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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has described the Government’s inaction on Priory Hall as unacceptable and has called on the Environment, Community and Local Government Minister meet with residents.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning Deputy McDonald said:

“More than 250 residents are in temporary accommodation since they were evacuated by a court order on 14 October 2011, well over 100 days ago.

“Despite the fact that evacuated residents have been out of their homes for several months the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan still refuses to meet with the residents.

“The plight of the residents has been compounded by a decision of the management of Dublin City Council to appeal the High Court ruling requiring the council to assist them with their emergency housing needs.

“That appeal is before the Supreme Court for mention this morning. The Tánaiste’s party, and Fine Gael, has repeatedly and correctly criticised the policies and the neglect that led to the property bubble, lax planning, building and fire safety regulations and enforcement.

“The Priory Hall evacuees were failed by the State on all these grounds.

“The reason residents were evacuated was because Priory Hall did not comply with fire safety. This week marks the 31st anniversary of the Stardust tragedy which should be a constant reminder to all of the terrible consequences of neglect of fire safety.

“When will the Government take the Priority Hall matter in hand? When will the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, meet with the residents? When will Phil Hogan help to co-ordinate the search for a solution involving all concerned – the Minister himself, the residents, Dublin City Council and the banks?” ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today on the government’s Action Plan for Jobs, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on enterprise, jobs and innovation, Peadar Toibín said:
“The jobs crisis is the largest crisis this state faces. We have 440,000 on the live register. We have seen long term unemployment rise by 14.5% or 200,000 people since the government came to power.
“There is a lost generation with 45% of 15-19 year olds and 33% of 20-24 year olds unemployed.
“As a new TD it is immensely frustrating to witness the lack of action on jobs. Behind the mountain of spin and press release there is little or no substance.
“At the launch an apparently confused Taoiseach said that the government would create 100,000 net new jobs.
“The Minister for State for Training and Skills on Primetime said the government would create 300,000 or maybe 400,000 jobs gross. Yet the Taoiseach had no targets for reducing unemployment.
“In business we say: ‘You can’t manage if you can’t measure against targets.’ How else will the government know if its plans are working or not, what changes to make, what economic levers to pull?
“In announcing the plan the minister was at pains to point out that it would be delivered within existing budgets and that no other finance was available.
“The budget for Enterprise Ireland has been reduced 14.3% since 2009. The budget for City and County Enterprise Boards has been reduced 30% over the same period. The budget for IDA has been reduced by €10 million since last year.
“The government aim to create up to 400,000 jobs on a reduced budget. This would be difficult in a period of economic growth. Given the policies of this government this is akin to defying the laws of economics.
“What is needed is a Keynesian type counter-cyclical stimulation. We need to boost, not quench, domestic growth. This can be down by two ways.
“The first is for the government to invest in infrastructure that will increase the state’s competitiveness. This includes investment in broadband, sustainable energy provision, transport infrastructure and education. These investments create jobs in the short term and they increase competitiveness in the long term
“The second is to create an environment in which domestic business can thrive. At the heart of this is competitiveness and reform of areas such as upward only rent, VAT, government tenders and access to credit.
“The third is to reform the enterprise development sector where entrepreneurs have access to mentoring training grants and a neutral professional space in which to receive customers. “And the forth is development of the all-Ireland economy. It should be noted that out of a 124 page document only seven lines reflected the need for an all-Ireland approach to job creation and growth. Invest NI, IDA, Enterprise Ireland have offices all around the world, this duplication costs money. They should be merged and the savings harnessed to increase their output.
“We welcome the fact that the Taoiseach has taken responsibility for the implementation of the action plan across government departments. This is a heavy responsibility that we will not let him shirk.”

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Latest unemployment figures highlight need for Job Creation Strategy – McCann

Sinn Féin MLA and Member of the Enterprise Trade and Investment Committee Jennifer McCann has called on the Minister of Enterprise Trade & Investment to bring forward a credible Job Creation Strategy to tackle the issue of unemployment here.Commenting on the recent Unemployment Statistics released Ms McCann said:

"The North of Ireland is second highest in terms of unemployment. We need to see a refocusing of efforts on job creation to include not only foreign direct investment but also to helping the small and medium size indigenous businesses to develop in terms of export and innovation.

