Sinn Féin has reacted angrily to the announcement that the Military of Defence (MOD) have secured a £1million rates rebate on the properties they occupy at Ballykelly Barracks, Magilligan Point and Clooney Road.
The party's local economic spokesperson Cllr Paddy Butcher said:
"We are delighted to see the British Army demilitarise Ballykelly but we are not happy with the price to be paid.
"The rates assessment regulations were changed in 2003 and the MOD have been granted a rebate totalling £926,242 backdated to the year ending 2004. Of this £536,104 will be reclaimed from the Regional Authority but the rate payers of Limavady will be forced to pay the balance of £390,139."
Cllr Butcher who sits on the Limavady Audit Committee said the issue had been discussed at last weeks meeting of that committee.
"This will totally wipe out our reserves which already fall well below the minimum £700,000 level recommended by the Local Government Auditor. We are now running on an empty tank. This council's finalisation of the Penny Product for 2008/2009 will have to be adjusted by £390,000.
"We will demand that council officials appeal this decision. Sinn Féin contends that if the Rate Valuation Authority is responsible for this situation then they should pick up the bill not the rate payers of Limavady. We will also be demanding an explanation about why we were not informed of the MOD appeal at an earlier stage. When it comes to financial management surprises like this are just not acceptable. With the borough reeling from soaring unemployment this is the last thing we need. " CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed proposals to amend EU regulations to allow member states to set up a School Fruit Scheme that would both provide free fruit and vegetables to schoolchildren and support the local farming industry.
Ms de Brún first called for the introduction of a Schools Fruit Scheme in September 2007 when she welcomed the update of the EU milk-for-children initiative to provide school children with milk across Europe.
Ms de Brún said:
"There is now a proposal on the table that would allow EU member states to develop a School Fruit Scheme that would include the free distribution of fruit (and/or vegetables) to schools. It will also allow states that have fruit programmes to extend these schemes.
"This can not only make a real impact on the eating habits of our children but can also have a long-term benefit for our fruit and vegetable producers. Obesity and poor diets have never been such a problem as they are now and EU action will be very welcome.
"The provision of EU aid under a Schools Fruit Scheme would both meet EU objectives in relation to CAP and this farming sector but would also provide a policy and funding framework for initiatives aimed at increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in the diet of children at a stage where their lifelong eating habits are formed.
"As Minister for Health, and lead Minister for the Investing for Health strategy in the last power-sharing Executive, I oversaw the launch of a pilot scheme which included fresh fruit for children. I am convinced that this new initiative can prove to be very beneficial." ENDS
Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff today attended the launch of the Billy Caldwell Foundation IN Stormont today. The foundation aims to help sufferers of Severe Intractable Epilepsy.
Speaking after the launch Mr McElduff said:
"At the launch of the Billy Caldwell Foundation today I was pleased to renew my acquaintance with the Caldwell family. Billy is making great progress and is now walking with the help of intensive physiotherapy and a walking aid.
"This alone validates his mothers, Charlottes decision to secure the best possible treatment for her son in Chicago.
"The launch of the Billy Caldwell Foundation aims to raise awareness of Billy's condition but also to raise funds to help other children's and families who suffer from this condition and to establish a local centre of excellence to treat this illness.
"So far there has been no support coming from the Minister of Health, Michael McGimpsey. The Minister cannot afford to walk on the other side of the road from Billy Caldwell. Other children and families are affected by severe intractable epilepsy and will benefit if young Billy is supported by the department of Health.
"The Minister for Health has to step up to plate and either provide the monies for treating severe intractable epilepsy in the North of Ireland or indeed contribute to the costs of sufferers being treated in the USA." CRÍOCH
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the publication of a new handbook on monitoring and reporting homophobic and transphobic incidents by ILGA-Europe (Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights).
Ms de Brún said:
"This new handbook examines the relevant human rights instruments and obligations which can be used in relation to incidents and violence motivated by hatred towards people because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
"This gives rights' advocates and individuals access to tools that they can use to fight discrimination and injustice.
