Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has announced total funding of £2.8million for two programmes serving disadvantaged communities in Belfast.
The Full Service Community Network (FSCN) has been working to raise educational attainment by addressing the needs of children, their families and the local community in the areas served by the West Belfast Partnership Board and the Upper Springfield Development Trust. The Full Service Schools Programme operates in the Girls Model and Boys Model schools. Each project will receive funding of £350,000 each year for the next four years.
The Minister made the announcement at the launch of the final report of the FSCN pilot. Speaking at the event in Corpus Christi College, the Minister said: “I welcome the opportunity to celebrate publicly the excellent work of all those involved in the Full Service Community Network programme, and the support and involvement of the local communities of the Greater Falls and Upper Springfield.
“This pilot project and the excellent work being done in the Full Service Schools Programme based in the Girls Model and Boys Model schools have shown they can make a real difference in disadvantaged communities. That is why I have decided to approve funding for both projects for a further four years amounting to £2.8million. This commitment will help to embed this work in line with our extended schools policy.
“My Department’s key priority is raising performance and, as Minister of Education, I am committed to ensuring that every child gets the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Regrettably that does not always happen as children come to school with a range of barriers to learning which can be exacerbated by things that are going on in and around their communities.
“This means supporting schools who work with the children in those areas that have seen more than their fair share of disadvantage and breaking the link between educational under achievement and social disadvantage.
“The Full Service Community Network and the Full Service Schools programme in the Boys and Girls Model Schools in North Belfast are good practice examples of how schools can work with and across relevant agencies and voluntary sector organisations to maximise the support offered to families, who may be struggling with a range of issues.
“Both pilot programmes have sought to establish and maintain strong links not only between individual schools but also between schools and the local community, and across a range of statutory agencies, the business community, the voluntary and community sector and, crucially, parents. The funding announced today will give certainty to those who use the services.
“By engaging with parents and the voluntary and community sector, schools can tap into local knowledge and contacts that will be able to complement the school’s knowledge and wrap the support services around the child and their family. My belief is that local people must lead change if it is to be meaningful and lasting.”
The FSCN is a pilot programme which has sought to demonstrate the impact that can be achieved in raising educational attainment through integrated and collaborative working across a range of statutory and voluntary agencies and community groups.
The pilot programme has focused on early intervention and its focus primarily has been on early years. However, it has also taken forward some initiatives focused on employability and facilitating local training organisations to come into schools.
The Minister added: “Through the Full Service Community Network and the Extended School clusters that operate across the Upper Springfield and Greater Falls a partnership approach to integrated working has been put in place to serve the needs of children, young people and their families in those areas.
“The work of the Extended School Cluster Coordinators and the Education and Transition workers in actively working together in addressing identified needs and supporting the most educationally marginalised through literacy, transition and counselling programmes has been key to the initial success.
“My officials will be considering all of the recommendations in the evaluation report presented to me today in more detail so that the pilots can continue to develop and improve. I am grateful for all the hard work that has gone into establishing the pilot Full Service Community Network and I want to thank all of those involved in taking the concept of the Full Service Community Network to this point. I look forward to celebrating further successes.”
Gerry Kelly has slammed ASDA's bully boy tactics as they announced they are pulling out of a proposed North Belfast development when their drinks licence was rejected. The Sinn Fein MLA said;
"Pulling out of a huge development because they couldn't sell cheap drink is simply bully boy tactics by ASDA." said Kelly
This proposal would have regenerated the surrounding deprived communities providing local jobs, local investment and food shopping within walking distance for the community of Ardoyne and the Crumlin Road.
ASDA's aggressive marketing strategy is imposing a one size fits all model and it's take it or leave it for our community.
The courts rejection of ASDA's application for a drinks licence must be respected.
ASDA's treatment of local people is contemptible at a time when we are making every effort to deal with alcohol sales in a responsible, community orientated way." CRÍOCH
New education minister must stop increase in pupil-teacher ratio for Irish-medium schools – Tóibín
Sinn Féin TDs have today supported a protest organised by Gaelscoileanna against the proposed increase in the pupil-teacher ratio for Irish-medium schools up to that of English-medium schools.
