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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.

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Speaking during a Dáil debate on extending the banking guarantee by twelve months today Sinn Féin finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD accused Fine Gael and Labour of “the single biggest and most expensive political U-turn in Dáil history” and of writing “another blank cheque for the banks, including Anglo Irish Bank.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“We are being asked to saddle the Irish state and the taxpayer with a unknown liability on top of the existing guarantee of €100bn. We are being asked to write a blank cheque for the banks, including Anglo Irish Bank. Given the volatility in the Eurozone it is highly likely that the scale of this liability will increase.

“Given the risk to the taxpayer involved in the bank guarantee this must be the single biggest and most expensive political U-turn in Dáil history.

“Of course today does not mark the U-turn itself. This sad event took place, behind closed doors in Government buildings in June of this year when the Cabinet agreed to extend the bank guarantee until the end of 2011.

“But today unlike in June, every member of the Government, including backbenchers, will have to vote on whether to breath a further 12 months of life into what is universally regarded as the most costly and the most damaging decision ever taken by an Irish government.

“The scale of this U-turn is truly breath-taking, given the depth of opposition to the bank guarantee, particularly from the Labour party.

“If there is to be one single decision which represents the Labour party’s capitulation to the failed policies of Fianna Fail it will surely be this. So much for not writing blank cheques for failed banks.


“Today Fine Gael and Labour asked the Dáil to write another blank cheque for the banks, including Anglo Irish Bank, to seek additional government guarantees on private banking debt. They asked us to do this as uncertainty and volatility in the banking system increases and with it the level of risk to the taxpayer.

“Unlike others in this house Sinn Féin will remain true to our principles and to our word and vote against this irresponsible request.” ENDS

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The policies pursued by successive governments have exacerbated the difficulties being faced by countless families around the country and are pushing more and more people in to poverty, according to Senator David Cullinane.

Speaking in the Seanad today the Waterford Senator said:

“The statistics which accompany this issue are deeply troubling. Between 2007 and 2010 the numbers of people experiencing enforced deprivation has doubled from 11% to 22%.

“The number of children deprived of very basic essentials has risen from 23.5% in 2009 to 30.2% in 2010 and there are many people going without two of the basic essentials such as a warm and waterproof coat or one substantial meal each day.

“Successive governments’ austerity policies created this poverty.

“Last night government TDs voted against a Sinn Féin motion to commit the government to protecting child benefit. Ironically this came on the same day that St Vincent De Paul launched a campaign to appeal for support and donations for the least well off in the run up to Christmas.”

“This was a clear u-turn on promises made before and after the election. The Labour party told us 'Protect Child Benefit – Vote Labour'. The Programme for Government also makes a clear commitment to maintaining social welfare rates.

“This government has a choice. Sinn Fein’s pre-budget submission presents a range of policy options to raise the finance needed to close the deficit, to create investment in employment while also reducing poverty and inequality. They can choose to protect the vulnerable by asking those who can pay most to do so, or they can choose to condemn countless children to poverty. We will see what they choose next week.”

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Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has outlined a range of measures, including capping the salaries of hospital consultants at €150,000 that could be implemented as an alternative cutting child benefit.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“It was clear from the government contributions to the debate this week on my party's motion defending child benefit that cuts are on the cards. I want to remind them of their Programme for Government commitment to maintain social welfare rates and the crystal clear pre-election promises made by the Labour Party in exchange for votes. Even at this late stage I would urge the government not to cut child benefit.

“The Minister is wrong to pretend that she no choice due to the financial situation.  There are a range of alternatives open to government.  For example if the salaries of hospital consultants were to be capped at €150,000 by government this would save €100 million, phasing out state subsidies to private education, reducing spending on rent supplement by providing more social housing which is cheaper would each save €20 million and recouping social transfers from employers paid to wrongfully dismissed employees would save €12 million.

“These are just a selection of the options open to government.  Combined these measures would generate savings totalling €152 million which is equal to the savings the government proposes to make with a cut to child benefit.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin transport spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD has called once again on the Minister of State Alan Kelly to publish his review group’s report on the taxi industry and finally get underway the long overdue reform of the system.

Deputy Ellis said:

“The taxi industry’s reputation has been severely damaged by the scandal which surrounded the establishment of this review group. Ordinary hardworking single licence holders are struggling to make ends meet, to uphold their good names and ensure that their job remain sustainable. The Minister and his group have given them very little hope.

“The first insult was to include no representative of single licence holders on the review group. Despite what Minister Kelly claimed, the taxi drivers selected were multi licence holders or operators who do not represent the interests or experiences of the majority of taxi drivers.

“The process of reform has barely even begun. There is a lot of change needed to existing legislation. We have set out what changes we see as needed which we developed in conjunction with ordinary taxi drivers but the Minister refused to meet us. We need this published now so that legislative reform can begin. It is essential for the livelihoods of so many people and the safety of road users and taxi customers. He cannot allow this report to go unpublished until the New Year or attempt to fly under the radar by publishing during the budget period.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Environment, Community & Local Government Brian Stanley TD has today challenged the Minister for Environment Phil Hogan, “to seize the opportunity to tackle climate change on an all-Ireland basis now that the Assembly will be introducing a climate change bill.”