"It also lays out a clear a methodology to help document and record incidences of homophobic and transphobic violence and gives advice about how to report such incidences to national, European and international institutions.
"In examining how to report homophobic or transphobic hate crime and human rights abuses at both international and European levels, the handbook also considers the different international institutions and human rights bodies that monitor implementation of human rights standards and provides advice on how to approach them.
"This publication is designed as a tool for LGBT and human rights organisations to address violence based on discriminatory motives. The publication is part of a three-year project which aims to assist ILGA-Europe to monitor and report violence and also support them in working together with the police." ENDS
Note to Editors
ILGA-Europe's latest publication Handbook on monitoring and reporting homophobic and transphobic incidents is now available online at:
Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has today urged the government not to revert to type by falling back on shortsighted cuts in public services that will cause lasting damage on the economy. The Deputy said "Budget 2009 should be seen by the government as an opportunity to take the first steps on the road to economic recovery."
The Louth Deputy said:
"In Sinn Féin's pre budget submission 'Realising Ireland's Potential' we have stated that despite the current difficulties the Irish economy can be turned around. However this can only happen if the government has the savvy to use the next twelve months to tackle the fall-out from the financial crisis and the construction sector collapse.
"Budget 2009 must aim to stabilise and re-invigorate the economy, prioritise job creation, deal with the needs of low to middle income earners facing unprecedented cost-of-living pressures, tackle unemployment and address the massive shortfall in public finances.
"The government's decision to underwrite the banks means there will now be particular focus on any attempts to cut public spending. The Irish people will not accept government claims of an empty purse in the wake of such a momentous guarantee.
"The government's intervention in the financial sector has given the Minister for Finance significant powers over the Irish banks. It is essential that he uses those powers for the benefit of the state and ensures proper payback for the taxpayers who have funded this insurance scheme. The terms and conditions of the guarantee must include a new bank levy to be introduced with immediate effect and a proportion of the money should be diverted to MABS to help homeowners in current difficulty. In addition the government should take a shareholding in the banks as part of the proposed bank guarantee levy. However with a projected tax receipt shortfall of €6.5 billion for 2008 and an exchequer deficit of €15 billion by the end of 2009 the monies appear not to be there for government to consider the recapitalization of Irish banks.
"Within the Sinn Féin pre budget submission we have made a number of public finance proposals. Increasing the PAYE tax credit by 5% would meet the current annual cost of living increase. Revenue acquired through the introduction of a 1% increase in the health levy for those earning in excess of 100,000 euro could be channelled into increasing the income threshold for the medical card.
"The government, through the Commission on Taxation, should undertake a rolling review of taxation, to increase the number of income tax bands in order to assist those on low to medium incomes and ensure those on higher incomes are paying their fair share. We have also called on government to remove the PRSI ceiling.
"Up to one billion euro could be raised by making all discretionary tax relief schemes available only at the standard rate, with exemptions applied only if there is a proven benefit to the Exchequer.
"Tomorrow's Budget must be used by the government as an opportunity to turn around the fortunes of the state whilst in tandem protecting the most vulnerable and a reprioritising of job creation and enterprise to ensure the economy's sustainability into the future." ENDS
Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly MLA today congratulated Help the Aged for securing almost £1,250,000 of unclaimed benefits for older people.
The organisation achieved this through its free and confidential helpline, Seniorline, which provides assistance and advice to older people, their families, friends and carers.
Speaking at the launch of Help the Aged's Seniorline Benchmark Report, Minister Gerry Kelly said:
"It is obvious from the Benchmark Report, that Seniorline is more than a helpline. In many cases it is probably a lifeline to our older people. Last year it secured almost £1,250,000 of unclaimed benefits for older people, an increase of 40 per cent on previous year.
"Such issues are crucial to the well being and quality of life of our older people. We would hope that the Advocate would play a vital part in helping to ensure that all relevant services for older people, including benefits, would be as straightforward as possible." ENDS
Sinn Féin today tabled a motion in the Assembly calling on Margaret Ritchie to act on introducing legislation in order to regulate private landlords throughout the North of Ireland.