Spokesperson Peadar Tóibín has called on the new Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to step up and ensure that this proposal is stopped in its tracks.
Speaking from the protest Deputy Toibín said:
“We in Sinn Féin are supporting this protest here today. The proposal to increase the pupil-teacher ratio in Irish-medium schools to that of mainstream schools will be detrimental for Gaelscoileanna and will result in job losses for teachers, larger class sizes and a complete dilution of the effectiveness of the immersion experience for the pupil.
“The proposal takes no regard of the challenges facing Irish-medium schools including implementing an entire curriculum through the medium of Irish and coping with dwindling resources and inadequate accommodation.
“I am asking the new government and education minister, if they are serious about the Irish language and Irish-medium schools to step up and stop this flawed proposal in its tracks.”
Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast, Fra McCann, along with local Councillor Jim McVeigh, have visited the Ardmoulin Place, in the Divis Area area which has been severely disrupted by the discovery of a suspicious object.
Speaking earlier Mr McCann said:
“The disruption to this community is wholly unacceptable. This device has caused families to be moved from their homes, the local community center to close and two funerals have had to be moved from St Peter’s Cathedral to St Pauls chapel.
“Alongside this the comings and goings for schools and people traveling to work have also been affected.
“Whoever has left this device needs to stop attacking this community. The people living here, who spend their lives within the local area, do not want this disruption nor any type of attack happening.
“This community has suffered in the past but is working hard to move on. It’s high time others who think that they have something to offer by forcing people to leave their homes and getting community centers and chapels closed realised that they are not welcome.”
Sinn Féin MLA for Newry & Armagh and DRD Committee member Cathal Boylan has today said that the SDLP are simply playing politics with the issue of parking charges.
Speaking today Cathal said;
“This proposal from the Department for Regional Development is about generating additional revenue, unfortunately that is the difficult reality facing departments following the £4 Billion cut to the Block Grant by the Tories in London.
It is ironic when you consider that last week the SDLP voted against a Budget that gave the Department an additional £116.7 million; it is doubly ironic when you consider that in their much self lauded economic proposals the SDLP simply wanted to privatise these same car parks thereby handing the money over, not to the Executive but to private companies. And when you add to that the fact that the SDLP didn’t even bother to turn up, let alone vote, during a debate on the Public Transport Reform Bill, it soon becomes very clear how serious they are about this issue.
Under the leadership of Conor Murphy we have seen unprecedented investment in our roads infrastructure and in public transportation; just yesterday we saw the arrival of 20 brand new trains which represents an £114million commitment by the Department to improve and modernise rail services for passengers across the North. On top of the £81m investment in 23 trains in 2005 - this means that all the older trains currently in service will be replaced.
So the SDLP have been very good at telling us what they don’t want but not so forthcoming in telling us how we go about solving the problems faced by us all given the current economic circumstances.
I think people will see this for what it is, yet another electoral grandstanding from the SDLP in order to get their spokesperson on everything, some airtime.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Member Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has said that the actions od SDLP Deputy Leader, Patsy McGlone in his capacity of a PAC Member raises serious questions.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"It was revealed during Ministerial questions in the Assembly today that Mr. McGlone, an SDLP member of the Public Accounts Committee had submitted questions to the Committee investigation into NI Water procurement procedures, on behalf of one of the sacked NI Water Director’s Declan Gormley.
“Declan Gormley submitted a list of questions to DRD under Freedom of Information that were rejected. Those exact same questions were then given to the SDLP Deputy Leader who resubmited them to the PAC Investigation into NI Water in which Declan Gormley featured.
“As a member of the PAC Committee I was shocked to hear today’s revelation by the Minister during Assembly Question Time that Mr.McGlone lobbied to have Declan Gormley reinstated while the investigation into the wrongdoing into the procurement of multi-million pound contracts was in progress.
