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Some sights and sounds of the Right2Water National Assembly outside the Dáil December 10

Some of the sights and sounds of the Right2Water National Assembly outside the Dáil on December 10.  Includes Gerry Adams address to the crowd and Damien Dempsey's rendition of the ballad James Connolly

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has stated that government policy is making the richer even richer and the poor even poorer.


The passing of this motion, in conjunction with the passing of similar motions in Parliaments across the EU, is an important act of solidarity with the Palestinian people.



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Following a briefing by leading Irish development NGOs in Leinster House held this week, Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Padraig MacLochlainn said "the history of Ireland's NGOs and missionaries is a unique one. Worldwide our reputation for overseas aid and development is exceptional when compared to other countries.”

He said:

“Ireland should be proud of our NGOs and Missionaries and the fantastic work that they carry out globally.

“Despite the economic crisis at home, overseas aid and development is an area in which we can hold our head high. Significant funding is raised from the ordinary citizen. Over €100milion is received annually by the main NGOs voluntarily from the Irish public. That is a truly incredible testament. It is also clear to me that the NGOs in this country are passionate about proper corporate management, accountability and effectiveness.

“The goal of achieving long-term, sustainable results in Ireland's programme countries is only achievable through the excellent work of Irish NGOs and Missionaries, and the generosity of Irish citizens.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government, Brian Stanley TD, has today urged the government to avoid any further conflict with rural Ireland and provide full funding for the upgrade of septic tanks.

While questioning the Minister in the Dáil today, Stanley said:

“Sinn Féin welcomes the long overdue publication of the draft standards for septic tanks. But rural householders demand equality with their urban neighbours.

“Some €2.7 billion was spent in the years from 2000 to 2007 on improving waste water treatment plants in urban areas. This was funded by tax payers’ money, urban and rural.

“Meanwhile we now have a situation whereby rural householders are expected to foot the bill themselves to meet the current waste water standards. This is totally unjust and unworkable as many of these householders are in mortgage arrears and have seen their incomes collapse as a result of unemployment and the last five austerity budgets.

“There is a requirement on the Minister Hogan’s department to provide full funding to ensure this work in carried out. Otherwise we will be dragging householders through the courts and criminalising law bidding citizens.

“The government should compromise in order to avoid further confrontation. He would do worse than learn from the last nights turf cutting debate. Sometimes it is best for a government to engage, listen and compromise.

“If we apply the current draft standards, on a risk based approach there will be a modest number of septic tanks that will need remedial works.

“The investment in upgrading of domestic septic tanks will also provide much needed employment and economic stimulus for local economies.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe met this week with student teachers who have been forced by the government to take a 14% cut in pay and allowances.

Describing the plight of newly qualified teachers as “unacceptable, immoral and wrong”, Deputy Crowe said:

“Regardless of what financial challenges we face, forcing such punitive cuts on newly qualified teachers is wrong and unjustifiable.

“It is also short-sighted considering the tens of millions that are being spent on training teachers for them to then enter employment being paid a wage that is below the industrial average. Some of our most capable young people from the teaching profession will be forced to emigrate in order to get paid a decent wage for basic day-to-day items and pay their mortgage.

“The imposition of these cuts will at best only obtain very minimal savings. They reflect the type of short sighted policies that have blighted this government’s first 12 months in power and will drive a generation of young people away from these shores.

“The briefing that was given by student teachers made clear that what is being imposed on the next generation of teachers will undermine and erode the goodwill and moral of staff who play such a pivotal role in our society. The disparity in wages arising from these cuts will also cause resentment amongst staff and greatly impact on the delivery of education in the classroom.

“Minister Quinn should reverse these cuts immediately.”

