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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe has wished luck to the 116,774 students who this week began their leaving and junior cert exams.

Deputy Crowe said: “I wish all of the students who this morning started their Leaving and Junior Cert exams the very best of luck and every success for the future.

“The next two weeks is an accumulation of all the hard work and study of teachers and pupils alike and almost 90 curricular subjects will be sat at Higher, Ordinary and Foundation levels in centres across the country.

“It is important that anyone taking their Leaving and Junior Cert avail of advice and support from teachers and parents so as to remain as focused and well prepared as possible during what can be a stressful time.

“I have no doubt that this year’s Leaving and Junior Cert students will do themselves and their respective schools proud and that the results they achieve will enhance their future employment prospects and prepare many for a fulfilling life ahead.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has said the second round funding announced this week by the Government that aims to replace prefab classrooms in 91 schools, whilst welcome, should be extended further.

Speaking today Deputy Crowe said;

“The announcement this week of €26.5m funding will allow 91 schools to replace prefabs with permanent classrooms. It is part of an initiative that aims to improve schools across the State and will hopefully improve the classroom environment and the conditions for teachers and children alike.

“While this money is welcome, it highlights some of the current inadequacies within the system and the poor state of many classrooms in schools that are simply not fit for purpose. I know that in my own constituency of Dublin South West, many teachers are expected to teach in overcrowded buildings that are of a very poor standard.

“It is vitally important that additional funding is directed towards paying for the upgrade of the school estate in order to ensure every child is taught in an environment that encourages and enhances learning. The funding announced this week, falls short of what is needed to modernise schools and bring them up to an adequate standard.”

ENDS

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Speaking today regarding the announcement of job losses at Pfizer, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien said;

“Pfizer employees were devastated by the announcement of 785 job losses at its Irish operations in 2010. Sinn Féin said back then that the absence of a concrete job creation and retention package was crippling economic recovery and that is still true today.

“Pfizer today announced that 177 positions will be reduced during 2013 at two manufacturing sites in Cork, Little Island and Ringaskiddy. We have been told time and time again that pharmaceuticals will be integral in the development of Ireland’s smart economy, yet the government has failed to capitalise on this high-end industry which has the potential to create employment for thousands of skilled people across this State and now people are losing their jobs due to patent expiration of pharmaceuticals manufactured by Pfizer. This has dealt another crippling blow to the labour market in Cork, where there are no prospects of alternative employment.

“After over a year in office, redundancies, unemployment and emigration have become the constant theme of this Fine Gael and Labour administration. Ministers are quick enough to issue statements claiming credits when there a couple of jobs being created, but are nowhere to be seen when hundreds of people are losing their jobs.

“The government is failing the people of this State and the absence of a concrete job creation package is crippling our economic recovery. The lack of investment in infrastructure has prevented growth. All the while the government continues to hand billions of tax payers’ euros to bondholders and prop up property developers. The government cannot wash its hands of responsibility for unemployment and redundancies. Its policies are not working and it is our people who are paying the cost.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor Councillor Kevin Campbell has condemned the hijacking and burning of a van belonging to a pensioner in the Creggan area of Derry.

Cllr Kevin Campbell said

“As soon as I heard about this incident I went straight to the scene. It was very a traumatic experience for the driver of the van and his female passenger.

"A number of youths with their faces covered by scarves stopped the van on Iniscarn Road and pulled both occupants from it .They then drove off in the van and set it on fire at Central Drive.

"I spoke to both victims and they are very badly shaken up. The owner of the van has just lost his livelihood in a matter of minutes.

"The people of the area are asking tonight, what has been achieved by this wanton act of destruction.

"I would urge anyone with information about this incident to bring it forward to the police straight away."

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Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast Jennifer McCann has slammed those who endangered residents and members of the PSNI in a pipe bomb attack at Whin Park late last night.

Speaking today Ms McCann said:

“Those behind this attack have once again shown their utter disregard for this community. Whoever threw that device endangered the lives of local residents and members of the PSNI.