Speaking following the motion today Sinn Féin housing Spokesperson and West Belfast MLA Fra McCann said,
"There can be no excuses for continuing to delay this important and much needed legislation. People across the Six Counties, and in particularly in areas like inner city Belfast are calling out for effective measures to regulate private landlords; this legislation will only serve to benefit landlords and their tenants.
"While there are many responsible landlords who would surely welcome mandatory registration, there are also unscrupulous landlords who charge extortionate rents, provide substandard and even dangerous accommodation and who prey on the vulnerable. For too long this sector has been unregulated and both statutory and voluntary registration has failed, leaving it to market forces to regulate the sector which has only made matters worse.
Sinn Féin will continue to lobbying on this issue both inside and outside of the Assembly and looks forward to Minister making clear her proposals of r the registration on private landlords."
Sinn Féin Armagh City and District Councillor Mary Doyle has said that the party has blocked the council's Annual Report because of its failure to properly address the issue of equality.
Cllr. Doyle said,
"There have been many council debates about issues such as the Irish Language, flags and emblems policy and the personal attacks that followed the Sinn Féin demand for proper scrutiny of the spending of ratepayers' money. I find it very disturbing that Armagh council in its Annual Report has chosen to ignore these issues.
"Many local people have voiced concerns about the council's flags and emblems policy. While at the same time many unionist councillors seem to view the very mention of the word 'Irish' as a problem.
"Over the past 12 months, substantial work has been done within the council to make a bid to the National Lottery to develop the Demense (council grounds) into a public park. Yet unionists are determined the stall progress by wanting to alienate the many local people who would use the park by wanting the flying of the union jack.
"Armagh Council are to return with a revised report to the Equality Commission and I hope the new report records accurately the ongoing equality issues." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chairperson of the Assembly Finance Committee, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has said that the part nationalisation of banks by the British government should lead to a 'return' for the taxpayer.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"While we lack any real financial powers at the Assembly, despite the demand of many for greater independence, there are some important issues that need to be resolved when it comes to the billions of tax payer pounds being poured into the banking system.
"The part nationalisation of a number of banks must now lead to decisions that are in the interest of the taxpayer. This means a ban on the types of bonuses that have been given to senior banking officials in the past and it should also mean that any future profits directly benefit those most in need in our society.
"I believe that locally we should not only be looking at tax varying powers but also the whole range of financial powers to ensure there is genuine accountability within the financial system.
"The abject failure of self-regulating markets to work in the interests of the general public, that was at the hearty of Thatcherite policy, is clear for all to see. The financial system needs not just effective regulation it also needs to be properly policed to ensure that the corruption and greed which has created and fuelled the current financial crisis can not happen again." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member Paul Maskey today said that people would be shocked at the revelation that DSD Minister Margaret Ritchie has continued to fund the UDA linked CTI project to the tune of almost £400,000 since she made her announcement ending this funding late last year.
Mr Maskey said:
"Last year in a great fanfare Minister Ritchie announced that she had withdrawn funding from the UDA linked CTI project. At the time Sinn Féin and all of the other Executive parties publicly supported her position but were fearful that the approach she adopted in not seeking Executive cover left her decision open to challenge.
"Unfortunately it now seems that this position has been borne out. Since her announcement last year almost £400,000 of taxpayers money has been pumped into this project away from the glare of the media. I am quite sure that the vast majority of ordinary people will be shocked at this revelation. The manner in which the Minister went about taking her decision, chasing headlines instead of following procedures is the direct cause of this turn of events.
"What Minister Ritchie has achieved since her announcement last November is the continuation of funding to the UDA linked project in direct contravention of the position articulated by every other Executive party who wanted to see the funding ended." ENDS
Invest NI's Belfast HQ will cost the public at least £115 million in rental payment over a 25-year Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract, Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson, MLA for Foyle, has confirmed using an Assembly Question.
Ms Anderson said the information "raises serious questions of public interest and plunges Invest NI into very murky water".