ENDS

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Peadar Tóibín TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson on jobs, enterprise and innovation speaking in the Dáil on the issue of state retirements said:
“We all agree that there is a need to reform our public services to ensure that they are fit for purpose, to ensure the delivery of a first world service for our citizens in an efficient and effective manner.
“The actions of this government demonstrate a fixation, not on public sector reform, but rather an ideological driven attack on the size of the public sector.
“This government has slashed essential budgets in health and education, they have failed to reel in the excessive payments to the senior public servants, and they have brought forward the blunt and instrument of incentivised retirement. This has led to an unplanned and uncoordinated loss of 9,000 posts.
“It will lead to the loss of essential skills and experience without the plan to replace these skills. On average, if each of the retirees have 30 years’ experience that leads to a cumulative loss of 270,000 years’ experience.
“In the absence of a plan to fill the skills deficit the options left to the minister appear to be; let the already under strain services cover the holes in provision or rehire those who have retired and pay them twice.
“This is not scaremongering already within the education sector 383 posts are now filled by teaching staff that are in receipt of pensions payments, this is, they have a public pension and receive a wage.
“So we have reduced numbers, we have a loss of experience, we will have a reduced level of service and we will be paying people a pension and a wage to do the jobs there are currently doing.
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Speaking in the Dáil on the impact of the recent retirement of 9,000 public sectors workers, Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, said it has hit front line services hardest.

He said:

“In recent weeks the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has repeatedly denied that the 9,000 public sector workers who have retired over recent months have done so as part of an incentivised scheme under agreements made under the Croke Park Agreement.

“I’m really not quite sure why the minister feels he needs to lead every discussion on the retirements with an indignant rebuttal of the facts.

“How does an employer achieve significant downsizing of his or her organisation? The answer of course is by incentivised redundancies or enhanced retirement packages. It is an absolute nonsense for any cabinet member to stand up in this house and deny the grace period retirement scheme is anything but an incentivised scheme.

“The Programme for Government commits to a reduction in public sector employees by between 18,000 and 21,000 by 2014. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform reaffirmed this commitment is his Budget 2012 announcements stating that government expects to reduce public sector numbers by 37,500 by 2015 from the number of workers in the service in 2008. There is no ambiguity here. Fine Gael and Labour have shouted from the hilltops their commitment to slash tens of thousands of public sector jobs.

“This incentivised scheme hasn’t targeted, for example, the much talked about bureaucracy across the HSE. It doesn’t reflect new structures or seek to complement the public sector reforms we hear so much about.

“It’s been a free-for-all that has hit the front line hardest and resulted in an overnight exodus of knowledge, skills and expertise that have been developed over many years. It is just plain silly for any Government Minister to stand up here and tell us the loss of 7,500 staff in the last two months – nine thousand in total – is no big deal. Change Management Consultant Eddie Molloy has commented that such a significant loss of senior knowledge and skills across the public sector would take five years if managed correctly.

“Minister Howlin can talk about transition teams till the cows come home but the simple fact is this government by its own admission did not actually know who was leaving the public sector until the end of January of this year.

“The Health service alone has lost 4,200 posts – Education 2,058 – the Civil Service 1,236 - local authorities 931 – Defence 362 and Gardaí 310.

“This Government has alternatives to address the exchequer deficit but, like Fianna Fáil before them, it trots out the same failed proposals that have done such a disservice to ordinary citizens throughout the crisis. The people deserve better.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment, Community and Local Government, Brian Stanley TD, has today accused the government of ‘economic treachery’ over the proposed sale of state assets.

Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Stanley said:

“While hundreds of thousands languish on the dole queues this government is carrying out economic treachery by handing over €3.1 billion to Anglo Irish in 23 days while also selling off state assets worth €3 Billion.

“The fact is that this government has failed the people utterly as can be seen so clearly by the thousands of people who see no future at home on this island and are instead being forced to emigrate.

“Scenes reminiscent of the worst days of the 1980’s, with thousands queuing up in Cork and Dublin hoping to secure employment overseas. This money for Anglo Irish zombie bank should not be given away to the gamblers of capitalism but should instead be invested in jobs.

“Surely the sale of state assets contradicts the government’s claim that job creation is the single most important goal of this administration.

“The three companies up for sale, Coillte, ESB and An Bord Gais, paid a total of €1.97 billion to the state in dividends over the last ten years. These dividends will be no more if the government has its way.

“Each of these companies has performed extremely well despite the current economic downturn. The decision to hand over €3.1 billion while selling off state assets worth €3 billion is a choice this government did not have to make.

“It is a choice Sinn Féin would not make. Our proposals are simple, clear and focused on benefitting the country and its people. We would use the €3 billion not for lining the pockets of bondholders for to fund a job creation plan.

