearance of British Secretary of State Owen Patterson or the pathetic comments by Jim Wells regarding the Irish Language.
“The main story is that speakers were queuing up to support a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane and this dominated the questions and statement’s that followed the contribution by the British government’s leader of the House of Lords David Shutt.
“There is a range of issues discussed at these meetings that affect the people of the two islands but the Finucane family can take heart that their plight for justice was well aired and supported among a diverse group of representatives.” CRÍOCH/END
Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has said the Justice Minister, David Forde, should place a focus on the European Court of Human Rights ruling in relation to forensic evidence.
This follows a debate in the Assembly today on the Forensic Science Agency.
Speaking today Ms McCann, a member of the Justice Committee said:
“There are concerns with regards to the performance of the Forensic Science Agency (FSA) in the North of Ireland.
“There have been, as a result of several high profile court cases, questions raised about the independence and the rigour of forensic science and forensic evidence locally. These concerns have been articulated at length inside and outside the court by those most familiar with the cases.
“The standards which apply or the processes used by the FSA and the criminal justice system have been the subject of inspection, including a report by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate.
“Sinn Féin also understands that the Forensic Science Agency and other agencies charged with gathering and examining evidence have continued to play a role even though they have lost, for periods, their scientific accreditation.
“This is where the focus of the Justice Minister should lie and this focus cannot be separated from proposals which the he is considering on DNA profiling and finger print samples.
“We have concerns about these issues and there is an immediate need for action to comply with the European Court of Human Rights ruling on the retention of forensic samples and DNA profiles.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane said that the redevelopment of the Long Kesh site will not only create jobs but also be a shining example of how the North accepts diversity.
The South Down MLA was speaking ahead of a motion before the Assembly recognising the potential for the site.
“Sinn Féin supports the development of the site. It has the potential to create jobs and being situated just off the main Dublin to Belfast motorway, it is an easily accessible site from Ireland’s two main cities.
“The building of a Conflict Resolution Centre can see it become a venue for assisting other troubled parts of the world and also a resource for those researching the Irish Peace Process.
“We need to celebrate diversity and the Long Kesh site is one that has a history that is different to many of us. Respecting each other and each other’s history is essential as we move further away from conflict.
“There is a lot of history at the site and it should be developed in order to maximise the economic, historic and reconciliation potential available, this is a site of national and international importance.
“Republicans obviously think of the many people who have gone through the gaol and of course the prisoners struggle for political status. Others including those who worked there also have their story to tell.
“We believe that there are many benefits for the wider community to engage with the history of the gaol but we now need to see work progress and the site developed and open to the public as soon as possible.”CRÍOCH/END
Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann has given a guarded welcome to the announcement of another £40 million being made available to help first time buyers.
Mr McCann stated,
“At a time when we are facing a social housing crisis it is important that people are offered an opportunity to get off the social list by offering alternatives including buying their own home. Co-option is one of the options that are available but we need to remind ourselves that there are over 40,000 people on the waiting list across the North
“This scheme aimed at first time buyers and part of the co-ownership scheme will help over 170 people onto the property ladder each year over the next four years. There is also a provision that will allow buyers to purchase the home from the scheme in the years ahead.
“I would also call on the Finance Minister to provide more money for the building of social housing to help avert the crisis in homelessness we are currently facing”.
Sinn Féin MLA for East Antrim Oliver McMullan has called for a greater focus to be placed on the long term drainage plans for the Mid Glens area. This follows flooding in the town of Carnlough following heavy rainfall.
Speaking today Mr McMullan said:
“The recent difficulties of flooding that the residents of Carnlough had to endure came as no surprise to anyone.
“I have been calling for the drainage council to rescind their decision of not allowing a designation line in the Cranny River in Carnlough
“I’ve asked the River Agency to set up a meeting to discuss this issue and other issues concerning recent flooding in in Carnlough area and the mid glens including Cushendall, Glenarriff and Cushendun.
“Whilst credit has got to be given to River Agency and the local Cushendall Fire Service to the speedy response to my request on Sunday night help with the pumps and sandbags this discussion needs to be centered on how we can focus more so on the longterm drainage in this area.”
Yesterday over £100k worth of ecstasy tablets were discovered following a car being stopped in Stockmans Lane while earlier in the week over £230,000 of cocaine and ecstasy tablets were recovered following a car being stopped on the Grosvenor Road.
“Combining the ongoing work of the PSNI in removing these drugs supply routes along with education programmes for our young people is the key to eradicating drug misuse. By showing people the damage that taking or dealing drugs can cause we can help them to make informed choices.”