Ms Anderson said:
"Sinn Fein has been intensifying our investigations of Invest NI over the past year.
"It has now been confirmed that Invest NI's new headquarters at Bedford Street in Belfast - occupied from October 2005 - are being rented over a 25-year contractual lease at an estimated cost of at least £115 million to the public purse.
"However, the annual basic PFI rental combined with so-called 'related charges' stood at over £5 million per annum in both 2007 and 2008. If those figures are extrapolated over 25 years, then the total repayments for Beford Street will exceed £125 million.
"Signficantly the headquarters are not even regarded by Invest NI as a corporate 'asset' under the terms of the PPP contract. Nor does Invest NI present its basic headquarters rental cost in its annual accounts inclusive of VAT.
"Not only does all of this once again expose the fact that PPPs are generally inefficient and innappropriate. It also invites detailed scrutiny of the background to such lucrative public/private contracts.
"Recent Sinn Fein inquiries uncovered that Invest NI is continuing to pay £0.55 million annually for its two former headquarter buildings (Galwally House and LEDU House) - also in South Belfast - even though these were vacated with ten and four years still running on the respective contracts.
"Moreover, Invest NI has paid £569,000 rental since 2004 on empty office space at Waterfront Plaza in Belfast with a further eleven years to run on that contract. Invest NI has also paid £0.5 million rental on vacant office space at Campsie in Derry since 1992, with a further £0.5 million payout estimated over the final ten years of that contract until 2017.
"Yet despite entering a PPP contract costing anywhere between £115 and £125 for new partially-serviced premises and 'related charges' over a 25-year period, the estimated capital costs for Invest NI's new headquarters stand at just £25 million. What's more, Invest NI only occupies part of the Bedford Street property.
"In that context, all of this raises serious questions of public interest and plunges Invest NI into very murky water.
"I am once again calling for an immediate public inquiry into Invest NI. I am also bringing this latest information immediately to the attention of the Comptroller and Auditor General, John Dowdall, and the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Paul Maskey MLA.
"Sinn Fein is absolutely determined to challenge Invest NI's corporate mindset and to impose new high standards of corporate governance and new strong baselines of equality."
North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Board member Daithí McKay has said members of the public would be astounded that the PSNI spent nearly £1million on mobile firing ranges which "do not fit" into PSNI stations and are static. Mr McKay was speaking after getting the Policing Board to carry out research into the purchase of 3 mobile firing ranges in 2002.
Mr McKay said:
"Whoever was involved in the purchase of these firing ranges should have enquired as to the dimensions of these ranges before purchasing. The ranges do not fit into many PSNI stations and that is why they remain static.
"There is an onus on the PSNI, as there is on every public body, to be prudent with taxpayers' money. Members of the public will be astounded at the fact that nearly £1million has been spent on mobile firing ranges which are not mobile.
"Taxpayers' money has been squandered and at a time when budgets and spending are having to be tightened that is totally unacceptable." ENDS
In a speech to party activists in Belfast this afternoon, Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing Alex Maskey said that the irony of the DUP blocking the transfer of policing and justice powers at a time when ordinary people were demanding action on a range of community safety issues was not lost on people.
Mr Maskey said:
"It was Sinn Féin who introduced the policing issue into the political negotiations. It was Sinn Féin who kept the pressure on the British government to deliver on Patten after Peter Mandelson produced his flawed legislation. And once again we find ourselves in the lead in ensuring that the British government deliver on their obligations arising from St. Andrews to transfer policing and justice powers away from London and into hands of locally elected politicians.
"It is ironic that both before and after the negotiation at St. Andrews the DUP put the policing issue up in lights. They attempted to make republican engagement with the new policing structures a precondition to political movement. At the time many believed that the DUP interest was not in policing but in attempting to buy time and scupper efforts to force them into a power sharing arrangement as their room for political manoeuvre lessened.
"Their behaviour in recent months appears to lend weight to that theory. We now have the situation where republicans secured enough in political negotiations and through legislation to allow us to enter into a critical engagement with policing structures. We brought the debate on policing into our community. We were up front with what such an engagement would mean for our party and community. We brought people with us and we delivered.