"Patsy McGlone has therefore in my view compromised his role as a member of the PAC which is responsible for holding Government Departments to account in their use of public money. He deliberately tried to act on behalf of an individual who featured in this investigation and that is wholly unacceptable.
“Patsy McGlone should explain publicly why he compromised his position and that of the investigation. His actions have undermined the role of the PAC and the trust put in it to act fairly, impartially and in the public interest.”
Sinn Féin MLA for Upper Bann John O’Dowd has raised concerns that the findings from the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry could be delayed until after the May 5th elections. The British Secretary of State, Owen Patterson, had initially stated that the report would be released by the end of April 2011.
Speaking today Mr O’Dowd said:
“There are concerns being raised that the inquiry into the murder of prominent human rights solicitor Rosemary Nelson could be delayed until after the May the 5th elections.
“My understanding is that Owen Patterson has requested that the Inquiry team retain the report until after the Assembly election. Given that the Assembly has no bearing on this report this appears to be yet another undue delay which is wholly unacceptable.“Election or no election this report should be published at the end of April as was originally outlined and should not be delayed. The family of Ms Nelson should be allowed to see this report at the earliest date and it should then be released to the public"
Sinn Féin MLA and housing spokesperson Fra McCann has welcomed the final stages of the Housing Bill coming to the Assembly.
Speaking today Mr McCann said:
“I welcome the passage of this bill through this house today. As Sinn Féin members on the social development committee we argued that the bill did not go as far as it should have gone on a number of issues.
“In terms of providing protections within the private rented sector and tackling anti social behaviour we welcome the advances but more needs to be done some thing Sinn Fein members will pick up in the next mandate.
“For instance mandatory registration of the private rented sector is crucial for the protection of the many thousands of people who live in this sector which now provides more houses to the housing market than both the Housing Executive and Housing Associations combined.Up until now this sector has been totally unregulated.
“Sinn Féin brought two separate motions to the Assembly to deal with this and I am glad to see these issue dealt with.
"Also part of the bill is protection for tenants who pay deposits to a landlord. We in Sinn Féin have argued this point and hope this will assist people who have had their deposits with held.
“In terms of dealing with anti-social behaviour, damage to properties and the affect anti-social tenants have on local communities has been an ongoing issue and Sinn Féin also argued strongly for some time that we needed to review the anti social powers and how we could strengthen the hands of housing providers and the courts when dealing with anti social cases.
“We constantly need to look at how we deal with this issue; it has become the single biggest issue raised by our constituents.
“In all there are ongoing challenges to housing within the north that have long been outstanding problems that surfaced under direct rule. These will take continual monitoring and vigilance in order to provide first class housing provision.”
North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA has this evening said;
I welcome today’s announcement that 200 social and affordable homes are to be built on the former Girdwood military site.
However, this is a repeat of an announcement made by Margaret Ritchie a considerable time ago, when she was DSD Minister. What people languishing on the housing waiting list in north Belfast really want to know, after eight years, is when exactly will construction on this site begin and finish.
The steering group for the regeneration of this site, which included the DUP, published a mission statement which put housing as a core requirement, alongside leisure, education and health facilities.
It is unfortunate that the DUP later reneged on this mission statement.
If Alex Attwood is not simply electioneering then we need to know when exactly the housing development at Girdwood will begin and be completed.” CRÍOCH
Commenting as the last IMC Report is set to be published, Sinn Féin Assembly member and vice chair of the Justice Committee, Raymond McCartney said the excessive amounts of public money wasted on the IMC should now be redirected to front line service and has further called for no golden handshake for members of the IMC.
Speaking today Mr McCartney said:
“The IMC was established for no other reason to give political cover for anti-republican unionism and has proven to be a money spinner for those involved with vast amounts of public money, to the tune of millions, being wasted on this organisation.
“It has no basis to exist under the architecture of the Good Friday Agreement, had no role to play in the political process. and will not be missed.