“The damage to residents cars shows that we are lucky today not to be dealing with serious injuries or someone being killed.

“Our representatives have been working with local residents from just after the attack late last night and one thing is very clear, there is absolutely no support for these attacks or these dissident groups in this area.

“This community does not want to see such attacks carried out in its name and it is high time those behind them stopped.”

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Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster, Martin McGuinness MLA has today slammed those who were responsible for a callous attack on a 16 year old, his 70 year old grandmother and uncle during a robbery at their home in the Magherafelt area.

Speaking today Mr McGuinness said:

“The attack on this young man, along with his grandmother and uncle, was both brutal and callous. It has left him fighting for his life and can only be described as a very serious situation.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at this time.

“This is a close knit and quiet area and it will be left in a state of shock at this entire incident, the attack on this family and the robbery.

“I would call on anybody who saw anything suspicious or has any information to bring it to the PSNI. Those behind this attack must be taken off our streets to ensure there can be no repeat of this.”

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Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on the Government to “come clean on any bank debt deal”. The call comes after the German government rejected the idea of any change to the terms of the existing funding programme.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Since Friday the government has been talking up the possibility of a deal reducing the cost of the banking debt. Enda Kenny said that he raised the issue directly with Angela Merkel on Friday.

“However statements by German government spokespersons in today’s newspapers seem to flatly contradict the claims being made by government.

“The Government needs to come clean on any bank debt deal. They need to tell the public what they are looking for and what they hope to secure.

“When the Dáil reconvenes this week Sinn Féin will be challenging the government to outline what progress, if any, has taken place on the promissory note negotiations with the Troika. We will also be seeking clarification as to whether the government is seeking a restructuring or a write-down on other portions of the private banking debt held by the state.

“Sinn Féin was the first Dáil party to argue that the current level of government debt is unsustainable. Unless this debt is reduced then the prospects for as return to normal borrowing in 2014 are remote.

“There is a compelling case for a portion of this debt to be written off. However this can only be secured if the government seeks a write-down and then follows this up with a serious political effort to secure such an outcome.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin Tourism Spokesperson Phil Flanagan has welcomed news from the Minister for Culture, Arts & Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, that she intends to explore the possibility of the introduction of a single licensing system on the island of Ireland.

The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA said:

"As someone who comes from Garrison and has spent my youth fishing on Lough Melvin, which is renowned around the world as a destination for angling tourists, I am all too well aware of the difficulties presented by having two different systems of licensing in Ireland.

"For someone to go fishing on Lough Melvin or any other waterway that straddles the border, that person either needs to purchase two different sets of licenses or be very careful that they do not stray across the border, which is quite challenging.

"Most people in the angling fraternity have long argued that the licensing system across the island of Ireland is overly confusing and prohibitive for tourists. There is excessive and unnecessary duplication and I first raised the issue with the Minister back in December and again in February, so I am glad that the process has begun to address this.

"Three different bodies provide at least twenty different types of fishing licenses in Ireland. The licensing regimes are all different and it makes no sense for there to be such a complex system, particularly when we are trying to increase the number of tourists we attract.

"The number of fishing licenses issued here annually has dropped from 4,978 in 1999 to 2,811 in 2010, so it is evident that there has been a sharp drop in demand. We need to ensure that proactive action is taken to address this decline and that must include adequate promotion of the area as a world class fishing destination. That has most definitely not been the case to date but it is something I will continue to campaign for."

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Speaking in Dublin today Public Accounts Committee member and Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Mary Lou McDonald TD said following the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report into the Dublin Docklands Development Authority there can be no-where to hide for those responsible for lumbering the public purse with yet more debt.

Deputy McDonald said:

“The winding down of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) over the next eighteen months is good news. It is of concern that Dublin City Council said last week it was not aware of the Government’s plans for the Council to take over the Authority’s powers. Environment Minister Phil Hogan must work closely with the City Manager and the Council to ensure the Authority’s transition is a smooth one and community considerations are prioritised.