"Yet the DUP continue to say 'No'. 'No' to policing and justice, 'No' to equality and 'No' to partnership. In most peoples eyes they stand exposed and the irony of their position is not lost on anyone. The DUP have managed to manoeuvre themselves into a position where they are in a power sharing government - despite being opposed to power sharing while at the same time they are blocking building community support for the PSNI through their opposition to transfer when they had previously claimed that this was a prerequisite for progress. It really is long past the time they sorted themselves out.
"We have the bizarre situation where on an almost daily basis DUP MLAs are on the media calling for action on issues of community safety, or repeat offenders bail or attacks on the elderly .They demand a reduction in crime rates and an increase in detection. Yet those very same politicians are the people who are refusing to take these powers into their own hands and begin dealing with these issues. It seems they want to have it both ways. Calling for action, blaming the British government for being unresponsive to local needs while at the same time running away from taking these decisions themselves.
"We have witnessed DUP leaders looking to the Assembly in Scotland for examples of good practice on a number of issues including health policy. Yet that Assembly has identified policing and justice powers and areas to take action in.
"They are introducing measures to tackle drug related and knife crime including new guidelines for prosecutors. Tougher monitoring of sex offenders has been put in place including new legislation dealing with child protection and their initiative introducing Drug Courts has now been mimicked in England and Norway.
"These are examples of local politicians in Scotland attempting to be different. Attempting to respond to the needs of Scottish people as opposed to the requirements of Westminster. Assembly members here should be doing likewise. The DUP are preventing this work happening. And they are preventing it happening - not for ideological reasons - but simply because they are allowing those reactionary elements inside and outside their party who oppose change and oppose this process to set the agenda.
"It is a direct challenge to the two governments. The St. Andrews Agreement is very clear. The DUP are already in default. Sinn Féin will continue to defend the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements and we will continue to ensure that the rights and entitlements of citizens be they on policing and justice or anything else are not subject to the lowest common denominator within political unionism." ENDS
Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson and Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has been informed by reliable sources from within the Health Service Executive that a promised additional A&E ambulance is not now going to be stationed at Monaghan. The HSE had claimed, as recently as last month, that the extra A&E ambulance "must be in place" at Monaghan before the removal of all acute care from Monaghan General Hospital to Cavan General Hospital as planned for the end of November.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Reliable sources at senior level within the HSE North East have informed me that the promised additional A&E ambulance is not now going to Monaghan. I understand that the HSE are giving serious consideration to locating the promised A&E ambulance with its 24/7 advanced paramedic and the promised patient transport system at Ardee in Co. Louth.
"While never accepting that the HSE-promised measures compensated for the loss of acute medical services at Monaghan General Hospital, the proposal to locate the new A& E ambulance at Ardee would be a disastrous decision if it is allowed to proceed. Patients will die if the promised ambulance cover is not provided at Monaghan. With the removal of acute care from Monaghan General Hospital to Cavan General Hospital the people of Co. Monaghan will be left with neither the acute in-patient care service they have had for decades nor the absolutely essential additional ambulance cover that must be provided if the final downgrading of Monaghan goes ahead at the end of November.
"In a letter to me of 3 September the HSE lists 'measures that must be in place prior to the centralisation of Acute Inpatient Services at Cavan General Hospital'. These include 'an additional 24-hour emergency ambulance at Monaghan Ambulance Station, an increase of 1 or 50% i.e. from 2 to 3 ambulances'.
"Are we now to see the HSE breaching even its own conditions for the final downgrading of Monaghan General Hospital? If this ambulance cover is not provided as promised the removal of acute care cannot and must not proceed.
"As things stand in this 4-county region, Louth has 3 ambulance stations providing 5 A&E ambulance day cover and 4 A&E ambulance night service; Meath, has 2 ambulance stations providing 3 A&E ambulance day cover and 2 A&E ambulance night service with the same configuration in Co. Cavan.