“The amount of money invested in the quango should now be redirected into frontline services given the reality of current economic difficulties.
“Further to this there should be no further financial kick back for those involved in the body. Such a golden handshake cannot be justified given the amount of money the members of the IMC have already received.”
Foyle Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, Martina Anderson MLA (Foyle) has welcomed a £12million Childcare funding package included in the Assembly Budget aimed at supporting existing provision of affordable childminding including start-up packages for new childminder projects.
Martina Anderson said:
“I co-sponsored a Sinn Féin motion in the Assembly in April 2010 which was accepted, expressing concern ‘at the lack of availability of affordable, quality childcare; and called on the Executive to implement a coherent and properly resourced childcare strategy’.
“I am pleased to see that this motion is finally being acted on. This announcement is therefore very welcome.
“I am acutely aware of the impact the lack of affordable childcare has on our communities. Report after report has identified it as the main barrier preventing parents – mostly mothers – from obtaining or returning to work or training.
“It has also been identified as a major cause of child poverty in the North of Ireland. Parents who can’t access childcare, can’t access employment and find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty from which there seems no escape.
“This £12million funding package will do much to alleviate many of the problems around affordable childminding provision.” ENDS
Beidh Comhaltaí agus foireann Shinn Féin ag teacht le chéile Dé Chéadaoin 16ú Márta sa Tionól chun Seachtain na Gaeilge 2011 a cheiliúradh.
Tá an imeacht mar chuid de sraith a bhfuil eagraithe ag an pháirtí chun an ócáid speisialta seo a mharcáil.
Ag labhairt inniu dúirt Pat Sheehan CTR:
“Beidh Sinn Féin ag teacht le chéile, le pobal na Gaeilge, sa Tionól le ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar Seachtain na Gaeilge 2011.
Tagann seo i ndiaidh imeacht den scoth i Halla na Cathrach Béal Feirste ar an Aoine, ina raibh daltaí scoile ó Bhunscoil Phobail Feirste agus Coláiste Feirste ag ceol, ag damhsa, ag díospóireacht agus ag foghlaim.
Beidh an ócáid Dé Céadaoin mar chuid de na himeachtaí seo agus tá muid ag dúil go mór le Gaeilgeoirí agus gníomhaithe teanga a fháiltiú anseo le Teanga agus Cultúr na nGael a cheiliúradh i dTionól s’acu.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin members and support staff with come together on Wednesday 16th March at an event in the Assembly to mark Seachtain na Gaeilge 2011.
The event is one in a series organised by the party to mark this important event.
Speaking in advance of the celebration Pat Sheehan MLA said;
“Sinn Féin will be joining the Irish speaking community at an event to mark Seachtain na Gaeilge this Wednesday at the Assembly.
It comes after a wonderful event held by the party at Belfast City Hall on Friday which saw pupils from Bunscoil Phobail Feirste and Coláiste Feirste come together in song, dance, debate and to learn all as part of Seachtain na Gaeilge.
Our own event at the Assembly on Wednesday is another in these series of events and I look forward to welcoming Irish speakers and activists to their Assembly to mark this significant date for us.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has expressed his “deep sadness” at the news of the death of RTE journalist Gerald Barry.
Mr Adams said:
“Gerald Barry’s distinctive voice and incisive and probing interview style were sadly missing during the recent election campaign.
“Gerald was a thoughtful and fair journalist and broadcaster.
“His death is a deep loss to the world of journalism.
“I want to extend my sincerest condolences to his family and friends.”
Commenting on the Debt Relief Bill which is before the Assembly today west Belfast MLA Jennifer McCann said;
“Debt has become a major issue of concern for many people particularly given the current economic; In these times of increased financial difficulty, many low income households which are already living in poverty will feel the effect of debt most.
The recent Comprehensive Spending Review statement by the British Chancellor and the projected cuts in Welfare benefits and in public sector spending and resulting job losses will no doubt spiral even more of those who are most disadvantaged in society into even deeper debt.