“Of course the DDDA’s failure to instil the most basic rules of corporate governance is not news. Controversy surrounded the purchase of the Irish Glass Bottle site in 2007 even before the Authority bought it for a staggering €431 million. For many the DDDA epitomises the worst excesses of the murky relationship between Fianna Fáil, property developers and Anglo Irish Bank. Yet again the public purse will be left to pick up the tab.

“The Public Accounts Committee will consider the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report into the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. Hearings must take place and witnesses must be compelled to attend. Former board members, the Minister who appointed them and senior civil servants who sat on the DDDA board must be brought before the Committee to explain their actions.

“It is the people who will be left to foot the bill for the DDDA debacle. Those responsible must be held to account.” ENDS

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Commenting today in the aftermath of the Austerity Treaty referendum result, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

“The strong No vote in the referendum and the acknowledged reluctance of a section of the Yes vote shows that a very large percentage of people are opposed to the government’s austerity policies and to the handover of Irish fiscal powers to the EU.

“Allied to this is the large number of citizens who didn't vote presumably because they felt there was no point in exercising their franchise.

“There is an onus on all political parties to ensure that citizens have ownership of our political system.

“The reality of mass alienation from that system allied to the dreadful social consequences of austerity policies needs to be recognised by the government.

“For our part Sinn Fein will continue to work in tandem with citizens who are making a stand in defence of their communities and families.

“The government must fulfill its referendum commitments to remove the burden of the banking debt from taxpayers and initiate jobs stimulus projects. Sinn Féin will hold the government to account.

“Fine Gael and Labour must not renege on these promises as they did with their General Election promises. And they should not see the referendum result as any sort of endorsement of their austerity policies.

“The YES vote was more the result of the fear of the people than the will of the people.”

ENDS

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Speaking following the declaration of the result of the Austerity Treaty referendum at Dublin Castle this evening, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

“I want to thank all of the voters who came out and made their democratic choice yesterday.

"Yesterday was the people’s day. The people have spoken and Sinn Féin respects their choice.

"Although the referendum has been carried, there was a very large No vote and it is very clear that those citizens bearing the brunt of this Government’s failed austerity policies have rejected this Treaty in their hundreds of thousands.

"That is an indictment of this government and their Fianna Fáil predecessors.

“The problems that confronted the Irish people yesterday are still there today. 

"The Government said that supporting this Treaty would mean jobs and investment and less harsh budgets.

"They now have to deliver.  They need to demonstrate – in actions rather than words – how they intend to address the jobs crisis, the mortgage crisis, and how they intend to get the economy growing again and allow us to get back to the markets by 2014.

“The Government also has a duty to stand up for Ireland and to ensure that the banking debt issue is dealt with by seeking a debt write down.

“It is important that they introduce the type of jobs stimulus that was talked about during this campaign – unless there is serious investment in job creation we will continue to see 440,000 people on the live register and tens of thousands emigrating.  We have put forward proposals for a €13 billion stimulus programme and will be setting out the detail of this in the coming months.

“Sinn Féin will support the Government is any serious endeavour to invest in job creation

“However we will continue to highlight the impact of the failed policies of austerity on people’s lives and on the economy and continue to hold this Government to account.”

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Sinn Féin Irish language spokesperson Cathal Ó hOisín has welcomed the commitment of the Library Services to the Irish language.

Mr Ó hOisín said,

“I am delighted by a response from the Library Authority outlining their commitment to the Irish language.The service at present provides Irish language users with a range of services including classes, Irish language reading groups and exhibitions.

“I was particularly pleased to hear that the Library Authority is in discussions with Foras na Gaeilge in order to improve the current provision of Irish language services.

“Some of the improvements that are being suggested include increasing the number of Irish language titles available, dual language books to help children whose parents don’t have Irish and more popular material for adults such as thrillers, romance and fiction.

“I would encourage people with Irish to support their local library by availing of these services so that the Irish language provision can be increased.”