"When the large companies choose to invest here they should also be encouraged to locate their companies in areas of social and economic deprivation and where the long term unemployed and those in most need can have quality of opportunity to access those jobs. 

"Educational and training facilities also have a role to play to ensure there is  skilled workforce available.

"Creating the conditions where everyone has the same opportunity to get a job not only makes good business sense but in the longer term creates the equal society we are all pledged to deliver. " 

Ends 

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said that the party will be seeking more answers to the retiring and rehiring of former RUC and PSNI members when PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott appears before the Justice Committee at Stormont for the first time today.

 

Raymond McCartney, who is Vice Chair of the Justice Committee said:

“This is the first time that the Chief Constable will be appearing before the Justice Committee and Sinn Féin will be raising, among many other issues, that of retiring and rehiring.

“The PSNI Chief Constable will be made aware in no uncertain terms the damage that such a practise has done to public confidence in the new start to policing.

“We will also be seeking assurances that the policy will be discontinued so that all those employed by the police will be accountable and will have signed up to the new start in policing.”CRÍOCH/END

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Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has welcomed the decision by the PSNI to retain control over non-molestation orders relating to domestic violence.

The West Belfast MLA said:

“This is a welcome decision and one which our party have been lobbying for. There was concern that if non-molestation orders regarding domestic violence were not served by the police and given over to private security firms, it would diminish the perceived severity of the crime.

“The fact that it remains in the hands of the police will afford the victims of domestic violence a greater level of confidence that the non-molestation orders will be treated with the seriousness they deserve.” CRÍOCH/END

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Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson Brian Stanley TD today welcomed the Dáil Environment Committee’s call on Minister Hogan to use his influence to resolve the waste crisis in Dublin.

Speaking today Deputy Stanley said:

“I tabled the motion at the recent Dáil committee meeting calling on the Minster Hogan to use his influence and to intervene to resolve the situation of uncollected waste in Dublin. I would urge the minster take heed.

“He can no longer deny his responsibility. It is clearly his responsibility. If he is willing to take the mercs and perks he must also take the responsibility that goes with being Minister for Environment and Local Government.

“To date the transfer of responsibility from the City Council to Greyhound has been proven to be a disaster for the residents. Households must pay €100 up front to receive the service of having their domestic waste collected. Further payment must then be paid for each lift.

“Only those with access to email can avail of the reduced €50 up front offer. This excludes thousands of people, particularly senior citizens. Waste has remained uncollected despite the fact that tags have been attached to bags. Relevant bar codes have not been circulated ensuring bins remain uncollected. This is both unsightly and unhealthy.

“Minister Hogan must urgently intervene to avoid a public health risk in Dublin and, in the longer term, legislation must be introduced, as outlined in the Programme for Government, to regulate the domestic waste collection industry in Ireland.” ENDS

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As the Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan nears death, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has called on the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore and his European counterparts to urgently intervene to save his life and demand that the Israeli state meet their responsibilities under international law.

Mr Adnan is being held without charge by the Israeli state under their “administrative detention” system.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk has expressed his urgent and extreme concern regarding Khader Adnan, and urged the international community to intervene on his behalf so it is not good enough for the Tánaiste to simply express concern.

“I am calling on the Tánaiste and his European counterparts to urgently intervene to save Khader Adnan’s life.

“The practice of ‘administrative detentions’ is clearly unjust and has been used systematically as part of the military occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israeli state.

“Over the years Israel has administratively detained thousands of Palestinians for prolonged periods of time without prosecution, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing their solicitors to study the evidence making a mockery of the protections specified in Israeli and international law to protect the right of liberty and due process, the right of defendants to state their case and the presumption of innocence.

“There are 308 Palestinians are currently being held “administrative detentions”

“Apportioning political labels to detainees is no justification for prolonged imprisonment without trial”. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha has described as "hypocrisy" the stance of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his Fine Gael Councillor colleague Gerry Breen on the bin privatisation debacle in the city.

Cllr. Mac Donncha said:

“The shambles of bin privatisation was entirely predictable and was foreseen by the majority of City Councillors who repeatedly voted against privatisation. That did not include Fine Gael Councillor Gerry Breen who voted to sell off the service to Greyhound. His call now for the position of the City Manager to be considered is hypocritical.

“Equally hypocritical is the stance of Taoiseach Enda Kenny. While he has rightly called for a reprieve from Greyhound for the 18,000 householders who are faced with non-collection, his Environment Minister Phil Hogan presides over this mess and has defended it in the Dáil only this week. Not only that, but the Minister actually tried to claim that City Councillors voted for this privatisation.

“If the Taoiseach and his Fine Gael colleagues were sincere they would restore powers regarding waste management to local authorities and introduce a national waiver scheme.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has called on the Government to respond to the charge that Irish money is being used to drive the British economy. Doherty made the charge after discovering that NAMA will be advancing €568.2 million to construction activity outside of Ireland. Of this €568.2 million, €444 million has already been handed over.

Deputy Doherty put the charge to the Government after his colleague and party leader Gerry Adams received a geographical breakdown of where NAMA advances to help developers finish projects are being spent. Doherty said that while 66% of NAMA’s assets were in the 26 Counties, only 41% of its cash advances so far are being spent in this jurisdiction, whereas 50% will be spent in Britain.

Doherty said:

“We have almost 440,000 people on the live register in this state. A large section of this group are unemployed construction workers, tradesmen and associated professions. Nobody wants to revisit the property bubble, but it is clear that there is a mountain of unfinished infrastructure in this state, as well as desperately needed critical infrastructure. In our pre-budget 2012 submission, we called for a Government funded stimulus, paid for from the NPRF and EIB, to build necessary infrastructure and undertake projects such as converting suitable NAMA properties for social housing need.

“The Government continuously claims it has no money to initiate this sort of stimulus, yet we know that NAMA as an off-general-government balance sheet vehicle can borrow money to advance to developers to finish projects, and does so. My party was curious to see how this money was being spent and it transpires that over half of it is being spent outside of Ireland, despite two thirds of NAMA assets being situated in the 26 Counties.

“NAMA might contest that property abroad holds more value at this point in time, but the proportion of spend verses what is currently on its 26 Counties books doesn’t stack up. We need to know what developments this money is being spent on; what the decision process consists of in allocating the cash advances; and why Irish developments are receiving less cash for finishing projects.

“I am also asking the Government whether it believes that money being procured by NAMA on behalf of the Irish state would not be better spent in the Irish state. Given that all and any of the properties finished, whether here or abroad, are being sold at firesale values, would it not be better that at the very least the money was creating jobs in the 26 Counties? Under the Act, NAMA can issue €5 billion worth of debt securities for its general operations – that is, to meet new lending and working capital commitments, so what we’re looking at here may only be the start in terms of NAMA eventual lending to developers.”

Breakdown of NAMA payments:

To ask NAMA to provide a geographical analysis of their advances to developers, both approved advances and actual cash advances, to include Ireland, the North and Britain – Gerry Adams TD

New Advance Approvals of €980m are split between;
• Ireland (41%)
• Northern Ireland (1%)
• United Kingdom (50%)
• Other locations (8%)

Drawdown payments of €740m are split between;
• Ireland (39%)
• Northern Ireland (1%)
• United Kingdom (52%)
• Other locations (8%)

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Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD this morning participated in a press conference organised jointly by SIPTU and SPARK (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids) to launch a protest against budget cuts to be held this Saturday.

Speaking after the conference Deputy Ó Snodaigh, who is compiling a report for the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee on the Single Working Age Payment, said a PQ response he received from Minister Burton yesterday showed that she is cutting blindly and without any statistics to back up her rationale that previous rates acted as a disincentive to work.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“Budget 2012 removed many of the protections that were rightly put in place to help lone parents with the costs associated with returning to work. It has re-introduced poverty traps and put in place obstacles to work despite the rhetoric from the government that the opposite was its objective.

“In response to a parliamentary question which I submitted Minister Burton told me that her department does not collate information on the working patterns of people in receipt of the One Parent Family Payment and she only has an estimate of the number of recipients in paid employment.

“How then can she tell us that the previous rate was a disincentive to work when she has no idea of the level of work being done by single parents.

“The reality is that Minister Burton is cutting blindly to fulfil the promises she made to the EU and IMF and, as usual, it is the lowest earners in society that the government is targeting.

“Single parents have been hit disproportionately by budget 2012. In my work as rapporteur for the Social Protection Committee I have met many single parents and four groups that represent single parents.

“I can tell you without hesitation that the idea that lone parents want to sit on welfare is a myth. I have witnessed first-hand their desire to work. But they must have the supports to do so.

“I want to encourage all lone parents, men and women, and anyone who opposes this government’s approach to social welfare reform to come out on Saturday and support this protest organised by SIPTU and SPARK.” ENDS

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Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe has branded the Government's approach to the provision of community nursing home facilities as duplicitous and contradictory in light of comments made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Deputy Crowe made the claim after Enda Kenny responded to Leader's Questions from Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams regarding the launch of the HSE Dublin North East Service Plan.

Deputy Crowe said:

“In response to questions from my colleague, Gerry Adams, regarding the devastating impact of cuts prescribed in the HSE Service Plan for care of the elderly, the Taoiseach suggested that buildings of a certain age would be inappropriate for housing nursing home facilities. The Taoiseach asked the question, ‘In 2012, is it right to continue to provide services in a listed building that is 150 years old and beyond the planning conditions for development in many cases?’

“This throw-away comment completely flies in the face of the Taoiseach's own approach, as head of Government, in my own constituency. There we have seen, in the case of St. Brigid's Hospital in Crooksling, the exact opposite proposed, with staff and elderly residents destined for an antiquated two-storey, listed building in Inchicore.

“The Taoiseach cannot have it both ways. The contradictions are obvious. This whole sorry saga seems to be a clear case of the Taoiseach, the Minister, the Government and the HSE being content to force through the closure of vital community nursing home facilities in spite of, not only the wishes of the residents and local community, but of all evidence. This is completely unacceptable.”

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The Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has welcomed the fact that the Finance Committee is to scrutinise Statutory Instrument 27 which awards a Junior Minister an extra €17,205 per year on top of the basic salary of over €130,000.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I have proposed that the committee scrutinise this extra payment to the Junior Minister for Housing and I welcome the fact that this will now take place at next Wednesday’s sitting of the Finance Committee.

“The committee will hear from an official within the Department of Finance as to the rationale for awarding an additional €17,205 to the Junior Minister as a result of her attendance at cabinet meetings. It will also be an opportunity for members of the committee to object to this allowance being awarded.

“Enda Kenny signed the statutory instrument on the 31st of January which also continued an allowance for the same amount for the Chief Whip Paul Kehoe.

“The Finance Committee can scrutinise any statutory instrument within 21 days of it being signed and recommend having it revoked.

“The extra payment attached to the position, which is €326 per week on top of a minister’s salary of €130,000 per year, is because the super junior minister attends cabinet meetings.

“This allowance is unacceptable particularly in light of the dire circumstances that many people find themselves in due to cuts and austerity measures.

“The committee will also, on my proposal, scrutinise Statutory Instrument 37 which expands the areas in which Oireachtas members can claim for expenses without any proper public accountability.

“I am glad that the committee has taken my recommendation on board and hope that we can come to a quick resolution.”

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Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said that the Government has “six weeks to secure a deal on the Anglo Irish Promissory Note”.

He made his comments during an Oireachtas Finance Committee meeting at which economic experts on the Promissory Notes briefed TDs on the details.

The economists were Professor Karl Whelan, Professor Brian Lucy and Dr Stephen Kinsella.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The Anglo Irish Promissory Note is an odious debt, the payment of which is causing real social and economic damage. In six weeks the government will pay €3.1 billion to Anglo Irish Bank in the second annual payment of this debt.

“During this time the Troika and European political leaders are expected to conclude their negotiations on the future of this debt.

“The Government has a small window of opportunity to secure a deal on this issue that will reduce both the debt and deficit burden on the state. However the outcome of these negotiations will depend on what the Government is demanding.

“Calling for reductions in the interest rate is simply not enough. The Government must secure a deal on the capital portion of the debt in its entirety.

“Today during the Oireachtas Finance Committee meeting the country’s leading academic experts on the Promissory Note outlined a number of viable scenarios for reducing and even lifting the burden of this odious debt from the state and the taxpayers.

“The Government must listen to these experts and utilise their knowledge and advise in order to ensure that come March 31st we do not waste yet another €3.1 billion of taxpayers money wasted on the zombie bank that is Anglo.”

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Deputy Seán Crowe has described as “unacceptable” a response from the Department of Education and Skills to a question he submitted on the designation of DEIS school status.

Deputy Crowe had questioned the criteria that was applied to St Mary’s National School in Tallaght which despite servicing an area of high social disadvantage was not designated to be part of the DEIS system.

He said:

“Schools like St Mary’s National School are in the frontline when it comes to meeting the educational needs of children from disadvantaged areas. Apart from the social and economic challenges that affect the lives of children from that part of Tallaght, there are also additional factors to consider such as the large migrant and traveller population who live within the catchment area of St Mary’s.

“All of these children deserve help and educational support so they are able to achieve their full potential at school. Ironically, in the case of St Mary’s, the reverse is happening and last week I attended a packed public meeting of people who are angry and concerned that the school is set to lose five members of its teaching staff.

“The Department’s confirmation that schools like St Mary’s have been frozen out of the DEIS system, fails to take into consideration factors such as shifting demographics and the impact of the recession on communities.

“In response to a question I posed on why St Mary’s is not a designated DEIS school, I was informed that the current economic climate and the challenge to meet the significant targets on reducing public expenditure limits opportunities and means that there is no capacity to provide for additionally to the DEIS programme.

“What this means in simple language, is that despite the great success of DEIS schools in addressing educational underachievement, schools that are clearly disadvantaged have no way of becoming part of the DEIS scheme. The outcome of this is that children who need additional help in order to fulfil their life chances will be denied the extra support that can help them achieve this goal.

“Yet again it is some of the most vulnerable children who are suffering the most from grossly unfair austerity measures.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said delays in processing social welfare applications are set to get worse as the minister has refused to recruit new staff to replace the 214 who are leaving at the end of the month under the early retirement scheme.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh received a PQ response today from the minister which confirmed that new staff will not be hired to replace those leaving.

Ó Snodaigh said:

“With 214 staff set to retire at the end of the month it is clear that the outrageous delays in processing social welfare applications are set to continue and most likely get worse.

“It is also clear now that the minister’s plans for activation and supporting welfare recipients to get back to work are pie in the sky because the department simply does not have the staff to do it.”

Note: The relevant PQ and response is below:

Question No: 343 Ref No: 8020/12

To the Minister for Social Protection

To ask the Minister for Social Protection if she will immediately recruit 214 new staff to replace those leaving at the end of the month under the early retirement scheme in view of the existing lengthy delays in the processing of social welfare applications and the envisaged greater role for Departmental staff in terms of profiling and activation which is more human resource intensive.
- Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 14th February, 2012.