“Our job creation plan includes the building of 150 additional state run crèches costing €335 million, building an additional 100 schools at a cost of €300 million and the refurbishment of a further 75 at a cost of €50 million.

“We would use the €3.1 billion to fully fund the regeneration projects in Limerick and in Dublin costing €960 million. We would build 50 new Primary Health Care centres at a cost of €250 million, invest €5 million in a Job Activation Programme. With the remaining €400 million Sinn Féin would invest in a household stimulus plan which would protect families and low earners.”

In conclusion Stanley said, “rather than involving themselves in banana republic economics, this government should get real and bin their proposal to sell our state assets.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has said that it is imperative that the role of the Crown Estate is defined in any new Marine Bill.

Mr McMullan said,

“It is proposed that within the new Marine Bill currently being debated at the Assembly that a Marine Management Organisation (MMO) would be set up.  However this new organisation could come into conflict with the Crown Estate that claim ownership of the seabed.

“For example if there is a decision to deny a planning permission by a wind farm at sea by the MMO would the Crown estate have the authority to give it the go ahead.

“There are many industries that use the coastline and sea to create employment so it is important that we have one definitive body that controls the use of our rivers and seabed.

“At present the Crown Estate gather rents from each and everyone of these industries and while some of this money is returned through grants most is taken back out to the British Exchequer.

“It is therefore imperative that the role of the Crown Estate is defined in any Marine Bill so that no confusion exists. I would prefer the rights of Irish waters to be transferred to the island of Ireland so that any monies that come from that resource are used to benefit the people who make a living from the sea and our coastline.”

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Sinn Féin MLA Willie Clarke has welcomed the report on wild fires but called for stronger legislation in order to protect the environment.

Mr Clarke stated,

“I welcome the interdepartmental report into the wildfires that occurred during the dry spell last year. It is important that we get an agreed approach to this problem in order to prevent further events.

“The wildfires of last year caused untold damage to the environment and the cost to the Fire Service was £8 million while the cost to the Forestry Service was over £1 million.  The wildfires also caused pollution to many waterways and rivers across the North.

 

“The vast majority of the fires that occurred last year were started deliberately and this must be addressed.

“I am calling on tougher legislation to be introduced in order to deter arsonists from starting wildfires so that we can protect our forests and natural grasslands and bog meadows.

“The only fortunate thing about the fires was that no one was killed and I would like to praise the Fire Service for their work in containing and extinguishing them.”

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At leaders’ questions in the Dáil today, Peadar Tóibín, Sinn Féin spokesperson for jobs, enterprise and innovation challenged the Tánaiste on the government’s failure to tackle unemployment and emigration.
Deputy Toibín contrasted the backslapping antics of the government with the experience of people forced into emigration because of the polices being pursued by the government.

He said: “Last year 76,400 people emigrated from this state. That’s 210 people emigrating each day that this government has been in power.
“Last week we saw the 12,000 people attend the Working Abroad Expo event in Dublin's RDS with queues stretching around the building. Yesterday in Cork several thousand people queued from early morning, some overnight, in order to leave this country.
“The curse of emigration that ravaged this country in the dark days of the 50s and 80s is back with a vengeance because of your economic policies. Kids are being pulled out of school, grandparents, won’t see their grandchildren growing up, homes are being fire sold.
“This government have let go 9,000 employees from the public sector in six months. Today the largest private sector jobs loss in the history of the state was announced with AIB shedding 2,500 workers.
“The vast majority of these people feel like they are falling off a cliff. Contrast this with the back-slapping fest undertaken by government parties yesterday. More people are leaving the country than finding jobs.
“It is the case that emigration has become the central policy platform in your government’s response to unemployment.
“The walls of spin come falling down look at the facts. On 31st of this month the government has decided to put another €3.1 billion in to a promissory note of ‘a bank with no customers’:a completely jobs free investment.
“This is seven times the amount of money that will go into the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development and the County Enterprise Boards in total for this year.
“When will your government start to invest in and fix the real economy? Instead of paying the Promissory Note, this money would be better spent on reducing
unemployment, ending emigration, releasing credit to small businesses, enhancing competitiveness and tackling disadvantage.”

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Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD