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Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people

Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



“HAP is not a solution and if the government succeeds in passing it into law, it will have wide ranging negative effects on the future of housing in Ireland and our ability to tackle housing need in the years to come.”



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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Michael Colreavy TD has called on the Department of Agriculture to urgently tackle the crisis arising from the recent forest and commonage fires. He said the fires and the damage caused will have a catastrophic effect on many already hard-pressed farmers in disadvantaged areas, and that much more damage would have been caused but for the heroic work of fire fighters, civil defence and local communities.

Deputy Colreavy said: “The Minister must examine the extent to which state regulation has contributed to this problem in that forced destocking on commonage in 1998 has resulted in grass and heather growing out of control in these areas; providing a ready and volatile body of fuel for disastrous fires. What we have witnessed was fires literally waiting to happen due to EU and Government dictate.”

“It is time the Minister and Departmental officials listened to the real curators of the land – the farmers who for generations have worked and preserved the integrity of the countryside. The irrational destocking decision must be reversed before we add more fuel for future countryside fires”

Deputy Colreavy also asked the Minister to ensure that all outstanding monies due to small farmers are paid immediately. “It is scandalous that farmers owed thousands of euro from Department of Agriculture are being fobbed off by Departmental officials using the excuse that the computer systems are not working. Many of these farmers are on the brink of financial ruin; they cannot wait any longer for what is rightfully theirs. I wonder how the Minister or Departmental staff explaining the delays would feel if their wages were to be delayed by months on end. It would be totally unacceptable for staff; it is equally unacceptable for farmers” concluded Deputy Colreavy. ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has welcomed today’s agreement between Fatah and Hamas which brings to an end a four year rift between these organisations.

The agreement sets a context for a joint interim government and elections next year in the Palestinian territories.

Mr. Adams said:

“This is an important development. It creates a unique opportunity for a real negotiation involving Palestinian and Israeli representatives to achieve a viable peace settlement.

It is not without its difficulties and all sides must be prepared to take significant risks if progress is to be achieved.

The initial response of the Israeli government has been disappointing.

However, the political dynamic in the Middle East is changing. The agreement between Fatah and Hamas reflects this.

The Israeli government needs to come to terms with the fact that the strategic interests of Israeli and Palestinian citizens is for peace. And that peace must encompass the security, prosperity and stability of the Israeli people and of the Palestinian people."

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Speaking today during a debate on mortgage debt Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Dessie Ellis TD told the Dáil that “debt resolution cannot be left waiting. The government needs to start taking housing policy seriously.”

Deputy Ellis said;

“It’s all very well and good talking about supporting the Mortgage Interest Supplement Scheme, but that fails to acknowledge that there are some people whose mortgage arrears are so severe, that they will never in a single lifetime be able to repay what they owe.

“The statistics tells us that there are almost 45,000 mortgage accounts in arrears for more than 90 days. That amounts to 5.7% of residential mortgages – it is a colossal rate given the comparatively high rate of home ownership in this State.

“Unemployment continues to go up, wages are being cut, and we all have to sit here and wait for the penny to drop with the Government while they talk about providing supports to mortgage holders in difficulty by making advice available through MABS. MABS does great work. But a budgeting service is of utterly no benefit to a person who has no prospect of ever being able to get back on track with their mortgage.

“We need concrete proposals to address this. Not meaningless amendments as proposed by Fianna Fáil and the Minister for Finance which only reiterate policies that clearly are not working.

“The Government must take proactive measures to force all of the banks and other financial institutions including the sub-prime lenders who appear to be the most aggressive pursuers of repossessions to provide real relief for mortgage holders.

“The Government must ensure a complete overhaul of housing policy in general. There are still 5,000 homeless people in this state. Distressed mortgages are just one symptom of a fundamentally broken housing system in Ireland.

“Further to this, rent controls, and a Tenant’s Rights Charter must be introduced. Existing tenancy laws need to be strengthened and enforced. The government must take a rights-based approach to housing policy. We said this in 2003 while we were talking about the banks being “flathulach” with the money they lent. We are still saying it now and telling the Government to listen.”
ENDS

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Speaking in a Dáil debate on the revised EU/IMF programme Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Peadar Tóibín said:

“It is very telling that amidst all the detailed proposals on banking, finance, wages and social welfare contained in this revised EU/IMF Programme, there is only on small paragraph that refers to job creation.

“There are no targets for job creation, no spending commitments to get people into employment or to help small and medium enterprises to save or create jobs. In short there is no plan to reduce unemployment, create jobs, stimulate the economy and reverse the decades of wreckage imposed on our economy and society by the previous Fianna Fail Government.

“The election campaign a couple of weeks ago saw all the parties out-bid each other with promised job creation programmes and packages.

“And yet, now that Fine Gael and Labour are in power, talk of job creation has been replaced with threats of wage cuts in the public and private sector, threats of cuts to front line public spending and threats of increased taxes on low and middle income earners.

“Sinn Fein believes that job creation is central to recovery. Job creation is the oxygen which is necessary to keep all levels of society functioning, from individual families to the society to the nation.

“Job creation is the cornerstone of economic growth and growth cannot happen without investment in jobs. This Government must stand up to their electoral commitments and face reality – cuts will not grow the economy, start creating the jobs.”

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Sinn Féin TD for Donegal South West Pearse Doherty has welcomed the commitment by Fine Gael Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to introduce legislation to guarantee that all bye-elections would be held within six months.

Deputy Doherty whose successful court challenge last year forced the previous Fianna Fáil Government to hold the long-awaited bye-election in Donegal South West called on the Government, in light of these new commitments to call off the farcical Supreme Court appeal on that case.

Speaking from Leinster House Deputy Doherty said:

“I welcome Minister Phil Hogan’s commitment to introduce legislation guaranteeing that all bye-elections are held within six months of the vacancy arising and I agree with his statements regarding “the farcical situation where political parties are forced to take High Court challenges to ensure bye-elections are held”.

“That fact that I had to haul the then Fianna Fáil Government kicking and screaming to the courts in order to give the people a chance to exercise their right to vote was indeed farcical, but what is equally farcical is the fact that this new Fine Gael Government is further wasting taxpayers’ money by appealing this decision to the Supreme Court.

“I would ask the Minister and the Government, in light of these new commitments to do the right thing and withdraw this appeal. It is a waste of money that in these times we simply can not afford.”

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Speaking today during a Dáil debate on the EU/IMF Support package Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD accused the Government of ‘an act of political fraud‘ and ‘slavishly supporting Fianna Fail’s failed politics of austerity’.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Throughout the General Election campaign Fine Gael and Labour told the electorate that they would make the renegotiation of the EU/IMF austerity package their number one priority if elected to government.

“Eamon Gilmore infamously told an election press conference that after February 25th it would be “Labours way not Frankfurt’s way”.

“Well, the wait is now over. We have the revised EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland. And guess what? It remains, in letter and spirit, virtually identical to that agreed by Fianna Fail.

“The only support that this EU/IMF Programme contains is support for the failed policies of bank bailouts and austerity imposed by Brian Cowen in the dying days of his failed administration.

“This is an act of political fraud by a government on a scale unprecedented in recent history. They are slavishly supporting Fianna Fail’s failed politics of austerity

“The EU/IMF programme is based on the same failed economic logic as its predecessor.

“And the reason for this is simple. The EU/IMF/ECB are not interested in creating jobs in this state. They are interested only in shoring up our failed banking system, driving down the cost of wages and the level of public spending in a vain effort to restore the economies competitiveness.

“This is not a support plan it is a vicious programme imposing an internal devaluation on the Irish economy which will force more people into poverty, on to the dole and into debt while increasing the pressure on vital public services which in turn will have less staff and smaller budgets to cope with growing demand.

“All of this is evidence, if further evidence was needed, that the promises made by Fine Gael and Labour in advance of the general election are now long forgotten and that the policy of this government is no different from that of its predecessors.”

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD questioned the Taoiseach on his decision to tie the state to an EU/IMF deal that imposes vicious austerity measures on ordinary people and that will make investment in critical social housing infrastructure impossible.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to outline what measures his Government would undertake to address the appalling housing conditions in communities where regeneration projects have collapsed.

Deputy McDonald said:

“The result of the EU/IMF Programme is real hardship, and in some cases squalor. Last night RTE’s Prime Time featured some of the communities in this State that have been abandoned and that are in need of critical investment in social housing. Sinn Féin has raised this matter in the Dáil time and time again. Our TDs and Councillors have been to the fore in working with residents in areas such as St Teresa’s Garden, Dolphin House, Croke Villas, O Devenny Garden’s and Dominick Street in Dublin, in the Limerick regeneration areas and elsewhere.

“There are now significant problems with new social housing stock built at the height of the boom by cowboy developers such as that in Balgaddy and Clondalkin. Despite only being completed in 2007, these new developments have many of the same problems as those dealt with in last night’s Prime Time Documentary.

“The Government could commit to delivering a Social Dividend from NAMA. Unfinished or unsold houses stock could be used to address the emergency situation people are currently living in. Housing Stock currently held by NAMA could be given to not for profit housing associations to take tenants off waiting lists.

“The Government must convene an urgent meeting with the relevant ministers Penrose & Flanagan to assess the total cost of bringing inadequate social housing up to acceptable standards and devise an appropriate mechanism whereby tenants concerns are addressed as a matter of urgency.”

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Speaking following the Bank Holiday weekend’s particularly bad spate of forest fires, Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson Brian Stanley TD, called on the government to work for the introduction of an island-wide policy on the use of firebreaks to tackle forest and gorse fires.
The Laois-Offaly TD said;
“At the beginning of April, there were some severe fires within my constituency and I called upon the Government to introduce the use of firebreaks in that area to prevent the spread of gorse and forest fires. Over the weekend there were some severe forest fires in Louth and elsewhere, however the fire service worked with the Civil Defence and Coillte to create firebreaks (cleared pathways soaked with water in forest areas) which successfully prevented the spread of fires.
“Using this method ensured that fire damage was minimal and that this approach is highly effective. I am now calling on the government introduce an island-wide policy on the use of firebreaks. Forest-fires do not stop at the border, so it is essential that there is all-Ireland co-operation between fire services to guarantee that our forest, bog and gorse areas are protected.
“The Working Group on Land and Forest Fires, established by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food recommended that forest owners properly maintain firebreaks. It is now imperative that the Minister for the Environment acts upon this recommendation and introduces the regulations to make sure this happens.”

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The All-Party Cross-Border Elected Representatives Group who have worked tirelessly in support of the retention of all existing jobs in Quinn Insurance, and where those jobs have been located, have issued a supportive statement to that released last week by the Quinn Group Subsidiary Board Directors calling on those responsible for the recent disruptive actions at Quinn Group company premises to cease those activities immediately.

Spokesperson for the All-Party Group Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has appealed to those involved to recognise the “folly of your actions and the threat they represent in real terms to the very jobs you may well believe you are supporting”.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said,

“On behalf of the All-Party Cross-Border Elected Representatives Group I fully endorse the statement issued last week by the Quinn Group Subsidiary Board Directors that called on those involved in recent damaging activities directed at Quinn Group company premises to cease those actions immediately.

“The All-Party Group appeals to those involved in these recent acts of sabotage to stop and to stop now.

“Please recognise the folly of your actions and the threat they represent in real terms to the very jobs you may well believe you are supporting.

“Whatever your motivation, please, please, stop now” concluded the Sinn Féin Dáil representative.

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