R E P L Y

Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton T.D):

As the Deputy will be aware there is currently a moratorium on recruitment across the civil and public service. I can assure the Deputy that the Department will continue to source available staff to fill critical vacancies, including those arising from retirements, by way of redeployment, or transfer from within the Department and other Government Departments, taking account of the Employment Control Framework (ECF) target, as determined by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. To this end, operational processes and procedures, the organisation of work and the staffing needs for all areas within the Department are continuously reviewed, having regard to workloads, management priorities and the competing demands arising, to ensure that the best use is made of all available resources with a view to providing an efficient service to those who rely on the schemes operated by the Department

ENDS

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Sinn Féin health and children spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said the HSE Regional Service Plan for Dublin/North East (Counties Cavan, Louth, Meath, Monaghan and Dublin north of the Liffey) will attack public health services with massive cuts in 2012 and will endanger patients. The Cavan-Monaghan TD said:

“The Dublin/North East Regional Service Plan from the HSE is shocking in the extent of the cuts it imposes on public health services in this region. Cuts of €120.55 million are to be made in 2012 on top of the funding reduction €493.5 million between 2009 and this year.

“The plan reveals that this region will see 400 staff retiring at the end of February and that on top of this up to 561 more staff will ‘need to leave the service’ this year. That exodus of staff will be a devastating blow to health services across the board. And the plan states that these massive staff reductions will be needed ‘before any priority replacement staff are recruited’.

“We are threatened with 100-bed closures in acute hospitals across the Region and 105 long-term care bed closures. €71.3 million is being slashed from the hospitals budget.

“Across all key services there are massive cuts - €10 million from primary care (including cuts to out-of-hours GP services), €7.5 million from Older People Services (including reduced Home Help hours), €12.6 million from Disability Services (including 534 fewer respite nights), €7.92 million from Children and Family Services, €2 million from Social Inclusion Services and €500,000 from Palliative Care.

“These cuts come directly in the wake of cuts already imposed in January, including out-patient clinic reductions.

“The HSE Service Plan and the policies of this Fine Gael/Labour Coalition are attacking public health services in this region and across all HSE regions. This is austerity in action and this is what the Coalition and the Troika want us to sign up to for the next decade at least.

This Service Plan and the failed and toxic austerity policy which spawned it must be rejected.” ENDS

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Speaking ahead of today’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD has described the Government’s legislative provision to award Junior Minister Jan O’Sullivan an extra €17,205 as an outrage.

Deputy McDonald has called on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to revoke all Ministerial allowances.

Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Committee member Mary Lou McDonald TD said:

“It is morally wrong for Government Ministers to be awarding themselves additional allowances that alone amount to an annual wage for huge swathes of the population. The country is in crisis, families are facing unprecedented financial challenges yet Fine Gael and Labour continue to pay themselves bumper salaries as if the celtic tiger were alive and well.

“Yesterday the CSO released statistics that illustrate in stark detail the financial choices ordinary families are making on a daily basis. One in ten families has had to borrow from family members to pay the bills. One in five households has struggled to pay bills in order to meet ordinary outgoings. Yet the Taoiseach thinks its ok to pay himself a whooping €200,000 a year and award his Junior Ministers an extra €17,205 on top of an annual salary of €130,000.

“Labour and Fine Gael in Government have failed to tackle unemployment; they have increased taxes and charges for low and middle income families whilst protecting high earners; they have cut services for the most vulnerable and have failed to renegotiate in any meaningful way the States unsustainable levels of banking debt.

“Minister Rabbitte may think he’s worth the big bucks but his record in government to date paints a very different picture.

“If Labour and Fine Gael are serious about the business of government then the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform needs to immediately revoke all Ministerial allowances.” ENDS

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Speaking during the Second Stage Dáil debate on the Finance Bill 2012 Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that, “this is a Finance Bill that Charlie McCreevy would be proud of, a Finance Bill that rewards the rich and punishes the vast majority of low and middle income citizens.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“In two weeks time Fine Gael and Labour will have been in government for a full year. It will be remembered as a year of missed opportunities and broken promises.

“After all the promises of the election campaign; after all the detailed commitments outlined in the Programme for Government; the first twelve months of this coalition will be remembered not for what it achieved but for how badly it disappointed.

“Possibly the greatest disappointment, felt by hundreds of thousands of people, is how little different this Government is from its predecessors.

“The most outrageous proposal in this Finance Bill is the Special Assignee Relief Programme. It allows companies to bring in highly paid individuals from outside the state and have their tax liability on earnings between €75,000 and €500,000 written off by 30%. This is the equivalent of approximately €127,500 tax free for the high end of this bracket.

“Over the five years of the period this benefit is allowed, that individual will earn up to €635,000 tax free.

“The Minister claims that this proposal is aimed at attracting individuals into the state for the purposes of creating jobs. However there is no requirement in the legislation for those availing of this massive tax break to create a single job.

“When I raised this issue last week the Minister urged me to read the Bill. I have re-read the Bill and there is no requirement for a single job to be created in order to avail of this tax break.

“Worse than this the tax break could be abused by companies seeking to downsize their operations in Ireland resulting in the loss of jobs.

“Fine Gael and Labour had a huge opportunity with this Bill to undo much of the damage done by Fianna Fail in recent years. Not only did they choose not to do this, they have made matters worse with increases on taxes and charges on low and middle income families.”

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Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has described Environment, Community and Local Government Minister Phil Hogan’s attempts to wash his hands of the impending waste crisis in Dublin city as brazen.

The Dublin Central TD said:

“The transferring of household waste collection from Dublin City Council to Greyhound has been shambolic from start to finish. Many households in my constituency have yet to even receive information from Dublin City Council or indeed Greyhound about the transfer of services.

“Despite the Minister’s repeated efforts in the Dáil this evening to wash his hands of the situation, Greyhound’s decision not to collect from 18,000 homes is a real problem for the Minister’s Department.

“Illegal dumping across the city is already at unacceptable levels, so it is unimaginable what it will be like if Greyhound refuses to pick up the household waste of 18,000 homes across the city for an indefinite period. This will amount to a very serious public health issue.

“Non-payment is an issue that needs to be dealt with but if this Government continues to heap new taxation measures on low income households something has got to give. Statistics released today by the CSO illustrate the very real financial pressures low income families are experiencing as a result of this Government’s budgetary decisions.

“The Programme for Government commits to introduce a waste collection fee waiver scheme for low-income households where a private operator such as Greyhound takes over waste management services from a local authority.

“As far back as 2008 the Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly called on the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to take a lead role in assisting and supporting local authorities in reviewing the administrative inconsistencies and anomalies that exist in waiver schemes throughout the country.

“The Ombudsman also recommended that local authorities put in place waste waiver schemes that cater for hardship cases in a fair, equitable and consistent manner. It’s time for Phil Hogan to step up to his Ministerial responsibilities and Programme for Government commitments.”

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The HSE South Service Plan points to a year of cutbacks in frontline services at Waterford Regional Hospital, according to Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane

Speaking during a debate on the plan in the Seanad today, Senator Cullinane stated that he was more convinced than ever that the €13 million cut in funding to Waterford Regional Hospital would deeply affect frontline services.

Senator Cullinane said:

“It is difficult to look at the detail of the cuts that are outlined in the HSE South Service Plan and not be concerned at the effect it will have on frontline services in Waterford Regional Hospital. Clearly the axe will fall, not on the very obvious waste that exists in the system, but on patient care.

“Given that there are several mistakes in the report, it is hard to put much faith in the information they have given us. In one instance it states that one surgical ward is to close, when in fact, we know that two surgical wards are to close and the HSE has accepted as much.

“The report certainly does not give us any reassurance that the services in our hospital are to be maintained, or indeed, that they are even getting the full picture.

“At the moment there are two key areas that require attention to ensure that frontline patient care does not regress even further than anticipated. These key areas are inpatient treatment and surgical treatment, and paediatrics services.

“With regards to the former, we are seeing a reduction from eight to five theatres and a reduction of some 25 inpatient beds. This is going to have a significant impact on the amount of surgeries performed in the hospital.

“Regarding paediatrics services, Waterford Regional will lose two beds this year, after losing six last year. These are cuts that will have a clear and tangible impact on patient care, and the HSE has conceded this will be one of the main challenges for Waterford Regional over the next twelve months.”

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