"In stark contrast Co. Monaghan has one ambulance station based in Monaghan town with 2 A&E ambulances providing day and night cover. Yet ambulances based at Monaghan will have the furthest distance to travel to hospitals providing acute in-patient care.
"There are currently 3,000 acute medical admissions to Monaghan General Hospital per annum. By the end of November, if the HSE's plan goes ahead, this service will have to be provided by Cavan General Hospital. With longer journeys and fewer ambulances the only outcome can be more avoidable deaths of Monaghan patients.
"I urge Monaghan and Cavan residents, irrespective of what views they hold, to recognise that these are very likely the final weeks of the once great hospital we have all known and appreciated in Monaghan. It is incumbent on all of us, and without exception, to press by telephone, by letter, by e.mail, by texting, by visiting where possible, the HSE, the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney TD, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD, the Government Minister who represents this constituency of Cavan/Monaghan, Brendan Smith TD, and his Fianna Fáil Dáil and Seanad colleagues Rory O'Hanlon, Margaret Conlon and Diarmuid Wilson.
"Everyone must join in this 11th hour appeal. No effort must be spared. The future of our hospital services and of our own health security and that of our children depends on it." ENDS
Sinn Féin Slieve Gullion Councillor Terry Hearty has said that whilst the adjournment of the current oral hearing into the proposed Incinerator in Nobber, County Meath (15 miles from Culloville) is to be welcomed, there is a need for Newry and Mourne Council to ensure that the health and well being of the local South Armagh community is protected.
Cllr Hearty said:
"The oral hearing which my colleague Cllr Pat McGinn attended last week has now adjourned after it emerged that a five-acre field included in the application was not owned by the company seeking planning permission.
"Presiding inspector Paula Fitzpatrick adjourned the hearing so that she can consider the evidence and make a presentation on the matter to the board.
"This suspension will give time for elected representatives and communities in South Armagh time to ensure that their concerns about the proposed incinerator will be heard.
"The right of our communities to have their input into the consultation process has been denied by An Bord Pleanala. I have asked Newry and Mourne Council to get a legal opinion on this refusal by the Dublin Planning Board. It is also essential that local people are made aware of the potential implications and impact of what the proposed incinerator will have on their lives, health and well being."
Local Sinn Féin Environmental spokesperson Councillor Pat McGinn said that the process now taking place was flawed. He also said that 7000 people had signed a petition against the Incinerator and that local communities in Meath were adamant that they would not have an incinerator forced on them.
Cllr McGinn added:
"It is ironic that the Planning Board Oral Hearing which I attended last week in Navan was further away from Nobber than Culloville.
"The fact that areas within Newry and Mourne including Culloville and Crossmaglen will be directly impacted upon by the proposed Incinerator Plant has been completely disregarded by An Bord Pleanála. Newry and Mourne Council wrote to the Planning Authorities in Dublin on September 3rd outlining our concerns and requesting permission to make a written submission on the application. In a reply received last week our request has been dismissed.
"Environmental problems cannot be partitioned. The community that Newry and Mourne Council represents were not consulted as per the legal requirement. This amounts to a serious breach of the EIA Directive, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the competent authority for its implementation. There is also the Geneva Convention on Long-range Trans-boundary Air Pollution, which the Irish government has signed up to and used successfully in its battle against the Sellafield Nuclear Plant.
"Yet, they have not employed the same legal obligation towards the 90,000 people living in the Newry and Mourne District.
"Pollution and dioxin emissions do not recognise political borders. Newry and Mourne will be directly affected by the proposed Incinerator and it is vital that the views of our communities and the council this side are the border are taken intro consideration."
He explained that the application for a second Incinerator in Meath was brought under the 'fast-track' Strategic Infrastructure Development Scheme (SIDS), which allows the application to bypass normal county council planning channels, and a decision is expected by early November from the planning appeals board. This has caused huge controversy, with the vast majority of Meath County Councillors against the project.