Therefore this Bill has to be welcomed, however I am disappointed that we didn’t see an exceptional circumstances clause added at Clause 2 of the Bill, however I do welcome the ministers commitment to undertake a thorough review of the scheme.
The worry of Debt can have detrimental effects to peoples physical and emotional well being and I would appeal to anyone who is experiencing problems or needs advice on debt or other financial difficulties to contact organisations that can help.
Sinn Féin will continue to monitor the impact of this Bill in the certainty that those most vulnerable and in need of support are the ones who are being protected.” CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady has stated the Social Development Minister Alex Attwood is riding two horses when it comes to announcement of funding to tackle fuel poverty.
Speaking today Mr Brady said:
“This is a welcome announcement and will go some way to helping those who are currently in, or facing, fuel poverty. The increased prices and excessive duty placed on fuel, in particular oil, has added a huge burden to households across the north.
“With the Minister announcing £127m to tackle fuel poverty over the next four years, a measure which Sinn Féin supported, the reality of the situation is that if Alex Attwood had gotten his way last week, when voting against the budget at the Executive, this money would not have been available.
“Alex Attwood is now riding two horses as the SDLP wish to stylise themselves as the unofficial opposition in the Assembly while at the same time reaping the benefits of the Budget which they opposed.“
Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Assembly’s Employment and Learning Committee Sue Ramsey has this morning said her party will block any attempt to lift the cap on student fees that comes before the Executive.
“Sinn Féin’s position is clear. We remain totally opposed to any increase in student fees, which would see further burden placed on those students who attend further education as well as their families; particularly those from socially deprived backgrounds. For us, that is unacceptable. Education should be based on the ability to learn, not to pay. Sinn Féin opposed the introduction of student fees and still opposes student fees.”
The reality is that no consultation is required on this issue, given the fact that all parties in the Executive oppose any increase.
Following the recent Budget announcement the Department of Employment and Learning was allocated an additional £50.6 Million. It is now up to the Minister to ensure that his spending plan does not include the lifting of the cap on student fees. The onus remains on him as Minister to ensure that third level education is available to all our community regardless of their ability to pay.
Sinn Féin will continue to oppose any increase in student fees when it comes before the Executive. It is time that the UUP stopped imposing Tory party ideology on the communities here.” CRÍOCH
This morning a crucial conference was held in St. Mary’s University on the Falls Road – Moving Forward Together: West Belfast Task Force: Ten years on – a community response.
The goal of the conference is to examine the ten years of work by the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Task Forces.
Former west Belfast MP and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD who was central to the development of the Task Force addressed the conference and called for the Task Forces to be reinvigorated.
Mr. Adams said:
“Ten years ago, and after many years of lobbying and planning and hard work, the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Task Forces were established. Their goal was to bring forward recommendations aimed at reducing unemployment and poverty based on the economic, social and cultural needs of the area.
Last autumn a number of us met to review our work and to plan for the future. Out of that conversation we set a number of objectives. These are:
to have the West Belfast and greater Shankill Task Forces reinvigorated as a special area-based strategy;
to have the Task Forces realigned within the Executive, with a champion in government;
to have resources set aside to sustain the existing apparatus and outworking of the Task Force;
to establish an appropriate and effective delivery mechanism or mechanisms;
to safeguard major public investment projects which could help catalyse new economic development;
to bring forward fresh thinking from within the community about what a new phase of the Task Force should entail.
Considerable progress has been made in progressing these but we need to consolidate that work in the next few weeks.
Regrettably the political system, the institutions of the state, have been slow to respond to the changes brought about by the peace process. There are some within the various agencies of government who prefer the old ways and who don’t like the notion of equality.
One of the great challenges facing us in the time ahead is confronting this old guard and forcing through greater change.
In this new phase of peace building, the correct investment strategies and infrastructural planning, are tools for change, tools for peace. We must guarantee that no area, no community and no-one gets left behind.
A report submitted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to Belfast City Council concludes that patterns of investment and employment over the next ten years will favour south Belfast most, and west Belfast least.