Speaking this morning in the Dáil Deputy Stanley said, “Now that the Stormont Assembly will be introducing a Climate Change Bill Minister Hogan has no excuse not to introduce a similar bill here. Minister Hogan must give a date for the introduction of a Climate Change Bill. It is ridiculous to think that the challenges of climate change will stop at the border.

“We now have a unique opportunity to develop an integrated, cross border approach to the challenges that face Ireland in meeting our international demands.  An all-Ireland Climate Change Bill is the logical way to progress this issue.

“We must also engage fully with the assembly to ensure the bill is all-Ireland in nature. The bill must be time framed and must go beyond simply meeting EU standards. We have an opportunity to set new standards which will ensure that the negative impact of climate change will be tackled on an all-Ireland basis.

“I would urge Minster Hogan to meet with his Northern counterpart to agree how to proceed with an integrated, all Ireland approach to tackling climate change.” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD called on Labour and Fine Gael to lift the guillotine on today’s Dáil debate on the Government’s decision to extend the bank guarantee.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Sinn Féin opposes the limited time allowed for Dáil Deputies to discuss the extension of the Eligible Liabilities Guarantee scheme.

“The Labour Party has been very vocal in recent years in highlighting its opposition to the Bank Guarantee.

“Yet here they are in government with an opportunity to put their rhetoric into action but lo and behold Labour party Ministers have made yet another post-election policy U-turn.

“Perhaps the real rationale for Government guillotining yet another Dáil debate is so Labour Ministers and back benchers can escape having to explain to the people why they now support the extension of the banking guarantee.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Michelle Gildernew MLA has called on people to wear a red ribbon to mark World AIDS Day today 1st December Ms Gildernew said:

"Thursday December 1st is World AIDS Day, a day in which the world comes out in solidarity and support for those who are living with HIV and AIDS.

“There are an estimated 40 million people living with HIV globally, up from an estimated 36.6 million in 2002."

"We would be foolish to believe this epidemic does not touch the lives of people in Ireland."

“The latest figures released today show an increase in HIV of 20% in the North so we cannot be complacent or believe that this illness has gone away.  I would urge people to practice safe sex and take precautions such as wearing a condom to protect themselves from the HIV virus.

"The Red Ribbon is the international symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness and is used to promote awareness and support of a worthy cause and to remind others of the need for their continued support and commitment.

"We must constantly be proactive in supporting prevention awareness programmes for HIV in Ireland, these programmes must be sustained and given the proper funding to help reduce the levels of new infections and put in place the support services that are needed for caring for those suffering with HIV.”

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Speaking in the Dáil this morning during leader’s questions Sinn Féin Deputy Leader and Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD criticised the Tánaiste for his government’s failure to tackle soaring unemployment and also the Transport Ministers derisory comments on radio this morning regarding next week’s budget.

Deputy McDonald said:

“Transport Minister Leo the Lion gazumped the entire government and announced the Budget this morning on radio. Minister Varadkar suggested that nobody will be worse off after this budget.

“To add insult to injury Minister Varadkar believes the only people who will pay the price of Budget 2012 will be Ministers and senior civil servants as the rest of us will all be off on yet another holiday.

“The Transport Minister’s comments are an insult to the 448,600 citizens who are now on the dole. Minister Varadkar's comments are an insult to the 22.5% who are living in deprivation unable to heat their home during the winter months.”

Deputy McDonald challenged the Tánaiste asking him did he too believe this Budget will be easy on struggling families and the vulnerable.

“The Labour party are preparing to back a savagely unfair Budget. What is the purpose of Labour remaining in this Government; is it just to act as a mud guard for Fine Gael and explain away their right wing policies and downright offensive views?

“We have seen this week the half-hearted measures this Government has taken to tackle the pension’s scandal. Labour and Fine Gael, you’re going to take €1 a day off Ray Burke and leave former Taoisigh to live off €147,000 a year in what is nothing more than a tokenistic gesture.

“This government protects the high rollers whilst it lines up cuts to child benefit, increases in student registration fees and threatens to close community nursing homes across the state. All the while breaking the commitments you made to the electorate to get into office. Nine months in government and all Labour and Fine Gael have to show for their efforts is the same failed politics of their predecessors.” ENDS 

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Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said any cut in Child Benefit in the Budget would be against the commitments in the Programmme for Government and in breach of the Labour Party's pre-election pledges.

He called on Labour and Fine Gael TDs to support the Sinn Féin private members' motion to protect Child Benefit in tonight's Dáil vote. He said:

“'Protect Child Benefit – Vote Labour' declared the Labour Party posters before the General Election.

“'We will maintain social welfare rates' declares the Fine Gael/Labour Programme for Government.

“All that the Sinn Féin motion seeks to do is to require the Government to fulfil its own Programme adopted only nine months ago.

“It does not propose increases in social welfare rates, although many such would be justified.

“It simply asks the members of Fine Gael and Labour to walk through the lobbies tonight and fulfil their commitments to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

“Today we saw the release of figures showing a rise in the Live Register of Jobseekers Benefit and Allowance claimants to 448,600. We have nearly 450,000 people unemployed, many of them with young children, many of them newly jobless and with mortgages to pay, and yet this Government is actually contemplating cutting Child Benefit.

“Many also are experiencing long-term unemployment and generational unemployment, putting them and their children on the margins. For these people a cut to Child Benefit is almost unthinkable.”

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