The Councillor concluded:
"At the recent oral hearing in the Newgrange Hotel in Navan an initial application for an extension of time to enable councils in Louth, Cavan, Monaghan, Westmeath, Offaly and Kildare to make submissions was turned down. However that decision was reversed and now these Council areas are being allowed to submit. It is only right and proper that Newry and Mourne Council be given the facility also. The people of south Armagh have the support of the County Meath Environmental Organisation, the North East Against Incineration Group." ENDS
Newry and Mourne Sinn Féin Councillor Brendan Curran said that news of the death of a young child in the Hill Street locality of Newry city this evening had shocked and numbed the entire community.
"Any sudden death is terrible but that of a young child is particularly tragic" said the DPP Chairperson who also said that at this stage circumstances about the tragic incident which claimed the life of the young child were unclear.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the young child who has lost her life as they try to come to terms with such a devastating loss." ENDS
Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has begun consultation on a Review of Irish-Medium Education.
The Review was carried out by an independent Project Board and aims to set out a strategic direction to build a strong basis for future provision of education through the Irish language.
The Minister said: "Today I am publishing the Review for consultation, which will influence the process of developing policies to encourage and facilitate this growing sector.
"The Review has highlighted the great successes in the Irish-medium sector, but rightly also highlighted that much still needs to be done. There is a legacy of sub-standard accommodation that needs to be addressed along with the important issues of support for educators and availability of resources. Above all we need to put the interests of the children and young people first.
"The Irish-medium sector has grown from a class of nine children in Belfast over 30 years ago, to more than 3,000 children right across the North today. That growth has been helped and supported by parents working with Irish language activists and educators who recognise the benefits that bi-lingual education brings to our children. I applaud the efforts of these dedicated people.
"I recognise that there are particular issues to be addressed in the post-primary sector where I need to be sure that solutions offered are the right ones. This Review will help the development of a strategic approach which should in turn support educational solutions that work for everyone.
"Our goal is to ensure the highest standard of education for our children through the medium of Irish at each stage of their development."
Speaking during his attendance at the Public Health Service Campaign March and Rally in Dublin, Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said any cuts in public health services in next week's Budget should be "opposed and resisted in every way possible". He said Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for universal public healthcare, free at the point of delivery and funded from fair and progressive taxation.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Today's march demonstrates the demand for decent public health services at a time when Government and HSE cuts are already causing hardship to patients across the State. These cuts are being carried out in the name of 'cost saving' but they represent a totally false economy. Services in hospitals are being shut down for weeks on end but staff continue to be paid and facilities to be maintained. As a result, waiting lists will lengthen, the health outcomes of patients will deteriorate and the medium to long-term costs to the health services will escalate.
"The Fianna Fáil-Green government is preparing to impose cuts in next week's Budget. Unless there is an increase in the Health budget at the very least in line with inflation then severe cuts in services to patients will result. The Government must draw back from the brink. It must not repeat the disastrous mistakes of the 1980s when our public health services were decimated by cuts, the legacy of which still haunts the system today.
"Any cuts in public health services in next week's Budget should be opposed and resisted in every way possible.
"Fundamental reform, including the end of the two-tier public-private system, is the only guarantee of equality and efficiency in healthcare in Ireland. Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for universal public healthcare, free at the point of delivery and funded from fair and progressive taxation.
"Contrary to the incorrect report in yesterday's Irish Times, Sinn Féin remains fully committed to free universal public healthcare." ENDS
“The European elections present a major challenge to Sinn Fein but it is a challenge that I believe this party is more than up to.” ENDS
Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald’s selection convention for the forthcoming European elections took place today. Giving the keynote address Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams noted “next years European elections are about securing a strong European voice for Ireland at the European parliamentary table. It is about delivering for ordinary people on issues that affect their lives. It is about building republican politics. It is about policy and politics that deliver.”
Mr. Adams said:
“Mary Lou’s election in 2004 for Dublin took the political establishment by surprise and was a major upset for the other political parties. Up to that point there was a sameness about EU politics, as represented by those who were elected to the European Parliament. Mary Lou’s election broke the mould of EU elections in Dublin.