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Sinn Féin leader on Belfast City Council Jim McVeigh has welcomed the publication of the Equality Impact Assessment report into the flying of flags and memorabilia at the City Hall.

On flags the report said that the Union flag should not fly at the council buildings at the Ulster Hall and Duncrue Street while the preferred option for the City Hall was that it should only be flown on designated days.

On memorabilia at the City Hall the report calls for substantial change and the Sinn Féin Councillor said this should reflect the cultural make-up of Belfast today.

The Sinn Féin Councillor for West Belfast said:

“Sinn Féin welcomes the publication of the report and will be voting for it to go out to public consultation tonight at the full council meeting.

“The Sinn Féin position is that there should be no flags, a civic flag or both the Irish tri-colour and Union flag. This report is a step forward and after public consultation the report will go to a vote at the council in November.

“The simple result of this report is that the status quo is no longer acceptable and that there needs to be change at the City Hall. That change needs to reflect the cultural make up of Belfast today and makes the City Hall a welcoming place for all our people.”

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A delegation representing the families of those murdered by the British army in Ballymurphy, led by Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast Pat Sheehan, has met with officials from the Irish Governmentyesterday in their on-going campaign for justice.

Speaking today Pat Sheehan said:

“This was a positive and constructive meeting with representatives from the Irish Government and part of the on-going series of engagements by the families representatives.

“One of the main issues discussed was the abysmal manner by which the families have been treated by both British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Secretary of State in the North Owen Patterson.

“Despite a series of calls for meetings with the British Prime Minister he has not even had the courtesy to reply to the families letters. The families also requested a meeting with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny in Dublin to raise their concerns.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support the families in their on-going campaign for justice for their loved ones.”

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Speaking after presenting Vocational Training Operational Scheme (VTOS) and Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) certificates in an award’s ceremony held in the Dublin Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe, TD said:

“VTOS is supported by the European Social Fund that’s aim is to ensure labour market intervention by enabling long term unemployed people to access education and training.

“The VTOS course run by Dominic’s and the awarding of these certificates are recognition of the hard work and study of people who, through no fault of their own, finding themselves unemployed have went back to education to acquire new skills. They are role models for others and are to be greatly commended for seeking access to employment through education and training and obtaining these qualifications will greatly enhance their prospects of finding a job.

“The current economic crisis has greatly impacted on Irish society and very few families have not been affected by the scourge of unemployment, emigration and rising levels of poverty.

“An accessible and affordable education is needed if we are to achieve future growth and prosperity.

“Being able to avail of higher education courses is important if we are to produce graduates who are capable of meeting the diverse and ever changing demands of industry and a job’s market that is constantly evolving. The students who received VTOS certificates show what can be achieved when people have access to higher education.

“It is also fitting to have this award’s ceremony held in Dublin ITT, in this the 20th anniversary of its opening. Dublin ITT has evolved into an institute of higher learning that is the equal to anywhere on the island of Ireland and I have no doubt that the people who received their graduation certificates will apply the knowledge and skills they have learnt in whatever career they choose to pursue.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin has condemned an attack on the constituency office of Deputy Leader and Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald this morning.
A hoax pipebomb, left at the front door, was discovered by a Sinn Féin constituency office worker as she arrived at the office on Dublin’s North Strand. She immediately called the gardai who sealed off the area.
The device was later declared to be a hoax. The front of the office had also been daubed with graffitti.

Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe said:

“The people behind this sort of activity have no support. Their actions are pathetic and futile.
“All right thinking people will condemn this attack on the constituency office of a democratically elected TD.
“Sinn Féin will certainly not be deflected from our democratic work and the office has re-opened this morning.”
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Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has officially opened a new school for St Joseph’s Primary School, Madden.

Speaking today at St Joseph’s the Minister said: “I welcome the opportunity to officially open this fantastic new school. My Department invested £1.7million funding in the new building, which will provide an excellent setting for current pupils and future generations to learn and develop in.”

The new school building for St Joseph’s Primary School, Madden, was included in the Department’s 2006 Capital Programme. It was one of 13 major capital projects approved in 2010.

Continuing the Minister said: “St Joseph’s first opened in the 1800s when there were only two classrooms which were heated by an open fire. There were no inside toilets and the playing field was the road between the school and the chapel. The school has come a long way since those days and I am sure the pupils and the community will benefit from the new facilities for many years to come.”

In conclusion the Minister thanked everyone whose dedication and hard work have made St Joseph’s the success it is today.

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Sports Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín today announced three more Paralympic teams will be training in Ireland ahead of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

The Wheelchair Fencing teams from Hungary, Russia and Britain will train at the University of Ulster from 26 June - 3 July. This brings the total number of Olympians and Paralympians who have chosen to train at Irish venues ahead of the London Games to 1,000 competitors.

Speaking at the announcement in Parliament Buildings, the Sports Minister said: "I am pleased three more teams have chosen Irish venues for their training in the lead up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. Wheelchair Fencing is still a developmental sport here so our Fencing Academy at the University of Ulster will not only provide the teams from Hungary, Russia and Britain with a superb environment to train. Our own athletes, coaches and junior squads will also benefit from seeing the best in the world on our doorstep.

“With nine pre-Games Olympic and Paralympic training camps confirmed, including the Cuban Olympic boxers and the Irish Paralympians, we have exceeded expectations. With only days to go until the Olympic flame arrives and travels throughout Ireland, excitement is building in relation to the 2012 Olympics. I am glad we have been able to play our part in one of the largest global sporting events.”

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Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has said that the closure of St Basil’s Training Centre in Tallaght was a sad day for educationalists and the wider Traveller Community.

The Tallaght based TD was speaking after attending a church service and function to mark the closure of St. Basil's Training Centre which had been in existence since 1981.

Deputy Crowe said “I wish to commend the dedication and hard work of everyone involved with St Basil’s, which catered for Travellers and was located on the Greenhill’s Road in the centre of Tallaght.

“Since it opened 31 years ago, St Basil’s has, with support from the VEC and the European Social Fund, provided essential training and education for the Travelling Community in premises provided by the local Parish. It offered a range of courses and programmes in literacy and numeracy, personal development, health and exercise, home economics, creative writing, swimming and first aid.

“St Basil's also provided information and support in relation to accommodation, health services, social welfare benefits, legal rights, various counselling services and further education and employment routes. Clinics were regularly held there and one of its key aims was to enable trainees to make informed decisions about their lives. It also provided services and support that greatly improved the prospects and life chances of thousands of people from the ~Travelling Community and the closure is a serious blow that will be keenly felt.

“The closure of St Basil’s is yet another example of how this Government continues to target vulnerable groups within Irish society and follows on from cuts that have resulted in the loss of 800 posts to Traveller Education at Primary and Post Primary levels, the loss of Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers and the phasing out of all senior Traveller Training Centres.

"St Basil's was an oasis of inclusivity for Travellers in Tallaght. It nurtured, enriched and supported thousands of Travellers over its 31 year existence and it's a sad day for educationalists and the wider Traveller Community." CRÍOCH

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In a final appeal before polling in the Austerity Treaty referendum, Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD said:

“I appeal to all citizens who have a vote, to use it tomorrow. This referendum is really important for you, your family and for Ireland.

“The Austerity Treaty will not solve the Eurozone crisis. It will put into the constitution the failed policies that have caused so much hardship in Ireland and which are being rejected by people right across Europe.

“I ask Irish citizens not to be bullied, not to give their democratic rights away, not to give up their say over Irish economic policy and not to write austerity into the Constitution.

“A strong No vote this Thursday will strengthen the hand of everyone, arguing for a better, fairer way forward through investment in jobs and growth.

“Voting No is the positive and the patriotic thing to do. Voting No means standing up for each other and standing up for Ireland.
Vote No!”

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