Our focus, our strategy, for the future must be on correcting this. With local people elected to take charge of local institutions now is the time to reinvigorate and realign the Task Forces.
The Casement Park investment is a part of this. Casement Park will be more than a sports stadium. It will be a community hub and bring with it social and cultural benefits and jobs.
We already have a strong festival and cultural tradition in west Belfast. We are home to the biggest urban gaeltacht in Ireland. Investment in gaelic games is also entirely in keeping with the mission of An Ceathrú Gaeltachta - the Gaeltacht Quarter.
The Task Force has also brought substantial funding into west Belfast through a range of projects including: £21m of public money for flagship projects throughout west Belfast including Conway Mill; the Whiterock Childrens Centre; the Colin Gateway Project; the Shankill peacewall art project; and over £4 million of investment in arterial routes, as well as funding for the Employment Services Board and Health Employers Initiative.
The West Belfast and Greater Shankill Task Forces have created jobs and optimism for the future. They represent the best hope of devising a pathway out of the failures of the past toward a more prosperous and equal society.
The West Belfast and Greater Shankill Task Forces is helping to spearhead pioneering work on the ground in every community, bringing together statutory agencies and community representatives and empowering local neighbourhoods.
And more importantly we are actively tackling sectarianism by working with citizens from every religious and political background and none. There is no more important work than the empowerment of citizens and the buiilding of anti-sectarian class consciousness.
I believe that all of us working together through the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Task Forces and with it as an integral part of the Executive’s programme we can succeed in improving the quality of lives of those who live here and create new opportunities, especially for our young people, in the future.
Transport Minister, Conor Murphy, today welcomed the arrival of the first of 20 brand new ‘Class 4000’ trains at Pollock Dock, Belfast Harbour.
The new train was delivered by ship from the Spanish train builders, CAF to Belfast docks where Translink took delivery and transported it to their York Road engineering depot.
Mr Murphy said: "The start of delivery of these 20 trains represents an £114million commitment by my Department to improve and modernise rail services for passengers across the North. On top of the £81m investment in 23 trains in 2005 - this means that all the older trains currently in service will be replaced.
"The first of these ultra modern trains will enter passenger service by the end of the year, offering the public a high standard of performance, comfort, safety and accessibility and I look forward to the full fleet being delivered and introduced to passenger service during 2012.
"Passenger numbers on railways now exceed 10 million annually a 60% growth rate since 2002 and despite the difficult budget constraints, significant planned investment on the railways network highlights my own and the Executives commitment to improving services.
"Over the next budget period, as well as funding these new trains, my Department will also fund associated projects such as a new Train Maintenance Facility at Adelaide, Belfast and platform extensions as well as the start of the Derry to Coleraine track relay. This will ensure the continued modernisation of the infrastructure and contribute to continuing to increase rail passenger numbers."
Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams will represent Sinn Féin next week at a number of events in Washington and New York.
Mr. Adams has been invited by President Obama to the White House reception and by the Speaker of the Congress to attend the annual Speakers lunch. He will also meet the Friends of Ireland Committee, as well as other senior Congressional and Senate members.
In New York he will speak at a wreath laying ceremony at the republican plot in Calvary Cemetery New York in memory of the hunger strikers who died 30 years ago this year.
Mr. Adams said:
“I am very pleased to take the opportunity to travel to Washington to represent Sinn Féin. It will provide me with an opportunity to thank President Obama and other senior US politicians for their continued support for the Irish peace process.
While I am there I will hold a number of key meetings with senior political figures in the Congress and discuss with them outstanding matters arising from the peace process.
There has also been keen interest in the outcome of the recent general election, Sinn Féin’s success in it and in my election to the Louth and East Meath constituency.
Regrettably because of leaders questions in the Dáil on Tuesday I will not be in Washington in time on Wednesday to attend the Congressional Hearing on the events in Ballymurphy in August 1971. However, Rita O Hare who has played a major role in helping to secure the hearing for the families will be present.