“Her determination to champion the needs and goals of Dublin citizens saw the election of an MEP who is an able and efficient and very vocal advocate for her constituency. Mary Lou has done an outstanding job. Mary Lou has been a tireless campaigner on behalf of her constituents on justice and community and social issues, on jobs and the economy, and on investment.
“Europe impacts on so many areas of ordinary peoples lives and often the impact is not a good one. The Union is also moving in an overly centralised, privatised and militarised direction.
“Sinn Féin’s approach to all of this is rooted in our republicanism. We want to see a social Europe and a democratic citizen based EU. And it is this that marks us out from all of the other Irish political parties. But my friends be very conscious that throughout the Union there are citizens who share our view.
“The current banking crisis and economic challenges is affecting all the people of this island. Successive Fianna Fáil led government blew the surpluses of the boom years, leaving Ireland facing a 15 billion euro exchequer deficit by the end of 2009. But Sinn Féin believes that the economy can be turned around. The next twelve months are crucial. We support measures that can and must deliver a sound economy based on the principles of equality and fairness.
“Yesterday we launched the party’s pre budget submission that contains solid costed proposals on how the government needs to approach economic recovery. Do I have any confidence that the government will do this? NO. This government has never been about the redistribution of wealth or utilizing the economy in the common good. It has always been about looking after its cronies. People are increasingly seeing through this. But unless relevant alternative is built the establishment will survive yet again and the ordinary citizen will pay the price. This election gives us the opportunity to win more people to our cause.
“This week also saw the first meeting of the Oireachtas joint committee tasked with addressing the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. Senator Pearse Doherty reaffirmed that we would play a constructive and positive role in the committee.
“Senator Doherty also made it clear that Sinn Féin will not be part of a cynical exercise to clear the way for a re-run of the Lisbon Treaty. The government, and all the parties who supported Lisbon should note that the people will not accept empty opt outs and meaningless declarations. The debate must centre on how a better deal for Ireland in the EU can be secured.
“Sinn Féin believes that Ireland's place is firmly in Europe. We want to see Ireland continue to play a central role in shaping the future of the EU in the interests of all citizens.
“We are ambitious for what we as a small member state can achieve in the interest of all the people in the EU.
“Léiríodh le linn feachtais na Liospáin go raibh Sinn Féin réidh agus ábalta glacadh páirt i phoilitíocht tábhachtach an Eoraip, phoilitíocht a bhfuil tionachar aige orainn anseo in Eirinn.
“Léirigh muintir na hEirinn go bhfuil said réidh éist le guth s'againne nuair a dúirt said 'NÍL' leis an chonradh Líospáin.
“And this is the context within which Sinn Féin fought the Lisbon Treaty campaign. We were the only main political party to campaign on the doors and in the Oireachtas for a No vote. We were the only political party to put the interests and rights of the people first.
“Next years European elections are about securing a strong European voice for this great city at the European parliamentary table. It is about delivering for ordinary people on issues that affect their lives. It is about building republican politics. It is about policy and politics that deliver.
“Tá a lán obair romhainn agus tá mise breá cinnte go bhfuil daoine anseo réidh den streachailt atá romhainn chun Mary Lou a thabhairt arais chun na hEorpa.
“The European elections present a major challenge to Sinn Fein but it is a challenge that I believe this party is more than up to.” ENDS
Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MP and MLA, Conor Murphy has announced that Sinn Féin is to hold a public meeting in Newry Town Hall on 22nd October at 7pm. The meeting's theme is 'Educational Excellence For All' and will feature Minister for Education, Caitríona Ruane on the panel.
Commenting on the event Mr. Murphy said,
"Sinn Féin is a party that believes in openness and transparency. We believe that participatory democracy is the best way to represent the people that we are elected to serve."
"Sinn Féin is the only party to hold public meetings on a six county wide basis. Previous meetings proved hugely successful and on the back of that we have decided to hold meetings focusing on education and the need for equality in schools for our children."
"I would encourage all parents, teachers or anyone else who might have an interest to come along and participate in the event." ENDS